Captain's Log: Tholians come to STO and Cryptic's cryptic answers

Tholian header STO
Well, it's about time. Ask most Trekkies who their favorite franchise bad guys are and most will respond with answers like the Romulans, the Borg, or maybe even Q or the Klingons. Rarely will someone respond with the Tholians, but I will.

They have been my favorite Star Trek nemeses since I read the official Star Trek novels set in the Original Series era called Vanguard. Written by veteran Star Trek novelists David Mack, Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, and Marco Palmieri, the seven-book series revolves around a secret lab set on a starbase built in the far-flung reaches of space just as Kirk and gang begin their heralded five-year mission. The Tholians play important roles in the books, and I've been salivating at the thought of having them in Star Trek Online ever since I heard they were being worked on. And now they're here!

Join me after the jump to learn more about what you can expect from an encounter with these very toasty arachnids.

STO Tholian Boss
So what are they anyway?

What the heck is a Tholian, you ask? Most hard-core Trekkies already know about the Tholian race from the Original Series episode titled The Tholian Web. The punctual, secretive, and formidable species utilizes massive interspatial rifts like webs in order to ensnare unsuspecting enemies and bring them to ruin.

Actual examples of the species were never clearly seen in the episode, and for decades, fans were forced to use their imaginations when it came to describing what they looked like. What would a species that lives so comfortably in such hellish conditions (500+ degrees Celsius, acidic atmosphere, etc.) look like? It wasn't until Star Trek Enterprise's multi-part episode In a Mirror Darkly came to pass that Trek fans got their first real glimpse of the creatures, and many were not disappointed.

They were crystalline in form, almost delicate-looking, and yet there was no doubt they were a threat. The official novelists referenced above developed them even further, and in my opinion, made the species one of the most intriguing the franchise had ever seen. In the novels, Tholians are ruthless and brilliant strategists in war, science, and politics. They were written to be a mirror reflection of the Federation: They aren't evil, but they are xenophobic, suspicious, cunning and very, very dangerous.

I am happy to say that after several hours of testing the new Tholian material pushed to Star Trek Online's Tribble server on Friday, I think it's clear that the developers for the game held them in the same high regard.

Tholians EV STO
They certainly do look different

The Tholians will be the first characters in STO who aren't humanoid. Just as they are seen in the show and are written in the books, they are not of flesh and blood; they're crystalline in form. They have six legs, two arms, and two large yellow eyes at the tops of their heads.

They thrive in a super-heated and extremely caustic environment. If Tholians want to interact with the Federation on the Federation's turf, they must wear EV suits that keep them at their high temperatures. The reverse is also true for members of the Federation: If they want to meet with Tholians on Tholian ships, Federation reps must wear EV suits to protect them from the Tholian hellfire.

It's what makes the new set of ground-based combat missions now up for testing on Tribble so unique in the game. All of the combat must be undertaken while the player is wearing an EV suit, which should be donned the moment the player arrives in the new zone.

Players will greet a new mission-giver on a platform that overlooks the ominous and very inhospitable map filled with crystalline structures, large geometric formations, liquid acid-falls and pools, and lots and lots of Tholians.

Mission selection above ground
Choices, choices, choices

The mission-giver will offer the player a list of several different missions from which to choose. She can undertake them all or just choose one. Each mission grants a Tholian reward box, a stack of Fleet merits (which can be used in combination with the new fleet advancement system), and XP skill points. In the three Tholian reward boxes I was awarded during my testing, I received two uncommon EV suits and one rare EV suit. Fleetmates reported receiving weapons as well as a very rare weapon that appears to be part of a ground set.

There is another map associated with this new set of ground missions. The player can move below ground where a system of caves can be explored. I won't give any spoilers as to the unusual sights that can be seen, but I will confirm that there is another mission-giver in the caverns from whom players can choose from a different group of assignments.

Tholian boss fight
I died. A lot.

There are three different kinds of missions: easy, medium, and hard. The descriptions for the assignments reveal that easy missions can be undertaken by solo players. The game recommends that groups of two to three players tackle medium-level missions, whereas the hard-level missions are aimed at full group of five.

I can personally vouch that the hard mission is definitely programmed for a solid team of five. In the four times I attempted to complete the mission with my full team of fleetmates, we were unsuccessful in surviving every attempt to eliminate the Tholian boss. My character now hates spiders with a passion.

By the time this column runs, the Tribble Test Weekend promotion will have ended, but that shouldn't stop you from jumping on the test server and trying the new missions out for yourself. Yes, there are a few minor bugs, but please report them so they can be addressed before the new content goes live with Season Six.

It's been made very clear to me by representatives of Cryptic Studios that when the update goes live, all of the new Tholian content will be available 24 hours a day. While it has not yet been confirmed, it looks like the new missions will also be placed on the system's event calendar, so additional bonuses can be awarded for play during specific times.

Prepping for fight STO
Speaking cryptically

As is his fashion especially of late, Star Trek Online's Executive Producer Daniel Stahl provided the playerbase with a few pieces of gristle to chew on while they wait for Season Six and beyond. His responses to a few of the questions posed to him in this month's Ask Cryptic made a few players wonder whether Stahl is actually just trolling all of us.

Earlier this month, Stahl suggested that Season Seven would be "all about story." We've also recently learned that Season Seven will contain a new sector map that is Tholian-focused. These were all things the playerbase was happy to hear.

Stahl's answers in this month's Q&A also address players' concerns about the departure of two well-respected developers and how that might affect the progress of the projects in which they were involved. He plays the politically safe role in most of his answers and reassures us that the DOff system and the planned revamp of the PvP system are still in good hands.

However, it was this particular question that piqued my interest and that of other players:
aegon1ice: Obviously Season 7 will be all about Story. Can we at least expect to see a Romulan faction in Season 8?

Dstahl: Who says a Romulan faction can't be all about story?
As you can all imagine, many of us visually tripped over his answer, leading many to wonder whether or not Romulans might actually be revealed as a new faction for Season Seven. It could also just be Stahl's extremely dry sense of humor airing itself; he could just be commenting on the question's assumption that a new faction (at any time) will lack story.

I hate when I feel like I'm being played, especially for a fool. So I will simply let it lie there. I've heard wolf cried a lot lately, and I'm tired of looking out the window to catch a glimpse. If it does happen and the Romulans finally get their faction, I will be the first in line to make a new character.

Until then that time, whether it be in Season Seven or Twelve, I'll remain happy about the appearance of my Tholian nemeses in this upcoming season. You can catch Beth in her EV suit trying to figure out what those sneaky crystal spiders are up to.

I look forward to reading your comments. 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 terilynn@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.