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Choose My Adventure: Star Trek Online III - The search for the Foundry

Eliot Lefebvre

Captain's log, Stardate 86234.1. The USS Xiang Yu is reporting back to Starfleet Headquarters for a debriefing following a mission containing a cascading temporal anomaly linked to the ship's warp signature. My first officer has been asked to give a report on the observable effects of the phenomenon and what might be done in the future to prevent a similar incident from reoccurring.

During what should have been a fairly simple search and rescue assignment, the Xiang Yu was trapped in a repeated cycle of destruction and temporal displacement. Upon closer examination, my chief engineer identified a concentration of chroniton signatures that corresponded with the impact points of torpedoes during an earlier engagement with the Orion Syndicate. Her theory is that these weapons were somehow responsible for this phenomenon.

My first officer, meanwhile, is convinced that interpersonal relationships are in some way connected to this incident. I am occasionally unclear why Admiral Celeste encourages her in this fashion.

Purple nebulas... are those the good ones or the bad ones?  I forget.Asking people to make content for Star Trek Online was always a pretty easy prospect for Cryptic. People have been writing things about Star Trek for a ridiculously long time, and I imagine almost every fan of the series has a picture of what the "ideal" series would look like. The Foundry is really just an extension of that well-traveled tradition.

Of course, enthusiasm does not lead to quality, and writing something that feels just right for the franchise is pretty tricky. It only gets trickier within the confines of the game, as you can't create a mission in which an officer has dreams for an hour or the ship is actually a duplicate, and you can't have a whole episode about silly hologram antics. There's a pretty narrow range of things that work for the franchise and setting within the limitations established.

I also probably shouldn't have done this poll right before I spent most of the weekend in Boston, but that's neither here nor there. I did still get time to dive into the Foundry, and I'll be honest: It left me hungry for another round, which is rather indicative right there.

The first mission I played was called The Syndicate Extraction. It advertised itself as a story-focused mission with an emphasis on player choices. It started simply enough, with River evading Orion patrols to meet an extraction location for a Starfleet Intelligence operative. That turned sour because extractions always do in fiction, and the next thing I knew I was sneaking around to a trading post to --

Wait, whom am I kidding? River's not the "sneaking" sort. So she decided to just shoot her way through every Orion ship between her and the trading post. This was a clear choice in the mission's overall flow, although I don't know that it really had any impact on what happened later.

Beaming down to the station led to the most frustrating part of the whole thing, not because digging for clues wasn't functional but because the map had several points where bridge officers couldn't path properly. That meant several delays as I walked through a door, figured out which of my officers had gotten stuck, and slowly forced them via waypoints to head in the right direction.

Rarity was particularly bad in this regard, which seemed appropriate.

The mission ended... appropriately, I should say. It wasn't a bad ending, but I didn't feel blown away by the experience. I still had fun the whole way through, and I did enjoy the enormous load of dilithium at the end, but if I had to compare it to an episode, I'd probably pick something like The Masterpiece Society -- not bad, but the emotional center never quite coalesced. And those freaking doorways didn't help matters.

Time after time after time.My next mission was titled First Cause, Then Effect, which is clearly meant to evoke a memorable and related episode of TNG. And that was intentional, as the episode results in your ship quickly making a hopeless last stand, leading to the ultimate sacrifice... before respawning.

Yes, it's a mission that involves dying and respawning as a central mechanic. But it also manages to play with those ideas substantially as well as subtly tweak at the idea that this is a video game and you know more the second time through a given mission. Yet it accomplished all of this without ever leaning on the fourth wall, making the nods just subtle enough to pick up without ever verging into parody.

Needless to say, I loved it. I thought it was a clever use of game mechanics, a nifty approach to making a mission, and reminiscent of some of the better episodes of the series as a whole wherein the problem is clear but the solution is completely out of sight. (Much like Cause and Effect, actually. It knows its roots.) The only real downside was the fact that the two main plots never really came together, but I'm willing to forgive that for sheer creativity and overall feel.

In other words, I absolutely adored this stuff. Yes, I was a little more lukewarm about the first mission, but even that was a good mission that was just a bit lacking in one or two parts. As a whole, it was a lot of fun to look into the Foundry.

But maybe I'll be back there again this week. So you decide, dear readers -- will I be doing a deeper dive into the realm of the Foundry missions? Will I stay in the featured area? Will I go back to the main storyline? Will anything be resolved in the next episode? Probably not the last one, but you should still vote in the polls below and come around next week for the follow-up.
Eliot Lefebvre has been choosing his own adventures for several months, but now it's time for him to head back to the front lines of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column where you make the choices about what our writer will be doing each week. Come back each Wednesday for a new installment and a new set of choices!

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