I'm talking, of course, about Star Trek Online's weekly episodes. The second series wrapped up on Saturday, and because it should be the last major bit of content we get from Cryptic Studios until Season 3, I thought we might check out a play-through of all five episodes. Does STO's second set of feature episodes live up to the fun of the first? Actually, the Devidians blow the Breen out of the water!
Episode I: Skirmish
When you enter the Eta Eridani sector,
Ooh, fleet fight, cool! I warp into the middle of a three-way fight among Federation ships, Klingon ships and the True Way fleet I'm here to clobber. Sadly -- perhaps because I'm busy taking screenshots -- the bad guys do all the clobbering, and soon I'm alone against the True Ways. Knocking out the few enemy ships and disabling the boss ship isn't so hard once I start paying attention, though.
Anyway, my team engages in some standard zap-zap-meh until we realize we're not alone! Some weird, semi-cloaked creatures kill a Cardassian before beating a hasty, blue-lit retreat. More blue lights and dead Cardassians greet us as we investigate further. One of my officers, who moments earlier acknowledged the presence of strange creatures, wonders aloud whether something is wrong with "the environmentals" on the ship. Moron.
So, after performing a tiny bit of science, I brilliantly deduce that those creatures have infested the bridge... which is, like, the only place left intact, so I'm not sure why I had to scan for triolic waves to figure that out.
Fun Factor: 4 out of 5
Innovation Factor: 4 out of 5
Verdict: The episode earns high marks for a fun -- but not drawn-out -- space battle, beautiful scenery, incorporation of light science elements and fabulous new models. The Devidians are gorgeous and pack some neat powers and effects. And a time-traveling comet? Super! The mission sets up the second series splendidly and takes the time to plug my column, too!
Episode II: Spin the Wheel
Drake informs me that one of his deep-cover operatives might be in trouble at the neutral-faction bar in the Drozana System. He "suggests" some shore leave, so I'm sure nothing untoward will happen!
On the station, Belan the Ferengi plays coy when I ask about my missing operative. He complains the power has gone wonky and mentions blue mood lighting (hint hint), so I'm off to investigate, which leads me to a power-restoring puzzle. Neat.
In a nutshell, you have to relay power through different systems, such as environmental controls and the defense grid, to turn the replicators back on for Belan. Scanning different consoles and power relays in the room offer hints, and a little trial and error should yield the proper results. For the more impatient among you, I'll give you the answer (so look away if you want to figure it out yourself): replicators > environment controls > gravity controls > defense grid > environment controls > replicators. Yes, ignore the holosuites console altogether.
Overcome with gratitude (ha), Belan reluctantly directs me to my missing agent, who turns out to be a paranoid nut. She makes me play Dabo and wait for a signal to get her off the station. One bet later, Ze'mara says she'll find her own way, and I head to Deep Space K-7 to find out more about the Devidian presence in the sector.
Fun Factor: 3 out of 5
Innovation Factor: 3.5 out of 5
Verdict: While not the most exciting mission, this episode earns a bump for an intelligent puzzle and cool, James Bond-y vibe (because of the espionage). The trip to K-7 seems superfluous, though. Why bother inventing interstellar communication if I have to schlep across half a sector just to have a three-minute face-to-face conversation with a scientist? Let me text the guy next time.
Episode III: What Lies Beneath
Back on Drozana Station, my away team and I descend into the maintenance levels. The third episode premiered on Halloween weekend, so it's meant to be extra-creepy fun. The folks at Cryptic lovingly crafted the desolate, rundown corridors below the Ferengi space station, with dark passages and swaying chains. It reminds me of the Nostromo from Alien. Ha! I even get a tiny flashlight. Well done.
Fun Factor: 5 out of 5
Innovation Factor: 3 out of 5
Verdict: Brilliant. Loved it. The atmosphere, the scenario, the voice acting -- everything in this mission is spot-on. And of course the Ghostbusters-esque proton rifle is genius. I've never enjoyed ground combat in STO this much.
Time travel! Again? Seems like that happens a lot in STO. Still, Drake "suggests" my crew and I zip on back to the 23rd Century to stop the Devidian threat, so whatever. One of my officers tells me we need to find parts to build a Devidian detector. Too bad the station is on medical lockdown for some reason.
Shortly after I enter the past, I run into a quick puzzle to overload some computer memory banks. I have to flip switches on three separate consoles to engage the computer's three circuits, or something. Solving it requires like 45 seconds and little thought. Meh.
As I set off into the station, I encounter a patrol of Federation officers. Because of the lockdown, they'll zap me for wandering the halls, but I have the option to lock them into a side room instead of fighting them. Nice touch! Unfortunately, I miss locking one guy in the room, so I have to stun him. Sorry.
I encounter a few other neat tricks on my mission, including the option to talk or fight my way trouble and a miniature puzzle to access a console for parts.
Fun Factor: 4 out of 5
Innovation Factor: 4.5 out of 5
Verdict: The devs really put a lot of care into this mission, which offers a lot of choices and moving parts you don't find in most other missions. I especially like that you can choose to talk, sneak or blast your way through the station -- a choice I'd love to have more often. Plus, you get to hang out with someone famous!
Episode V: Night of the Comet
To prevent the Devidians from hijacking the entire Eti Eridani Sector, I have to pilot the U.S.S. Ziggy into the 23rd Century and blow up a comet -- the same chroniton-charged comet mentioned in the first episode. And of course Drake has a shady system for time travel all set up already. That guy creeps me out.
One slingshot later, and I'm back in the 23rd Century, trying to defend Drozana from Devidians and destroy the offending death comet. And from a giant bar brawl. But once I defeat the Devidian boss, it's comet-blasting time, right? Not so much.
Fun Factor: 3.5 out of 5
Innovation Factor: 3 out of 5
Verdict: The final mission requires a suitable amount of firepower without dragging on or growing tedious -- the mania of the bar fight helps. Sadly, it loses its way after you clear the station of Devidians. The hunt for "nerve tonic" (a warm, sour, honey-topped pick-me-up in a stemmed glass) is awfully anticlimactic, and then the random appearance of angry Klingons feels so... random.
Even so, the guys at Cryptic pulled out all the stops for their second series of weekly episodes. They really improved these episodes, in everything from the settings to the combat, over those of the first series. Makes me wish we didn't have so long to wait for the next set of episodes.
Less trustworthy than a Ferengi loan shark and more useless than a neutered Tribble, Ryan Greene beams Captain's Log straight into your mind every Thursday, filling your brainhole with news, opinions and reckless speculation about Star Trek Online. If you have comments, suggestions for the column or insults too creative for Massively's commenting policy, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org.