Star Trek Online: Interstellar dodgeball champs

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The last mission of the Yesterday’s War arc (so far, at least), Terminal Expanse sends me to investigate the Sphere Builders who are setting up interstellar dodgeball championships… or messing up the timelines of multiple universes or somesuch. I choose the dodgeball theory. I mean, look at that thing!

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This is where we start butting heads (or rubbing shoulders) with the JJ-verse, or the “Kelvin Timeline,” as Star Trek has chosen to awkwardly name it.

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I am… not a fan of the JJ-verse Connies. They look like they’re trying to compensate for something with those muscle car fins. Just a very off-balance design.

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The interiors I can get behind, however. They still look very Star Trekky, and in a bolder and more high-tech way than we got on, say, Voyager. I beam aboard the Yorktown to visit the sole JJ-verse movie character that the game could secure, some one-liner blue shirt from Star Trek Into Darkness. But at least he has freaky eyes!

Actually, good for this actor. I mean, imagine you got a bit part in one Star Trek movie and wasn’t included in the next one — and then you get a call from the online game that wants to put you in a starring role in a mission with voice work. It’s a heck of a consolation prize.

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Say what you will, but Star Trek Online is second to NONE when it comes to capturing the intense thrills of using tiny fire extinguishers on localized blazes.

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We beam over to the rather sparse and unimpressive interior of the giant sphere and do what we do best — plant bombs all over the place and try not to think about why Starfleet is so very good at such things.

Plot cutscenes intervene again, with the Envoy talking to the Builders and reminding me of why I completely tuned out of Star Trek Enterprise in season 2. The whole “temporal cold war” storyline was as muddled as it was dull, and STO doesn’t do itself any favors trying to reheat that arc here.

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Space dodgeball evolves into MechaFireBall!

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With the Sphere blowned up but good, Daniels gets another time-makeover and Science Officer 0718 gets a few final lines before being ushered back stage at Cryptic Studios. I’m hoping we get to meet the huge-eyed OBGYN doctor from the first movie next!

Star Trek Online: Holiday to the future

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More time traveling hijinks in Star Trek Online, shall we? We shall. Daniels, who doesn’t seem to want to leave me alone, has another task. The Vorgons in the future are chasing after some Macguffin Super Weapon, and we have to jump to the 27th century to help. Considering that it is, you know, the future, you think we could just leave a note for Future Starfleet to handle. Worked for Marty McFly.

So we’re off to the 27th century, and I’ll admit, I was pretty excited to see what vision of this far-flung era the developers had in store. Turns out that the 27th century looks an awful lot like the 23rd, 24th, and 25th when all you do is hang out in space. Yes, the mission never lets you see anything cool in the future, just a lot of space battles.

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Ooh, Star Trek Online, you so pretty. I often forget that.

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We then chase the Macguffin back to the Star Trek Enterprise era and its sixteen loyal viewers. Once again, no fan service satisfaction other than a brief shot of Archer’s ship. No cameo, no heading over for dinner, nothing but some more space battles. I have to admit, this all felt very lazy and half-assed, especially with the mission name-dropping Archer and Picard as if that was supposed to instill some sort of awe.

The most interesting part of the space battles was fighting some Tholians who decided to show up and attack both me and the Vorgons. The Tholian webs are pretty cool to see in action.

You know what would have been cool? A time travel mission in which you would be able to choose which era you’d visit and have to flit back and forth to solve a mystery. But that’s not what we get here.

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At least it all picked up when we were sent to Earth during the Dominion War, when the Breen were invading Starfleet Academy. I was considering how odd it was that I had a Breen crewmate, but no matter, friendly fire was not an issue.

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In the end, I stop the Vorgons from getting the device, but it’s a half-won victory. The Vorgons end up going all-in with the mysterious time traveling Envoy, and this decision gives the Envoy hair while Daniels’ own face gets warped even further. I’m calling it: Daniels and the Envoy are the same person. But I’ll have to find that out later, I guess!

Looking back at the 6 MMOs I played the most in 2016

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Seeing as how this will be my final MMO-related post of this year, I thought it only fitting to look back over 2016 and recall my exploits in MMORPGs. While I did dabble here and there in various titles, such as Firefall, ESO, and Trove, for the most part my year was dominated by six titles — none of them surprising, but all fun and influential in my gaming career.

One of the best things that happened for me in terms of playing MMOs was getting a new computer that could actually run them well. That’s been such a boon.

(1) Final Fantasy XIV

At the beginning of the year, I had made a resolution to find a “home MMO” and settle my butt down to mostly focus on one title. Initially, that became FFXIV, as it was fairly new to me,, had a lot of positive word-of-mouth, and offered a lot of content.

I had a good run in that MMO, I think, although around April I decided that I had run out of steam and was losing the will to play it. That was unfortunate, because I was finally nearing Heavensword content and had found a really great guild, but alas. In retrospect, there was a lot I ended up respecting and liking about the game as well as a lot of irritating issues. I think my biggest gripe is that it never quite clicked with me even though people kept urging me to stick it out because, I quote, “It gets really good later on!” I shouldn’t have to wait more than four months for a game to get really good, and my patience wore out. Maybe I’ll go back some day. I’d like to think so. That Red Mage looks pretty cool…

(2) World of Warcraft

WoW got its hooks back in me early and kept them there, pulling me right back into this old favorite. The first half of the year was spent plowing through Warlords of Draenor, building up my expansion, and prepping my roster of characters for the new expansion. The second half was all Legion, all the time, and it’s been a really good ride so far. Found a terrific guild, got a pair of legendaries, built up my Death Knight to a great place, and still have a good amount of content on which to chew.

(3) RIFT

The announcement of Starfall Prophecy got me back into RIFT, and it’s been a reliably second-tier MMO interest since then. Again, discovering a wonderful guild — perhaps the best I’ve been a part of in MMOs — was a major factor to my stickiness, but having an expansion’s worth of content and a new house to build certainly kept me busy. I have just so much left to do here and no real desire to leave.

(4) The Secret World

Back in February I seriously splurged and bought a Grand Master membership, which I really don’t regret doing. The constant buffs to currency/AP are wonderful, the extra cosmetics and mounts nice, and having a monthly allowance of points is terrific. I did take a long break in the middle of the year due to my disinterest in City of the Sun God, but I finally rallied to complete that and move on to Transylvania. I’m hugely excited to see what might come for this game in 2017!

(5) Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has been an on-again, off-again journey. I get really excited about it for two or three weeks, then let it go for a month. I did come back for some fun adventures, although getting bogged down in Delta Rising was death to my interest. Recently I’ve jumped past that and gotten excited to go through the more recent episode arcs.

(6) Lord of the Rings Online

Early in the year I spent some time getting through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, after which I took a very long break until just recently. However, over the past month I’ve been logging in every day or two to advance my Captain through Update 19 in anticipation of the Mordor expansion next year. It’s great to be back and I hope I won’t leave any time soon.

Stay tuned next Monday as I post my hopes and aspirations for the new month — and the new year! In the meantime, let me know in the comments what were the most important and influential MMOs to you in 2016!

Star Trek Online: Doomsday redux

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Thanks to the recent free phoenix box promotion, I’ve felt encouraged to at least dip back into Star Trek Online now and then. I’m completely ditching the rest of the Delta Rising campaign — good riddance, I say — and picking up the other episode arcs that I’ve yet to do. So why not start with the time travel chain from Star Trek Online?

First up is The Core of the Matter, another Doomsday Machine story in a game that’s already gone to that well once or twice before. Daniels sends me back to the 23rd century in Romulan space (disguised, of course), to investigate some sort of temporal anomaly. It has to be exhausting to be in his line of work.

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I know this design was from the 1960s and all that, but even as a kid I found the bird decal on these ships to be incredibly dorky. Like a doodle. Doodles: In Space!

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We beam down to whatever planet this is, soft lens filter on and graining things up. I’m also culturally appropriating an entire alien race, which is something that Star Trek is surprisingly cool with. Love that Romulan fashion!

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After a bit of investigating, I discover that the future uglies and the Na’kul are trying to sell the Romulans a pet Doomsday ship of their very own. Totally under control and all of that. This would bring the Federation to its knees, unless Jim Kirk happened to be in the area. Then he’d just talk the ship’s computer system into falling in love with his voice and all would be lost.

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All deceptions are dropped and we get to kick butt, 24th century-style. Here I am rocking my newly acquired shotgun, which not only blows holes in Romulans but also immersion. I have to imagine that my crew is crowing “24TH CENTURY RULESSS!” while killing the past left and right and causing our own temporal paradoxes.

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Back up in space, the bad guys turn on the Doomsday device and attempt to eat me up whole. I’m not standing for that, even in my sluggish carrier, so I start firing everything while sailing circles around this space conch.

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In a fun twist of events, the Doomsday device turns on its owners and starts firing all willy-nilly. This is what happens when you try to play God, scientists! A Na’kul ship suicides into the middle of it, sending the planet-eating machine to crashland on the planet below and presumably kill all life there as we know it. So much for preserving the past! It’s kind of like if you sent a pick-up truck full of shotgun- and dynamite-toting good ol’ boys into the middle of the Revolutionary War and told them to have at it.

Oddly enough, the conclusion of this mission sees Daniels striken by… something. A change in the past? One dead planet shouldn’t be enough to make his face all Emperor Palpatine, but here we are.

NEXT WEEK ON STAR TREK: SYP — THE CREW OF THE FIREFLY GO INTO THE 27TH CENTIRY AND MESS UP THE FUTURE TOO!

Star Trek Online: Gullibility, thy name is Starfleet

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“Remember when this game used to be about our adventures and exploits? Now we’re literally background characters to a couple of aged actors.”

So there’s this frustrating trope that Star Trek does, mainly in Voyager, which is that when the ship or crew comes under attack, everyone just sits back and lets themselves get beat up for a while before actually fighting back. It’s as if Starfleet has some sort of “turn the other cheek seventeen times” mandate, and it is really frustrating to watch in episodes.

Well, now I can say that it’s even more frustrating to experience in a game, because we’re moving on to All That Glitters (surprisingly, not a LOTRO crossover). And this mission is rife with this trope.

It starts out with the Doctor asking for assistance to help probe a ship. Well, that turns out to be a trap from the Vadwaar, naturally, so ensue a little prologue combat. After that the Vadwaar commander shows up and says, oopsie, those guys were fighting without permission and can’t we all be friends? This is where the mission starts being frustrating, because there is no sane, rational choice to tell Gual (the commander) to cram it, that we do not negotiate with people who just tried to kill us. No, the choice is, “Sure, let’s sit down for peace talks! Would you like to come back to one of our defenseless space stations?”

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That brings us (sigh) back to Neelix and the Talaxian base. Gotta reuse those set pieces, after all! There’s an amusing bit as Neelix and the Doctor have a catch-up montage while my crew is fiddling around in the background, wondering if they can defect to a different Federation where people don’t walk around asking for muggings.

Well, as expected, Gual isn’t there for any peace talks. Instead, he basically starts goading us into a fight. And when that doesn’t work — because the game doesn’t let me Han Solo his butt and fire first — he just up and shoots a random Talaxian cook who comes into the room.

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This was actually really funny because, thanks to Cryptic’s always buggy engine, Gual’s shot clearly missed this guy by about three feet. I have screenshot evidence because I was slamming on the print screen key during this cutscene. I guess death by proximity?

With the cook dead, you’d expect our crew to fire back… but no, we’re still stuck in wonky cutscene land, where Starfleet is as meek as kittens and the bad guys can commit murder and then lazily beam away. But not before ordering a massacre of the base.

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At this point my eyes hurt so dang much from rolling, but at least I am freed from cutscene paralysis and can just start attacking. It’s what I do best. There’s a part of the mission where you are supposed to have a Sophie’s Choice moment where you can only save one room of Talaxians, but this fails to be compelling because:

  1. They’re Talaxians
  2. They’re nameless, faceless NPCs that you never met before

Lots of firefighting ensues, and a friendly Deus Ex Alien group beams in to help (not that we needed it). In the end, Gaul gets away, Neelix is oh so sad, and as the commanding Admiral on the scene, I order total war against the Vadwaar. Also the Talaxians, just because I can.

Star Trek times three

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Star Trek Online

Let’s bundle together a few Star Trek thoughts today, starting with the continued adventures of the U.S.S. Whatever Ship I’m Flying Today. I think I’m back to the Atrox Carrier, but that doesn’t matter.

After a promising start, the Delta Rising expansion seems to be bogging down into a series of missions that are either glorified cameos of various Voyager races or some ground stuff that doesn’t feel like it matters. Listen, if you watched Voyger, then I’m sure this is all quite thrilling, but so far I’m not seeing some great story here. Or even stories.

Currently I’ve been sent down to the surface of a war-torn planet to wage a three-woman war against the Vaadwuar, which sounds more like a piece of furniture a rich person would have than a terrifying alien species. I guess they’ve gotten some advanced tech and we’re curious about that, but who knows?

I don’t mind Star Trek Online’s ground game, but I will say that mission pacing falters if you are asked to spend long stretches of time in it. I also don’t quite understand why I’m going into a known combat zone with a truncated team instead of a full five-character party.

Here’s hoping either the narrative will perk up or we’ll shoot through the rest of this expansion and get to the next episode series.

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Star Trek Discovery

OK, we really need to talk about the reveal of the new Star Trek series, Discovery, from SDCC. It was certainly a good time to do so, with the 50th anniversary and the new movie and all, but I have a gut feeling that they had to rush to get this out and what emerged was weirdly half-cooked and not nearly as exciting as the announcement of a new Star Trek series should be.

I will say that I like the title (and logo) very much. Discovery is at the core of Trek and the word certainly ties into the franchise perfectly. Great name for a ship and a tip of the hat to the space shuttle too. It’s also heartening that out of the little the showrunners revealed here, they did confirm that it will take place in the “prime” (original) universe and not the JJ-Trek timeline. The movies are fine and all, but it feels right that the TV show stays where it all began.

Then we get to the teaser trailer, which is nothing more than some music and the launching of the U.S.S. Discovery from an asteroid hanger. I can’t be diplomatic here: This is one insanely ugly ship design, and to make matters worse, the CGI for the trailer looks positively awful. Like mid-90s cutscene bad. This is why I feel like it was rushed out the door in time for an event, because this is just shoddy. About halfway through the teaser I thought I might have accidentally clicked on some fan-made video instead, it was that bad.

I’m OK with change and all, but I’m sorry, if a ship is going to be the icon for your series and the vehicle to take you through it, this is like shooting yourself in the foot with the starting pistol for a race. Yeah, I don’t care if it’s an intentional homage to the design of the (rightly) unused design for the Enterprise for Planet of the Titans/Phase II, it’s a woofer. Gold plating? Big triangle base? Angles every which way from Sunday?

It’s been kind of sad watching Trekkies twist themselves into knots to try to convince themselves that this is fine, this is a good-looking ship, it’s all going to be OK, don’t cry, etc. Maybe you actually do like it, but I’m not going to white knight this atrocity.

Sure, we don’t know much past all this. Maybe it’s a hint at a cross-faction venture with the Federation and Klingons. Maybe it’s another prequel show. Another theory is that this is a ship cobbled together from older ships in a far-flung dystopic future. Maybe this is one of many ships to bear the name “Discovery” that will be seen. We simply don’t know. But here’s what I’m hoping: That if this will be on-screen next year, it better start looking better than a 1970s reject.

Star Trek Beyond

I did want to end on a positive note — I was able to get out and see Star Trek Beyond this past weekend and was pretty happy with it. Lots better than Into Darkness, with fewer forehead-slapping moments in which key aspects of Star Trek were disposed of or desecrated. Space felt a little bigger, and exploring it felt a little more interesting.

It was definitely more of an action film and it still had ridiculous tech designs (the Yorktown is just waaaaay too big of a station and impractically designed… I spent half of the movie wondering how it could’ve even been built), but for the most part it started to pull out some of that classic Star Trek feel.

I think what redeems this entry is that all of the core characters really do get more time to talk and interact. McCoy and Spock have an adventure together, Chekov gets some one-on-one with Kirk, Sulu takes more of a command role, Uhura sticks up for the crew, and Scotty gets a surprising amount of scenes (which I’m sure was influenced by Simon Pegg writing the script). Lots of great references to the series (giant green hand, heh). Good stuff, all.

And (slight spoiler if you haven’t seen the trailer) they finally trash that weird Enterprise design and deliver a much better connie in the 1701-A.

Star Trek Online: Seven of Mine

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After hopping back into the U.S.S. Rain Bunny, the crew returned to the Delta Quadrant (third best of all quadrants!) for the next mission of Delta Rising. We responded to a distress call from the U.S.S. Callisto, but when we got there, it was smashed up and good.

However, some (all?) of the crew beamed off to a nearby station, including Seven of Nine. Guess it’s her turn for a mission spotlight, so get ready for catsuits and wondering why she couldn’t take off those last two bits of facial prosthetics.

Turns out we landed in the middle of a tussle between Voyager alien species that are obviously from some episode I never watched. Instead of turning around and politely booking it out of there, we did what Starfleet does best — stick our nose into everyone’s business and perform photon torpedo diplomacy.

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After a couple of rather tough fights (the Rain Bunny is definitely not a cruiser), we ended up down on a planetary surface trying to reboot a defense grid so that falling ship debris didn’t wipe out all life there.

Also, Seven of Nine showed me that she has no concept of personal space. For the first few minutes, she was about six inches away from my face at all times, as the above picture attests. C’mon, lady, I’m not even trying to fuel some sort of weird fanfic story. Also, my Breen officer is watching.

Breen guy: “Don’t mind me! Heh heh.”

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I actually like how they stepped up the fight difficulty in this mission. It wasn’t a pushover the way STO battles usually are, but instead delivered a frantic, down-to-the-wire firefight from all quarters.

Although when giant mechs dropped out of space I groaned at how unfair the devs were being… until I realized that those guys were on my side. Then I groaned that I would never get to use something that cool in this game. Cryptic, I would pay to stomp around in a mech all of the time, do you hear me?