In October, Star Trek Online’s new season Age of Discovery debuted. The free game expansion brings elements from Star Trek: Discovery into Star Trek Online’s narrative for the first time. The expansion offers a perfect entry point for modern Star Trek fans to get into an underappreciated branch of the Star Trek universe.
Age of Discovery allows players to create Discovery-era Starfleet characters for the first time. As a Discovery character, players begin in a unique starting experience. They’re guided by Cadet Sylvia Tilly from Star Trek: Discovery, brought to life with the help of Discovery star Mary Wiseman’s voice, through the basic mechanics of the game.
Once training is complete, new captains can play through the first two of six planned Age of Discovery episodes, “Secrets” and “Downfall.” The episodes make your Star Trek Online character feel weaved into the fabric of Star Trek: Discovery’s story. They take place during the six months between Discovery episodes “Battle at the Binary Stars” and “Context is for Kings," and the Klingon-Federation War is in full swing. Players find themselves up against J’Ula, the sister of T’Kuvma, the Klingon leader who sought war with the Federation to unify the Klingon Empire. She debuted in the IDW Publishing comic book Star Trek: Discovery - Light of Kahless, a first of its kind crossover between Star Trek game and comics. These episodes reveal stories hinted at in Discovery, including the destruction of the USS Glenn and the assault on Starbase One.
Those familiar with Star Trek Online know that the game is set in the 25th century, 30 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. But through the magic of time travel, Discovery characters can still experience the other content Star Trek Online has to offer.
But they don't have to, and that may be the best part. As part of the Age of Discovery update, Cryptic streamlined the main story path of Star Trek Online. The developer has been working on Star Trek Online for nine years, adding new content several times each year, and Age of Discovery is its 15th “season” of content in the game. While the game has never been bad, Cryptic’s ability to create compelling content has only gotten better over time. With the Age of Discovery update, Cryptic has removed dated missions from the main mission log; most of them are still present in the game if you look for them, but they’re no longer presented as part of the main story’s progression.
For context, I’m a console gamer, so I didn’t try Star Trek Online until after it made its Xbox One and PlayStation 4 debut in 2016. I’ve played the game on and off for two years, but never made it too far with a single character. I’d always hit a mission that wasn’t as engaging as some of the previous content, and my mind would wander over to one of the other games in my backlog. Sooner or later I’d return to Star Trek Online, but, forgetting what I was doing when I left off last time, I’d feel compelled to begin again with a new character.
As someone who has enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery, I was eager to return again for Age of Discovery. Thanks to the streamlined mission log, I haven’t put the game down since. I’ve progressed beyond the Klingon war, I've dealt with Romulan politics after the destruction of the Empire’s homeworld, and I got to visit Deep Space Nine and repel an invasion from the Mirror Universe. If you’ve ever wished the era of Star Trek that began with The Next Generation never ended, there’s good news: in Star Trek Online, it never did. It’s kept going, and gotten better with time.
There’s extra flavor coming into the game from a post-Discovery perspective. As a Discovery-era character, you start off during the Klingon-Federation War. Then you travel 200 years into the future only to find the Federation and Klingon Empire at war again. I can't say if it's intentional -- the game doesn’t acknowledge it -- but it's chilling if you stop and think about it. And that Mirror Universe invasion? Having seen the Mirror Universe arc in Discovery’s first season makes it even more fun. Not to mention there’s a similar cycle of warfare playing out in that parallel universe as well.
But don’t think that the Age of Discovery is over once you make that jump forward in time. You and your crew are not the only characters from that era to wind up in the 25th century. There are four more Age of Discovery episodes to come. J’Ula and her allies are still out there, plotting and planning somewhere among those virtual stars, and I’m looking forward to the next time we meet.
For nine years, Star Trek Online has carried the torch. It's told great stories in the Star Trek universe while the franchise as a whole went into hibernation. Now Star Trek is entering a new phase, and Age of Discovery shows that Star Trek Online is set to thrive in it; now's the best time ever to give it a shot.
Star Trek Online is available now and free to play on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.