Okay, well, day one of the Open Beta.
As promised, here’s the lo-down:
Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before – Customization, as with Champions Online, is a wide array and a breath of fresh air. I haven’t seen this much ability to shape who you are and what you fly since Vanguard pre-update 1.4. My secret fears of pink starships never materialized. While some of the names were immersion breaking, it was not nearly as many as I thought. Apparently, like with LotRO, the IP is so strong that most people just want to use it rather than abuse it. I was worried about the starship customization and categories, but its quite brilliant, giving some individuality to the ships while keeping them pretty readily identifiable. The character traits are an unexpected and nice touch, though its clear they need a balancing pass (ie the only innate threat reduction ability is only available to Betazoids).
Starfleet is a peacekeeping and humanitarian force.” ~Capt. Pike – The mission variety is good, and, true to their word, there are non-combat missions available. I had to escort a brokent down freighter at one point, and at another, I had to do negotiations with some miners. The negotiations involved actually reading the quest text and then taking test on what was said to me. I *loved* it. A mission that makes you read the text and immerse yourself in the game to be successful with. Awesome.
Apparently, its Not a Good Day to Die – My first group space combat was mind blowing. My ship, the USS Pendulum, was patrolling a system with three other players, commanding the USS Avalanche, USS Stingray, and USS Aquarius (see? those are great names!) when we stumbled upon a staging area for Orion pirates. I sawt he word “battleship” floating int he mist several times over and I wondered if they had balanced the mission right. They had. We were on pins and needles and I was at less than 10% hull when my Engineering Officer managed to boost the shields with emergency power, allowing enough time for the other three to finish off the first of the behemoths. After that some of the damage tapered off as the others redirected fire. I slid nicely into the dps role, switching my power distribution to attack and managing to time a photon torpedo spread (with a hi yield boost from my Tactical Officer) on the starboard side of our second target, where the shields had just been knocked down. Unfortunately the proximity ripped my shields apart too as his Warp Core went belly up. It was intense at times, and much fun. Also, in a sweet coolness factor, I have now equipped the Pendulum with a Dual Disruptor Cannon looted from the wreckage. Win.
Full Map is Full – For the first nine hours of Beta, anyone who managed to log in was in for a treat, and those who couldn’t were completely screwed. Something happened in their single serve architecture that was bouncing people left and right, and dc’ing them with a vengeance. It took 3 tries for me to just successfully create a character. On top of that, at various times during the day their website, forums, launcher, and even news feed went belly up. And God help you if you were trying to download the client! At some point there is just no excuse for this. You know what your system is going to face in terms of numbers – thats the goodness of Open Beta. And you should already know what you system can handle – thats the goodness of having completed a Closed Beta. To Cryptic’s credit though – they rolled out a patch that evening that fixed just about everything. All the login and map issues dried up and as a bonus a number of other small bugs were fixed too. So while this is filed under bad, but an asterisk on it.
Tool Tips are for the Weak – There is not one single real skill description in the game yet. I’m pretty sure I know what Starship Energy Weapon Skill does – it says it boosts my performance and damage with energy weapons, and even gives me numbers. But I don’t know what framework the numbers fit into. And some of the skills I just am not sure how useful they are without that framework. Sure I have a +10 bonus to Medical Team Training – which boosts their healing and buffing skills – but what exactly does that bonus translate into in terms of real numbers? And the diminishing returns have easy to spot plateau’s in the advancement. There might be nine levels to the skill, but really there is only four – 1 (+6 bonus), 2 (+10 bonus), 4 (+14 bonus), and 7 (+16 bonus). The other levels only net you small increments (7 to 8 gets you a whole .5 bonus!). That don’t seem worthwhile. And I haven’t even started talking about hte Bridge Officer skills, which, unless I’m missing something, you are stuck with. That hi-yield torp thing is nice, but my Tactical Officer’s Leg Sweep is next to useless, and I can’t find a way to swap it out for one of the other officer skills. Apparently I just have to get a new officer. That’s ok from a lore perspective – she knows what she knows after all – but it is frustrating in trying to build your team as you want them.
Handles like a Drunk Cow – Starship manuevering is tricky as all get out. I think I need to remap the keyboard really – but still, it takes some getting used to. Protip – up and down are set and go, not hold. In other words, if you want your ship to climb, hit D and then stop. Holding it will increase the angle, but it does not “snap-back” once you let go. Also, the throttle up and down controls are nestled far too close. Several times I was trying to reduce speed to cut an angle for a photon spread only to find my ship nosediving because I had caught the W instead of the Q. This is not a “fail” in the general sense, but its a warning that it takes some getting used to and probably some work on your part to get right.
In the Future, You Don’t Have Money…Because Everyone Is Broke – Remember my new Disruptor Cannon? I got a couple of decent drops like that, which is good, because I can’t afford anything Starfleet is selling. Requisitioning Mark II phasers to replace my Standard Issue ones will cost me 2500 credits. I completed a patrol (4 missions) and a rescue operation (1 mission) last night, and from rewards and drops managed to accumulate 250 credits total. Fifty missions to get from a level 1 to a level 2 phaser? Really? That’s low. Especially when I also need to look at new Kits, Body Armor, getting Officers with the right skills and not to mention saving for my next Starship! This will probably get a balancing pass as well, and it might have been bad luck, so again, its ugly, but its workable.
Overall, I’m pleased with Cryptics handling of problems and the product they have put together so far. Hopefully I can try some pvp tonight and find out how to get on my own bridge! Still, for day one, I had a ton of fun.