Victory is Life
Star Trek Online is a curious beast compared to other MMOs. Although the characters that you create have gear, skills and traits to advance, it is your ship that is the real focus of in game min-maxing. The game also has several strong narrative arcs that dovetail superbly into existing Trek lore. The fact that numerous actors from the original TV shows have returned to voice their characters in the game, is another feather in the hat for Cryptic, the games developers. STO recently had a major lighting and game engine overhaul to accommodate it’s launch on the console market. Yet despite many very positive factors, there are still times when STO feels a little clunky and lacking in polish. Cutscenes can be problematic and the game has some persistent bugs and glitches. However, despite some flaws the MMO has a strong and loyal fanbase who play actively and pay prodigiously. This is also a game with a large number of whales in its wider community.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Subsequently, Cryptic decided to base their latest expansion Victory if Life around the show. Released on 5th June, the new content features the voice talents of Alexander Siddig, Andrew Robinson, Armin Shimerman, Aron Eisenberg, Jeffrey Combs, J.G. Hertzler, Nana Visitor, René Auberjonois, Chase Masterson, Max Grodénchik, Bumper Robinson and Salome Jens. I won’t list all their respective characters but for fans and aficionados, this is a big deal. Star Trek Online is an officially sanctioned product and has the full support of CBS. As a result, the game enjoys a level of continuity and lore compliancy seldom seen in other MMOs with licensed intellectual properties. Although STO has as mentioned, suffered from lapses in QA from time to time, the standard of writing has never been poor and with regard to Victory if Life, I believe that it has surpassed its own high standard.
There have been some complaints that Victory if Life is more of an update in scope and size, rather than a full-blown expansion, such as Delta Rising from 2014. And I think that it there a degree of truth to in some of the criticism levelled at the release. The additional five levels are trifling and make no real tangible difference to your character. The increase in gear upgrade cap from Mark XIV to Mark XV again only really have an impact on min-maxers seeking a nominal percentage gain in DPS. Then there are the three bespoke Jem’Hadar missions that are more like tutorials. Yes, they’re fun but they don’t really feel any different to the starter missions for the other races. In fact, these ones seem even light in content. And then there are the six missions that make up the Victory if Life story arc. Technically it’s seven but one was held back until 28th June, as a feature episode to keep the sense of engagement going. Yes, compared to other arcs it is a rather compact series. Yet I am prepared to overlook all these points, purely because this arc finally feels like STO has finally met it full narrative potential.
Victory is Life addresses the issue of what has happened in the Gamma Quadrant since the end of the Dominion War. Odo returns as an Ambassador for the Changelings, bearing ill news of the ravages of Hur’q. Seeking an alliance proves difficult with the Klingon’s particularly ill-disposed towards helping a recent enemy. Yet the Iconian war has granted many worlds a new sense of perspective, so it is interesting to see more diplomatic overtures from Cardassia and even Ferenginar. Naturally Odo crosses the pass of Kira Nerys and we get to see how the years and current affairs have affected their relationship. Elim Garak once again proves that there’s more to his role in the proceeding than immediately meets the eye. And as ever Quark proves that he has a heart of latinum as well as an eye to the main chance. Victory if Life succeeds in taking the characters we know and love from the TV show and giving them an equally viable story within the frame work of STO.
What becomes abundantly clear while playing Victory if Life is the presence of multiple original cast members. We have seen returning cast members interact before in STO but never on this scale. And the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine remains exceptional. Listening to the precise and measured delivery of Andrew Robinson as Elim Garak, along with gruff yet emotional resonance of René Auberjonois as Odo is an absolute joy for fans. But I believe of all the six missions that feature in the expansion it is “Quark’s Lucky Seven” that is the jewel in the crown. This wonderfully conceived caper story plays out like a Ferengi version of Oceans Eleven. Quark, Rom, Nog, Leck and Brunt join forces to steal a priceless artefact, located in possibly the most dangerous place in the galaxy. Superbly written, wonderfully acted by a much beloved cast, it totally nails the essence of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The bar has just been raised and this is the standard by which all future STO content will now be judged by. That’s a big ask but it’s only what the franchise deserves. Well done Cryptic. More please.