Space, it seems, is not the final frontier for the "Star Trek" franchise - online gaming is.

Space, it seems, is not the final frontier for the "Star Trek" franchise - online gaming is.

Thanks to Atari and its online game studio Cryptic, fans of the Great Bird of the Galaxy's vision of the future carries on in a virtual universe.

"Star Trek Online" continues several decades of storytelling - from the original "Star Trek" TV show through its revival in "Next Generation," "Voyager" and "Deep Space Nine" - and advances time further along that path.

While the recent movie rebooted the franchise in an alternate timeline, "Trek Online" makes a mention of Spock's disappearance and the destruction of Romulus then continues cruising right along.

This is no longer the mostly peaceful galaxy portrayed in earlier shows. Once again, the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire. And the feared Borg and Species 8472 (now called the Undine) have returned with an unknown agenda to add to the complications.

Players begin in a trial-by-fire and are quickly given command of their own Federation starship. Some might question the concept of giving a new Starfleet officer their own command, but the game explains this away as a desperate need for qualified captains in the midst of a sustained galactic war.

You'll start out as a lieutenant and progress through the ranks up to admiral. Each rank includes nine grades, effectively giving the game a level maximum of 60.

While "Trek Online" does have weapons and gear and crafting, in many ways it's about truly leading a ship of skilled officers, each of which you can outfit as you like. And your starship is treated like a character as well - you can mix and match parts to give it a customized appearance.

Early on, "Trek Online" feels like a single-player game. But once you advance to the Lieutenant Commander rank and gain access to the second tier of starships, things change considerably. At that point, you'll be able to join Fleet missions to fight with other players or switch sides to fight player-vs.-player battles.

Cryptic has already begun rolling out new content and fixing the bugs that plague all new MMO games upon release. But for a new game, it's off to a fairly good start.

There's not a lot of hand-holding at the start of the game, but if you're a Trekkie who enjoys space combat, it's worth it to boldly go where "Star Trek" has never gone before.