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!!!!


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.


Special Feature

For players of Star Trek Online, a rare opportunity has opened up.  I figure if it hasn’t shown up in over a year, it count as being a “rare opportunity”.

I am not Slamek.

I Thot I would be a good officer.

Back in the day, when the game was still young, Feature Episodes were a thing.  And I don’t mean just “it’s a new episode”; it was a series of episodes, four in all, released in fairly rapid succession.  The conceit was that they could be looked at like an actual new weekly episode for Star Trek-and they backed it up by releasing them weekly.  At the end of each were limited time special rewards.  The episodes were eventually folded into the main game, but the special rewards at the end of the final episode on each were not.  They were brought out for special occasions.

Like now.  Going on until the 25th, you too can get your characters equipped with the rewards from these original Featured Episodes!  With two weeks to get them all, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting them for all of your characters (or at least the ones you want to have the goodies).  Caveat:  you DO have to be of the appropriate level, so your brand new character is going to have to level a bit to get them all.

Let’s take a quick peek at just what one can get.  Getting these rewards don’t require you to do the full series of each one; you only need to do the final episode of those arcs.  In the order in which these episodes were originally released:

  1. Cold War, aka the Breen arc:  this was the very first Feature Episdode arc released for STO, even though it’s now listed as a late game arc (well, relatively late, anyway).  The final mission in this arc is “Cold Storage”, and it’s big reward is a special bridge office:  a Breen tactical officer.  For some reason, I seem to remember this guy actually being awarded at the time at the end of the episode “Cold Comfort”, but it was a long time ago.  The officer is not customizable, but it’s currently the only way to get a Breen officer, so if you’re looking to include one of these guys on the crew, by all means, run the episode.
  2. Specters, aka the Devidian arc:  specifically, the mission “Night of the Comet”.  Completing this mission rewards a special device called the Ophidian Cane.  The Cane has a number of neat traits to it.  First, it is an area effect ability that hits enemies around you, and stuns them in a short levitation.  Next, and more importantly, it drains them of some health-and transfers it to you.  It’s a nice “Oh crap!” sort of ability when you find you need some more health and some time when NOT being blasted.  It’s definitely worth the effort to get a hold of.
  3. Cloaked Intentions, aka the Romulan arc:  specifically, “Cutting the Cord”…or maybe it’s the epilogue “Darkness Before the Dawn”.  You can’t replay that one alone, I don’t think.  The big feature on this one is acquisition of a Reman science bridge officer.  That may not seem like such a big deal these days, thanks to the coming of the Romulan Republic and the ability to get those officers at New Romulus, but back in the day, that was a pretty big deal.  Unlike most such officers, this one is not customizable, but he’s got the telepathic attack ability, so he’s not necessarily a bad officer to grab for your crew.
  4. The 2800, aka the Dominion arc:  specifically, “Boldly they Rode”.  The grand prize on this arc is the Shard of Possibilities, which is a really handy device.  It’s got a confusion effect when used, but that’s not the great part.  The great part is that it summons a pair of copies of yourself!  Now, before one gets too excited, they aren’t the same level as you are, and they aren’t using the same gear as you are; Klingons use disruptors, Starfleeters use phasers, and Romulans use whatever their factional allies use.  That said, they ARE fully functioning allies, which means they’ll shoot bad guys and take damage.  This is especially handy if you need more meat shields or damage output, and goes great with tactical officer’s ability to bring down security teams, or engineering officer’s multiple fabrications.  I’d go so far as to say that if you do just one of these features, do this one.

In previous Feature Replay weekends, there was also an opportunity to pick up free Lobi, 1 per episode per account (sorry altoholics-you couldn’t run fifty characters and rack ’em up that way).  However, that does not seem to be the case in this event.  More’s the pity; I keep looking at some of the Lobi uniforms, but can’t bring myself to spend the kind of real-life cash to open lockboxes to get enough Lobi to purchase the items, and I don’t have anywhere near enough energy credits to pick them off the Exchange.  That’s one of the dangers of bouncing from game to game.

All that said, it’s still a good time to grab these rewards; I plan to grab them for Dathiro and Rick (from my Agent of Yesterday chronicle), as well as…well, just about any other character I feel like abusing myself with.  I have a LOT of alts….  Take advantage while you can!

DO: Time for Freedom!

I could get used to this ship.

Entry Eighty-Five

I don’t have to technically do this anymore, because I’ve kicked off every stinking Klingon from my new ship.  Well, at least the ones that are all about “honor” and “glory”.

That’s right.  No more Imperial Intelligence on my back.  No more annoyances by that arrogant ship-master at Qo’noS.  I’m free at last, thanks to the sale of the Varon-T disruptor, and a bit of fortune involving time travel.  I’ve taken command of a Vorgon Ryn’kodan carrier along with a selection of the more trusted members of my crew, and have sent my most sincere “regrets” about abandoning the Klingons.  It’s a glory day for me!

But…I’m still worried about my future.  The time travel mess indicated that I’d be “important to the Klingon Empire”, which means that even though I’ve cut my ties…I’m still somehow linked to them.  Is there no way to avoid this?  Then again, who knows?  Maybe the Klingons will respect me more if I don’t require their goads anymore.

This is something I’ll have to think more about.  First, though, I’m going to buzz the shipyard and send my “thanks” to the ship-master for all he’s done to me.  Then I’m going to take a long drought of the bloodwine I have in my cabin that won’t be decanted for another 400 years.

Signing off.

The Sphere Builders have nice cities. Shame we’re going to blow it up.

Well, as the fiction above indicates, Dathiro has finally slipped loose of the Klingons in a manner of speaking in Star Trek Online.  His bridge crew/away team no longer contains any Klingons (although certain bridge officers remain on the roster because I can’t actually get rid of them), and he’s flying that shiny new Tier 6 Vorgon carrier that I picked up last Summer.  I said I had plans for it, didn’t I?

And it tied in neatly to the Foundry missions I used to get there:  the Temporal Warrior arc, a three-mission arc by Captain_Revo, which brought Dathiro in contact with the Department of Temporal Investigations (from the future Federation, naturally), the Suliban of the Cabal, and the Na’kuhl-not to mention the Sphere Builders.  I get the impression that these missions were designed before the Temporal Front arc in the game, based on the details.  This is a great alternative to the episodic missions, though, and give me a chance to have a more unique leveling path than, say, Rick Masters had in his Agents of Yesterday path.  And hey-when time travel is involved, paradoxes are just standard operating procedure.  But let’s get down to some comments on those missions.

The first mission is “The Fire in Which We Burn”, which features an apparent attack on a Klingon outpost by Starfleet.  No big deal there, but in the aftermath, the Klingons there seemed somewhat unenthused by your continued presence.  A little searching and poking noses where they don’t belong reveals time travelers, apparently directed by a shadowy figure-and a member of Starfleet’s Department of Temporal Investigation.  This detail leads you into a conflict that not only threatens the galaxy, but time itself!  The second mission is “Future Shock”, in which you are sent off to serve as security for a Klingon Ambassador for peace talks, thanks to the cooling of open warfare caused by the involvement of the Romulan Republic.  A Tholian attack trashes the station where the conference is being held-and worse still, it seems that the Tholians are engaging in all-out war to destroy the Empire completely.  Fortunately, aid comes in the form of a time-ship who knows of your involvement in the previous mission-which sort of helped form up the alliance of powers that have manipulated events to destroy the Klingon Empire.  Only by going into the future and into the past can you reverse the tide and defeat the manipulations of the Sphere Builders.  Finally, in “Tempus Fugit”, you’ve annoyed the Sphere Builders enough that they’re coming after you, personally.  Allies from the past return, and not content with simple escape from the trap, you will take the war to the Builders in their own space, and put an end to the Temporal War.

I enjoyed the missions; while there were some minor issues involving spelling errors, the story held up pretty decently.  There’s conflict, I’m pretty sure, between certain elements of this arc and related elements of the Temporal Front missions in the game, but like I said:  time paradoxes are just a way of life when you deal with time travel.  Both can be equally true.  Thanks to these missions, plus judicious use of duty officer missions, plus the daily holiday race, I’ve gotten Dathiro to level 45, and not too far from the good PvE queues.  We’ll see what happens when he gets there.  But so far, the choice to run missions through the Foundry has proven to go pretty well.  It’ll be interesting to see how that holds up when I get to the slog between levels 50-60.

DO: Cut Free

Ferengi prisons aren’t really all that impressive. I think the prisoners are just still here because they like to troll the Ferengi.

Entry Seventy-One

I’ve finally been able to try to get back to doing what I was doing before I got conscripted by the Klingons.  Wait, lemme make sure my encryption is on.

Good.  Hopefully, Imperial Intelligence can’t read this entry.  I’m not sure why I’m making it, but I need some record out there so I can refer back to this.

It’s been sort of a mixed blessing, wheeling and dealing with the Ferengi.  I managed to swipe a heap of latinum from the a Ferengi smuggler, and planned to donate most of it to the KDF-and keep a good chunk for personal use.  At least some of my crew were willing to assist, which is a good sign for the future.  Unfortunately, thanks to his associates, and his own inability to stay marooned where I left him, I got jumped at a neutral outpost and wound up killing him-and just in time for one of the Ferengi’s FCA friends coming in to arrest me.  Fortunately, they didn’t get my crew, which meant after I got through a sham of a trial, they were able to rescue me from a prison world-which wasn’t as hard as it sounds.  Ferengi prisons seem to have regular riots, and it wasn’t hard to incite one as cover to leave.

I had better luck at an auction for an old weapon, the last surviving Varon-T disruptor.  I was serving as an intermediary for a significant chunk of latinum-for a Ferengi, of course.  He tried to weasel out of things by including a clause in the fine print that forced me to be an assassin.  I didn’t actually kill the target-who was glad to hear I had no interest in killing a fellow Orion-and the Ferengi tried to get out of paying me.  Of course, he probably should have acquired the disruptor from me first before trying to scam me.  So now I’ve got feelers out to some of the other people who had attended the auction-who all ran when Starfleet showed up-and I’ll just take the best sounding offer.

Then I made my biggest mistake yet.  I went to First City to talk to some contacts about certain plans that are getting close to fruition-and the Varon-T may help here-and wound up being shuffled into a “Winter Wonderland” by a being calling itself Q.  I HATE Winter.  I got into space so I wouldn’t have to ever deal with Winter again.  And I wound up fighting for my life…I think…against a crazy Klingon legend called the Kramp’Ihri.  With a name like that, you’d figure it would tie into Klingon Hell-again-but it seems a bit less insane than that.  Only marginally.  Because you would think that a good disruptor would be the way to deal with this, but turns out that no weapons work in the Wonderland except packed balls of snow, a device that spews out hot sugary substances…and foam darts.  Even crazier…they work.

I miss the days when I wasn’t stuck commanding a bunch of Klingons and getting involved in the insanity they like to share.

Signing off.

How does this sort of thing keep happening to me?

The journey through the Foundry has begun for Dathiro’s adventure through Star Trek Online.  As previously mentioned, I’m avoiding the “common” episodic path through the game to avoid putting up awfully similar posts to what I’d done for Rick Masters’s run, and that means doing stuff like this.  I’m so happy with it so far that I might have to consider doing something similar with a Fed-aligned Romulan at some point so I can comment on Starfleet and Romulan side missions.  But for now, it’s all Klingon, so let’s take a peek at the offerings I’ve done lately.

First up, we have Raktajino in a Jar, by drogyn1701, a tale of treachery and backstabbing.  I was thrilled to see that we had a mission that suited a character of substantially lower moral value than your average Klingon-one might’ve gotten that impression of Dathiro from his logs.  The mission would’ve worked just as well for said average Klingons-you don’t have to scam latinum off the top, and you don’t have to maroon the Ferengi.  But, Dathiro sure did.  There’s a couple of spots where it’s good to just leave your bridge officers behind for story purposes; one of the Foundry’s weak points is that it has no ability to limit the number of bridge officers to travel with you, so unlike the episodes, you are always with your entire away team.  The trial is cleverly done, and I’m pretty sure that in spite of what may appear, there’s no way to avoid being sentenced to prison-the math doesn’t support it, and I’m sure if you enter in a larger number that you’ll be accused of lying and sent off anyway.  It was a pretty solid and enjoyable mission.

Next, we have The Honour of Profit, by Bazag, where you can indulge in the seedier side of life again by assisting a Ferengi in bidding in an auction.  The story was pretty solid and straightforward, but there were a couple of bugs I encountered that triggered some events early-not sure how it happened-like the Starfleet attack.  Fortunately, beaming out of the mission and restarting that segment reset everything, allowing things to get back on track.  Interactions with the bidders felt right, and the Ferengi’s attempt to stick it to the player character was exactly what I’d expect from a Ferengi.  It’s also perfectly possible the bugs came about with the recent patch; quite often during new season releases, the Foundry goes down and when it comes back up, sometimes things wind up broken-it’s one of the reasons why reviews are usually not turned on until a while after the Foundry is brought back up.  It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that’s what happened here.  And again, after I reset the mission segment, things went smoothly.

I got sidetracked hard by the Foundry being down, so I filled in some time by running lots and lots of duty officer missions.  They’ve helped the leveling experience quite a bit, but I expect another slowdown because the Winter Event has begun in STO, and due to the somewhat lengthier time it’ll be running, there’s actually a microscopic chance that I can earn up the grand prize for this Winter, the Breen Plesh Tral Heavy Raider.  It’s a Tier-6 ship, and acts like a Klingon Raider ship, and also has a Pilot specialization bridge officer seat, which makes this highly attractive as I keep getting spread among characters officers who can use those seats, but no ships that actually have them.  I don’t plan for Dathiro to take this ship, though-even though he’ll be the one putting the work into earning it.  I’ve already got too many plans for Dathiro’s future T6 ship.

Be peachy keen for a future character, though.

Now that the Foundry is up again, I’m hoping to run some more of those missions.  In between running the “Fastest Game on Ice” endless times over the next month….

Return of the Chiss

An enemy at the feet of a former Imperial Agent. I wonder how this one’s going to end….

Usually, the Sith Empire tends to conquer or destroy worlds that aren’t under their control in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But one species and government apparently chose, early on, to work with the Empire:  the Chiss Ascendancy.  The Chiss, for those not in the know, are the blue skinned/red eyed humanoid aliens, whose best representative is Grand Admiral Thrawn, the creation of Timothy Zahn, and recently “canon-ized” by the show Star Wars: Rebels.  They’d mostly been operating around Hoth, but kept a low profile (minus any players who made their characters Chiss).  But now they’re back in a big way in the new Flashpoint “Traitor Among the Chiss”.

Things are still hopping at Alliance HQ, after the Alliance Traitor burned our heroes.  (I’m still keeping the traitor’s identity under wraps for now; one day I’ll put up a statue of limitations on spoilers on this blog….)  Fortunately, the Alliance has gotten a lead as to where the traitor is now:  the Chiss world of Copero.  The Chiss tend to be a little iffy about outsiders, but fortunately, one of them is willing to look the other way in return for making sure you take care of the Chiss who helped the traitor.  The traitor’s got plans, too-there’s a reason that this shadowy individual has come to Copero, and it’s not good news for the Republic.  Yet there are subtle indications that perhaps things are not as cut and dried as one might suspect.

If there’s one thing I want to stress for people who haven’t done this yet:  be sure to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  A certain blogger who will remain nameless but is typing this post failed to do so:  when the mission objective says to do the Solo Flashpoint, don’t chose the logically named Story Flashpoint!  It must be Solo!!  Otherwise, you go through the bloody thing twice before realizing that you’ve really screwed up and have to do it a third time on the proper version!  Hint:  if you don’t get a cutscene when you first enter the Flashpoint, you’ve done the wrong one to continue the storyline.  On the bright side, said blogger did manage to net a fair chunk of Copero-inspired decorations for his strongholds.  I’m gleefully putting the fountains of water on my Tatooine stronghold.  I just adore taunting the binary suns.

As one may guess from the pic above, I decided to forgo my usual order of having my Smuggler do the new content first in favor of my Imperial Agent.  After all, he’s got history with the characters, including the return of the now-Lieutenant, Raina Temple.  I HIGHLY recommend using her in a healing role through the Flashpoint, because the bosses are huge sacks of health dealing out a fair chunk of damage (but see below).  The first boss seems like Makeb surplus, reminding me of the dino-droids there; I was tempted to see if it dropped Isotope-5.  Nothing fancy there, and if your healing is up to snuff, it’s probably better to ignore most of the adds and just blow the droid to bits.  (I do recommend killing off the non-Tank Droids, though, just to reduce the DPS incoming a bit.)

The second is a three dimensional sort of fight, where the Chiss agent will fight you on ground levels and second levels.  I especially liked the snipers on the second level taking shots-that’s smart tactics.  Didn’t save them, but smart.  You can run up ramps to get to the second level, or use a grapple at target points to jump up there; I’m guessing Jedi and Sith might not need the grapples, but as I haven’t run it through with them, can’t say for sure (there’s wouldn’t be any mechanical differences, anyway).  I did run into one irritating bug when the enemy returned to the ground, and something didn’t sync right between the server and my computer, because I was getting the “too far to reach” message when I tried to stab her…and I was standing right next to her!  Thank heavens for ranged weapons.

The final boss is a Force-user, and can be a pain due to an ability which drops him into stealth, but still able to hit you (technically, it’s “snowblindness”, but really…).  He’s also got an absorption field that cuts your damage down until it wears off.  This makes the guy more durable than he might appear, but again, as long as you have your companion healing, you should be able to make it through.

While the bosses are huge sacks of health, my viewpoint may have been colored by two facts.  One, because certain bloggers DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS, I was running through the FP in Story Mode my first couple of times, which might have impacted the numbers-and my perception thereof-just a bit.  And two, my Smuggler-who I also ran through the FP-had a far easier time of things, possibly because his weaponry was using 230-rated weapons/gear, while my Agent has a bit of a mishmash.  I really should go to the Fleet and go to that vendor that sells gear for Command Tokens, because I’ve been accumulating those tokens via various means, and it’s silly to sit on the currency not to spend it-especially given Bioware’s fetish for flushing a currency down the toilet for new currency, with lousy conversion rates.

There are other bits that kind of fell a bit flat for me.  There’s a trio of “tests” to continue on the Flashpoint, but they’re…unimpressive.  The first is a “feed the monster” sort of thing, which is not hard to figure out-you’re flat out told you should get it to trust you.  The second is a “test of logic”, but there really wasn’t any logic I could see other than “don’t open those doors”.  The last involved a “test of strategy”, in avoiding lasers similar to what you may have seen on Iokath; there’s a way to turn them off, but again, if you have a healing companion rolling, you can really ignore them and just run through them (beware a couple droids that can stun you-but it’s still not enough to cause real harm).  If you’re going to have these “tests”, you need to put them somewhere in the middle of all of these:  not incredibly obvious (hello fruit!), actually use logic (hello “which door do I open”, and actually have some strategy (hello lasers that can’t actually kill me fast enough so I can run through).  Of course, it’s possible that our Chiss friends have less advantages than our Heroes, with all that good gear and healing companions and the like; they’d get through the first two tests, but the lasers might cook them.

There are, of course, achievements in the missions (and completing a few of them will unlock a Copero advertising poster for your strongholds-you have to actually go into your Achievements and look for it under “Flashpoints”), and I understand there’s a couple of bonus achievements that aren’t obvious-and are substantially more difficult to achieve.  Mileage, of course, varies depending on builds and gear.

While there’s a couple other things that landed with the new publish, most of which I don’t really get involved with (New Galactic Starfighter map!  New Operations Boss!), and there’s been a revamp to the group finder that I haven’t looked at yet.  Plus some class changes, which I try very hard not to read much into so that my blood pressure remains at a healthy state.  The biggest addition (for me, at least) is the arrival of Darth Hexid for the folks who did the three PvP Warzones or three random Group Finder Flashpoints.  I’m not sure what I was expecting in personality; I guess I was using the example of Master Ranos from the Dark vs. Light event, where we had a very uncommon Jedi-someone who’d probably be a roguish sort of Jedi in happier times.  So maybe I thought this Sith would be less…Sithy.  Oh, no-this was better:  she’s Sith through and through, and is self-centered to the core-although she recognizes that you’re definitely a star to hitch her legend to.  Chatting with her in the Alliance Base is definitely amusing.  One key detail:  unlike Master Ranos, Hexid will not become available for standard recruitment until you finish the Eternal Throne expansion.  Fortunately-also like Ranos-you get a holocom item to bring her into your crew the moment you get access to a mailbox.  And, of course, much like pretty much all companions other than the core group, don’t expect more story out of her.  The companions are pretty much appearance-based gear outside of core companions (which I take to mean “class companions for your particular class, and the important characters to the storyline post-Ziost”).

Final note:  since Star Trek Online’s Foundry is still curled up and sobbing (okay, technically it’s just down, but leave me my metaphors!), I’ve been working a bit more on one of my outstanding SWTOR characters to get through the Eternal Throne expansion, and should finish this week; I expect to have a Cast List post of him later this week, too.  That’ll leave me with one more primary character to run through, plus the two Dark vs. Light characters I’d run through (because they deserve to see this through to the end).  Once they’re all done, I can start considering a new run with a new character whose adventure will be posted here-the only givens here is that it won’t repeat the Inquisitor or Jedi Knight stories, because that’d be boring and repetitive for this blog.  Random determination will be a factor!  But I don’t expect that before the new year.  And heck, maybe the Foundry will get off its butt and go Live again.  And then there’s the Winter Event in STO-land….

Emergent Gameplay

So you’re trying to hide from the Tzenkethi and you brought the crystals they’re looking for here? ARE YOU ALL IDIOTS!?

Season 14 for Star Trek Online has landed!  So let’s take a peek at where things are at with the latest release.

This season, with the moniker of “Emergence”, is appropriate in so many ways.  The most obvious one is that we finally get to see what’s behind the maniacal quest of the Tzenkethi to wipe out planets with protomatter weapons.  Obviously, some kind of crystals are involved, based on the events of previous Episodes, but in the new feature “Melting Pot”, secrets are laid bare.  Partially because the new colony of the Kentari and Lukari decided to examine some odd crystals from the moon of their new colony world.  Which, of course, matched the composition of the ones that are being targeted by the Tzenkethi.  You get warned that the scientists are eccentric, but man, does THIS take the cake.

Fortunately, you aren’t alone.  As indicated in the last episode released, Geordi La Forge is here, along with the Lukari Captain Kuumaarke.  Like proud parents, they’re happy to show off the colony that they hope will be the new home for a reunited Kentari and Lukari species.  Enjoy the tour while you can.  Not only is it going to become ground zero, but it’s also the last time you’ll see it so pretty unless you’re in a large active fleet.  This colony is also the new Fleet Holding, which is more on the scale of the Starbases than others like the Mining Asteroid or Romulan Embassy.  I’ll hold off on any long term judgments as to how doable even getting tier 1 is, but I’ve not heard encouraging things.  (Small, mostly inactive fleets like, say, the one I’m in is probably right out.)  Also like the Starbases, you will see the colony go from a skeletal framework to something to be proud of as it advances in tiers.  One of the more interesting aspects of this holding is being able to trigger a Tzenkethi invasion where up to ten captains can try to repel.  This requires access to tokens gained via fleet projects.  How well this would work out for small fleets, I’m not entirely sure.

This was sadly predictable.  I admire La Forge’s ability to remain cool with things blowing up all around him.

The episode itself is another one that has a feel of the Next Generation series, although it still has more of those “phaser everything!” moments that you don’t expect from the series.  Maybe from the films….  If it weren’t for the revelations that take place during the episode, I would’ve said this was just to taunt players with what the colony world holding will look like when it’s fully built.  It’s probably mildly spoiler-ish, but I’ll also say that it is also refreshing to find a rational Tzenkethi who does something crazy and actually TALKS to you.  (This is a good thing.  Because maybe those Tzenkethi actually have a good reason for going nuts with protomatter weapons….)

Of course, there’s a little bit more with the new Season than just a fleet holding and an episode.  There’s a new specialization geared towards the Engineering branch:  Miracle Worker.  Guess you can’t guess who inspired that name.  I haven’t had any characters put points into it yet (I may have Dathiro go into it, should I take him that far), but from what I can tell from looking at the tree, it feels like a very defensive sort of tree that will see best expression on a ship that can do lots of healing and take lots of damage.  In other words, cruisers and the like.  I haven’t looked at the kits available for this specialization yet, so can’t speak to that-but the fact that it does have a ground component is a welcome sign.  Likewise, I haven’t seen a ship with Miracle Worker bridge slots yet, but you can be sure it’s coming soon.  There’s also a new pair of queues:  the Dranuur Beach Assault, which is a ground scenario where ten captains can push the Tzenkethi off planet (this is double the usual number for a ground queue) for level 50+ characters, and the Dranuur Gauntlet, a battle in space to stop the invading fleet from an assault before defenses can push them back, for level 60 characters.  Finally, there’s a new Red Alert available where the Tzenkethi are out to protomatter bomb more planets out of existence-so your ship is called upon to help repel the attacks, for level 50+ characters.  I will probably at some point detail my thoughts on each of those as I put a character or two through them.

So there’s a lot going on with the new Season under the belt.  The major storylines that have been building have started to converge here, and it’ll be interesting to see where things lead from here.

A further note:  “Beyond the Nexus” has apparently been placed, of all places, prior to “Temporal Ambassador” for all factions.  This seems to me to be one of the dumber places they can put this mission.  In the first case, 2409 is a year prior to when the Nexus was supposed to be back in the neighborhood again, and the kickover to 2410 tends to be during the Delta Rising stuff, if memory serves.  I suppose there could be some wiggle room to work with, though, particularly in light of the fact that we never really know how late into 2409 the game starts, or the exact timing of the Nexus’s last visit (was it near the beginning or end of its trip through the area at that time?).  Secondly, while the devs managed to remove comments on the Lukari/Kentari (which by this time haven’t been met yet), he mentions having met you again-I’m not sure when the first time was.  His ship did appear in a previous mission, but unless that mission got updated to include comments from La Forge, I’m not sure that really qualifies.  Have to make a note to replay that one and see if something happens.

Visiting Energy Ribbons

New framework, but not the most impressive episode for it.

Quiet as a mouse, a new episode landed in Star Trek Online last week.  It snuck in when I wasn’t looking.

The episode was mathematically inevitable.  According to Trek lore, the energy ribbon known as the Nexus manages to cruise its way around this region of the galaxy every 39 years or thereabouts.  The last time it managed to blow up a planet-or it would have, if not for the efforts of Enterprise captains Jean Luc Picard and James T. Kirk.  39 years after that?

2410.  Or, in other words, the time and setting of the back portion of the Star Trek Online storyline.  A story concerning the Nexus was inevitable-especially in light of the 30th anniversary of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

For all of that, the newly released episode-Beyond the Nexus-isn’t exactly the most impressive episode written.  It’s another episode that feels like filler, taking away from the still-developing Lukari/Tzenkethi storyline (although that story does get name-checked, which means this episode will likely be slotted in the Lukari arc when it ends its feature run).  There’s nothing inherently wrong with fillers; but there didn’t really seem to be much effort put into the development of the story and mechanics of the episode.  The art was nice, but for the most part, there was little “wow” factor to be found here.

In some ways, you can’t do much with the Nexus.  How are you going to replicate paradise for your character?  Everyone has a different conception of what their character’s idea of paradise would be.  You could go into someone else’s version, of course-like Picard did with Kirk’s-but Picard still had to resist his first.  So a trip into the Nexus proper probably was never in the cards.  Then again, this episode turns the idea on its ear a bit:  someone who saw the Nexus as a prison wants out.  And let’s face it:  an ideal prison is the kind the prisoner doesn’t want to escape.  That’s food for thought as to the purpose of the Nexus, hm?  (That’s just me rambling; no evidence that more than one person sees it that way in the game, but it’s an interesting thing to consider.)

The plot for this episode is pretty straightforward:  ship researching the Nexus stopped communicating after encountering a ship that had previously been lost to the Nexus.  Your ship is sent to investigate.  Expect exchanges of fire between ships and their crews after being boarded.  It’s not quite as monotonous as the old exploration missions of “find 5 of this, kill 5 of that”, but it’s definitely a step down in quality.  I hope this is because the devs are putting their A-game on next year’s probable Dominion-themed expansion (which I don’t believe has technically been confirmed yet).  Despite this, the resolution of the episode is very much in the spirit of ST:TNG (did I mention an anniversary?  I think I must have), and could possibly lead to a follow-up at some point in the future.  I can’t believe this will be the only time we get the Nexus referenced in 2410.  And I will admit, too, that there’s a section in the episode that put a smile on my face that involves one of the most infamous purveyors of holodeck content in Star Trek lore; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Oh, there is one more thing that makes the episode stand out a bit more than some; it features the second voiced appearance from a member of the Enterprise-D/E crew, Geordi La Forge.  (The first, of course, was Worf, and we also had a silent, not-confirmed-but-heavily-implied appearance from Geordi’s closest friend.)  There’s a strong implication that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the ongoing story arc, and very likely beyond; I did mention an anniversary, didn’t I?  We still are missing a number of the big names doing voice-overs, but I don’t believe it impossible at this point; after all, they managed to get most of the crew of Voyager in the game.  Surely they can pull off a few more.  I doubt they could get Picard in, but I could see Troi, Crusher (either one), and maybe even Riker to make appearances here.

We can hope, anyway.  In the meantime, we still have a new Season that’s coming up in October, which will have another episode which is likely going to be more involved than this one, plus a new major fleet holding (something more on the scale of the fleet starbases than the other holdings), which should make life interesting on the final frontier.  And as I recall, we can expect something in another week or two.  Something to do with an anniversary….

The Great Train Robbery

Are you sure this is the sort of thing an Alliance Commander really needs to be doing?

You know, missioning in an MMORPG can be a fairly dull affair.  Go to this location, and do this thing.  Kill the guys trying to kill you.  Get the MacGuffin.  If it’s instanced, it’s always within the bounds of four walls.  If it’s “outdoors”, well, that has its own problems.  So you really have to lean hard on the story to make a mission feel meaningful.  Except…there are ways to make it feel more interesting, and it doesn’t require dumb mechanics like jumping puzzles.  Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery-and give it motion.  Relatively recently, for example, when playing Champions Online, I extolled the virtues of a Queen City mission where you board a moving riverboat.  It’s still got all the constraints you’d expect from a regular mission, but the illusion of movement and activity make it stand out.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, has done this as well; they have at least one Heroic which combines this with one of my least favorite mechanics (the aforementioned jumping game)-but at least it’s a catchy situation hopping from moving air-car to air-car.  But with their latest patch, we’ve got a new Flashpoint:  Crisis on Umbara, which can be done traditionally or in a solo-story mode (and the traditional method-as in, grouped-has its own mechanics and assorted difficulty levels).  The FP continues on a thread taken from the Iokath storyline, where someone in your Alliance is trying to bring it down.  Well, thanks to the work of Theron and Lana, your primary advisers, the traitor has been located on board a train on Umbara, looking to acquire Adegan crystals-last seen when the late Darth Malgus tried to usurp the Sith Empire with his stealth armada.  So before you can say “Snakes on a Train”, you, Theron, and Lana are off to Umbara to snag the traitor before any real damage is done.

I won’t spoil the traitor’s identity here.  It’s not hard to find out on the ‘net, but I’ll sit on it until the next bit of content rolls in that builds on it, because I’m sure that we’re looking at the familiar trope of “Late Arrival Spoiler“.  Until then, though, let’s let the traitor’s name remain hidden.  Suffice it to say, however, that the traitor will be back to plague our heroes, and we get another indicator of just what is truly behind this all.  Besides, it’s not the traitor that interests me today.  Well, it is, but I was talking about the setting.  It’s a freaking moving high-speed train!  Of course, it’s a Star Wars train, so figure it’s not using anything resembling wheels and more along the lines of your average landspeeder.  Not anything resembling tracks on the ground, but hovering vertical rings.  And much like action sequences in most movies with trains as a setting, you will be fighting not just the local Umbarans (who, apparently, don’t like uninvited guests), but also the faction you didn’t choose to support at Iokath, who are a little irritated about the things that happened to either Acina or Malcom, depending on your actions.

By the way, I will take a moment for a minor spoiler here, so that readers do not do what I did.  You will find a point where there are two very large “Champion” level turrets.  Don’t bother trying to engage them; don’t bother trying to go around them.  Pay attention to the hole in the roof well before then instead.  Go that way.  Don’t be like me and try THREE TIMES to find a way to deal with those damned guns and get blown to bits by them.  Yes, I completely embarrassed myself by missing that hole in the roof and went on a futile quest to blow up those guns.  LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

There’s another big trope (well, it SHOULD be, even if I can’t find it) that you can associate with action sequences on trains.  It’s probably not hard to guess at what it might be.  Suffice it to say, it involves the traitor and your response to that, which consumes roughly the latter half of the Flashpoint.

There are a few boss battles on the way, and possibly another that I bypassed completely when I realized I didn’t have to fight it (but see below).  One involves a stealth-assassin and a tech who pops down automated turrets that upgrade fast.  I find that killing the tech first is the best way to maintain sanity in that fight, because those turrets can get out of hand.  Setting your companion to healing is probably a good move if you aren’t already a heal-spec character.  The next one involves a critter-it’s amazing how many large creatures exist on settled planets, right?  The final one involves a rather large battle-droid, who is ringed conveniently by a bunch of highly explosive containers.  Targeting said containers can be a bit tricky, though, since the hit box of the droid is so bloody large that half the time you’ll still wind up targeting it.  Each of these battles have their own special mechanics-I fully recommend using Dulfy’s site for details.

Much like the Flashpoints that led up to the Shadow of Revan expansion, there is a new currency drop available from the bosses (including, incidentally, the one I bypassed.  Oops).  This can be used to gather, among other things, a new armor set, a new mount…and a new Stronghold:  which, as I understand it, is one of Umbara’s trains.  Yes, you’re looking at a mobile Stronghold here.  Nobody’s actually seen it yet, though, because there is a cap on how many of the new currency you can get on a character (and it’s bound, big shock)-and the cost for the Stronghold is ten more than you can gain in a week.  The more cynical part of me wonders if that’s because the devs actually are still finishing the work on it; the more realistic part of me figures that a week is an awfully specific amount of time to estimate being done by, so that’s probably not the reason.  More likely that they didn’t want the content locusts to finish running the FP in less than a week.

I’ve run the mission through with my two “main” characters, my Smuggler and my Agent, and both have their opinions about the events of this FP, spoken and unspoken.  My Agent, in particular, has his own theories, based on his own experiences as Cipher Nine.  It may make for some interesting moments, should the writers of the story arcs choose to include that.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I rather enjoyed running the FP, although I don’t know that I’ll bother trying for the new Stronghold; after all, 1) I still only recently acquired the Tatooine one, 2) SWTOR only recently released the Manaan Stronghold which I haven’t touched-and at this point, may not, 3) I’ d have to run this FP about a dozen times on a single character to unlock it, and even with my willingness to repeat content, that might be pushing it, and finally 4) I don’t have the heaps of credits required to unlock rooms, much less do a full useful decoration of the place.  I’m still in the middle of unlocking Tatooine rooms, never mind outfitting the place appropriately.

The Reports of His Death Were Highly Exaggerated

Despite appearances, everything is going exactly according to plan…

Star Trek Online has released a new episode in its ongoing arc concerning the Lukari and the Tzenkethi, and it features a bit of a sidetrack.  The Lukari are nowhere to be seen in this one, and the Tzenkethi are less important to this mission than Klingon politics.  The episode, “Brushfire” features, in fact, a Klingon warrior long thought dead:  former Chancellor Martok.  One has to credit the devs on this much:  they have done an amazing job on recruiting the voice acting of the original actors of many characters for this game.  This episode features no less than three.

It features a mission to sneak into a prison operated by the disgraced House of Torg, a name recognizable by the players of the Klingon faction.  General Rodek (remember him?) has been ordered by the current Chancellor to headline a rescue mission, with the muscle represented by the player character and crew.  However, it does involve a modicum of stealth.  Fortunately, the definition of stealth for a Klingon means “blow up the ships guarding the place before they can get a signal off”.  Did I mention this takes place in the Briar Patch, a region of space known for explosive gas clouds?  And did I also mention that there is a new group of aliens-new to STO, that is, not to the franchise-that is known to operate in this area that make their debut here?

Once past the defenses in space, it’s time to infiltrate the station as prisoners.  If all goes right, you will escape with the former Chancellor and flaming wreckage in your wake, and into a final conflict with the House of Torg (well, as final as anything ever is in Klingon politics).  And as if the Klingons and the aforementioned other species wasn’t enough…the Tzenkethi are also on hand because they want a piece of “the Butcher”.  (Hint: that isn’t you.)

As far as missions go, it’s not what you’d call deep.  It does feature a potentially life-changing moment for Rodek, who is given cause to question a number of things he has always(?) believed, and it brings a very potent political force back into the mix for the Klingon Empire, even if that force denies it.  But it doesn’t do much to advance the current quest line in the episode arc.  That’s actually okay-we got breather episodes in the Star Trek series that focused on story arcs; it’s not unreasonable to have one here.  And the Klingons deserve a spotlight once in a while, too-although I do think that it would be more interesting at some point to see a Gorn, Orion, Nausicaan, or Lethean oriented episode at some point; be nice to see some of the cultures that make up the Klingon faction these days.  But that’s sidetracking myself.

A couple other things landed with the patch.  Naturally, new lockbox, centered on the aforementioned newly arriving species.  Big shock there, right?  Another thing introduced is an “Endeavor system”.  This tends to be a limited time achievement-based event, where you do something x amount of times in y amount of time.  The one I saw first was a Borg related one, where one had to blow up 15 Borg ships.  Being on a team apparently does not help on the count; I was in a Borg Red Alert on a team, and got credit for exactly four kills.  That said, I may have failed to read the instructions clearly enough-I thought it said 15 ships, but it may have said “15 Cubes”.  That would make a big difference, as it wasn’t only cubes being blown up.  The rewards didn’t seem like much to me, but I’m going to hold off on judgment until I actually run a couple of these and see what shakes out.  For those who enjoy doing the Admiralty thing, there is a new campaign that features the Ferengi, and offers gold-pressed latinum amongst its rewards-as well as Dilithium, which apparently a focus in this path.  (This should do all kinds of amusing things to the Dilithium Exchange if true.)  Finally, as is habitual for new episodes, there is a weekly reward offered in addition to a choice of either a specialization point or an equipment tech upgrade item.

Obviously, I ran my primary Klingon character through “Brushfire” first, and the screenshot reflects that.  Still working on a decent framework design for the images, and it’s likely that I’ll wind up having a separate one for Klingons and one for Starfleet.  (Don’t get me started on Romulans-I’m not sure I’ll bother, but it could happen.)  Clearly, I’m no graphic designer, but it has most of the elements I’d look for.  Just need to figure out a border design for the edges that fits for a Klingon-oriented look.  I’ve made strides in my Starfleet design, but it’s not ready for primetime yet.

Riding the Escalator

Transporting to the wrong side of the tracks.

Last week, Star Trek Online hit us with a new Feature episode:  Escalation.  First, though, I’m going to touch on a couple highlights of other stuff in the patch.

One thing I won’t touch on this time, though, are the new “war game competitive queues”; I’m undecided as to whether or not I want to bother with that.  I’m okay with cooperative team-ups, but I don’t have the same thrill on competitive ones as I might’ve in younger days.  That said, I didn’t absolutely hate doing STO PvP back in the day when it was really the only decent way to level up a Klingon, so the jury is still out on it.  It’s a significant part of the latest patch here, so I’d feel remiss if I ignored it completely.  We’ll see what happens.  There’s a Reputation associated with these queues, too, making them one of the few Reputations I likely one have maxed out on at least one character.

There have been space combat balance changes.  So far, I’m not noticing major differences, but let’s face it:  I’m not one of the high-end players either, who tune their captains and ships to be death-dealing machines.  I do okay-but that’s about it.  So others more knowledgeable will have to comment on the impact those changes have had.  I’m not horribly helpful today, am I?

How’s this for good news?  The Delta Rising missions have undergone some mutation.  The Kobali Adventure Zone has mutated in the mission logs; originally, they were independent of the episodes, then they were incorporated into the Delta Mission arc, but that was causing issues, too-so now, they’re set within three missions that contain the adventure zone missions.  I don’t know if that’s a big improvement or not, but it at least reduces the perception of having to come back every level to the planet to do stuff.  Heaven help you, though, if your character had already done some of the missions but not all of the ones in an arc; plus, judging from some of the dialogue windows, someone needs to go through and make sure that they aren’t missing the first half of sentences.  Just saying.  Speaking of levels, the experience curve of 50-60 isn’t as harsh anymore, and-best of all-the patrol missions for the Delta arc have been removed from the episodic path (although you can still likely patrol them if you want to-both of which may make the Delta arc feel less like a slog, which is a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

You know, I’m not sure this has been completely thought through….

Bringing us to the new Feature Episode, the eponymous Escalation.  In the current episodic arc in STO, your captain has been assisting the first exploratory vessel of the Lukari in its first steps to reach out to the wider universe.  In doing so, you’ve learned a bit more about the Lukari as well, like how they were driven off of their original homeworld in a…disagreement with their parent species, the Kentari.  In fact, you even stumbled upon the abandoned Kentari homeworld, which was a bit of a mess.  Unfortunately, in your seeking out strange new worlds, etc, you’ve also come upon another mystery-the alien Tzenkethi have been exploding protomatter weapons on worlds with strange crystals upon them-and they don’t care much if the world is inhabited or not.  How bad are protomatter weapons?  Remember Genesis?  Just when you thought the devs had opened up a massive can of worms with time travel, they’ve opened another one just as big with reviving the technologies that brought us a weapon of mass destruction like no other.  As Doctor McCoy once said in response to Spock’s comment that it is easier to destroy than it is to create:  “Not anymore; now we can do both at the same time! According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now, watch out! Here comes Genesis! We’ll do it for you in six minutes!”

Which brings us to the present.  A mysterious world has been discovered nestled in a nebula, and the Lukari have asked your assistance in making first contact.  The results are…perhaps not surprising, given the episode arc thus far; the world is a ravaged mess, in the grips of ecological disaster.  Worse, the natives are factionalized in the usual fashion-some of them are happy for any help you can deliver; others trust you about as far as they can throw your starship.  And just when you manage to get things going, the Tzenkethi show up….  And things go nuts from there.

The mystery of the Tzenkethi motives remains just that; but don’t think that there wasn’t any forward momentum in this episode.  The natives are likely going to be a key part of at least another episode, I suspect, before this is all over.  The uses of protomatter as a help and a weapon continue to be front and center-perhaps showing that technology is indeed neither good nor evil, but simply neutral.  It is the hand that uses the tool that determines its usefulness.  Star Trek-the television series-didn’t shy away from these themes, and STO seems to be willing to continue in the same vein.

The episode does feel like it was written harder for the Starfleet POV than the Klingon, though; it’s hard to imagine the Klingon captain being polite-at least, not the Next Generation/DS9 and beyond Klingons.  I could see the Original Series ones being that way….  But the dialogue options are pretty much identical for Empire players as they are for Starfleet ones.  Is it REALLY that difficult to represent the points of view and the admittedly generic attitudes of the Romulans and Klingons?

As usual, playing through the mission in the opening weeks will make new rewards available for completing the mission (encouraging replay), and the first run of the week will give one character the choice of a tech upgrade or a specialization point for each week that the episode is featured.  Choose your characters wisely.

So, we’ve got a decent episode, and a lot of updates to the combat system in the void of space, and a new set of queues in which to test yourself against other captains in a new way.  STO’s continuing to move forward with no end in sight.

(As a final aside:  it seems that the previous feature episode, Survivor, has been put into the latest episodic arc.  Not entirely shocking, I guess; there weren’t many other places it would work.)