Last week, Star Trek Online unleashed Season Six: Under Siege to its live servers. Grab a hold of something solid, everyone; for once, I believe this will be a rantless post on the game and its devs!
The biggest deal on it is the reworking of the Fleet Interface-and the introduction of fleet starbases. As expected (well, as I expected, anyway), it operates similar to the way the supergroup bases in City of Heroes does: there’s a fixed location for the base, and you enter an instance that “belongs” to your fleet. Unlike City of Heroes, though, it is not a network of locations, but a single fixed location. This detail can be mitigated a bit with some work, though. By work, I mean grinding.
Starbases start out as…well, not much. When you warp in, you see just about everything under construction; the central hub which is the actual starbase, a shipyard, a transwarp gate, a couple other things. When you dock with the central hub, you get to enter the starbase, which has four levels (at least to start; I can’t speak to others at this time, although I hear rumors): one level each dedicated to the three main branches of activity-tactical, engineering, and science-and an ops level. There’s a lot of stuff in the base; tailors, ship selection, bank and exchange access, vendors-but none of it is actually working.
The reason? You need to work to get them. The starbase can have three main projects going on at once, plus a “special project”, plus an upgrade project. Each of these projects require a heap of resources-from duty officers, to replicated materials, to devices, to Dilithium. Once all the resources to a project have been allocated, the project begins to count down (could be close to a day; could be as soon as an hour or two). When the project is done, you get starbase experience applied to the type of project-again, by the three main branches of activity-which also theoretically counts as starbase experience. As you get the xp, you start finding things becoming available to your starbase.
The thing that keeps large fleets from growing to top tier on day one are the fleet marks. (Okay, the time gates, too.) Fleet marks are gained by doing some fleet content; the simplest is talking to an officer on the starbase itself for five marks. But the more satisfying way is running new events through the PvE queue: fleet alerts, fleet defense, fleet garrisons. There’s also a two hour event that rotates on the calendar occasionally that allows double marks, or marks rewarded when they aren’t ordinarily. The fleet actions can usually net around 10, maybe 15 marks each. There’s a cooldown of half an hour on the queues, just like for Special Task Forces, but there’s enough there that you can probably rotate among them with little trouble.
Here’s the thing: for the most part, they’re actually fun-at least the ones I’ve done. I stayed away from the action that takes place in the starbase interior; my ground game isn’t so hot, honestly, but I’m sure I’ll give it a shot at some point. One of the space actions involves protecting freighters from being blown up-you get a mark for each one that makes it through an enemy blockade. I really wouldn’t recommend that one; freighters are fragile as hell, and getting a queued team to cooperate in dealing with that is almost impossible. The fleet alert and the fleet defense actions, though, are terrific. The alert is a straightforward timed slugfest through waves of attackers; the fleet defense is a full Fleet Action that takes 20 characters to do, and is a multistepped struggle to get a set of freighters out of the system (much easier than getting in), stop attacks on your starbase facilities, and ultimately protect the base itself.
There are downsides to the Starbase additions. Ironically, it hits both large and small fleets, but in different ways. Small fleets will have a hard time grinding through projects to improve their starbases. There’s a lot of fleet marks involved; remember the numbers I put up above? Well, it takes around 180 marks for a project to fill the mark requirement. That’s a lot of matches. Still, it’s not insurmountable. The rest can be dealt with relatively painlessly (Dilithium projects may be a sticking point, since that currency translates to real money via C-Store). Large fleets, on the other hand, have the opposite problem-they fill their projects too fast. And that is a problem, because one of the benefits of contributing to a project is getting “fleet credits”, which can be used to purchase stuff off of the starbase vendors as it improves. This includes access to new starships at certain levels (I have heard, however, that these special starships ALSO will cost Zen in addition to that, making them effectively “elite” C-Store purchases; if I’m understanding that right, it’s a big disincentive to bother with improving the shipyards).
There are a couple other new things that came in this publish, like the introduction of Tholians on a new world, with a set of daily quests, and a couple new mission events for high level characters-including a “no win” scenario that should feel very familiar to long-time Trek watchers. But the highlight of Season Six is the updates to the Fleets and the coming of their starbases-and while it seems pretty grindy…well, it’s an MMO. Grindy is pretty much par for the course. I’ll be very interested in seeing if the fleet actions can maintain their pace as fleets “complete” their starbases. And by “fleets”, I mean the large ones that will have the manpower to drive the PvE queues; but we’ll see. Right now, it’s a good time to be in the Final Frontier.