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Star Trek Online is bringing the final frontier to Xbox One — our away mission

Neverwinter, one of the most popular MMOs on Xbox One, will soon have some competition from its own makers. Perfect World Entertainment is set to launch Star Trek Online on consoles this fall. Star Trek Online lets players captain their own ship and engage in limitless sci-fi adventures. We recently played the upcoming MMO to bring you these detailed impressions.

A galaxy in turmoil

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

Star Trek Online debuted on PC as the first Star Trek-themed Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) way back in 2010. The game takes place 30 years after the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. It is set within the Prime Reality as opposed to the Kelvin Reality featured in the post-2009 Star Trek films.

Following the destruction of Romulus (as seen in the 2009 Star Trek film), the galactic balance of power has drastically shifted. A new Chancellor has assassinated his way to the top of the Klingon Empire and reignited the Federation-Klingon War.

Meanwhile, the Undine, an alien race introduced as Species 8472 in Star Trek: Voyager, has initiated a war of subterfuge against both the Federation and Klingons. And pulling the strings behind the Undine's aggression are the Iconians, a race that long ago ruled the galaxy (according to Star Trek lore).

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

Thus the Federation, Klingon Empire, and the newly-formed Romulan Republic all find themselves in great need of ship captains to fight their battles. Players can choose between the three factions, create a character from a number of Star Trek races (including my favorite, the Andorians), recruit a Bridge Crew, and set out into a galaxy filled with adventure.

Although the Star Trek Online storyline is all-new and ever-expanding, it includes many elements from previous Star Trek TV series and movies. Players will revisit iconic locations such as the Guardian of Forever from The Original Series and meet numerous characters voiced by their original actors, such as Worf, Seven of Nine, Tuvok, Chekov, Scotty (voiced by Chris Doohan), Tom Paris, and more.

Players will eventually acquire and customize more powerful ships, all of which can be named to their liking. Of course we'll have a USS Windows Central when we play! You can also pilot famous starships such as the many versions of the USS Enterprise, though the more desirable crafts tend to be sold as In-App Purchases or acquired from premium lockboxes. This is a free-to-play game, after all.

Consoles are the Final Frontier

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

Star Trek Online is still going strong on PC, but it's also a six-year old game. To make the game feel at home on consoles, some updates were in order. The first thing Cryptic and Perfect World did was update the looks of the game to bring them up to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 standards.

Graphical enhancements include brand new High Dynamic Range Lighting (which seemingly confirms enhanced colors for the Xbox One S console), deferred rendering (a shading technique), and specular light probes. These improvements look quite pleasing to the eye in motion, although the actual performance of the game on Xbox One is comparable to Neverwinter, which suffers from occasional slowdown during complex scenes and crowded areas.

Reworking the controls and User Interface (UI) was the next step in getting Star Trek Online to work on consoles. I expected Perfect World to simply borrow Neverwinter's controls wholesale, since that game already works just fine (with a bit of a learning curve). But Star Trek Online is a much different game, so the developers went to the extra trouble of developing entirely new controls and UIs for it.

Steering your Starship

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

One of the things that makes Star Trek Online so different from Neverwinter is that it has two completely different methods of traversal: space and ground. Piloting a starship isn't as simple as riding a mount around like you'd do in a typical MMO. Space flight and combat is a big part of what makes this a legitimate Star Trek game.

Players pilot their ships from a third-person view. The controller inputs are relatively intuitive while providing a high degree of control over the starship's numerous abilities. Left Stick steers of course, whereas the D-Pad manages speed. Up accelerates, down decelerates, and holding up all the way initiates full impulse, maxing out speed. Simple!

Shield management proves surprisingly intuitive as well. Each ship has shields on each side that take damage independently of each other, just like in the shows and movies. Should one side lose shields, the ship will take massive hull damage there. But you can easily redistribute shields evenly across all four sides by clicking in the Left Stick. This will draw power from stronger sides in order to reinforce the weaker ones.

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

The Right Stick aims at targets. Clicking it in will lock onto a single target. After locking on, left or right on the stick will jump directly to other ships in the vicinity. You can then blast them with energy weapons (Phasers, Disruptors, etc.) via Right Trigger or torpedoes (Photon Torpedoes, Quantum Torpedoes, Plasma Torpedoes, etc.) with the Right Bumper. Left Trigger initiates evasive maneuvers, temporarily increasing speed and maneuverability.

Activating the ship's other abilities (called Powers) is where the developers really had to get creative. Each ship can have numerous powers, which players need to be able to call on in quick succession. A few examples of powers include Emergency Power to Shields, Sensor Analysis, Saucer Separation, Brace for Impact, and more.

The console version has three Quick Powers slots (shown at the bottom of the screen), each assigned to a specific button. To access the full suite of powers, players just need to hold the B button to open the radial Powers menu. From there you can fire up as many as needed in only a few seconds.

Landing crew

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

It wouldn't be Star Trek without landing parties. Star Trek Online gives players plenty of opportunity to send their captains down to strange new worlds in order to complete away missions.

When playing solo, you'll beam down with four members of your bridge crew. Each crew member has special abilities and stats to bring to the table. But Star Trek Online is an MMO, so playing with friends is the best way to enjoy the game. Co-op players will automatically take the place of bridge crew on the ground.

On foot, the game plays like a standard third-person shooter. Move with Left Stick, aim with Right Stick, and hold Left Trigger to aim. Aim and lock on to a target and you'll then be able to flick between them with the stick, just like in space. Fire your beam weapon's primary attack with Right Trigger and its secondary attack (such as a spread shot) with Right Bumper. The Y button changes weapons and B performs a melee attack.

The ground mission I played involved my team beaming down to a research colony under attack from the Borg, a malevolent race of cybernetic hive-mind drones. We had to rescue members of the research team on the planet surface, enter their facility and lock it down, and blast hordes of Borg drones.

Other than a few UI anomalies like interaction prompts appearing all the way at the top of the screen rather than next to the object of interaction, it looked and played like a smooth, modern Star Trek experience.

Coming soon to a console near you

Star Trek Online Xbox One preview screenshot

Star Trek Online will include two expansions and 11 seasons worth of content when it arrives on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Every mission has been rebalanced for console play, and redundant missions have been dropped in favor of a smoother pace. The entire game will be free to play with optional In-App Purchases, just like on PC.

The Xbox One version of Neverwinter has traditionally lagged behind the PC version by about three months. The Star Trek Online team hopes to have a much smaller gap between PC and console versions. It will launch with nearly all the available PC content, including full fleet (guild) support. A few months after release, they expect the console game to be just a few weeks behind the main version.

Star Trek Online arrives on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this fall. Are you excited about teaming up with friends and boldly going where no one (besides PC gamers) has gone before? If you can't wait, you can grab the game now on Steam for PC.

See on Steam

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

32 Comments
  • I haven't played STO in years. May need to check this out from the couch, methinks.
  • I'll start playing it again. Enjoyed the PC version for years but real life has gotten in the way.
  • Agreed...life is in the away for me when it comes to gaming...got a daddy's girl too... :) 
  • Federation all the way!
  • Final Fantasy next? I can dream Harold!!
  • It's good that this is coming out soon, now players have more choices of mmorpg to play.
  • I've never been much of a gamer, despite owning two Xbox Ones (I use them more as media hubs and such). But as a Trekkie... this I could get into! :)
  • Plenty of juicy stories and fan service to dig into. Learning to work the ships might take a little time, but it has tutorials of course. :)
  • Are ships customisable?
  • Yes, you can customize several aspects of most ships.
  • I'm looking forward to this , though more from curiosity than anything. It sounds really promising, though. May surprise me. :)
  • Will I be able to bring my "OG" "Lifetime" character from PC to XBox/PS4? Also, do they know that the other reality can't exist as long as Spock in the 2009 one is "our" Spock? Timeline they want us to believe: Us -> Cochrin -> Archer -> Kirk -> Picard -> Romulus destroyed             Our Spock + Younger Kirk   Problem is, when the Our (older) Spock and Younger Kirk timeline goes on, it means Picard is different. meaning Cochrin happens differently as Our Picard went to interact with him, now it's a different Picard interacting, meaning a different reaction, meaning a double different Older Spock and a double different Kirk.  OR they could just not time travel in in this one, as if they go anywhere behind the 2009 story, they'd be going to the older time line.   Imagine it like old Biff from Back to the Future 2 going back in time to 1954.  He would likely get to 1956 A (see Doc Brown's chalkboard drawing), not the one where he has the sports almanac and becomes rich.
  • You're losing me on the timelines... STO happens in the Prime timeline only, not in the Kelvin timeline at all. Unfortunately, PWE has decided not to let people import their PC accounts to the console versions. I'd like to bring my Lifetime membership over too!
  • The latest expansion brings the Kelvin timeline and ships into the game, so no, it doesn't just take place in the Prime universe. Until PWE let me at least import my characters I won't be playing the console version.
  • No, the PC, xbox, and PS4 versions of the game will be mutually exclusive - no transfer of accounts, characters, or anything else of any kind. If you feel like getting nerdy about the timelines, I saw a recent interview with Simon Pegg (who wrote this month's Star Trek Beyond) in which he suggested that the Kelvin Timeline (new movie universe) is fundamentally different from the "Prime" universe, dating all the way back to the Big Bang. It's not a case of being divergent from Spock and Nero's time travel.  
  • Nice graphics boost. I've never played STO but I might have to give it a look on X1.
  • I love Tos and DS9. However reading about the game being a war setting, makes me a little nervous
  • Hey, Deep Space 9 took place during a war too. But it's not like all the missions are based around the war. There's plenty of traditional TOS-style adventures to be had.
  • I lost interest at third person, put me in the cockpit or else I'm not interested.
  • Most MMOs let you zoom the camera in close enough so that it becomes first person
  • This one doesn't, on purpose. You need to be able to swing the camera around when in this game, as enemies move around you constantly at a fast pace, you have 360 degree weapon arcs to manage, and your ship does not turn fast enough to keep them in your front view. It would be pretty much unplayable in 1st person.
  • It's third person to make combat easier, when you play the game then you'll understand.
  • man, its been a long time since i played ths. might have to give it another go when it comes around
  • looking forward to try this game
  • I may just have to join the USS Windows Central.
  • Im not a big startreck fan i doubt i will get this. Looks good eitherway.
  • I bought the game when it first came out along with a lifetime membership. Considering I only played for a few months before I gave it up and never went back to it, not money well spent. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, I had real life priorities come up, other games that I would have rather played, and the people I played with were on differet schedules from me, so I just never picked it back up again. I imagine the game will not be free, but will be free to play. If so, I may give it another shot. Any chance of a Windows Central Fleet?
  • Yes, it will be free to play on Xbox One. We're definitely considering creating a fleet. It would be a challenge because I already manage our Neverwinter Guild quite actively, and there isn't enough time in the day to properly play two MMOs. We shall see!
  • Thanks, Paul! I re-read the article again and saw where you said it would be free to play. I need to pay more attention. I haven't been following the game too closely, but I know it went free to play on PC a few years ago with a tiered system. Do they still have the tiered Silver and Gold memberships on PC, Gold being a paid subscription for additional perks? Will that translate over to the Xbox or are they doing away with the tiers altogether on Xbox?
  • I think the Xbox One version will still have optional Gold subscriptions like on PC. Neverwinter has a very fair VIP Membership for $10 a month, so it'd be nice if Star Trek Online's Gold sub cost the same. But they might keep it at $15 like on PC. I only had a short time to play the game and discuss it with the developer or else I'd have tried to find out more. Maybe we'll have a chance to interview them again before launch, who knows? :)
  • I'm definitely looking forward to this game in the fall.
  • Is it just me or is the game terribly laggy and buggy on Xbox One?