DO: Dathiro’s Ordeal Begins

This is not how he figured his career would go at this point in his life.

Entry One.

So I have to keep a personal “Record of Battle”, do I?  I hate Klingons.  Fine.  Let’s take it from the beginning.

I am Dathiro of Nava, from the planet Rigel VIII, former bhar of the freighter Golden Opportunity.  I say “former” because my ship had the bad luck to be impounded by the Klingon Defense Forces, who, in an act far more piratical than any I have been accused of performing, disabled our ship, and conscripted the useful members of our crew.  The rest they simply spaced.  I mourn the loss of the ship more than the ones cast into the void; I’d expected to be cutting them off anyway, and this way I didn’t have to pay them.  But of course, now I’m in no position to profit from that.

All of this, of course, was considered perfectly legal as per the treaty signed by the “Empress” Melani D’ian (may grishnar cats dine on her liver!) with the Klingon Empire:  any and all Orion trade vessels may be considered acceptable sources for resupplying the crew of the KDF.  The whole point of serving on the Opportunity was to avoid getting sucked into their wars!  Fortunately, I am a skilled technician, and better than most of these Klingon imbeciles operating the engine room.  I imagine that I might have to make examples out of some of them; with the work I’ve seen thus far, I should have ample grounds to kill them off and take their position.  I’ll probably be running the place before too long.

So here I sit, recording an idiotic record where I’m simply counting time before I wind up getting killed by a Klingon who’s better lucky than good, or better yet, blown up with the rest of the ship by one of the Empire’s many enemies.  So, in case Imperial Intelligence is snooping, I’d just like to say:  Thanks.  That’s sarcasm, by the way.

Signing off.  Good riddance.

Looks like it’s time for me to once more create a new character for Star Trek Online, and this time, I’ll be looking at things from the Klingon point of view-or more accurately, one of the aligned species with the Klingons.  In STO lore, the Klingons have managed to put together a coalition of species to fight against the Federation; one of those species is the Orions, famously known for their green skin.  Being a guy who likes to play against stereotype, though, I chose not to make an Orion female (which I’m sure the KDF is littered with as captains), but instead an Orion male.  I went with a white/dark reddish look for his Bortasqu’ inspired uniform, with a bit of other outfit parts.  My goal is for my non-Klingon characters to have a distinctly mercenary-ish look, while the Klingons keep their more traditionally Klingon look.  Having plenty of uniform slots, you’d think I could work up multiple looks for this character, but as I’ve pointed out before, the vast majority of outfits on the C-Store are Starfleet-only.  Annoyingly, the most likely location to find other, more unique outfits is the Lobi store…and of course, Lobi comes from opening lockboxes.  Lots and lots of lockboxes.  I don’t really do that in STO-the price of keys on the exchange are significantly higher than I’m willing to dish out; and there’s still enough stuff on the C-Store that I’m willing to horde Zen in anticipation of purchasing stuff there for account unlocks.  Oh, and some outfits can be unlocks as armors from various Reputations, but since that really doesn’t come into play until high levels, that’s really sort of useless.  (Additional note:  as I was drafting this post up, STO released new uniforms from the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery show.  Also Starfleet only.  People wonder why KDF and Romulan players feel like second class citizens sometimes….)

Obviously, I had to make some early determinations about the character.  I vowed to myself up and down to not make yet another tactical captain, and wound up making him an engineering captain.  I’m not sure what route he’ll go as far as that’s concerned:  I’m a big fan of the fabrication units like turrets, portable shields, and medical generators, but it’s BECAUSE I’m such a fan of that stuff that I’d like to avoid it.  I haven’t made up my mind as to what specialization he’ll get when he reaches the lofty heights of level 50+, but I have lots of time for that.  Likewise, I haven’t decided what starships I will have him focus on, except that I have one specific one in mind for the “final” ship he’ll be on (followers of this blog may be able to guess at this one).  I do have a long term goal of having his primary bridge crew eventually having absolutely no Klingons on it, but that will depend a lot on the quality of the officers I get.

While a great deal of the storyline for the Klingons is redundant with the storyline for the Federation-particularly once one gets to the point of dealing with Cardassia-I do have a plan that will both make this less repetitive, and more interesting.  More on that as I get there.  But it’s safe to say that the early arcs are pretty Klingon specific, and I’ll be treating them pretty similar to the way I deal with my Agents of Yesterday run with Rick Masters:  posts will come with each arc, unless the arc is huge (and I don’t think the KDF arcs qualify as huge) and needs to be split into two.

Why did I decide to run another STO-centric run instead of starting, say, a new Star Wars: The Old Republic one?  Well, I’m not ruling out doing that sort of thing while this one is going on, but I’m still at work in getting my existing characters through the Eternal Throne expansion (my Sith Warrior is about to crash a party), and I’d been slacking off hard on that.  Plus, I still want to wrap up my Dark vs Light characters through the arc as well.  So not too much time to start up a new character there, but who knows?  I may manage to get done sooner than expected.  I’m sure it’d go faster if I were the type to just spacebar/bypass all the dialogue, but heck, that’s half the fun in SWTOR.

So there’s likely to be a lot of STO oriented posts incoming, including my thoughts on the new season that will be landing in a few weeks.

Advertisements

Visiting Energy Ribbons

New framework, but not the most impressive episode for it.

Quiet as a mouse, a new episode landed in Star Trek Online last week.  It snuck in when I wasn’t looking.

The episode was mathematically inevitable.  According to Trek lore, the energy ribbon known as the Nexus manages to cruise its way around this region of the galaxy every 39 years or thereabouts.  The last time it managed to blow up a planet-or it would have, if not for the efforts of Enterprise captains Jean Luc Picard and James T. Kirk.  39 years after that?

2410.  Or, in other words, the time and setting of the back portion of the Star Trek Online storyline.  A story concerning the Nexus was inevitable-especially in light of the 30th anniversary of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

For all of that, the newly released episode-Beyond the Nexus-isn’t exactly the most impressive episode written.  It’s another episode that feels like filler, taking away from the still-developing Lukari/Tzenkethi storyline (although that story does get name-checked, which means this episode will likely be slotted in the Lukari arc when it ends its feature run).  There’s nothing inherently wrong with fillers; but there didn’t really seem to be much effort put into the development of the story and mechanics of the episode.  The art was nice, but for the most part, there was little “wow” factor to be found here.

In some ways, you can’t do much with the Nexus.  How are you going to replicate paradise for your character?  Everyone has a different conception of what their character’s idea of paradise would be.  You could go into someone else’s version, of course-like Picard did with Kirk’s-but Picard still had to resist his first.  So a trip into the Nexus proper probably was never in the cards.  Then again, this episode turns the idea on its ear a bit:  someone who saw the Nexus as a prison wants out.  And let’s face it:  an ideal prison is the kind the prisoner doesn’t want to escape.  That’s food for thought as to the purpose of the Nexus, hm?  (That’s just me rambling; no evidence that more than one person sees it that way in the game, but it’s an interesting thing to consider.)

The plot for this episode is pretty straightforward:  ship researching the Nexus stopped communicating after encountering a ship that had previously been lost to the Nexus.  Your ship is sent to investigate.  Expect exchanges of fire between ships and their crews after being boarded.  It’s not quite as monotonous as the old exploration missions of “find 5 of this, kill 5 of that”, but it’s definitely a step down in quality.  I hope this is because the devs are putting their A-game on next year’s probable Dominion-themed expansion (which I don’t believe has technically been confirmed yet).  Despite this, the resolution of the episode is very much in the spirit of ST:TNG (did I mention an anniversary?  I think I must have), and could possibly lead to a follow-up at some point in the future.  I can’t believe this will be the only time we get the Nexus referenced in 2410.  And I will admit, too, that there’s a section in the episode that put a smile on my face that involves one of the most infamous purveyors of holodeck content in Star Trek lore; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oh, there is one more thing that makes the episode stand out a bit more than some; it features the second voiced appearance from a member of the Enterprise-D/E crew, Geordi La Forge.  (The first, of course, was Worf, and we also had a silent, not-confirmed-but-heavily-implied appearance from Geordi’s closest friend.)  There’s a strong implication that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the ongoing story arc, and very likely beyond; I did mention an anniversary, didn’t I?  We still are missing a number of the big names doing voice-overs, but I don’t believe it impossible at this point; after all, they managed to get most of the crew of Voyager in the game.  Surely they can pull off a few more.  I doubt they could get Picard in, but I could see Troi, Crusher (either one), and maybe even Riker to make appearances here.

We can hope, anyway.  In the meantime, we still have a new Season that’s coming up in October, which will have another episode which is likely going to be more involved than this one, plus a new major fleet holding (something more on the scale of the fleet starbases than the other holdings), which should make life interesting on the final frontier.  And as I recall, we can expect something in another week or two.  Something to do with an anniversary….

The Cast List: Introducing Gunfighter of Champions Online

Well, coming on the heels of Willforge’s finale, it’s time to expand the List to include Champions Online characters.  I debated on adding CO characters to my Cast List; after all, a very large portion of them are already out there on the web in assorted locations.  But it occurred to me that while that’s all well and good for a role-playing perspective, those don’t really go into my thoughts on when I put those characters together.  And since CO is still a game that I’m playing, it made sense to me to part the curtain here.  (At some point, I may well add characters from defunct games like Star Wars Galaxies-that’ll be a short list-and City of Heroes to the list, but the current games I’m involved with should cover this nicely for the foreseeable future.)

So.  Gunfighter.  I can’t say he is the first character I created for CO; but he is the oldest surviving one; I’d wiped out a couple of other characters over the years dating back to when I started playing CO, but Gunfighter had evolved into my “main” character for a short period of time when I had that free time from game purchase, then got shoveled to the side until the game went Freemium-it was still shoveled to the side, though, because I didn’t have access to the Freeform archetypes, and I wasn’t willing to convert him to a Marksman AT.  Eventually, when I started doing the sub again, I was able to continue advancing the character.

Since the character was put together at a time when I wasn’t interested much in developing an RP backstory for him, his creation came not from any story concept but from “gee, what if I make a modern-day cowboy”?  A man in black, complete with a black hat, but a good guy?  Since this was the game’s early days, everyone built via Freeform characters, and the powerset that obviously suited this guy was the Munitions powerset, which had all the good stuff like dual pistols and sniper rifles.  My plan was to give him all the gun-related powers, regardless of type of gun-he was going to be as familiar with rifles as he was with pistols; over time, he’d also get access to submachine guns and even a gatling gun!

It also meant that he got what I consider the character’s pride and joy.  Early in the game’s lifespan, there were items that were considered “Power Replacers”; items that basically meant you could replace a specific power with a modified version of the power.  Somewhere along the line when I wasn’t involved with CO, they got rid of those-or more accurately, stopped letting them drop.  They still existed, so if you had them, you could still use them, but nobody was getting these anymore.  Well, at one point in the character’s career, he got a replacer for his sniper rifle, an alien Gadroon sniper rifle; the weapon looks alien, and instead of doing a sniper-bullet, it was a sniper-energy-pulse.  It was the only power replacer I’d ever gotten.  I believe some of them have come back, but they require heaps of Questionite-the CO equivalent of Star Trek Online’s Dilithium-to purchase, I’m unlikely to ever get my hands on another similar type of item.

I could have given the character a classic cowboy appearance, but since I was going super-modern, I went with an armored suit, with extra plating on the upper body.  I had to include the black hat, though-that just wasn’t negotiable.  I added gold as a secondary color, and I think the look worked out pretty good.  The character’s face is a bit rugged looking, which is exactly how I figured it should be.  Finally, I slapped on a black eye mask, because, why not?  It’s a superhero setting!

I did eventually start up a backstory for the guy; my time in CoH made that sort of thing almost a reflex nowadays.  I wanted to work with the game’s setting-I often try to do that-and found my link in the organization called PRIMUS, which, among other things, is a law enforcement agency working in the US concerned with superhuman activity.  I figured that an ex-military guy might migrate to the organization, so I made him an ex-Marine; then, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I came up with a back story how a faction in PRIMUS was annoyed at how the international agency UNTIL often took over jurisdiction on superhuman activity, and this faction decided to take twelve people and enhance them in various ways (beyond what PRIMUS is normally capable of doing, that is)-one third got cyber enhanced, one third got “gene-mapped” new powers with an experimental process, and the last third simply got hi-tech toys.  Gunfighter would be in the latter category.  These would be superhuman operatives that operated more or less in international territory, and given plausible deniability to avoid issues with the assorted governments.  Because I didn’t want to get too crazy with rogue factions, I had the faction found out by the higher ups in PRIMUS and shut down-but not before they cut the survivors of the twelve loose to operate as heroes.

Worth noting that I had planned to mine this basic concept for future reference.  I have no less than three other characters tied to this rogue PRIMUS experiment, and in addition to that, I also put together one Nemesis (not all of the survivors from the original 12 wound up as good guys in the end), who conveniently is Gunfighter’s.  I planned to build a foundation similar to what I had done with a chunk of my characters in CoH, just in case one day I’d be actually doing any RP with the guy-or any future characters.  As I’ve more or less drifted away from that scene, that idea’s something that now only exists in my head.

Gunfighter was not my first level 40 character, but he was somewhere in the first three.  The Munitions powerset has gone through its ups and downs, but Gunfighter managed to get through them intact, and-as most of my top level guys do in this game-is now more or less enshrined in my personal hall of fame, as I work on new characters.  With new character slots that open up when you get a character to max level in CO, it’s painfully easy to move onto new ideas and indulge hard in altoholism.  This sort of helps encourage a guy to actually try to occasionally focus on getting characters to 40, so the addiction to alts can be continually fed!

The Cast List: Introducing Idievak of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Here’s the original character….

Since I’m presently making a push to get a couple more characters through the Eternal Throne expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I thought I’d look at another of my characters over there.  This entry for the List has its origins, somewhat, in the predecessor of SWTOR.  Well, it’s MMORPG predecessor, anyway-Star Wars Galaxies.  During a break I was taking from that game just after the Combat Upgrade, I made a character named Idievak Bialar, who was a much different sort of character than my Ranger on my main server.  That character directly inspired the creation of my Jedi Knight, Idievak, in SWTOR.

It’s true that I have no shame in reusing names sometimes.  I could say that the SWTOR version is an ancestor of the SWG version, but I prefer to think of it this way:  just because they share a same first name means nothing.  How many people in the state you live in are named “John”?  I simply see Idievak as something similar.  It’s easy to get away with things like first names; it’s the last names that are trickier, and I never established one for the Jedi Idievak-so I’m free and clear of having to deal with any ancestry issues.

…And the present day version. He’s a bit more badass….

I knew from the start that I wasn’t going to mess with the Dark Side; this was a true-blue Jedi Knight, strong in the Force and Light Side all the way!  I did hem and haw about what advanced class to use, but eventually went with the Sentinel and the dual lightsabers.  The other big choice I had to look for was the idea of romance; as was indicated early on in the Jedi storyline on Tython, romantic attachments are a no-no, at least as far as a pair of Jedi Masters there were concerned.  This led to a big question mark with an early companion, Kira, who is a romanceable companion for the Knight.  Well, everyone needs one vice, right?  Of course, since Idievak’s gone along the Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne storylines, Kira’s been missing in action along with a large percentage of the former flames of the character classes.  That hasn’t kept Idievak from doing the right thing all through the Zakuul story, where he definitely kept an antagonistic relationship with his unwanted head-guest.  It probably shouldn’t be a surprise what decisions he made at the end of the Eternal Throne, being my third character to complete that arc.

In spite of my insistence that Idievak isn’t actually related to the SWG version, I certainly crafted his appearance to have some similarities-a darker skinned Zabrak, although he lacks facial tatooos.  As an early character, he tended to go back and forth on his outfit until I got some “orange gear” which could slot mods; it wasn’t a bad look, but it really popped once color dyes became available.  A white-and-red dye gave him what I consider his signature look.  Lightsaber blade colors remained blue for a time, but thanks to a hypercrate of gamble-packs I’d picked up (I had so bloody much cartel coins that I HAD to spend them on something!), I acquired some crit-enhanced white/blue crystals, and their look was suitably impressive enough to me to use them-particularly since this character was the one to whom the collection item was bound, so he could replicate heaps of bound crystals for use by him and his companions (well, nowadays, the only thing they’d get out of it is color, but that’s progress for you).

Ultimately, I was extremely happy with the character’s final look, and how he dealt with the class story and succeeding content.  And now that the war is back on between the Republic and the Empire (c’mon, you gotta know which side Idievak chose to support), things are only gong to keep busy for a Jedi in the Eternal Alliance.

WF: To All Things, An Ending

Synopsis:  FINAL ISSUE!  Willforge discovers that his nemesis, Mindhunter, is plotting to use the VIPER Draysha formula for his own ends.  Can Willforge stop Mindhunter once and for all?  Join Willforge on his final adventure!

At last, the character of Willforge has hit level 40 in Champions Online, and thus it’s time to close the book on him.  Let’s take a look back on the things I was able to accomplish, the things I missed, and final thoughts.

I was able to put the character through a pretty good leveling experience.  Thanks to the XP Alerts, I never really felt any real issue with leveling-at least when I was able to dedicate some time to it.  I was able to go through story arcs through every major zone in the game, including the it-gets-a-bad-rap Lemuria zone.  Also got to do the Vibora Bay Apocalypse arc, which I’d only done with one other character in the past, and although I didn’t complete the post-Apocalyptic Vibora Bay missions, I did do more than enough to get the levels to reach 40, which was the primary goal here.

I got to see the power-and the limitations-of the Telepathy powerset; as I hit the stretch from 30 to 40, I was able to hold my own against most opponents, and a fair chunk of groups of opponents.  It wasn’t perfect, and there were times I got myself into serious trouble with too many enemies at once, but for the most part, the character survivability went way up from where it had begun.  The character didn’t have raw damage on his side, nor did he have high resistance to damage, but he did manage to incapacitate opponents long enough so that he could survive and defeat them.  Usually.

Unfortunately, there were instances where it just wasn’t enough.  I had hoped to get to the final Nemesis mission, “Deathray Demolition”, but one of the two-parter missions more or less put that to a standstill with a giant robot with a large sack of health, a large capacity for damage, and a knockback that made most of Willforge’s powers almost impossible to get going.  So when I hit 40, I decided that I’d just hang it up there and just let the mission sit in his journal.  Probably for the best, though-because the Deathray Demolition probably would’ve been even worse, given that he’d have to deal with not just one, but three versions of his Nemesis, and a swarm of the minions; even with the assistance you can get in that mission from a pair of aggro-magnets (except, naturally, when you need them to be), it would’ve been a rough go.

Another regret was Adventure Packs.  I’ve done the Serpent’s Lantern pack on my own in the past with other characters, but Willforge wasn’t really geared up to handle that, so that got put aside.  Likewise, I didn’t bother with the Demonflame pack, which I’ve never managed to complete with any characters.  Since I wasn’t doing those, I never went to do Resistance, either, which is a shame because one of the missions there features the use of a very large robot stomping around-I’m always a fan of that kind of thing.  I could have done the comic series arcs, but decided against it-my leveling path was working well enough that I didn’t feel a need to go in that direction.  Finally, there is a story arc that involves Mechanon which would’ve been on my list except for the fact that the final mission is a grouped mission (unless the character is a seriously well geared and leveled one, and…well, Willforge isn’t).  Also, it occurs to me there’s another similar sort of arc called Fatal Error that’s sort of cyberspace oriented, but again, that arc closes out in grouped content that I’m not entirely sure is available at the present time.  And again, level of difficulty solo in the other missions there gets in the way.

Despite the things that were missed, and the challenges that were not overcome, I enjoyed running this character through Champions Online, and will undoubtedly do so again at some point in the future with another character-perhaps one who will be a bit more geared towards damage or toughness than Willforge was.  But for now, Champions Online is going to get set to the side now while I focus on my other games.  I think my next bit of focus is going to be getting the rest of my remaining Star Wars: The Old Republic characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne story (including Anthrandos and Sorshan; they will get their conclusions!), before kicking off a new focus character for Star Trek Online.  (This character is the one I put myself through many days of Risa this summer for.)

That said, I won’t ignore CO completely; now that Willforge is out of focus, I will probably start putting up Cast List entries for some of my other CO characters, who may be chronicled elsewhere as far as their fictional stories, but haven’t been covered anywhere as to how I decided to build them.  Watch for them!

The Great Train Robbery

Are you sure this is the sort of thing an Alliance Commander really needs to be doing?

You know, missioning in an MMORPG can be a fairly dull affair.  Go to this location, and do this thing.  Kill the guys trying to kill you.  Get the MacGuffin.  If it’s instanced, it’s always within the bounds of four walls.  If it’s “outdoors”, well, that has its own problems.  So you really have to lean hard on the story to make a mission feel meaningful.  Except…there are ways to make it feel more interesting, and it doesn’t require dumb mechanics like jumping puzzles.  Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery-and give it motion.  Relatively recently, for example, when playing Champions Online, I extolled the virtues of a Queen City mission where you board a moving riverboat.  It’s still got all the constraints you’d expect from a regular mission, but the illusion of movement and activity make it stand out.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, has done this as well; they have at least one Heroic which combines this with one of my least favorite mechanics (the aforementioned jumping game)-but at least it’s a catchy situation hopping from moving air-car to air-car.  But with their latest patch, we’ve got a new Flashpoint:  Crisis on Umbara, which can be done traditionally or in a solo-story mode (and the traditional method-as in, grouped-has its own mechanics and assorted difficulty levels).  The FP continues on a thread taken from the Iokath storyline, where someone in your Alliance is trying to bring it down.  Well, thanks to the work of Theron and Lana, your primary advisers, the traitor has been located on board a train on Umbara, looking to acquire Adegan crystals-last seen when the late Darth Malgus tried to usurp the Sith Empire with his stealth armada.  So before you can say “Snakes on a Train”, you, Theron, and Lana are off to Umbara to snag the traitor before any real damage is done.

I won’t spoil the traitor’s identity here.  It’s not hard to find out on the ‘net, but I’ll sit on it until the next bit of content rolls in that builds on it, because I’m sure that we’re looking at the familiar trope of “Late Arrival Spoiler“.  Until then, though, let’s let the traitor’s name remain hidden.  Suffice it to say, however, that the traitor will be back to plague our heroes, and we get another indicator of just what is truly behind this all.  Besides, it’s not the traitor that interests me today.  Well, it is, but I was talking about the setting.  It’s a freaking moving high-speed train!  Of course, it’s a Star Wars train, so figure it’s not using anything resembling wheels and more along the lines of your average landspeeder.  Not anything resembling tracks on the ground, but hovering vertical rings.  And much like action sequences in most movies with trains as a setting, you will be fighting not just the local Umbarans (who, apparently, don’t like uninvited guests), but also the faction you didn’t choose to support at Iokath, who are a little irritated about the things that happened to either Acina or Malcom, depending on your actions.

By the way, I will take a moment for a minor spoiler here, so that readers do not do what I did.  You will find a point where there are two very large “Champion” level turrets.  Don’t bother trying to engage them; don’t bother trying to go around them.  Pay attention to the hole in the roof well before then instead.  Go that way.  Don’t be like me and try THREE TIMES to find a way to deal with those damned guns and get blown to bits by them.  Yes, I completely embarrassed myself by missing that hole in the roof and went on a futile quest to blow up those guns.  LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

There’s another big trope (well, it SHOULD be, even if I can’t find it) that you can associate with action sequences on trains.  It’s probably not hard to guess at what it might be.  Suffice it to say, it involves the traitor and your response to that, which consumes roughly the latter half of the Flashpoint.

There are a few boss battles on the way, and possibly another that I bypassed completely when I realized I didn’t have to fight it (but see below).  One involves a stealth-assassin and a tech who pops down automated turrets that upgrade fast.  I find that killing the tech first is the best way to maintain sanity in that fight, because those turrets can get out of hand.  Setting your companion to healing is probably a good move if you aren’t already a heal-spec character.  The next one involves a critter-it’s amazing how many large creatures exist on settled planets, right?  The final one involves a rather large battle-droid, who is ringed conveniently by a bunch of highly explosive containers.  Targeting said containers can be a bit tricky, though, since the hit box of the droid is so bloody large that half the time you’ll still wind up targeting it.  Each of these battles have their own special mechanics-I fully recommend using Dulfy’s site for details.

Much like the Flashpoints that led up to the Shadow of Revan expansion, there is a new currency drop available from the bosses (including, incidentally, the one I bypassed.  Oops).  This can be used to gather, among other things, a new armor set, a new mount…and a new Stronghold:  which, as I understand it, is one of Umbara’s trains.  Yes, you’re looking at a mobile Stronghold here.  Nobody’s actually seen it yet, though, because there is a cap on how many of the new currency you can get on a character (and it’s bound, big shock)-and the cost for the Stronghold is ten more than you can gain in a week.  The more cynical part of me wonders if that’s because the devs actually are still finishing the work on it; the more realistic part of me figures that a week is an awfully specific amount of time to estimate being done by, so that’s probably not the reason.  More likely that they didn’t want the content locusts to finish running the FP in less than a week.

I’ve run the mission through with my two “main” characters, my Smuggler and my Agent, and both have their opinions about the events of this FP, spoken and unspoken.  My Agent, in particular, has his own theories, based on his own experiences as Cipher Nine.  It may make for some interesting moments, should the writers of the story arcs choose to include that.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I rather enjoyed running the FP, although I don’t know that I’ll bother trying for the new Stronghold; after all, 1) I still only recently acquired the Tatooine one, 2) SWTOR only recently released the Manaan Stronghold which I haven’t touched-and at this point, may not, 3) I’ d have to run this FP about a dozen times on a single character to unlock it, and even with my willingness to repeat content, that might be pushing it, and finally 4) I don’t have the heaps of credits required to unlock rooms, much less do a full useful decoration of the place.  I’m still in the middle of unlocking Tatooine rooms, never mind outfitting the place appropriately.

WF: Mayor SMASH!!!!

Synopsis:  After a harrowing experience in Vibora Bay, you would think that Willforge would get a break to recuperate.  But his nemesis Mindhunter has other plans in mind.  When the archvillain clones the mayor of Millennium City, Willforge must fight across two nations to keep Mindhunter from replacing the real mayor!  But what hidden allies has Mindhunter mustered to deal with Willforge’s interference?

With the Vibora Bay Apocalypse in the past (or is that the future?  Time travel makes my head hurt…), I’ve been focusing my time in the post-apocalyptic Vibora Bay (or is that pre-Apocalyptic?  ARRRRGH!).  The Vibora Bay missions are nice and uncomplicated for the most part, although some of them involve drop-hunting missions that drive me mad because the drop rate of the items involved seem so pathetically low.  That wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that the respawn rate of some of these criminals is so annoyingly slow.  Well, it could be worse.  I could also have to be dealing with timed missions that require you to fetch items in a predetermined order that you don’t know in advance.  Oh-there’s one of those, too.  (After my second attempt, when I had a better idea of what I was doing, and still came up short, I said, “yeah, you go get those things yourself-I’m out of here” and dropped that mission.)

I also occasionally went back to Monster Island, to clear out a couple of lingering missions in my log-including one that had accidentally finished when I was doing…something-and to help ensure that I could spawn Nemesis minions so I could get the Clues needed to run a new Nemesis mission.  I knew that they would spawn in Monster Island, but I had a feeling that they wouldn’t in Vibora Bay.  I was wrong, by the way; after a fruitless period in Monster Island at one point, I went back to Vibora to do some missions-and was delighted to see those robots pop up and ambush me as I was going after the Sovereign Sons.  All is right in the world-especially since one of my goals before finishing up the character is to lock that Nemesis away for good!

To that end:  there tend to be two types of Nemesis missions that drop from the Clues.  The first kind is almost painfully generic:  the minions of the Nemesis are up to no good, and you have to stop them from doing what they’re doing.  It’s usually as simple as getting up a radio tower in Canada fighting through spawned minions, or blowing up barrels of toxic waste in Millennium City as the minions guard them.  I’ll note that this can occasionally cause fits for poor lower level heroes doing their level missioning in the areas.  I’ve had at least one occasion where another player blew his top because he was doing missions in the desert around a VIPER prison and a bunch of high-level Nemesis minions suddenly spawned and blew him to greasy chunks.  For this sort of reason, I always try to clean up my minions even if my objectives are complete-no sense in letting those guys hang around and beat up lowbies.

The second type of mission is a lot more fun.  They tend to be instanced affairs, and feature the Nemesis in some way, sometimes physically, sometimes via some communications method, and involve a more elaborate plan.  For example:  the aforementioned cloning drama.  This is actually a matched pair of missions, one starting right after the other-one in Canada, where you discover the cloning plot, and fight a couple of “named” supervillains, and then another encounter in the City Hall of Millennium City, where you have to fight at least three other supervillains, a gigantic clone of the mayor (you did see that cover above, right?)-and oh yeah, your Nemesis (who, of course, in classic fashion, gets away).  And of course, scattered all around are the minions of the Nemesis.  Good times.  Well, usually-sometimes fighting two supervillain level threats at once is a little rough; I got taken down by one plus Mindhunter, but fortunately, the two weren’t keyed to each other as far as aggro logic goes.  I was able to engage one of them at a time after that faceplant, and things went a lot better.

So, hopefully, in the not-distant future I hope, I will be able to chronicle the final battle between Mindhunter and Willforge-and celebrate level 40.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can wrap up the Vibora Bay missions prior to then.  Signs point to “probably not”, because I’m pretty sure that some of those missions are intended for level 40 content, but we’ll see.

The Cast List: Introducing Ailar of Star Trek Online

In the beginning, they were a broken race, thanks to Star Trek Online’s backstory-which tied neatly to the J.J. Abrams backstory of his Star Trek film.  They gained significant focus in a Feature Episode series as their…let’s call them planetary siblings…broke away.  And then it got followed up with a large portion of their species deciding to effectively revolt-and eventually became a sub-faction available in the game.  People love ’em, people hate ’em, but the Romulan Republic arrived and is here to stay.

Obviously, when the Romulans were finally brought in as playable characters, I had to make a few.  Like the major factions, I could choose species.  Unlike them, there were only so many available.  The Romulans.  The generic Aliens (which I never did take as much as advantage of as I could have).  A little later came the Borg-ified Romulans.  I did have Reman access early thanks to having completed the Romulan Republic reputation prior to that period, so I didn’t have to do anything exotic like spend Zen.  And, naturally, true-blue (er, green?) Romulans.

A new hope for the Republic

So.  It felt right that I should have a pure Romulan as my first (and main) Romulan character, so I designed Ailar.  Ailar was a Science captain (another non-tactical!  I’m on a roll!).  Now, as a sub-faction, it was required-after reaching a certain level/point in the STO story-to choose a faction to ally with, the Klingons or the Federation.  Ailar chose to go Federation (although the Klingons had a real good argument at the time.  I remember really wavering with the choice when the time finally came).  This would allow me to make use of Starfleet vessels up to and including Tier-4 ships; Tier-5 ships were not made available to the Romulans from Starfleet, mainly because of an outcry on the forums that it would be insane for Starfleet to make their best ships available to an allied power outside of their control.  Same with the KDF.  I’d agreed with that at the time, but later reflection had me recall that it wouldn’t have been without precedent; in the original Star Trek series, Romulans could be seen flying top-end Klingon battlecruisers.  So its not as if there wasn’t precedent for that sort of thing.

The Romulans had their own set of outfits, and didn’t share much with the other factions-which meant there wasn’t that big a variety of uniforms.  Certainly not as much as, say, Starfleet.  That said, the devs didn’t do too badly here.  There were a couple varieties of Romulan “civilian” outfits, a pair of Republic officer outfits, and even Klingon/Starfleet specific Romulan outfits, depending on who you chose to ally with.  (And for the Romulan purists, a Tal Shiar style outfit.  Because it’s good to be bad.  You got it from going undercover….)  Some of the cross-platform outfits came across too, such as the Intelligence uniforms.  The C-Store eventually got a few more to work with, if you wanted to go classic or real classic.  For the Romulans in the crew, I went with the straight up uniform, although I individualized Ailar’s uniform as she was in charge.  Well, mostly straight-up:  the Reman representative has her own look, and one of them is sort of unable to have any other uniform options.  I figured that was okay, though-given the relative “age” of the Republic, it’s a wonder they have anything resembling a consistent look.

The bridge crew was mostly the default crew; as the first of my Romulans, I didn’t go too crazy on using them.  I had access to Starfleet officers as well, but, well, I was feeling like a purist here.  I’d be willing to have a Starfleet officer help man the ship weapons (I think it was a Ferengi that joined when I declared for Starfleet), but for the longest time, I would only use Romulans and Remans in my away teams.  I eventually picked up a Hierarchy bridge officer during the Delta Rising arc, and I eventually included him in the main group.

I knew from day one that Ailar would be flying a Scimitar-class warbird in the end.  It hadn’t been available at the Romulan launch, but I knew that as sure as Starfleet had Odysseys and the Klingons had Bortasqu’s, the Romulans would get a flagship, and it would be the Scimitar.  I was dead right-and for a while, that was exactly what she flew (using the science variant, naturally).  However, when the Tier-6 ships came rolling around, I saw that while the basic Scimitar skeleton was still being used, the appearance was distinct from that used by the Tier-5s, and I decided that it made sense to have Ailar in command of a brand spanking new Republic-constructed warbird-the RRW Hobus.

Ailar, as my primary Romulan character, has had the benefit of having gone through the vast majority of the episodes of the game, and is at max level; she hasn’t maxed out her primary specialization (Command), though.  In part, this is because it’s tricky enough to get new characters leveled plus keeping my Klingon and Starfleet mains at the latest and greatest.  At some point, I expect I’ll try to locate where I left Ailar and binge from there to the latest episode.  If one is looking to rebuild into galactic power again, it’d behoove one to make sure their best and brightest lead the way.

WF: Game Over, Man! Game Over!

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, CONCLUSION!  The End of the World is at hand!  The Champions:  dead!  The heroes of Vibora Bay:  betrayed!  The fallen angel Therakiel is about to bring about the end, but the deadliest villain on Earth wants such power for himself!  It all comes down to Willforge to execute a desperate last-minute plan to reverse the Apocalypse and set things right!  Join Willforge in this 25th issue spectacular!

The End has arrived!  The Earth is gone!

Wait…that can’t be right…let me check that script again….

Here we go.  Thanks to one of the most painful plot devices known to man (and the only one that allows you to maul the main cast like this), the Apocalypse has been stopped.  You would think that stopping the end of the world in Champions Online would be good for gaining at least one level, right?  Heh-keep thinking that.  I’ve put Willforge through the conclusion of the Apocalypse, and all he got was a lousy t-shirt.  Actually, strike that-he didn’t get that either.  But in the plus column, at least the world is still spinning, right?  At least, it’ll keep doing that as long as he manages to prevent the Apocalypse from actually happening based on the knowledge he got from said Apocalypse.

One would think that a simpler solution would be to take out the baddie who kick started the whole mess in the first place, instead of trying to change heaps of little things hoping to change the future, but that’s the biz for you.

Despite my griping, I am fairly close to 38 at this point, and expect to hit it next time I’m on.  I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in post-Apocalypse Vibora (the images that phrase evokes is nowhere near reality.  I blame Mad Max and Wasteland…) to begin the push to 40.  I have a sneaking feeling, though, that Nemesis minions don’t spawn off in Vibora, which means I might take trips to the Canada or Monster Island to harvest some Nemesis clues so I have a reasonable shot at reaching the end of that line before wrapping up this CO run.  It’s not as unrealistic as one might think-it’s taken me this long to get from 37 to near 38, after all.  I’m sure I could grind the last two levels out doing just Alerts, but hell, that would drive me bats-especially if there’s no double-xp events rolling.  Besides, there IS an end to the Vibora Bay arc post-apocalypse, and it’s not inconceivable that I could be facing the big bad one more time.

Nearing the end, of course, puts me in mind of where I’m going next.  I’ve got a character concept percolating and a general plan of attack for Star Trek Online, but at the same time, it’s been a while since I’ve seriously visited Star Wars: The Old Republic.  This is all in terms of new characters, mind-I’ve got some other irons to wrap in the meantime, such as pushing my Romulan main to get up-to-date with the mission log, and I’ve a bunch of characters in TOR to finish through the Eternal Throne expansion (including a pair who will get actual conclusions to stories I chronicled here who helped reinvigorate my Building Character posts).  So expect some of that to possibly litter the blog from now until the next big thing.

But obviously, first things first.  Willforge managed to scrape out a second chance for the planet-and he’s got two levels (and a smidgen) to go before the final issue is writ.

WF: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine

Synopsis:  APOCALYPSE, PART TWO!  As things in Vibora Bay continue to fall apart, the world’s mightiest heroes arrive to join Willforge stopping the end of days!  But as the party responsible for starting the Apocalypse continues to ascend, Champions will fall-and Willforge must make new allies in the darkened streets of Vibora Bay!

The Vibora Bay Apocalypse continues….

It’s been a long time since I ran the Apocalypse arc in Champions Online, and it’s possible that I’m further along than I think I am-I’ve gotten to the point where Willforge is about to try to recover the Elemental Gems, but I don’t recall how many more missions until the grand finale of the arc.  I have managed to avoid gaining any levels since last time around, which indicates to me that perhaps this isn’t as big a deal as I was thinking-so I’ll probably resume doing XP Alerts to help things along again.

If I time it right, the final missions of the arc will correspond neatly to Issue 25 of my Willforge covers.  25 is often a big issue for comic books (especially in this day and age when comic runs get restarted after just a year of publication), so it seems that Fate has decided to work with me for a change.

One thing that I appreciate about this particular arc is that-as it’s the end of the world and all-the story writers didn’t pull many punches.  When I mentioned “Champions will fall” above, I wasn’t joking-and the mood of the quest givers reflects the long odds that just keep getting longer as the arc goes on.  It’s not so much that your character is failing in the missions-it’s that it’s a race against time (so to speak-“time” is really not a big issue in an MMO questline) and if the bad guys get done with their plans before you get done with yours…well, you didn’t really want to keep living in this universe, right?

It’s not every story arc where you have to decide to ally with man-eating werewolves or blood-drinking vampires, too.  (I went with the wolves; it’s hard to feel sympathy for vampires, and they’re already technically dead.)  Nor do you usually get a chance to fight side by side with groups of Champions.  (Well, sort of.)  Despite the presence of the NPC heroes, you never get the feeling that you’re there to assist them.  They’re here to assist you.  Of course, that said, the usual conventions of MMO writing still apply-you’re still getting missions from other NPCs (Dr. Ka and Robert Caliburn, mostly-but there’s a number of others in this arc that have things for you to do, such as Trismegistus mages and Black Mask-you remember her from the Queen City arc, right?).  How many of these luminaries will be left standing after the End of the World is still an open question.

That does sort of lead me on a side-ramble.  MMOs in general have the glaring fault that your character is always a reactive one-at least as far as quests/missions go.  In some games, it works out okay; Star Wars Galaxies had mission terminals that had missions to give out, but your character wasn’t the champion of ultimate destiny (well, not until the NGE, anyway), and needed to make a living getting credits somehow.  World of Warcraft has a number of people who would give out missions because they have actual authority (kings, queens, military officers, etc.).  But as one gains levels (or increases in ability, as not all MMOs are level based), one gains a certain reputation for getting things done.  You get to a point where you’d think that you wouldn’t need character X to tell you what to do; but there you are, still taking orders (or requests) to “do this”.  It seems to me that you could ramp up the illusion that you’re actually competent if you could respond with what would apparently be your own ideas.  Some MMOs can do this during missions/quests (Star Trek Online does a decent job of it-certainly better than in the early days of the game, and the Old Republic does a decent job too-with some missions more than others), but CO isn’t really set up for that sort of thing.  Which is a damned shame, but honestly, there are other things that bring me greater regrets than this does.  Yes, these are “themepark” MMOs, and not sandbox MMOs, but one can at least try to give the illusion of character competence.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble.  Let’s close it out with the obvious:  since I’m really unlikely to get to level 40 before the End of the World, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll be going beyond issue 25 above.  Maybe not by MUCH, but it’ll happen.  Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I could close it out with the last mission of the Nemesis chain?  Food for thought….