Star Trek Online: The Problem with the Latest Roadmap
Game developers enjoy a “roadmap”, don’t they? I always get snippy about marketing speak as it’s an industry I have zero respect or tolerance for. Perhaps such a position is a cliché? But I digress. Cryptic recently released their latest roadmap for Star Trek Online, after their successful appearance at the Star Trek: Las Vegas convention. At first glance it promises a lot of content which is its purpose. But if you take a minute or two to digest the list of forthcoming material, it soon becomes clear that it is predominantly group Task Force Operations. Apart from one new story episode, Awakening, it is decidedly light on narrative material. Now Cryptic have constantly tinkered with the story arc of STO over the years and have also experimented with the format in which its presented. Hence terms such as “featured episode” have become ambiguous. But if you look beyond the semantics, there seems to have been fewer story driven missions being this year.
For me, the appeal of STO is centred upon the IP and the way Cryptic has successfully continued stories and themes from the various television shows. When I returned to the game during the Delta Recruit Event of 2015, the story was building up to the Iconian War. Content came thick and fast and the plot was gripping. The post war narrative of New Dawn was also regularly added to. But the pace has slowed noticeably. Although I am pleased to see Star Trek: Discovery themed storylines the release schedule has been ponderous. I had virtually forgotten about Ju’la the renegade Klingon and her theft of mycelium technology. This dearth of story content is further compounded by the fact that several stories have been removed from the game for “retooling” and Cryptic have still not put them back. It’s a little frustrating because new players do not get the full story arcs that were present in the game 18 months ago.
Although I welcome new content, Task Force Operations are not full stories. They are repeatable events with just a wrapper of dialogue and a smattering of cutscenes. They may well offer an opportunity to earn tokens for a specific item but they eventually run the risk of becoming repetitive and dull after a time. They’re supposed to be an addition to the big story arcs, not a substitute for them. Therefore I hope that the current roadmap is a temporary holding pattern and that at some point soon, they’ll be an announcement regarding a new expansion with a lot more narrative content. Or at the very least, the missing content will be returned to the game, with new wrappers and subtle tweaks, so that the various story arcs are fully restored. I am not hopeful that STO will tie in with the new Star Trek: Picard show. I suspect that certain members of the Star Trek alumni are either too expensive to hire or just won’t play ball.
In the meantime, I am slowly winding down my activities in the game, now that I’ve finished the Summer festival and got the ship. I shall just be checking in a few times a week. Last night I started the Arena of Sompek event mainly because I’m interested in the reward, the Section 31 Heavy Phaser Rifle. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stay the course due to waning interest. If I fail to earn the requisite number of tokens in time, I can buy 10 from the C-Store. It’s a curious business model that seems to undermine the point of playing the repeatable event. But all these minor niggles notwithstanding, it is clear that I’m running out of things to do in STO. Phoenix Prize Packs are currently available for the next seven days. Having earned sufficient Dilitium (400,000 refined) over the last few months, I purchased 100 packs yesterday. All I wanted from these were the Phoenix Tech Upgrades. I ended up with 175 of them and applied them to my current build. Now all items are Mark XV and Epic (Gold) quality.
It is common for content to ebb and flow in the MMORPG genre and for players to come and go accordingly. I have argued in the past that STO usually has sufficient to keep one busy but it does feel that things are slowing to a degree. If you roll an alt, then three of the factions available have a partially bespoke storyline. Therefore you will get some different content before you find yourself playing missions that are universal to all. There are still residual patrol missions dotted about the various sectors of the galaxy and if you investigate via the STO Wiki, you’ll find some interesting minor missions tucked away in the game. But I think I may be heading for a break, as I don’t know if I want to create a seventh character. I have never played STO socially, although I am in the Reddit Alert Fleet. Hence there are no ties with friends to keep me logging in. Perhaps that is part of the problem.