Over the last weekend, Cryptic kicked off the first of what it’s hyped as its “weekly episodes” for Star Trek Online. And from what it sounds like, it sounds like a success, so far.
Let’s look at what we got out of it.
First off, a new sector block, which can be accessed by both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Both factions of the game can do the missions here; it can’t be denied that this may be a VERY frequented location for Klingon players, who are aching for places to get their skill points up (especially those who prefer not to PvP-and even the ones who do, since I keep hearing about how they can’t find anyone to actually PvP against). The design of this sector space isn’t as garish as perhaps the other blocks in the game, and it is possible that this is a precursor to a full sector space revamp. On the other hand, it doesn’t go as far as some folks might prefer.
Next up: the episode itself. It’s a pretty bit of work. The big action takes place on the world of Defera, and the map we see is something very unusual for STO: an alien city (although given the scale of STO maps, it’s really more of an outpost; ground maps continue to be relatively small). Alien Deferi walking all over the city, a set of Preserver ruins to the east (which will become more important as the weekly episodes for this arc continue)…oh, and the Breen beaming in to say “hi”.
The Breen prove that their appearance in DS9 as game-changers was no fluke. They’re tough, but not unbeatable in any sense of the word. Cold seems to be their “hat”, and their holds are nasty. The final fight on the ground can be a rough one if you just let your bridge officers fight willy-nilly. This is where tactical work (and careful use of one’s device tray) pays off. The Breen use a similar philosophy in space, with lots of abilities set to wreck your maneuverability (stacked tractor beams for example).
The Deferi themselves are a new race cut from whole cloth, believing in “the Balance” of things. That could be one of the reasons why they’ll accept help from the Klingon Empire-whom they’ve had previous relations with, according to their backstory-and the Federation, whose reputation as being compassionate helpers (backed by quantum torpedoes) precedes them. The Deferi are very happy to have Klingons and Starfleet help them against the Breen. (Although it must be noted, I don’t believe the Klingons and Starfleet can work together on the missions.)
The presence of the Preserver ruins seems to indicate a very strong possibility that there will be more than mindless combat to this episode arc; if that’s the case, it’ll be another strong step forward to making the game feel like Star Trek. Even as you warp into the Deferi home system, you get a feeling of Star Trek, as it pops up in yellow text the name of the episode: “Cold Call”. Only thing missing is the episode opening credits for writers, guest star lists, and the like.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention the dailies. With the coming of the Deferi arc comes a set of daily missions. At the moment, they’re limited to skill points, merits, and the usual; however, according to devs, folks at Vice Admiral will received the coveted emblems once they get that pushed to Live (these emblems are used to pick up Mark XI gear in Earth Spacedock). One of the missions in this patrol daily also has its own daily, for a small amount of skill points (rumor has it, though, that an accolade may be attached to that extra daily). In all, it’s a decent place for an alternate skill point grind-something that the Klingons, especially, could really use.
This arc is supposedly going to be five episodes long, although there is a sort of “prequel” offered in Deep Space K-7 if you do the diplomatic mission there. At the end of the arc, there will be a few weeks gap before the next one; this is in part because completing the arc before the next arc begins will net a special reward to completing all the missions. I believe there will still be a reward for completing the entire arc in general-these missions will never go away, thus being available to new players long after the last episode in it is released. But for the folks who do these episodes in the timely manner, I expect to see something interesting. I’m betting on a trophy-I can’t see the devs putting out something that would give a big advantage that nobody can get after the window closes. Odds favor screams and complaints from the forums if I’m right; I’m cynical that way. (Full disclosure-I’m perfectly okay with a trophy; hopefully it’ll be a wall trophy over a floor one if it is….)
All in all, the Deferi arc is proving to be worth the effort to both players and devs. The next arc supposedly will be happening “in known space”, meaning we won’t see a new sector block like we did with this one; but if they can roll out a decent story, a decent group of episodes that aren’t just the usual “vape five of group X”, something comparable to the episodes we got at launch…well, we could have something special here.