This May Have Odds, and There May Be Ends

Been a little while; things have kept me fairly busy, so let’s see where my thoughts take me today.

I’ve started a new KDF aligned character in Star Trek Online; I’d been looking to leverage the fact that as a lifetime sub, I had access to a lifetimer-exclusive species as a captain, so I took the plunge and made a Talaxian captain.  For those not up on the Trek Lore, this is the species that Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager comes from-the character who was all bubbly and cheerful and acted as a guide/cook/morale officer on the ship.  And in doing so, pretty much sealed the fate of all Talaxians to be seen in a similar manner.

Who would’ve thought a Talaxian could look badass?

Well, screw that!  The Talaxians had themselves a helluva war in their past between planets, and I felt that it was time to redeem the reputation of the Talxians (me and undoubtedly a heap of other lifetimers) and designed me one as a captain.  I made him a Tactical captain, and as mentioned, put him with the Klingons.  This would force me to put him in mind of someone who could gain the respect of warriors.  In part, this also informed the ship type I was looking to use.  I’d used a lot of the KDF ships, but the type I’d mostly avoided was the Birds of Prey raider ships.  This fact is no longer applicable-my Talaxian has taken command!

The appearance of the character-who I named Fralex-needed to stand out to me.  I couldn’t bring myself to put him in the standard KDF uniforms, although the Bortasqu’ outfits were tempting.  But in the end, I splurged on some Zen hoarded over time and bought the Intel uniforms, with Klingon-ish sort of coloring put in.  A Bortasqu’ sash completed the look of the outfit.  Fralex is a bald bearded wonder (no goatee, though; I already have a Coreth-inspired character in the game) and the package looks nothing like a short-order cook like Neelix.

The character has just completed the Devidian story arc, so he’s moving along at the Commander rank.  Goal is to get him to the level 50-ish range, much like the three Delta Recruits I’d had going along.  He’s also joined a small KDF fleet; actually, my main Klingon and my Delta-Klingon have done so as well, and Fralex kind of came along late.  I wasn’t really doing anything with the fleet resources I’d had with the characters, and this at least got me to take a look inside the KDF holdings (albeit at tier 0).

I’ve also done the assorted missions released for the Iconian War that’s going on.  I’ll probably have more to say on that in a future post.

On another front, I’ve been quietly moving forward with my insane dream of a full complement of level 50-ish Star Wars: The Old Republic characters, specifically one of each advanced class.  A little less than three months and counting before the new expansion hits and has me concentrating on advancing further.  I’ve managed to finish class stories for an Imperial Sniper and a Powertech Bounty Hunter, as well as a Republic Scoundrel, and I’m presently working on a Republic Commando who is just about to hit Tatooine.  This mad quest of mine is aided by the fact that subscribers get that 12X multiplier on class missions, which means I can ignore pretty much all the time-consuming planetary quests.  There’s an argument to be made that I’m not getting the full experience that way, but the other hand is that I’ve done ’em eight times already (4 per faction).  If I were TRULY insane, I’d try to extend this push to my current maximum level cap at 55 for all of them, but I can only take so much.  Will I get to the goal before the expansion hits?  Who knows?  But it at least fills the time and keeps me more-or-less familiar with the controls so that I’m not feeling like I’m starting from scratch when I return to my primary characters there.

I keep meaning to get back to a couple Champions Online characters, but I keep getting sidetracked.  Only so much time in a day, after all.

Streamlining

One of the things that amazes me constantly-no matter how often I see it happen-is the tendency of MMOs to chop out content from their games.

The latest game to give me this impression is Star Wars: The Old Republic; in everything I’ve been reading concerning their plans for the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, I’ve consistently seen references to “streamlining the previous story content”.  A desire to arrange things so that the leveling experience is faster.  All well and good-the dev team wants to show off its new shiny stuff, and that shiny stuff is being applied to the high level experience.

But I can’t help but feel a bit wary on such things.  To me, “streamlining” tends to indicate that content is about to be chopped out.  Star Trek Online is one of the biggest offenders here; every time they decide to streamline things, it usually involves entire episodes being wiped out, or in one notable case, an entire system of play wiped out.  But STO is hardly alone; even World of Warcraft has indulged in removing questlines.  (I’m not sure if they get a net gain, though; in my experience, they replace old quests with new).

So when TOR talks about streamlining things, I have trouble imagining how they can do that without chopping storyline.  I mean, they can up the XP so player can skip planetary quests-but of course, they’re already doing the 12X XP for subscribers on class quests right now.  How else can they streamline things without slashing off game content?  Make the speeder-taxis instant travel?  What would be the point?  The quick-travel shuttles are already at all taxi points, and provide that service with little downtime (especially if you subscribe and have paid for Legacy improvements; I can quick travel with no downtime at all now).  Are they looking to cut out entire planets?  That would certainly cut down the time, but they’d have to seriously further buff XP for that, too.

Story’s been the big thing that helps set TOR apart from most other MMOs; I can applaud Bioware’s move back to that with the upcoming expansion, but I worry that in the process of making the new shiny, they may damage the good stuff that came before.  Maybe I’m worrying over nothing; there still is a lot of unrevealed info concerning KotFE, and maybe the plan to “streamline” will be something more innovative than I can conceive of.  I hope so.  Because a lot of people put a lot of work in developing the stories for each class, for each planet, from the writing to the animation to the art.  And it’s a damned shame when a developer decides that all that work can just be thrown away because “streamlining!”

Tutorial Madness

A few weeks ago, Champions Online announced that it would be updating the game to change its tutorial experience.

I found that interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, CO is a game that doesn’t see a whole lot of updates that don’t involve the creation of lockboxes or store-purchased items.  Second, it’s become the fourth version of the tutorial that’s come out for the game.

I found that somewhat breathtaking.  I understand that developers want to make their game accessible and adapt their tutorial to properly teach new players the game.  I get that.  But CO has had minimal development over recent years.  This isn’t going to be fixed or helped by modifying a tutorial-again.  (Off of memory here, they’ve had the original tutorial, a modified tutorial after the Freemium conversion, yet another one that I can’t recall exactly when it placed, and the current one.  And I’m presuming that I’ve tracked ’em all correctly-I can’t prove there weren’t others.)  The game is long past attracting new players; word of mouth of how much dev time goes into the game has pretty much choked off that flow.  I was amazed that of all the things to focus attention on, THIS was where they felt the priorities should be.

Granted, this was before I actually did the tutorial with a new character just to unlock a shiny.  There wasn’t much new there except heaps of voiceover and a framing sequence around the existing tutorial, making this a training scenario based on the original event.  And I think a couple of the side-quests in the tutorial got removed, too.  So it’s not like there was a heap of effort that went into this change.  (I admit I say this without knowing the intricacies of game-coding, where it could very well require a heap of effort to do-but this is a perception from the outside.)

Okay, there may have been some art changes in Millennium City, too.

Still, this isn’t the first time that Cryptic’s gone back to tutorials; Star Trek Online has had a few different tutorials too; the original, the Freemium version, and the post-Legacy of Romulus version.  One could make the argument that it was necessary in STO’s case for the last one; it effectively had to build two new versions for the Romulans and Klingons, and a little later made a new Federation one to match that sort of experience.  A difference here is that STO is still getting development, and is still getting players; it’s arguably a better game now than it has been in the past, despite my personal issues with content removal.

It seems like I’m banging my head over Cryptic here, but they aren’t alone in tutorial revamps.  City of Heroes revamped their tutorial when they went Freemium (hm, is this a pattern?), which sort of consolidated the hero/villain tutorials into one event instead of two different ones.  Star Wars Galaxies revamped their tutorial (which is to say, they actually put a tutorial in at all) with the advent of the New Game Enhancements; I can’t really argue with that one, given what their devs did to the game.  EVE Online has done a bit with its new user experience as well, which is reasonable given the insane learning curve-which may have flattened at least a little bit over the years.

So at what point does revamping tutorials become an exercise in futility?  Is it reasonable to rebuild it every couple of years?  Or maybe only during significant changes to the game?  Is it worth it to make it shinier at the cost of improving other areas of the game?  For a game like CO, I have to seriously question who put the order out to put in voiceover material and fiddle with the tutorial-because it seems to smack of someone in Sales deciding that they could get more people if they make it prettier and flashier.  (They blew that, if that was the case; it’s not that big of an actual change.)

At some point, CO needs to start taking a hard look at improving their game beyond their tutorials.  The Mechanon additions were a pretty solid bit of work, but that’s way back in the rear-view mirror now.  There are other parts of that game that could use attention (my pet peeve is the Nemesis system, which really needs more love), or-and here’s a wild idea-maybe add new content.  I’ve advocated for a player-generated content system like Neverwinter’s Foundry (or STO’s version, really) for CO, since players can be a highly motivated bunch to build content (some better than others), but that’s just not gonna happen; so players just have to rely on developers to develop content for the game, and that’s just looking like a lost cause most times.

Unless, of course, they feel a need to revamp their tutorial.

Fallen Empires

It’s been a while since I posted something on Star Wars:  The Old Republic, and there’s been a good reason for that.  A couple, actually.  Star Trek Online has been the big thing lately (and yet another feature episode is on deck-I’ve been impressed by this activity recently), plus I’ve sort of been not doing much in TOR since the new content has required the Shadow of Revan expansion-which I did not purchase because of the treatment of the people who bought the Makeb expansion.  I steadfastly chose to wait until it followed suit with Makeb and became free to subscribers.

That moment is coming-but not how I had expected.

Bioware/EA has announced the next expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire.  And based on their announcement page, they mean what they say.  It will have level 61-65 content, which you can’t do without the Revan expansion.  So, when FE hits, that will go free to subscribers.  For that matter, so will KotFE.  The release is in October, which, if I recall, isn’t quite a year since Revan hit, but a lot longer than it had been between release and free for Makeb.

All by itself, that would have been worth posting about.  But some of the details emerging prompted me to put down early thoughts.

For starters, your character, whether Republic or Sith, will wind up locked away in carbonite for 20 years.  In that time, things go bad for both factions.  A new power comes in and beats the tar out of them.  Gee, wasn’t that the last expansion?  This time, though, you come in blind and alone, needing new companions-and some old ones.  Some of whom may not have been YOUR companions during your adventures thus far.  There are a bunch of chapters planned for release, with others for later.  I expect those chapters won’t be quite as in-depth as the preceding ones.  The entire original release was effectively three chapters plus prologue; I seriously doubt these will be on the same scale.

What makes me the most curious about all this is the logistics.  Are you losing all your companions when you take your long nap-with the equipment you have lavished on them?  What about your ship?  What happens with that?  What will they do about existing planets?  Particularly in light of the fact that not everyone will be doing the new content (free for subs, but what about the F2P folks?).  The idea is a bold one, but I can’t help but wonder just how this is going to work out.

This may be the reason why the devs have also included the ability to create a brand new character at level 60.  Try to avoid the crazy.

Well, I’m still a subscriber, and I’m still playing (I’ve quietly taken advantage of the 12X xp to level a couple advanced classes to 50 while I can), so I’ll be getting this expansion-and the little extras that come with it, like a custom chest piece (I’m presuming that part), custom guns, a new companion who is the basis for those previous mentions, and a speeder that hails from the Knights of the Old Republic days.  And while I have concerns, I’m willing to see just how Bioware is going to deal with them before I go into any panic modes.  In the meantime, I better put some extra time in to get my sixteen characters to 50, so I have all the species opened up except for Cathar.  Of course, I’ll still need to get characters to 60 when the expansion hits-but it’s a safe bet that my Agent and Smuggler will be leading the way for me.

Edit:  That 20 year figure might be inaccurate.  I’ve seen enough variation on the time frame involved that I’m not sure that’s an exact figure.  But it’s a question of “years”, not “months” that your character is on ice.

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….)