Gamescom 2016 - Taking to the Stars Via Console
In the dim reaches of the past there is a webcomic called Real Life Comics. The one I am thinking of in particular has a ship and the unique control interface, or as Dave puts it when defending the mouse and keyboard, he could circle strafe the moon.
I'm a keyboard and mouse kind of guy. Oh I'm not above interesting devices, my mouse has a ton of buttons that I really should bind some interesting macros to. It all works for me and it's comfortable. Star Trek Online worked for me under that interface, it is familiar after all. Things just fit into muscle memory. Sitting down with Samuel Wall, Art Director on Star Trek Online, and the console port, we were going to find out what the game pad is like when piloting one of the Federations finest.
Shining a Light
The demo version available at Gamescom showed off all the improvements in lighting and textures. Space will always be the final frontier but it can also be utterly gorgeous sometimes. The good news for everyone is that the console UI is very intuitive, very clean and very very Star Trek. The bad news for everyone on PC is that there are not plans at the moment to bring the console UI and controls to PC. That may change depending on feedback of course, and I for one certainly hope that that will be the case.
So console players, look on the bright side. You get all of the content that you could want with 11 seasons’ worth of updates hitting the game on Playstation and XBox. How will it be received, that remains to be seen. Visually, Star Trek Online has never looked better. The new lighting makes a world of difference and the controller mapping feels somehow right in a vaguely indefinable sense. It'd been a while since I had sat down to play through an away mission but with the controller, it went perfectly smoothly for me. The abilities were easy to access and the enemies easy to target. What more can you want when beaming down to a planet in the midst of assimilation by the Borg?
The basic game engine remains the same, which of course says a lot on how consoles are nowadays and how similar they are to PCs. The graphical update will be coming to the PC game for everyone but the major change for consoles is the pretty UI and its macro abilities. Does this necessarily make the game easier? That's an argument for fans to really sink their teeth into. I have to say I like the idea of my bridge officer abilities firing off at tagged points as I sit on the sofa and seek out new civilizations. It definitely came into play on the away mission, leaving my bridge officers to fire off what they should when the time is right instead of needing me to try and micromanage with a controller which is always a laborious experience.
Console players can also look forward to updates being very close in time to the PC update releases. Keeping everything in step is clearly something Cryptic have learned with their experiences with Neverwinter on XBox. If you've been sitting on the fence over Star Trek Online over all this time? Wait until the lighting update hits for PC so you can really immerse yourself in the love and care the art team have poured out into the game. If you are a console player and want something different? Cryptic Studios have gone out of their way to craft a truly gorgeous and incredibly tight console experience for all comers.
Sadly the only thing we couldn't find out from Samuel was where Star Trek Online is going next. Agents of Yesterday is out and giving people plenty to do in the 23rd century but lips are sealed over where we might go next. Certainly for the property of Star Trek, there has never been a better time. Star Trek Beyond graced us this summer and Star Trek Discovery is due early next year. There's plenty of material still to mine from the rich history of Star Trek, but there's also every opportunity to work with and around anything new we get on screens big and small.
We'll find out eventually what is coming next, but for now, Cryptic are working hard to make sure that the experience is a grand one.