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!
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.