I started STO about a year ago, not RIGHT at release, but I wasn't far behind. I got the Collector's edition, which gave me 60 or 90 days of play (I really can't remember). I played out the subscription and decided to wait for a while, see if some things got changed, before coming back to check it out again. Here's what I have noticed thus far (2 days in, an hour or so a day) of coming back on a guest pass (which is something i will get to shortly...)
1. Graphical improvements, map improvements. The look of space and the sector map is gorgeous. It was the first thing I noticed. It used to be a boring Starfleet-blue grid that gave the impression that you were on a tabletop, at least in Sector Space. It looks REALLY good now. The starbase maps have shown a lot of improvement as well, I like how the Starbases (I've only really been to Sol, thus far, but it still applies!) have changed. The CMO has a medical office now... awesome. Simple, but the details are important to me in a game. He used to be standing in a little lounge just off the main walkway. So a few thumbs up there.
2. Cutscenes. Nice touch, but evidently a bug or two in them, at least on the SS Azura rescue mission. Hitting ESC during the scene causes the enemies to never show up, therefore making me go back to Sector Space and back to complete my mission. Annoying, but that's ok. I could personally do without such a lengthy cutscene myself, but it's something that looks alright, so I can deal.
Now, I've only made it to LT 5 thus far, so I really can't comment much further on things, as not much else has changed there, since it's all core mechanics, which is fine... I like the core mechanics.
My only REAL complaints were with trying to use a guest-pass that I got with the CE to reactivate my account for 10 days to see if I wanted to stick around. You can't, but that isn't a huge issue... I understand the reasoning behind it, and again, can live with it. The only real problem I have with that is that the Cryptic support rep that I spoke to said they can't give out even a single trial or free day for any reason, unless free-days are forthcoming, which none have been announced. Being a broke college student, I can't really afford (I can, but I do have other priorities) to reactivate my account for a month to see if I like any features or changes at higher levels, where most of the changes have been made. So my RA5 sits in spacedock longer still. He's gonna retire at this rate!
My only big issue is that, evidently, my subscription account is linked to my forum account. So my account cannot make threads, reply to posts, etc, here in the forums. That makes me more than a little annoyed. There's no good reason for that.
So, that's my feedback thus far. I ask a question of the lifetime members, in particular, and everyone else...
Has STO changed for the better at higher levels? Have there been more significant changes that would make re-activating my account worthwhile? What has changed, etc. In other words, what keeps some of the players here that have played here for a year or more, coming back time and time again?
I thank you for your patience in reading my novel, and look forwards to most of the responses... I'm sure some will come back as "You troll!" or some thing about "if you cant really afford it what does it matter...". That's fine. I just want to know if it is genuinely worth it to come back and to start putting money back into this game.