With the advent of Season 2: Ancient Enemies, Treksters and STO fans the world over may breathe a sigh of relief. Cryptic Studios finally introduced a dedicated system for being all peaceable and stuff, like on the teevee. So how does this diplomacy business work, and is it any good? Read on to find out.
I gots the warmonger blues
Remember when STO launched six months ago? Cool, me too. As it happens, not everyone was super-duper pleased with Cryptic Studios' product. We've noted as much before. But what really narfled fans' garthoks was the game's emphasis on shooting and explosions, which many thought missed the point of Star Trek.
See, in the movies and the various incarnations of the show, exploration and peacekeeping were integral to the Federation's existence. For every Mutara Nebula firefight or Chekovian nose dive off an aircraft carrier, Star Trek offered episode upon episode of discovering things and first-contacting folks.
STO, not so much. Non-combat missions appeared infrequently, and they usually were pretty pointless. Mostly, you'd have to collect anomalies from a deserted asteroid field. If your captain got lucky, she might have to speak with a handful of disgruntled colonists. Meh.
Well aware of players' dissatisfaction, the developers offered a fix in July as part of the Season 2 patchasaurus. With the Federation Diplomatic Corps on the scene, FDC doesn't just stand for the Federation of Dance Competitions anymore.
The basic idea is that non-combat missions should be more plentiful now, and they grant special diplomacy experience when you complete them. As you accrue those points (which appear under the Progress heading in your character window), you can eventually unlock new missions and titles. You'll even gain the ability to transwarp to places other than Earth Spacedock!
When I first logged on after Season 2 went live, I gained 10 diplomacy experience (diploxp?) automatically. So, now what?
Sadly, don't expect the new diplomacy system to wow you right out of the gate. Other than that random, retroactive earning of 10 diplomacy experience when I first fired up STO, I saw no indication whatsoever that the Federation Diplomacy Corps even existed. Other players directed me to Ambassador Jiro Sugihara, a new NPC in Admiral Quinn's office on Earth Spacedock. Although Sugihara explains the basics of the FDC, he doesn't inform me how to get started with it.
Seriously, what the heck? I love highly touted new features that you can't access because they arrived with no in-game explanation. A tiny, insignificant breadcrumb quest is all we needed, Cryptic.
To Memory Alpha
Unlike the totally useless ambassador, my fellow players directed me to Memory Alpha, where five new quests await beginner diplomats. I will cover those quests in no particular order.
The first new quest I encounter sends me to Deep Space Nine to retrieve a Bajoran jumja stick for Whatshisname O'Brien. Oh boy. My introduction to STO's great new diplomacy initiative ... is a fetch quest. This does not bode well.
Interestingly, when I warp into the Bajor sector looking for O'Brien's snack, another diplomacy quest, Standoff, pops up in the form of a fight between angry Cardassian captains. In the hope of brokering an accord, my captain invites the Cardassians into my ship's conference room. After speaking with both captains, I realize that one is trying to kill the other for treason, despite the latter's protests of innocence.
In a neat twist, the accusing Cardassian offers up several pieces of evidence to demonstrate the treason, and it's up to me to prove that they're fakes. By interacting with a console in the room, I can access a transmission, a piece of weaponry, and a video, and fiddle with them to find hints of tampering. Sadly, I manage to destroy the weapon, failing the mission and dooming the accused. Oops!
After blowing up the potential weapon and failing again, I succeed on the third try. (Hint: Listen to everything the two captains say, and be sure to research everything using the second console in the room.) Standoff is a fabulous use of both the diplomacy corps and my ship's interior. The mission feels totally fresh, and the possibility of failure elevates the proceedings above simply reading a bunch of flavor text.
Unfortunately, the fetch quest turns out as boringly as possible. I buy the jumja stick at Quark's Bar and deliver it to O'Brien for 10 more diplomacy experience. Yay.
The next beginner quest at Memory Alpha appears to be a mindless delivery quest, in which I'm tasked with bringing an item to Dr. Yoc'm on Deep Space K7, in the Aldebaran Sector of Eta Eridani Sector Space. The doctor -- whom I find gellin' like Magellan in the bar -- sends me to his assistant for whatever reason. But yuh-oh! Folks is getting sick left and right, and it appears the good Doc Yoc neglected to mention the toxic nature of his shipment.
What starts out as a meaningless delivery quest quickly morphs into a scientific mission to formulate an antigen for my sick crew. While not particularly difficult if you pay attention, the experimentation phase is engaging and very new for STO.
The Ferengi brothers three
After two fun missions, I'm beginning to enjoy the diplomacy system. But that fetch quest was a real bummer. Will the final three beginner quests at Memory Alpha -- all of which involve a trio of Ferengi siblings -- sway me one way or the other?
One Ferengi is worried about his brothers' acquisitiveness. The second seems to be stealing. The third is looking to force his brothers out of business, taking the Memory Alpha market all for himself.
Bravo, Cryptic! Of the six diplomacy quests I encountered, I thoroughly enjoyed five of them. While that fetch quest was dreadfully lazy, the others represented an immersive new vein of gameplay for STO. Sure, most of the game still involves blowing up Klingons and such, but the developers have taken a very necessary step toward doing justice to other aspects of the Star Trek experience.
Now if only Admiral Sugihara were more helpful, I would have had that much less to complain about.