It looks like lapsed subs can now get back into Star Trek Online, in advance of the game’s full F2P re-launch on the 17th. I played the game when it first came out and have considered going back a few times, based on recommendations from friends and former co-workers. I liked it, to a degree (the space battles were especially fun, at least when I could point my ship in the right direction), but my major issue with the game was the voluminous level of maintenance required to keep apace with things.
Unlike some people who found the game’s missions and overall style of play repetitive, I left the game because of there being too many little details that required my constant attention. I like to think I’m a fairly meticulous person who’s not overly bothered by a lot of detail in my games. But STO overloaded me, I felt, with too much to keep track of, too early. In addition to my main character, I had to maintain four bridge crew officers, complete with their own equipment, weapons (each with multiple settings), and (poorly described) skill sets, not to mention my ship with all its potential modifications. When I tried to “take it easy” for a while and not micromanage my crew, we would invariably get torn to pieces by a group of Klingons. Toss in that I was an engineer, and so would want to set up as many fortifications — mines, turrets, and force shields — before an encounter, which necessitated changing my tool kit, and the bewildering array of ship components, vendor trash, crafting materials, and other detritus that clogged up my inventory, and the game became almost untenable, even at level 11 — er, Lieutenant Commander, 2nd class (or whatever it was) — before I just packed it in.
This aspect of the game seemed to me to be the biggest reason why the game fell flat in many people’s eyes. When you make a game based on a well-known and popular license such as Star Trek, it’s a mistake to go overboard with minutia because, geeky as your fan base is, a fair number of them are going to be dipping their toes into this genre for the first time, since they’re fans of the license first and MMORPGs second (if at all — when I did the SWTOR demo at PAX East, one of the people in my foursome confessed to never having played an MMO). It’s easy to think that everyone shares your devotion, your passion, and your drive to play a game based on your favorite property, but some people just want to jump into the shoes and ripped shirt of Captain Kirk and not have to wonder if they’ve got the right secondary weapon setting for their security officer’s Type II Phaser Rifle. We can poke fun at games like SWTOR and The Lord of the Rings Online for being fairly basic WoW-clone-ish games, but the WoW formula works for the masses and is probably the best choice for games meant to appeal to a large, mass-market audience. Save the innovations and big changes to the genre for the likes of Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World.
Anyway, I probably will hop back into my Andorian engineer for at least a little while, just to see how the game’s changed and to at least slightly refamiliarize myself with the controls. I’ve been away for so long that my ship’s probably overrun by tribbles by this point, though…