W&M: Home Sweet Home?

Well, this should cause a bunch of Bajorans to have a religious crisis….

Personal Log, Stardate 96450.4.

It’s with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted our current assignment.  After all, I have not been near Cardassian space for a number of years-and I’m a different man now than I was when I left.  Of course, I was on the threshold of adulthood when I left…and now I’m a captain of a Starfleet vessel.  Captain Kurland of Deep Space Nine has been welcoming, but…this posting has been an uncomfortable one.  Decades have past since Cardassia occupied Bajor and effectively enslaved its people…but they have not forgotten.  I wasn’t even born when the Dominion War ravaged the quadrant, but they remember that Cardassia was a willing partner of the Dominion at that time.  There are some who believe Cardassia got off lightly when the Dominion finally turned its power against it.

I’m not saying that I have a constant feeling of pressure centered on my back above my heart, but I’m not not saying it.  I don’t honestly believe that a Bajoran would try to murder me in retaliation for crimes I had nothing to do with; but the feeling remains.

It’s probably for the best that Vedek Krin at Hathon kept quiet my…experience…at the temple there.  If word got out about that, it could create unrest for almost all of the Bajoran people.

I hope that Starfleet assigns me to another location soon.  Away from the madness that has afflicted some of my people-away from this “True Way” that wants to send us back to the bad times.  I want very much to be better than that.

I have to be.

Computer, end log.

Thanks to the magic of “streamlining”, I’ve arrived at the Cardassian Struggle arc of Star Trek Online with my character of Selak.  The Foundry is still down, but I decided that I could skip ahead on missions in the official storyline to bring us to Deep Space Nine and bring my Cardassian captain to more familiar territory.  Thanks to the pruning that’s gone on over the years, though, it covers a mere five missions.  Man, I remember when there were lots of missions involved with the Cardassian/Bajoran region.  That’s dev logic for you:  let’s add by removing things.

It occurs to me that the entire plan hinges on trusting a Vorta. Why did I think this was a good idea?

It was during this little spree that I discovered an extremely unwelcome revelation.  I knew that the really big DS9 related arc, the return of the lost Dominion ships from the wormhole, was no longer a part of the main storyline, but was now considered a “side mission”.  I’d been assured that the missions could still be accessed in the character journal in a separate tab.  What nobody mentioned, though, was that you had to be freaking max level to access them!  That makes NO sense whatsoever.  Whoever made that decision must have either been drinking or taking some serious hallucinogenic drugs.  This, incidentally, also impacts other of the old Feature Episodes, like the Devidian arc and possibly the Breen arc (I haven’t looked into the Breen one yet).  Nimbus, at least, can still be accessed early; I don’t know about the Kobali arc, but you had to be fairly high level to get there in the first place anyway.

I could honestly see the Breen arc being higher level restricted (although max level is again extreme-particularly in light of the fact that the Iconian War makes reference to the big reveal in the Breen arc!).  But the Devidians were fairly early in the careers of a lot of captains, and it made sense for the “Lost Dominion” arc to be during your time in the DS9 region.  This level restriction is idiocy, and it throws off the timing of the storyline missions.  I was already unhappy about the streamlining to start with, and this does not help matters.

So it looks like Selak is going to be put back in the cooler for now, until the Foundry missions are up again (always an extended period, it seems), or until the devs return to their senses and properly place more sane level restrictions for the “side mission” arcs.

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JJ: Well, That Was Fast

I have no idea what I’m defending, but if the Klingons want it, they can’t have it.

Personal Log, Stardate…I’m still getting used to the Stardate system.  Computer, fill this in when it is appropriate.

There is a disquiet in my spirit, and I am having a difficult time stilling it.  I am not where I belong.  I have died, yet I still live.  I am separated from my friends and family by decades-and I dare not try to delve too deeply into their fates.

J’Ula has destroyed me, and my crew.  Many died during the battle at Starbase One, but our lot is far worse than simple death.  Due to the apparent mastery of time, I have been brought ahead along with select members of my bridge staff-to the year 2409-over one hundred and fifty years after what was presumed to be our deaths.  It is an odd experience to read about how I died, and even then as a footnote-a gifted lieutenant who had been thrust into the command of a starship.

My people, at least, still survive-and it seems that my name has become a common one among them.  Accordingly, it was not difficult for this “Agent Daniels” to craft a story for me and still use my name.  It is simply presumed that I wished to follow in the footsteps of the Jhudsui that died at Starbase One.  At least it is no longer unusual for one of low rank to command a starship; it seems that we have made peace with, then went to war with, the Klingons-and then repeated the cycle twice.  So once more, we are at war with the Klingons, along with a number of other species they have recruited to their empire.

But the worst news is that somewhere out in the void, J’Hula also somehow crossed the river of time.  I fear that another confrontation will be coming.  We must be ready.

For the future; how ironic my closing sounds!  End Log Entry.  Save.

I have to admit it.  I honestly thought there would be more time between the tutorial and the eventual shift to 2409 in Star Trek Online’s Age of Discovery missions.  Of course, AoD wasn’t a full expansion like Agents of Yesterday had been.  But man, talk about abrupt.  Two missions and bam-we’re in 2409, in circumstances similar to how the AoY guys got there:  the hard way.

So let’s take a look at those missions.  For the spoiler wary, I’ll throw up my “read more” tag-and if you’re reading on the blog front page, then just stop at the image following-it’s as good a way of separating out the spoilage from the non-spoilage, although as usual, I’ll try to tread lightly.

Continue reading

JJ: This All Seems Familiar

Even now, space is STILL the final frontier….

Personal Log, May 30th, 2256

In the course of events, it has been recommended that I begin a new personal log separate from my notes during my years of training at Starfleet Academy.  Given the unusual circumstances of my new command of the USS Bowman, I find that I agree.  While I am in command, I am nonetheless not a Captain in rank, merely a Captain in command of this ship.  It is important that I remain mindful of this as I go forward.

To whom it may concern:  I am Lieutenant Jhudsui, a recent graduate of the Class of ’56 at Starfleet Academy.  I am a Mentassan, the first member of my species to thus graduate from the Academy.  My people are relative newcomers to the United Federation of Planets, but we were known to them for nearly eighty years, thanks to the efforts of Captain Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise.  We have spent a lifetime to come to a point where we could be permitted entry to the Federation, and it has been worth it.  I am the first to graduate, but I will not be the last; the dream of stars has been awakened in my people, and I do not believe we will ever go back.

My focus has been command, and I have trained in the defensive arts.  I am not the best shot, nor am I the best hand-to-hand fighter.  I am no grand strategist or tactician.  I am simply a sentient who tries to see the best in others, and in doing so, attempt to awaken the best in myself.  War is not what I sought when I joined Starfleet Academy, but if that is the path that is before me, I will walk it to its end.  And when I have done so, I will walk the path that I envisioned when I enlisted:  the path of exploration.

For the future.  End Log Entry.  Save.

It’s here at last: the latest offering from Star Trek Online, which incorporates elements from the latest Star Trek offering period.  The Age of Discovery is upon us!

Accordingly, with the new publish, with a new tutorial and set of missions (there aren’t many yet), I decided to make a new character to fit.  I went tactical, mainly because the whole premise was set around war with the Klingons (this is not the last familiar thing ahead).  The options for character species was at once limited and vast.  You could make a Human or a Vulcan.  Or, you could make an Alien.  Which is what I decided to do; I don’t really have many characters of my own alien designs, so I thought I’d do that with this character.

I’ll freely admit:  I broke down and started mashing the “random” button for the guy’s appearance.  I didn’t randomize the body, going with the default there with minor nudges; I’ve been known to play with that harder for aliens, but I figured I’d stick with the standard for that.  I was satisfied with the one I settled on.  I took the name from some old gaming article I read years and years go.  As far as the ship’s name…well, come on.  I’ve been known to make amusing nods to things before, and this one was no different.

With that, I was able to begin the tutorial!  It starts in Starfleet Academy, where one of my fellow students led me around to meet other graduating cadets who thanked me for their help, before sending me to see a captain who wanted me to take an advanced phaser test…hold on.  This all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It should.  Take away the specific students and change the skins of the graphics, but it’s essentially identical to the regular Starfleet tutorial.  It goes on beyond what I’ve described all the way to an encounter with Klingons, a dead captain, and eventually meeting up with someone with ties to established Trek lore to help.  There is a divergence, where you don’t have to worry about the Borg showing up, but the mission beats are all there.  Don’t look for too much creativity on the missions.

The characters involved, however, are at least worth the time.  Cadet Tilly-portrayed by the same actress who plays the part in Star Trek: Discovery-is a lot more entertaining than Elisa Flores; I find that the doomed captain of your ship is a lot more interesting, too (and he actually has a sense of humor).  Your future bridge officers are a decent sort.

There are some things that kind of irritated me; while the phasers and torpedoes are portrayed as I imagine they are in Discovery (having not seen any episodes, I can’t make accurate comparisons, but they’re at least different than the TOS and 2409 era weapons), the existence of personal shields continues to be an irritation.  That’s probably not something anything can really be done away with, though-the game’s sort of built around the concept of personal shields, and they’ve already had them around for the Agents of Yesterday expansion, so this is a war that’s lost already.  The existence of holodecks, though, is a bit more annoying; I’ve done some research, and I can with effort justify the existence of the things in the Academy, but holographic communications instead of the viewscreens?  That said, it seems that this is something that’s been used on the show, so I can’t rightly gripe about it too much-it’s a sin of the show, not STO.

Post-tutorial, you wind up back at the Academy, instead of a space station like Earth Spacedock.  Looking at the episodes ahead, I suspect there’s a good reason for that.  More on that as I get there.

I suspect very strongly that I will not be putting in too many posts on this Chronicle in the near future-there just isn’t enough content.  Once I’ve completed it, it’s back to Selak.  But as stuff comes out related to AoD, I’ll revisit this character.  I’ll be interested to see just how long it takes before some temporal thing happens to throw the character to the 2409 era.

Let’s not panic. I know in the future we won’t have to worry about Klingons boarding, kidnapping the Captain, and forcing a cadet XO to take command.

W&M: In Command

Those beacons are a lot bigger on the inside than you’d think.

Personal Log, Stardate 96352.35.

It seems that after a number of missions that seemed to involve Starfleet Intelligence in some way-or Security, too-our ship has been assigned to patrol a number of systems in the Beta Quadrant, away from Klingon space and closer to Romulan space.  Romulan space has been unsettled recently, with talk of a “Romulan Republic” forming out of the carcass of the Romulan Star Empire.  The Empire isn’t going quietly, though.  I’m having a hard time feeling a lot of sympathy.  It’s not so much their actions in the Dominion War-I wasn’t even alive when that happened, and if I was angry at the forces arrayed against Cardassia at that time, I wouldn’t be in Starfleet now.  No, it’s that they have always seemed to me to be corrupt, clandestine, self serving…reminds me of the stories of the Obsidian Order.

At least we haven’t run into too many Romulans-although I can’t say we’ve avoided them entirely.  We did run into a pair of defectors from the Klingon Empire, who gave us some useful intelligence to pass on to Starfleet-although that almost got us in the middle of a big mess.  We also managed to assist a colony of Ferengi, who honestly extorted us.  Whoever made that deal on the behalf of Starfleet needs to be given a remedial course on how to deal with Ferengi.  Saying “we’ll pay you back later” can be interpreted as a blank check to have them call on any Starfleet vessel to bail them out.  Which is exactly what happened.

There’s good news that came out of all this.  Starfleet Command has sent over a list of approved promotions, and it seems that one of them includes someone I hadn’t expected-me!  I’m to return to Earth for assignment to a new ship as a Commander.  I’ve asked that my bridge crew be permitted to accompany me, and the initial reactions I’m seeing indicate that there won’t be any problems here.  I don’t know much about what the ship is, but I’ve been warned that it won’t be a science vessel like the Runner.  So I’ll have to adapt my command style accordingly.  A new challenge!

Computer, end log.

Before we go to the Age of Discovery in Star Trek Online, we’ll take a last look at the progress being made by my Cardassian captain in Starfleet.  Selak has finally gotten past the level 20 barrier, assisted in no small part by doing patrol missions.

A little background:  patrol missions are remnants, in a way, of the STO-that-was; usually involving going into a system and fighting five or six groups of foes, on the ground or in orbit around a planet.  These were not what you’d consider plot heavy; they’re sort of what you would expect a ship would be doing between televised episodes, like investigating strange cocoons or examining odd artifacts-or fighting off a series of Romulan ships blockading satellites.  Originally, they were a part of a set of missions assigned by Captain Sulu, but nowadays they are available if you happen to be close enough to a planet that has such a mission linked to it.  Players who have leveled via traditional means-by using the episodes-will have seen at least one or two of these associated with a planet that was the focus of an episode.  The xp from these missions isn’t bad, although not equal to the xp from episodes-but they also tend to take a lot less time than the episodes, too.  Unfortunately, to my awareness, once you’ve done a patrol, it’s done-it’s not repeatable.

In combination with duty officer work and Foundry missions, I was able to push out of the mid-teen doldrums past level 20.  I’ll keep my choices for the next ship under wraps until the next W&M post, but in the meantime, here’s some thoughts on a pair of Foundry missions I did to help me through the Lieutenant Commander levels.

Ferengi have 178 words for “rain”. I wonder which one this is.

“Beckon Me Unto Beacons” is an offering from velocitore, and it takes place while patrolling the Cernan system.  If you’ve run any missions in space at all in STO, you’ve probably seen the beacons that help with navigation at times-those blinking lights that guide you to important waypoints.  Those beacons actually become a fairly important plot point here, as they aren’t transmitting any data.  This is because of the presence of a pair of “traitors” to the Klingon Empire, which has caused a bit of a conflict between a Klingon task force and a Federation cargo transport.  It turns out, though, that these traitors have some information that could rock the Klingon Empire-and certain interests don’t want that info coming out.  The mission isn’t too long, and it has some decent character work.  Something I found interesting was the use of dialogue options that didn’t involve your character at all-sort of like a cut to a different scene during a show, where the villains get to pontificate a bit.  That’s something that’s missing from some computer games in general:  a chance to see what the other side is thinking or planning, and to help flesh out the opposition a bit instead of just making them threatening faces on a viewscreen.  If I ever design a Foundry episode (don’t get the hopes up), that’s a technique I’ll have to remember.

The next offering is “Brains Before Bounty”, a tale from dixonium, which takes place in the Hana system.  A trader contacts you to request assistance on the behalf of Quintoona Quarry, a Ferengi mining colony.  Nausicaans have taken up residence, and are causing all sorts of problems.  The Ferengi governor wants help, and he claims that you’re required to do so by contract.  Don’t remember signing a contract with Ferengi?  That won’t help you….  This is another nice one-and done mission, where you investigate the presence of the Nausicaans and find out why they’re here, and what is wrong with the Ferengi on the colony.  It’s not a complicated mission by any stretch, and like the one above, it’s not a very long mission either.  If you’re looking to just run a couple Foundry missions to fill in some gaps in your leveling, or if you just want to have a short gameplay session, you could do a lot worse than run through these missions.

With the launch of the Age of Discovery-TODAY!-Selak will be put on the back burner for a little bit.  There’s a lot coming down the pike beyond just the story, and I’ll be putting up some of my thoughts on the changes next time.

W&M: One-Shots

Parties are more fun when they aren’t hosted by the scum of the galaxy.

Personal Log, Stardate 96311.84.

The last of the Saurian Brandy that we swiped from Zevon Chojin’s party was served out last night.  It was good to have finally gotten rid of it.  I don’t regret taking it from a slaver, but I can’t help but think that it was probably purchased from credit gained by the slave trade.

I won’t deny, though, that it felt good to put him into Security’s hands, though.  I just wish I could have hit him a few more times in the face.  He and his “Matron” deserve everything they get from the Judiciary.  I put in my recommendation that they be tried under the Cardassian method of justice, but unsurprisingly, the Federation disagreed.  Ordinarily, I’d be right there with them, but I think they deserve no presumption of innocence in this case.

I hate slavers.  Who knew?

But at least he’ll face Romulan justice instead of the Federation’s overly lenient version.  It’ll have to do.

Shipwise, we’re still sorting out the mess at Behrens Station, after the Klingon attack.  I’m still not exactly happy with my performance on the station.  I can’t help but feel that a better captain would have found a way to keep everyone alive.  Rationally, I know better-there was no time.  We couldn’t split up-there were too many enemies that would have overwhelmed a smaller away team.  Communications were out and….

Damn.  It was too much like Kobayashi Maru.  But I think that the Maru’s the only reason I managed to keep it together at the time.  And I’ll use this as motivation to find better ways, so it doesn’t happen again.  It’s all I can do.

I hate fighting wars.

Computer, end log.

It’s been a busy week, particularly with my home computer deciding that it wanted to cause problems recently.  I suspect a new computer purchase may be happening sooner than later.  But I did manage to find some time to put Selak through a couple more adventures in Star Trek Online, courtesy of the Foundry.  I’m not sure how much longer this will go before I get sidetracked by the upcoming Age of Discovery patch, because I’ll probably develop something for that, too.  But heck, it’s not the first time I’ve put characters on hiatus for extended periods, as my chronicles for Anthrandos and Sorshan in Star Wars: The Old Republic demonstrate.

Nothing bad ever happens at a baryon sweep facility. (Hm, I’m getting a call from Captain Picard….)

So:  this time around, I grabbed a pair of missions that, for once, were not a part of an extended storyline.  After all, Star Trek made its rep on one-and-done episodes; big story arcs weren’t a big thing on most of the versions of Trek floating around.  And I certainly don’t mind-after all, they make good breathers from major storylines.

First on the list is an offering by djxprime, “A Price for Eurydice”.  This mission takes place near the Sardah system, and begins with a rescue operation:  a civilian liner had been ambushed by raiders, and two other starships were coming to assist-in addition to your own.  It turns out to be tied to a slaver operation, and after dealing with the attacks on the liner, your PC will be pursuing them to a slave auction.  This is a bit more upper class than the one seen in the Enterprise episode “Borderland”, but it’s still a slave ring.  The subject matter may be uncomfortable to some, but the episode was decently put together.  The party was a high point-lots of NPCs, some of which could be interacted with, and one of whom was more than they seemed-not to mention the major antagonists there, too.  The ground portion of the ships, on the other hand, weren’t all that impressive-but I admit, there’s not much you can do with corridors.

The second mission was “Clean Sweep”, by RogueEnterprise.  This is a spiritual successor, in some ways, to a Star Trek Next Generation episode, where the Enterprise had to undergo a “Baryon sweep” which required everyone to be offboard the ship-which led to someone trying to steal some trilithium resin from the Enterprise.  This mission ups the stakes, though:  for starters, the base here is servicing multiple ships-it’s one of the largest around, based in the Servin system.  And it’s responsible for servicing ships going to and from the Klingon front.  Gosh, that would mean it’d make a damned peachy target, wouldn’t it?  The Klingons agree:  and before you know it, you’ll find yourself trapped on the decks of a starship undergoing its own sweep-with much of its crew still on board.  So, in short, PCs will have to deal with both Klingons and whoever managed to start up the early sweeps-before the Klingons destroy all the ships and the facility.  No pressure.  I’ll give full credit for the writer here for keeping the sense that time was a factor:  you got to see the sweeps advance at certain points to give you the impression that bad things were going to happen if you didn’t keep moving.  Plus, there’s a nice little moral dilemma as alluded to in Selak’s log above.  I don’t believe it made a big difference to the mission itself in terms of objectives, but it was a nice touch to remind a captain that sometimes, there aren’t any easy answers.

Again, the Foundry missions are proving to be a slow-going method of advancing a character, but I’m going to say that’s counterbalanced by the fact that it’s great to be playing missions that I haven’t played a dozen times before.  That makes this whole experiment worthwhile.  No new player queues to play with this time-there’s a Breach event rolling right now, but that’s not open to low level characters unless something changed when I wasn’t looking.

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!

Battlestations!

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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