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Captain's Log: Weekly episodes (finally) begin with a bang

Ryan Greene

Well, well, well. If it isn't our new friend, Mr. Weekly Episode. You sure took your sweet time getting here. What happened, you get stuck in traffic on the intergalactic turnpike or something? This is why you don't warp anywhere near Bajor during rush hour.

It's true: Cryptic Studios has released the first of Star Trek Online's long-awaited weekly episodes. The shiny new mission, titled Cold Call, introduces new races, new faces and new places. It's new! Read on, intrepid explorers, as Captain's Log plays through our first weekly episode, and we learn whether it was worth the wait.

Weekly episodes?

Welcome to STO's newest addition. Calling them feature episodes, the folks at Cryptic plan to release one of these babies every week for the foreseeable future. They advertised them heavily as part of Season 2: Ancient Enemies, but that patch hit servers at the end of July. Weekly episode numero uno, Cold Call, just went live on Saturday, fully a month later. So I'll forgive you if you kind of forgot about the feature entirely.

So what are these episodes meant to accomplish? Trumpeting the addition of a single episode each week seems silly. But the developers have big plans for these quests. Executive Producer Daniel Stahl explained in early July that the idea is for weekly episodes to replicate the fun of the various television series by offering short story arcs. He compared them to the popular Past Imperfect storyline that Federation players encounter relatively early in the game.

Stahl said story arcs will span five or six weekly episodes, and that they'll tell a complete story. Although, the first story arc appears to consist of only three episodes, so I'm not sure whether plans have changed a bit already.

The first story arc

Truth be told, I had planned to write up the weekly episodes after a few had gone live, to get a feel for the developing storyline. But the devs took their sweet time releasing this first episode, and I didn't want to wait any longer. Plus, my boyfriend is moving to China in two weeks, so MMO time will be severely limited while I help him pack.

Ergo, Latin for therefore, we get to talk about weekly episodes today! And we'll check back in a few weeks to see how they're progressing.

Alrighty then! With the introduction of Cold Call, we begin Series 1 of the weekly episodes. According to Cryptic's new timeline page, the series will cover three episodes. The second episode, Out in the Cold, should go live this Saturday, and the third, Cold Comfort, is set for the following Saturday, September 11th.

Series 1 sort of introduces two races to STO. First up are the Deferi, a neutral race (meaning they like Feds and Klingons) that lives on the planet Defera in the Deferi Sector. They have appeared in STO for daily questing and such, but this is their big moment in the spotlight.

This first series of weekly episodes revolves around protecting the Deferi against our second new race, the Breen. A bunch of jerks who look suspiciously like Princess Leia dressed up as a bounty hounter, the Breen joined up with the Jem'Hadar and the Dominion to be extra-mean to the Federation. Now they're back, menacing the Deferi!

Set course for the Deferi Sector

When I first logged in after the Saturday release of Cold Call, a big brown bulletin box appeared, urging me to hightail it to the Deferi Sector. Given the directionless start to diplomacy, I worried that the developers might also slip in feature episodes without any instructions. I was pleasantly surprised.

On the galaxy map, the Deferi Sector appears just above the Cardassia Sector. Since I was parked near Deep Space Nine, I headed just north of the Badlands to the Orellius Sector Block. That name doesn't appear on the map, but that's where the Deferi and Raveh sectors reside.

Immediately upon your entering the Deferi Sector, Ambassador Surah rings up your ship, requesting help. Surah invites you to Defera because his people are finally considering closer ties to the Federation. Then, as you warp into the Defera system, "Cold Call" appears on the screen in a very TV-ish font, immediately setting the tone for a more-exciting-than-usual mission.

Step one: Fight the Breen!

The mission begins easily enough as I escort Ambassador Surah's ship, the Jeska, toward the planet. Suspiciously fresh debris hangs in orbit around the planet and uh oh warp signature incoming! A mysterious, pointy ship warps in, jamming signals for a few seconds, then warps out. Curious.

A few moments later, my away team and I beam down to the surface. The planet is lush and lovely, with tons of Deferi milling about some sort of fancy park. You can tell the Cryptic people spent plenty of time designing this place. Anyway, the ambassador awaits outside a cool glowing tower thingy, and he explains various aspects of Deferi society and uh oh transporter signatures incoming! A host of Breen beams in right on top of us and makes mincemeat of my team on advanced difficulty. Suddenly we have seven packs of Breen to clear out. Joy.

These guys are no joke, especially given the wicked ice grenade dealies they toss around like candy. The fights proceed more smoothly after that initial doozy of an ambush, but my team still dies a handful of times. I'd like to blame that on my taking lots of screenshots.

Step two: Fight the Breen!

With the Breen groups beaten, their leader, Thot Wen, calls to say hi. He gives me some lip -- at least, I assume they have lips under those helmets -- about my not being able to keep them from stealing the Preservers' secrets from Defera and uh oh transporter signatures incoming! Thot Wen and company beam down to whup me personally, which they do. Handily. I down him on the third try. Again, screenshots are to blame, honest.

Step three: Fight the Breen!

Apparently scared of a little wholesale murder in the streets, Ambassador Surah beams back to the Jeska, and I to my ship. Surprise! The Breen are attacking the Jeska. A fierce and wild battle ensues as I repel a few waves of baddies. Man alive, the final warship is rough on my poor, wee escort. Screenshooting is not to blame this time.

Step four: Fight Talk about the Breen!

Once I achieve victory over his enemies for him, the ambassador admits he hasn't been entirely honest with me. Twist! Turns out he was being a tad sneaky in calling me to Defera, knowing I'd help them against the Breen if I wound up in the middle of their feud. Tricksy Deferi. (What's the singular of Deferi -- Deferanian? Deferoid?)

At any rate, Surah thanks me copiously for my help and promises he'll call for help again if the Breen persist in their attacks on the planet. My prediction? The Breen will start persisting again this Saturday, when the next mission, Out in the Cold, goes live.

All in all, Cold Call is a fun mission -- the ship battle at the end is fast-paced and the most enjoyable I've encountered in recent memory -- that sets the stage for bigger and better things. From the sound of it, now that we know more about the Deferi and the Breen, the following missions will flesh out everyone's plans. What are the Preservers' secrets? Why do the Breen want them so badly? Will Cryptic be able to sustain a weekly feature over time? I look forward to finding out.

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