Star Trek Online: Ninth Anniversary and Stuff
I have suffixed the title of this post “and stuff” so I can address several Star Trek Online related thoughts in a single blog post. Despite the fact that I frequently play STO it is does oddly get neglected in my writing. So, let us start with the issue of the ninth anniversary. As ever Q is back with the anniversary event and once again, we are stabilising Omega Molecules. This year’s reward is a Tier 6 Vulcan T’Pau Scout Ship. There are also emotes and sundry other items to earn during the duration of the festivities, but I more interested in the anniversary itself. Not many MMOs make it to nine years and if they do, they aren’t necessarily in as good shape as STO. The game has a stable and loyal playerbase and is currently tied-in to Star Trek: Discovery. Further established Trek actors are supplying voice acting and the game seems to be doing well across both PC and consoles. Like LOTRO, STO uses the IP well and seems to “fill in the gaps” in the existing lore as well as expand and extrapolate established canon. One of the best things about STO is that there’s always something to do in-game as well as new content in the pipeline. Perhaps this along with the handling of the IP is why the game endures.
In October last year, Cryptic released a new Star Trek: Discovery themed “starting experience” that allows players to create characters from 2256. As ever there’s a fairly involved narrative which references Klingon lore from that era and the war with the Federation. There’s the added bonus of Jeffrey Combs playing Captain Thy'kir Shran, the great-grandson of Thy'lek Shran from Star Trek: Enterprise. However, due to the main story of STO being set in 2409, the writers have to once again fall back on that old tried and tested Trek “get out of jail card”, time travel. Hence, Agent Daniels makes a further appearance and uses more temporal shenanigans to bridge the timelines. It’s an acceptable plot device if you’re new to the game, but it’s already been previously used in 2016 in the Agents of Yesterday expansion. Plus, if you don’t create a new character and play through this specific tutorial, the follow up story set in the twenty fifth century that is available to established alts, is a little confusing to say the least.
Now I happen to enjoy Star Trek: Discovery and am therefore happy to have content from this era along with voice acting from Mary Wiseman added to the game. But there is a downside to this. In an attempt to streamline and coherently curate all the previous episodes of STO, Cryptic have had to alter their running order. Some stories have been taken out of the chronological sequence and categorised as Side Content: The Galaxy at Large. If you are a dedicated trek fan who starts playing the MMO from scratch, you may have to play a fair amount of content across multiple factions before everything falls into place. After nine years that game does seem to be sagging under its irregular narrative growth. But despite these occasional quirks the stories available do all have a strong Trek feel to them. Last summers Victory is Life expansion contained some of the best written material outside of the shows themselves. It certainly tapped into the best elements of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s a shame it is not officially canonical.
Another issue that Cryptic have been trying to address of late is encouraging players to participate more in the various group PVE missions or Task Force Operations as they have been renamed. This content provides among other rewards, rep tokens which are required for reputation faction advancement. In the past it would be difficult for players to find a group for some of the less popular TFOs, so the developers came up with the Universal Endeavor system. This offers daily TFO challenges along with bespoke rewards. They also added a facility to join a random TFO with enhanced loot. As of the 23rd January and the start of the 16th STO season, Personal Endeavors have been added to the game, offering three random tasks that can be completed by replaying missions, running TFO or visiting the various battlezones in the game. If you are presented with a task that is not to your liking, you can reroll another using tokens that are given as part of the Personal Endeavors rewards. The system also provides perk points that can be spent to unlock account-wide bonuses that apply to all characters equally. For the casual player this offers an enjoyable challenge, where the dedicated min-maxer will have yet a further set of options to tweak their build.
After a year of trying a variety of ships in STO I have returned to my Tucker Tactical Miracle Worker Cruiser. The prevailing game meta has changed once again and frankly I’m not quite au fait with the latest popular theories, so I have opted for a lore-based phaser beam weapons and selected gear for a standard Auxiliary to Battery build. Everything equipped is Mark XV and upgraded to Epic level. As I no longer have any DPs parsers installed and I’m not inclined to go down the rabbit hole, I have no idea what my “official numbers” are like, but stuff dies and dies quickly, and I no longer fly like a complete fool which helps a lot. Overall, I find myself well placed at present to enjoy STO. I bought the game on launch and it took both me and Cryptic a while to find our respective feet. I played the game on and off during it’s first four years and it wasn’t until the launch of the Delta Recruitment Event in May 2015 that it fully got a hold on me. By then a lot had been done to file down the rough edges. STO still has some that need attention but I’m glad that nine years on the game is still alive and kicking. I mean what other MMO has Horta combat pets or Gorn’s in Hawaiian shirts?