Star Trek Online is likely the best Star Trek game ever made. However, that might feel like faint praise: most Star Trek video games have been pretty bad. And it’s almost impossible to get your hands on the best ones (such as Bridge Commander or Elite Force) through legitimate means.
So, is Star Trek Online worth your time, or should you go back into the wormhole until a better game comes along?
Fan Service Galore
For better or for worse, this game is designed primarily for hardcore Star Trek fans. There are major stories representing pretty much every iteration of the franchise. There are even characters and stories from popular Star Trek books in this game (including fan-favorite novel character Mackenzie Calhoun).
Star Trek Online also lets you dress in pretty much any uniform from any era of Star Trek. Similarly, you have opportunities to fly just about every major starship, from major classes (like the Galaxy and Defiant classes) all the way to minor classes glimpsed in background battles (including obscure Klingon and Romulan vessels).
With all this fan service, the only real downside is that it may be confusing for non-fans to get into if they want to just dive in and play.
The motto of the Starship Enterprise has always been “to boldly go” and “to seek out new life and new civilizations.” This game brings that energy to life in a major way.
There is a very large map of the galaxy, and you spend a lot of time traveling from one end to another. And, like in the shows and movies, it’s not uncommon that run into other adventures and misadventures on your way to complete what seems like a routine mission.
One caveat: if you don’t like exploring, you might not like how long it takes to navigate from one point to another. While it’s possible to increase your max speed, you might find yourself longing for the days of simply grabbing a soda while you fast-travel in games like World of Warcraft.
A Tale of Two Combats
For as much as the game lets you explore both space and Star Trek lore, most of the gameplay comes down to combat. And combat in this game is very much a double-edged sword.
Ground combat typically feels a bit repetitive. You have a squad that you can customize, which is fun. And it’s neat to explore everything from starships to alien planets with your character. But it’s tough to shake the feeling that your missions always boil down to “sheet these people and click these things.” It doesn’t help that the interior level design often feels repetitive (a sin shared by this game’s sci-fi competitor Star Wars: The Old Republic).
Space combat has some similarly repetitive missions. However, the “combat” part is where the game really shines. Different ships play in dramatically different ways, forcing you to adjust your gameplay accordingly. And it all feels very Star Trek when you must simultaneously angle for a better shot while keeping your less-shielded areas out of the line of fire.
Your crew also gives your ship special combat abilities. This helps make everything feel more dynamic, as the edge in a battle may come from you deploying combat shuttles and mines or simply executing an ability to increase your maneuverability.
What You Leave Behind
Once upon a time, Star Trek Online had the ultimate cure for these repetitive missions: The Foundry. This was a PC-exclusive feature that allowed players to create their very own missions.
While some were terrible, other missions were surprisingly engaging. And the ability to curate and review different Foundry missions let players quickly search for the kinds of games they wanted to play.
But, notice I’m using the past tense here. That’s because as of April 2019, the Foundry is no longer available. While there are many reasons for removing the feature (frankly, it took up a ton of resources while distracting players from official content), I can’t help but think of this as a huge loss for the game that may ultimately impact its long-term replay value.
But one thing that Star Trek Online does surprisingly well is stay current with whatever the latest Trek developments are. Back when the reboot movies were in full swing, the game allowed you to explore how some of the rogue Romulan Nero’s plot changed the modern Romulan landscape.
Now, with Star Trek: Discovery reigniting love for the franchise, the game has featured missions revolving around that show and even brought in actors such as Mary Wiseman to voice an evil Mirror Universe doppleganger of her friendly character.
Long story short? If you regularly stay on top of new episodes and new franchise developments, Star Trek Online constantly rewards you with new content.
So, this brings us back to the central question: is Star Trek Online worth your time?
If you’re not a Star Trek fan, the answer is “probably not.” It hurts my Trekker heart to say this, but rival game Star Wars: The Old Republic is more acceptable to casual players who have little franchise familiarity.
But if you’re a Star Trek fan, the answer is a resounding “yes.” You could probably spend a year simply enjoying all of the franchise Easter eggs hidden throughout the game, and this joy is enough to outweigh the occasionally repetitive combat and missions.
Ultimately, Star Trek Online is free to play and definitely one of the most entertaining and thorough ways you can spend your game time!