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Inside Beta: Character Customization

Dana Massey Posted:
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Cryptic found itself in an awkward position when they acquired the Star Trek Online license in the summer of 2008. They are a company built around the idea of customization, specifically character customization. City of Heroes, Villains and later Champions Online would all redefine how much control players expect to have over their characters. With Star Trek came a huge challenge: How do you create top notch character customization in an IP where everyone basically dresses the same? After some exclusive hands-on time with the game, I'm happy to report that they have met that challenge. When Star Trek Online launches in February it will come with some of the best character customization ever seen in a video game.

The initial customization is the usual Cryptic funhouse. There are only a few choices that affect the under-the-hood mechanics of your character, which to me is how it should be. No one knows when they first install a game what they want to be precisely, so why make them pick right away?

Your choices are limited to one of three archetypes and a few character traits. The official descriptions of the careers are as follows:

  • Tactical Officer: "Combat damage, stealth recon, and squad tactics. The Tactical Officer can deliver damage in the widest variety of methods, while supporting his away team by drawing off enemy threat or bolstering their combat effectiveness with tactics and squad combat."
  • Science Officer: "Weakening or incapacitating the enemy over time, creating energy fields that damage or hinder, and healing their away team from such effects. The Science Officer has the greatest potential to react to a chaotic combat situation through direct enemy holds, weakening an enemy group's combat strength or resistance, or responding to enemy attack by quickly healing damage. The Science Officer's combat effectiveness is their versatility."
  • Engineering Officer: "Survivability, support generators, and controlling the paths of enemy advance with fieldworks. The Engineering Officer can withstand the most damage by improving the performance of their own personal shields, while supporting his away team with power generators or by bottlenecking the enemy's advance with defensive minefields. The Engineer's own combat effectiveness is improved by modifications to their firearms or support fire from fabricated turrets and drones."

The second choice is race. Aside from the obvious artistic implications, race also ties a set number of required traits to the character. Traits are innate abilities. Each race gets four of them total, but one or two are pre-defined for every race save the player defined one.

In the build we played, only Starfleet races were available to explore. Below is a list of the races we saw, plus the traits tied to them and what they do:

Human, Andorian, Bajoran, Bolian, Vulcan, Ferengi

  • Human: I'm pretty confident you don't need an explanation for them. They come with two required traits:
    • Leadership: 10% increase to "Crew Powers."
    • Teamwork: 5% team bonus to Exploit Damage.
  • Andorian: The blue aliens with antennas. They come from the frozen moon of Andoria. They have one required trait:
    • Acute Senses: 20% improvement to stealth sight, 10% damage bonus to exploit damage.
  • Bajoran: You'll remember these guys from Deep Space Nine. They're the ones with the funky earrings and ridged noses. They're also a very spiritual people and don't get along so well with Cardassians. They have two required traits:
    • Creative: 5% bonus damage with Kits, 5% heal bonus with kits.
    • Spiritual: 10% bonus from Heals, 10% improvement to Regeneration.
  • Bolian: These are the blue guys without antennas! They apparently also enjoy a good laugh and rarely have hair.
    • Corrosive Blood: 20% resistance to toxic/poison damage, Damage trigger to target if bitten. Deals Toxic DoT with Chance to Vomit.
  • Vulcan: These guys require nearly as little explanation as humans. They have pointy ears, they're quite logical, and you need to be able to split your middle and ring finger in salute to be one. Think Spock. They have two required traits:
    • Logical: 30% resistance to Psionic damage, 30% resistance to confuse, 30% resistance to Placate.
    • Physical Strength: 10% improvement to melee Physical Damage.
  • Ferengi: Everyone's favorite space age used car salesmen. The Ferengi love a good deal. They have two required traits:
    • Acute Senses: 20% improvement to stealth sight, 10% damage bonus to exploit damage.
    • Natural Immunities: 33% resistance to Radiation and Toxic damage.

Finally, there is the option to create your own race. The official pitch the game gives is as follows: "Create your own Species! Maybe your species is part of the Federation. Maybe you're from a species that is one of the Federation's enemies. Or maybe you're something completely new. You've chosen to join Starfleet to uphold the Federation and its ideals. Perhaps you'll discover a new world and introduce its inhabitants to your culture."

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Dana Massey