Since I wrote last, I’ve made significant headway into STO. As it stands, Xerxes has been promoted to Commander Rank 5, and I can say with certainty that not only is this the farthest I’ve ever made it into STO, but also the farthest I’ve advanced in any MMO. For his part, Tanaj continues to rank up, but the sheer pleasure of playing at Commander rank (with more abilities and harder enemies), coupled with the fact that I just played through the Klingon front, have kept me from progressing him faster.
Striking a Balance: The Romulan Front
Xerxes ended the threat of Ambassador B’vat’s machinations against the Federation, and after a slight refit (red victory stripes on the hull and a new plasma-resistant shield; ‘Ships of the Line’ piece forthcoming), she headed out to Starbase 39-Sierra.
I really appreciate the fact that fighting the Romulans – both on the ground and in space – feels completely different than facing the Klingons. Their ships use better, more interesting powers (damn you, Subnucleonic Beam!), and on the ground, their medics and scientists are tough nuts to crack. Actually, in the latter case I feel particularly bad – I am specifically and ruthlessly targeting humanoid enemies labeled ‘medic’, a fact that must qualify as some sort of war crime. I’d have more pangs of guilt if they weren’t so damn hard to kill.
The ruins of a failing civilization.
It’s taken some time, but I finally grown to like the missions on the Romulan front. The first several – ‘Minefield‘ and ‘Saturday’s Child‘ specifically – felt disconnected from any larger story arc. I know that the first several episode missions on the Klingon front were very similar in this regard, but with the Undine infiltration and the ever-present threat of war, I always had the feeling that those beginning Klingon missions were building up to something larger. Not so with their Romulan counterparts.
Complicating matters is the fact that Admiral T’Nae refuses to list the available missions in any meaningful way – meaning that, to play the episodes in the appropriate ‘story’ order, I have to keep searching Google for a list.
"Xerxes, here are your mission assignments - I dropped them on the way over, hopefully they're not too disorganized..."
However, last night and this morning I finished the missions ‘Preemptive Strike‘ and ‘Hunting the Hunters‘. Both were absolutely fantastic, for completely different reasons. In the first, I really liked that the Federation had finally found those
WMDs destructive subspace weapons, and that I got to destroy them. The massive fleet battle at the climax of the mission was also really amazing, even if it felt a bit too short.
The massive fleet battle at the end of 'Preemptive Strike'. Yep, that's a Reman warbird chillin' in the background.
I had a few other (small) qualms with the otherwise awesome mission, more dealing with the overarching storyline than the particulars of the quest. The last leg of the mission was named ‘The Empress Advances.’ I can only assume that means Sela was leading the fleet we fought, though there was no mention of this, not even a ‘friendly’ enemy hail. Also, I thought Rator III was the location of the new Imperial capital – why is Rator on the Federation side of the old Neutral Zone? And if this massive Federation fleet is actually in orbit above the Romulan’s new captial, then no wonder the Romulans don’t like us! Lastly, how is having an all-out, knock-down fight between two massive fleets preventing war between the Romulans and the Federation?
In the second mission, dealing with the Hirogen was a nice change from fighting melee-oriented Klingons and heal-heavy Romulans. Perhaps it was a fluke, but when I beamed down to the planet, Xerxes was isolated from her bridge crew and had to fight through each of the tests alone, all while her loyal bridge officers fought without her outside of the force field. In games, I often like it when my avatar is forced to face a threat alone, without the aid of the always-there supporting cast; it serves as a pleasant reminder that my character is the actual hero. Conversely, surmounting a personal test of character with the help of friends seems like a cop-out. As it stood, personally taking on four or five Hirogen at the time was a really pleasant surprise. Maybe it was an accident, but that accident immensely increased my enjoyment of the mission.
Alone against the hunters.
Like I said, I’ve begun to really get into the Romulan front, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming missions – investigating the disappearance of the U.S.S. Nobel, and uncovering the truth behind the Hobus supernova. I’ve not really spoiled much of the story for myself – I’m excited!
Up next: a look at the Defari missions, and the news ships my characters are flying.