Well, the latest update has hit with Star Trek Online, a mid-season sort of publish. It features a new episode with time travel shenanigans and a new “Red Alert” where you have to protect a convoy from temporal attackers. Also included is a new Admiralty path, a Romulan campaign to join the Federation and Klingon Empire ones; and a revamped skill system. That’s a respectable amount of stuff to throw into a publish. Let’s take a look at this, and my thoughts on what we might see ahead.
The new episode (“The Temporal Front”) features a conference with representatives from the major empires attending. As has been pointed out by a heap of players, nothing good ever comes out of these conferences, particularly if you happen to have been invited. The Na’kuhl take the opportunity to attempt an assassination, and the pursuit is taken through time-and an encounter with one of the big Na’kuhl leaders, Vosk. The episode once again demonstrates why it’s easy to have a headache from time travel, and seeds a bunch of potential problems throughout the timestream. One detail is at least resolved by a certain famous captain in the past, at least, so you’re getting some help up and down the timestream.
The Red Alert is a pretty straightforward one. Protect convoys of ships against waves of Na’khul vessels. Red Alert’s aren’t exactly complex affairs; the Borg Alert involves blowing up Borg and their command ship; the Tholian Alert involves blowing up Tholian ships; so why would the Na’khul be any different? That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a desire to just log in and blow stuff up in defense of civilians. It offers a bit of Dilithium, and a decent number of reputation or fleet marks of your choice as rewards-not to mention an obligatory box of R&D materials for crafting.
There isn’t much to say on the Admiralty path; if you’ve done the Starfleet and KDF ones, then the Romulan one offers no shocks. If you complete the “Tour Of Duty” missions on it, you’ll receive some universal tech upgrades which can be used to improve your existing equipment (for, I presume, a hunk of Dilithium to go with it). If you haven’t bothered to do those Omega Particle missions during anniversary events or skill up your crafting so that you can create assorted tech upgrades, and if you have any interest at all in upgrading existing equipment, this isn’t a bad way to go. Just be aware that it’s not something you can complete in a few days (watch-someone will prove me wrong on that. Just wait and see).
The skill update. Man, where do I begin with this one?
Let’s see if I can explain this in a nutshell. This system is thematically similar to the way you do Specializations at the post-level 50 game, right down to the whole top-down diagram. Instead of putting skill points into a skill, you just select the skills. Each one gives certain benefits, and there are two “paths” for each specialty in space-which can branch, as shown above. When you spend enough points at the lower ranks, the next rank becomes available to put points into, but you can still put points into lower rank skills. Additionally, as you put points into one of the three specialties, you have a track at the bottom that unlocks additional passive abilities (and you get a choice of two for each), or the ability to train boffs in skills-much like you could if you put enough points into a skill in the old system. If you go hog-wild into one specialty, you can unlock “ultimate skills”, the usefulness of which I haven’t fully explored-particularly since I tend to spread points around to make a fairly balanced captain. That said, I’ve only done this for three captains on my roster, and I may be willing to experiment with the ones I use less often.
There is also a screen for ground skills, which have four sections, less options to worry about, with less points (since there are less skills), and each point opens up a passive ability for the captain, much like the space version.
I’m not certain at all that this actually improves anything for players. You have cute boxes and numbers, but still no idea what some of them mean. Exotic damage isn’t exactly explained, for example-so new players may have trouble figuring out what qualifies. Some of the skills involve affecting boff abilities that you aren’t sure if they fall under drain skills or something else. It doesn’t bother me all that much, but I’ve been playing since the beta; new players are likely going to have the same sorts of issues that they had before the revamp-just in different ways. And while the devs said that we should be able to duplicate previous builds from the old system to the new…well, I’m not so sure. All that said, I have yet to put my captains through a rigorous test yet, so my opinion may change-stay tuned.
There’s also a new specialization for captains in the post-50 game: Strategist. I don’t have a lot of points backlogged in specializations, and you can’t respec them, so my thoughts on this will have to wait for another time. It’s worth noting that it is a secondary specialization, which means it probably isn’t quite as fleshed out as Command or Intelligence-or even Pilot. It’ll be more like Commando.
Looking at the current Season in its entirety, the “New Dawn” has more or less opened up into a new war, with a “Temporal Front” which is almost impossible to defend; when a cause can create an effect that happens earlier than the cause, and people go back in time to make sure things either happen or don’t…this is why there was a Temporal Prime Directive in the first place. Time travel is a messy thing to start with, and this set of episodes wallows in it. I am appreciative that we’re getting the Temporal Cold War into play here-with all the time travel we’ve seen prior to this Season, it felt inevitable. Still, it seems we’re wrapping up a number of interesting temporal loose ends that tie into the assorted television series. It’s already potentially explained the Sphere Builders and their animosity-and unless I miss my guess, it is also explaining the origins of the biggest loose end from Star Trek: Enterprise continuity.
The very first episode in that series featured the Suliban Cabal, the Temporal Cold War-and a mysterious figure in shadow who quickly earned the nickname “Future Guy”. There were a lot of theories as to who this could be (my favorite was Jim Kirk, hacked off at the very idea of the Enterprise series), but this was never resolved on the show; it sure wasn’t Vosk, who effectively closed off the Cold War arc on Enterprise. But we may have an excellent candidate for the part in Noye, who has the motivation and the temporal knowledge to try to kill the Federation in its crib, and has that history with the player character at this point. If this is true, then we may be seeing more of the Enterprise related dangers, such as the Suliban Cabal and the Sphere Builders-and possibly the Xindi will step into the stoplight too. We’ve seen one of their ambassadors in a previous episode on the Dyson Sphere, after all-be a shame not to follow up.
So, I’m looking at the mid-season publish as a sort of “hit and miss” sort of publish. Solid Red Alert, decent episode, okay Admiralty path, iffy skill revamp, and plenty of possibilities to work with as we continue through the Season. Episodic content has slowed down a lot since the Iconian War wrapped, but looking for monthly releases was asking a lot on an extended basis. We seem to be at what I will laughingly refer to as a “normal” cadence-but I’ve been wrong before, and we might see another episode come May, so we’ll see what happens.