Star Trek Online: Game Performance Analyzed And Benchmarked

Conclusion

Traditionally, MMOs have scaled well to even the slowest PC platforms. They have to, since this type of game depends on subscribers. If you want to pay employees to generate new content for the game, you need a large subscription base. And to accommodate a large user base, you need low system requirements. This is why the art directors at Blizzard were smart enough to create World of Warcraft with a larger-than-life cartoon-like style that just happens to be incredibly easy to render on slower and older PCs.

The Star Trek IP doesn't translate well into an easy-to-render art style, so the developers at Cryptic had to do the best they could with a look that has been cemented by over 40 years of television shows and movies. They made it work with a graphics engine that can scale down low enough to accommodate any machine, but if you have the hardware to push the fidelity, things can look very nice. Specifically, the space arenas have the potential to look absolutely gorgeous. The ground areas can look great, too, but they aren't as breathtaking.

So, just exactly how much hardware does a person need to run Star Trek Online? With an ultra-budget Athlon II X2 250 paired with integrated 785G graphics, we were able to run the game smoothly at 1280x1024 at the maximum detail level, as long as we selected the Half Resolution option in the detail settings. Yes, the half resolution setting makes things a lot less attractive, but it works. If nobody's PC gets left behind, the MMO is viable.

However, if you want to push STO's fidelity to maximum at full resolution, you're going to need some decent graphics hardware. At 1280x1024, you'll want a GeForce 9600 GT, at minimum. For 1680x1050, a Radeon HD 4850 will do the trick. At 1920x1200, a GeForce GTS 250, GTX 260, Radeon HD 4890, Radeon HD 5750, or better should be on your shopping list. At 2560x1600, consider lowering the detail a bit, because none of the cards we've tested here could hit a solid 30 FPS at maximum settings.

Remember, too, that the low performance we benchmarked occurred in space arenas with dense asteroid fields at the end of the open beta. We don't expect the public release to be all that different, considering that the full game opens to pre-order buyers only three days after the open beta closes. However, Cryptic might decide to put some development resources into optimizing these areas. If that happens, the situation will improve, as other space and ground areas are a lot easier on the graphics subsystem.

As things stand, STO requires a formidable graphics subsystem in order to enjoy the highest detail settings in all areas of the game. At the same time, visual details can be scaled down to accommodate smooth performance on even low-performance PCs. If you're curious about whether or not the game is worth upgrading for, finding out by spending $15 on a month's worth of play time isn't an unreasonable price to pay. The game went live on February 2, 2010 in North America and three days after that in Europe.

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  • Anonymous
    Hmm. No mention of how faithless this games is to the Star Trek universe? I'm not a Trekkie, but this would even put me off. A Start Trek veneer on their previous MMO engine does not Star Trek make.
  • Anonymous
    Odd choice of game to test considering how buggy it is, how it constantly crashes and not to mention it's just a downright awful game, a metacitic score of 62 means stay away. I ended up getting the pre-order and seriously wish I hadn't. A hollow, empty attempt at a Star Trek MMO, although if you like flying around in a shoebox, go right ahead!
  • Tweedledum
    I've played this game. I was quite disappointed with it. Whilst it looks like a Star Trek game, it doesn't feel like one! I found the interface clunky and unresponsive and I have a system that far exceeds the requirements. The immersion is frequently ruined by other people, why is that captain jumping up and down on the admirals desk!? The ship designs are over the top, why does my ship have a giant, pointless hole in the front of it (that wasn't put there by torpedoes)?. The ship interiors just look....stilly, the bridge is the size of a football pitch! As Not_GamesTKirk says "A Start Trek veneer on their previous MMO engine does not Star Trek make". It’s a shame, Perpetual's initial incarnation looked much better!
  • Anonymous
    a really, really bad game made by inexperienced programmers. Bridge Commander is still the king of star trek games.
  • Pailin
    Man, and I haven't even started reading the article LOL

    I had high hopes for this - it has the possibilities of making a truely great MMO

    But guess I will be waiting for the next big one...

    Lets have a read... brb
  • Anonymous
    If you like space MMO's then EvE Online is tough to beat. I've been playing for 2 years now and I still haven't gone through everything that it has to offer. 40,000+ players all at the same time in the same universe, 100's in a fleet fight (with inevitable lag) is good fun. With their FPS spin-off 'Dust 514' to be released soon, it will be interesting to see how they will work the two together. As for Star Trek, I may give it a look in a few months when the inevitable bugs have been somewhat ironed out.
  • staalkoppie
    Can't wait for the free-trail period after the initial rush :)
  • fmj-shatter
    playing it since closed beta, easy to pick up great game to play and I am not a big trekie fan but has enough features, races and missions that I remember, maxed out with amd phenom 2.5, ddr2 4gb ram, 8800gtx and get 30-40+fps all maxed full hd resolution. No noticible lag when playing either.

    Think will move to other pc with ddr3 4gb, quad 3.2ghz amd gtx285 see what I get, Have also been using xfire to record and broadcast, soem noticible delay of a few seconds when broadcasting but again doesnt effect performance that much.

    great game get out and play it.
  • kyzar
    Terrible game, expsive to buy and high subs cost. Very dissapointed, am no back to Eve with a pssion - and this is someone that persisted with the grandaddy of buggy MMO's for seven years - EQ1! :D
  • kyzar
    Wish I could spell / proof read... "am now back to EVE with a passion"

    DUH