Star Trek was often about Kirk bedding beauties and battling baddies but in this week’s DLC Richard Hayden finds hidden depths in Star Trek Online
Generally, when people think of Star Trek, they think one of two things. They think of straight-backed bald men laying the wisdom of years on the galaxy or of portly Canadians tangling with long-limbed green-skinned women before throwing gruff Klingons across the set.
When I stepped into Star Trek Online I secretly hoped for a bit of the latter. However, I quickly discovered that the best fun to be had in the somewhat (unfairly) maligned MMO was not so much in the shooting and the leering but in the starship management.
Let me be clear. The Duty Officer system in STO is not especially detailed. Don’t come here hoping for an FTL-style experience of balancing vessel integrity with mission goals. Nor is it some sort of attempt at Spaceship Tycoon.
No, the Duty Officer system in STO is straightforward. You ask your bridge officers (of whom you can have up to seven, including a First Officer) to take responsibility for the various departments – engineering, operations, science, medical, security and tactical. Number One also handles diplomacy.
Depending on your ship’s location in the universe and your relative rank, Starfleet has varying missions for you. Loads of them.
More, in fact, than you and your bridge officers can handle on your own, especially when there are Klingons to toss and Orions to tumble.
So, your duty roster comes in handy. The game hands you 20 officers to start with and as you progress you can earn more officers, often of a better standard. STO, being supported by micro-transactions these days, also offers you a chance to buy (with real money) officer packs to improve your hand of available crew.
Each officer has a specialty, ranging from the engineering duties such as the Warp Theorist, to the science role of the Geologist. Medical is staffed by Doctors and Nurses, while Security is bristling with red-shirted cannon fodder. You may have civilians to call upon, too. Counselors lend their help where they can and your ship can even host Colonists in hope of a new start out at the frontier.
But, as Spock once said, each living thing performs according to his or her gifts. Every officer has a range of behavior patterns – some suitable to the task, some highly suitable and some potentially disastrous.
Once you’ve got your officers’ skills and personalities sorted out, you can then assign them to one of the missions, picking one that best suits their skillset. Some missions might take only 30 minutes (in real time) while others take many days. Success in each mission provides differing rewards – in-game currencies (of which there is a bewildering number), personal and officer XP, the occasional buff and sometimes a useful item.
Failure, however, brings the risk of injury or, worse, death but sadly Dr McCoy does not pop on to the screen to say, “He’s dead, Jim”. Which, I suppose, is just as well as my character is not called Jim.
It’s a minigame, so it doesn’t bear to be too closely examined. However, as minigames go, it’s a lot of fun. Crucially, it feels more like being in charge of a vast starship than all the Klingon conflict and Orion ogling put together. Live long and prosper!