I wish there was a middle-of-the-road option where I could recommend this game under certain circumstances. But since there isn't one, I feel like the most honest thing I can do is not to.
I have a few hundred hours invested in this game, which I started to play in 2014. Since then I've gotten my main character to 60, and created a few alts that are on their way there as well. I've pretty much exhausted all there is to do in my main, and finally feel like I can do this justice with a review.
So is this a bad game? I am inclined to say no. However, there are many negative things that will hold the experience back for you. The thing is that, mostly, they are not enough to stop you from playing once you've tried it and if you've liked it for what it is. But after a while, dissapointment might start to catch up with you nonetheless.
STO is a bittersweet experience. I feel that most of the time, for every three good things this game has, there is also one bad thing to go along.
-The episodes are really good. This game has an interesting story that kept me going from beginning to end to see what happens.
-Space combat is not the most deep out there, but its satisfying and fun. Yes it's brainless and a spacebar smasher, but enjoyable.
-It feels like a true Star Trek experience, despite some questionable things lore-wise.
-Missions are repetitive, yeah, but more often than not many of them can be quite creative and entertaining.
-There is a lot of room for roleplaying if you're into that sort of thing.
-A good amount of content that will keep you busy for a few hundred hours.
-The foundry allows for some welcome creativity and what I consider the most meaningful player run aspect of the game. It helps keep things fresh and going when you are out of episodes from the game's main storyline.
-Getting in-game currency is not as painful as in other games, and the Exchange (a.k.a auction house) is great for fattening up your wallet.
-There is a sizeable amount of voice acting (many of it from actors of the actual Trek shows) to help immersion.
-You can customize your character appearance anytime you want, and as many times as you'd like.
-The fleet (a.k.a guilds) system is good and has a lot of things going for it, from your own fleet starbase to many other cool things you can add and customize in it.
-There is a decent amount of fan service and the tie ins between the tv shows and the game can be clever from time to time.
-There are nice events that let you have neat things, as well as giveaways for the same purpose.
-The game is regularly updated with content.
-The game is designed to extract money from you. What I hate is that half of how it's done seems appropiate to me. The game seduces you to buy uniforms and packs from your favorite shows. If the milking would have stopped there, It would have been fine. But nope, the game asks you to pay up for the best ships of the game, or grind dilithium for around 2 months just to get one of the tier 6 ships (currently the best ones). And then theres the whole "pay here for xp boosts, pay here to unlock more inventory slots, more character slots, and this and that, and etc." which isn't as annoying as how it was on SWTOR, but still pretty out there.
-Ground combat is terrible. At first, I accepted it for what it was, but after hundreds of hours invested here I have come to grips with reality and had to admit the truth: it is just horrible. Shallow, thin, counterintuitive, buggy, and just an overall mess. The AI of your companions gets the job done, but it is barebones basic. And enemy AI is just laughable. Patrols can be so bugged up, their walk will jitter and flicker around like a bad LSD trip.
-The game feels like a singleplayer game that was slapped the MMO label because of some online components. There isn't really any need to group for questing and exploring, and end-game content is sort of shallow to even bother and fully experience it, so that pretty much erases any meaningful purpose to grouping.
-Fleet actions (a.k.a. dungeons) are ok when they are space based but horrible when ground based. And even in space they can be boring, tedious and repetitive: fight waves of guys, protect some AI ships, and a small twist here and there depending on the particular one you're doing. There are different difficulties in which you can complete these, but considering you pretty much blow through everything with standard solo gear, the need to come together to get the best pieces seems like an aftertought. Don't expect endgame organized raiding here.
-The community is just dreadful. The chat on Earth Space Dock really brings out the worst in humanity. I've actually created a special tab in the chat window that filters it out for whenever I visit. Players are not helpful, and every channel feels full of slander and insufferable banter. In groups, it's the norm to roll need on everything, even if you dont really need the gear at all.
-This game is not noob friendly. The UI design is not entirely convoluted, but it can take a while to figure out. The map is a mess that will make your head spin the first time around. It is a labyrinthine disaster that will not be kind to a new player at all. Hell, I'm 60 and I still get confused looking at it.
-The exploration factor is virtually unexistant, except for some random missions you can pickup when flying near some planets.
-There is a lot of grinding, particularly with reputation, dilithium, stuff for the fleet, credits and many other currencies.
-Bugs. Bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs. Little bugs, medium bugs, large bugs, game breaking bugs. Bugs everywhere. Sometimes they get patched. Sometimes they don't. Developers are not as terrible as people often say, but they sure slack when it comes to patching for fixing errors. Not to add content, though; they can profit from that.
And despite having much more negative things to say about the game than positive and overall not recommending it, I feel obligated to answer the following question: is there any circumstance in which you would recommend the game. Surprisingly, yes.
If you are a hardcore fan of Star Trek and videogames, and you are willing to depart from some money then this is for you. Or perhaps if you are one of those fellows that do not mind to grind for months. If you like roleplaying, this game can be hours of fun as well if you find the right fleet.
If you're looking for a deep MMO with complex mechanics, don't bother downloading this. If you're not willing to open up the ol' wallet or grind your way through all the stuff you need, then keep browsing for something else as well.
What keeps this game alive and running with faithful players that follow it, is that despite all the bad, it is fun. A lot of fun actually. Many of us stick around waiting for a miracle that might never come: for Cryptic to revamp the areas that need it, and to patch the game so it can be rid of the problems it has. Perhaps a bigger developing team, and a more humane cash shop.