Cryptic has drawn fire since STO's Feb. 2 release for a perceived lack of content. Executive producer Craig Zinkievich has promised players the stars, and Thursday's patch is a major step forward. But are Season One's features all they're cracked up to be? Allow me to consider what Cryptic got right and where STO's mega-patch misses the mark.
1. The Name
Pros: It's pretty basic, but I like the title of the patch. Season One: Common Ground fits STO's episodic theme and sounds suitably epic (at least moreso than, say, patch 3.3.3). Plus it promises more to come.
Cons: The name Common Ground derives largely from the premise of the new task-force mission, which sees players fighting a Borg planet alongside Klingons. Isn't it a little early in the game's life cycle for the Federation and Klingon Empire to start getting along? We're supposed to be at war, people! Nitpickery aside, though, the neutral-faction bar is a neat idea. Now Feds can rub elbows and share a drink with Klingons. Head to the Eta Eridani Sector Block and look for the Drozana System. Finally, the perfect venue in which to show off my dance club emote!
2. New Things to Do
Pros: Season One is simply packed with content. For the PvP set, wargames allow Federation players to battle each other, and Shanty Town offers a new ground assault map. Fans of fleet actions, the game's equivalent of large-scale public questing, get the Big Dig and DS9 Under Siege (a personal favorite). And The Cure, the game's second special task-force mission, debuts as well. Geared toward admirals, The Cure advances the Borg storyline as players combat the assimilation of an entire planet.
Cons: With sorely needed new PvP and PvE content, what's not to like? Granted, the new task-force mission brings the end-game total to a whopping two missions, but Cryptic is on the ball so far with releasing STFs on a regular basis. Those of you hoping for more diplomacy and exploration missions will have to keep on waiting, though.
3. Klingons Are People Too
Pros: When STO launched, Cryptic billed the Klingon faction as the next big thing in PvP. Who needs to boldly go places when you can blast Federation cowards all day, every day? Really it meant that Cryptic hadn't taken the time to implement Klingon PvE content before release. And even worse, Klingons couldn't partake in Federation-made content either. Season One solves at least part of the problem by opening up some fleet actions. Now Klingon captains have access to Breaking the Planet and the new Big Dig scenarios. They also get to share in the excitement (or unbridled misery) that is the Crystalline Entity encounter.
Oh, and Klingons can finally customize their ships! What a concept!
Cons: As nice as it is to let Klingons play in fleet actions, that's recycled content. Klingons still don't have a vibrant PvE world. They remain the Federation's ugly stepsister (no offense, Nausicaans), and giving them three fleet actions is only a small step in the right direction. Plus, ship customization is severely limited. It's a start, but Klingons don't have nearly the options that Federation players do.
Pros: Players can finally reallocate skill points. It was an unfortunate surprise when STO launched without a respec option, one of the bare essentials of MMOs. Thousands of clueless players were left to make terrible skill choices with no recourse. But now I can get rid of all these points in tractor beams (I've never even owned a tractor beam) and put them somewhere more useful. Players earn a free respec with every rank and can buy more in-game or through Cryptic's store. Federation players can speak with Lt. Commander Okret in the center of Earth Spacedock. Klingons should seek out Commander Ragen near the battle arena on Qo'nos.
Cons: None, really. Respecs are good news all around. Some higher level folks seem annoyed that they don't retroactively earn a respec for each rank they've already completed, but that's about it.
Pros: Season One introduces off-duty uniforms. The odd new feature allows players to create casual attire in which to lounge about starbases and the like. Visit your favorite tailor to unlock the new costume. The first one is free, naturally. Now I can finally fulfill my dream of looking like a space pirate!
5. Casual Fridays
Cons: I look like a space pirate. Consisting of a jacket, two robe-like tops and a few pairs of pants for the men (and some very Uhura-esque skirts for the ladies), the wardrobe selection is dreadfully sparse. And most of it looks a little goofy. Given that Cryptic has so much content to focus on, I wonder how strongly fans clamored for this half-baked cosmetic feature.
All in all, Season One: Common Ground is exactly what STO players needed: a colossal patch with plenty of new content. Some of it seems like fluffy afterthought, but the new fleet actions, PvP options and task-force mission should offer both factions plenty to do. And more importantly, we can see how hard Cryptic is working. True to its word, the company is intent on fleshing out the Star Trek experience. Season One is upon us, and there's plenty more where that came from.
Now if only Zinkievich would add a pirate hat, my off-duty ensemble would be ready for a late night in the Drozana System.