When Star Trek Online was announced, I was really looking forward to the game. I was part of the beta, but the game was at a state that I could not bring myself to pay $80 for the release version.
So when a copy of the game was on sale at Dick Smith for $30, I thought I might give the game a second chance, especially since I could not play Star Wars: The Old Republic and STO was heading towards the Free to Play (F2P) model.
The game was released in February 2010, almost a year later there is a level of polish that was missing the game at release. Simple things like using LCARS graphics for loading screens and better flowing quests of different flavours (diplomatic, exploration and battle). Since the release, crafting has also added as well as a plethora of refinements and features. Wikipedia has a great article of the features here.
Like it’s sister game Champions Online, Cryptic Studios released the game with an inbuilt store and currency powered by real money. So the migration to the F2P will have a lower impact than other games. Using the 3 level that seems to becoming industry standard (Subscriber, User of the ingame store and pure F2P), game features will be available depending on your level. Full details can be found here and a FAQ here.
Space combat is a mixture of manoeuvre, power management and weapons, harking back to the old Star Fleet Battles boardgame from ADB, without the complexity. So far I have thought in nebulas, minefields and astroid belts, against klingons, Gorn and other races. Ground combat uses pets (computer controlled allies) to form the away team. If players form teams, team members can also join away teams as members.
The Pet system is quite developed, as they also have role in space combat. Depending on the career path of the bridge crew, you can get buffs to weapons, engines, shields or repairs. In the new release (seasons in STO, currently Season 5), bridge crew can actually be loaned or tasked to do other things when the player is logged off, for crew xp or accolades.
F2P may be the popular way to sell MMORPG and MMO games (like Team Fortress 2), and it does allow casual gamers to try a game without major outlay and find the game that suits them. I have really enjoyed STO, even more than I did during beta, as the gameflow is very much in the style of the TV Series with a mixture of space and ground play and a strong narrative. I am still in the early part of the game, but I bought with my free C-store credit a Constitution class cruiser (from the original series) and been having a blast with it.
F2P is now available for early access, with the game going fully F2P on the 17th.