Firing up Star Trek Online, my goal is to take my Starfleet Captain tonight to level 40 and finally get to the really big tier 5 ships. My tier 4 cruiser annoys me already a bit. I had chosen the more bulky looking Envoy class, with a black hull plating. The little graphic glitch which showed windows floating in space apart from the neck annoyed me a lot, I saw it every time coming out of warp. Am I nitpicky? Maybe, also the slow turning rate is going on my nerves; I never seem to be able to fire my forward torpedo and make use of the high-yield ability.
My mission briefing sends
me to Hobus, to investigate the cause why the system went supernova, and
especially why this supernova´s fallout travelled at multiple light speed
via subspace and destroyed the Romulan´s homeworlds before tehy could evacuate. It turns out to be
a very challenging mission, especially the space fight. A D´deridex
cruiser uncloaks, and while at first neutral, the next time it uncloaks
it immediately attacks me. And it is cheating, I believe. How is it possible to launch 4 or 5 plasma torpedoes in a row? They eat through my shields and bring my hull dangerously close to give in. I dimly remember having seen a player firing crazy torpedo swarms like this, but I am at a loss which layout and skills are involved. This D´deridex for sure has also plasma beams, so it cannot be due to mounting torpedo launchers only.
On top of it, this particular NPC commander chooses to run away via cloak. Finally, some intellligent behaviour. And to reappear, again, and again. Two more times he reappears throughout the mission, the last time after I finished the ground mission, after fending off three waves of T´varo light warbirds. And he actually manages to destroy my ship this time. I was too close and shields were too low when another one of these 4 plasma-in-a-row crap happened. Damn. It sure feels like cheating when the game just lets you restart again and again. You can literally wipe through all of the content. Even when playing on advanced difficulty, those few permanent injuries are a good idea to have but it does not really alleviate the issue.
As the D´deridex finally implodes into its singularity core (and I do have to wonder why he did not run away vie cloak, this time!) one particular piece of loot drops, which is going to alleviate my main issue with the cruiser, namely its slow turning. The console is of bue/rare quality and my tired eyes see it sports a 26% buff on turning rate! Fantastic! I do not exactly know how the %tage boni are calculated, but 26% on a turning rate of 7 makes it close to 9, plus my warp core skills, and I should bring the cruiser closer to what an unbuffed escort or science vessel can do.
This mission also reqards me with a major plot reveal, beyond of what I already learned playing my level 36 Romulan. It is nice to see how the Starfleet and Romulan mission path´s converge and complement each other´s perspective on the Romulan main mission plot.
Now, finally it is time for the tier 5 ship. I wrestle a long time with my choices. Deep Space Science Vessel? An escort class, or stick to the cruiser class? I must say, in this tier, the cruisers offered really do have the best look. And the best console and bridge officer layout, too. My choice finally is the Sovereign class assault cruiser. I can have now three damage amplifying tactical consoles; I have three disruptor beam enhancing buffs, which give me overall +40% damage. Over 500dps per beam, on a wide angled firing arc, means a lot of sustained dps. And plenty of engineer and still enough science consoles, for damage resists, and my shiny new turn-rate-console! And 4 weapon mounts each front and aft. This is some serious fire power, this should be on-par with escort classes.
I also use the occasion to change a bit around with the bridge officer skills. I seriously missed the fire-at-will skill, when all those heavy damage plasma torpedoes came in. And I was underwhelmed with the rare opportunities to actually but high-yield-torpedoes to good use. This is better left for faster-turning escort classes.
My final layout has 3 disruptor beam arrays plus quantum torpedo front, 2 disruptor beam arrays plus plasma torpedo plus quantum mine launcher back, all mark VII or VIII, with a significant amount of blue and purple rated equipment. And, man, this ship turns and fires like kick-ass! As a first test, I dive head first into a borg daily quest and mingle solo with two borg sheres and two borg drones. I have to use every bridge officer, but I get through it without resorting to my oh-shit-buttons (miracle worker, evasion). Am so very pleased. This ship is so much more fun than the tier 4 cruiser! It might have been a bit my fault of malequipping the U.S.S. Erie, so overall my new Sovereign class U.S.S. Albert Schweitzer profits from both better loadout and my lessons learned.
Now the end game can come.
Addendum, after three more hours of gametime:
I cheated. At least I feel like it. The Exchange is STO´s auction house. I had started to sell the better equipment which I did not need, e.g. all cannons, and collected until now about 500.000 credits. There is a money cap for the f2p part, and I started to worry when I would hit it. I should better make use of the cash instead of wasting it. So I looked into the Exchange. For about 400.000 credits, I bought 5 polaron lasers and 3 according tactical consoles, plus 2 damage resistance engineering consoles.
Needless to say, this made missions suddenly a lot faster and easier, giving me the feeling that I play the missions now on a level which they were not meant to be played. At the same time, I deprived myself of the Diablo-style loot collecting game. Accordingly, the next two missions, plus two borg incursions, felt like a boring grind.
D´deridex warbirds became a common sight and I am used now to their combat style. You have to keep a distance to them in order to shoot down the burst-mode torpedos, keeping your evasion skill ready for this moment. Then you "wait" and circle until the beam arrays and the occasional torpedo have done their job, activating damage resists and regeneration skills from your bridge officer.
Unfortunately, I do not like the graphics of the polaron laser firing. It looks like purple lightning. Nice, but somehow, it does not fit to a Starfleet ship; rather to an alien ship. It is details like this which destroy a game for me.
You reached and play according to the limits and possibilities of a game system. This means that you achieved your exploration of the game system and with increasing familiarit, the newness and excitement fades. You start playing a metagame which is "out of sync" with the spirit of the game. Nothing against meta-game´ing, this is what I do a lot when I start to learn and explore the game´s system. However, the metagame in itself alone is too little. And this is what happens in the end game. Only the meta game is left. Find the most powerful sword, find better armor, to beat stronger enemies, all the while the Lich King is already vanquished. Or it is just a question of routine to get it done. No meaning anymore.
I always regret when I reach this moment, because it usually means the game is over and "normal life" starts. Including special offers from your discount Zen store next door, making me earn virtual credits in order to buy things I do not need but am made believe I need them. Thanks, I got a real life for this.
Maybe I can sell the polaron lasers and replace them with some blue of green phasers. At least the end of the Romulan story arc still compells me to go on. Not sure what is to come after that. Surely another alien race threatening innocent worlds.