Star Trek Online: Non-Combat Missions
One of the commonest laments you’ll hear from Star Trek Online devotees is that the game is too orientated around confrontation and combat; there aren’t enough diplomatic, exploration and general non-combat missions in the game. It’s a matter I have mixed feelings about, because if you watch Star Trek TOS, then Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise didn’t always live up to the ideals that The Federation extols. However, this did change in later shows. I certainly wouldn’t be averse to having more non-combat missions in the game, although they would have to be of some substance to merit my interest. The removal of the Exploration Cluster missions from STO, in July summer 2014 was justified in my opinion, as they were somewhat arbitrary. However, if you take content out of a game, then it would be preferable to see something else put back in its place.
Having recently created a new Star Trek: Discovery era alt, I’m playing through the games content once again and have noted that a lot of it has been revised and streamlined. However, despite the removal of some content deemed sub-par or no longer relevant to the narrative, there are still some odd missions here and there that vary from the standard design. One of which is “Trade Deal” which can be found on Starbase 39 via Lt. Commander Brocal. She is trying to broker a trade deal between the Federation, Ferengi, Rigelians and the Deferi. Naturally there’s a snag and an impasse has been reached so the player has to visit each Ambassador and listen to their side of the story. Depending on how you respond, additional dialogue options then appear which give you a greater insight into the matter so you can successfully resolve the matter. Despite its somewhat linear design it is an enjoyable change from the standard “pew pew” missions.
Success in “Trade Deal” comes from reading all the dialogue and not rushing to what obviously appears to be the next stage. However, the fact that it requires reading, and playing at a measured pace will not endear it to some STO players. However, it does provide a hint as to what more non-combat missions could be like. There is also a diplomatic mission on Vulcan called “Ancestral Sin” where the player has to solve a threat made against a visiting Romulan Ambassador. Again the successful resolution of this mission comes down to the sequence of events that the player pursues and although a little dry, it does make for a welcome change from simply taking aggressive action against the latest Federation enemy. If Cryptic are going to ever integrate more of these sorts of activities in to STO then they would have to try and make them narratively engaging and possibly add a puzzle element to them to give them some added interest.
As for exploration, to make such a mechanic have any real depth other than the superficial, you’d need to have a lot of hidden mission chains placed in new map areas. Simply exploring an area and getting an accolade for cataloguing what is physically there is not something I’d want to do for too long. Going to a star system and making first contact with a race and then establishing trade or diplomatic relations is an interesting prospect, but then you’re effectively creating full blown feature episodes. The choice for Cryptic would then be do they create new narrative based around exploration or continue to write missions around established lore and canonical material. I’d personally like to have both, but I get the impression that the developers tend to stick with what has proven to work. However, as Star Trek Online seems to be faring well due to the current interest in Star Trek: Discovery, may be further resources will be allocated to expanding non-combat content in the game in the future.