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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.