The game has changed since my original review, I decided to review it again. This time, rather than give you long paragraphs describing the game in detail, I'm just going to tell you what I did and didn't like about it.
What I liked about StarQuest Online
The only places safe from PvP are on the starting core worlds. These are the areas where new people first enter StarQuest, and where you immortrax if killed. PvE is possible to some extent in core worlds, it allows the new player to get a sense of how the combat works, before actually trying to fight something that might turn out to be a player who is much more experienced. Things like cows, butterflies, dinosaurs, the occasional demon cow with spikes, are there to try your hand at before venturing out into the "real" world.
Very few rules, no zones, no instances, no walls to stop you. The planet maps are really small, but I haven't seen any adverse affects to gameplay because of this. It's just kind of odd to be able to swim the Atlantic in 5-10 minutes. If you were planning on a secret planetary lair from which to conquer the galaxy with your evil plans and hordes of minions, forget it. Even if the maps were way bigger, it only takes a few minutes to find anything on any planet with a ship's scanners.
Very different from the starship approach. This is what got me playing this game in the first place. I was hooked the first time I had to go for a space walk OUTSIDE the ship to replace one of the engines on a Manning. Ship interiors and spacewalks? What could be better? Did I mention it doesn't have classes?
10,000+ star systems, 100,000+ planets that you can land on. The map is a real starmap made from deep space telemetry. The developers have stated there are over 200 different races located in the galaxy, only a small fraction of these have been found. Only about 10-15% of the star systems have been visited.
The community is small enough that the admins can deal with each problem directly. Nothing goes into the game without being approved by the players. The admins periodically log into the game as alien NPC races, and interact with the players on that level. I have fond memories of getting my ship blown to pieces by them. They are definitely very good at playing their own game.
While not being all that large a selection, I like the music they do have, but that might just be my personal taste. If they added Elton John's song "Rocket Man", a Titan V wouldn't be able to pull me away.
What I didn't like about StarQuest Online
Being PvP centric, fights are frequent on the forums. Someone always has a problem with someone else. While they are VERY helpful to new people, most of them willing to give you the shirt off their backs, the PvP mindset is still there. Once you get really into the game and choose a side, it's going to be a rough ride. Shirts are very cheap in StarQuest
Everyone wants to own their own faction, not follow someone else. I really don't know how that could be fixed in a game like this without adding a few rules.
Small development team
It's a fledging company with no funding other than their own pockets, and the donations of others. While bugs are fixed quickly, sometimes new content takes a while longer than expected.
It's not the focus of the game to be a LotRO in space graphically. It's about teamwork, PvP, exploration, faction building, and sandbox play. If all you play for are graphics, you're not going to like this game. The graphics are improving, with the recent upgrade to "HD avatars", but like I said, it's a small team.
It's like wrestling a rhinoceros to keep factions straightened out to make sure everyone in your guild can access what you want them to access and nothing more. I can deal with that, but what I can't deal with is not getting any visible notation of my supreme abilities as a guild leader. If I conquer a section of space, there is no visible representation of it beyond the text I might put in a post in the forums. Some type of Realm vs Realm on a faction scale would be awesome.
If you start with a fleet character you get a learning simulation that works all right, if you start with a civilian you just pop into existence on a planet. While I'm not asking for great big neon signs, or for some type of NPC to be bashing me over the head with what I should do, there needs to be some real improvement in the noob experience area. You end up on a planet with no idea what to do, and most likely will have a hard time finding someone on chat. Once you get started, there will always be more than enough to do and you will have a awesome experience, but until then your going to have to search the forums to get anywhere.
The Dark Side:
It's a small community. SQO got off to a VERY rough start. While they are slowly gaining players, it's nothing near where it could be. I understand they are a small company with very little money, but I think you would have to work hard to get less hype than they have for StarQuest. How many of you people even heard of this game before I started writing for it? Does each installment of CTS's big patch notes make you want to rush to download your copy? Did you even know they were going to start updating the graphics? I rest my case.
Try the game. For what it is, it rocks. I can find nothing that even compares in its category. When the game has matured a bit more and has more content focusing on shrinking my bad list, and if they can bring some light to the dark side, this game is going to do well. Until then, its a good game, but it doesn't get my perfect rating.