Star Trek-based MMO Star Trek Online has just released a massive content patch that heralds the arrival of the Voth into Federation (and Klingon) interests as well as adding an interesting zone: a Dyson sphere. The Voth were introduced in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager as dinosaurians with an Earth lineage; and a Dyson sphere was introduced in a Star Trek: Next Generation episode featuring Scotty from the original cast. Mixing these two elements together, STO has created yet-another-amazing addition to its already long list of Star Trek tropes and fan service.

It seems mere months ago that Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment released Legacy of Roumulus—as massive content injection—for Star Trek Online. The introduction of a several whole new modes of gameplay in both space and the ground makes Sphere of Influence an amazing addition to the game.

Sphere of Influence “Featured Episode” and Dyson Sphere mission set

The initial foray into Season 8 started with a featured mission that took players to a Iconian gate powered by deep-geothermal-horrors. That episode led players through a dizzying array of boarding actions, fighting to power up, get running, and step through the gate into an unknown space. It also portrayed the vast holdings of the Iconian empire before its fall and set the stage for Season 8.

Season 8 begins for players who visit a system in space and use the Iconian gate to arrive at the Dyson sphere.

There, players learn that the Omega Directive has been initiated—an age old directive of the Federation to destroy any technology that makes use of “omega particles” as they have a catastrophic effect on Space-Time and warp travel. As it turns out, the Voth have discovered omega particle facilities on the Dyson sphere and this could destabilize the very fabric of reality in this part of the universe. Both Federation and Klingon players are tasked with taking out anything related to this research on the ground and in space.

The Dyson sphere mission set drives players to seek out the ground contested zone and the space contested zone. Each mission is designed to introduce players to the different modes of gameplay and important NPCs who will give them mission notices, reputation rewards, and inform them about the situation on the ground and in space.

The contested ground zone

The contested ground zone is a vast area within part of the Dyson sphere which contains omega particle research facilities, holding silos, Voth artillery, and a few other points-of-strategic-interest to the Federation and Klingons in the battle against the Voth for control of the Dyson sphere. Players beam into the ground zone with the weapons on their back and two members of their away team to assist and each instance can support the usual 20 people.

In each instance, players are tasked with retaking parts of the ground zone in a domination-style map mode from the Voth. Once taken, those positions must be defended from Voth attempts to retake them. Fortunately, after each area is captured players can call in NPC reinforcements to hold down the fort while players rush off to dominate a new zone.

The firefights can be fierce and it’s a difficult place to survive alone (even with two bridge officers) so players tend to clump up where other players are currently engaged in taking a particular area.

Reinforcements are called in with tokens that fall off defeated enemies after a capture is successful. This can lead to an amusing rush-to-collect the glowing reddish objects during the aftermath.

After all the zones have been taken, three V-rex bosses appear on the map. To put it mildly, a V-rex is basically a cybernetic Tyrannosaurus rex with, “frickin laserbeams on its forehead!” Or at least it seems as if the T-rex has “laser breath.” Each of these stunning foes takes multiple players to take down in a reckless haste to expose and take the omega particle silos from the Voth.

This new zone is quite a rush and is great fun with friends.

The contested space zone

A Dyson sphere is huge—a megastructure developed to encompass an entire star—and that means there’s more than enough space for starships to maneuver around its inner skin. As a result, there’s a space (or at least air) battle to be had above the contested ground zone between giant spires of alien architecture and surrounded by hostile vessels.

Once again, the space zone consists of a domination-style map where spacefaring captains can take their vessels and fight Voth ships at strategically important locations around the map.

Upon capturing all of these points, three Voth city-ships–massive juggernauts with huge hull values and titanic power—appear around the central spire and players must bombard them to take them down. Each Voth city-ship is a force-unto-itself and take multiple captains working in concert and determination to take them down. Sometimes their massive proton-beam weaponry can be seen cutting Federation starships, Klingon warbirds, and Romulan birds-of-prey apart.

The space zone can also be quite fun because it’s a constant monster-carpet of enemy ships to shoot out of the sky. As a truly target rich environment, it’s a place filled with reputation, experience, and loot to earn.

Dyson Sphere Reputation

The launch of Season 8 and the addition of the Dyson sphere also added an altogether new reputation track alongside Romulan, Omega, and Tholian. With Dyson Joint Command reputation the developers of STO sought to change how reputation systems work and the rewards they deliver.

The other reputation systems produced weaker gear (Mark XI) at their lower tiers that eventually drove up into heavier gear (Mark XII) with a slow, drawn out grind doing missions for the given faction. Season 8 changed that up with Dyson reputation by offering Mark XII gear from the outset in the first tier and also providing an easy way to up reputation with less of a grind.

Voth STFs added, Federation tutorial revamp, Voth lockboxen

Amid all these new maps and amazing new game modes, STO has also added a new STF called “The Breach.” This mission calls upon 5 players to attack a Voth fortress-ship, breach the hull, and fly inside. In part, it feels a little bit like destroying the Death Star in Star Wars because the mission involves flying through a space filled with brittle structures in an attempt to destroy the main power source in the middle. All the while dodging automated defenses…

Federation players will also notice something different when they make new characters with yet-another-revamp to the Fed tutorial zone. For the better too, with this redesigned tutorial players will feel more in-sync with the rest of the STO universe—and not to mention the Romulans got a full-on story tutorial and Klingons also received an excellent tutorial. The developers mention the realization that the Romulan story-based tutorial and the new Klingon tutorial outshone the Feds meager staring process and felt the need to bring the Feds up-to-speed.

Of course, the release of a brand new enemy faction means lock boxes. The Voth lockbox contains a lot of interesting stuff including a Voth starship—the Voth Bastion flight-deck cruiser, equipped with a Reactive Shield Amplifier that can render the ship briefly immune to incoming damage and Voth Heavy Fighters. In the lobi store the Voth Palisade science vessel has been added for a purchase price of 800 crystals—it comes with an Aceton Field Generator console, providing damage resistance to the Voth ship as well as draining energy from nearby enemies. The console can also trigger a devastating AoE shockwave of damage scaled to the amount of energy drained from enemies.

Star Trek Online Season 8 shows a lot of promise and it’s a lot of fun to play.

See you among the stars!