Speaking of outfitting and leveling up, there is no end to customization in this game. Every player is a captain of a starship, which means you can customize how your ship appears and upgrade its components or select a better ship. You can also customize your character's and your bridge officers' skills and equipment.
You can get this new equipment from looting and exploring or you can purchase it. To purchase equipment, there are a number of currencies in the game--energy credits, explorer badges, and Starfleet merits are the main ones, but there are other categories of items also used for trade. Of course, the Federation is supposed to be a utopian cashless society, so none of these are just plain credits. Go figure.
Another aspect of the game that is new to this writer is automatic grouping. There are missions where you'll beam down to a planet and find that a number of other human players are automatically on your team, sharing the same goals (Ed.: sounds like Blizzard's new dungeon tool). There are also missions where you'll warp into a space-combat situation and find the same thing. I have to say that this is a nifty way to prompt folks to meet up and play together. When the mission is over, the team is still together, and it's usually convenient to continue as a group unless you don't want to.
As far as player versus player (PvP) combat goes, with a limited amount of time to play, I never got the chance to dig deep enough into the game to experience it firsthand. I did notice a PvP ground-combat zone on the Andorian planet, and I understand there are space PvP zones where Klingon and Federation captains can duke it out. Speaking of Klingons, this is a PvP-centric faction. You can't even make a Klingon character until you've spent some time as a Federation player, and advancing that Klingon player relies almost entirely on PvP combat. Nifty!
What are the negative aspects of the game? First, the learning curve is somewhat awkward. I found it took me a while to get comfortable with all of the different aspects of the game so I could start having fun. Unlike other MMOs that only deal with one combat type, STO starts you off on the ground, quickly thrusts you into space to start learning all over again, and then drops you off at the local space station and says "good luck!" It's bewildering, and it saps the fun out of the first couple of hours until you've experienced enough to form a solid grasp of the basics. Even after days of play, you find yourself learning fundamental aspects of the game. The good news is that as things clear up, it becomes much more fun.
Secondly, I felt a definite disparity between space and ground missions. The space aspect of the game feels very polished and works well, while ground missions aren't quite as slick. Things have improved since the beta, but there have been times when I've wished that the away mission would end so I could get back to the helm of my interstellar hot-rod. Having said that, I admit that my preference is likely a subjective one, and these vastly different arenas can really break things up and keep the game fresh, unlike other MMOs.
Finally, aside from all of the new things that this game does, it still offers little more than an excuse to engage in combat. Fans of Star Trek's special brand of intellectually-challenging science fiction are going to be disappointed. STO offers the same kill, delivery, gather, and escort quests as every MMO that came before it, the only difference being that these are in the Star Trek universe. Admittedly, a few missions do not require combat of any kind, but more often than not, these are gather quests that offer little enjoyment or challenge. You can tell that the game's writers have made efforts to make these quests interesting in some cases, but on the whole they serve to break up the combat missions more than anything else.
Despite these complaints, the game is very engaging and entertaining. There really is so much more to this title that it's hard to deliver a meaningful overview in a page or two. But the focus of this article is the performance of the game on your PC. Suffice to say that I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by this MMO, considering that I didn’t have very high hopes for the title before playing it. Let's move on to the performance.