Star Trek Online: Back to the Delta Quadrant

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I swear, getting to tour around ships and see what interesting room designs are around the corner is pretty much the only reason I put up with ground combat.

In terms of my slow-as-snails progression in Star Trek Online, I hit a bit of a snag. I wanted to jump into the Iconian War arc, but apparently it’s all grayed out until I complete the entirety of the Delta Rising expansion. You know, the expansion I left in the middle of for how boring and annoying it was. It kind of chafes that the devs don’t let you pick and choose your episode arcs, especially at max level. It’s not like I’m really gleaning a great story or need to know this for the test later.

What makes this worse is that my interest in the game is hovering around 20% of so these days. Enough to log in once in a while and do a post, but when I do, I want to be playing the content that interests me, not Neelix’s leftovers.

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So I’m in the middle of some long chain, the narrative thread lost to me a long time ago. There are the aliens that sound like a type of furniture, Vaadwuar or something? Yeah, those guys. And we’re friends with the Romulans and Klingons, which is all kinds of weird. Anyway, my first mission back was a boarding effort on a hijacked Romulan ship. This was interesting enough for the touring aspect and the alien bad guy who solves all of his problems with uppercuts.

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From there it’s a trip back to Kobali Prime, the planet of soul-sucking. It’s one of those places that you can’t understand what went so wrong in Cryptic’s meeting rooms.

INTERN: I just finished up with that player survey, and as expected, the least-popular activities in the game all have to do with ground combat.

LEAD DEV: So you’re saying… more ground combat?

INTERN: No sir, just the opposite.

LEAD DEV: A *huge zone* of nothing but ground combat?

INTERN: Uhhh…

LEAD DEV: And we’ll restrict each player to only two additional bridge crew!

INTERN: [headdesk]

Star Trek Online does a lot of things well, but usually those things are done in balanced moderation. Kobali Prime is an example of a dev falling too much in love with public quests and World War I battlefields.

At least during one of those long public battles, another player decided to spray the area with confetti and flopping Swedish fish. THIS IS SRS SCI-FI, PPL!

Star Trek Online: Tzatziki saucers

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Since it’s Star Trek Online’s anniversary and the launch of a new season and all, I figured I owed the game some time. Even though I have a few episode arcs to catch up on, I went ahead and jumped into the new Season 12 mission, Of Signs and Portents.

Plus, as with most new episodes that STO releases, there are some limited-time rewards for running it, including a couple coming up in, um…

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1999? Is this Cryptic’s way of saying that the studio has mastered time travel? Are we to be sent back to the Clinton era? Gotta brush up on my Matrix memes and warn the world about the Nokia N-Gage!

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As this is the first of a line of eventual quests, there’s very little meat to it. I’m sent in along with the Klingons and some other alien race that I have yet to meet in the episode arcs to investigate some planet-destroyin’ that’s going on with protomatter bombs. Those are the BEST bombs, by the way. So much better than antimatter, doesitmatter, and promatter bombs.

The big baddies this time around are the Tzenkethi, or as I like to call them, the Tzatziki, because I love my Greek food. Can I just admit that one of my pet peeves is how annoying most Star Trek alien race names are? It’s like the writers gave up after the 189th race and just started slamming letters and apostrophes together in the hopes of creating something mysterious-sounding.

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I don’t think these aliens are all bad, not really. For one thing, they’ve got these sweet cyber-armor outfits that look like something an alien extra from Mass Effect would wear. For another, the first time you see them, one does a cannonball into a pool. Dude just wants to party.

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Hey, it’s a bomb! Looks like the whatever-they-are are trying to get rid of crystals, so I’m guessing that it’s a big fake-out and we’ve yet to meet the real threat going on. I hope these lizard guys end up being on our side. Would love to recruit one for my bridge crew.

There’s more ground combat in this mission than space, and I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that my shotgun, while cool to look at, is a poor weapon in this game. It just doesn’t shoot fast enough or handle quite right. Alas.

Anyway, happy birthday Star Trek Online!

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.