Newbies: Is Star Trek Online beginner-friendly in 2021?

Newbies is a series where we look at how friendly long-running MMO and GaaS titles are for beginners.

There aren’t a lot of video game options these days for Star Trek fans. Aside from a few mobile games, the only current Star Trek title is Star Trek Online. Luckily, it’s a pretty decent game. Though it’s been 11 years since launch, Star Trek Online is still going strong and continues to be updated with new ships, story content, and events. However, it can be daunting to try and get into an MMO that’s been around as long as STO, so we’re taking a look at how beginner-friendly it is.

Is Star Trek Online beginner-friendly?

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MMOs are meant to be played over a long span of time by design. The problem is, this can lead to systems and content being so convoluted that it’s incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t been a part of the game’s community since the beginning. However, Star Trek Online doesn’t play like most MMOs, making it a lot easier to jump into.

You can play practically all of Star Trek Online’s story missions, PVE, and PVP modes as a team with others. However, it’s also extremely solo-friendly, maybe more so than any other MMO. It gives players a chance to take the game at their own pace.

There are six possible start points in Star Trek Online, but five of these have a lengthy tutorial to acclimate players to the game’s various systems. This makes it very easy to understand the nuances of ground and space combat and find your niche. Some captains will want to concentrate on tactical, which has you gearing for DPS. Others will want to put their efforts into engineering, which allows for tanky builds. Then there are science officers who concentrate on buffs, debuffs, and healing.

The tutorial gives players a chance to get a taste of all three, and even if you decide you’re not happy with your decision, you can always retrain your captain down the road. With all the changes that have been made to Star Trek Online over the years, there are very few choices that players can’t reverse. You can even unlock the ability for all ships to be cross-faction, meaning Federation characters can fly Klingon starships and vice-versa. So, even if you find yourself wishing you’d started the game off different,  you’re never too locked into a playstyle or faction.

Is Star Trek Online pay-to-win?

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Star Trek Online is a free-to-play game. It does have some of the trappings that are typical of titles with that financial model. There are loot boxes with keys that cost money. There are also many ships and packs that require players to purchase them with in-game currency called Zen. Zen can be earned in-game (at least in a roundabout way), but not at a rate at which you can accumulate enough to buy the most exclusive packs without waiting for an extended length of time.

Some packs go for $150-250 worth of Zen, which puts some ships and items out of the grasp of anyone who isn’t willing to pony up. However, there are frequent events that give players free Tier 6 ship tokens for minimal work, so those who are patient will eventually get any ship they want.

However, while PVP modes are included in the game, they’re far from the main focus. Paid ships are often better than those you can purchase using in-game currency like Energy Credits and Dilithium. However, the PVE content scales, so it never really matters. The premium ships are attractive for their cool factor more than anything else.

The meat of the game, the story content, is all free, After 11 years, there’s a ton there, and it’s not slapdash either. There are some really great Star Trek stories featuring characters from the various TV series played by their original actors. Heck, the sector map, which is used to move between star systems, is narrated by the late Leonard Nimoy.

You can enjoy all of what STO has to offer without paying anything. However, the one purchase I recommend is the pack that expands your inventory and bank space. It’s only $10 and cuts down on the annoyance of managing your inventory significantly.

What’s the Star Trek Online endgame like?

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Star Trek Online’s endgame comes into play once players have reached level 65 and hit their faction’s max rank. By this time, you’ll have likely made it through most of the story content and have a good grasp of the various systems. However, this is where the game gets a bit confusing. The big attraction to reaching max level is that you can now fly any ship and can begin working on your builds. However, there are all sorts of currencies to keep track of, and it’s confusing which activities you need to grind to get what.

The endgame is also the point the free-to-play aspect of the game becomes more apparent. You’ll need to start grinding for Energy Credits or Dilithium to get Zen and items you need to access and upgrade the best ships in the game. Fortunately, the game still has a strong community, even after 11 years. It’s pretty easy to find a Fleet (clan), and there’s typically always someone around that’s willing to help you figure things out.

Is Star Trek Online worth playing in 2021?

I’ve played STO off and on throughout the years, and I’d say right now is the best time to play. There are around 50-100 hours of solo/co-op content that requires no purchase. However, it’s a niche game that predominantly exists to cater to Star Trek fans. For example, I found a Federation Phaser c. 2285 that looked straight out of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, down to the firing and sound effects. That thrilled me to death, but to a non-Trek fan, it’s just another shooty-laser.

The main thing caveat to playing Star Trek Online is not to be tricked into spending money. You can get everything you need to enjoy the game for free. It’s not nearly as obnoxious about dangling those cosmetics and ships in front of you like some games, but if you’re a Trek fan, it can be hard to resist that Andrew Probert-designed variant of the Ambassador Class.