Yep, the corking chaps at Cryptic Studios released STO's latest super-patch on July 27, introducing a bevy of new content. Now that most players have had a chance to sink their teeth into Season 2: Ancient Enemies, I thought we'd discuss some of the major new features, as we did when Season 1 hit the scene four months ago.
1. The basics
Pros: New content is just what STO needed. The natives have been growing restless recently, and I suspect all that ire at the C-Store stemmed as much from mid-summer gaming malaise as from genuine outrage.
Cons: A few other players told me they weren't having huge problems, but the game is much hitchier than usual for me. Even on reduced video settings, my captain was stutter-stepping around Memory Alpha like a freshly tased tap dancer. I hope Cryptic's people work out those kinks pretty soon, because I haven't seen STO this glitchy since release.
2. The new level cap
Pros: Players can now reach level 51. What's not to love about an extra six levels of interstellar butt-kickery? Top-level Federation players will now be known as vice admirals, while their Klingon counterparts assume the new title of lieutenant general. The raised level cap also brings Mark XI gear, level-appropriate scaling for special task force missions and fleet actions, and new ships for both factions. Yes, Klingons get new ships!
Cons: Lieutenant general sounds so much less impressive than vice admiral, no? The Klingon Empire needs to whip up some new titles.
Pros: Last week's patch includes a new pair of minigames just for you! First, anomaly-gathering is now a more interactive process. When you scan an anomaly to gather crafting materials, a box with a red waveform, a blue waveform and four arrow keys appears on the screen. If you can adjust the size of the red wave to match the blue one in the four or five seconds allowed, you now receive extra materials. Second, Dabo has arrived at the Drozana System bar and at Quark's on Deep Space Nine. Each table comes with a fully voiced attendant who will explain the mechanics and stakes of the classic, roulette-y Star Trek game.
Cons: I expected the anomaly-gathering game to be a needless bother, but it's actually kind of fun. The finer points of Dabo, on the other hand, have thus far eluded me, though the guy next to me in Drozana won thousands of bars of gold-pressed latinum in mere minutes. My only real gripe is that the fine voicework of the Dabo girls puts the galaxy's mute NPCs to shame.
4. The Fek'ihri
Pros: Original Klingon PvE content. Finally! Season 2 introduces eight brand-new episodes in which Klingon players face off against the Fek'ihri, an ancient enemy of Kahless the Unforgettable on Qo'nos 1,500 years ago, when he was building the Klingon Empire (or so Memory Alpha tells me). Presumably the Fek'ihri will fill the really-cool-enemy role for Klingons that the Undine fill for the Federation.
Cons: This is sort of a beggars-and-choosers moment, but only eight episodes? Klingons have needed content in a bad way ever since STO released, and receiving a specially tailored archenemy is stupendous. But only eight episodes? Even casual players could breeze through that in no time at all, so they'd better be some phenomenal episodes!
5. The diplomacy
Pros: With the release of Season 2, STO goes all peace-loving on us with the new Federation Diplomatic Corps. Players will now receive diplomacy experience for completing non-combat missions, and that experience can unlock new titles and abilities. STO's emphasis on war has upset Star Trek fans since release, and the developers are presenting a much-anticipated olive branch with diplomacy.
Cons: I haven't delved too far into diplomacy yet -- I blame Cryptic for releasing Season 2 during a week I spent traveling -- but one annoyance pops up immediately. As far as I could tell, STO offers no in-game indication of how to begin diplomacizing. Even the new ambassador in Admiral Quinn's office failed to direct me to Memory Alpha for my first missions. When the developers added the injury system, for example, they provided handy breadcrumb quests. So why not do the same for diplomacy?
6. The innerspace
Pros: They've hinted and they've promised, and at last the developers have delivered starship interiors! Players can reach the crew and engineering decks from one of the bridge turbolifts, and each ship also includes the captain's office dealie near the bridge. Y'know, the room where Picard would take private calls during office hours? Whatever that's called.
Cons: What do you do with them? The interiors are authentic and cool, and my Klingon's ship is fabulously atmospheric. Beyond some roleplaying opportunities and the occasional sightseeing trip, starship interiors serve no discernible purpose yet. I look forward to seeing what Cryptic will do with them in the future, though. And they are fun to run around in for now.
Pros: Executive Producer Daniel Stahl has promised exciting new story arcs when weekly missions debut this month, which sounds great.
Cons: I'm not sure why the introduction of weekly missions, which is set for August, has been touted as a feature of Season 2, which launched in July. We'll hold off judgment on this one, but I wonder whether the developers will be able to maintain a steady stream of engaging story missions each week.
So, it looks as if Season 2: Ancient Enemies is another great step forward for Cryptic and STO. A new level cap, new Klingon PvE, new minigames -- it's all good stuff. By introducing the beginnings of a real Klingon storyline and the groundwork of starship interiors, though, the developers still seem to be working toward critical mass, as it were. But Season 2 is a welcome update in its own right.
If nothing else, burning up the Dabo table is a great way to celebrate the game's six-month anniversary. Now if only I knew what all those colors and symbols meant, I might understand why I keep losing... and losing... and losing.