Welp, last week the long-awaited/dreaded expansion for Star Trek Online hit in the form of “Delta Rising”. I’ve had a bit to say on this leading up to release-most of which was bad-based on the information let out through their web site. But now, it’s time to take a peek at just what we wound up getting.
The backstory is pretty straightforward; after the events of the “New Accord” which declared, if not peace, at least a cessation of hostilities between the Klingon Empire and the Federation, in addition to the very recently acquired access to the Delta Quadrant-an area of space most famous for having been the area in the galaxy where the U.S.S. Voyager was stranded, the new Alliance between the Empire, Federation, and the Romulan Republic have chosen to take a look around the Delta Quadrant vicinity-and not coincidentally give the players their first opportunities to interact with species and situations left over after the Voyager made it home. In fact, leading this fleet of allied governments is Admiral Tuvok, in command of the ship that had made that journey home.
Without going too much into the details of the story thus far-I’ve only gotten to level 55 so far-I’d have to say it’s not bad. There is a liberal sprinkling of appearances of members of the original Voyager crew; in fact, not only do we get the crew, but also voice-over work from the actors that portrayed them. Not all are present, but we get some of the unique personalities-Seven, Neelix, Kim, and the Doctor-not to mention Tuvok himself. The story itself is a little over the place to start with as your ship checks the area around their base of operations, but it soon starts looking like there’s something really big and bad in the area that is beating the tar out of the Borg-which, admittedly, would be more intimidating if the players weren’t beating the tar out of the Borg in the Alpha Quadrant. Could it be Iconians? Or could it be another species on the rise? One such species seems to be reasserting itself strongly.
I’ll undoubtedly do a follow up on this once I’ve completed the Delta Quadrant episodes. But I’ve done enough to have a couple of other observations.
The first is the leveling path. The first thing you see after you do your first Delta Quadrant mission is a popup message saying that yes, they know you didn’t level after finishing the mission, and that you shouldn’t expect to level after a single mission-that it’s more difficult to level than the standard path prior to level 50. I, of course, was not impressed. I remember when it wasn’t possible to level from a single episode-mission. Back in the day, I needed to do patrol missions and/or some exploration missions to make up the difference (and actually, you usually had to do at least a couple episodes). But that was before the development team decided to make episodes the end-all/be-all of the leveling path. Now it looks like they’ve decided to go back to it with these new missions. Of course, there isn’t any exploration anymore, but you do have access to the PvE queues instead. And this is actually only really a problem for characters who have already done all the episodic content prior to Delta Rising. If you happen to have a legion of alts, you probably didn’t do all the episodes-you probably just did enough to get them to 50. Which means you can probably get a good boost before going into Delta.
Why is that important? Because, as alluded to above, you wind up in situations where you complete the episodes and you see “you can’t do the next mission until you get a new level”. So you sort of want to have those levels in your back pocket as early as possible before you hit the wall. A number of players have found ways to deal with this, and I’m not going to go over them here. Suffice it to say, there are several ways a player can get the skill points he needs to advance to the next level-and thus, open up the next section of content.
One of those ways-in the low 50s-is Kobali Prime. It’s sort of like New Romulus and the Dyson Sphere’s battlezone rolled into one. The natives are under attack, and your actions will help them survive the attack-but in the process, you learn things aren’t exactly black and white. Moral dilemmas…now that’s Star Trek for you.
As you may notice from some of these shots, I have indeed followed up on my promise to eschew Starfleet for my first run through this content and have sided with the Klingons; when Cryptic/PWE remembers that Star Trek is about exploration, then we’ll consider Starfleet my primary character, but until then, I’ll stick with conquest. This additionally allowed me to see that the devs have a somewhat…inconsistent view of the Klingons. In these missions, there were choices in dialogue that made me feel exactly like a Klingon would-and there were times when I couldn’t believe the saccharine garbage coming out of the character’s mouth. Things that sound natural from a graduate of Starfleet Academy sound completely out of character for a member of the Klingon Empire-even if the character is one of the KDF allied species. It seems to me that some of the writing could use a second pass-through.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remark on some of the considerable controversies rolling around at the moment. The tier-6/tier-5 upgrade mess continues to fuel flames, particularly now that the price points are out. 3000 Zen for a tier-6 ship, or 700 Zen for a tier-5 upgrade token. Note that the tier 5 ships generally sell at 2500 Zen, and that the upgrade tokens don’t let the upgraded ship be quite as good as a tier-6, and you can see why there’s a bit of anger going on. (And you can also see why the devs did it that way, too-because players will always take the path of least resistance.) Then you have the difficulty settings. Prior the the release, players knew that the difficulty settings were going to be threefold now for the various queues: Normal, Advanced, and Elite, where the old Elite would be Advanced now, and the Elite would be the toughest of the tough (and Normal unchanged). Well, what happened was that all levels were increased in difficulty, and the rewards were nerfed, which seems to have…irritated a fair chunk of forum-goers who play queues a lot. As someone who doesn’t do a lot of the queued content, I haven’t had a chance to really determine how much of this is accurate and how much of it is perception, but the fact that crypticgeko (yeah, that one; I’ve mentioned him a number of times before in less-than-flattering terms) put up a forum post and…well, let’s let the man speak for himself.
New Difficulty – Star Trek Online
Delta Rising was a massive addition, and we anticipate that we will need to make adjustments. So over the next few weeks expect changes in the baseline difficulty, advanced difficulty, and elite difficulty – and also expect rewards to change as we gather more metrics on play-times and success rates.
Our goal was to make basic difficulty and the story content something everyone can play – even with a standard T5 ship. Levels 1-50 are generally pretty easy at basic difficulty, so we felt 51-60 should step things up a bit. Although we expect 51-60 accessible everyone, those in T5 ships and non-upgraded gear should to start to feel a definite challenge as they approach level 60. We expect Advanced to be for more skilled players and those who have invested in the game (ships and gear). And we expect Elite to be for the best of the best. We don’t expect most players to succeed on elite difficulty.
If I were to guess, I would expect basic to get some minor tuning, Advanced to get a little easier and Elite to get a lot harder – and rewards, like dilithium rewards, could potentially go up across queues once we are sure we are hitting the right mark. But this is just my guess at this time.
From the sounds of it, they didn’t quite get it right, did they? Of course, I wouldn’t depend on his guesses; but that’s my personal issues with the man, so I could be an unreliable narrator on that one.
Despite my issues, I’ve enjoyed the expansion so far. I like what they’ve done with the actors from Voyager, and the episodes have been pretty fun-even if some of the starships seem like a big fat bag of health.
That said: there area few bugs that occasionally show up in the game that could probably use some looking at.