Star Trek Online: Hands-on, benchmarks, technology preview and new screenshots
Star Trek Online is going to open Beta in January and will be released in February 2010. PC Games Hardware already had a chance to play the Sci-Fi MMO and checked the technology as well as the system requirements.
Just recently Namco Bandai invited a few editors to play Star Trek Online on a test server. According to developer Cryptic the version installed on the test systems had already been two weeks old and there will most likely be changes until the closed Beta in mid-December or the open Beta in January. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take our own screenshots - all pictures in this article have been given to us by the developers. But on the other hand we were allowed to check all the setting in the options menu, run first benchmarks and play as much as we wanted.
Star Trek Online: The first impression
First of all we had to customize our character - and had been amazed. Without any doubt the Character Creator is one of the most variable we have seen up to now and it offers even more possibilities for your figure than WoW or Aion. You can for example choose the way your alter ego stands (upright or crouched). Furthermore there are a lot of alien features to choose from: you want to have a Bajoran nose, the ears of a Vorta or Andorian antennae? No problem in STO.
Customizing your ship is a lot of fun, too, although you can't act as freely as for example in Spore. Instead you get a basic structure for which you choose from a selection of Warp nacelles, saucer sections, additional superstructural parts and colors. Thus there is a huge variety of combinations - we think that it is unlikely but not impossible that you will encounter a ship that looks exactly like yours.
The first ground combats are handled similar as in typical MMOs and thus feel comfortable. But later on you take your bridge officers with you and like in Mass Effect you can give them orders. Space battles on the other hand are different: Using WASD you have to circle you enemy and take one side of his shields down. In reverse you should try to take as less damage as possible yourself to prevent your own shields from failing. Thus the space battles are quite tactical but nevertheless accessible. But fighting a strong spacecraft with strong shields on your own took quite some time in the version we were playing.
Star Trek Online: Tech Check
When talking to the developers we learned that the engine is optimized for dual-core systems - additional cores are not or only slightly utilized. DirectX 10 or DirectX 11 are not supported. FSAA or SSAA can be activated directly in the game. The physics engine is a self-made structure that runs on the server as well as on the clients. But we couldn't make out more than a few flying pieces of debris in the ground battles. Don't expect ripped of warp nacelles or scraped saucer sections.
Like in the first trailers we noticed that in ground combats objects like grass or bushes vanish at a comparatively short distance and that static objects like trees are displayed with a lower level of detail. When you are walking on a planet's surface it almost looks like you were casting wave with higher details in front of you. When asking about this matter a Cryptic employee said that it might perhaps be possible the adjust the Level of Detail in the config file later on - with more variety than offered by the in-game options - so that highest-end PCs can display the environment with maximum details at all times.
Star Trek Online: Benchmarks
The PC of Namco Bandai which we played on was equipped with a Core 2 quad Q8300, four GiByte RAM and a Geforce GTX 260. Taking a look at the Windows Task Manager after a longer gaming session confirmed what the developers told us already: Two cores were fully utilized while the remaining two cores weren't. Since only one test PC was available and we had limited time only, we stuck to benchmarks with highest and lowest graphics settings as well as FSAA and AF. The figure respectively our ship weren't moved to make sure the scene is reproducible.
As you can see on the benchmarks Star Trek Online was running smoothly on the test PC. With low details the performance of weaker systems can apparently be increased. Additional benchmarks revealed that the Geforce GTX 260 running high details with 4x or even 8x FSAA was just as fast as without Anti Aliasing.
More articles related to Star Trek Online:
• Star Trek Online: System requirements revealed - Release in February
• Star Trek Online: New screenshots of the MMORPG