There are generally two schools of thought on what Star Trek should be as represented by an MMO:
Point of view A: Diplomacy mechanics with deep, text heavy branches of dialogue that may potentially lead to fighting or could resolve in a discussion of a philosophical nature.
Point of view B: Blowing stuff up with a giant space ship, and occasionally engaging in some cool story elements that evoke that specific Star Trek feel.
Star Trek Online is the second one, and it really doesn't make any apologies for that. Chances are, if you're like most people who've never gotten into Star Trek, all the talking and grandstanding wasn't your thing. If anything, STO is much more like the recent JJ Abrams movie more than it's like the television series.
However, that doesn't mean the game is devoid of Tricorder usage, teleportation and Klingons. In fact, it revels in those things much like any fantasy MMO would with Orcs and Elves.
One rule of thumb I like to give people in regards to their interest level in STO is: Do you like science fiction movies, television or (gasp!) books? Did you enjoy the new Abrams movie? Have you tried EVE Online but couldn't gel too well with its design philosophy? Basically, if you're looking for a space/sci-fi MMO that likes its action and explosions just as much as its technobabble, then STO could be for you.
Okay, so you're probably wondering how the game is different from other non-Trek titles in actual practice. I've compiled a quick and easy list to peruse. If you find yourself interested beyond this point, then page two will shine some light on a few extra aspects of the game.
- Two forms of combat exist in STO. Space is more like naval combat, whereas ground is similar to a regular MMO only with lasers, shields and all sorts of neat sci-fi elements.
- There are only three "classes" in the game, but your choice of class mostly just alters your ground combat style. Any "class" can fly any ship in the game, and you can acquire a nice list of ships, too.
- No mounts. You have a giant freakin' space ship with faster than light capability! That said, travel time still happens, just not as bad as other MMOs have it.
- Speaking of your awesome spaceship, it's pretty customizable! You can even alter your bridge, which can be accessed via a down arrow on your user interface, when in space. This area is basic for now, but serves as a nice gathering place for friends and guild members.
- Because ships come equipped with replicators (energy-to-matter machines, more or less) you can vend all your loot anytime you've got access to your ship. Yes, NPC vendors still exist, but they''re not 100% necessary.
- You're the Captain of your own ship and that means you've got a crew to roll with in ground encounters. When playing with friends, their Captain avatars replace your ground crew. This ensures you've always got a full party, regardless of other players.
- There are little touches of Star Trek everywhere. When you investigate a crate or object in the game word, your avatar will bust out a Tricorder -- that little device that bleeps and bloops with lights.
- Levels are replaced with Ranks, because you're in Starfleet -- or the Klingon Empire. However, your rank is easily equated into a level. There are five ranks, each containing ten sub-ranks. So, max level is 50!
- Grouping is encouraged, like any other MMO, but soloing is easy enough as well.
- There's PvP, because the Federation and Klingons (you know, ridge-headed guys who speak that barking angry language) are at each other's throats from the get-go in STO.
- Large scale PvE is in the game too. These are called fleet actions, and you'll be gliding through space with a lot of other players.