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Review: Star Trek Online's 9th season explosive

by Greg Belfrage

If you're a fan of the original Star Trek and not playing Star Trek Online , now is a great time to start! I'll explain in a moment.

Star Trek Online takes place in the original Trek universe, not the alternate timeline from the J.J. Abrams' films. It is the early 25th Century, a few years after the devastating nova that obliterated Romulus.

The latest season is titled "A New Accord" . The Federation, Klingon Empire and New Romulan Republic must unite forces to defeat the mysterious Undine. Fans of Star Trek: Voyager will remember the Undine as Species 8472.

In the season's first episode, "Surface Tension" , the Undine have engaged in a massive attack against Earth Spacedock. Admiral Tuvok, voiced by original Voyager actor Tim Russ, orders you and your crew to repel the attack and rescue Starfleet Chief Admiral Quinn.

Rescuing Quinn is easier said than done. Spacedock is in ruins and the shape-shifting Undine are aboard and masquerading as Starfleet personnel. The good news is that Admiral Tuvok and the U.S.S. Voyager are there to assist. The newest U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-F, is also there to help!

Unfortunately, the attack against Spacedock turns out to be a diversion. Is it too late to prevent the Undine from destroying their true target? You'll have to play to find out, as I'll offer no spoilers here.

The scope of the season is impressive, the story telling very engaging, and the action is often fierce. New graphics and improved game play make this season a winner!

Cryptic Studios, the developer of STO, unveiled some big changes in game play to coincide with the new season. They've updated graphics in a number of the older missions. There are also major changes to kits and the game's reputation system that have some long-time players up in arms.

Like many other role playing games, Star Trek Online offers players additional character abilities and traits during game play. In the past, these traits simply stacked up one after another. Long time players accumulated such a massive amount of traits that they started becoming invincible. Newbie players were finding themselves vastly outmatched.

Under the new reputation system, players are limited to the number of traits they may use at any one time. Now players can assign and change their character, space and ground traits based on mission. For instance, you would slot "space" traits for starship combat and specific "ground" traits for planetary missions.

I think the new reputation system really levels the playing the field. Long time players will still have more traits from which to choose, but they can no longer overwhelm opponents simply due to longevity in the game. Skill now becomes more important than the sheer accumulation of traits. There's never been a better time for new players to join the game!

Cryptic also gave the Earth Spacedock interior a complete overhaul. ESD is an important hub since it offers a variety of services, costumes and equipment for Federation players.The newly redesigned Spacedock interior is much grander in scope and realism than its predecessor. It's more expansive, far easier to navigate, and looks far more like an actual Star Trek movie set.

I've been playing Star Trek Online for over a year now. I absolutely love it. It is incredibly complex and rich in detail. Players can participate in ground or space combat. There are non-combat missions. You can assign your crew to duty missions that occur in real-time, meaning they're off accumulating dilithium or credits for you even when you're logged out of the game.

There are nine seasons of missions available for play, as well as a number of stand alone missions offering dilithium and energy credits, as well as XP and commendation points. There are Special Task Force missions featuring multi-player coop. There are PvP missions pitting player against player. You can challenge other players directly within the game. You can join a fleet and purchase superior equipment not available elsewhere in the game.

You've got the entire Star Trek universe to explore...from the Alpha to the Delta Quadrant and everything in between, including Borg space and the Dyson sphere. You can engage enemies you encounter during space travels or explore alien planets. How about a vacation on Risa?

You can own and command multiple starships, past and present. Walk among your crew in the the interior of your starship. Take your seat on the bridge and explore your ready room, personal quarters, Engineering and more. Maybe you'd prefer to roam the halls of Space Station K7 with dozens of other online players bustling around you? How about a game of Dabo in Quark's Bar aboard Deep Space Nine?

If you wish, you can choose to play as a Klingon warrior or a Romulan centurion, each with its own set of unique missions. Players are allowed up to three characters in game.

Suffice it to say there's enough in Star Trek Online to keep you busy for years.

And did I mention the game is free?

You'll find me most often in command of my flagship, a retrofit of an Excelsior-class transwarp command cruiser, U.S.S Fearless. She's an overworked, under-powered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams. But she's one of the most versatile ships in the game. I've upgraded her systems and weapons so that she packs a wallop!

See you around the galaxy!

Greg Belfrage is a lifelong Star Trek fan, Batman toy collector, sci-fi movie maniac and hopeless geek. He can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.