The early game of Star Trek Online hasn't changed much in several places. You still get popped into place as an Ensign on board a Miranda-class ship that gets smacked upside the bridge by the Borg, which results in your being the ranking officer on board. The chain of command is a fickle mistress. The tutorial functions, as it always has, but it's a bit lackluster, especially for anyone who played through it years ago.
Of course, it held a few surprises for me. For example, I didn't really know about the whole aiming mode until I got into play, which I found a bit off-putting until I rebound many of the keys and started playing the game more like a shooter. There are shades of games such as Mass Effect there, albeit without full-on shooter mechanics. It's certainly a fair counterbalance to the space combat, which is a more action-oriented take on starship battles.
And I had forgotten how dearly I loved the starship battles in this game. They just feel right for the setting, fusing elements of aerial dogfights with naval combat in a way that's quite pleasant. I'll freely admit to picturing ensigns surrounding exploding consoles and shouting out grave status warnings as the ship gets pummeled by photon torpedoes.
Somewhat less familiar and welcoming was the new way the game handles skills. I had grown accustomed to the old system, which was a complete and unmitigated mess but one that I knew how to use. So it became a juggling act, pitting things that I do know against things that I'm not as familiar with. That having been said, the new system is much more straightforward and makes it clear what you're actually improving as you level up.
But enough about the old days. What about right now?
Lieutenant River Armstrong was tasked with the usual mission progression for a Federation officer, which involves being willfully duped by the Undine into exacerbating the existing conflict with the Klingon Empire. The storyline here is functional but kind of boring, echoing some of the conflicts between the Federation and the Klingons in Deep Space Nine without adding much besides. That being said, it has all of the makings of a decent story, with the requisite number of strange planets, unknown phenomena, and those wonderful space battles.
I quickly outfitted my light cruiser with a pair of forward cannons and a better photon launcher to tear apart anything within weapons range. I also loaded up River herself with a pair of rifles that work nicely together, one having an Expose attack, and the other, an Exploit. The back-and-forth nature of that combat system always appealed to me. And I made a few build choices that I'm sure I'll eventually regret, but that's the nature of the beast.
There was also an effort to explore Memory Alpha that hasn't been tremendously successful at the time that I write this. When I originally played, the crafting system was a mess and I decided to not bother caring. Now... I'm not actually sure the crafting system is any better, but I'm pretty sure it's different. Still, I'm supposed to be boldly going, and that occasionally means diving into ill-advised crafting setups.
For the most part, though, I'm enjoying a trip back to something I left behind. It's been a long while, but I find that most of the interesting parts of the game have weathered the free-to-play transition quite well. Still, I'm a bit reluctant to dive back into my old character.
As I write this, River is still sitting on the Zhuang Zhou, but I think it's time to look forward to her first real command. For that I turn the polls over to you, dear readers, and I ask what River should pursue for her ship line. Escorts are the obvious choice for a Tactical character, but a Tactical captain can also add some punch to a Science Vessel (making for an offensive debuffer) or a Cruiser (creating a more resistant weapon platform). And I don't really get to choose on this one, so have your say.
Of course, all of this is neglecting one of the chief minigames of Star Trek Online
: creating a set of bridge officers that you'll enjoy adventuring with. So I'm also turning over the question of how I should kit up my allies, all of whom promise endless entertainment. As before, the polls are ending on Thursday, so let me know where I should be setting my course. I'll be back next week for another go.
Eliot Lefebvre has been choosing his own adventures for several months, but now it's time for him to head back to the front lines of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column where you make the choices about what our writer will be doing each week. Come back each Wednesday for a new installment and a new set of choices!