Today, Cryptic's Star Trek Online entered Open Beta, and along with the start of this final phase before launch comes the drop of the game's NDA. Over the next few days, I'm sure that interested parties will be inundated with reports, both good and bad. You will have read players proclaiming it the greatest thing since the interwebz were invented and you will have read players proclaiming it a sign that the antichrist is among us. That's the nature of most MMOs. They don't have a universal appeal, as much as their developers might like for them to. Some groups of people are going to love it, some groups of people are going to hate it, and most people will fall somewhere in between.
In honor of the STO NDA drop, I thought I'd take a look at the different fan groups within the Star Trek franchise and break down how likely each kind of fan is to enjoy the game:
Casual Star Trek Fans
I count a casual Star Trek fan as someone who is familiar with the shows, the characters and the universe, but probably couldn't tell you which two recurring characters Jeffrey Combs played simultaneously on Deep Space Nine (it was Brunt and Weyoun in case you're curious).
I think that casual Star Trek fans are likely to enjoy this game. It does a good job of recreating the sights and sounds of the Star Trek universe and contains a number of easy to catch references. Check the game out, see if it's your cup of tea.
The Original Series Fans
People who watched and were fans of the original trek might find some fun in this game, but with the setting so far removed from the "campy" feeling or the original, if you're one of those folks who never really got into anything The Next Generation and beyond, you're probably not going to fall in love with the game. If you DO want to get your hands on this puppy, I'd recommend grabbing the exclusive Constitution class ship and old school uniforms if at all possible.
The Next Generation Fans
If you're the kind of trek fan who got really into TNG, but didn't get into DS9 at all, you might find more than a few faults. You're in the group of Trek fans that I think is most likely to reject a lot of the premise of the game. You're probably not going to like the game's focus on war and combat, and you're not going to be thrilled with the role you're asked to play. You probably would have preferred player crews that allowed you to be the Chief Engineer, tinkering with dilythium crystals. Unfortunately, that's just not what this game is about.
Deep Space Nine Fans
If your fandom made it all the way through Deep Space Nine, I think you're in the group of Trek fans that are most likely to get into and fully enjoy STO. The combat is highly reminiscent of what you saw in the later seasons of that show. The Federation is once again at war, and most of the game revolves around that (as did the series). The roles of the characters are well defined, but not strictly rigid, and new races and technologies are cropping up all the time. Exploration hasn't completely fallen by the wayside, but it also isn't the 100% primary focus of the show (or in this case, game).
If your favourite series was Voyager, I think your enjoyment of this game is going to be split. I think that this game captures a lot of the more intense elements of Voyager, the feeling of moving ever-forward toward a single goal in a linear fashion. In the case of the series, it was getting home to Earth. In the case of the game, it's advancing through the levels through PvE. That was a part of the appeal of Voyager. You knew what the crew's goal was, and you got to see them come ever closer to achieving it every week.
If, on the other hand, you were a fan of the acting and slower, more laid back pace of the show, you're not as likely to enjoy the game as some others might be.
Seriously? Are there really Enterprise fans? In all seriousness though, the primary appeal of Enterprise was that everything was gritty and new, and untested. I think that might be the complete opposite of the feel of STO, which is shinier and newer than even the most recent Trek series.
If you're an Enterprise fan, I think it's more likely that you fit the Casual Trek Fan category as much as anything else.
Hardcore Trek Fans
Do you debate which captain had the more annoying speech patterns, Kirk or Sisko? Do you speak Klingon? Can you tell me more than two Ferengi Rules of Acquisition? Do you own a Star Trek uniform or other wearable paraphernalia? If you fit these, or countless other stereotypes, my experience has and always will be that it is absolutely impossible to please you as a group.
Hardcore Trek fans will be the loudest complainers about this game, but they're also going to be some of its biggest fans. Some will even love the game, but complain bitterly about the smallest missed detail.
If it wasn't for the hardcore fans though, I doubt Cryptic would have gone as far as they did toward making the Star Trek MMO feel as much like a part of they universe as they have.
The bottom line here is that if you're a Trek fan, and you're going into Star Trek Online expecting it to be just like your favourite show, you're going to be disappointed. While it's fun to look at the different series and see the similarities to the game, the bottom line is that Star Trek Online is its own entity within the franchise's universe. It's not trying to be any of the series, and expecting it to be is only going to lead to disappointment.
So, my best advice is to listen to the myriad of opinions, both player and professional, with a grain of salt. Everyone is different, and has different tastes. Try the game for yourself and if you like it, great. If not, don't bother with it. It's really up to you.