Who Will Rule?

In this quiet period between chapters in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I found myself considering the conclusion of the Knights of the Fallen Empire.  There are, after all, three more chapters to go in the storyline as originally posted, and two of them will release in June (although not simultaneously…to my knowledge).  Now, it’s possible-even likely-that it will lead into what some folks are calling “Season Two” of the KotFE, but I view as the “Empire Strikes Back” to KotFE’s “Star Wars”.  And it’s possible that the conclusion will simply be a new phase in the conflict between the Galactic Eternal Empire and the Rebel Alliance.  But it’s also possible that it will conclude with what the late Emperor Valkorion has predicted:  the player’s character seated upon the Eternal Throne.

And honestly, I can’t imagine that seat is all that comfortable.

And that got me to thinking:  how would my various characters handle this event.  Certainly, a bunch of the principles involved in the struggle believe that it’s inevitable that the PC will take the throne-in fact, some have likely been positioning the character to do just that (I’m looking at you, Lana-don’t think I forgot how you maneuvered me into being the head of the Alliance in the first place!).  Sure seems probably that at some point, one of those conversation trees upcoming will include an option of “Take the Throne”.  Feels like an interesting little thought experiment.

So let’s play “Take the Throne” with the eight classes, as I’ve played them.  (I almost called this post “A Game of Thrones”, but I didn’t want to confuse folks in the search engines.)

The Smuggler:  if there’s one guy who wants nothing to do with being chained down to a throne room, this guy is it.  For a guy who likes to live out on the edge and make a fast credit, this has to be the worst possible thing that can happen to him.  I’ve played him with a conscience-what can I say, Han Solo has always been a favorite of mine since the first movie hit the theaters-so he might do it if he felt it would minimize suffering.  I look for him to look for a way out of it practically from day one, though.

The Imperial Agent:  imagine a life lived in the shadows.  Now imagine that you’ve got a bloody spotlight following you everywhere you go.  That’s the Agent’s life right now as the Alliance Commander.  Now brighten that light and widen the radius dramatically, and you can see why I imagine the Agent would rather be anywhere else.  The key factor for him:  his life has been spent in the service of the Sith Empire-not the Sith themselves (they did, after all, have much to do with certain traumatic events in the Agent class story).  With a life defined by service, he could conceivably guide the Eternal Empire based on his conception of what the Sith Empire should have been.  He’d do it.  But he wouldn’t like it.

The Jedi Knight:  yet another character who might be reluctant to take the throne.  He’d probably do his best to encourage the people of the Eternal Empire to make their own choices as to how to proceed.  Seeing the Republic as an ideal, the Jedi might be likely to encourage that the people of the Eternal Empire join their destinies to that of the Republic.  That said, all indications are that the Republic’s going through a bout of serious corruption right now.  The Knight will have a struggle trying to determine the correct path to choose; the Force may not be enough to help him on this one.

The Sith Warrior:  formerly the Emperor’s Wrath, formerly the Empire’s Wrath, and now in a position to be Emperor himself.  Given the chaos that has taken over the Sith Empire in the wake of Arcann’s attacks, this character may see the Eternal Empire as a useful weapon to restore order to the Sith Empire, and afterwards, move on to conquering the Republic as well.  He may not sit easily upon the throne, though:  he’s a man of action, who has made a lot of light-side choices but could never be a Jedi because he is moved to act upon his feelings-and enjoys the battle.  He may find himself leading from the front.

The Trooper:  a hardcore Republic soldier, and a True Believer in its cause, it’s hard to imagine any route other than trying to integrate the Eternal Empire with the Republic.  He wouldn’t be on the throne for long-he believes in the democracy inherent in the Republic system too much to be something so antithetical to it.  He’d definitely be okay with being the military commander in charge of the Eternal Fleet, though; command is his thing, after all, having been promoted on up the ladder in Havoc Squad.  Politics aren’t his thing, though, and that would likely force him to hand off the throne as soon as possible.  As he would tell you, he’s  a soldier, not a politician, and that’s something he would never change.  He might have to, though.

The Bounty Hunter:  he’d be all for it.  For about a week.  Before he learns about how tedious it is to be in that sort of position.  Then he’d be looking for a way out.  Unlike the guys above, he doesn’t feel any personal responsibility to the people of the Eternal Empire.  He’d prefer to get back to being the best Hunter in the galaxy.  The riches available as the leader of the Eternal Empire is great and all, but he’d be bored to death.  That said, he’d also see benefits in the new position:  among other things, he’d have an easier time locating the missing members of his crew (which would effectively be just Mako and Skadge, since Torian will be back with the next Chapter, and both Blizz and Gault are already back.  He might we willing to ditch Skadge, though…).  The idea of making Mako an Empress might have him stick around, though-she’s had so many “break the cutie” moments in the SWTOR storyline that she deserves a big break.

The Jedi Consular:  once upon a time, he might’ve seen it as an opportunity to bring the people of the Eternal Empire into an alliance with the Republic.  But since KotFE, I’ve been having him undergo a hard slide to the Dark Side.  Of course, since he had so many Light Side points going in, it’ll be unlikely that he’ll actually be considered a Dark Side user…but it’s getting there.  (I keep toying with dropping one of his crew skills for Diplomacy so I can accelerate the Fall.)  He’s been arrogant for a long time now, too, so all of this adds up to a man who may take the throne simply because he believes anyone else would screw it up.  He may or may not be a benevolent ruler, but he surely can’t be worse than Arcann or Valkorion (or heaven forbid, Vaylin)…right?  (A fast aside here:  I keep wanting to call the Consular the Counselor.  I have no idea why.  I had to have seen that somewhere, I’d think, but hell if I know where.)

The Sith Inquisitor:  if there’s one guy who will take to ruling the Eternal Empire like a fish to water, it’s this guy.  And that probably isn’t great for the people of the Eternal Empire, because he’s as Sith as Sith can be.  He’d consolidate his hold on the Empire, and then send its forces to forcibly conquer both the Sith Empire (which is obviously ripe for conquest) and the Republic.  With his occasional research in the idea of Eternal Life himself, he could well wind up being more terrible than Vakorion or Arcann ever were-because while Valkorion and his teachings involve the Force being “more than Light or Dark”, the Inquisitor is all-in with the Dark Side of the Force.  A new Alliance might be needed to save all three of these factions from him.

Of course, given the Bioware/EA devs, it’s impossible to see what may happen as we barrel towards the end of this expansion’s story, and the Throne may still be far in the future still.  But it’s a fun thought experiment to consider what may lie ahead.  How might your characters deal with the future?

Consoles…the Final Frontier….

Well, looks like some big updates are on the way for Star Trek Online.

The first comes courtesy of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek as a franchise:  a new expansion slated to hit during the summer (no specifics yet as to exact date) called “Agents of Yesterday”.  And as everything about the announcement practically screams, it takes place in the era of the Original Series.

The title “Agents of Yesterday” pretty much flat out tells people familiar with the ongoing STO storyline that this is going to involve the Temporal Cold War up to the eyeballs.  And if that alone wasn’t enough to do it, there’s the fact that a couple of dev blogs concerning the expansion have shown images of Montgomery Scott, famed engineer on the Enterprise, in both his television and movie aspects.  It’s possible that the expansion will cover those years “naturally”, but I’m guessing time travel is going to be involved a lot here.  We’ll also be getting a peek at Pavel Chekov from what I can see.

In many ways, it looks like this may be very similar to the “Legacy of Romulus” expansion, in which the players were able to create characters of the Romulan Republic, which essentially became a sub-faction for either the Federation or the Klingon Empire.  From appearances, AoY will be following the same sort of deal, except this sub-faction is “TOS Starfleet”-and its episodes will take place starting around what appears to be what would’ve been Season Four of the Original Series.  We can deduce that at some point, these TOS-characters will find their way to the future, as a result of all the temporal shenanigans going on.  I mean, seems unlikely that the expansion will cover a full range of level 1-60 in the TOS setting; that’d be more than just an expansion-it’d be a whole new game!  I find it hard to imagine how the TOS-characters could align with the Klingons-after all, in the TOS era, the Federation and the Empire are still enemies, and thus far, I’ve seen no indications that we’re seeing TOS era Klingons involved.  (Although it would be awesome-and the devs HAVE demonstrated the ability to put together two factional storylines at once, since LoR also included a full leveling experience for the Klingons for the first time as well.)

There are game packs being sold as well for the expansion, with a variety of TOS ships and TOS-inspired tier-6 ships which look closer to the current 2410 aesthetic.  For those who are wondering, though, there is no evidence of a T6 Constitution class vessel.  But honestly…at this point, it sort of seems inevitable, doesn’t it?  It’s hard to justify not having one when you have a bunch of others literally just being introduced having T6 versions.  It’s only a matter of time, now.  I can’t see this year ending without a T6 Constitution vessel in the game.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised, though, if it wound up as a lockbox ship.  The game packs, incidentally, are not required for the expansion, and the items in the packs-which include ships and TOS era uniforms (Kirk can tell you how non-durable those shirts are, too!  You’ll TRULY get to have the TOS experience!)

A couple of the new episodes related to the expansion are already on the Tribble Test Server, available to Gold subscribers or lifetimers.  Granted, they’re also buggy as hell, but that’s why it’s called a test server.

Amusingly, this isn’t the biggest news for the game.  The biggest news is that in the Fall, STO will be going live on the XBox 1 and PS4 consoles.

From what I have read, this will result in a setup similar to Neverwinter, where there are separate servers for the consoles and for the PC versions.  There are some players who are up in arms on that; after all, they say, this move does nothing for them if they have to start from scratch on a console.  They want to be able to play their characters on the console, not start over entirely-especially when they consider all the lockbox stuff they may have gotten, or the limited time rewards, and such.  Thing is, though:  this move isn’t being done for the benefit of the players of the game.  It’s not being done for the benefit of existing customers.  It’s being done to tap into the theoretical gold mine that are the console gamers.  (I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether or not this will actually BE such a gold mine.)  The point isn’t to make life more flexible for current players-it’s to get a bunch of players who wouldn’t play the game on the PC to play it on the console and spend oodles of money on it.

That said:  I can’t imagine that Cryptic/PWE can’t arrange account unlocks to carry over.  I mean, unless they’re requiring you to make a brand new account to access the console servers, you’d be able to use your usual PWE account-and the data is linked to that.  Surely, this would not be a difficult thing.  Hell, it shouldn’t be horrific to link the account to a console account.  I’m speaking primarily from ignorance here, admittedly; my last console was the Atari VCS, so I’m a wee bit out of date.

All this, plus we still need to finish up with the current Temporal Front arc going on in the game right now.  And by “finish”, I mean, “have an arbitrary endpoint for this phase”, because obviously, the Temporal Cold War is ramping up to a hot war all over the timeline.

And all of this means that 2016 is going to be a bigger year than expected for Star Trek Online.  But then, I suppose I should’ve figured that something big would be happening for the 50th anniversary.  Shame on me!

Rob ‘Em Blind!

Last week, the players of Star Wars: The Old Republic got to play the next chapter in their “Knights of the Fallen Empire” storyline.  If you were feeling that recent chapters felt more Jedi/Sith oriented, that the “regular folks” of the Trooper, Agent, Smuggler, and Bounty Hunter were more or less ignored…well, this chapter is for you!  Named “Profit and Plunder”, the players get served up a heist of galactic proportions!  Well, maybe not galactic, but….

But first, a couple of notes unrelated to the actual story.  The Smuggler FINALLY gets a companion back in an Alliance Alert, where a certain Wookiee has been gravitating back to an old game with a new perspective.  It’s tied in heavily with the Eternal Championship content released with this chapter:  as with most Alliance Alerts, if you’re anyone but someone who had good old Bowdaar before (in other words, a Smuggler), you need to gain influence rating with him, and you do it by participating in the Eternal Championship gladiatorial matches.  The EC is basically a primer in some ways for Operations; each opponent-or set of opponents, as the main opposition usually has some help-has a gimmick that you need to figure out how to counter, or at least survive, in order to beat down the opponent and advance.  Needless to say, each opponent becomes progressively tougher; you need to be good in the game and have good equipment-and possibly have a fairly high Influence companions backing you up-to make it through all ten rounds and become named an Eternal Champion!

I’ve not done much of it thus far, but my Agent has completed four rounds; I cheerfully acknowledge that I’m unlikely to get to round 10, much less beat it.  But that’s okay.  First, you don’t have to win the Championship to get Bowdaar; each time you officially end your participation, you gain Influence with him, so if you keep trying and only get so far, it’s still tacking on Influence.  And second, Smugglers get the shortcut to pass all of that mess to just go to the next phase of recruiting Bowdaar, as he has a favor he needs from you before he can commit to the Alliance-and that’s loads easier than fighting the tournament.

With Bowdaar, we now have officially gotten back at least one companion for each class.  Some have been more represented than others, but at least everyone’s got someone.  There’s one more incoming next month (more on that below), but first, it’s time to delve into the grit.  Spoilers be lurking past this break, so stay back if you don’t want to see them!

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Who is Future Guy?

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?

I’m dubious that this makes the system “simpler”.

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.

Checking Out The Backyard

Sometimes, you really need to do some basic checking around your new home.

Clearly, that didn’t happen when the Outlander set up shop on the world of Odessen in the Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Because for the first time, thanks to the new chapter “Visions in the Dark”, your character must leave the headquarters of the Alliance against the Galactic Eternal Empire.  As with previous content review posts on this subject, I’m gonna leave “read more” tag so spoilers can be avoided.  But first, a couple of comments related to some thoughts of mine from the last post on the subject.

I’d heard rumors about the fate of the companion Khem Val, based upon a new companion alert out this chapter, but they seem to have been debunked by a producer’s livestream, indicating that one day, the Force-Eating, Sith-Eating, Head-Screwed-Up Dashade would return.  So Inquisitors, rejoice!  (Or not-I’ve found that peoples love of the assorted characters varies wildly.)  Also of note:  the Smuggler Companion Count remains at zero; supposedly the Eternal Championship will finally land next month, but we’ve heard this before.  Even more insulting is that it sounds like the next chapter is going to feature an epic heist, and you would think that at least one Smuggler companion would be involved-but nope, looks like we get a pairing of a BH and a Sith Warrior companion.  Enough to make Smuggler players to give in to the Dark Side….

Next month’s HK related rewards involved HK inspired skins for the ship droids.  They look catchy (basically palette work), but I think my Smuggler is going to keep his “Targeting Dummy” skin on his droid.  Seems more appropriate somehow.  Some posts on assorted forums are screaming “enough with the HK-related stuff” as subscriber rewards.  People, Bioware/EA was pretty up front about the subscriber rewards and their theme.  Nobody says you gotta use ’em, and nobody says you even gotta subscribe that month (although if you’re only in it for those rewards-good heavens, WHY?).

Okay, with all that stuff out of the way, spoilers await!

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Building Character: Overloaded

Things have gone pretty nicely in Champions Online this last week.  Thanks to careful use of the XP Alerts (I can never remember if they’re “Smash” or “Grab” alerts, not helped by the fact that the devs swapped definitions at one point) to help maximize the xp gains from the in-world missions, my character of Overload hit level 40.  This had a number of side effects.

First, and most important to an altoholic like me, it creates a new character slot to use; I will never not love having more slots for character concepts.

Second, and almost as important to me, it unlocks the Reawakened Automaton powers for freeform characters.  That’s only a couple as I recall (Aspect of the Machine and Rocket Punch), but both are powers I can see myself using.  The Rocket Punch in particular is slated for a character concept I’ve been working up.  It’s a pity that the Punch doesn’t really show the character’s actual fist detaching (at least, not that I’ve ever really seen.  I should demorecord and see sometime frame-by-frame).

Thirdly, and this one was sort of intriguing, I had enough in-game currency to purchase a Cosmic Key off the local trade market.  These keys can be usually purchased off the C-Store to open lockboxes, but since the keys aren’t bound, folks will put them on the market to get a quick infusion of currency.  Unlike the similar keys in Star Trek Online, these aren’t usually priced to obscene numbers, making them a possible-although rare-purchase for me on the market.

Why would I do this?  Well, for a time, CO was linking a costume part available if you opened a set of three different lockboxes (meaning three “eras” of lockbox, not just three of the same lockbox type).  I was interested in some of the parts, so I’d done this before; an “alien skin” and “jet wings” part were the treasures of previous series; the one I’m working on now is not so big a deal:  a raven-on-the-shoulder sort of thing.  Now, of the three lockboxes in this series, the first was the “Space Scoundrel” lockbox (cashing in on a popular movie that had just released a couple years back).  To my substantial pleasure, when I opened that box, I managed to get one of the prizes of the set:  the Space Scoundrel costume set.  (The other big prize would’ve been the vehicle in that set.)  So at some point, I imagine I’ll be developing a character concept for that outfit to fit!

The other two lockboxes aren’t likely to be as big winners in my eyes:  the Defender vs. Foxbat lockbox (or maybe I got that backwards?), and the Ravenwood Academy lockbox.  Nothing much in those boxes really appeals to me, but then, given how long it takes me to accumulate the currency to purchase a key, no real hurry.  Especially since the whole “costume part unlock for three types of lockbox” thing seems to have become a thing of the past, based on the recent lockboxes I’ve seen over the last year.

So, that’s another character down, which means I have another character ready to step up.  Actually, more along the lines of “I have too many characters” to step up!  The big question at hand is, which one to run?  I’ve got a djinni with air powers, a cyborg with electrical powers, and a Lemurian with telepathic powers on my list of who to advance.  (There are others, but I’m determined to fill my first page of characters with 40s, and those are the only three left on that list.)  All of them are at level 15 or less, so they have a lot of play time ahead.  Fortunately, I have some time before I need to make the call, because a new chapter is landing today in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and as all of eight of my primary characters are up-to-date on that story now, I expect that’ll take priority for a little bit.

Breached Whale (and Other Tales)

One of the things that I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about have been the queued content of Star Trek Online.  Given how prominent that content is in the game-after all, re-running queues a lot is in some cases the only way to get certain reputation marks-it’s a bit of a glaring omission in my running commentary on the game.  So today, I’m going to look at a couple of the queues I’ve been running in the last couple of months.

The queued content comes in two basic varieties:  the kind that are performed in space with ships, and the kind that are performed on the ground with your Captain.  In each case, you are teamed with (in theory) four other Captains.  Yes, that means all of these are grouped content.  It’s also worth mentioning that there are usually three varieties of the individual queues:  a “Normal”, an “Advanced”, and an “Elite” version.  Having no illusions about my level of uber-ness, I tend to hang around in the Normal queues-and I’ve found a preference for the space queues more than the ground queues.  The last time I did a ground queue, it had been an accidental click of the wrong one (I’d been trying to click the one above it in the list), and by the time I found I’d hit the wrong one, it was already too late.  I did stick around to do what I could to help in that queue-thank heaven it wasn’t an Advanced or Elite version; I figured why penalize the other players for my mistaken click?

So with all that in mind, let’s take a peek at the queues I’ve been running lately.

The first came out with the latest Season, and it involves the Mirror Universe-led by Admiral Leeta-attempting an invasion at Deep Space Nine in “Counterpoint”.  And this invasion isn’t simply “beam an army on the station and fight inside”; this is along the lines of physically bringing her own space station to that space:  Terok Nor (which was the original Cardassian name of the station before the Federation and Bajor claimed it).  The goal of the queue, in a nutshell, is to stop the invading fleet, perform a counterattack by beaming assault teams onto Terok Nor (one of which is covered in the aforementioned ground queue that I’d accidentally joined), and beat the Mirror heavy-hitters to force Terok Nor to retreat back to the Mirror Universe.

As far as queues go, it’s a fairly uncomplicated one.  Blow up lots of ships.  There’s a couple mechanics that are interesting, such as going back and forth between DS9 and Terok Nor to pick up and deliver assault teams, and you want to inflict damage on Terok Nor while keeping DS9 more or less intact-but you can’t ever destroy Terok Nor, and I’m not entirely sure if DS9 can be blown up (seems unlikely); there’s also a section where you can try to close off portals to the Mirror Universe to stop reinforcements from coming in, but that’s optional.  At least on Normal; I’d be willing to bet that at least on Elite, those are required objectives.  All this said, at the Normal level, it’s a fairly straightforward “Fire Everything!” sort of queue, which doesn’t require much out of the player.

The second queue came out during Season Eight, but was temporarily retired when the current Season rolled out for some modifications.  “The Breach” involves a massive Voth ship that dwarfs pretty much every starship in the game (up to and including the Borg command ships).  This is pretty much in keeping with what we’d seen on the Voyager episode that introduced the Voth.  But it makes for a terrific opportunity for starships to fight in the interior to at the very least disable the vessel.

Size matters not?  Right.  Those specks on the left?  Those are your FLAGSHIPS.

Size matters not? Right. Those specks on the left? Those are your FLAGSHIPS.

This queue has five major phases to it.  The first involves something out of Star Wars and its famous trench run; you go in, blow up hardpoints at high speed, and weaken the defenses enough for you to blow a hole into the hull of the ship wide enough for starships to go through.  This tilts the advantage heavily to ships with the bridge officer ability “Fire at Will”, although if you were one of the players crazy (!) enough to use a ship with nothing but turrets, you could probably use “Scatter Fire” as well.  Weapons with wide fields of fire like beam arrays and yes, turrets, will find that they have a cornucopia of targets.  The second phase is to deal with the initial internal defenses:  Voth starships much closer in size to yours, requiring you to shut down hangars to stop more reinforcements from coming.  Next, you have to deal with one of the Voth Dreadnoughts deeper inside, which is set to 10 levels above your own; if you don’t have abilities that allow you to bypass shields at least some of the time, this fight is going to be a major slog.  On this section, I would usually pop any abilities that could do that, as well as deploy any other ships I could, whether it’s a Scimitar’s Scorpion fighter complement, the saucer of an Odyssey ship, or the Fleet Support abilities derived from either your Captain skill or rewards gained from other content like Nimbus or Delta Rising.  You really can’t have too many ships shooting away.

The next section is a bit of a shell game; there is a subspace core protected by one of three power transfer conduits.  You can open them up, but only one of them has the core you need to hit; the others are either empty or have a decoy.  This area isn’t undefended, either; but if you handled the previous phases, these ships aren’t hard.  Each time you knock a third of the health of the core down, the conduits close and it’s moved to another conduit.  Rinse and repeat.  The following section is the grand finale:  a massive core crystal protected by rotating shields.  It’s got some nasty defenses, but again, if you survived that dreadnought, you should be able to handle this.  Once it explodes, you have to speed your way out of the Voth ship before everything blows up.  (That’s not actually required, but if you want to maximize your rewards, you want everyone to make it out intact.)

As you can see, the Breach is more complicated than the DS9 queue-but it takes correspondingly longer to complete.  The big reason it’s getting a big push these days is because of an event running that follows Cryptic/PWE’s usual methods of “do this for fourteen days and you get something neat at the end”-in this case, an Admiralty ship “card” for the Admiralty system.  Oh, and a heap of fleet marks and Dilithium.  I was “eh” on the ship card, but I’m all for more Dilithium and Marks (so I can be ready for when the next big holding push comes-or maybe put some towards those vanity holding projects that are collecting dust).  Because of the length, though, I decided to only run three characters through this ordeal-one of which is Klingon aligned.  The bright spot is that the daily completion also gives rewards-mostly your choice of reputation mark type, or just straight fleet marks.  That got me a heap of fleet marks, plus all the Terran reputation marks I needed to complete my main Federation character’s Terran grind, and what I need to go from 0 to top-tier in that grind for my Klingon, too.

The Eternal Struggle

Recently, Bioware/EA released a new chapter in the Star Wars: The Old Republic saga of Knights of the Fallen Empire, titled “Disavowed”.  It’s also occurred to me that I never put my thoughts up on the previous chapter, “Anarchy in Paradise”, so I figure I’ll kill two birds with one stone and talk about both.

As with my previous post discussing the KotFE content, there be spoilage here.  I’m throwing a break here so those who wish to avoid not knowing what comes next can remain undisturbed.  If you’re the kind who likes to peek ahead, though-or if you’ve already done that content-read on!

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Building Character: New Champions and Onslaughts

My last post concerning Champions Online was last June.  Really says something about how often I’ve been playing it since then (and it’s worse than it sounds-the post was only covering the recent tutorial “revamp” at the time).  But recently, I’ve been in a superheroing mood again, so I’ve dipped my feet back into CO.  And because this is the sort of thing I do, I’ve got thoughts on a relatively recent addition to the game and on characters I’ve got to keep me occupied there.

Let’s talk Onslaught.

Onslaught was a patch that introduced the capability of players to get their feet wet as a villain.  Not one of your own design, however; you basically become an established villain from Champions lore.  And we’re not talking the cannon fodder types, either:  you can (at this writing) become Medusa, one of the most powerful psionics on Earth; Gravitar, the mistress of gravity who is a team-wrecker all by herself; or Grond, the massive four-armed monster who’s a walking disaster area.  As a villain, you earn onslaught tokens which can be used for stuff (shock, right?) and to unlock the ability to become these villains more frequently.

Now, here’s where things get a bit crazy.  You get these tokens by wiping out checkpoints throughout Millennium City…or by turning heroes into guano.  That’s right:  villains can go after heroes in a PvP sort of thing.  Now, this isn’t a complete recipe for griefing:  they can only attack heroes who attack them first.  In other words, a hero who takes on a villain is pretty much volunteering to have his butt kicked (well, if things go well for the villain; builds that can take on giant monsters solo will probably not be impressed by Onslaught villains).  Why would a hero go after the villain?  Well, besides the obvious “because that’s what heroes do”, the hero may also earn guardian tokens which can be used for stuff.  Getting more precise, villain tokens tend to be good for gear and special powers; guardian tokens to unlock villains (although that’s less impressive, if you’re a subscriber or lifetimer, because you can become one of the villains once a day anyway via a mission).  Both are also used to unlock new costume pieces, which are tied to the supervillains available in the system.

There are daily quests which help add to those token totals.  It takes an awful lot of tokens to get things, though.

I’ll cheerfully admit I haven’t indulged in this much.  I’ve gone two rounds as a villain and I’ve helped fight off a couple of those villains (usually as a part of a crowd, because I’m not one of those guys who can solo giant monsters).  It’s not something that grabs me to do as a regular thing, but it has enough amusement value to it that if I feel like stomping around the city crushing things, the option is there.  Likewise, if Grond shows up in the Ren Center, I might not have an issue with contributing to the fray.

There is also a new endgame-ish sort of thing out involving one of the major villains of the setting, Teleios, but as I’m not an endgame sort of guy (I’ve never even done the Nemesis Confrontations), I’m highly unlikely to ever mess with that.  Especially since I don’t spend all that much time in CO.  So I can’t comment on that one way or another, save to say that I’m still happy to see something new developed for the game-even if it’s not my thing.

So, unsurprisingly, I’m out to do the usual missions and occasional Alert queue for the xp buff.  My primary character-of-the-moment is Overload.  Overload’s not a freeform guy, but rather a representative of the Awawkened Automaton archetype.  Honestly, the only reason I did that was because the AT has a unique power-rocket punch!-which is only available to that AT…but unlocks for freeform once you hit max level with that AT.  In other words, I’m doing it because I want to slap that rocket punch on another character concept I have floating around.  The RP perspective is that Overload is Robocop without the human component; Deathlok if he were only run by the onboard computer.  He views combat scenarios as a program that must be run to a satsifactory conclusion-with the criminals beat and him still standing.  I’ve gotten him to level 30, and he does have a Nemesis of his own (Arctic Master, with the Frosty Gang!); the AT is pretty much a glass cannon sort, with little in the way of defensive passives or cooldowns, meaning he’s gotta be careful with the aggro or he becomes greasy pulp.  The AT does have a self-heal, but it’s really not up to combat conditions.  Too many tough guys at once can wind up effectively disassembling him.  All that said:  I do enjoy the mix of particle beams and rocket punches for range, and while it has an absurdly high energy cost to use, I absolutely adore the extendable chainsaw.  (Best used on robots, zombies, and other unliving things; I try not to think about the times I use it on common crooks….)

It's only a flesh wound. Honest.

It’s only a flesh wound. Honest.

Not sure who will be next on the list; it may be a while before I finish up Overload, or it may be next week.  It depends on how long my superheroic mood lasts.  I’ve been mixing alerts and missions, so it may go quicker than one might expect.  I’ve a number of concepts I want to mess with afterward and haven’t gotten my heart set on any.

Of course, all this will be interrupted shortly by virtue of the next Knights of the Fallen Empire chapter in Star Wars: The Old Republic; not to mention the current event rolling in Star Trek Online for heaps of dilithium in regards to running “The Breach” queue.  Time’s always a factor.

Time and Time Again

The beginning of the signing of the most important treaty of all time, thirty seconds before things went to hell.

Seems like it’s been a while since I said I’d put up remarks on the current storyline threading through Star Trek Online, doesn’t it?  Let’s see about rectifying a bit of that now.

New Dawn is the current “Season” in STO, and it was heralded as a return to exploration-at least, as far as story goes.  If you were thinking exploration content was going to make its return here, you’re out of luck.  In some ways, we’re looking more at something that’s sort-of emulating Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It’s not exactly as interactive as that game’s storyline, but the ideas here is that we’re getting episodic content, and while it’s not at a one-per-month cadence, it’s not doing horrible.

There have been thus far three episodes released for the new season-not counting the revamp of the Cardassian Struggle story arc.  And the shape of things seems to be aiming at an effectively-abandoned story arc from the Star Trek: Enterprise television series.

The first episode was “Sunrise”, an optimistic title taking place after the “Midnight” of the Iconian War.  The players are asked to investigate a problem with a star in the Ferenginar sector, and it features a new alien species, and meddling time travelers.  Yes, if you thought the time travel hijinks in the Iconian War were done, you thought so, so wrong.  In fact, if you thought this was going to be all peaceful-like, well, that  one’s gone too.  The Tholians are involved with a star’s early death-and you’re the only one who can stop it.  Well, you and someone from another time period coming to call.  In fact, you could say this episode is yet another example of why Time Is Not A Toy.

The consequences of that episode unfold in “Stormbound”, where you have to recover the Macguffin before the Tholians can do more damage with it; and it turns out that a species called the Na’khul have been targeted.  Who are these guys?  You could be forgiven if you didn’t know them as one of the species that were heavily involved in the Temporal Cold War that permeated the first couple of seasons in Enterprise.  There wasn’t a whole lot to the episode, although it does feature a trip aboard a Tholian ship, so make sure you have your environmental suits.  It can get pretty toasty in there.  If you’re sensing a theme developing for these episodes, you’re probably right on the money.

The current storyline recently released a new episode, and it threatens to shake the core of the setting.  “Time and Tide” brings you through time once more-but this time, it’s to the future, where you are to witness the signing of the Temporal Accords, which in theory will help stop meddling in time.  But your past literally comes back to haunt you, as a time traveler declares vengeance upon the signatories of the Accords and the Federation in particular for screwing up the timeline in the first place-and he has a very, very personal reason for his actions-a reason, in fact, you were present for, and arguably were responsible for.  If you didn’t think that wasn’t going to come back and bite you during the Iconian War…well, oops.  Just another example of why Time Is Not A Toy.  The time traveler also has the backing of a few other fairly significant aliens, whose title should be easily recognizable to folks who watched Enterprise.

The three episodes may not have the epic scope that the Iconian War did, but then, it’s better to bring the story into a more tightened focus after such a conflict.  I’m a bit uncertain about the “temporal genie” being let out of its bottle, to borrow a phrase; time travel is a messy thing to start with, and when you start propagating that all over the galaxy, I feel you’re opening yourself up to a mess.  Then again, Dr. Who’s been dealing with time travel stuff for decades; maybe I’m being needlessly concerned.  We’ll see how that shapes up.

A side note:  the developers finally released tier-6 versions of the flagships (Starfleet Odyssey, Klingon Bortas’qu, and Romulan Scimitar), and to nobody’s great surprise, there’s no special discounts or the like for those who purchased the tier-5 versions.  (I don’t know why someone would’ve expected it; there wasn’t any for the tier-6 versions of other ships that have rolled out:  why would this be the exception).  I hemmed, I hawed, but I finally decided I’d dump the Zen into the big megapack that gets all three versions for all three factions.  It’s not as big as it sounds; I haven’t actually spent much in the way of Zen since the game went freemium, so the stipend has just been accumulating; whenever I have purchased something from the C-Store, I’ve supplemented that stipend with Zen acquired from the Dilithium Exchange.  And while my tier-5 flagships are technically 5Us, two of those were effectively free upgrades for assorted reasons, and the other was-again-via Zen+Exchange.  Finally, I was patient enough to wait for sales, which I took ruthless advantage of.  The flagships were released at 15 percent off, and I decided waiting for them to qualify at the next 20 percent off sale didn’t really net me all that much of a savings, so I dumped a large amount of my accumulated Zen into those ships.

I’m not horribly impressed with the redesigns for the most part; while I have the option of using parts for the new designs for these new flagships, I chose for the Federation and Klingon ones to use the same ones I’d been using originally:  the original Bortas’qu and Odyssey looks.  In contrast, I did like the designs for the Romulan flagships, which I liked to think shows the difference between the Romulan Empire’s Scimitar and the Romulan Republic’s outlook, so I decided to change up the look for my main Romulan’s ship.  (My Reman, however, whenever I get around to changing up his Scimitar, will remain as the original look-after all, in the final analysis, I still sort of think of the Scimitar as a Reman design-which may be the other reason I went with the new look for my Romulan main.)  I’m still working to figure out use of the consoles; because I’m fond of the ones that went with the original T5 versions, and combining with the new T6 ones may have significant impacts on the performance of the ships.  I’m no powergamer, but I do want to at least remain effective.  We’ll see how that develops.

Also of note:  the STO fleet has managed to get a Research Lab holding up to tier 1, so at this point, the Corps of Discovery has at least tier 1 in each holding except the Spire, if I recall correctly.  While I’d love to get the Spire up and running, I’m thinking advancing the second branch in the Dilithium Mine may be the way to go, since it will open up the prospect of fleet mark discounts on projects, and that could be a bit of a big deal.