Star Trek Online: Another world bites the dust

One feature that I really like about Star Trek Online is its mission level scaling. I don’t know if it’s universal, but from what I’ve seen, any time there’s a featured episode or an event episode, pretty much anyone of any level can jump into it. Thus, even though this character was pretty low, I was able to enjoy the recent Renegade’s Regret episode and get the weekly reward from it.

Plus, it was kind of nice to get back in touch with this storyline, since it’s been a while. Going to be a while, too, until this character goes through it for real.

It wasn’t a hard mission but it was a good one from a storytelling perspective. You’re learning why this particular four-limbed cyber-reptile has decided to defect from his people. Basically, the answer is “planetary genocide.”

The twist here is that you, the player, actually takes the role of this alien in a series of events that led up to the defection. I was given an overpowered starship that ripped through civilian and defense craft alike and paved the way for the planetary bomb that would wipe out all life.

By the way, how terrifying would it be to live in this era? I don’t care about all of the progress and everything if there’s some xenophobic alien race that can drop a single bomb to wipe out any planet I may be inhabiting.

Even though it is really dark in theme, the visual effect of the planetary bomb is starkly beautiful. A very nice effect by the dev team.

Enough of that vacation, it’s time to get back to speed leveling! Star Trek Online has an imbalance in its campaigns, I’ve noticed. The first one, the Klingon one, has several episodes, whereas some of the later ones might only have a small handful. As such, it feels like it takes a really long time to get through that campaign when starting out.

It also meant revisiting all of these classic episodes that sometimes have pacing issues. For the record, I like an awful lot of them, especially the “Bonnie-Kin” mission. And I thought it was pretty funny to see a Reddit thread pop up for Delta Recruits that had a quick reference list to some of the more notorious quests and their very specific solutions (such as how to make that “nerve tonic” for Scotty’s friend.

Probably my only real complaint about the whole leveling process is that the ship progression feels really superfluous. I get quite tired of swapping out ships every four or six missions, and I never get attached to any of them because my eyes are on my future endgame ship. Maybe we should just start with that? Be able to upgrade it behind the scenes?

Star Trek Online: Flashback

I resisted as long as I could. Truly, I did. Hey, I don’t need another game on my plate right now, but Star Trek Online is going all out to grab my ears these days, so I guess that’s that. I’m back. Between the news of the upcoming expansion — which sounds way more interesting than the past two — and the return of the Delta Recruit event, I felt it was a sign that I should at least check in with the game on a weekly basis. And of course, I had to roll up a new character, since I do that pretty much every time I return to this game.

At least I have a good excuse here! I don’t remember the last Delta Recruit event, but it’s as good a reason as any to start from scratch. You get bonus rewards and some account-wide unlocks for pursuing alternative goals in missions and across the game, provided that it’s a brand-new character created in that time window.

So Crickety was reborn, this time as an Asian Trill. I even sprung for a Bajoran outfit, in honor of the Deep Space Nine expansion focus. The one big requirement for a Delta Recruit is that you have to go through the entire tutorial — something I haven’t done in years. And while it was cool from a story angle, especially with the added time-traveling stuff for the alternative objectives, man was it ever long.

I’ve never seen this version of the tutorial. Back in the day it was maybe 20 minutes, tops. This tutorial stretched on for two hours with multiple missions. Granted, it was well-done, had solid voice acting, and did a good job taking immersing you in both the game setting and the mechanics, but after a while I felt so antsy just to be done with it and get started with the proper missions.

Even with the exciting missions, it is beyond a stretch to take a wet-behind-the-ears graduate of Starfleet Academy and, within a DAY, see her promoted to a starship captain. I’m guessing that every graduate secretly hopes that their commanding officer will be killed so that they can assume the chair and stay there until the next graduate shows up.

My crew likes to drink. A lot. With the way I drive my ship, I guess that makes sense. By the way, it was a nice touch to have all of us start out in the academy uniforms, changing only to the customized uniform when captaincy was achieved.

In a night, I knocked out the tutorial and the first two missions while making headway on a third. For this run, I’m naming all of my ships after failed car models, so meet the U.S.S. Pinto. She’ll do 30 in a 50 m.p.h. zone and spew smoke the entire time.

6 MMOs that shaped my gaming in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for my MMO gaming career. It wasn’t really marked by any super-huge new releases; in fact, the year was pretty anemic for new MMOs, period. We’re still seeing lots in development, but only a handful of big budget, big studio projects, and most of those are for the future. Instead, this year was mostly about returning to old favorites and continuing on in my adventures.

I am really glad that I’ve been doing a monthly “gaming goals” article, because it helps me track what I was playing over the course of the year. This was the first year where I fully did that, and it is neat to look back at my aspirations vs. realities while also following the threads of my gaming life. So with that in mind, here are the six MMOs that dominated my gaming time this year:

1. World of Warcraft

This past spring, I felt the need for a break following a nearly two-year run in the game. I was feeling listless and in need of variety and direction, and I am glad I took the time off. But sandwiched around that break were my continuing journeys in Legion, my endless experimentation with alts, my progress as an Undead Warlock (the highest I’ve ever leveled one to date!), and some excitement over Battle for Azeroth and Classic. I’m ending this year mostly focusing on bringing my Gnome Hunter up to speed while giving equal time to other titles.

2. Dungeons and Dragons Online

DDO was really the surprise experience this year for me. When I went back to dabble a little bit in it, little did I know that the DDO bug would bite me hard once more. I should have remembered how much I was in love with this game back in the day, and it’s only grown since then. I’ve had some amazing quests so far with my Gnome Artificer, although I still haven’t really found a guild that’s very active or involved. Hoping to change that in the new year, and also to see the game’s expansions as I start to get up into the double digits.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

This was pretty much a steadfast experience, taking my Lore-master through the remainder of Gondor and then finally into Mordor with the fall’s expansion. While I did try out some alts (Minstrel, Hunter), most all of my time was given to the LM. Mordor proved to be a tough slog with only a handful of interesting and engaging moments, and my enthusiasm for playing started to sap away by the end of the year. Still, I’m excited about Northern Mirkwood for 2018, so there’s hope left!

4. Secret World Legends

I had to say farewell to The Secret World and my character of five years this spring, and while that definitely was a hard blow, at least Legends injected some new life into this faltering title. Taking a new character through the game and getting her back up to where I had left off pretty much consumed my attention for the remainder of 2017, and hopefully by the time the new year clicks over, I’ll be ready for season two.

5. Star Trek Online

I think I had about a two- or three-month run back in STO, doing some of the newer content while dusting off my carrier and fleshing out missions I hadn’t run yet. It was… fine, I guess, but definitely not as memorable as I was hoping nor as long-lasting as trips back to the game in the past.

6. Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 edges out FFXIV on this list by virtue of time, if nothing else. I put in about two months in this game vs. one in FFXIV, but both ultimately conveyed to me that I just wasn’t in the mindset to come back to either. There are so many things that I enjoy about GW2 but also so many things that really drive me nuts about this game that I can’t settle back into what used to be an MMO gaming mainstay for me.

Honorable mention: Elder Scrolls Online

Tossing this into this list because I should mention ESO for a few reasons. I really did want to get more into this game than I did, at one point vowing to make this my main summer title (which worked out as well as my plans usually do). But the allure of housing and the new expansion did get me to put in a few sessions, and it remains very, very high on my list of games to come back to soon.

Star Trek Online: A bug obsession

In hindsight, it was probably a mistake for Starfleet to allow its captains the privilege of naming their own ships. If they don’t regret it now, they will when they hear about their newest registered starship, the U.S.S. Snuggly Hedgehog. Truly, a name to strike dark terror in the hearts of dastardly foes.

I decided to switch things up — for now — by swapping out my Atrox carrier for a Pathfinder-class science ship. Kind of a more advanced Voyager variant. Sure, it might not have squads of fighters as its disposal, but it’s more agile and has a pretty cool aero shuttle to help out with attacks.

I present this screenshot without comment. I don’t think there is a comment that actually fits this, other than to say, yes, it happened.

The newest featured episode is “Melting Pot,” which we’re encouraged to run weekly right now for special new rewards. It’s actually a fairly frustration-free romp on a pretty (if small) planetary playfield. Things get a little nutty when scientists being scientists decide to play God and unleash a wave of nasty crab-things all over the place, but that’s what my shotgun is here for.

Following that, I thought it best to double back and work on some mission chains that I hadn’t finished yet. Unfortunately, this meant a trip back to the Delta Quadrant, because apparently I can’t start the Iconian War arc until I finish this.

I did some mission that involved infiltrating a Vardwuaaaaaaar underground facility. Initially, I was pretty excited about this. There were new mechanics involved, such as zip lining and rappelling, but that excitement quickly faded when I realized that this whole mission is on training wheels. It’s one thing to tamper down the frustration factor, but c’mon, you have to have SOME challenge.

Here, Tuvok is omnipresent, offering a constant tutorial of where to go and what to do. Funny, I didn’t see him beam down with me, so how does he know anything of what’s going on down here? And if that wasn’t insulting enough, large bouncy icons show you where you need to go to hit the next “F” for victory. Even though the mission was making a big deal out of not being discovered, I think it would actually take more effort to fail it than not.

It did get interesting at the end, as a plot twist involving parasitic aliens showed up. I think these are the same critters from the only good season one TNG episode (“Conspiracy”). It’s weird to see them suddenly pop up here, but I think it’s cool that the writers followed up on something the show never had the guts to do.

Star Trek Online: Nostalgia Tour-D

Yes, so as you might have ascertained, the whole Star Trek Discovery thing and my brush with Cryptic’s Neverwinter as of late has led me back around, once again, to Star Trek Online. And what does Syp do each and every time he comes back to this game? Why, start over, of course!

I don’t exactly know why I relish raising up a new character. Maybe it’s the fun of the missions or trying to do things a little better this time or making different choices. It’s partly because I don’t feel anything for the characters I used to have and want to bond from scratch with new ones.

Also, I wanted to see the much-vaunted lighting changes. I have to admit, they are spectacular, especially in indoor ground missions. Familiar areas have transformed into very moody and atmospheric settings, and the lighting adds so much to the whole look of the place and characters. Bravo, Cryptic.

Anyway, while my Andorian Lt. Commander works her way through the Klingon series, I took a detour to do the new featured episode with Geordi LaForge. I guess it’s something that can be done at almost any level, because I’m like 10 and I had no problem with it.

Hey! It’s me and the Reading Rainbow guy! I love you, Geordi, but I do miss your visor. Your freaky blue eyes don’t make you as personable, for some reason.

So this whole mission — which has to do with an alien that captured a Galaxy-class starship a long time ago — is really a blatant excuse to take players on a tour of the team’s painstaking recreation of parts of The Next Generation’s Enterprise. Well, a ship very similar to it.

Why blatant? Because we’re in the middle of trying to retake this ship and Geordi abruptly says something like, “Hey, a holodeck! Let’s go in there! Nothing bad ever happens in those!” And I go, “Whatever you say, although I am holding the power cord in my hand and will give a sharp yank the second the giant bugs come out and the safety protocols go off.”

And yes, the safety protocols do go off, because of course they do. Borgs instead of bugs, though.

Ten Forward! I thought this room was bigger in the show, but it’s been a while and I’m not going to gripe here. I’ll admit that as a former Trekkie, I was poking around these rooms and quite enjoying the tourism angle. They really did a great job mocking this up.

Next stop on the Nostalgia Trip-D, engineering. Even more bits to look at here, although I could’ve done without the people shooting up the place. I miss that pool table in the TV show.

The bridge and observation room were all well and good (I was disappointed that I couldn’t go into the head to see what Star Trek Online’s version of the bathroom would look like), but I made a beeline to the ready room as fast as possible. I loved the view out of the window onto part of the ship, and it was kind of cool to see that there was a little bed around the corner for the captain to nap between saving the galaxy.

Great mission, 10/10, would run again. I was glad to get a purple ship phaser that would fire in a 360-degree arc. I’m sure that’s going to come in handy in my piddly tier-2 starship.

The new Star Trek series that isn’t behind a paywall!

Hey kids! Are you jonesing for a new Star Trek series but you can’t swipe mommy’s credit card to pay for CBS All Access? Then we’ve got a free option for you!

Tune in to Star Trek: Joyride, a brand-new, multi-million dollar series here on Bio Break! Free with no commercial interruptions, we might add. It follows the adventures of Crickety, a snarky Starfleet ensign who — against all common sense — is given command of her very own trillion-credit starship right out of the academy. With no restraint holding her back and a bridge crew that is too afraid of her cutting intensity to challenge her authority, Crickety goes on an interstellar joyride to see what trouble she can get into this week!

Oh yeah, Crickety makes graduating look good. She’s no trust fund baby, but instead a tortured soul who ate the last four Mary Sues she came across. Her mother was a one-eyed vampire. Her father was a blue space cricket. Her best friend was Borg Spock from the mirror universe.

Cap’n Crickety does what she wants, when she wants, because she has the impulse control of a baboon. Check out episode two, “Fun and Games,” where she receives a distress call to help a freighter under attack. When her away team beams aboard, she challenges her crew to a game of lethal laser tag. The prize? Whatever loot they can grab from this rusty bucket before it explodes!

Oh, Star Trek: Joyride is certain to be canceled after six episodes, but Crickety is going to make those adventures count and leave a deep and oozing scar on the surface of the Federation. In episode three, “Forbidden Love,” she steals a sentient shuttlecraft and takes it on a series of romantic dates across the galaxy. Will she say “I do” before the authorities catch up with her? Tune in and find out!

7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

Here’s a little thought exercise I’ve been going through lately after having a discussion about cosmetic systems on the MOP podcast. We had been asked which was the best MMO wardrobe system, which I initially thought was an easy answer… and then, long after the podcast was done, started to revise my response. Ultimately, I asked myself how I would rank the systems present in the MMOs I’ve played the most in the last, oh, five years or so, and this is what I came up with going from best to worst.


There’s a lot of factors that go into a truly great cosmetic wardrobe system, and believe it or not, WildStar checks off most of those boxes. It’s got great armor design, plenty of cosmetic pieces, a system that remembers loot you’ve collected, multiple outfit slots, two dye channels, fun dyes, and an accessible system (which is a change from launch, which required you to talk to a specific NPC). I adored being able to create and wear different outfits based on my mood, and I was often torn on which one I liked the best because they were all pretty awesome. WildStar usually get a lot of props for its housing, but I think its wardrobe deserves praise too.

Guild Wars 2

Initially I had put Guild Wars 2 at the top, but upon further reflection, I had to acknowledge that there are two big flaws with its wardrobe system: It makes you pay to change individual slots (via transmutation charges) and it doesn’t allow for multiple saved outfits. Apart from that, it’s pretty brilliant, with several dye channels, loads of colors, expressive pieces, and all the buttflaps you can stomach. Finding and obtaining skins is an enjoyable metagame for GW2, that’s for sure.


On paper, RIFT has almost the full package. It remembers skins, has multiple outfit slots, is ridiculously easy to use, involves weird cosmetics, and so on. Other than the dye cash shop and the smaller color range, I’d say it was almost perfect… except that I just don’t like about 90% of RIFT’s armor designs. They’re not bad, per se, just not what I want to be trouncing around in, and there are strangely few store outfits that even slightly tempt me to purchase. Probably shouldn’t complain; better armor art and I might have gone broke.

The Secret World

TSW’s strength in cosmetics is that it’s a rare MMO that uses modern outfits rather than fantasy/sci-fi ones (for the most part) and is thus a fashion that is more identifiable to players. People in TSW just adore dressing up their characters, sometimes the more outrageous, the better. Wonderful array of choices are offset only by a lack of dyeable outfits (although some pieces come in multiple colors) and no multiple outfit saves. It’s nice that there is a convoluted fashion to even equip cosmetic weapons, but it really should’ve been more like the regular outfits in accessibility.

Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO sits squat in the middle of this list with plenty of strengths but plenty of weaknesses as well. On the plus side, it’s another MMO with a community that does a lot of dressing up, and the game has done a lot to make this as robust as possible. Dyes, multiple outfits, varied designs, cosmetic weapons, etc. But on the minus side, the wardrobe itself is a little creaky and unfriendly, especially when compared to how many MMOs these days are saving EVERY new design whereas LOTRO has a hard limit. And you have to manage it by hand. Plus, the dyes aren’t that great, with only one color channel for (most) pieces and the dyeable area often being small.

World of Warcraft

For a major MMORPG, World of Warcraft suffers from a kind of lackluster system. Admittedly, the fact that it has one and it’s gradually improved is far better than launch, but seriously, transmog is pretty sad when you compare it to the field. No dyes, no multiple outfits (I’m not really that keen on just changing gear’s appearance rather than having a separate and toggleable cosmetic outfit), no way to do it on the fly, new gear overriding older transmog looks and requiring more money for new transmogs, and no quick check boxes to turn off helms and capes is all in dire need of addressing. To its credit, WoW has fabulous and fun armor design, which goes a long way to smoothing over the issues presented here.

Star Trek Online

Let’s throw in a couple of Cryptic efforts to be well-rounded. STO never really impressed me with its outfits. Sure, you could mix-and-match uniform elements, there were some (but not many) colors, and you had a small handful of outfit slots. But generally you aren’t collecting new looks while you play (most uniforms are simply bought through the store), and the interface is a little unwieldy. Sometimes it’s just more interesting to let your gear do the visuals for you, since they can be more detailed and futuristic.


At the bottom of the barrel, Neverwinter does the absolute bare minimum to qualify as an MMO with a cosmetic system while making it as unfun as possible. Two cosmetic-only slots for specific items, no thank you. It’s a system that you learn about in the tutorial and then promptly forget going forward.

Now I know that there are plenty of other MMOs out there with great wardrobe systems, like EverQuest II, but I wanted to rank ones from games that I was most familiar.