In this, my final MMO Log for Star Trek Online, I desperately claw my way through PVP combat and missions based on classic Trek episodes in my quest to make it to commander rank before the series ends.
I want a new ship. That was my ending thought in the third Star Trek MMO Log, and it's how I begin this one. All of my efforts in this final week's worth of playing are focused on that one goal. Will I make it? The suspense is killing me!
Tuesday, February 16, 10pm Eastern
This is it. Bolstered by the determination I exhibited in my previous MMO log, I am ready to log on tonight and start shooting my way towards Commander rank. As I've explained previously, Star Trek levels are divided into ranks. Levels one through 10, for instance, are Lieutenant rank. Once you hit 11, you are technically a Lieutenant Commander zero, until you spend skill points. They you are officially a Lieutenant Commander one.
Each rank affords you a new ship, more crew spaces, and lots of new places to put weapons and other devices, so gaining rank is a huge thing in Star Trek Online.
Right now I am a Lieutenant Commander four. I have a long way to go.
And little motivation to get there it seems, at least this evening. I tool around a bit, talk to the guild, rearrange my equipment, and wander off to watch television. Not a good start.
Friday, February 19, 1am
Those of you handy with numbers might have noticed a bit of a temporal jump there. Due to personal issues, I couldn't make it online on Wednesday and most of Thursday, despite my best intentions. Now it's time to make up for that.
It's late at night, and I need sleep, so I decide to try and complete a quest I have that requires me to take place in a ground fleet action. Until now, I've only participated in space fleet actions, in which massive numbers of players take on massive amounts of powerful enemies from the safety of their very large spaceships. Now I have to beat feet with Starfleet.
Unlike normal ground missions, in a fleet action it's just you without your crew, teaming up with a large group of other players in order to accomplish some ground-based goal. In this case, we had to take out Klingon scouts encroaching on a Federation dig site or something. Then we have to jam communication signals. Finally, we have to defend the camp until a timer runs out. Once the timer finishes, awards are doled out to the top performers in the Federation group.
I've not done the best job maintaining my ground equipment. Luckily for me, these folks have.
In space fleet actions, it's easy to find yourself alone against incredible odds. In this particular ground action, we find safety in numbers, tearing through the Klingon forces with nary a problem.
As I arrived late and didn't have the best weapons, I didn't win an award, unless you count the joy that comes from camaraderie as a reward.
Me neither. It's bedtime.
They say sleep is for the sleepy. Apparently not.
I wake up early, eager to get a jump on some of the exciting-looking story missions I have lined up on the path to becoming a Commander. One, called The City on the Edge of Never, I've been told is particularly Trek-worthy, but first I have to complete its pre-requisite.
Technically I don't have to. Both missions are open and available, but when I see the description of something occurring in one mission included in the next, I like to go in order.
The prequel mission is called The Ultimate Klingon. A geneticist by the name of Amar Singh, a follower of the teachings of one Khan Noonian Singh, is working on biologically enhancing the Klingon and the Gorn in order to create a powerful master race, just as Khan tried to do with humans in the past.
The fiend! I rush to the Korvat system, which lies in the reddish Klingon section of space. The members of my fleet are not amused by me typing "Little Red Korvat - woo-hoo!" in our chat channel. Hmph.
Once we find Singh's base, it's a simple matter of watching my crew members being tossed about by augmented Klingon and Gorn troops while I crouch and hit the fire rifle hot key over and over again. We confront the mad scientist, he sics two giant Gorn on us, we shoot them dead and take the misguided soul into custody.
Case closed... or is it? Time for work!
(Editor's Note: If don't want to spoil one of the best missions in the game, skip down to Saturday's entry.)
The City on the Edge of Never kicks off with a mission to rendezvous with the USS Kirk, which has been involved in thwarting several Klingon attacks on medical bases in the past few weeks. It turns out Amar Singh was working with a Klingon Ambassador named B'vat, and the two expressed interest in time travel.
As we arrive at the rendezvous, we find the Kirk under Klingon attack, led by B'vat himself. What could he want with the Kirk? After waging a firefight through the bowels of the ship, we discover his target: Miral Paris, the daughter of Star Trek: Voyager's Tom Paris and half-Klingon B'Elanna Torres. In that television series it was revealed that certain Klingons think Miral is the kuvah'magh, a Klingon savoir figure. Obviously B'vat is a believer. He kidnaps Miral and beams back to his ship. We give chase.
B'vat leads us to a strange, quarantined planet in a remote system, where one of the Federation's greatest secrets lies - the Guardian of Time. Oh yes, we're going to do the time warp.
We beam down to the planet, fighting our way through Klingon ground troops, but it is too late - B'vat and Miral have gone through the portal. The Guardian speaks to us, with voice acting, which is a nice touch, tasking us with flying our ship through a time portal and setting the past right.
We emerge in the year 2270, and B'vat is helping some ancient Klingon ships take on a similarly ancient Federation vessel. It's the U.S.S. Enterprise! Kirk's USS Enterprise!
That dirty Klingon was going to kill off Kirk in the past, but with our aid the Enterprise survives, and B'vat flees. Spock, voiced by Leonard Nimoy himself, hails us, asking for identification. Fearing a temporal paradox, we give chase to B'vat instead.
Once we catch up with B'vat's ship we board her, and are greeted by a very odd welcoming committee.
Smooth-headed Klingons fighting alongside ridge-headed Klingons. It's like old-home week!
After a desperate battle through the Klingon vessel, we come face-to-face with B'vat... but this isn't Ambassador B'vat. It's his younger, smooth-headed self. In a brilliant bit of classic Trek writing, young B'vat questions how his older self became so bitter, asking my crew and I to give his older self the honourable death in combat he so desires.
Not a problem.
B'vat goes down, and we head back to the Guardian in order to head home, but damn if those Klingons didn't set a trap for us. Several waves of enemy ships attack, wanting to dissect our ship to gain advantage over the Federation with future technology. When all seems lost...
...here comes the Enterprise! With Spock's help we dispatch the attackers with shielding left to spare. Hailing us one last time, Spock explains that he is familiar with time travel, and that we should get going. We pass through the Guardian one more time, the past is saved, and I sit back in my chair with a huge grin on my face.
This mission might have just made the entire game for me. Everything about it was simply perfect. If Star Trek Online fails for some reason, this mission will always be remembered.
Before I go to bed, I spend about an hour trying to take on the Crystalline Entity. A massive creature that appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in Star Trek Online it returns as a giant, mobile raid boss that no one can agree how to kill.
Entering into the zone with the creature, I am greeted by duelling lines of chat in the zone box. Some say I should target the Entity and ignore the countless crystal shards coming off of it, chasing ships and exploding for massive damage. Others say I should shoot the crystals before they return to the Entity, healing it. I fly around for about an hour, firing on the Entity and avoiding the shards. We get it down to 25% health, and then it regenerates up to 80% again.
Accusations are thrown, people log off, and I decide it is time for bed. I'm still only a Lieutenant Commander six, and I've got a long way to go.
Saturday, February 20, 10am
My girlfriend has a lunch appointment, so I kick back and boldly go places for a few hours. I take on a mission that involves The Doomsday Machine, an original series episode about a gigantic weapon that looks like a dried slug with no head.
Following up on a previous mission, I locate some advanced weapons the Klingons are stockpiling - special, ultra-destructive torpedoes. After sneaking through a nebula to beam down onto a planet, I take out several Klingon squads and confiscate four of the projectiles. Beaming back up to the ship, the Doomsday Device appears, as dried and slug-like as ever, as you can see in the picture at the top of this article.
I have to fly through a destroyed planet's core to charge the torpedoes, and use them four times on the Doomsday Machine. It's pretty much a cakewalk. So much for Doomsday. And look, the girlfriend is home, with food. I've heard good things about food.
Sunday, February 21, 3pm
This is it. I promised myself I would get Commander this week, and with my time on Monday and Tuesday severely compromised, this is the only day I have left to make four more levels and earn my Commander's stripes, or pips.
Moving on from Klingon space, my newer missions mainly deal with the Romulan threat. I perform a quick delivery mission, a few station-based fetch quests, and then I face my first major issue with the missions in Star Trek Online.
A Starfleet Admiral believes that a remote Romulan outpost is manufacturing weapons in order to stage an invasion of Federation space, and she wants my ship to go investigate. That's fine, no problem.
I'm slightly unnerved by the fact that she accompanies us on the mission, standing stoically behind me as my crew blasts their way through Romulan guards towards the base's computer.
According to the computer, all the base is manufacturing is medical supplies, which makes me feel like utter shit. I killed all of these scientists and there were no weapons of Federation destruction onboard?
The Admiral is nonplussed, assuring me that once I've been fighting the Romulans as long as she has, that I'd know they were hiding weapons here.
OK, first - ripped from the headlines much?
Second - at this point, if I had any choice in the matter, I would have left. I certainly wouldn't have continued butchering innocent scientists, only to be called out by the Romulan Commander at the end for being a heartless butcher.
After we kill the Romulan, the Admiral reveals herself as a shape shifter, hoping to start a war between the Federation and the Romulans.
We do battle, she morphs into the dead Romulan Commander and beams out. I am far too pissed at the outcome of this mission to continue playing today. Scripted content is fine, until you force the player to do something he or she doesn't want to do.
I feel better after eating a sandwich, but I'm still a rather surly Lieutenant Commander eight. Three more levels, and an attitude. Sounds like it is time to PVP.
I have a repeatable PVP mission, which gives me substantial experience for every five Federation versus Klingon death match-type games I take part in. Losing a round I make half a bar of experience (there are ten bars per level). Winning I earn a full bar. It's time to turn on grinding mode.
From around 5.30pm to 11.30pm, I participate in round after round after round of PVP, earning skill points, experience and the admiration of my peers. Perhaps it is my weapon selection, my chosen skills, or my Escort-class ship, but I'm consistently on top of the damage charts every round I play.
Unless the Klingons swarm and the Federation doesn't party-up. In that situation, where the enemies are picking us off one at a time, I fly around in circles outside of the range of the attackers. Sometimes I sing a little song while doing so.
At 11.34pm, I cross the threshold into Lieutenant Commander eleven. Spending my skill points, I graduate to Commander one. I trans warp back to Earth Space Dock, and soon I'm in my brand-new ride.
Behold the USS Titanic. Long may she sail.
The Game So Far
This week was one of highs and lows. Star Trek Online continues to wow me in terms of fan service, with references to all versions of the television series littered liberally throughout the universe. To be able to walk in the footsteps of the great Captains and crews from the series is an amazing feeling, and when those footsteps cross with your own, the experience sings.
As much fun as I had with the story missions, I was disappointed with that one Romulan mission, and the fact that grinding PVP content was a faster way for me to progress than through normal missions doesn't seem right. I'm a fan of a PVP system with its own rewards, separate from your standard earning of experience points. In other words, as little as I played this week, I shouldn't have made it to Commander rank.
But I have, and I've got a feeling I will be continuing for quite some time. Until I'm the pilot of a Defiant class vessel, I will not be truly fulfilled.
I hope you all enjoyed these four instalments, and that you've gotten a good idea of how much time I've spent playing, along with how I spent my time with the game. Stay tuned Friday for Kotaku's full review of Star Trek Online, and keep an eye out for the USS Titanic. It has a nasty habit of listing to one side.