STO Mars Utopia Planitia Yards
Now that Star Trek Online's expansion, The Legacy of Romulus has moved into open beta on the Tribble test server, I think it's high time I wrote about one of the biggest changes the game has ever seen. It's not just about what will occur in the game's story; it's how the story is being told.

Players who create a Romulan faction character when Star Trek Online launches the expansion on May 21st will experience something that simply hasn't been seen before in the game. Fair warning: I'll be writing a fair amount about what happens within the first dozen levels of gameplay, so if you're holding out to be surprised, know that there are spoilers after the jump!
STO Suliban Helix
What's been missing

A good many players have been clamoring for more Star Trek story since the game began. The desire for more tales only grew stronger once the developers began to release the four- and five-mission story arcs known as featured episodes. These story arcs became some of the most popular content the game had ever seen.

While featured episodes were able to introduce new styles of gameplay as in the mission Boldly They Rode (which introduced extra vehicular mobility), the episodes also had a drawback for the game and Cryptic Studios. Although they were extremely well-received, they weren't easily repeatable. A lot of expense went into their creation, and endgame players ran the missions more than once only if they had a roster of alts. The episodes were integrated into the overall mission journal for leveling players, and occasionally Cryptic would "re-feature" the episodes so newer players could obtain the unique items that were awarded for their play.

STO T'Varo warbird
Because of the quality of the featured episodes, many STO players (including me) began to beg for more story-based content. Unfortunately for those of us pleading for more story, Cryptic began to (necessarily, I realize) supplement endgame with more repeatable content. Investments were made to create the well-loved duty officer system, the fleet starbase and embassy systems, and the foundations for what will likely become a much more widespread reputation system. For months it seemed as if the game's story not only took a back seat to grind missions but was sitting in the way-back of mom's 1972 Kingswood Estate: It was there, but it was facing the wrong way.

While a lot of the new material was very fun, it also lacked the very thing that many of us loved about the featured episodes, and that was a story-based reason to keep playing in our favorite sci-fi universe.

STO Tovan Khev 1
Who is Tovan Khev?

When Legacy of Romulus launches, it will begin a new era for Star Trek Online. It raises the bar on the quality of the content that Cryptic has produced, a bar that the studio will now, for better or worse, will be held to. There is no doubt the new material will not please everyone, but for those who were hoping that STO might become more immersive, playing a Romulan faction character will not disappoint.

Unlike story progression for the Federation and Klingon factions, the focus for story for the Romulan character is intensely personal, and by personal I mean that the story really does seem to revolve around the character that's being played. Sure, a Starfleet or Klingon officer gets thrown into command pretty early in his or her respective careers on the other two factions, but the sense of urgency that comes with the way a Romulan advances is simply much more palpable than it is with the Federation or KDF.

STO Romulan Republic command
First and foremost, Federation and KDF characters have no real relationships with their bridge crew; they're simply the officers who have been assigned to the ship by command. Because of this sterility, it's psychologically easy to change the bridge officer's name and physical looks to something the player wants on his or her vessel.

While it's still possible to do that with the bridge officers one receives as a Romulan player, the fact is it's not quite as easy to do mentally. The reason is simply that a player isn't assigned just any old officer; the player has actually experienced something with the new character, and there is no finer example of that than every Romulan's new first officer, Tovan Khev.

STO Tovan Khev 2
Tovan is introduced as the player's friend in the tutorial, and he remains by the player's side throughout. He's a tactical officer with some basic know-how and a sister who's been missing for a long time. He talks to the player and advises him on many things. He even has an old lover who's a part of the Tal Shiar, and if that doesn't muck up the works, I don't know what does.

To date, a Federation character's first officer amounts to a relatively nondescript Andorian female tactical officer. She has no story, she has no personality, and she has no connection to the player except that she's the officer the player clicks in order to improve a torpedo shot.

CSTO Jaden
Tovan isn't the only one; every character I've seen so far in the new Romulan content has a real reason to be there. The player knows them; they're all layered, and it's almost impossible to tell who is on whose side. Real emotions are generated when a player receives a call from Romulan Republic or a factional contact.

I have no doubt that Cryptic has opened a Pandora's Box of sorts. As much as I adore the depth of the story-telling for the Romulan faction, I can already smell the smoke that will be issued from the forums as players burn up their keyboards demanding an overhaul to the first 50 levels of Federation play.

STO RR Command
I have not yet had an opportunity to jump in and create a new Klingon character on the test server, but I'm looking forward to seeing what the Cryptic team has been able to create to level out the faction and to give it its first real tutorial. While I'm doubtful that it will contain the level of personal storytelling that the Romulan faction was given, I am actually hopeful that it will at least be truthful to the faction.

Again, I have been enormously impressed with the content I've seen to date and am very much looking forward to getting my hands into additional material and test it out! 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.
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