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

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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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ToT: The Beginning of Jalot’iklar’s Chronicle

Welcome to the Alpha Quadrant, Jalot’iklar. Hope you survive the experience!

Computer:  Open Ship Log.  Date: Stardate 96032.45

As of this date, I take upon the duties of First for the DV Indomitable-54188, for the Dominion.  Like most in its class, it has been granted a name in addition to a numeric designation.  The Founders have said that this practice will improve the loyalty of the crew to the vessel.  I do not understand this, but it is not necessary that I understand:  only that I obey.

Obedience brings victory.

Victory is life.

The crew is eager to cross the Anomaly.  I share this eagerness.  Few Jem’Hadar have crossed over beyond Dominion space since the Quadrant War, and the crew is eager to see if the tales of the Starfleet and the Klingons are true.  I am told the Romulans are not what they once were, and our former allies, the Cardassians, have not yet recovered from the Dominion’s final strike on their homeworld.  But I have been told that all have joined a larger alliance in the wake of the Iconian attacks, and they remain so.  But it is known that they all have no love for the Dominion.

My actions have earned the trust of the Founders.  Weyoun and Loriss have informed me that I may speak to them directly if the need is present.  Loriss tells me that I am an experiment, one of the Vanguard, engineered to be better than any of the Jem’Hadar that came before us.  Physically, we are superior.  Mentally, we are a match for the Vorta and more.  I believe that this has caused the Vorta some consternation.  The Vorta do not like it when the Jem’Hadar become more independent.  It goes against the order of things.  But the Founder Odo wished to establish a new order-and who are we to argue with a God, in this time of turmoil?

End log.

It’s finally here:  the Victory is Life expansion has landed for Star Trek Online!  This is likely to be a pretty abbreviated chronicle compared to previous ones such as Rick Masters and Dathiro’s.  This is mainly because of the brevity of the campaign.  Like the Agents of Yesterday story, the number of missions is very limited.  Unlike Agents of Yesterday, only the first mission is Jem’Hadar specific, and the Jem’Hadar start at level 60-not a lot of room for them to improve over 5 levels.  Nevertheless, there’s a bit more to the expansion than the episodes, and I’ll try to explore each of those in this chronicle.

This post will go into the first episode, so there may be spoilers lurking!  As usual, there’s a break below to help separate the spoilers from the non-spoilers.

First, the non-spoilerish stuff.  First off…well, the DS9 lighting issue continues.  It’s not as dark as it was in the early days on the test server, and I had actually thought we were okay now, as the last time I was on the server, the lighting seemed good.  But nope-we’re somewhere in between.  It is just DS9, as well, because Earth Spacedock is still as nicely lit as ever.  Secondly, well, it seems that with every publish, the power trays are screwed up somehow.  I had to redo the power tray for Walt when I was looking over some things in space.  Annoying.

Having made a purchase prior to release, I decided to start making immediate use of its bounty by making a Vanguard Jem’Hadar.  The backstory is…well, pretty much what I alluded to in the fiction above.  It’s sort of implied that there are a couple of differences between the Vanguard and the standard model Jem’Hadar.  From what I can immediately tell, though, there really isn’t much; they have a trait that allows them bonuses to space and ground (as opposed to just ground), and maybe a few different appearance options, at best.  I named the character Jalot’iklar, trying to stick with the naming standards you see off of the DS9 series Jem’Hadar, and immediately stuffed him into a carrier.  I haven’t played much with dedicated carrier starships in STO; while I’ve certainly flown ships that have hangar slots in them, such as the Scimitar ships, I haven’t really flown a ship that’s dedicated to the task.  Going further on the character, I eschewed the Tactical specialty that you might expect from Jem’Hadar; I mean, cripes, that’s been my go-to half the time, and I couldn’t stand that.  I like to balance things up.  So I looked over my primary characters.  I had a Tactical Starfleeter, a Science Romulan, an Engineering Klingon, and an Engineering Temporal Agent.  So, going really against type, I made Jalot’iklar a Science captain.

Since the Jem’Hadar start out at level 60, you might expect to have a lot of skill points to allocate.  But…they’re all pre-allocated.  I’d have liked to choose some of the abilities that came with having so many points in such and such path, mainly involving hangar pets, but ’tis not to be.  The specialties were trickier.  The carrier has Intel bridge officer slots, so it sounded logical to take Intel as one of the two specialties.  The tricky part is because the specialty points have already been allocated.  A respec can alter the skills if you so choose-there are probably respec tokens built up-but it turned out that I automatically had a Command primary and an Intel secondary, and you can’t respec that stuff.  It’s worth adding, though, that some of the Jem’Hadar you have in your bridge crew are good enough to have just about EVERY specialization available, so you will have no problems fitting crew to boff stations-which was the case with me and the carrier.

A final note on last week’s work:  thanks to double xp, I was able to push all three of my Delta Recruits, plus Vesehn and Jenled and Fralex all to level 60!  (Plus two or three others who have yet to appear on the Cast List, which I really should start up again soon.)  It helps that they were all at post-level 50, so I didn’t have to worry about that many missions.  Some characters dealt with things better than others; ships with not quite as elite equipment as my main characters’ ships (and my definition of elite has a pretty low bar) had trouble with some fights-I still won, but they were long and drawn out affairs.  So I’ll have lots of characters who will now be in striking distance of the new maximum level of 65.

Okay, enough prologue!  Read on for a brief synopsis and my thoughts!

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Eternal?

For a completely life-dead planet, it sure recovered fast, didn’t it?

Okay, let’s take Star Wars: The Old Republic, specifically the latest patch.

Let’s do the non-spoilery stuff first.  I don’t plan to go into detail about how the big part of this publish ends, but I’ve kept quiet on the identity of the traitor long enough-anyone who wanted to know likely knows by now.  It’s been a number of months, after all.

This publish includes the return of some more companions, again-for the most part-only for the Smuggler, Jedi Consular, and Bounty Hunter.  That said, the Smuggler and BH gets to get an extra companion for the price of one.  The first pair is the return of Mako and Akaavi Spar, who have gone into business for themselves.  Doing their mission can net you both of those companions (I suspect you can arrange to only take one, but why?  The more the merrier, I say-but of course, my way isn’t the only way).  Conversation with them may seem…interesting…if you haven’t done the big content piece of this publish, but it did give me a general idea of what was about to happen.  More on that later.  The other companion return is Felix Iresso, soldier of the Republic last known to be serving with the JC.  Life has not been kind to him in the interim, and he has some things to say that may very well match up with your character’s feelings towards certain governments.

Okay, now I’m going to slap in a break, so if you’re one of the people who really really don’t want to know about the Alliance Traitor, stop reading now!

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DO: Ordeal’s End

Wait-aren’t those attracted to movement? I’M SO DEAD!

Entry One Hundred Fifty

I think…I think I’ve done it.

It took my people some time to find all of Imperial Intelligence’s toys-and more time to make sure we got all of them.  We didn’t actually remove any of them, not at first.  After all, they could just come after us again-there’s nowhere in the Alpha or Beta Quadrants where they can’t catch up to us.

But opportunity struck when the Solonae Dyson Sphere was discovered-followed by the rediscovery of the relocated Jenolen Sphere.  This put the Delta Quadrant in reach.  And that’s when the plan began.

Unsurprisingly, II asked us to meddle involving Omega Particles and the Voth-a sauroid species.  So we fought for the Klingons, the Federation-looks like they’re friends again, who can keep up?-and the Romulan Republic.  And we grabbed any interesting looking bits of technology we could while there, and scanned everything we couldn’t carry or transport to the ship.  We filled our cargo holds with tech, and our databanks with information.  Then we blew through into the Delta Quadrant and never looked back.

It means we won’t be going home again, but what’s there for us, anyway?  We don’t want involved in their wars.  We want profits and a chance to live as we choose to.  Why stick around with the instability of our half of the galaxy?  I’d have preferred to go through the Bajoran Wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, but the Dominion’s situation is a bit dicey from what I hear.  The Delta may have issues, but at least there isn’t any major empires with extradition treaties with the Klingon Empire.

I’ve made preliminary contact with a Ferengi named Qwen, who assures me he can move the tech in the holds for enough latinum to make our fortunes.  But I just want an assessment, so that we can pick up other trade goods-and make our fortune, here, in the Delta Quadrant.  We can never return, but at least we’re free.

That’s enough.

Signing off.

This is not what I would expect in an Undine-controlled region….

We’ve reached the endpoint for Dathiro in Star Trek Online-level 60!  Yes, I know the level cap is bumping up in the not-so-distant future, but I have other characters who need to move in that direction, and Dathiro isn’t one of them.

To close out the last levels I needed for Dathiro, I chose to do the simple “oh, welcome to the Delta Quadrant” related missions so I could access the adventure zones in the two Dyson Spheres.  One of them is a ground battlezone, which features battle against the Voth; the other is a space battlezone, and concentrates on the Undine (although if you do it right, the Voth do make a significant appearance).

Let’s take a look at them.

The Voth battlezone takes place in the Solonae Dyson Sphere, and centers around taking control of an Omega Particle silo.  The Voth want it, because they’re egotistical enough to believe they can handle messing with particles that can pretty much end warp travel.  The allied forces of Klingons, Romulans, and Starfleeters want to stop that.  So…to war!  The zone is divided into three sections (four if you count the briefing area), and each of those zones are divided into subzones, with minigames that you need to complete to gain control of the zone-there are three minigames, plus a straightforward “take over the transporter for this zone” area.  They ramp up in difficulty, if I recall right, with more players in that subzone.  You aren’t necessarily doing this alone, either-you can bring down two of your bridge officers as well.  That said:  my experience with the BOFFs was horrific.  Pathing issues all over-my officers wouldn’t follow me because of obstacles real or imagined, and wouldn’t go around them.  So nine times out of ten, I found myself doing a subzone without support from my BOFFs.  That’s not a good way to deal with subzones that are built around you having said support.  I made up for this by trying to figure out who else was in the zone, and assisting them in capturing subzones.

Once all the zones are taken and held-the Voth do try to retake subzones, but fortunately, it’s not at lightning speeds-they bring out the big dinos.  You know the phrase “Sharks with frickin’ lasers”?  Well, these are T-Rexes with said lasers-or antiproton beams, anyway; they were infamous on the forums when the Voth were announced back in the day.  One pops up in each of the three zones simultaneously, and there’s a time limit to take them all down.  It’s doable, though, if there are people in the zone-and there seem to still be people spending enough time here to do the job.  Shockingly (I know, right?) there’s a reputation involved with completing missions here, which give marks.

The Undine battlezone takes place in the same Dyson Sphere, but in a different region-and in “space”.  I have to use the term loosely, because it does have an atmosphere, but gravity seems to be an iffy issue, because huge starship can still operate in here.  More on that momentarily.  The Undine are attempting to make their own play here, and are opening their fluidic rifts to let in their big guns.  Your job is to close them off.  Similar to the Voth battlezone, this map is divided into zones-each of which has one of three minigames,  which all center around closing rifts.  Again, more players working to clear that zone, the harder the opposition gets-or at least, the more enemy ships show up to fight.  Once all the zones are under allied control…well, the Undine get desperate and shove in a trio of their “world-killers”.  The minigames show up again to allow you to help defeat the world-killers in the alloted time.

If you succeeded in wiping out all three-well, let’s face it, it’s hard to get to all three on your own.  It’s likely to happen if other people are in the zone, so that two can be taken down more or less at once, and then combining to deal with the last.  But if all three are destroyed, those party-poopers, the Voth, show up with their own fleet to assert control over the zone-so you have a massive free-for-all against the Voth as they keep trying to send in ships to beat the weakened mammals.  (Yeah, that’ll work….)  The goal is to simply rack up kills.  Again, there’s a reputation path for the Undine, which uses marks gained through this zone.  Fortunately, since I only had to worry about one thing (my ship) and not associated bridge officers having screwed up pathing, I enjoyed doing this substantially more.

With Dathiro in what I consider a completed state, I can take a short breather from major work in STO; I have a couple of characters I’ve been fooling with, but nothing significant.  With the Delta Recruitment event having returned, I made a couple of new characters, which I may or may not chronicle here; and I figure I may want to catch my primary Romulan up to the storyline of the game-spent too much time keeping my Klingon and Starfleet mains up to date.  I want to make sure that my primary characters are at the latest missions, including Rick, the temporal agent I chronicled previous to Dathiro.  But the next character to get chronicled is likely to be a Jem’Hadar from the upcoming expansion.  Details as they develop.

DO: No True Escape

Why do I keep ending up in places like this?

Entry One Hundred Thirty-Two

I look back at my earlier entries, and I laugh to think that I was free of the Klingons.  Gaining a ship outside of the normal KDF was supposed to set me free.  But instead, it made me extremely attractive to Imperial Intelligence.  From their point of view, they had a nice, deniable asset to use to interfere wherever they chose.

I could have said no, of course.  But the large number of Bortasqu’ vessels that put the ultimatum to me was a very persuasive argument in their favorSo I had to allow II access to the ship, put in their damned devices which can do anything from blow the ship up to more creative annoyances.  I managed to keep them clear of my quarters and ready room, and this log is kept separate from ship computers, so at least I have that going for me.

For the most part, it hasn’t been too onerous.  I’m still usually free to act as I will.  But when II says they need me and my ship and my crew for a little assignment, I have to drop everything and come running.  Or those aforementioned annoyances start going off, one at a time.  I’ve tried to go through the ship to find everything they did to it, but even with the help of equally tech-minded engineers, we can’t find everything-we can’t even find most.  I’m not convinced that the stuff we did find wasn’t meant to be found.

Lately, I’ve been at war.  I’ve had more people shooting at me in the last month than I’ve had in…ever.  I must be doing something right-I’m still alive, and still unassimilated.  That’s a win in my book.

Been hearing rumblings about some activity around the space station Deep Space Nine near the world of Bajor.  I can only conclude that I’ve been allowed to hear about this traffic, because II wants me to go there next.

There must be some way out of here….

Signing off.

When you’re hot, you’re hot…when you’re not, you’re not….

I’ve come to a somewhat horrible and yet unsurprising realization in Star Trek Online:  there aren’t as many Foundry missions as you might hope for when it involves the Klingons.

This is not to say that there are no missions; there’s still a significant number of them out there that I’ll be going through.  It’s just that I’ve found that the number of authors of these missions are substantially smaller.  In part, I suspect, it’s because there’s a shortage of people doing reviews for missions published, which keeps them from hitting the status of having rewards attached to them.  That fact probably keeps most individuals from even bothering to give them a whirl-why do them if you get nothing out of it?  This isn’t such a big deal, perhaps, with the Federation side-the pool of Starfleet players far exceeds those of Romulans or Klingons.  But it matters to the Klingon side.

It also hasn’t helped that, in the time I’ve been working on Dathiro, the Foundry has been down more than it’s been up.  Between that and the issue with queues-they haven’t popped all that much for Dathiro-it looked like I might have to shutter Dathiro for an extended period.  Fortunately, I had a solution that didn’t involve me breaking down and doing non-Klingon episodic content.

There are a few places that are effectively “adventure zones” in STO.  The first and earliest one to have been introduced in the game was on the world of Defera, the site of the first Feature Episode arc released by Cryptic.  To keep it simple:  the Borg came calling and started to assimilate the planet.  Klingons and Starfleet can go to the world and fight off the Borg in several areas:  the City, the Temple, the Power Plant, and-for the daring-the Probe, the hub of the Borg activity.  Each of these areas have missions that can be done, rated in difficulty from easy to hard.  Easy is designed for solo players, medium for about two to three players, and probably a full team for the hard ones.  There are also zone-wide missions that can be done as you go along in any zone.

Obviously, I spent my time in “easy” mode.  There’s one of me, after all.

The advantages of doing these missions is twofold.  First, it’s a way of earning Omega Marks, for the Task Force Omega reputation, which is always a solid one to advance.  But another lesser known advantage is that this zone is the only place that I know of that can allow you to craft an improved modulator.  The basic remodulators to fight the Borg can be easily replicated (and in the mission arcs, I believe there’s one that gives you five free ones), and that allows you to retune your weapons to affect the Borg after they’ve adapted; but the ones you can craft on Defera have a faster reset time, and faster reset time means more time shooting them down.  So if you plan to spend time messing with the Borg on the ground-say, during Borg-related task forces-this isn’t a bad investment of time.

Another adventure zone-the second one, if memory serves-is on the world of Nukara.  The Tholians have taken up shop here, and your goal is to find out what they’re up to and stop them.  Again, it includes missions that are easy/medium/hard.  And like the Borg invasion, it has those missions in separate areas, and it includes zone-wide objectives as well.  However, it has a couple of other little differences.  Firstly, and perhaps foremost, it requires the use of environmental suits, because Nukara is a Demon-class planet, which is so hostile to most life-forms that it’s not even funny.  Tholians like it just fine, though.  What that means, though, is that your top-line armor isn’t going to be useful here.  The environmental suits take the place of the armor.  Fortunately, such armor is easy to get a hold of, especially if you have vet rewards that include them-and the Nukara reputation tree has options there, too.  The second difference is that there’s two basic instances to work with-the outdoor instance, and an area in an underground complex, also conveniently separated in easy/medium/hard levels.  This is where you find out that there are Mirror Universe captives here, and a bit more besides.

Rewards here are-shocker-heavily involved with Tholians and Nukara, primarily the Nukara Marks to improve THAT reputation tree.  That reputation tends to be heavy on environmental suits and anti-Tholian weaponry, which may not sound like much.  But given how often Tholians crop up in the later episodes of the game, it may not be a bad thing to have some of those weapons just for those occasions.

There are other adventure zones in the game-one of which I’ll revisit next time, if the Foundry hasn’t risen from the dead by then.  The trick is that some are level locked to 60, and some are in the Delta Quadrant, which may force me to run at least a couple of episodic missions so I can unlock the quadrant and get to them.  That said, Dathiro is now sitting at level 58, which means there’s an excellent chance that we’re reaching the end of his journey-and I’m not too likely to do the new expansion with him, as I’ve got FOUR “main” characters to run that through now, plus a character for the Jem’Hadar subfaction predicted.  We’ll see where things go.  (Plus, let’s be honest-I’m an altoholic.  I want to mess with new characters all the time.  On my list of things to do is a new Starfleeter, doing primarily Foundry missions.)

Anniversary Companions

Well, it’s been an entertaining week with the MMOs I play.  Both Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online had significant publishes this week.

Let me look at SWTOR first.  One of the big deals with that publish is the release of a new raid boss.  (Okay, “Operations boss”.)  Since I don’t really do those, I can’t really speak for that sort of thing.  There’s a number of warzone patches, which I don’t really do much of unless I feel I have to.  I keep promising myself that I’ll at least run a bunch with my Smuggler and Agent mains, just so I can wrap up getting all the companions possible for those characters, but I never do.  I’m glad I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution on that one, because it’d clearly have been busted by now.  There’s double xp rolling, which isn’t really a big deal for me, running until the end of the month.  This also applies to Command XP, though, so if you’re going for the upgraded gear stuff by getting those Command boxes, this would be a good time to start running dailies and the like.

The “Unhappy” part involves an old “friend”….

Oh, and there’s some returning companions.  There’s a couple of caveats, of course.  Firstly, these are literally returning companions:  if you didn’t have Risha, Corso, or Andronikos in your roster before, you aren’t getting them now.  There’s talk on the forums about making them available the same way you can get any companion who hasn’t returned back via the Odessen terminal in your quarters, but that isn’t the case at the moment.  Secondly, you have to have completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.  At that point, if you happen to be a Smuggler or Inquisitor, you’ll get a new Alliance Alert which results in the return of said companions.

The good news is that, unlike most Alerts, this is fully voiced-you don’t have that KotR interface that most Alliance Alerts do.  But…honestly, there isn’t much to these.  There’s moments if one of the companions were a romance during the original story, but for the most part, it’s “Oh, here they are!”  I get the impression that these missions were along the lines of “let’s just get this done so bloggers stop complaining about the rate of returns”.  That said, I imagine actual missions on the scale of other returnees would have meant we’d have gotten one companion back this publish-if at all.  At this point, being a couple years out from the loss of the companions in the first place, I’m all for this for companions who aren’t likely to be pushing forward the continuing story in the game-and the number of those prospects are awfully short.  I could see Lord Scourge as a big deal, for example, but Vector Hyllis, not so much.  If I were to make a guess, I’d say that we’ll see Alliance Alerts for non-Jedi, non-Sith, non-Mandalorian characters, while Jedi/Sith/Mandalorian ones will be incorporated into the ongoing story somehow.  (Given that I can only think of one outstanding Mandalorian, I’d be willing to bet that she could wind up as just an Alert, but Mandalorians are big deals, given the Eternal Alliance’s reliance on them.)

Still, this does at least bring the Smuggler-who I’d derided for so long as not getting any of their people back-generally in line with most of the other classes.  I note that all of his returnees, however, came from Alerts.  Just an observation.  In fact, there’s only one outstanding Smuggler companion now.  The Inquisitor companion brings that number to two outstanding.  Still the big loser:  the Jedi Consular, with a whopping one Companion still around.  If that class doesn’t have at least a couple coming up in the next wave of returnees, they’d be justified in going to Bioware and giving in to the Dark Side!!!!

Ahem.

Anyway, the companion thing for Smugglers and Inquisitors takes maybe 10 minutes if you don’t spacebar through conversations, at best.  No excuse for qualified characters to get their people back-and with a lot less hassle then most.

Two stations, a horde of starships, unexpected allies and enemies…just another day in Starfleet.

On to the second one:  Star Trek Online, which hits its eighth year anniversary.  The last week and a half has been spent giving stuff away, some of which was more impressive than others.  (And believe me, some of them were really unimpressive.)  We do have the usual festivities:  Omega particle hunting, a new anniversary ship (a Bajoran ship, interestingly enough-more on how that ties in momentarily), the Q-in-the-Box at the Academies, which includes a new type of anniversary popper device; at some point, I’m gonna grab four random poppers, equip them all, and run around Spacedock in a frenzy.  Well, maybe not.  Eight years is nothing to sneeze at, anyway:  no single Star Trek series has gone on so long, although you’d have a good argument that a series delivers at least as much entertainment.  It’s also remarkable for being a long runner in a genre that has seen many others pass away.  MMORPGs that make it this far have demonstrated serious staying power.  I don’t know if it’s the setting, the lockboxes, or what, because I wouldn’t have predicted this long a run when the game came out-hell, there were times when I thought things were as good as dead-but STO is still with us, and by all appearances, will be with us for at least another year or more.

Also of note:  a new Feature episode, with appearances from Captain Kurn, General Martok, Geordi La Forge, and…well, let’s just call it a surprise appearance, shall we?  I wouldn’t spoil things.  The Tzenkethi are upping their game, about to go after multiple worlds to with protomatter torpedoes, and your crew is called upon to stop them.  The good news is, you do get help.  The bad news is, one of those worlds is Bajor.  (My conscience is clear in noting that; the presence of an anniversary ship tied to Bajor with the notes about it talking about its use in the defense of Bajor has already spilled those beans.)  The attack on Bajor seems to be a catalyst, however, because just when you think you’ve gotten the Tzenkethi under control…all Hell breaks loose.  Expect a battle royale in space with multiple factions getting involved, a return of an old adversary (sort of), and ramifications that are guaranteed to lead to the theoretical expansion this year (as far as I’m concerned, it remains theoretical until we get more than a segment of a trailer video).  I’ll admit to being impressed with the episode; it did a great job in ramping up the threats.  You’d think a worldkilling fleet would be the climax of an episode, but they’re just the appetizer.  Every time a battle ends, something kicks up the stakes another notch.  Klingons in particular should be overjoyed by this episode.

Starting up year nine in STO promises to be exciting.  I better get cracking on Dathiro, because I have a feeling that I’m going to be very busy later this year.