Building Character: The End of the Line for Delta

Dynah and her crew

Dynah and her crew

The Delta Recruitment event in Star Trek Online is over (I’m pretty sure, anyway).  I’d created three new characters to take advantage of that event, and spent some time with the captains Raa’th, Xenon, and Dynah-who finished up her Recruitment arc over the weekend.  Dynah wound up at level 53, just like Xenon did; she took a Command specialization, and commands the tier-5 version of an Excelsior class vessel.  A pretty respectable finish for the event!

So now that the push is done, I can look back and reflect a bit on the whole thing.

The Delta Recruitment event was a good excuse to indulge in creating new alt characters.  It benefited the new characters, but also allowed benefits for pre-existing characters.  New starship traits-particularly ones that aren’t bound to C-store purchases-are always welcome, the temporal devices aren’t game-breaking but still situationally useful, and boxes of marks are always nice when one’s trying to develop reputation, or just getting reputation-items.

Beyond that, though, it was a chance to once again go through the missions of the game, including the early arcs that might not have been seen for a long, long time.  It helped illustrate to me just how STO has changed over the years; I still recall the days when the only method of advancing one’s Klingon was via PvP; now they’ve got a full leveling path via PvE just as the Federation does (granted, a significant chunk of that path is actually repainted Fed missions, but the missions are there).  Plus, I got a chance to appreciate the newer tutorial for the Starfleet characters; I think it’s the third or fourth version of the tutorial I’ve seen, but it feels a lot more natural as far as the story goes.  Whether or not it’s better in terms of actually teaching the game is still an open question, but as a veteran, I’m really not that qualified to determine that.

And hey, the whole thing managed to bring me back to playing the game fairly regularly for a somewhat extended time.  That’s no mean feat by itself.

The fun doesn’t really stop here, though.  Tomorrow (barring surprises), a new feature episode will be advancing the Iconian War plot, and the Summer Event on Risa will be rolling along next week.  I’ve no desire for the special ship being offered (think Ferengi), but I had a desire to get the power-surfboards for at least one or two characters which I never really pushed for last year.  I might want to make the attempt this time around.

I’ve also managed to start working on the Iconian Reputation with Walt, reasoning that his ship is best suited for handling the big fights-at least better than Kelleth’s or Ailar’s.  I may likely have Kelleth, at least, do the Iconian rep, but I’d prefer him to do as little of it as possible-by means of the sponsorship token given out by characters who max out reputation.  So the target is for Walt to max out his Iconian rep, and then give out sponsorships like candy to whichever other characters I feel like pushing through.  For those unaware, the sponsorship gives double reputation points for the projects, which means only half the time is spent to max out the sponsored guy.  (It also means half the resources are required to do those projects, so it’s all win.)  I’ll remark upon the two queues I’ve done to get the Iconian marks for these projects at a future date.

I also expect at some point relatively soon to begin some new work on Star Wars: The Old Republic again.  As a subscriber, I have access to the 12X xp bonus on storyline missions, which allows a character to more or less ignore planetary storylines, and since I still have that ambition to eventually have a character for each advanced class, it would seem that this would be the way to go.  There may be posts on that too-stay tuned.

Building Character: Dynah-Might

(Yes, the title’s somewhat lame, but hey-it was the low hanging fruit.  I hadda use something like that sooner or later.)

My Star Trek Online current project, Captain Dynah, is going along nicely.  She reached level 50, so that allowed me to enable the Command primary specialization, and Piloting secondary.  The reason I made sure to do the Piloting was because even without points spent in it, it gives a small bonus to turn rate-and her endgame ship has indeed turned out to be the tier-5 Excelsior; after all, it’d be a shame if I never actually use a ship I bought, right?

USS Atlantic, now on duty

Storywise, Dynah is presently neck deep in dealing with the Borg arc.  So my figuring is that this week will end her push, as the arc after this one is the Breen one, and the end of that ends the Delta Recruiting arc.  And that will end my own personal arc of Delta Recruitment, as I’ll have pushed a new captain from each faction through that storyline.  I’ll likely put up final thoughts on the whole Delta Recruitment thing as a post-mortem next time.

What comes next, then?  Well, the Fleet is doing what I figured would be impossible-advancing our starbase to a tier 3 level.  Or at least it’s in the process.  It’ll have its last tier-2 structure built later today, and we’re well along on advancing to Military tier 3, which will allow us to build a tier-3 shipyard, which will allow us to build up the base to tier 3.  Of course, those last two steps will be the challenge, as it will require Dilithium in vast quantities.  That said:  I’ve built up a healthy amount of Zen from my stipend over the months, and at the moment, the buying power of Zen versus Dilithium is pretty heavily tilted in Zen’s favor.  If I’m not actually using it for anything else, I may very well decide that our efforts could be greatly assisted by a sudden infusion.  (Given that I have pretty much all the outfits I want, I have no desire for the existing tier-6 ships, and I haven’t used up all my character slots yet, I just tend to sit on the Zen.)

Aside from that, it’s sounding like we could be seeing a new Feature Episode sooner rather than later that will further the Iconian War plot, so I’ll have that to look forward to with my mains.  Speaking of whom, at some point I’ll have to figure if I’m going to bother with the Iconian Reputation stuff, which will require playing the new PvE queue missions; the trick is figuring who to do ’em with.  I’d sort of prefer to use Kelleth in the KDF, as I view him as the primary go-to guy now, but he’s not as kitted out as Walt in Starfleet, and those starbase projects are gonna need a heap of fleet marks as well as Dilithium, so the odds of his getting the call are pretty high up there.  I’m still somewhat undecided.

But for now, Dynah still needs to wrap things up.

Building Character: Dynah Goes to Work

Guess who's leveling up...?

Guess who’s leveling up…?

It’s really not escaped my attention that, despite a significant number of posts bashing actions taken by the developers/producers of Star Trek Online, I’ve spent a great deal of time recently in that MMO, far more than I’ve spent in Champions Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Maybe it’s because of the three, STO’s the one that regularly releases stuff I don’t mind doing.  That may or may not end with the Delta Recruiting thing, but we’ll see how that goes.  For now, I’m enjoying the ride.

Dynah Istori of Starfleet is the character getting the reps now, the last of my three Delta Recruits.  The character is just shy of level 35, and is progressing along the Reman arc (okay, nowadays it’s the back half of “The Romulan Mystery”, but it’ll always be the Reman arc in my head, hailing back to its inception as featured episodes).  Despite my plans, the character has been doing more fabrication than mechanics in her Engineering, but that’s because I’ve had lousy luck with kit frames-more fabrication modules than mechanical.  Of course, I’ve also had equally rotten luck with the modules themselves.  Fortunately, I did get some originality for me with a combat supply crate ability-which took me a bit by surprise.  Back in the day, it just held stuff like power cells and shield packs and the like.  So imagine my surprise when the thing starts popping out the little buff icons similar to what you see in the Solonae battlezone.  That makes it more useful as a combat ability to an extent, but man, it still sets my teeth on edge to see those popping around in an MMO.  (Yes, I’m aware that this is no different than the floating capsules indicating loot.  I never claimed consistency.)  My hope is to eventually get a kit that’s more mechanic than fabrication, and I can mess with some very different abilities…

Now I just need the giant mushrooms.

Now I just need the giant mushrooms.

Space-wise, the progression’s been a bit interesting.  As an Engineer, Dynah’s suited for the cruisers, and that’s the direction I’ve picked up for the most part.  I had the TOS Constitution as her first ship (well, not counting the tutorial ship), and a Constitution as her LCDR ship.  I went heavy on the Vesper parts for that ship, though, refusing to be traditional with the straight Constitution skin.  What I ended up with was…well, it was hideous.  Couldn’t wait to get out of that ship.  At the Commander level, I finally made use of a purchased Excelsior class ship; longtime readers will remember my rants on that subject.  So it only took me a few years to actually USE the ship.  I strongly suspect that the Tier-5 version will end up being Dynah’s endgame ship, too.  At Captain, though, I couldn’t bring myself to inflict the Galaxy-class ship on the character; there are those who will disagree (in fact, I expect that there are MANY who disagree), but I’ve never been a great fan of that ship’s design.  It grew on me to the point where I could watch The Next Generation with it without having adverse reactions to it, but it just didn’t really appeal to me.  So I went with the Intrepid-class science ship; I’d never done an Engineer/Science combination, so I figured, why not?  Hasn’t been too bad, although I’ve had to use my more traditional power settings for the ship (eg. ALL WEAPONS!!!!1!!1!!!).

This is admittedly one of my better shots of that ship.

This is admittedly one of my better shots of that ship.

Looking toward the future-beyond the Delta Recruit event in STO-I figure that once Dynah’s out of the way, I’ll start branching out my game again, so to speak.  There are a number of character concepts in CO that I want to mess with (not the least of which is to FINALLY give my Reawakened Automaton a push), and I’ve still got intents to start messing with the mirror classes in TOR-particularly in light of the 12X XP for story missions for subscribers, which will make leveling them not nearly as horrific as it could be.  (I wonder if that stacks with the xp buffs that tend to roll in with some of these missions; I should check on that.)

Building Character: On To The Third!

Over the weekend, Xenon became my second Delta Recruit in Star Trek Online to finish up his run through the pre-Solonae content, and wrap up his temporal investigation arc.  And unlike Raa’th, my Gorn representative, my Romulan completed all the tasks available for the Delta Recruits (Raa’th didn’t because he’s not a part of a fleet; given that all the rewards for that action are fleet holding related, I’m not losing sleep).

Commander Xenon with his crew

Commander Xenon with his crew

So that leaves me with my final recruit, Dynah the Starfleeter.  She’s likely to start up in earnest sometime later this week.

Where did I leave Xenon?  Well, Xenon didn’t get as high as Raa’th did-Raa’th was level 55 in the end, while Xenon was at 53.  Xenon chose a Piloting primary specialization, and went with a Command secondary.  Why do I mention the secondary?  Well, stupid me, I didn’t consciously realize that by simply selecting a secondary, the character got a baseline benefit.  I’m going to have to go through my characters and check to see if their secondary specializations make sense to me.  Well, I never claimed to be anywhere near perfect, anyway.  Unlike Kelleth-my KDF main who flies a Bortasqu’ cruiser-Xenon didn’t pick up the Piloting primary to compensate for a weakness.  He did it to enhance what he already had.

Which is to say, this.

I’m not sure if it was something that slipped under my radar back in the day when I was first messing with Romulans after the Legacy of Romulus expansion or if it happened later, but I don’t recall retrofit starships available as Tier-5 starships for the Romulans.  But this fact meant that I didn’t have to grab one of the Scimitar variants-again, half the point of me messing around with the Delta Recruit thing was to do stuff that I don’t usually do.  So since I had a tactically minded captain, I went with a tactically minded sort of ship-the Mogai Retrofit.  These babies are already pretty maneuverable, so tacking on even more from Piloting seemed like it could be an interesting thing to do.  Plus, with the vet material and patterns, it looks pretty cool too-at least it does to me.

So Xenon’s in a good place.  One last thing I haven’t really worked on to wrap things up for him is to finish up his Mark XI tactical kit; it’s got four Strategic modules in it and 1 Assault module-but I haven’t gotten enough Strategic modules to slot in yet.  I could buy common versions to slap in, but I’m stubborn that way.  Plus, heaven knows when I’ll come back to Xenon-after all, the target in all of this is to finish the Delta Recruitment associated missions, and I’m working on the last of the three.  I haven’t planned far enough ahead on what to do next-I haven’t done the new Iconian queues yet, and haven’t even researched them, but I figure it’d be nice to get at least one character to the point where he tops out the Iconian reputation-and it’ll probably be Kelleth, since he’s effectively the top dog for now.

On a side note, my fleet is finally constructing its Industrial Fabricator at its starbase to tier 2, which is a significant step to pushing the base itself to tier 3.  Looking at pushing the science projects next.  Ironically, the big roadblock here isn’t the Dilithium (yet); it’s the duty officers.  Fortunately, I’ve been leveraging alt characters to help out on that, and other members of the fleet have been helping out there too (I think one of them snuck in roughly half of what we needed in one day for the fabricator).  The Tactical projects will be expensive, but it has the benefit of already being at tier 2 and working to tier 3-and the starbase doff guy allows purchase of common Tactical doffs.  And my Starfleet main has racked up a heap of fleet credits over the long, long months of work-so at least that’s one issue that’s not a major concern.  I can’t begin to guess on when the fleet will reach its goal, but I feel certain that it’ll get there.

The Iconian War Begins

A Gathering of Champions

A Gathering of Champions

Season Ten of Star Trek Online kicked off last week, and things have already been hopping.

The season included not just one, but two episodes (and given how these things usually work, that’s actually news).  So my Delta Recruits were set aside for a time while I brought the headliners up to deal with the opening shots of the Iconian War.  The Klingons got their crack at it first, followed by the Romulan Republic and then Starfleet.  And these episodes allowed me to get some opinions on the Heralds of the Iconians, the primary antagonists of this phase of the war.

The first episode is your standard “things go to hell right away” sort of thing.  The enemy has revealed its strength, and the protagonists are scrambling to defend their own.  During a briefing of some of the most significant captains of three governments (including, of course, the player’s character), word goes out that the Iconians have begun an attack on New Romulus.  A simultaneous assault is going on at a nearby Federation starbase, where you get to see the power of the Iconian warships.  The ships themselves are striking, particularly their big cruisers and dreadnoughts.  Some ships will be able to deal with them better than others, although gear and bridge officer abilities will matter as well.  My Klingon had trouble, but was generally able to handle the fights; my Romulan had her hind end smacked around silly, while my Starfleet rep had little trouble.  The running battle on New Romulus demonstrates that the Heralds are just as nasty on the ground as in space; some of the melee attacks from the heavy hitters are literally heavy hitters.  If you can avoid melee with these guys…do.  It’s rough.  The battle eventually reveals the reason behind the attack on New Romulus, which seemed…odd to me for a variety of reasons; given Iconian capabilities, it seemed like a roundabout method of accomplishing a goal that they could’ve achieved by just being direct.  (Yes, I’m being purposefully vague-but I had a feeling that it would involve what actually came to pass, because it made sense to me that there would be some relationship here.  And yeah, that’s vague, too.  I’m bad that way.)

The second episode is an attempt at a counterstrike-and just as important, a means to keep the odds from getting even worse.  Led by Captain Tom Paris, famed for his time on the USS Voyager, a crack team of pilots-and you-are out to destroy a subspace pocket that will allow the Iconians to bring the Solonae into the war-complete with their own set of warships.  A race through asteroids leading to the target sets the tone, and a massive battle with an Iconian Dreadnought before the pocket goes online adds the spice to the trip.  This episode isn’t nearly as long as the first episode, but it’s satisfying in its own way.  It includes a skirmish on board one of the vessels that endangers someone very close to Paris:  his daughter, last seen being rescued from the past by the player-Starfleet crew.  (She’s been redesigned, too, probably because of the celeb voice acting going on that’s becoming more prevalent in STO.)

The episodes are pretty good, although there are some bugs that afflicted the episodes early-like when allied ships would try to repair and get stuck on the battle against the Dreadnought in the second episode (which makes the fight against it obscenely difficult, if not impossible; certainly, it was impossible for my Romulan until the bug was fixed.  My Klingon laughed at the mission, on his side).

Also, there's amusing bugs where commanders get bisected by a floor.

Also, there’s amusing bugs where commanders get bisected by a floor.

These episode, unsurprisingly, don’t take all THAT long to do.  There are queues that have been introduced which are on my list of things to try later on-particularly since they’re the only way I know of at the moment to get the Iconian marks for the new reputation grind, but as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m uncertain if I’ll actually bother with it.  In the meantime, I still have some Delta Recruits going through their grinder.  Commander Xenon is still working his way through the mission arcs, and he’s recently entered the Alpha Quadrant (did I mention the sector space redesign?  It’s got positives and negatives; I may have to comment more on that at a later date).  At present, he’s getting ready to enter Empok Nor, and it probably won’t be long before he’s doing the Dominion Feature Episode series.  He’s still got a fair ways to go as far as episodes go, but on the other hand, he’s getting very, very close to Vice Admiral level-in fact, that’ll be his next level.  At that point, I’ll have to figure out his destined end-game ship, which quite possibly will have to either be the ship he’s flying now, or a tactical-based Scimitar.  The perils of being a Romulan….

This would be another of those perils.  His choice of weapon is amusingly ironic, too.

This would be another of those perils. His choice of weapon is amusingly ironic, too.

Prelude to the War

Well, I’ve finished the Delta Recruitment “arc” in Star Trek Online-at least for my Klingon-aligned captain, Raa’th.  The conclusion of the Breen arc, apparently, brings him to the future point where he got his initial contact.  The funny part is, though, that the temporal agent referred to him as “Dahar Master”.  The reason that’s funny?  Because that’s the rank for level 60, and the character is only level 55.  (He might be able to hit level 60 if/when I do the Solonae/Delta arcs, but that’s looking ahead.)  Something tells me that the temporal agents have been chatting with their own future contacts….

So, that concludes Raa’th’s story for now.  Now playing is Commander Xenon of the Romulan Republic-my tactical Delta Recruit, and that character’s been doing pretty well thus far.  My main tactical guy, Walt, tended to use grenades a lot-but I’ve been transitioning to having him try Intel kit modules; my other tactical guys have done combinations of melee-combat skills and grenades.  Xenon is moving more towards the strategic methods, though, like battle strategies and suppressing fire sort of things.  As my initial intro of the character mentioned, I see him as a gunslinger origin type, so he’s been primarily using a pistol, single target instead of wide-beams.  He does use a rifle when it feels appropriate-or he needs long range.  (I guess that sort of falls in the “appropriate” slot.)

In ships, I’ve mixed it up.  His second ship was a Starfleet escort (Gladius, I think), which had been one of the C-Store giveaways during one anniversary, and its speed console is something I’ve taken with the character as he’s continued advancing; it makes for a great getaway ability when being in the “cone of death” of Elachi ships when Evasive Maneuvers is still on cooldown.  Then I went with the always-fun Mogai for his Subcommander rank ship.  The Commander rank vessel almost ended in the classic D’deridex ship, the classic from the TNG series-but I found that I had another option that I don’t recall having seen before:  the Ar’kif tactical warbird.  Well, I couldn’t pass that one up-it fit in with the character better than the slow and lumbering cruiser.  (I have no issues with slow, lumbering cruisers; Walt uses a Tactical Odyssey, after all-but this was something I hadn’t used, and half the point of these Delta Recruits, for me, was to do new stuff.)  And that’s where it stands…for now.

Blending in with the locals

As far as progression goes, Xenon’s wrapped up the Nimbus Adventure Zone, and is now dealing with the last couple Elachi missions; I’m eager to see how this new ship (for me!) deals with the big battle over New Romulus, which during my initial Romulan characters’ runs was a really disgustingly difficult battle.  (Fun though.)  Strangely, the Romulans seem to have a strange hiccup in their episode order.  While I’ve been doing most of these arcs, the Devidian arc has been made available at the same time.  I’ve done that arc up to “Spin the Wheel”, since I’d had missions in Drozana at the time and it was convenient, but I’ve not continued with “What Lies Beneath”, which was always one of my favorites.  Time enough for that after New Romulus is saved!

However, all this is prelude.  This week, the next Season is released, officially named “The Iconian War”.  It looks as if Kelleth, Ailar, and Walt will again be the main focus at least for a short while to deal with the episode that is released as the first part of what will likely be a couple seasons worth of conflict.  Due to the structure of how STO is developed these days, I expect the episode to be a level 60 exclusive, unless they temporarily make it available to level 10 and up as they have with previous Feature Episodes.  I also expect the season to be more about queue grinding for the new Iconian reputation; I’m not sure if I’ll even bother with that one.  I’m undecided.  My main characters have all the reputation they really need/want, and the Delta Recruits will have most of the marks they need-particularly if I use the “Sponsorship” option to effectively half the needed marks to advance old reps.  So why put myself through the grief?  But then, we’ll see.

The bigger deal for the new Season, as far as I’m concerned, is the widening of the sector space maps.  One of the biggest gripes of the game since beta was the fact that the galaxy was divided into “sector blocks” of three sectors each-and when you crossed a border of a block, you got the popup window with a bridge officer saying you could warp to the adjacent block, and boom-loading screen.  Well, the loading screens are still there, but the borders have shifted, so to speak:  now there will be an Alpha Quadrant, a Beta Quadrant, and a Delta Quadrant-and all the sector block borders are gone, allowing a much longer journey before having to go to a loading screen.  Naturally, you still have the loading screens when you have to go to the planetary scale, but this is a really big deal.  It’s not EVE Online and its apparently seamless transitions, but it goes a long way to making the galaxy feel like a galaxy.

So I figure Xenon gets the go-ahead for the next couple of days; then on Thursday, I return to Kelleth the Klingon Engineer to begin his part in the Iconian War.  Who better than a Klingon to fight such a battle?  (The Federation and the Republic may disagree….)

Building Character: The Wrath of Raa’th

Well, that didn’t take long.  It’s like I’ve done all of this before….

Ready for war.

The first of my Delta Recruits in Star Trek Online has been plugging away, and he’s almost done with his tour of duty.  Captain Raa’th, my Gorn representative to the Klingon Empire, has gone through the Klingon content and crushed it beneath his clawed feet.  And he’s managed to have quite a time of it.  He’s gotten to level 54 and has just completed the Borg story arc, which leaves only the Breen arc before he completes the “Delta Recruit” objectives.  I can see the strong prospect of him reaching level 55 going into the Solonae Dyson Sphere arcs and into the Delta Quadrant.  I may put him on pause, however, to start up the other Delta Recruits being worked on.

I’ve been sort of surprised at the speed at which I’ve gone through the content here.  Part of it probably comes in where I’ve done this all before-in some missions, multiple times.  I might’ve gone a bit further if I could’ve skipped cut-scenes, but that’s the price of doing business.  No big loss.

Character details.  Raa’th has done pretty well as a Science captain, and for his endgame ship, I chose the Varanus class, the IKS Anor.  It’s at the really low end of tier-5, and a support ship besides, but it had two major features that attracted me.  First, it was a Sciences ship-and honestly, I haven’t played many of those ships.  And second, it was a Gorn ship for a Gorn character.  (Okay, there was a third thing:  it had been a free giveaway ship from Cryptic one year, and I was making a deliberate effort to use those ships.)  And I have to say, it has been a blast using that ship.  I never really appreciated some of the raw synergy that science bridge officers have with science abilities.  A combination of Tyken’s Rifts (which hoses power levels in the target ship) plus an Energy Siphon (which drains power from a target ship to apply to your ship) and a Target Shield Subsystem (which drains energy from the shield power level on a target ship) can open up nice gaps of time when the target has NO shields.  That window varies on types of ships (not so good with Borg Cubes-as in, a couple seconds), but it’s enough time to slam a high-yield torpedo into the target most of the time, and if one is lucky, a second regular torpedo shot.  My own power level configuration on that ship is also different than my usual, which involves “max weapons-always!”; I’ve gone more balanced, which gives my weapons less punch, but gives those science abilities substantially more.

On the ground, the character makes use of primarily Research powers on his kits.  A side rant:  it is unbelievably crazy how often I would get a kit reward, and it would be all but one slot in the kit set for Medical powers.  For a guy who was trying to avoid Medical for the most part, it was driving me bats.  I FINALLY got one that had only one Medical slot in it, and I felt like breaking out the good champagne.  It was that bad.  Moving on:  since I did manage to get to level 54, I was able to choose a captain specialization, and I figured that since I was doing all sorts of things that I hadn’t done before, I’d give him Commando specialization.  It’s a primarily ground related spec, but I wanted to see how it did.  Besides:  being able to cut down the time for cooldowns on abilities is always worth messing with.

Standard away team has been a Klingon Engineer, an Android Science officer, a Klingon Tactical officer, and a “rotating” slot that I default to a Borg-ified Klingon Engineer, but have also occasionally used an Orion Science or a Klingon Science depending on whim.  Uniforms for everyone pretty much uses the Bortasqu’ style outfit, with the exception being Raa’th himself-because a Star Trek captain has to go shirtless in a big fight!  (It was good enough for Kirk, it’s good enough for Raa’th!)

Click for bigger!

One more thing that kind of stood out to me was the increased information on the Iconians.  I know:  “Duh!  Delta Recruitment!”  But I’m not just talking about the little side objectives.  It could be that I’m not remembering clearly, but it seemed that the Iconian foreshadowing has been a lot more blatant than I remember it having been when I first did these missions.  As in, “slapped over the face repeatedly with the fact that the Iconians Are Coming!”  There have been other instances where the Delta Recruitment details needed a bit more refinement:  on the terrific episode “Colosseum”, I got informed by one of my bridge officers to look for Iconian tech-except for the minor detail that the whole point of that episode was that I hadn’t been able to get in contact with my ship.  And if I were a new player, I’m not sure I’d be able to follow the Iconian presence all that well with the way the Temporal Agent contact fed me info.  Trying to figure out the timeline was tricky at times-but hell, that’s time travel for you.

Once I go through the Breen episodes and wrap up the Delta Recruitment objectives, it’ll be time to return to Tau Dewa and see what kind of Iconian knowledge can be picked up from the Romulan point of view.

The Future Is Now

The War against the Iconians is on hand in Star Trek Online.

Last week, the new feature episode was released that featured the return of the Iconians to the Alpha Quadrant from…well, let’s just say farther away than one might expect.  And the initial indications are bad-they’ve come loaded for bear.  Can even the alliance of the three great powers of the galaxy (okay, of the Alpha/Beta Quadrants; the Dominion doesn’t seem to have been invited) be able to stand up against this invasion?

Apparently not.  This week, the Delta Recruitment has begun.  New characters created over the coming weeks who go through their faction’s tutorial will find themselves contacted by an unexpected source-from the future, one year from the beginning of the game.  (For those unaware, the game’s timelime moved up to 2410 fairly recently, but the beginning episodes in the game take place in 2409.  Don’t look at it too closely; it’ll make your head hurt.)  The sources warn that these new players will be instrumental in preparing the galaxy for the Iconian treat-and they must succeed, because otherwise the future won’t have happened.  Or something like that.  Time travel makes my head hurt.

That’s our basic storyline.  Now for the practical realities.  New characters created going through the tutorial gain the accolade “Delta Recruit”, which opens up special objectives during certain missions, and allows for assorted special rewards that apply to that character-and open up special rewards for all character on an account, which is a clever way of convincing folks to run through all the content in the game again.  This has, shockingly, made some folks very annoyed.  I’m not one of them, but then, I’m an altoholic, and that’s not likely to change soon.  Once the Delta Recruitment period ends, characters who have that accolade can still work towards all the rewards involved-the period of time only requires you have characters created and run through the tutorials in that time.  Some of those are faster than others; you can get through the Klingon and Romulan tutorials fairly quickly, but the Starfleet one take substantially more time.  I’m guessing this is Cryptic’s figuring that new players will naturally gravitate to Starfleet before trying Klingons or Romulans.  I’m not gonna judge them here.

Is it really so shocking, then, with all of this, that I’d build three new characters?  Would I do something so insane?

Not convincing anyone here.  I took some time to create a new character for each faction:  Federation, Klingon, Romulan.  We’re in the early days, but I have good feelings about them; the Iconians won’t have a chance against them!  Hopefully.

The Wrath of Raa’th is coming.

As noted in previous posts, until the advent of something resembling exploration returns to STO, the Klingons will be my primary go-to characters (even if my Starfleeters see action to help get that starbase built up), so the character who will go through the Delta Grinder first is Raa’th.  Yes, my concept around the character is pretty much in the name when you consider homonyms.  He’s a Gorn Science officer; I really considered making him a Tactical guy, but I have a bunch of ships claimed over the years from free promotions, and I wanted to run with them-and one of the higher tier ones is a Gorn vessel-which has more Science bridge officer slots.  That ship may or may not wind up being the endgame ship for this guy; I may also wind up giving him the science version of the Bortasqu’ ship.  Fortunately, I’ve got a long way to go.  This character is definitely going to be more of the debuff/buff Science than the medical/healing Science character.  Finally, just because it amuses me, he’ll only be using one ranged weapon; the other weapon slot will remain unarmed, because I enjoy watching Gorn smack around his opponents.  (He’ll probably have to use a bat’leth for one of the KDF missions, though.)

Green is such an unrepresented color for a Romulan, isn’t it?

On the Romulan side, I have Xenon, a Romulan Tactical officer.  The character creator helped me decide his general concept, oddly enough.  When looking at the pre-built uniforms in the creator, one option was called “gunslinger”.  Well, that triggered a chain of thoughts in my head; the Romulans start on a colony world, and that puts me in mind of the Old West, and that puts me in mind of the presence of gunslingers in that era…and so the idea was born.  I imagine the character will primarily use pistols as his weapons, and probably one of them will be the “dual pistols” because that’s just how he rolls.  The Romulan ships are pretty much locks, however, due to the fact that even with Delta Recruit Dilithium bonuses, I won’t have enough to be purchasing allied-faction ships.  That said:  I do have some from the giveaways over the years, so I might see if I can claim those on the character.  The endgame ship, almost by necessity, will be one of the Scimitar variants.  Not sure if he’ll ally with the Klingons or the Federation yet, but I’m leaning Fed-because I need more characters capable of generating common duty officers to feed into starbase construction.  Plus, there are Delta Rising awards for joining a fleet and hitting level 30, so why would I deprive myself of that?

“Can you read my mind?” Chances are, she can.

Speaking of Starfleet, Dynah Istori is my final Delta Recruit, and she’s a Betazoid Engineering officer.  I was really iffy about species on this character; I’d considered a Bolian, a Talaxian (hey, gotta consider one of those lifetime sub benefits!), and a Ferengi, but finally settled on Betazoids.  Since that species is known for its telepaths, I figured I could eventually work a concept around that.  Since Starfleet is at the bottom of my chain at the moment, I haven’t given much thought about the direction of development for the character; I’ll need to look over the kit abilities and figure out how I want to go.  I’m tempted to go the fabrication route where she builds in turrets and generators, but my main Klingon does that.  Shipwise, it’ll likely be cruisers all the way, where I can take ruthless advantage of the character’s class to train up skills for Engineering bridge officers to use.  That said, I need to look over the free ships I’ve accumulated over the years to see where she’ll land.  Endgame-wise, I have a number of options to go with for the character, and the Engineering-specific Odyssey seems like a front runner.  But I could also see myself using the Vet-Chimera, which has the benefit of effectively being a tier-5U.  She is, of course, likely to join my preexisting Fleet so I can use her to help churn those duty officers for the Starbase.  (When you can get, realistically at best, 2 officers of the type you need every four days, and you need 30 to advance a project, you sort of need to have a bunch of characters contributing.)

I figure this should do a good job on occupying some time in STO.  These characters, despite their Delta Recruit status, are still not considered my main characters, although they’ll likely displace other characters to reach secondary status.  They’ll probably not max out all Reputations (although the Delta Rewards will allow them to get legs up on some of them), and they’ll certainly not end up as kitted out as Walt, Kelleth, and Ailar.  But they should likely wind up in a position to sit at the same table with them.  Obviously, when new content comes out, I’ll certainly be going back to those mains to do it first-but it’s always interesting to develop new characters, especially in a time when my interest has been lagging.

Building…Other Stuff

Things have gone pretty well lately for my primary characters in Star Trek Online.  Since the last Building Character post, both my Romulan and my Starfleet mains have reached top level, and the Romulan finished the Delta Rising episode arc.  The Starfleet main has a couple of missions to go before wrapping; if I’m not done with him this weekend, I’ll be surprised.  It’ll be just in time to run through the new episode that’s coming very, very soon, and as will be the case going forward, it’ll be KDF first, Romulan second, and Starfleet third.

As the characters reach their individual apex, though, I look at a bigger goal now.

As mentioned a couple of times in the past, the characters (well, not the Klingon) are in a Fleet, and the Fleet has a couple of Fleet Holdings that have advanced to something resembling something.  It has a tier-2 Starbase, and a tier-1 Embassy.  The Starbase has been my primary bit of work and I let it wind down after getting to tier-2 (with help, admittedly).  Another Fleet member was the primary driver on getting the Embassy to tier 1 (with some help, admittedly-including a bit from me).  But the idea of getting the Starbase to tier-3 is one that’s been in the back of my head for a while.

Why?  Well, first and foremost…vanity.  The appearance of the Starbase changes with the tier it’s in, and a tier-3 base looks more impressive than tier-2.  Second, also of note, is the availability of a special Tailor in the Starbase, which unlocks new uniform variants for members of the Fleet.  It’d be nice to have that available.  And thirdly, by getting to tier-3, it requires getting to tier-2 in a couple other sub-branches (eg. Tactical, Engineering, Science) which opens up some more neat stuff like fleet equipment-and of course, one of those branches will need to go to tier-3 as well (Tactical being the leading contender, but we’ll see).

The downside is:  it’s not exactly easy.  It either requires a big investment in common duty officers or a big investment in Dilithium just to get to the point where you can start the upgrade projects.  And there’s a heap of an investment in those upgrade projects-it took forever to get the Embassy to Tier-1 on that upgrade project alone.

All that said:  these challenges are not insurmountable.  It just takes time.  I do have a fair number of alts in the Fleet, including a pair of Romulan Republic characters-this helps me get past the duty officer issues in a way, since each of them can run recruitment duty officer missions; heck, the Romulan ones can run twice as many since they have the Romulan versions of the missions as well as the Starfleet versions.  The various materials only cost energy credits, and I’ve got reserves as far as that goes.  Even Fleet Marks needed may not be horrible-as I’ve completed various reputation grinds, I’ve started taking Fleet Marks instead of assorted Reputation Marks if given the choice.  Finally, the recent Crystalline Catastrophe event allowed me to have a number of characters get 50K Dilithium each, to a grand total of 200K; in the past, I’ve used the event to get the real vanity special projects, where it added decor to assorted holdings.  This time…I’m holding onto it for the big upgrade projects, which require a heap of Dilithium.  Conservatively speaking, we’re talking nearly 1.2 million Dilithium.  Good thing I won’t need this all at once; it would take 148 days to refine Dilithium rewards on a single character to get that much.  It’s also a good thing that the plan is to spread mass gains like from the Catastrophe across multiple characters.  And heck, some of those spare marks from the Reputation grind can be turned in for Dilithium….

Clearly, this is not a goal that’s going to happen overnight.  Thanks to a couple other built-in limits (like how often I can run recruitment missions), it’ll take some months to do.  But you know, I’m not going anywhere-and heck, depending on how things go with Delta Recruitment, I may or may not have a new character to feed stuff into the grinder.  That’s sort of iffy, though, since I’m probably building a KDF guy for it.  On the other hand, I am an altoholic….

As a closing note, I’m not the only one who messes with the possibilities of expanding holdings; at least two others in the Fleet have looked at stuff to upgrade; one did the work to upgrade the Embassy to Tier-1, while the other is presently putting effort into getting the Dilithium Mine to Tier-1.  All of the holdings are uphill tasks for my Fleet, but we’re in no hurry.  We’ll get there.

In The Grim Darkness of the 25th Century, There Is Only War

There’s a reasonably popular wargame out there called Warhammer 40K.  The basic concept is that the future is a grim, dark place, and humanity is in a never-ending war against…well, almost everything out there.  You would have to crawl up a substantial way to be called “bleak” there.  There are no friends out in the darkness of space-only beings that want to kill you.  There is only war.

The future of Star Trek Online isn’t quite that bad, but one could be forgiven if one decided that yes, it’s becoming its own brand of grim-dark.  The very beginnings of the game were rooted in war-a war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire (the Organians must be shaking their heads on that one; the two may have been destined to be fast friends, but man, the road’s been rocky).  As time passed, the Federation’s found itself also fighting the remnants of the Romulan Star Empire, a faction of the Cardassian Union with Dominion allies, the Borg, and the Undine.  Then they get sucked into another war over in the Delta Quadrant.

It isn’t all bad news; it’s not much of a spoiler now to say that the Klingons and Starfleet have, at least, a temporary truce while they focus on the alien beings that have been working on wrecking the Alpha/Beta Quadrants so successfully:  the Iconians.  And it seems that Cryptic is about ready to start pushing this story to a climax:  next month, a big push is on for something they’re calling “Delta Recruitment”, in which each faction has a representative from the future come to newly created characters and gives them special objectives during their normal leveling process that will-in theory-prepare them for the war against the Iconians-who, by all appearances, are the ultimate foe.  This will include theoretical special rewards (the nature of which remains mostly unrevealed).  This could, of course, be problematic.

Why?  Because STO, while having a heap of character slots, is not the most alt-friendly game out there.  This wasn’t always true, but the amount of grinding that has to be done by any character these days has gone pretty far; reputation grinds, Dilithium grinds, and the grind after level 50 (and technically beyond 60 if you want to ever max out your Captain Specializations); and getting top-of-the-line gear is rougher, too; I imagine that fully equipping your ship with purple (very rare) gear is much more of a pain than it was in past days.  My Starfleet captain, for example, is purpled out (although not with the top gear anymore, thanks to the tier jump), while my Romulan one is still using plenty of greens (uncommon).  Now, there’s a caveat here:  doing the alt thing is not so horrible if you don’t actually care about maxing out a character’s abilities or gear.  And fortunately, I don’t-at least, not beyond “main” characters.

But I’m not exactly representative of the average gamer.  The average gamer isn’t likely to want to do the Delta Recruitment grind for a whole new character from scratch, and ignore their primary “main” characters.  Not unless the theoretical rewards will benefit their main characters in some way.  Details are still hazy, but it does seem that there will be at least one reward that benefits all characters on the account.  Whether or not it’s actually worthwhile is still an open question.

Delta Recruitment is only one part of the big changes coming to STO in the near future.  Sector Space, long organized into many blocks, is about to undergo a massive revamp.  Loading screens between sector blocks are about to become mostly extinct, as they are being consolidated into Quadrants:  Alpha, Beta, and Delta.  (The Gamma Quadrant remains mostly unexplored in STO, outside of a mission set there; DS9 will get its turn again someday…)  In a way, it’ll still be like sector blocks-except they’re much bigger now, and only a couple of load-screen boundaries exist.  How that’ll affect the Diplomacy reward of being able to go into opposite-faction home territory is iffy, but I suspect that reward is about to become obsolete.  (Outside of getting an opposite faction bridge officer, there’s not much point to maxing Diplomacy now, honestly.)

Also upcoming-as in, next week-is a new feature episode which sounds like it’ll kick off the Iconian conflict in earnest.  The STO web site indicates that this has been five years in the making; it’s time to see the payoff.

And heck, maybe at the end, we’ll actually see some exploration back in the game.  “Does anyone remember when we were explorers?” Captain Picard told us in Star Trek: Insurrection.  We can only hope.