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.


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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ToT: And Now For Something Completely Different

A good heist always begins with a good plan. Of course, these are Ferengi we’re talking about.

Report from Commander Two of Five to “F.D.”:

Sir, I regret to inform you that I can find no information on what First Jalot’iklar has been up to for the last week.

I thought that my cover had been discovered when I was told in no uncertain terms to disembark from the Indomitable.  At the time, I was simply grateful that I wasn’t being summarily executed.  It wasn’t until they left Deep Space Nine that I began to question the real reason I was asked to step aside.  Upon their return, I was re-invited aboard the ship, but nobody will say what had happened-you know how disciplined the Jem’Hadar are.

What I do know:  the ship had been in combat.  The damage on the ship seemed almost familiar-not polaron damage, like I might have expected if a Dominion Civil War had broken out.  Nothing like the damage inflicted by Hur’q weapons.  I do not want to speculate on the source of the damage, because if my speculation were true, the Dominion may have stirred up the one possible danger that exceeds even the Hur’q in magnitude.

There are also other rumors I’ve heard aboard Deep Space Nine while awaiting reassignment-which I realize is no longer necessary.  I hesitate to mention this, because it sounds unbelievable, but rumor has it that a number of Ferengi were spotted boarding Indomitable.  That sounds insane-why would a Jem’Hadar allow any Ferengi aboard?  Even more insane, why would a Ferengi even try to board?  I realize there is only one answer to the latter question:  profit.  But why would Jalot’iklar cooperate?

I am in no position to question him; he’s a captain in the good graces of Ambassador Odo, and I have no authority to compel answers.  It may be best to ignore this for now-if the worst possibility happens, there’s nothing we can do to prepare, and if nothing comes of it, it does not matter.

Agent Two, out.

The Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a running thing in the last few years of its run.  Given how much of it tended towards the “Federation is having its hind end beaten like a drum” happened, things could get pretty grim looking.  But every once in a while, we got breather episodes.  The kind that were less serious, or less war focused, just to give the viewer a break.  Some fans hated them, some fans liked them.  And several of these breathers involved the resident Ferengi, Quark, or his family-or, in a couple of cases, even more members of his species.

This is the case with the Star Trek Online episode “Quark’s Lucky Seven”.  And not to put to fine a point on it, your player captain is not the main character here.  Oh, the captain will play a role, sure, but the stars of this episode are the Ferengi-and their goal is a heist like few others.  And the subject of the heist…well, let’s leave that for spoilers below, right? Continue reading

ToT: Where Loose Ends Get Tied Up (Somewhat)

It’s never good when you find this many stasis tubes. What do you think the odds are that they’re all about to open, based on past experiences?

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

The more we follow Ambassador Odo, the more questions I have.  The Founders continue to clash against each other, here as elsewhere.  The Ambassador has commanded that I watch, learn, and exceed my fellow Jem’Hadar.  So it is with those eyes that I see something between these two gods.  They have a history that goes beyond my mere handful of years.  This colors their interactions.  I do not fully understand the nature of this history, only that it is there.

Ambassador Odo is determined to see what lies ahead.  He is determined to learn what is being kept from him.  His fellow gods are keeping something from him.  I do not know if it is right that I continue to assist him, but as he is still a god, I will follow to the best of my ability.  He is a Founder.  I am Jem’Hadar.  This is the order of things.

The order of things.  I cling to this as my lifeline.  Ambassador Odo is trying to change the order of things-he is disrupting it.  But as long as there is still a Dominion, I will obey.  That is the only way I shall see myself and my crew through this.  I will obey the gods, as my crew obeys me.  I am certain that whatever the Ambassador learns, it will be something he is meant to learn.

How else could it be for the gods?

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir.  You really need to read the report attached to this message.  This could further antagonize the Klingons, and they’re already doing their best to stay out of this whole mess.  Recommend that we suppress this information before it gets too far.

I’m not sure how much longer I can continue sending these reports.  The Jem’Hadar aren’t stupid-and Jalot’iklar is even less so.  If I’m discovered, I doubt there will be much mercy-I understand that the Dominion has not forgotten the Section’s role in the Dominion War.

Agent Two, out.

Let’s talk about “Doomed to Repeat”, a little history lesson in Star Trek Online.  This episode manages to not only move along the Hur’q storyline, but also draws the player captains deeper into the mystery of “what the hell is going on with the Dominion?”, not to mention give some significant insights on the nature of the Hur’q-and at the same time, brings it back to one of the longest-standing mysteries in STO, up to now!

With a buildup like that, you know I’m going to have the spoiler section below armed and ready!  First, however, an non-spoilery comment.  I’ve noticed an awful lot of late that bridge officers seem to have trouble following the player captain, and it goes beyond just pathing.  The whole point of being able to set waypoints is so that you can direct where individual officers go, but it seems more and more, you can’t even do that to get officers to go into an area.  This leaves the player captains exposed by themselves in places that are really NOT meant to be dealt with by themselves.  It’s enough to make you want to execute the officers for cowardice in the face of the enemy.  I don’t know if it’s something to do with the maps, or something to do with the officer AI, but something needs to be done to FIX THIS.  It’s intolerable to have episodes that are balanced against you and an away team that wind up being against you and no support.

Okay, rant over.  Without further ado….

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ToT: Search for Answers

What’s Jem’Hadar for “WTF!?”

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

I am troubled by what we found on Karemma.  Worse, I am bothered by what it implies.

It was a routine mission at the Dosi system that began these events, but it led to….

I cannot say it.  I can barely think it.  We have been betrayed…but I cannot decide who the betrayer is.  The gods are in conflict.  But the gods cannot be wrong.  So how can there even be conflict?  Dukan’Rex is of the belief that we must begin to question everything.  Has he gone mad?  Or is he seeing more clearly than I can?

I do not know.  All I do know is that the Dominion remains in danger.  The Hur’q remain a danger, no matter the conflicts between gods.  My duty remains the same.  Serve the Founders.  Serve the Dominion.  If I remain true to my duty, that should be enough.

It must be enough.

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir.  Given what we now know, I feel that we must treat the Dominion as hostile.  The Vanguard Jem’Hadar may prove to be a useful wedge, however, and I urge that you allow me to remain at my post.  I feel that it is in our best interests to avoid open conflict until Starfleet Command is notified of the situation-particularly since I believe that Command has yet to be apprised of the truth of the situation.  It is important that we remain vigilant and look for openings that may be exploited.

As always, if you believe I should pull out, I am ready to do so at any time.  If you believe I should take action, I am likewise prepared.  I will continue observing, and will await further orders.

Agent Two, out.

Response to Commander Two of Five from “F.D.”:

Your orders are unchanged.  Continue your observations.

Well, take what you know about the story in the “Victory is Life” expansion for Star Trek Online, and prepare for a story of betrayals.  “The Search” is an interestingly titled episode, because it shares the same name as an original Deep Space Nine episode.  That episode, amusingly, also covered a journey into Dominion territory, and included a surprise from the Founders (in that case, who they really were).  Perhaps you can draw some conclusions on that.

This episode could almost be an episode of DS9 by itself, given the number of show alumni with significant speaking roles here.  By my count, we have no less than five characters from the show with face time in this episode (and speaking parts, to be more specific).  Your character is almost an afterthought, which bothers me a little.  One of the big dangers of including so many characters from the previous shows is that they can take away the spotlight from where it should be-on the player character.  This isn’t to say that the NPCs have to be incompetent and all, but one would like it if the player captains had a bit more of a role than saying “agreed” so often.

Let’s get into the spoilery nuts and bolts after the image.

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ToT: Prison Break

Warm welcomes.

Report from Commander Two of Five to “F.D.”:

Sir:  as hoped, I have successfully been embedded on the vessel “Indomitable”, commanded by First Jalot’iklar.  In the short time I have been observing, I have become increasingly alarmed.

The Jem’Hadar have been an unknown quantity for over thirty years, having had little to no contact with them outside of the incident at Deep Space Nine in 2409.  [I will note that even then, the Federation’s primary interactions were with temporally displaced Jem’Hadar.]  Accordingly, our information on the Jem’Hadar is based upon observations taken during the Dominion War.  In that time, our intelligence reported that the Jem’Hadar were rigidly disciplined soldiers, physically formidable, but vulnerable to the fact that their life experiences were limited and thus, unable to match the creativity and knowledge of Alliance captains.

If there are many of the breed of Jem’Hadar that Jalot’iklar represents, we will need to revise our intelligence.  He and other “Vanguard Jem’Hadar” are proving far more mentally agile than their predecessors.  He has demonstrated something short of empathy, but something that approaches it.  While I had not beamed down to the prison moon in the Olt system, I was involved in the battle over the moon against the Hur’q that followed.  Kai Kira was good enough to meet with me afterward to inform me of Jalot’iklar’s actions, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the prisoners on the moon was impressive.  It could be rationalized as his willingness to serve Ambassador Odo-I understand that he gave the First explicit instructions to make sure no harm came to the Kai.  But I am coming to believe that this is not unusual behavior from the First.

Sir, if this is typical, then we may be looking at what humans would call “a new ballgame”.  The Section needs to put more assets into examining the situation; if the Dominion comes out of this situation intact, and if they start looking to expand once more, a new Dominion War could go as easily as badly as the first.

Agent Two, out.

Time for my thoughts on the Star Trek Online episode “Armistice”!  This mission hails back to the very first season of Deep Space Nine, where the crew had to abandon Kai Opaka, the Bajoran spiritual leader, on a prison moon where the prisoners could never die-at the cost of never being able to leave the planet.  Doctor Julian Bashir and Kai Kira are on a merc mission to deliver a cure developed by the Dominion to grant the inhabitants freedom.  This isn’t necessarily because of mercy-it’s because the Hur’q are rampaging through the quadrant, and they’d be sitting ducks.  The good news is that the satellites around the moon are still tough customers to get past-they don’t like visitors.  The bad news is that no security system is perfect….

Before I go into the spoilery section of this post, let’s make a couple of non-spoilery notations.

First:  the DS9 lighting issue.  I had gotten suspicious about things during the previous mission, when I noted that faces of characters at the conference table were really low-res, not really rendering properly.  So I took a look at my graphics settings, to discover that somehow, they’d all gotten reset to minimum settings!  Look Cryptic, I know I don’t have the best computer in the world, but when I have the graphics set a certain way, I expect them to STAY that certain way, not have them reset by one of your patches.  Once I managed to fiddle with the settings to get them more-or-less back to where I wanted them to be, I was able to see the light-so to speak-on DS9, so I’m not stumbling around in the dark anymore.

Second:  I’ll get more into it in a later post, but the entirety of the Gamma Quadrant is effectively a battlezone, but it’s obviously very different than the standard ones we’ve dealt with, since it’s also sector space.  That’s not the point of this remark, though.  The point is the use of the Mission Tracker.  The battlezone info that tells what percent of each section is complete obscures roughly half of the tracker.  And it’s an actual part of the tracker not a new window-so you can’t move it elsewhere.  You can, however, resize it, which is what I did so I could actually see my ACTUAL mission objectives.  Do yourself a favor:  edit your HUD so that the mission tracker extends downward substantially more.  You’ll be happier for it.

Finally:  one might presume that, given the weekend and all, I might have actually completed more than a single episode since my last post.  That’d be an accurate statement.  But I’d hate to throw all that content in just a single post-let’s savor the journey, shall we?

Potential spoilers incoming!

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ToT: The Conference

When a Jem’Hadar is in a diplomatic conference as something other than a guard, you know something has gone wrong.

Transcript delivered to Starfleet Intelligence:

A pair of Jem’Hadar overheard on the Promenade of Deep Space Nine; one has been identified as First Jalot’iklar.  The other has not been identified.

Unidentified:  It is true, then.

Jalot’iklar:  It is.  Our fleet is all that remains.  Had I not heard it from the very lips of a Founder, I would not have believed it.

U: Then these refugees?  They are from the Dominion, as they claim?

J:  They are victims of the Hur’q.  They blame us.

U:  It is not right!  We have done all we can!

J:  In their eyes, it was not enough.  Look at them.  It is our duty to serve the Founders.  It is also our duty to protect the Dominion.  They are here.  They are not on their worlds.  How do you expect them to react?

U:  First…is this the end?  Is this the end of the Dominion?

J:  No!  We still live.  We still serve.  We are the Vanguard.  This is our greatest test.  [barely audible]  This is my test.

U:  First?

J:  We are being called upon to do things that no Jem’Hadar has ever done.  We must speak to these leaders.  We cannot rely on our weapons and our reputation for this.  We must be…diplomatic.

U:  That is the Vorta’s role!  That is the order of things!

J:  The Founder has commanded this!  We will speak directly to our former enemies.  We shall make of them allies.  My command will assist the Federation Starfleet against the Hur’q.  We shall assist them, so that they may assist us.  The Founder commands this!

U:  …This feels wrong.  Jem’Hadar are the soldiers.  Vorta are the diplomats.  Can we do this, and still be Jem’Hadar?

J:  We continue to serve the Founders.  We continue to serve the Dominion.  I will do what is necessary to preserve both.  That is the order of things.

U:  Victory is life.

J:  Victory is life.

End Transcript

It’s stormy weather (metaphorically speaking) at Deep Space Nine in Star Trek Online, and the first shared mission between all factions reflects that, in “Storm Clouds Gather”.  The focus of the mission manages to pack an awful lot going on.  From a Jem’Hadar’s point of view, it must feel like being thrown into the deep end.  Right away, he’s dealing with the heads of galactic powers, as what we could call “lesser lights” represented by the old cast members of the DS9 series.

Unfortunately, lighting is still an issue on the station, and that continues in this episode.  The conference room is lit okay, as well as an action set-piece, but the Promenade is like walking in deepest shadow.  There’s a post on the official forums to try turning shadows off and on again to see if that fixes things, but no-go for me; I didn’t even have shadows on.  (Might be time to look into a new PC sometime….)  So that continues to be a source of consternation for me.

A couple of other non-spoilery thoughts.

I ran into an issue on DS9 where the “manage ship” terminal was only usable by one person at a time.  Fortunately, that’s been fixed in a patch since, so it saved me from having a rant dedicated to it here.  A different bug I ran into was the seeming absence of any duty officer assignments on DS9.  I don’t know if that’s Jem’Hadar specific, or if other factions have the same issue.  I’ll have to experiment.

I’m a few battles in with the Jem’Hadar Vanguard Carrier, and it’s been an interesting experience.  The carrier has what you’d call a heap of assisting ships.  Let’s count ’em off.  First, you have a ship separation sort of thing going on, similar to Galaxy and Odyssey class saucer separations or the small ships at the back end of the Bortasqu’ and Odyssey tactical variants.  That means you have no control over that craft, but it’s presumably tough enough to do damage on its own.  Then you have the hangar craft.  Hangars tend to come in two varieties in the game:  fighter hangars, which can deploy up to six fighters each, or frigate hangars, which can deploy up to two frigates each.  The Jem’Hadar carrier uses two frigate hangars, and each group can be given general commands-you know, “attack my target”, “defend my target”, “hang back”, that sort of thing.  Then, unique to Jem’Hadar ships (at least the Vanguard ships, I think), you get a pair of “wingman” ships, which can be commanded to do some more specific assistance for you, including repairing your ship’s hull and shields.  They can also mix it up with your current target, too.  Now, if you also make use of the Support Fleet command you get when your hull drops to below 50 percent, the Jem’Hadar could have a total of nine ships, including itself, fighting its enemies!  That’s a minifleet all by itself!  That said, the effectiveness of all these ships in unison is still being tested out.  The Hur’q are a nasty foe, mainly due to numbers.  There are just so many targets around that it’s hard to deal with them all at once.  Episodes like this one and the one previous are a good justification for any bridge officer abilities that affect multiple targets, especially torpedo spreads, beam fire at will, cannon scatter-shots, and mine-deployments that drop a LOT of mines.

Still pretty fun, though.

Okay, I think that’s as far as I can go without spoilage, so note the break below-going beyond the picture there means you’ve arrive at Spoilertown!

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