Captain’s log, stardate 2010.33
I have been thrust directly into a world of intrigue and excitement. My life as a space captain began without much warning, as I found myself playing a large part in rescuing a Federation ship from the evil Borg. My reward for these heroics is my very own ship- kind of an odd reward system really, but who am I to judge. After spending a nearly infinite amount of time with the litany of options the Federation has provided me in order to customize everything from my uniform to my haircut to the design of my ship, I am finally ready to begin my journey in the USS Monsieur Rougeur. If these first few hours of action are any indication of what my career will be like, my excitement is palpable.

Captain’s log, stardate 2010.34
The honeymoon seems to be wearing off quickly. We have finished some simple missions in the name of the Federation, but it seems odd to me that this great and powerful organization of planets would need me and my billions of credits of equipment and man power to collect interesting fauna on a new planet. I protested, of course. It feels like anytime I have to leave my ship and gallivant around on the planets surface that I had been injected with a large dose of zolpidem. My time in space can be challenging and exciting, with beautiful locations and the nothing but the vacuum ahead of me. My time on the planets is the exact opposite. Bland, drab, dull, boring, however you want to describe it. My options are limited and I am on a very short leash. To go from the excitement and strategy of a tense space battle to the narcolepsy inducing grind of terra firma.

Captain’s log, stardate 2010.36
I was forced, once again, to leave the thrills of space for the doldrums of being planetside. This time I watched as my small fire team decided to ignore any order I gave them that could have possibly kept them alive, or at least helpful until their deaths. It seems strange to me that I, as their ranking officer, cannot even dictate to them what attacks or abilities they use on our enemies. Even more confusing is that they seem to have little interest in self preservation. I have become desensitized to the site of my crew falling in battle. They stand disinterested, with their backs to the threat, as I scream “Get behind cover! Move! Move!” over and over again until the lasers turn their brains to microwaved stew. Frankly, as a believer in natural selection, these losses of life are probably better for humans as a whole- these allies may have been too stupid to live in the first place. It is like their red shirts somehow make them value life less or something. Reminder to ask science officer to invest some time in researching wardrobe choices and their effect on life expectancy. The officers seem to be the only non-cosmetic thing I have any control over. Although considering how little they listen to me on the battlefield, I should probably put control in quotation marks. “Control.”

Captain’s log, stardate 2010.38
I feel alone. They say the vastness of space helps make you feel small, alone, and unimportant- but I hadn’t expected that to be so literal. The universe that we know, and even much of it that we don’t, is populated with living organisms. The enormity of the reality we live in helps to make these billions of creatures seem infinitesimal in comparison, but there are still billions. Billions of creatures with their own traits, their own strengths, their own weaknesses. All of them evolved down their own unique path and developed their own rich and detailed histories. Even as rare as it may be, life exists and is concentrated around other life. We surround ourselves with our own races, with different races, with incomprehensible alien creatures. We try to understand these new allies or enemies and hope that through that understanding we can learn a little bit more of our own place in the cosmos- our own place among the billions and billions of organisms.

Despite so much life and history theoretically existing, everywhere I go seems devoid of population. It is almost like we all exist in a heavily instanced environment that poorly represents the scope of the living universe around us or something- like we were a game that felt like more of a single player experience than a multiplayer one. I wish there were more to do on my ship, or anywhere for that matter. There is no interaction in this world, whether it be with objects or people. My crewmates are docile and lifeless. Sure, we can talk, but nobody ever seems to have anything interesting to say. Nothing I do seems to effect anything in this universe at all. What is the point? Why continue?

Captain’s log, stardate 2010.54
I had decided to give the Federation another chance. My time is valuable, but my enjoyment of space exploration, what little of it there is to be had in the rigid constructs of my role as a Federation captain, is too strong to ignore. It could be worse, I guess. Things are just a lot more dull than I would expect considering that I am in charge of one of the most technologically advanced vessels to ever exist, and that I am surrounded by the intricately woven threads of thousands of different civilizations allegiances and history. I haven’t felt like I was a cog in I shortly found myself facing a dreaded crystalline behemoth with dozens of other Federation ships by my side. We worked together and developed a strategy to take down its defenses. It was difficult, as any carelessness in flight or deviation from the plan can lead to the enemy healing itself, wasting lives, ships, and effort. We bombarded it with well placed beams and bombs until it was nearly crippled. I looked at the litany of ships around me, and for a brief second I realized what this was supposed to be like, what things should have been like- dozens of ships lighting the darkness of space up with the colors and explosions of an enormous and epic battle. Communication became tense as we dialed into our roles. Some ships began to fall out of formation, their shields taking a pounding. Luckily for us reinforcements were on the way, and more ships began to appear. An Admiral was attempt at bringing them into the fold of our plan, when one broke off and flew directly at our target in a near suicide run. Our communications almost came to a standstill with voices yelling above the one before them. Before any of us even batted an eye, the crystal menace had nearly healed himself. Our strategy was completely broken. Other captains began to argue with this rogue ship, demanding an explanation or an apology. “lol u f@gs” he replied, before disappearing. I sighed to myself, logged out, and decided to reinstall Freespace in order to get my fill of intergalactic entertainment.

This is usually the point when someone will say “well if you are a fan of the source material you might find more enjoyment here,” but that would be disingenuous. Even the most devout fanboy will find it difficult to be captivated by this game for very long. In fact, the lack of meaningful interaction or storytelling within the mythos might bother the Trekkie even more than a Star Trek neophyte. Just taken as a game though, it is pretty typical for the genre. The space battles are fun and have potential to be a stand out feature, but if you have the ability to communicate outside of this mortal coil, ask Gene Roddenberry if that is actually supposed to be the centerpiece of Star Trek. Without better stories, more engaging writing, and more varied missions, Star Trek Online is going to miss its key niche. With all that said, while it is certainly underwhelming at retail, this is Cryptic we are talking about- so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt about all that. Plus, since this is a MMORPG, the content additions and tweaks that the game will see in the future will be what really makes or breaks it. In a few months maybe there will be some muscle on this universe’s sturdy bones, but there certainly isn’t anything but the unbalanced basics built on its frame right now.