Archive for February 14th, 2011

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STO: Valentine, Valentine, Wilt Thou Be Mine (Enemy)?

February 14, 2011

Sorry about the title, but I never said I was a poet.

“Mine Enemy”, the second featured episode of the new Star Trek Online series arc debuted Saturday, and once again prior engagements kept me elsewhere and unable to log on at the time of launch. Again, I thought it was for the best as Cryptic still appeared less than prepared to handle the increased server loads at such a peak time. However, things didn’t go too smoothly for me either when I was finally able to play that night. I didn’t encounter any high-population-related problems, but I did hit a pretty annoying bug instead. More on that later.

Note: Spoilers in text and screenshots

This week, T’Androma and First Officer Sleer investigate a Ferengi-run mining colony in the Hfihar System. The rest of the away team stay behind as not to spook the miners and inhabitants, mostly made up of Romulan refugees, as they are not used to seeing too many outsiders to their area. For more on the plot and story of the mission, check out Tipa’s great write-up.

Traffic congestion in sector space.

Like last week’s episode, “Mine Enemy” starts at Admiral T’Nae located at Starbase 39. I made the trip to see her in person so I could grab a few screenshots of the crowd. It’s a shame Cryptic can’t manage the server loads more smoothly, but I do love it to see so many people in STO. It was late Saturday night, but T’Nae was no less surrounded by dozens of players jostling around and even on top of her desk trying to initiate the mission. I find that I really like the voiceover for her character. The actress manages to convey strict control over emotion, and yet there’s just that tiny little hint of condescension you would expect from a Vulcan.

Upon entering the Hfihar System, you’ll encounter a very short space sequence before getting the option to beam down to the surface of the mining colony with one other member of your away team. Commander Sleer was chosen for the assignment. As T’Andy’s first officer, the loyal science officer is her friend, her rock, and most importantly, her healer. Bringing someone who can provide your captain more firepower would work too, but as a tactical officer who likes to go in guns blazing, I personally like someone who can keep my shields up.

Once again, the STO team at Cryptic proves that when they set their mind to it, they can do wonderful, powerful things with environment and atmosphere. Because boy, what a craphole this place is, and I mean that in a good way. You can practically feel the despair rolling off the NPCs huddling in the dust and shadows of the slums. The gravity of the situation hits you even harder when you consider the main Star Trek timeline and the significance of everything around you — all these Romulans are sad and homeless now, scattered to the wind after their planet went kablooie in the supernova. You gotta feel bad for them.

Before you enter the mine, you’re asked to help out some of the Romulan refugees in the area. You get to complete different tasks depending on your character’s class. As a tactical officer, I got to take out a bunch of thugs that has been threatening this poor guy just trying to feed his own family as well as his dead friend’s, which suited me just fine. The point is though, I notice Cryptic is sticking to this trend of providing class specific objectives, which I approve because I think lore-wise it makes each role feel more unique in function, on top of simply just having different abilities.

Why you don't mess with T'Andy.

Okay, here at the entrance of the mine, I encountered the really annoying bug. I first tried using diplomacy to talk the Romulan jerk on guard into letting me through, but ended up having to put him down anyway. Subsequently, I was given the objective to take out 4 more groups of hostile Romulans, except I only got 3 groups, and thus got stuck when I couldn’t initiate the next part of the mission. Apparently, this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence; I saw several people talking about in sector space chat, and a couple of my own fleetmates experienced this whacky glitch. You only have two choices if it happens to you, unfortunately.  One, you can drop the mission and start it over, or two, you can beam out and wait 15 minutes for the mine to reset. I did the latter, but while I waited I also redid “The Vault” with Blue Kae and Talyn, so it wasn’t a total loss.

To avoid the glitch, I was advised to just go in and just shoot the guard. Don’t try to negotiate with him, don’t even talk to him, just kill him. Shoot him dead. Well, I can do that. And voila, it worked! Keep going further into the mine and you should get the message to kill 5 groups of hostile Romulans, which is the way it should be. You miss out on the choice to use diplomacy, but I did this mission twice and both times I followed this advice, and the bug didn’t show itself again, which is what matters. The puzzle (well, if you can even call it a puzzle) initiated to open the hidden cave door, I stood on one of the pressure plates, stuck my bridge officer on the other, and whew, I was finally through this pesky area.

And what’s this? Cutscene! I think this is another trend we’ll be seeing more of from these featured episodes. And with Cryptic having plans to revamp many more of their missions like they did with the Azura encounter, at some point we may even be seeing these all over the game.

Be sure to explore everything before you head past the code-protected door. In one of the caverns to the side, you’ll get even a nice surprise and an accolade out of it…

Cue "not a bricklayer" line!

It’s moments like these that I’m glad I took the time to watch all the Star Trek shows, even the Original Series. The episode with the Horta is one of my favorites. It’s so much more fun when you get the references, and I gotta say kudos to Cryptic for putting in gems like these for the fans.

I’m also astounded by all the choices you’re given in this FE. In the brig, you get the optional mission of releasing the prisoners, for example. I did, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them help me fight! Of course, five minutes later I managed to get them all vaporized. So it goes. I also had the choice of not killing the Romulan commander for the access codes, but duh, I did anyway. What, it’s not like my diplomacy rank would have been high enough in the first place! I don’t know, I didn’t check.

Anyway, choice means a lot more fun for completionist types like me, and even though it is possible to sneak through the facility without having to kill a single worker, I mowed the whole place down so I could sneak a peek at all the information on the consoles they were working on. What can I say? Destruction follows T’Andy around like a pet goat, but there’s usually a rhyme and reason to it.

Speaking of destruction, I love how the whole place almost comes down during your harrowing escape from the mines. There’s that whole thing with environment and atmosphere again. Good job, Cryptic!

Escape action-hero style.

You return to your ready room afterward, to decode the files you downloaded from deep in the mine before you managed to get out of there. Some of the files include errors that you have to correct in order to receive pass codes that will help you decipher the main encrypted document. What followed was a lot of reading and in some cases guesswork, but I found clicking through trial and error will also ultimately get you to your goal in decoding the message. Oh, you Remans. I look forward to breaking your necks.

On a more cheerful note, I love this week’s reward. How could I NOT choose the Horta hatchling pet?

Uh, T'Andy, I don't think he likes the fire extinguisher.

Overall, great episode. Just a shame about the bug; if it wasn’t for that, everything would have been perfect, 10 out of 10. Still, “Mine Enemy” probably ranks up there as one of my favorite featured episodes so far.

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