At first I thought I was going to split this column and discuss two different things: the new DS9 Bundle offered by Cryptic Studios in the Star Trek Online C-Store and the newest featured episode, The 2800: Of Bajor.
Although there still is a lot to talk about the bundle, after playing today's episode, I realized that it would be impossible to write about both and that I needed to concentrate on one.
To that end, if you consider yourself a Deep Space Nine fan, you owe it to yourself to check out the bundle that caters to your tastes. It includes the new Vedek robes and Admiral uniforms as well as a completely new environment for the Defiant class ship (including a bridge, crew, engineering, mess, sickbay, and many other rooms). Also included are two new Bajoran weapons, three unique duty officers, and a playable shuttlecraft which makes it a really good deal for 1800 C-Store points.
But first, let's concentrate on the newest featured episode, Of Bajor...
The newest episode in the The 2800 series has been described by friends, quite accurately, as something unlike any mission STO players have been asked to undertake before.
That statement becomes apparent when the player realizes he will not be partaking in any actual battle and instead has been summoned to Bajor, the planet closest to the captured space station DS9, in order to help with the re-grouping efforts to take back DS9 station that was captured by the Dominion.
It also becomes quite clear that there is far more to be done than merely coming together with your battle-buddies. The player becomes aware that many of the Bajoran citizens are very unhappy with the sudden appearance of Starfleet personnel on their planet. Making matters worse, Klingons are also along for the ride, and they're not afraid of using violence when challenged by the locals.
In other words, Bajor's a mess.
In the past, it wasn't uncommon to see a small puzzle thrown into the mission as a slight additive to the more prevalent battle sequences. Of Bajor doesn't have just a puzzle, and it doesn't have just a pinch of diplomacy thrown in a battle-focused mission. It's got writing.
I am going to confess right here and now that my passion as a Trekkie is the writing of the genre. I write fan-fic; I read the official novels; I love Trek writing so much I even co-host a podcast that revolves around Star Trek writing in all its forms, from scripts to the official novels, and I frequently talk to the authors of Trek books.
I need to say here and now I think that STO's writer has truly outdone herself with this episode. I've never seen such an intricately written misison to date in the game.
STO's writer, Christine Thompson (also known as @Cryptic_Kestrel on Twitter and the forums), is the sole writer for the game. Not only does she write the interconnected stories for the game, but she's responsible for all writing done for the game. From the quotes on the duty officer bios to the editing of the dialogue of minor NPCs, she's got to handle it all.
I have yet to even venture near the STO forums since Of Bajor was released, but I can pretty much guarantee that a majority of "gamers" are probably throwing hissy-fits over the new episode because not only does the mission have things a player must read, but it's simply stuffed to the gills with reading.
This episode will likely be loathed by people who just want to pew-pew their way through a mission in order to collect loot, but for those of us who want to play this game for the "talky geekfest" (I love nothing more than spitting a J.J. Abrams' quote back in his face) a Star Trek game should be capable of, then this new mission was made for nerds like yours truly.
The first thing a player will notice as he undertakes Of Bajor is the fact that the missions don't have just one objective. The moment the player's character reports to his contact on Bajor, he discovers he will have a lot of different things he needs to do, and a "real" fight isn't one of them.
Of course, the team had to throw a bone to the pew-pewers, and the devs do so quite creatively by having the player report to the local holodeck for both ground and space tactical training. It's there that the player becomes aware of the recurring theme of the mission: choices.
When a player undertakes a ground training mission, he has the opportunity to choose between training sequences that involve either a Changeling (Founder) as an enemy or the Jem'Hadar.
In this instance I chose the Changeling as my enemy mostly because I had never really faced one in the game before. I was happily surprised to find a very challenging enemy that was able to stretch its form out to strangle my character as well as regenerate to 100% health after it slipped into its natural liquid state. I adore ground battles, and I found this one to be as formidable a mission as I have ever played.
It wasn't until after I completed the entire mission that I realized my inventory contained a Captured Changeling in a vessel. I look forward to finding out what role this reward might play in the future.
The space training session contained a similar choice. The player is allowed to choose from either a group of Jem'Hadar battleships and cruisers or more groups of smaller attack ships and fighters.
This is likely the only part of the mission where the "pew-pewers" would be truly happy. The rest of the mission contains nothing but reading and reasoning and thinking.
All right, all right! No, the rest of the mission does not require some inordinate amount of brain-power to get through, but I'll be honest, if you're the type of player who does not like to read for reading's sake, loathes figuring out small logic puzzles, or clicks through dialogue just so you get to the next mob, then you'll probably end up wishing you had waxed your nether-regions rather than play this episode.
There are no less than three additional missions contained in Of Bajor on top of the two holodeck training sessions outlined above. All of these missions give the player the option between two mini-missions, so theoretically there are at least six non-battle tasks available.
It's the intricacy of the branching objective options that are so new to the game. It will now be possible to go back and re-play this mission, select choices not made before, and receive different accolades or even small rewards.
I find this very intriguing and am very much looking forward to seeing aspects of the overall arc that I haven't seen before.
Although a player may not necessarily have realized it, by the time he's completed all of the mini-missions, he should be very comfortable with the layout of the social map, from the locations of the Starfleet and Bajoran militia headquarters to the placements of the arboretum and the plaza. Players embark on a story-driven tutorial through the city and are rewarded with their choice of a piece of ground gear.
There was almost too much to talk about when it came to this new episode, and if you're a fan of Star Trek lore and don't mind reading, I think you'll like Of Bajor as much as I did.
Until next week, live long and prosper!
Incoming communique from Starfleet Headquarters: Captain's Log is now transmitting direct from Terilynn Shull every Monday, providing news, rumors, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Beam communications to firstname.lastname@example.org.