Star Trek has had quite the resurrection over the last few years. From Discovery to Picard and even animated shows in between, the new Star Trek Universe that is being built is slowly becoming something quite special.
As a kid I watched the adventures of Captain Jean Luc Picard on Star Trek The Next Generation. I was never the biggest fan of the show, something didn’t quite resonate with me. Perhaps it was the neat bow tied at the end of most episodes, or maybe it was the whole uniformity of the universe that didn’t sit well. Either way, Star Trek was never one of my favourites.
Later when Captain Janeway journeyed to the far reaches of space with Voyager, I started to get into things a bit more. The charismatic Ben Sisko and his giant space station never clicked with me either, I had no idea what it was about a sci fi series (my favourite genre) that I couldn’t adjust to. A little franchise called Star Wars may be to blame; Luke Skywalker and his adventures across the galaxy just sang to me. Now, I hear ya, stereotypical geek talk of Trek Vs Wars, but bear with me.
In 2009 a reboot/alternate reality version of the original Star Trek was unleashed to the world. And I loved it.
Finally I had figured out what was wrong and it allowed me to divide Star Trek into two separate eras – Film Grain Trek and Shiny Lens Flare Trek. This may come across as blasphemy to Trekkies but the shiny Star Trek finally made me fully appreciate the franchise. Silver and gleaming white hallways combined with sleek retro-future looking computer consoles slotted everything in place for me. This look was continued with Star Trek Discovery (another divisive show) and I absolutely loved it. This was a Star Trek I could buy into.
Now while I have gone back and rewatched the Kelvin Trilogy as I was preparing this review, I was also drawn back to another series that again divided fans – Enterprise. Taking things back before Captain Kirk was in diapers really worked for me, and while Captain Archer may have been part of my Film Grain era, I really enjoyed the episodes I watched. Anyway, that’s plenty of groundwork laid down, let’s get down to the main event.
Star Trek Online is a MMORPG that has just celebrated its 13th anniversary. Debuting on PC in 2010, the game made its way over to Xbox on 2016. I initially fired up the game way back when it launched for Xbox and thought it was decent, but short on campaigns. The loading was abysmal and systems were very complicated. Has any of this changed for the recent Xbox Series X|S update? Let’s see.
Right off the bat, there are way more starting points than before. We now get the option of six starting points for our new character, each with a different race or time period to select. Most importantly for me, they have added in the Discovery era. Hopping right in I found the story engaging (pun intended) and the missions short and punchy, not often common for a MMO game. I finished the discovery campaign in a few hours and was sad to see it go. That’s when I knew Star Trek Online had its hooks in me.
For those who have never played Star Trek Online, the game is very welcoming to newcomers. 90% of the content can be played solo, only really requiring groups at the latter stages of the endgame and for PVP. Playing very much like Mass Effect Lite, Star Trek leans heavier into RPG than it does MMO at the start. I would say this is an absolutely great starter MMORPG for those unfamiliar with the genre.
Gameplay, as I said, is very much like the Mass Effect series, conversing with characters from across the Star Trek Universe (many voiced by original actors) to shoot outs planet side. Combat doesn’t have as much of a chunky feel to it and can feel a tad too light and flimsy at points. Taking the battle to the stars, ship combat is an absolute highlight, balancing systems and learning ship positioning. All in, the package (for a free to play title) is well rounded and enjoyable.
So, we need to address the actual upgrade… and I say that lightly. Frame rate is improved across the board, and that means running around Starfleet has never been smoother. Sadly this optimisation is the only true next gen upgrade, and it doesn’t hold a stable 60fps. Graphics may have had a bit of a spit shine but scream more original Mass Effect 1 than the Legendary Edition Remaster. Menus are still laggy for whatever baffling reason, and a lot of patience is required in trying to even apply a new uniform to the crew.
Disappointing upgrade aside, Star Trek Online is still a very easily recommendable title, especially at the whopping cost of free, and no forced microtransactions, as those are mostly cosmetic. Sure, the odd ship may be more powerful than the ones earned or given in-game, there is nothing more significant than a point or two. The various storylines are going to be devoured by Star Trek fans as the cameo appearances and authentic voice acting really put the cherry on top.
An all round fun experience that sadly hasn’t been given the Series X|S boost it deserves, a Shiny Lens Flare look is what would really go down a treat in Star Trek Online. For me, the starships should glisten and the shine in every aspect should be forefront, and sadly the graphics did not receive a huge boost like this. The lack of features brought by the Xbox Series X|S upgrade does not detract from the fun available in Star Trek Online, but you’ll need to look past the 2007 graphical style.
I’ll finish with a direct quote from our review coverage back at Star Trek Online’s Xbox launch in 2016, as it still remains true to this day.
“At the end of the day Star Trek Online is a great game. Okay, the ground combat is definitely rough around the edges as well as occasionally annoying with its targeting system. And yes, I did encounter a few bugs that were extremely frustrating, and the visuals will never blow you away. However, it still doesn’t detract from the quality of the experience being offered here. Space combat can be great fun, as well as seeing and hearing about all of the iconic places, characters and sounds from years of Star Trek, and for free, there’s no reason to not jump in.
What are you waiting for captains? Engage!”