Captain's Log: Pros and cons of Season 3

Big-time release news this week, folks! Have you prepared for the biggest, best expansion of game content this side of the Laurentian System? I hope you've battened down the hatches, called in sick and stocked up on frozen pizza, because at long last, the moment we've waited for has arrived.

Season 3: Genesis goes live today, and the universe will never be the same. New missions, new loot, a new look and -- I'm sorry, say again? What's a Deathwing? Yeah, you must be thinking of something else. Captain's Log is all over Star Trek Online's latest super-patch, which introduces -- or comes close to introducing -- some seriously welcome changes to the whole of known space.

Waiting is hard

It sure feels like a long time since the last season, doesn't it? Season 2: Ancient Enemies hit servers on July 27th, more than four months ago. Boy howdy, that is quite a wait, considering STO's only 10 months old. But then, we had two excellent series of weekly episodes to (try to help) tide us over.

Season 2 introduced all sorts of cool stuff: a new level cap, minigames for fun and profit, an arch-foe for the Klingon faction, starship interiors and the Federation Diplomatic Corps. Phew! What a pile of features. So how will Season 3 shape up?

The basics

Pro: I feel like I'm repeating myself (and I am), but new content is just what STO needs. It's always what STO needs. The two series of feature episodes, which introduced stories revolving around the Breen and the Devidians, really scratched players' collective itch for things to do. But they offered only brief respite. Season 3, however, should (eventually) prove to be a whole different matter, thanks to the Foundry.

Con: Compared to Season 2, this new season doesn't necessarily boast as long a list of really cool features. A lot of the work at Cryptic Studios went into fixing bugs and other behind-the scenes issues, which, while definitely welcome, don't make exciting bullet points in a blog post (cough). And the most important, most game-changing feature of Season 3 (really in all of STO), remains in beta form.

Borg ship equipment

Pro: Awesome! The Borg have been making a ruckus in the Alpha Quadrant, and it's time the Federation ruckused back. In Season 3, Special Task Force missions will drop brand-new pieces of Borg technology, with which players will be able to retrofit their ships. The items grant ship powerups and boast cool, Borgy (i.e., green) particle effects. Now your ship can look like the space-faring equivalent of Locutus of Borg, without the unpleasantness of pointy metal popping out of things unexpectedly.

Con: None, really. The developers have devised a smart, authentic means of combining gear and ship customization. And the fact that you can choose whether to display the new equipment is all gravy.

Episode replay

Pro: STO lets us revisit and replay our favorite episodes, which is pretty neat. I would enjoy getting my hands on the old Past Imperfect storyline again, for example, if only to get some decent screenshots this time. The fact that some missions will include new, episode-specific rewards elevates this from a fun novelty to a welcome feature.

Con: I haven't tested the feature myself, but could this somehow be used to abuse user-generated missions? Presumably the developers know better than to allow something like that, but players are crafty.

Sector space facelift

Pro: It's about time space looked more like space. One of STO's most obvious aesthetic missteps, the grid-like appearance of warp space has always bothered players. Now you can choose to fly through fields of stars and comets and such by toggling astrometics off. The developers also added new icons for planets and other destinations.

Con: Again, nothing bad here, except that this should have happened months ago. I confess that I never particularly disliked the grid-like look of STO space, but the new look provides a badly needed shot of immersion.

Crafting update

Pro: Memory Alpha, the home of STO's ever-sickly crafting system, receives a booster shot in the form of more than 100 new craftable items, including some mega-rare Mark XI gear. And now that they've received access to crafting, whether they wanted it or not, Klingons have taken another small step closer to becoming a full-fledged faction.

Con: This is not the crafting overhaul you're looking for. STO's lackluster system for making stuff remains essentially unchanged, even if some of the stuff you make is more useful now.

The Foundry

This is what sets Season 3 head, shoulders, torso, legs, pogo stick and trampoline above previous seasons. We've dreamed about it and awaited it impatiently, and finally the folks at Cryptic have delivered. Almost. Players now have the opportunity to author their own missions and share them with friends and strangers alike. Sort of.

The bad news is that the Foundry remains in a beta form, relegated to Tribble, STO's test server. After completing its closed beta phase, the developers decided to set the used-generated-content tools loose-ish upon the galaxy, so a least we get to try it out and help work out the kinks.

The toolset for creating missions is pretty complex, so a deeper look at the tools will have to wait for later columns -- and I've been excited about this feature for months, so I will look deeper. For now, I highly recommend everyone visit the test server to try it out. First, to get to the test server, hit the "Tribble - Test Shard" button in the STO launcher. If you haven't played on Tribble lately, or have never been on it at all, expect the patch to take a while.

Once you're logged into the server, you have two choices -- make a mission or play a mission. To make one, select "Create Content" at the top left of the character selection screen. You'll have to create a new character before it lets you craft a mission, but as that character's only for testing purposes, you don't need to put much effort into it.

To play other people's missions, log onto the test server as you normally would, and then hail Starfleet. You'll see a new option for Community Authored missions, and you can search for episodes and sign up to review them. Annoyingly, you must search for missions -- you can't just access a list of missions and choose one at random.

That's it for now, folks. Go play around on the Tribble server or farm some Borg parts for your ship. It's an exciting day to be in Starfleet... or, uh, in the Klingon Defense Force, I guess.

Less trustworthy than a Ferengi loan shark and more useless than a neutered Tribble, Ryan Greene beams Captain's Log straight into your mind every Thursday, filling your brainhole with news, opinions and reckless speculation about Star Trek Online. If you have comments, suggestions for the column or insults too creative for Massively's commenting policy, send a transmission to ryan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.