Every so often, I stop drinking, and also stop being a grognard and actually pay attention to something involving videogames that’s happening currently. Usually only when it affects something current I actually play. No, not Lord of the Rings Online, I said something I actually play. Star Trek Online.
STO recently put out Season 7, their latest upgrade to the setting. They’ve changed the way their top-level missions work, as well as their PVE missions, and they’ve even added an entirely new area to explore.
Is it good? That’s arguable. I’ll go over some of the upsides and downsides in a moment. What I want to start with is how entertained (and, dare I say, impressed?) I am at Cryptic’s attempt to continue the Star Trek setting. There are plenty of people who complain and naysay, but honestly, I think Cryptic has done a fine job of respecting the Trek setting while taking into account various snippets from the shows and movies over the years.
That brings us to the new player area, New Romulus. Remember in Abrams’ Trek movie when we were informed that Romulus went supernova? Now the Romulans and the Remans have banded together to make a new homeworld! As a member of the Federation or the Klingon Empire, your new duties involve helping them make this new world habitable by, well, doing a bunch of the same sort of stuff you’ve been doing.
This is good if you like STO gameplay, of course. But New Romulus offers nothing especially new. You still run around clicking on rocks (or power converters, or broken equipment, or whatever), waiting for the timer bar to complete, and then do more running around to click on more things. It’s possible that New Romulus will offer some different things further in, or even that it has things I’ve not yet found (as of the time of this writing, I’ve only had a few hours to explore it). As of this moment, however, New Romulus is no different from any other part of STO, save the fact that it has new graphics.
They’ve added two new top level missions, though! I’ve only played through one thus far, but it feels about as different as a mission can. It’s still space combat. You still need to kill # of enemies in order to kill a bigger enemy. But they tried to make it part of the ongoing story of the setting, and even had you working with a named NPC, which is something that very rarely happens in STO story missions.
The other changes made involve the PvE missions and how you gain gear. To understand how the changes work, you need to know the following things: dilithium is an in-game currency which you use to purchase specialty gear or Zen, and while there are four tiers of gear strength, each tier has three levels of strength.
Prior to Season 7, doing a Special Task Force mission (STFs, essentially raids) resulted in getting a small amount of dilithium, a random item drop (usually tier 3, but sometimes tier 4), and an Encrypted Data Chip. If you were particularly lucky, you might get rare Borg salvage, or common or rare Borg Tech. Doing the Elite STFs resulted in a higher amount of dilithium, a random item drop, and more than one EDC or Prototype salvage. EDC/Salvage could be exchanged for Tier 4 anti-borg weapons and gear, while Borg Tech could be exchanged for special anti-borg sets.
They’ve changed that. Now, doing STFs earn you Omega Marks. You use Marks as one of several expenditures in the reputation meter. What is the reputation meter? A tedious way to do the same thing STFs did previously. Instead of earning a number of EDCs, Salvage, or Tech and exchanging them for items, you earn a number of Marks, set up a Reputation mission (and you can only have a certain number going at one time), and pay however many Marks, and XP, and whatever other random items they ask for (maybe 50 Shield Systems or 100 Small Hypos, for example). Then? Then you wait a day, or however long it takes for the mission to resolve. Only then do you earn points you can use to buy gear.
Dilithium earning, however, has been made more difficult and more important. They added a few things you can get dilithium from, some of which are easier and less time consuming than STFs, but they’ve greatly increased the number of things that cost dilithium, and also raised prices on things that had cost dilithium prior to the change. This means little for me, since all I want dilithium for is to get more Zen so I can buy more clothing options. (Naturally, Cryptic won’t give me more clothing options without paying them micro-transaction points. I swear this to you, Cryptic: You give me more options to play pretty princess dress me up, I will give you more of my money. I’ve already bought a lifetime subscription, and I did so while completely admitting that I hate MMO gameplay. WHAT DOES THIS TELL YOU?!)
Will these changes bring in new players? Honestly, I don’t think so. Cryptic has been making an attempt to put more emphasis on fleet play, but the new changes feel like they add far too much grinding to an already grind-heavy genre. Add in the fact that new players might feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of hours they’ll be forced to put in, and it well might cause some of the existing player base to run off. In fact, many of the changes have already caused massive outcry on the forums (though my issues with the STO forums is enough for a completely separate article).
In the end, my opinion on STO is the same as it’s always been. If you’re a big fan of MMOs, or a big fan of Star Trek, you’ll enjoy it well enough. Otherwise, it’s probably not the game for you.