W&M: The Hazards of Starfleet Security

Gorn diplomacy at its finest

Personal Log, Stardate 96295.47.

I suppose that it was inevitable that sooner or later, I would wind up having to deal with Starfleet Security.

As a concept, I have no great objection to them.  They are certainly more honest than, for example, the old Obsidian Order back on Cardassia.  They operate off of rules and regulations that are known, even if they themselves must operate in a somewhat secretive manner at times.  After the mess with this “Section 31” and the Soptillian, it was probably deemed a good idea to have me work with something other than an intelligence operation.

That said, Captain Ross is an…unusual sort of captain.  His team is an eclectic bunch, and it makes me wonder if that sort of thing is the norm for Starfleet Security.  The mission to Iffar demonstrated, though, that they were at least a competent crew.  We were all dead wrong about it being related to the Undine, though….

Things were less certain with the Conclave incident.  I still don’t know how they managed to get a working [REDACTED] to use against [REDACTED]; I can’t imagine the scale of death that would have caused.  Given the nature of the mission, I find that I can’t blame Ross too much for keeping me in the dark.  I hope he doesn’t blame me for my own small act of insubordination when it was all over; as my Academy classmates would have said, he sort of deserved it.

Computer, end log.

Something is becoming apparent with my use of the Foundry missions in Star Trek Online; namely, advancing a character solely through this means is going to be a far slower affair than it has been in the past.  I may have to start supplementing the missioning with use of the Duty Officer system if I want to get out of the teens in Selak’s levels.  On the other hand, hey, it’s giving me far less repetitive posts because the Foundry means I’m putting up stuff I haven’t done with other characters a dozen times before.

I also did a quick run of another of the queues that became available:  the Starbase 24 action.  Once upon a time, Starbase 24 was a fleet action sort of deal, where you could fly to the base on the sector map, auto-join with other characters to fight off an attack on the Starbase, then board the Starbase and repel the attackers there.  That was a long, long time ago, though.  Now, it’s just a queue, and completely space-based as well.  As a result, it’s not much more than your standard “go in, blow up Klingons, blow up more Klingons, game over.”  Maybe it’s intended to be that way since it is a lower level queue, but still….

This is as good a time as any to remark on some queue related news, as well.  Last week, Cryptic/PWE announced that they’re renaming the queue system to “Task Force Operations”.  Because that’ll totally make a difference.  I guess I can at least save on keystrokes typing TFO, but that’ll just confuse people if I don’t type the whole name early in a post.  So don’t expect me to call it other than what it still is:  a queue.  That said:  another thing being introduced in the Age of Discovery publish will be the idea of random TFOs (damn it, I’m actually doing it…well, I already defined it above…).  It’s exactly what it says on the tin:  you can click for a queue and get assigned to a random queue mission, ground or space-you have as much chance as ending up in a Breach scenario as you do an Infected-Space run.  And there will, of course, be rewards for doing so in the form of your choice of marks and Dilithium.  This is in addition what you’d get from a “normal” run.  Whether this will be enough incentive is an open question:  I know some people (like me) tend to stay away from ground queues.  That may be a turn-off.  On the other hand, there’s no cooldown for using the random button; you can hit it again immediately after exiting.  This sounds like a terrific way to grind up marks and Dilithium, and that alone may be the best incentive to do this stuff.

Not all of the queues will be available in this; the 10-man missions are out, the PvPvE queues are out, the shuttle queues are out, and so forth.  There’s a post on the official site that has details along with more specific reward details.  I’ll leave it to the reader to go check that out.

There’s also news about “streamlining the mission journal”.  Which, shockingly, includes references to “removing content until we can improve it”.  So, if you’re a fan of the current missions in the Klingon War arc, better do ’em now, because you’ll likely never see them again.  My thoughts on content removal are well documented at this point, so I won’t belabor it here.

In defense of a colony world with the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy on it.

Onto the good stuff.  This time, I’ll put up some thoughts on a pair of missions that focus on Starfleet Security:  “Gemini” and “Polarity” by Gorgonops.  And there is a lot to like about these missions.

Firstly, the dialogue.  You tend to interact with an interesting group of Security officers; if you’re a fan of the deadly serious, you probably will cringe a bit, but most of the quirkiness is optional dialogue, so you can ignore most of it to your heart’s content.  And there IS plenty of optional dialogue that you don’t have to go through if you don’t want to-say, if you want to speed run the missions.  (I didn’t speed-run.  Obviously.)  Even more impressive was the fact that the author put time into having dialogue windows that fit your captain’s situation:  if you were in 2409 prior to the Iconian War, or after the Iconians revealed themselves; if you were a Federation captain or a Romulan captain aligned with the Federation; and if you’d done the “Gemini” mission before running “Polarity” or not.  These are touches I appreciate and give the impression that yes, things happen in the galaxy, and various captains will be doing them.  (There’s even a couple that you can select if you are Andorian or Vulcan!)  That said:  it’s not like the Foundry offers these JUST to captains who qualify; the Foundry isn’t that good-you could chose any of those options even if you don’t qualify.  It’s a limit of the tool.

Some of the maps here are terrific too.  I don’t know if they’re prebuilt from the Foundry tool or if the author built them all from scratch, but they look great.  There’s one instance where a waypoint doesn’t show up correctly, and the author acknowledges that literally at that point in the mission; bugs happen.  If I were to make a single recommendation, it would be for a note when you beam into that map that you take note of where you are, because you’ll need to get to it again later.  Pity those with poor memory.  Could go running around that map for a long time….

The storylines are mostly independent of each other; it’s not a requirement to play “Gemini” before “Polarity”, and they are self-contained stories, which means you don’t have to worry about cliffhangers.  There are certainly references to “Gemini” in “Polarity”, but they don’t require you to know them.  The first storyline involves a mystery that points to Undine infiltration, while the other storyline…well, Captain Ross is dead set on not telling you anything helpful as you go along-and it gets justified hard when the truth comes out.  I won’t spoil it further here; it’s a great “oh crap” moment.

Highly recommend both missions.  There are also two other missions in this arc of stories, but they’re level-gated to level 51 or higher, so it will be a while before I can get to them.  That’s okay-there are other Foundry missions waiting, with other authors, and it wouldn’t be fair to monopolize, would it?


W&M: Ice, Ice, Baby

U.S.S. Runner, ready for duty

Personal Log, Stardate 96256.50.

It’s been a while since I updated this log.  Where to start?

Should I start with the fact that my first round as a first officer wound up with me taking over after Klingons killed the Captain and winding up in a running battle with the Borg?  That seems like it should be the first thing I start with.  My ship’s logs can tell that tale better than I can.  So even though I was a raw cadet, I was in command of a ship-and, in the parlance of the humans, it has “stuck”.  In fact, it has been an absurdly short time and I have been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and put in command of a Rhode Island-class ship, the Runner.

It’s a testament to the ferocity of the war against the Klingons that people are being promoted at a rate far faster than is normal.  We are in an odd situation where we have too many ships, and not enough crews.  The war is forcing the best officers to take command far sooner than they should-and I hope that it doesn’t end badly for them.  Us.

The first action in the Runner got us involved with what appeared to be a rogue agency called “Section 31”.  We found out, though, that things weren’t necessarily as they seemed.

To start with

Alert:  the remainder of this entry has been redacted by Starfleet Intelligence.

Computer, end log.

Time to look in on my new Starfleet Cardassian, Selak, in Star Trek Online.  He’s broken the level 10 barrier; during that time, I went though the early missions again, and I’ve noted a number of updates since the last time I went through-for example, a very early encounter with Quark from DS9, and Captain La Forge being heavily involved with the early missions as well.  But once I got to level 10, and grabbed a new Science ship, I decided to go off the rails right off the bat.

The first thing I did was take advantage of a current queue being featured, the Romulan Minefield.  This is a pretty straightforward mission, where the gathered captains go to rescue freighters from the Romulans-and blow up the Romulans at the same time.  It eventually culminates in a fight with a Scimitar-class warbird, complete with thalaron weapon.  There’s a number of hints that are given out on how to deal with the queue at this level-I don’t know if that persists with later level brackets-and I didn’t really need them, but I think they’d be very helpful to new players.  So, props to the devs on that one.

That silhouette does not fill me with confidence….

The next step was fulfilling my promise to myself that I’d make heavy use the the Foundry for my leveling.  This means that it tends to be very slow-I mean, I can knock down regular episodes fairly quickly, but some of the Foundry missions are significantly longer.  But that’s okay with me; I mean, I’m at the point where I enjoy the experience.  If I were a power-gamer, I’d hardly be going through so many alt characters, I’d think.  So, I’m only running into the teens with my level, but I’m playing stuff that I’d be willing to bet most of the playerbase hasn’t.

Instead of selecting a mission through the Foundry interface, I decided to go a different route.  Popular missions that are “hooked” to a star system often come up as options to play when you are close enough to enter the system in sector space.  So, I stayed close to home and went to the Wolf 359 system-infamous for the first major fleet battle against the Borg (final score:  Borg: 39.  Starfleet: 0), and chose a mission.  And to make it more interesting, I chose the one that was “part one” of a multi-mission story arc.  Thus, Selak’s redacted log above, and thus, my following comments on “The Ice Cube”, written by TechieTrekie.

The mission opens with a seemingly routine mission-albeit a top secret one-by Admiral Quinn near Wolf 359.  It didn’t take long to get jumped by Klingons near a class-L ice planet.  It wasn’t long before a cloaked Starfleet ship revealed itself, captained by an operative claiming to be a member of the mysterious Section 31.  Okay, it’s not that mysterious, but figure this is a new captain with no previous exposure to that group.  Still, he had the codewords that Quinn used to verify that he was our contact there, and things ramp up from there.  While it seems at first to be a fairly innocuous “clean up the Klingon mess” sort of mission, it soon develops into a mission that involves a first contact-at a location that shouldn’t be there (but the arc does eventually explain how that something that shouldn’t be there IS).

These are pretty long missions, especially if you pride yourself on reading the material.  Additionally, the third mission doesn’t offer the standard Foundry rewards-which is acknowledged by the developer in the mission description as well-I recommend playing it through, though, since it’s very much story related, and heck, it’s the shortest of the four missions.  Why deprive yourself of the full story, right?  Folks out for mission rewards above all can skip it, though, without losing a whole lot.  Really, though, if one is only out for mission rewards, there are easier ways to do that than using the Foundry.

The plot manages to hold together pretty well, and inconsistencies that crop up turn out to actually have reasons behind them.  The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, though-while it resolves the plot of the arc, it’s obvious that it was intended to lead into another story arc.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the sole arc related to this story.  It’s a pity-it did a pretty good job on showcasing what the Foundry is capable of.  But having looked at the Foundry editor myself and fiddled with it once or twice, I can appreciate the time it takes to put something like this together-and this was done for four missions!  Much respect to Foundry authors-it’s why I always make sure to donate dilithium at the end in appreciation.

The only regret I have is that, due to availability recently, and to the time taken by a Foundry mission (plus the time to take notes so I can figure out what to write about coherently) which leads to fewer rewards gained, I haven’t gained a lot in the way of levels.  Only midway through the character teens right now, so it’s slow going.  When I can free up more time, I expect things to go smoother and faster.

W&M: The Chronicle of Selak Kayal

Toasting with a class doomed to die…

Personal Log, Stardate 96196.53.

Today is Graduation Day.  Today, I can look back on the previous four years and marvel at the direction of my life.

If things had gone a little differently, I would still be on Cardassia, likely working as a clerk for the Detapa Council.  Or perhaps I’d be on one of the agricultural colonies.  I would’ve been a disappointment, to my family and to myself, squandering my potential.  But when the United Federation of Planets reached out to worlds other than theirs and offered a chance to join their Starfleet, I took a chance.  I’d be an alien, among other aliens.  I knew that many still hold grudges for the actions of my people during the Dominion War, decades ago.  Despite this, I felt that I had a chance to do something meaningful with my life-as a scientist, and perhaps as a Cardassian.

It is foolish to think that I can be an example to the Federation of a Cardassian uninterested in control.  I just want to do the best I can; being a representative of a people is too much.  That is more pressure than any Cardassian-any individual-should have to shoulder.

But maybe I don’t have to.  Despite the reputation of my species, I’ve made friends as well as rivals.  I’ve earned the respect of my peers.  I’ve honed my mind with as much as I could learn from my teachers, from biology, geology, astrometrics, temporal theory, xenochemistry and more.  I may not be a leading expert in any of these fields, but I’ve learned a lot about many-hoping that this would allow me a better shot at an assignment on a science vessel.

I’ve heard rumors that I may get my wish.  I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m concerned that I might end up on the front lines of the Klingon War.  If that’s the case, I’ll go-I just think I’d be wasted there.  But I’m hoping for better.

From the banging on my door, it sounds like Flores is trying to get me to come out.  In a few hours, I’ll know where I’ll be assigned, and what my assignment will be.  I’d best go now.

Computer, end log.

Welcome to my next character chronicle.  (Hm, I should consider making an official category/tag called Character Chronicle….)

Since I had no real preference as to what game I wanted to mess around with again, I let Fate decide by rolling dice.  Star Trek Online became the winner on this one.  And of course, that set up everything that came after it-but I still had some room to do random determinations.

So, the next step was determining which faction to play.  I knew I was looking for one of the factions I hadn’t really done a chronicle with before, so that narrowed it down to Romulans or Starfleet (the current one, not the 23rd century one).  So flipping a coin got me in Starfleet’s shoes.  The next step was character species-and this one wasn’t one I’d be doing randomly.  Since the release of the “Victory is Life” expansion, players have been able to roll up Cardassian characters, with the caveat that they weren’t their own faction, but rather, available for either Starfleet or the Klingons.  I had planned to do the Cardassian experience next, particularly in light of the fact that I’d picked up their ships (but those are high-tier ships, so we’ll be flying strictly Starfleet issue for now).  So thus, Selak Kayal.  The random determination came into play again with the career he’d follow-which came up as Sciences.  I was pretty happy about that-I have mentioned in the past a predilection for playing Tactical captains, so I’m pleased to have another captain who isn’t in that mold.

With the decision to play a Starfleet character comes a difficulty.  See, while I haven’t done the Starfleet experience in one of these chronicles, I have done the 23rd century faction with it.  And the problem there is that…well…it means I’ve already done all the missions for Starfleet in the course of that chronicle, with the exception of the tutorial missions-which is covered in this post.  So what do I do to avoid repeating myself again?

The answer to that comes with what I’d planned on filling my KDF experience with:  the Foundry and queues.  Now, as readers may recall, I had a hard time leveling via just those to fill the time, so why would I think this would be any different?  The answer shouldn’t be surprising, and is saddening in many ways.

First command and already hitting the Borg. This is probably a bad career omen.

The simple truth is that there are a lot more Federation aligned characters being played than there are KDF characters.  I bet if I peeked at the Romulans closely, there would prove to be more Federation aligned Romulans than Klingon aligned ones.  Same with the new Jem’Hadar subfaction.  And of course, the TOS-era captains are Starfleeters with a different tutorial.  Everything in the game leans harder towards the Federation characters in missions designed for all factions; after all, most of them were designed for Starfleet first.  Even newer missions tend to assume that.  And it feeds on itself:  more content is designed with Starfleet in mind, thus more players gravitate toward Starfleet, which means more content is developed for Starfleet, from uniforms to ship selection to mission dialogue-which leads to people preferring Starfleet, which…and so on, and so on, and so on.

This also means that the bulk of the players inclined to develop Foundry missions are also Starfleet players first.  So there are a heap more missions available for Starfleet than for the Klingons.  I feel that this should give me a solid leveling experience-as long as the Foundry is up, that is.  The Foundry spends as much time down as it does up, it feels, thanks to content releases usually taking it down for a period of time.  Here’s to hoping things are good for a little while (the “Age of Discovery” shouldn’t be landing for at least another month or two, right?).

This also means that there are more people available to run the lower level queues.  But here’s the thing:  not everyone is an altoholic like me.  Which means a lot of people are usually running their high-level characters through high-level queues, which means that I may not be seeing a lot of activity in the lower queues.  That may not stop me from trying, though.

Despite everything I’ve just typed in, though, I think I may hold off on the Foundry experience until I get Selak to level 10 and into a non-starter ship.  I recently acquired the Oberth science ship, the only bottom-tier ship I hadn’t picked up over the years, so I can mess around with a ship type that I generally don’t fly often.  My plan is to stick with Sci-ships the whole way through, and I’ll likely use the T6 Intel-Sci Cardassian ship when the time comes.  But that’s looking far ahead.

Oh, and the “Ways and Means” chronicle name?  Well, I do want to explore a Cardassian outlook, and I was looking for a way to cleverly refer to the “True Way” faction of Cardassians.  Expect that to crop up in the log posts.  I’d hate to miss an opportunity to explore why this captain is different than all my other ones….

(Oh, and yes, I do know that the first pic above with the whole “doomed to die” thing doesn’t actually kill those bridge officers; but considering that I’m going to throw them all out the airlock and grab some blue quality boffs or better, depending on cost, off the exchange using my account bank for a change, they’re as good as dead.  I wanted to have a crew that was unique to the character from the very start.)

SS: End of an Era


“At the last, victory is mine.  Vaylin is dead.  Vakorion is dead.  And now, I rule the Eternal Empire.

Yet, I cannot help but feel a stirring of pity for Vaylin.  My time on Nathema gave me insight on how Vaylin came to be so twisted.  Would I have held up against years of experimentation by Jarak?  Now, there’s someone I didn’t mind seeing die.  I’ve seen Inquisitors torment victims far beyond what I would consider rational, but when I think about what he did to Vaylin…well, it’s probably for the best that I didn’t have the opportunity.

Valkorion, however, acted exactly as I expected he would.  My only regret was that I had underestimated his full strength.  But in the end, his own arrogance was his downfall-virtually his entire family came to contribute to his downfall.  Just like that, my war is over.

And I have won the throne.  I am now Empress.

Not an ‘Eternal’ Empress.  I don’t have that level of conceit.  But Zakuul is mine now, and the Eternal Fleet is mine.  The Gravestone is mine-although Koth still debates me on that score.  Arcann, the former Emperor, has pledged his allegiance, as has Senya; I believe the two will make excellent commanders for the Knights going forward.

Now, I have a place where I can stand as I prepare to change the galaxy.  The Republic is in shambles, and the Sith Empire is reeling from the Fleet’s attack.  My Empire is stronger than both combined, and this puts me in a position where I can change the destiny of both.  This is the moment my life has been leading to-from my days as a slave to my ascension to the Eternal Throne.

I am ready.  With my allies at my side, I will bring about a new age.  And so I close the book on this story, realizing that the next one awaits.

May the Force ever serve you.”

-from Sorshan’s Story

And done!

With the completion of the last episode of the Knights of the Eternal Throne story in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I also complete Sorshan’s Story-and also complete the journey of the two characters I’d created for the Light vs Dark event a couple years ago.  It took me a while to get here-mostly because of the other characters I had to get through the KotET storyline-but I’ve finally gotten it wrapped up.  Like Anthrandos before her, she’ll be sitting on the big chair and ending there.  I did do one little bit of extra work:  getting Andronikos and Ashara back in the fold via the Alerts.  But beyond that, I feel I’ve gone as far as I need to with this character.

Players who have gone through the post KotET content, of course, know that Sorshan’s grand plan is doomed to failure.  But hey, let’s have the relatively happy ending here.  Speaking of which, I took her only second Dark Side choice:  to rule the Eternal Empire instead of doing the whole “I’m no Empress” thing.  I always felt that her story arc was to try to change things by being the woman in charge, and dammit, if that’s a Dark Side choice, then she’ll do it!  (And given all the Light Side choices she’s made in her career, it took exactly the two companion missions to erase the Dark Side points entirely.)

I expect I’ll do another full chronicle soon, but I’ll need to decide what game to mess with.  As I tend to fiddle with this one, Champions Online, and Star Trek Online, I’ve got no shortage of options.  I’ve got some vague ideas for all three games, so odds are that I’ll pick one out of a hat and let Fate decide.  It helps, of course, that there’s not much in the way of new content that I’ll do in any of the three (having completed the “Victory is Life” stuff in STO, and CO being CO, and SWTOR focusing in the PvP arena for now).  In the meantime, the next post or two might contain new entries to the Cast List; it’s been a while since I’ve put up entries for other characters.

SS: Halfway from Iokath


“The discovery of Iokath and the conflict with ARIES has at least resolved our issue with SCORPIO and its betrayal.  I suppose, in the end, I could empathize with its desire to grow into something more than a slave.  It is the story of my own life.  Now, I can reflect on recent events.

The summit with Empress Acina of the Sith Empire proved fruitful.  My return to Dromund Kaas was tinged with regret.  I had been made a part of the Dark Council, after all, and I believed that there was a chance that I could sit upon the Empire’s throne one day.  That goal is gone now-and events push me to a greater one.  I searched within myself for any signs of resentment towards Acina, and found nothing.  I am at peace with where I am now.

Is this how the Jedi feel all the time?

A greater regret is the loss of Iokath.  The radiation makes it impossible to explore it-and its store of advanced weapons-for the foreseeable future.  I need a counter for the Eternal Fleet beyond just the Gravestone.  They can be many places at once!  The Gravestone can only be in one-and it remains vulnerable, as Vaylin’s gambit showed.  I must accept the truth:  I will have no other assistance against Vaylin.

Senya remains comatose.  I’m still wondering why I let her live.  I’m still wondering why I let Arcann live.  Perhaps because I can use them against Vaylin?  But can I?  Will they?  Should I even locate Arcann again, who is to say that he will be willing to attack his sister?  More, who is to say that he won’t attempt to reclaim the Eternal Throne?  Is it because I can’t believe the only way forward is a path filled with corpses?  A trail of blood that follows me wherever I go?  No.  The Sith Code does not speak of slaughter.  It doesn’t speak of mercy, either, but since being merciless has proven to serve the Sith Empire poorly, what is the harm in trying another way?  I’ve been betrayed before, but I’ve also been surprised.

Valkorion continues to haunt me.  I’ve tried to find a way to bind him to my will, as I did with the ghosts of Sith past against Thanaton, but I’ve failed.  He is…too strong.  Or I am too weak.  I cannot control him, so he continues to be a problem.  He clearly wants me on the throne, but I would be naive to think that is the end of his ambitions.  The Sith ghosts tried to make me dance on their strings before I remade myself, body and mind.  Valkorion is worse than all of them-can I expect any less from him?  No.

I am Sith.  And despite his babble about the Force being “more than Dark or Light”, so is Valkorion.  And that means I live only until he gets what he wants from me-and then he will turn on me.

Unless I turn on him first.”

-from Sorshan’s Story

I’m at the halfway point of the “Knights of the Eternal Throne” story in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Sorshan’s advancing nicely.

It took me quite a bit of effort to get used to using her abilities again.  It’s been long enough that I’ve lost any muscle memory as to which of her abilities work together.  I tend to be fairly consistent with how I set up my action bars in a general way, but that only gets you so far.  On the other hand, I haven’t been killed off at any point, so I must be adapting pretty quickly.  Or maybe it’s because I try to be smart with giving companion gifts so that they can bail me out of bad situations.  (It could well be both!)

There really isn’t much to add as I go along here.  I’ve commented on this story before, and the stuff I’ve said in the past probably still applies.  I do admit to being a little disappointed with the interactions between Acina and Sorshan; we’ve got a pair of very ambitious ladies here, both of whom have managed to rise beyond their status as Sith to become effective rulers.  Plus, I like that Acina’s not insane, like so many other Sith.  She’s more moderate than Darth Marr was; but she’s not exactly a nice lady either (poor Lorman.  “That’s MINISTER Lorman!  MINISTER!!“).  Of course, she is still Sith, which gets demonstrated amply in the post-KOTET story, but that’s beyond the scope of this particular story.

Still doing the Light Side as primary choices.  Let Senya live and blow it with Arcann, didn’t kill Lorman, and didn’t kill off Suresh.  Sorshan’s still trying to make her choices with careful thought instead of instinct.  (I did take Sorshan’s first Dark Side choice here, though.  There was no way I wasn’t going to try to break Suresh’s jaw for that stunt on Odessen….  Let her live, though.)

Only a few more episodes to go, and then it’ll be time to figure out what’s next on my MMO agenda!  We’ll be all clear for a new chronicle, and the only question is where I’ll spend it.  Decisions, decisions!

SS: Back Again, Back Again….

“This war has dragged on for longer than I care to imagine.  Arcann has been dethroned, but his insane sister has stepped into his place, with the treacherous SCORPIO by her side.

Better by far if Arcann still controlled the Eternal Empire.  Damn Senya for failing to deal with her daughter on Arcann’s flagship!  And damn SCORPIO for her games!

For this, I abandoned the Sith Empire for this rag-tag Alliance?  The anger fills me, sustains me.  It doesn’t last-and perhaps that is why I have been unable to make much headway against Vaylin.  I’ve spent so much time mixing the Light with the Dark that I cannot be purely either anymore.  Damn Marr and Shan, too.  And damn Valkorion for freezing me in the first place.

And if I take it far enough, I should damn Zash and Harkun for bringing me into the Sith in the first place.  Enough.  I need to examine the situation beyond my own personal issues.

The Empire has fallen silent; I don’t know what is going on with the Sith, although Theron assures me that Acina is still in control.  The Republic…watches.  And since they do nothing, I gain more Jedi to my cause.  Jedi!  It’s unbelievable to me.  Master Ranos was only the latest to join the Alliance, and I have spent much time talking with her; she’s an acknowledged maverick among the Jedi, but that means she and I have been able to do something that no Jedi and Sith Masters have been able to do for as long as I can remember:  speak without resorting to insults or violence.

There may be something to the Jedi beyond what I have seen in the past.  Can Sith and Jedi leave each other in peace?  I’m forced to admit that the answer is still no.  We two are hardly average representatives of our orders.  And how many Sith would be willing to use calm and serenity to touch the Force?  How many Jedi would let their passions be their guide to the Force?

Not many.

In between such moments, the war continues.  Reports are coming in from Voss that a scouting force from Zakuul has been sighted.  I dispatched Theron to investigate, and I fear that we will need to mobilize our own forces to defend Voss.  We cannot afford to let the Voss be used by Zakuul.  Their mystics can swing the war against us, if Vaylin gets her hands on them.

…Why now?  Voss has been vulnerable since the very first days of the Eternal Empire’s thrust into this part of the galaxy.  Why go after Voss now?”

-from Sorshan’s Story

It’s the pregame show for Sorshan’s Story in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’m getting ready to plunge right in with Sorshan, but there were a couple other details to take care of first.

The most significant details were making sure that I had gotten all of the available Sith Inquisitor companions still outstanding and available pre-Knights of the Eternal Throne, plus the other companions I’d effectively “earned” through subscription loyalty rewards and such, including Master Ranos, who I decided to incorporate into the little fiction above.  It had occurred to me that Ranos was literally the first Jedi Knight (outside of Master Satele Shan) who didn’t try to kill Sorshan on sight, and the only one who could be used as a companion-at least, in non-story related content.  I mean, sure, there was Ashara, but Ashara was hardly a Knight, much less a Master.  Andronikos, of course, has to wait until the end of the storyline, and I’ll probably do that as a wrap-up for Sorshan’s Story.  Naturally, the last thing I did in the leadup was to do the HK chapter and get yet another companion.  I wrapped that set by also making sure to pick up Shae Vizla, since I hadn’t gotten around to adding her to the roster.

So now, I’m on the cusp of closing out Sorshan’s Story, and the plan is to continue her generally Light Side choices, although I do have a Dark Side choice planned.  Let’s see how far we get before I get sidetracked by something else!

ToT: Swarms and the Future

Despite appearances, this is not a racing lane…

Computer:  Open Ship Log.  Date: Stardate 96125.6

The aftermath of the war against the Hur’q has removed the threat against the Founders.  But the numbers of Hur’q make the Bashir Solution impractical in many situations, particularly when the Hur’q are already in the process of decimating a Dominion world.  I have been tasked with rooting out the infestations and assisting with evacuations if necessary.

My performance in this crisis has been noted by the Founders.  This, in turn, has made me more…visible, perhaps, to the Vorta-and to other Jem’Hadar.  As such, the Indomitable will likely be called to extended service and to take command of the situation.  This will not always be so.  Others of the Vanguard have served as well, and are my equals in authority.  We remain subject to the command of the Vorta under most circumstances, except where it conflicts with the safety of the Dominion or the will of the Founders.  It is good to have this structure in place.  It is not good to question things frequently.  Things will not be as they were, but returning to some structure allows the Jem’Hadar time to adapt to a future without the White.

We are approaching a world under siege by a swarm.  I should go.

End log.

It’s wrap-up time for Jalot’iklar’s chronicle in Star Trek Online, as I take a brief look at the queue designed for the Victory is Life expansion, “Swarm”.  It’s not exactly rocket science-few of the queues are-so there isn’t going to be a lot to go over.  Then I’ll kick around a couple of possibilities as to what I’m considering next for STO.

Unlike the battlezone queues in the Gamma Quadrant, the Swarm is a stand-alone queue that can be joined anywhere you’re located in the game.  Finishing it doesn’t give you any progress toward winning a battlezone-it’s basically just another source of marks for your Gamma reputation.  (Or fleet marks, which are helpful for people working on holdings.)  I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure why they left this as a separate queue.  If the battlezone had been a traditional zone like the Undine or Badlands zones, it’d be one thing.  But since the Gamma battlezone is pretty much all queues (albeit location-based), I’m not sure why they decided that the Swarm should stand alone.  Maybe coordinating locations for four queues was more complicated than three?  Couldn’t say.  I have a feeling, though, that because of this, “Swarm” is going to fade in popularity quickly.

Does it deserve to fade away like that?  Let’s take a look at how it works

…it’s an evacuation route. Unfortunately, it’s also a target.

“Swarm” is composed of three phases.  In the first phase, you need to engage Hur’q forces while attempting to repair a number of Dominion ships.  Every little bit of help is good here.  Needless to say, if you’re under fire at the time, you won’t be able to do the repairs.  There’s a timer rolling too, so you only have a limited time before the next phase begins.  When the phase ends, you can get a mission report on the progress you’ve made as far as gaining marks.  The next phase is to reactivate the planetary defenses-mostly this involves interacting with satellites, which in turn can allow you to launch tractor mines-very handy when you consider the speed and maneuverability of the swarmers.  Again, there’s a timer, and a progress report when all is complete.

The final phase is the evacuation.  There are three lanes of evacutation, and you need to assist ships in getting out alive.  This is pretty similar to another queue that’s been around in the past-one of the Undine ones, I think; I’ve done so many queues over the years that I’ve lost track of what does what-and you can still activate those tractor mine defenses to assist.  The more ships that make the journey from one end of a lane to the other, the more marks you get when the phase is complete.  At some point, a Hur’q dreadnought will show up, but blowing it up is optional-I’m not entirely sure how much of a bonus it gives you, if any.

As far as queues go, this one’s pretty straightforward.  No exotic rules, nothing incredibly insane.  Just a nice, simple, “get them before they get us” sort of deal.  Uncomplicated ain’t bad.

With this, I think it’s reasonably safe to say that the story of the expansion “Victory is Life” has reached its conclusion.  Which sure happened awfully fast, really.  I started up this chronicle on June 5th, and here we are in July wrapping things up.  It’s tough to say if there was more or less story here than there was with the previous expansion “Agents of Yesterday”.  (There is no comparison, however, to “Legacy of Romulus”, which beats almost all of them senseless, or “Delta Rising”, which-while reviled for certain mechanics-sure had a lot to do right out the gate.)  Maybe there’s more coming down the pipeline than what appears, but the recently released “Home” episode sure felt like it put a capper on the expansion’s story-not to mention the whole Tzenkethi thing that had been going on since the tail end of the previous expansion.

Not that I object to moving forward to something new, but man, it’s hard to call this an expansion in the traditional sense.  I liked the story, and I’ve always been fond of DS9, so I was predisposed kindly towards anything from that period (and hey, what about the whole thing with Sisko and the Orb of Peace?  There’s a loose end waiting to happen…).  I may be looking at things unfairly; AoY, after all, had no battlezones introduced, nothing really new as far as species go; it had a number of “tutorial missions” until it caught up to the current timeline, and then a few other missions available for everyone to wrap up the Temporal Cold War storyline.  ViL, on the other hand, has a new subfaction, a level cap increase, a new star system map with battlezone included, and a handful of missions.  One could make a case that an equivalent amount of work went into these expansions-it’s just a question, then, of what a player might enjoy out of the game.

Anyway, it’s time to move on.  I’ve got two other factions to play with in consideration of a new chronicle.  I haven’t done a standard Starfleet captain for one of these dives, but I’m finding that I think I want to delve harder into the Romulans-and for a change, align one with the Klingons, since I have so many Fed-related characters.  Of course, that runs me into similar problems that I ran into with running my previous Klingon character’s chronicle, but there’s enough Romulan-centric content that I think I can pull this off.  In the meantime, my attention is going to move over to another game that I’ve neglected for far too long recently, to close out another chronicle that’s been patiently waiting for me to finish.

ToT: Where’s a Can of Raid When You Need One?

Being shot at sucks. Being shot at by unending swarms sucks worse. Where’s my insect repellent?

Log copied from First Jalot’iklar’s ship log (encrypted and sent to “F.D.”):

The conflict is over.  And I am…confused.

The victory was not without sacrifice.  I want to believe that if the choice had been mine, I would have done the same thing.  But I am of the Vanguard.  I have been designed to think and to question.  I do not know what I would have done.

I can only reap the benefits.  I-and my crew-have been freed from the White.  Such a simple thing.  Such a profound thing.  If the Founders truly intend this for all Jem’Hadar…what will happen?  What will happen with those who are not of the Vanguard?  You can free us from a physical dependency, but can you free us from a mental one?  I am adapting well, but I was designed to think and to question.  The older Jem’Hadar have not.

Perhaps it will not matter.  Few Jem’Hadar reach an age that other species would consider old.  And even though the Hur’q threat is over, there are still many dangers that may see a weakened Dominion as a vulnerable Dominion.

That must not happen.  We forge new alliances, alliances unthinkable mere decades ago.  We do this so that the Dominion will survive.  The Jem’Hadar will serve the Dominion, unto death.

That is the order of things.

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir, at this point, I think we can safely remove the Dominion as a threat to the Federation…for now.

The Founders still have no love for any of us in the Alpha Quadrant, but even they recognize the damage the Dominion has taken, from within and without.  First Jalot’iklar isn’t wrong in believing that great changes are coming.  But I do have one concern.

The alliance forged here now encompasses nearly every great power in the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma quadrants, and even some within the Delta Quadrant as well.  We have a hard enough time keeping things together in the Federation, and while I’m sure that the President is hoping that we can form a greater Federation with all these governments, I believe that with so many disparate personalities and agendas, this alliance is reaching its apex.  From here, I believe the alliance will soon shatter-possibly within two years, no more.

When that happens-not if-the Section needs to be ready.  We must take advantage of the access granted by the alliance now, so when we need to act, we can end the danger before it begins.  To that end, I recommend I continue my assignment aboard the Indomitable.

As the Jem’Hadar say, Victory is Life.

Two out.

And just like that, the Victory is Life storyline is over.  Honestly, I figured this would go on a bit longer, maybe at least until Christmas.  But Star Trek Online’s newest episode, “Home”, has brought a conclusion to this story-and with its end, it leaves one wondering what comes next.  Of course, I had that sort of feeling with the end of the Iconian War arc, too, so I’m not too concerned as to what is next with STO’s story.  There’s a lot of Trek available to mine, and that’s not including anything new that comes to mind.  But that’s for the future.

For now, let’s throw up some thoughts as to the mission, conveniently put after the break below.  Spoilers lurk!

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ToT: The War for the Gamma Quadrant

I sure wish I could get a decent shot of the starbases that need protecting, but I can’t find a way to get rid of the “alpha/beta/gamma” symbols floating over them….

Transcript delivered to Starfleet Intelligence of a ship-to-ship transmission to a Dominion fleet:

Attention.  I am First Jalot’iklar, of the Indomitable.  I am of the Vanguard.  Verification of my authority accompanies this message.

The Hur’q are attacking Dominion space in force.  We cannot be everywhere-so we must choose the moments in which we may strike.  With the guidance of the Vorta, Loriss, I have identified three sectors of space where we may strike with effect.  In doing so, we may yet turn the tide of the conflict.

Many of us will die.

But that does not matter.  As of this moment, we are all dead.

Now, we shall go into battle to reclaim our lives.  This we do gladly, for we are Jem’Hadar.  Remember:  Victory is life!

All battlegroups, warp to the locations designated in your individual transmissions.  We fight for the Founders!  We fight for the Dominion!  Leave no Hur’q vessel intact!


End Transcript

With the main story arc complete in Star Trek Online’s “Victory is Life” expansion (well, as complete as it’s getting at this time-oh, the danger of cliffhangers!), it’s time to look at a couple other aspects of the game that were updated with the expansion.  The biggest of note is the creation of a new area of sector space, the Gamma Quadrant.  There’s potential for adventure all over here (I haven’t checked to see if all the worlds have been set up with Foundry hooks yet-it’d be a shame to leave all that space unexplored, right?).  While the episodes have taken us to various locations in the quadrant, the biggest impact belongs to a unique difference:  the entire quadrant is considered a battlezone.

Well, that’s what the advertising would have you believe.  The truth is a little more complicated.  It’s not like the battlezones that have been previously released such as the Undine, Voth, or Badlands battlezones.  After all, it’s sector space.  It’s a little difficult to have people shooting at you in that situation.  (Although once upon a time, Deep Space Encounters could chase you and bring you into their instance to fight.  I kinda miss those days, although I understand why they aren’t a thing anymore.)  So how does it work?

Well, as I probably should have expected, it involves queues.  But they aren’t your standard queues.  There are three sections of the quadrant that have a different queue associated with them.  You travel with your ship to those regions, and you get an option on your screen to join the battlezone fight.  Each time you complete a battle, a meter advances for that section, until it reaches 100 percent (at which point it’s no longer available for this round).  Once all three reach 100 percent, there’s a final strike you can go to as a timer begins-not to dissimilar to the big finales for the other battlezones.  Once the timer runs out, there’s a short breather before it all begins again.

Tier rewards are dealt with in a very different way than the other zones.  Since these are done by queue actions, the devs have decided to assign tiers by repetition.  The more missions you complete, the more rewards you get.  You can repeat the final battle too, for higher tier rewards on that one.  As usual, they involve marks, dilithium, and possibly special items used for reputation equipment projects.

One concern that’s worth looking at here is that since these are queues, it’s likely and almost inevitable that they’ll be abandoned at some point.  The other battlezones can be fought solo-not easily, but they can be done.  You might never get to their 100% completion, but you at least would keep getting rewards for doing stuff there.  But queues usually hold off on letting people in until they’ve got a minimum number of players in there-usually five.  So I can foresee that if you don’t get everything you want out of this quickly, you’re going to be very, very sorry you waited.  That said, if these queues are the only way to get the marks for the Gamma Reputation (and history shows they probably won’t be-events still happen that allow rewards of any type of marks), it might keep them alive for longer than the usual ones.  I’m not betting on that, though.  It’s possible the rewards are so awesome that people will always keep running them, like some of the Borg queues-but I’m not betting on that either.  I’ll leave gear analysis up to people who are better suited to that sort of thing.

So that’s the overview.  Let’s look at the individual activities now.

Some people build ships. Hur’q let them hatch.

There are, as mentioned, three conflicts going on at once.  They don’t have to be done in any order, and often it’s best to just hit the ones closest to you until it’s clear, and then move on.  That said, if you hate one of these, you can certainly save it for last, in the hopes that other players will have finished that up for you.  Odds are, though, you’ll sooner or later do each of these.

“Sinister Gathering” is a straightforward mission:  you need to explode the flagship under construction in this asteroid field.  However, to do so, you need to collect asteroid chunks to replicate special torpedoes to actually damage it.  So there’s a number of asteroids floating around with “shoot me” signs all over, which you can utilize to make up to three torpedoes.  Then you close in on the cocooned flagship and take shots at it.  Naturally, it’s hardly undefended:  expect Hur’q forces to be taking potshots at you the entire time.  This is a relatively painless queue, and if you get a team that has read the briefing and follows its instructions, it isn’t a horribly difficult one to complete.

The same can’t be said for “Break the Circle”.  In this one, you are tasked to destroy a Hur’q dreadnought.  The challenge:  in order to get at it, you have to clear away the “Hur’q Swarms” circling it.  Now, given that you can tab-select targets, this wouldn’t seem to be a big deal.  Line of sight has rarely been an issue before when it comes to ships blocking it.  But, apparently, the swarms are special.  Adding insult to injury, there are actually two types of swarm here.  Hur’q Swarms, and the Chidyat Swarmers that are the smaller Hur’q ships you usually fight.  This similarity of names means people can get confused as to what targets need to be blown up.  And naturally, getting info as to when you can open fire on the dreadnought is a bit dicey.  I never saw an alert indicating it was vulnerable-only when it stopped being vulnerable.  It could’ve been missed in the excitement, of course.  Despite confusing names, it still isn’t a horrible mission to do.

Which brings us to “Planetary Assault”, which is the longest of the bunch-mainly because it’s a timed mission.  You have to protect three starbases from destruction, until the attack ends.  Since it’s a timed mission, that means you can’t make it end any faster-it’s going to just keep going until the clock runs out, and you’ve either kept the starbases intact (or mostly…or with a couple blown up) or they’re all gone.  I’ve not seen that latter situation yet, and I wonder if it would go faster if you just let the starbases all die.  (Probably not-the starbases don’t actually blow up.  That indicates that it just keeps going and going.  Kind of like what happens with Vauthil Station in that queue that shows up in the Mirror Invasion.)  I’ve a feeling that of the three battlezone queues, this one is the one that usually ends up done last.

After the three are all gone, there is a “Final Assault”, as the Hur’q make a thrust towards the Founder homeworld.  (I’m sure your captain had nothing to do with that.  What a mystery this is.  You did play that last episode in the arc, right?)  The mission incorporates the tactics of “Break the Circle” and “Sinister Gathering”:  you need to get the torpedoes crafted up to blow up the enemy flagship, and in order to get a clear shot, you need to clear out those swarms.

The battlezone isn’t badly done, and it manages to replicate the mechanics of previous battlezones even if they removed the travel component (mostly).  As I mention above, I’m not sure how things will shake out in popularity as time goes on, but for now, it’s still a fairly well-traveled and active battlezone-and you don’t even have to worry about being shot at simply traveling through.

Next time:  I was going to cover the last stand-alone queue from the expansion, but word’s come out that the next episode of the Hur’q arc is going to be released this week.  So expect another episode review next time.

ToT: What You Are In The Dark

The beginning of a Star Trek horror movie

Message sent to “F.D.” from Commander Two of Five in the clear:

Sir, we need the fleet.  Now.  It’s gone out of control.

We could be looking at the end of the Dominion.

Message ends.

It hits the fan in the final episode (for now) in the Star Trek Online expansion, “Victory is Life”.  “Tenebris Torquent” brings us a dark twist in the ongoing drama of the Hur’q and the Dominion, and would feel right at home as a slasher movie.  At least nobody says “let’s split up”.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this is hardly the end of the Hur’q and Dominion storylines, and the mission itself is blatantly slapping up the “To Be Continued” at the back end.  There is a lot of loose ends without the cliffhanger (which is something that the DS9 television series had no problems dishing out, the biggest arguably being “Call to Arms” which left DS9 in the hands of the Dominion).

This is not, however, the end of the line as far as Jalot’iklar’s chronicle goes.  Along with the episodes, the expansion also included a battlezone-the entirety of the Gamma Quadrant-and I think a queue as well.  So there’s at least one, maybe two more posts for this character in the near future.  I will also return to him as we continue with future episodes that are Dominion related, just as I dusted off Rick Masters for time travel shenanigans.  I don’t know how many more episodes are planned for this storyline, but this character is in for the duration.  After the battlezone/queue posts, we’ll see what happens next.

In the meantime, spoilers are ahead after the break.

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