Star Trek Online: Deja vu and ghosties

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I fear not ghosts, I fear them not.

These are the voyages of the starship Funky Lizard. It’s strange mission: To retread missions that I’ve done a few times before, but just long enough ago so that they exude deja vu instead of boredom.

I always thought that the Devidian missions in the early levels of Star Trek Online was an odd placement. Don’t get me wrong — these are fantastic missions, full of story-telling, scares, atmosphere, and even time travel. But they have little to do with Klingons (as this takes place in the Klingon arc) and take a strong tonal shift away from that classic Trek feel for a trip to scaresville. I had totally forgotten about the “Bonnykins” guy until last night. A really fun mission to play when the lights are out, I’ll say.

Of course, you can’t be THAT scared when you’re packing a minigun and have four officers flanking you with other high-tech artillery. Fear has to be the mind-killer, because it sure ain’t going to be the body-killer.

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Even though it all feels familiar, I don’t mind at all. I’ve always liked going back through the starting experiences of old favorites, reacquainting myself and building up a new legend. I’d like to say that I’m branching out and trying new things, but in truth I’m still gravitating toward science vessels. I’m sorry, but they’re just cooler than practically everything else on the Federation side.

There’s something about the combination of activities in this game — space battles, ground battles, and thoughtful mission investigation — that keeps it from getting dull and stale. Second to The Secret World, Star Trek Online is a game that’s kept me mentally on my toes with some of its missions. That’s pretty admirable for “just” text boxes for most of the quest developments.

I’m already thinking far ahead to an endgame ship. If there’s a way to earn one in the upcoming summer event, I might have to go for that, because there’s no way that I can save up enough zen for a 3,000-point ship (I have a whopping 147 so far), and I’m trying to be a little frugal these days.

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I did experiment a little with my crew’s outfits. Went with skin-tight armor this time around, giving each crew member their own color scheme. So far I like it!

I haven’t found a fleet yet, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open. Sector chat is always interesting these days (kind of wish I could keep it turned on during missions… have to look into that). Saw a lot of folks griping about Star Trek Online’s console announcement, which I thought was forehead-slapping silly. Yes, I get you’re protective of your game and any change will no doubt bring its demise, but I can’t help but see this as a really good thing for Star Trek Online. Why?

  • It shows that Perfect World has a lot of confidence in your product to give the go-ahead for a console version
  • It will open up new revenue streams, which help to ensure the game’s continued existence and growth
  • It will expand the game’s audience — as Neverwinter’s console edition did
  • It comes at a good time, with the new expansion on the way and the 50th anniversary
  • It gives the game a good excuse for a visual upgrade, which it’s getting in the form of improved lighting

So stop pouting and embrace the future, ya knuckleheads.

From what I’ve heard, console players won’t be on the PC megaserver, so there’s no fear that the sullied Xbox players will contaminate the PC master race. Whew. Bullet dodged.

It will be incredibly interesting to see how STO is adapted for consoles, since I’ve certainly ended up with more buttons than a standard controller has (I’ve heard radial menus). But yeah, I can see it — space combat isn’t twitchy, and ground combat has the option between traditional and shooter modes.

For now, I’ll keep trekking through the main storyline, and with all luck I’ll be into new stuff by mid-summer.

Star Trek Online: A new five-year mission

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Ever since the expansion announcement — and a little before, to be honest — I’ve been wanting to partake in my annual pilgrimage back to Star Trek Online. When I want a “different” MMO experience, this is where I go. A bit of ship combat, some interesting quests/lore, and a party ground combat segment.

And as I always do, I started a brand-new character because I am too fragile to handle the re-entry of my high-level captains with all of their buttons and questionable mission chain status. Plus, I wanted to check out the new skill system as I leveled up.

This time around, I created an Andorian Engineer and gave her a Jupiter uniform that I thought was rather sharp. I ran her and her ship the U.S.S. Denver through the first few familiar missions, getting back into the groove of phaser return fire and launching my Del Taco shuttle every chance I get.

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The Denver had seen better days…

While I was doing all of this, I was catching up on a couple episodes of the Priority One Podcast. There’s something infectious about the enthusiasm of the STO community. This is one of those MMOs where people have settled into their online home and haven’t budged, so for some, STO is the world entire. That forges a double-edged sword, of course: for all of the excitement and passion, there’s also a lot of rage and insanity over anything Cryptic does that displeases the mob.

It feels like I’ve gone up to the door of a clubhouse and am timidly knocking on it, seeking to gain access to a group of players that are really tight. I haven’t found a fleet yet, but it’s still in the early days, so we’ll see how it goes this week.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch how many players get into the retro-themed expansion. From what I heard, TOS captains will be able to access the “modern” galaxy at some point — and current captains should be able to go back to that era, since Cryptic said it doesn’t want to fragment its playerbase. I have no idea how popular TOS is with the Star Trek crowd these days, but it’s a great idea for the 50th anniversary and I’ll definitely want to take a peek at it when it arrives.

Star Trek Online and Chronicles of Elyria

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I might have mentioned this before, but back in high school I was downright obsessed about Star Trek. It was one of the escapes I had to cope with those rocky years, and for a good stretch there I was about as deep into this franchise as you could get without getting surgery to alter my ears and appear to be a Vulcan.

I liked the newer series, of course, but I had a particular fondness for Kirk and the original show. Collected all of the novels, watched all of the episodes numerous times, etc. And while I’ve long passed that obsession era, I guess there will always be a part of my heart that cheers at seeing TOS represent.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see Star Trek Online announce that its third expansion would be going back to the TOS period with Agents of Yesterday. It wouldn’t be the first time that this happened in the game — I recall that there was a mission or two that sent you back in time to meet Scotty and defend the Enterprise — but this looks to be a more extensive exploration of that period. That’s pretty dang cool, in my book.

All of the details aren’t out about it, but Cryptic is making it sound as though you can roll up a new captain in this era and play in it versus just visit it from the future. This all comes in time for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, so it’s a well-played move that appeals to nostalgia and might get the game some needed publicity in the mainstream press. Plus, with the new Trek series coming out next year, might as well dip into the past now before heading into the future.

It did get me to roll up a new captain last night, a punk-haired Bajoran. I didn’t have a lot of time to play, but it’s been on my to do list to revisit STO and play up through all of the new content.

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I’ve wanted to talk about Chronicles of Elyria this week, so might as well squeeze that in before the weekend. I’m really amazed how well this title is doing with its Kickstarter campaign — sometimes you never know how strong a game is going to go when it launches these things, and Elyria didn’t exactly have the biggest team or any super-well-known developers attached. It wasn’t even really on my radar before a week or two ago; many of these indie MMOs seem so much alike that they blur together.

What set this title apart from its competition for fans? It’s not like this is the only upstart game out there with a bundle of pie-in-the-sky ideas, and its look — while pretty enough — looks so much like all of these other indie brewed games that I have a hard time seeing why this is taking off while others have floundered. I mean, if it makes $900K, that’ll be the original goal of Crowfall, if I recall correctly. And Crowfall had some big names attached and a very distinct art style going for it.

It’s an ambitious title, and I definitely like some of its concepts, such as aging/dying and map exploration. Looks pretty too, although the campaign is strangely reusing a LOT of clips from The Princess Bride as examples of its combat and movement.

I guess I didn’t realize it had this big of a community, but well over $500K now and 4,733 backers shows that the team had done something right in laying down the foundation for this campaign. It definitely looks good for them funding, and a strong MMO success on Kickstarter is worth a lot of free publicity. I’m trying to be frugal right now and save up all I can, so I probably won’t back, but it’s on my watch list to try out even with the allergy-inducing “chronicles” moniker.

Hat Trick Friday: Star Trek Online

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My extracurricular outing this week was not chosen by random but by promotion. I saw that Cryptic was handing out free inventory slots as part of its Season 11 giveaways and thought that it was as good a time as any to log back into Star Trek Online and see what was up.

It’s been quite a long time since I was last in Star Trek Online — September 2014 by my last blog post about it. Since it had been that long, I wasn’t as tied to playing my most recent character/ship. Instead, I went even further back and reactivated Yeti, who had last seen play in May 2013. She’s the one who had the carrier and some of the rare bridge officers, so it was like coming back home to a splendid palace.

Naturally, there’s a lot to be done when you’re logging in after two-plus years. Mostly it was cleaning up inventory slots, accepting a ton of new missions, and trying to remember how everything works. But that’s what I like about STO — the basics of combat is always the same. Just get in range and hit that spacebar, baby!

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Once I got my inventory slots and figured everything out, I took on a mission to rescue a poor Romulan ship that had been boarded by the Borg. The space battle was suitably fun, as I launched fighters and enjoyed parking my carrier and seeing them pick off the bad guys from afar.

When we beamed aboard the ship, I was quite impressed by the detail and slickness of it all. Very atmospheric, including a hallway that was so borgified (?) that I had to take a detour around it. Could’ve just beamed ahead 10 meters, but what’s logic have to do with Star Trek?

At the end I was given a choice to keep some secret Romulan/Borg tech or not, which I totally did because who cares about the Romulans? Space Drow is what they are, and you know how I feel about elves.

All in all, the fun is very much alive in Star Trek Online. Going to have to make revisiting this game a more frequent event, I think.

STO: Applejack to the rescue!

applejackLeveling in Star Trek Online is so absurdly fast these days with the double XP toggled on that I’m almost to the max level while only being about halfway through all of the episodes.  I was grateful for this since it got me out of the Defiant ship relatively quickly, although I was surprised to see that I did get a new free ship at Rear Admiral (level 40).  For some reason I thought they stopped giving you new ships around this point.

Not one to look a free ship in the deflector dish, I grabbed the upgrade to the Sovereign (Enterprise-E).  It’s nothing special, but at least is has a few more module slots.  I’m relying on drops and mission rewards for my gear, so it’s very haphazard, especially in the weapon department.  I’d love a few more phaser turrets, although I did not mind that blue-quality plasma mine that dropped the other day.

So the big internal debate I’m having in STO is whether or not to buy a nicer tier 5 ship now and then upgrade it for the expansion or to hold off and get a tier 6.  It probably makes better financial and statistical sense to go for the tier 6, but that knowledge wages war against a few factors such as (1) the expansion is still several weeks away, (2) I haven’t seen an expansion ship yet that I desperately want, and (3) there are really cool ships and special features that would be pretty great to have now.  I know that I’m not going to buy two separate ships; I just want my “endgame” ship to work on and build up.

bridgeRight now I’m in the thick of the Romulan/Borg episodes.  I can’t believe it took this long into the game before a mission sent me into the interior of my own ship — I would not have thought to do so otherwise.  Oh hey, I have a bridge!  It’s kind of neat to see my crew doing things other than running after me with weapons splayed.

I did the Vault mission the other night with my shuttlecraft.  The mission was all elbowing me and saying, “Y’know, this would be SO much easier with a Delta Flyer, which is purchasable from the C-Store for a low, low price!” and I was rolling my eyes back and saying, “How many times do you need a small craft in this game?  And this mission isn’t that hard with the free craft anyway.  But thanks for trying!”

I’m kind of happy that I have two purple and two blue-quality bridge officers.  With all of the XP rolling in, I’ve been able to max their skills out almost instantly.  We had a conference meeting and decided together that the Wrath of Khan uniforms weren’t really working for our style, so we all went to the tailor and swapped to the experimental Sierra uniforms.  I think they work a lot better for our look.

So that’s been about it in Star Trek Online lately.  I enjoy the time spent playing it but don’t feel pulled or pressured into logging in.  It’ll be nice to know that by the time I finish up with these episodes there will be an expansion’s worth of new ones to explore — although how many those will be is anyone’s guess.

STO: In which I hate the Defiant

p1It’s time to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening with me in Star Trek Online.  I barely had time to get to know the Black River, my Ambassador-class ship, before I crossed the threshold of captain rank and got a new starship.  This is thanks to the double XP that Cryptic is running from now until Delta Rising’s launch.  Between that and duty officer missions, I’m absolutely rocketing up in levels.  That’s neither great nor horrible, as I’ve dedicated myself to going through all of the episodes in order anyway.  I guess it’ll be nice to get my tier 5 ship sooner rather than later.

Actually, it’ll be a huge relief to get my tier 5 ship, because I seriously have the buyer’s remorse with my captain pick.  At the captain level, you get your choice of three of Star Trek’s most iconic ships: the Galaxy (TNG), the Defiant (DS9), and the Intrepid (VOY).  Last time around, I went with the Intrepid, which I liked, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about regarding escort ships.  Really, I shouldn’t have bothered.

While cruisers are all about hit points and durability and science vessels about cool tricks, escorts are the glass cannons of the game.  They’re small, not great-looking (in my opinion), and more than a little flimsy.  On the plus side, they’re zippy and can slot cannons to pump out a very impressive array of firepower.

p2I’ve gotten my butt kicked a few times in embarassing ways, ways that would not have happened with a cruiser.  Sure, I’m trying to adapt by going all-out on offense and enjoying the fireworks show, but I think I like living too much to be an escort captain.  Fortuantely, I’m already captain 36, so four more levels and I can graduate to something that doesn’t fall apart when an enemy shouts “boo!” at it.

I was really pleased at the reward at the end of the Nimbus mission chain, as I got a device that allows me to summon three pirate ships to fight with me every 15 minutes.  Those ships actually do decent damage AND heal you, so they’re great in sticky spots.  I try to save them for big fights.

Right now I’m in the middle of the Romulan series of missions.  It’s like fighting dark Elves, so I’m down with that.  I took some time to level up my bridge officers and train them, and then went to Earth Spacedock to make all of our uniforms the Wrath of Khan variety (only navy blue instead of blood red.

p3We have a lot of fun on ground missions.  I enjoy pulling out seeker probes and going nuts with my minigun while my bridge crew pulls out an array of impressive skills to turn the tide of battle.  My favorite part of ground combat is my ex-Borg officer, whom I gave a sword to that I got at the completion of a mission.  It’s a hoot to see her charge into combat waving that thing above her head every time.  If seeing a Borg with a claymore running full-tilt at you doesn’t give you immediate pants-pee, then I don’t know what would.

There’s still a long way to go before getting up to Delta Rising content level, but that’s fine.  It’s a lot less boring now that I’ve got access to better ships, weapons, and skills.

STO: These are the voyages of the Black River

black1Yesterday I splurged my game time mostly on Star Trek Online.  I couldn’t help it — I was in the middle of a series of really fun missions (the Guardian of Forever one for starters) and on the verge of leveling up.  I hit commander (level 20) quickly, and not only got a new starship (the Stony Point) but the “Yesterday’s Enterprise” tie-in mission that I remember quite well from back in the day.

Despite Denise Crosby’s vocal recording of Tasha Yar sounding old and stilted, it’s still a great mission.  It’s a great call-back to the famous episode while still being its own story.  Probably my favorite moment was crawling around in the maintenance ducts and talking to an “elder tribble” while high on gas.  Plus, you end up getting to pilot the Enterprise-C for a final climactic battle, which is all kinds of awesome.

Even though I just got a new starship, this mission rewards you with an Ambassador class starship, which I instantly switched to for my main as a commander.  I’ve been plotting out what ships I’m going to be needing for upcoming ranks and I think I have it figured out:

  • Commander: My current Ambassador starship, the Black River
  • Captain: Free requisition, might try out a tactical escort for the fun of it.  Never done escorts before.
  • Rear admiral, lower half: I have a Mirror Universe ship sitting in my account bank, so I guess I’ll be using that.  My old character also had the Ambassador retrofit, but that was bound to character, not account, so I’m out of luck there.
  • Delta Rising: If I’m still playing once I get to 50, I’ll probably just buy a tier 6 ship.

black2I was all excited to take my new ship out on a test drive, so naturally the game grounded me for a long series of planetary missions on Nimbus 3 (also known as that craphole planet from Star Trek V and why oh why is this game trying to remind us that Star Trek V was a thing?).  The Nimbus missions are new to me, and while I’m not usually one for desert romps, they were sufficiently interesting.  An ex-Borg bar owner?  Huh.  There even was a dance competition in there.

The big climax of these missions involved storming a fortress, letting prisoners go free, and then being put into the middle of an arena because science fiction can’t go two days without placing heroes in a gladiator arena for some reason.  I wasn’t hating the ground combat, but I really was missing my ship after a while.  Finally, we did go space-born for a bit and I enjoyed the vastly increased killing power that the Ambassador sports.