There's one thing that Star Trek Online players crave: story-based missions. And when we get them, we devour them like starving locusts. After what can only be described as an incredibly frustrating first day, the new anniversary events are now live on Star Trek Online. Community Manager Brandon Felczer had his hands full during multiple game crashes last Thursday that were blamed on "network issues" as opposed to server overload.
I was able to ride out the network issues long enough to play the most recent mission, which highlights the voice talents of actor Tim Russ as he reprises his role of Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager. There are a lot of spoilers ahead; you've been warned! But I won't make any mention of the specific story choices that can be made during the mission. I want to leave some things a surprise.
A Step Between Stars
Let's recap: The story in STO so far has the Federation at war with the Klingons. The burgeoning Romulan Republic appealed to both warring parties for alliances in an effort to protect their new planet from the oppressive Tal Shiar. The UFP and the Klingon Empire have tenuously set aside open war in order to assure that neither one can overtly control the New Romulan Territory. It is best described as a "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" type of situation. This relationship is strained but begins to gel when a new Dyson Sphere, the Solonae, is discovered. Another enemy, the Voth, threaten to wrest control of the sphere and the Omega particles it generates. The triumvirate continue to work together to control that new threat.
Enter Admiral Tuvok and his new ship, the U.S.S Dyson. The player is informed that Admiral Tuvok is in charge of a mission involving a new and terrifying discovery at the heart of the Solonae Dyson Sphere: The Voth have erected a station near the star that the sphere is encapsulating. It has been determined that the station would be able to use the dangerous Omega particles to provide enough power for the entire sphere to "jump" through subspace to another unknown place in the galaxy. If the Voth were able to complete their plan, the entire sphere, along with any hope of controlling the hazardous power source, would be lost. Unfortunately, Admiral Tuvok is stranded on the station and needs assistance.
The player is tasked with finding Admiral Tuvok and helping him and his team shut down the station and keeping it from being able to power any future subspace jumps. After few more technical hurdles are cleared (hey, even I know it's not safe for my Odyssey class to stay so close to a star), the player is dropped off at the station in question, and Admiral Tuvok, ever the emotionless Vulcan, seems relieved to see him. The task of getting to the station's core involves battling Voth as well as the station's own automated self-defense systems.
Unfortunately, in his haste to kill off the, Voth Tuvok's scientist sidekick, a weasel named Cooper, blows a huge section of the station to smithereens. Of course the core of the station lies on the other side of the open void. This is the fun part. Once again, the player gets to don a new EV suit (this one designed especially for protection of the intense solar radiation and heat exposure) and fly over to the area of the station where the core resides. It wouldn't be a mission unless something didn't go wrong, and of course, the player is forced to improvise a way past mangled debris blocking the team's passage.
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal
Yes, I used a Firefly reference in a STO column, but if anything's a staple in sci-fi storytelling, it's that the geeky weakling in the group is really a bad guy in disguise. It's the same in Step Between the Stars. Once the player reaches the other side and Dr. Cooper prepares to shut down the station, he cunningly informs you and Tuvok that he is unable to shut down the station without also powering up one of the many Iconian gates within the sphere (naturally, the one closest to the station).
The player and Tuvok discuss the lack of real options. There's no way the player can risk losing the sphere and the Omega particles it contains. However, the player really doesn't want to risk opening yet another Iconian gate, which may allow in another enemy unhindered into the region. But most logically, it's decided that the main objective is the continued presence of the Solonae Dyson sphere exactly where it is, and another Iconian gate is grudgingly fired up. Almost immediately, a large Voth battleship makes for the gate and disappears into it.
Miraculously (and suspiciously), contact with Admiral Tuvok's ship is reestablished. Everyone beams aboard and pursues the fleeing Voth ship. After a brief battle, the player follows the Voth ship into the gate and straight into... another Dyson Sphere. It's in the new sphere (some secrets about which I will keep) that the player finds out that Dr. Cooper wasn't really Dr. Cooper. He was one of those sneaky, sneaky Undine (Species 8472), and he had been controlling Tuvok's mind the whole time. It was all a part of the Undine plan to create a new portal into the Alpha and Beta Quadrants without having to rip open fissures into fluidic space.
An enormous space battle occurs, bringing out the Romulan and the Klingon flagships for honor and glory. At the end of the battle, all three factions are left trying to come to terms with the fact that war between each other is useless in the face of such a formidable, and shared, enemy. The words "to be continued..." appear at the very end.
Technical interruptions asides, I loved this mission. The voice talent (in most of the roles) was fantastic. The visuals of the ships, the solar prominences, the characters, and the spheres were fantastic. I loved the EV foray into superheated space, and I enjoyed the challenging space battle at the end. There's a lot more to cover about the anniversary event as well as some of the new features released with Season 8.5, so 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.