There And Back Again

I’ve just wrapped up the Klingon front’s pair of time-traveling missions (City of the Edge of Never/Past Imperfect) for what is probably the third time, and I have to say — I’m still impressed with Cryptic’s handling of the Kuvah’magh prophecy.

Oh, that’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the story line. If the crazed Augmented Klingons escaped from Amar Singh, why is B’vat still leading them? Are they still allied? Just why does Captain B’vat feel it is necessary to mention that the Augmented Klingons arrived a month ago, but only brought with them a 25th-century warship weeks later? Was curing the ridgeless Klingons part of B’vat’s plan — and was curing the crazed Augments just an added bonus?

But looking at the mission in its entirety, the writers at Cryptic did a great job combining two large pieces of Star Trek lore — the prophecy of the Kuvah’magh, filled with its near indecipherable promises that “You would know me before I know the world” and “You will follow in my footsteps before I have made them”; and the cure to the Klingon augment virus, something that must have happened at some point — Klingons eventually got their ridges back! — but was unrevealed in the series. The combination of these two plots is so well done, so subtle, that all the missions’ other limitations aside, I’ve enjoyed playing it each time.

And getting to hear the Guardian of Forever talk is an added bonus.

One last bit of nerdiness for ya: the captain of the other Federation starship encountered during the “The City on the Edge of Never”, the U.S.S. Kirk, is an Andornian named Thelin. In the TAS episode “Yesteryear” — an episode involving the Guardian of Forever, and the only TAS episodes to be considered truly canon — Thelin was also the name of the Enterprise‘s Andorian first officer, in a universe where Spock was never born. Cryptic and their tricky references!

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Captain’s Log: What the…?

A strange thing has started to happen in STO — I’m actually enjoying ground combat.

I don’t even think I’m doing it right. I love my Engineers, but seriously? Their ground combat abilities are almost completely unappealing. Yay, I can build a bunker anywhere I want! Go forth, my little drone! Who cares. An emphasis on turtling and attrition draws out ground battles far too much. What I really want is to expose my enemies quickly and then disintegrate them with my split-beam rifles.

(In STO, there are few noises more satisfying than “AAHHH–WOOSH” noise of a vaporized enemy. In my heart, only the angry Klingon computer reporting that my enemy’s shields comes close.)

In this regard, I’ve come to appreciate two kit-based engineer abilities — Weapons Malfunction (an expose attack which disables an opponent’s weapon) and Quick Fix (which grants a significant boost to ranged damage output for a short while). Unfortunately, only one Engineer kit has both of these abilities, and its confined to Lt. Commander rank.

My solution? A team of science officers (and several Weapons Malfunctioning engies) expose my enemies, while I crouch and Quick Fix-it-up. It’s a one-trick pony, but it’s damn fun. Especially because my ugly Reman bridge officers creates an inordinate amount of exposed states. I guess his terrible looks frighten the enemy into submission?

But at some point, I should really consider making a science officer.

Captain’s Log: Rebellions

The message came in via encrypted channel, only two days out of space dock. Trajan took all of the appropriate security measures, plus a few extras that he considered necessary — the sound-canceling devices hidden throughout the Cardassian’s ready room weren’t mandated per se, but in this day and age one could never be too certain.

“I trust the shakedown cruise is going well?” Admiral T’Nae inquired, her cold tone belying this opening pleasantry. Even for a Vulcan, her voice was particularly frigid. Trajan replied with a warm smile. “My crew and I thought we were done flying historical reenactments, but the Meridian is slowly growing on me.”

“However,” he added smoothly, “I doubt you called to just ask me that.”

“No, I did not. Are you aware of  ‘the Vault’, commander?”

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Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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Captain’s Log: There And Back Again

The joy of a lifetime subscription is that you can hop back into a game any time you want; all you need is a desire to return and the time it takes for the game to patch back up.

After a near six-month hiatus,  I decided I’d try out STO again this weekend — and in my case, the patching took quite a bit of time. As I was about to find out, all that downloading meant that the game had improved considerably.

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Captain’s Log: Steady As She Goes

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.

Ships of the Line: U.S.S. Ticonderoga

The U.S.S. Ticonderoga (NCC-93594), a Centaur-class light cruiser, was a scheduled for decommissioning in 2406, but the threat of open war with the Klingon Empire kept it out of mothballs and in service for the next three years. Lacking the armament of a front-line warship and ill-equipped for long-range exploration, the Ticonderoga was tasked with curtailing Orion Syndicate activity in the Sirius Sector. Thanks to this close-to-home assignment, the Ticonderoga was one of the first ships to respond to the Borg incursion in the Vega system, 25 lightyears from Sol.

It was at Vega that the Borg revealed their ability to adapt tactically, ruthlessly targeting the command structure of the Federation ships arrayed against them. The entirety of the Ticonderoga‘s bridge crew was killed, and command devolved to Ensign S’Rros Tanaj. With all other contenders killed or assimilated, Tanaj was eventually made full captain of the Ticonderoga.

Following the battle in the Vega system, the Ticonderoga became a testing bed for a S.C.E. project analyzing the viability of retooling Centaur-class vessels into fast, heavily armed but lightly armored escorts, similar to the Defiant– and Saber-class starships. The forward and aft phaser banks were stripped and replaced with disruptor cannons and turrets, and Tanaj, a commendable but as-yet unremarkable captain, was considered a good, neutral bet for commanding this new weapons platform.

While the Ticonderoga gained improved alpha-strike abilities, it quickly became apparent that the ship’s weapon’s layout had significant problems. Most significant was the fact that without wider arced weapons or more turrets, the Ticonderoga was completely ineffectual against swarms of fighters. On Captain Tanaj’s recommendation, the Ticonderoga‘s refit was regarded a failure and its designs scrapped.