Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Federation, Klingons, and Romulans... OH MY!

Star Trek Online remains a common favorite.  You just can't beat free and as far as "space combat" goes, it doesn't get much more painlessly fun than STO.  So what's new with good ol' STO? Romulans, of course.

This "season's" expansion is Legend of Romulus and features the lesser known pointy eared space elves.  Let us review the timeline...

The Star Trek that original fans remember officially ends when Spock is thrown back in time in the JJ Abrams reboot.  From that point we were on a new timeline and we have seen two movies of the "new" Star Trek starting back in the early days of James T. Kirk.  So what about the original timeline that Spock left?  Romulus was destroyed and Spock had disappeared.  Those days were fairly far in the future of the to the original timeline and many of the old characters were retired or dead.  This is where Star Trek Online takes over.  STO is the original timeline told well after Romulus has exploded.

In this season, we see the Romulans attempting to rebuild their home on a new planet while the politics and warfare of the galaxy continue around them on all sides.  This is one of my problems with the STO game is that it turns Star Trek away from its roots and squarely back in to the space combat genre.  I lament this track, but I do actually enjoy space combat so I'll forgive it.

LoR does some pretty cool things with characters.  Besides adding Romulan as a fully playable starting race with its own storyline, the Klingons are also being given their own storyline starting from 1st level.  This is new ground for STO where Klingons were only playable *after* you had run a Federation character to 24th level.  While awesome! I also find this really annoying.  For years, Dan Stahl, the lead developer for STO has said he isn't developing the Klingons as a fully playable faction because "most of the players wanted to play Federation."  Well if that really is true, Dan, then why create a 3rd non-Federation race?  I'm glad of the change of heart, but I'm not sure what to believe out of you now.  Either your numbers were really bad or this was just the best thing you could come up with.

Anyways... There are new ships, new worlds, and graphics improvements across the board.  I personally saw less bugs than usual for STO, but the whole system has been suffering beta disease with daily outages and multiple patches.  This is partially due to Cryptic Studios also deciding to beta launch an entirely new title, Neverwinter.  Two betas at the same time... Really, Cryptic? Kudos for bravado if not brains.

The missions are good, the visuals are good and there are enough buttons and knobs to have fun with it.  There are some annoying bits... Free 2 Play doesn't mean free of course.  The developers count on gaining some revenue which I fully support.  In STO this comes in the form of buying access to ships and convenience items (like more bank slots).  These purchases are often tied to each individual character and thus would need to be purchased many times if one were to make many characters.  A theme of Cryptic game design is the encouraging of creating many characters... Cryptic games have lots of options locked in to the classes you pick and level quickly.  It is designed to create alts and each alt requires some revenue... that gets a bit annoying when you look at the total spend on a game.  Federation ships purchased are not available to Klingon characters for example (or visa versa).

The expansion is well worth a look for the price (free!).  I do love the ship combat.  Ground combat needs some work (still).  Overall there is easily a month or two of content in STO worth exploring.  PS: the picture is Masada as a Lethean... Game ON.

WhatEVEr Happened to...?

Eve Online? Well it is still out there and still cranking out updates and changes.  The latest release is Odyssey.  There are many full and better reviews out there so I won’t attempt an exhaustive list of features, but I can comment on what my experiences have been.

When last we left our intrepid pilot, Masada, he was deep in Providence with the CVA alliance.  While I always try to keep tabs on general events in Eve, I can’t always keep up with the actual personalities involved.  Eve is still a full monthly subscription game and that makes it prohibitive to play compared to free titles like Star Trek Online or Neverwinter, but something is still compelling about the silent expanse of Eve.  

When I returned, Masada was right where I left him and even in the same alliance and still in a friendly station.  This is something that can actually go wrong in nullsec regions like Providence.

I reconnected my Planetary Interactions (basically planet side manufacturing), tweeked my ship configurations a little bit and bolted out in to our home pocket to do a little ratting.  Everything worked about as I remember and then a drone got popped and another was almost dead.  WTF? Mobs almost never locked drones before.  I thought maybe this particular combat site must be special, but nooooo.  As I ran more Cosmic Anomalies (randomly spawning combat sites), it became clear that drones were definitely first on the mob menus.  My ratting Dominix battleship was vastly diminished.  I could tank forever, but I couldn’t keep my drones alive long enough to clear a site.  Replacing drones is expensive and time consuming.  A Heavy Assault drone in Providence can cost 2 million ISK a pop and are often many warp jumps away.  Dejected I clone jumped back to Empire to try some missions.

Rather than waste more drones, I went ahead and fit a modest Raven battleship.  The Caldari ships focus on missiles which have gotten a lot of love from the Eve developers in the last year or so.  Missiles now have fully animated launch sequences and leave these awesome vapor trails as they smash on to targets with new explosions.  It was very satisfying.  Many ships (like the Raven) have seen some changes to help balance them out.  This makes the "lower" end ships like the Raven better while shaving a little off the top of the "higher" end ships like the Rokh.   I made some isk and had fun chatting up my new corpmates in the same alliance.  Without putting in long hours I was making isk and enjoying the pretty stars (and explosions).

About this time my son decided he wanted to trial Eve so I helped him get started and then sent him a few million.  After figuring out the new mob mechanics I decided to jump Masada back to Providence to continue ratting and to poke at exploration.  I didn’t want to leave the boy all alone in Empire so I activated my 2nd account.  I figured I’d leave my alt with the boy to help him figure out mining and running missions and when he wasn’t online, I could run Masada in Providence.

So far it has all been working out nicely.  I give the new release a big thumbs up.  It is a good expansion on top of a decade of developed mechanics.  Eve continues to be a beautiful game with a lotta buttons to play with.  For me it is still a slow game—easy to keep up with—but it sure doesn’t have to be.  PvP remains fast, furious, and pulse pounding.

Will I be in space every day? Oh, I dunno.  I tend to think no, but it is fun for now.