Trekkies can put one fear to rest right now: Star Trek Online feels just like Star Trek. From the 10-minute demo available on the Eurogamer Expo show floor, it's difficult to learn all that much about the mechanics and structure of this licensed MMO (you can read more about these in our recent preview and interview). But it's immediately apparent that developer Cryptic has nailed the unmistakable flavour of faintly cheesy, high-minded, planet-hopping science-fiction with a straight face and a glint in its eye - with an equal love of politics, philosophy and punch-ups.
The demo whisks the player through a brief burst of ship combat and a couple of on-foot engagements. It's strictly single-player, and its contained environments and miniature storyline can't give much of an impression of the game's full scope. But Star Trek has always been more intimate than most sci-fi - rooted firmly in sixties television as it is - and the limited stage actually suits it well. The warp jumps between instanced locations aren't as jarring as they would be in other online worlds - it's the nature and style of this particular fiction.
There's a brief opportunity for the player to get used to ship controls while orbiting a planet in peace. WASD take care of the starship's ponderous pitch and yaw, while Q and E, or an on-screen slider, handle the engines' throttle. It's gracefully, glacially slow, as it should be - Star Trek's craft are battleships, not fighter planes.
Following a text-box prompt from a crew member, you're warped to a planet called Penn'Arc VI - only to find the region has been claimed by the Klingon Empire. Arriving in a colourfully hazy asteroid belt, three Birds of Prey attack you for your intrusion. Space combat isn't EVE Online - although your weapons do lock on, they have limited fire arcs, and there are no autopilot options. The focus is on physically manoeuvring your ship to keep your enemies within optimum firing range while manually firing weapons and keeping an eye on power balance.
There are only three weapon systems: forward phaser, rear phaser, and a forward-facing photon torpedo. They're fired using 1, 2 and 3 or the on-screen buttons, with the space bar firing all simultaneously. The phasers have wide, overlapping firing arcs ensuring 360-degree coverage, while the more powerful torpedoes have only a narrow range. Although these Klingons don't present a stiff challenge, they do circle you faster than you can turn to follow them - so guessing their attack patterns and tactically pre-empting them seems to be the order of the day.