This week Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios brought Star Trek Online’s most recent expansion Delta Rising online to much fanfare and the joy of many interested players. The expansion brings a portion of the Delta quardrant into the game—best known from the Star Trek series Voyager as well as voice actors from the TV show.
Amid those actors are Neelix (Ethan Phillips), The Doctor (Robert Picardo), Captain Harry Kim (Garrett Wang, no longer an ensign), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and coming back for more is Tuvok (Tim Russ).
The expansion also opens up a whole new breed of ships with Tier 6 starships making an appearance and a specialized type of starship called Intel being added. This has also lead to a new type of bridge officer who specialize in Intel abilities. Captains received a new level cap at 60, increased from 50, which opens up captain specializations. The only of which right now is Intel officer; with secondary in commando and pilot.
A pack of numerous T6 Intel starships is available as part of the Delta Rising Operations pack from Cryptic Studios for $125. It contains nine starships, a number of new outfits, several unique titles—as a result, for the cost, it will prepare any player to enter into Delta Rising with the greatest of ease and provide the full variety of gameplay opportunities. Of course, as Star Trek Online is free-to-play it is possible to get enjoyment out of Delta Rising without buying this pack, and many components of it are available without spending money.
The Intel abilities have added a large number of interesting abilities to the game and a multitude of new effects that players seem to enjoy setting off on the ground and in sector space.
With 10 more levels to work with there’s also an entire new arc of stories that can be played through and these episodes have a lot more voicing that previous episodes.
Minor spoilers may follow; but I’ll try to avoid major plot points. This will be a basic review of what players can expect getting right into the game and how things have been going.
A rocky start
It seems like Cryptic Studios has the same sort of issues even triple A studios such as Blizzard have when it comes to the launches of big expansions: Delta Rising suffered from a few major bugs that stymied players during the first few days.
One in particular stopped the entire storyline at the world of Kobali Prime when an event would not finish that was necessary to move the entire story forward. This led to an almost three hour emergency maintenance cycle to fix the problem.
The Vaadwaur menace
With the discovery of the Jenolan Dyson sphere during the last season, the Federation-Klingon-Romulan alliance has gained access to the Delta quadrant. And with it, new allies to treat with and new enemies to repel. Due to the activities of Voyager in the Delta quadrant the political landscape has changed somewhat.
The Borg are still rampaging about but the Cooperative is also present, slowly whittling out borg from the Collective and liberating individuals. The Hierarchy and the Malon still persist in their particular activities—between attacking the weak or dumping toxic waste. The Kazon still exist, although as senseless nomadic pests. Even the Automated Personnel Units make an appearance.
However, the real threat revolves around the Vaadwaur, an enigmatic race who used to control much of the Delta quadrant over 900 years earlier and who are thought to have gone extinct. The Vaadwaur have returned with a vengeance and are wreaking havoc across most of the Delta quadrant. Starship captains will need to assist Tuvok, Seven of Nine, Harry Kim, and Neelix in dealing with them.
The levelling experience is slightly different. In the 1-50 stretch it feels like doing one or two episodes can provide a level; however in the 50-60 two episodes makes about 3/4ths of the way through a level and the rest must be made up with patrols or Special Task Force queues. Major episodes are split up between the different levels in 50-60 as well, so I would find myself with nothing to do on many occasions.
The plight of the Kobali
As a major part of the story episodes, the Kobali have returned to Star Trek Online from Voyager where they were introduced as an odd race who “reproduce” by revivifying the bodies of the dead. As a result, most players jokingly call them zombies and it’s a term that’s not too far off their ecology and society.
The Vaadwaur have launched a major offensive against the Kobali on their home world of Kobali Prime.
Upon reaching level 53, captains will find themselves fighting in the trenches of the Kobali adventure zone—built in a similar tradition to the Deferi Borg adventure zone. Except that instead of specific missions leading into buildings or running form a quest hub, there are open missions in the adventure zone that players can participate in.
The region is split up into level differentiated areas that start at 53 and extend all the way up to level 56. With appropriately tough enemies residing in each of those zones. The story line missions also lead captains through the area with deft ease. And playing through them progresses the story line.
While Kobali Prime does not operate like the Dyson sphere Voth adventure zone, it is a rather fun example of a war-torn region that must be traversed.
It’s best done with friends, of course, because the Vaadwaur are a constant threat on the ground and can catch solo captains unawares and overwhelm them with numbers or firepower.
It’s not so lonely out there in space
While the Kobali adventure zone is really the highlight of the new content; there’s also a great deal of new PvE patrol missions added to the game throughout the Delta quadrant to keep captains busy. Especially so because players will find themselves re-running patrols in order to get past that calm before the next level each time they run out of episode missions at their current level.
For the most part, the patrols are interesting—but always the same for the system being entered—most of them are story-based and all interact with previous Voyager races.
One thing that stands out is that most patrol missions are wave-based. That means that I jump into the system, get through dialogue, follow story line, and then have a vacuum-of-space-duke-out with a bunch of ships, who summon reinforcements. Often the mission guide will say: “Defeat enemy wave 0/2.”
Get prepared for a lot of pew-pew.
Overall good: More Star Trek Online
It’s obvious that Cryptic wants captains to stop and smell the roses as they’re levelling and not rush through content. The trapped episode content seems designed to keep captains from rushing from 50-60 and this means that players will spend more time in the Delta quadrant, checking out patrols, playing in the Kobali adventure zone, and potentially re-running episodes.
With the added voices of Neelix, Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, the Doctor, and Tuvok there’s a lot of Star Trek nostalgia to be had—even if it’s only Voyager nostalgia.
The new tier of starships and Intel abilities is adding another layer of mechanics to the game that may take some time to master; but this is also a good thing. While much of the Intel abilities feel a bit like gimmicks—with gorgeous FX—it’s just the shot in the arm to give people more customization and gameplay options for play from 50-60.
Next time I revisit Delta Rising I will try to cover the end-game of STO now that the level cap is at 60; but most players are still levelling through the Delta Rising content. So we’ll see when most of the player base gets there.