New Romulus

Season 7 for Star Trek Online launches today.  Like with anything Cryptic does, it’s a mixed bag. It’s hard to say whether this is two steps forward, one step back. Or one step forward, two steps back. We’ll see once it actually gets running.

The big addition for this season is the addition of an entire new sector of space, Tau Dewa Sector Block. Contained within this sector is a new planet, New Romulus. This is a great addition in that it contains a lot of new mission content and new stories. MMO’s thrive on new content being added. This will give players a lot of new things to do.

One thing Cryptic usually fails to do is provide both game system features and mission content at the same time. Season 6 was the closest they got with the addition of the Starbases and a few new missions. Before, it was always either a new system or some new missions.  This time they are doing both in spades.

In addition to the new sector of space full of missions they are rolling out two new game systems. First, is the Embassy, an expansion on the Starbase system. Now fleets can set up embassies on New Romulus and build and develop it like the starbase. The projects will be significantly cheaper to complete, which is a welcome change (but we’ll get more into that later).

Also added, was the Reputation system. Now, players can earn Marks from certain content and work toward expanding their reputation with certain factions. This system works very similarly to the Starbase mechanic, so it’s nice they are getting a lot of mileage out of a system that took them so long to build. New rewards and items can be obtained by gaining reputation with the Romulans or Task Force Omega, which cover the Borg content.

So, all in all, Season 7 is bringing a lot of new stuff to the game. This is a good thing over all. But, Cryptic being Cryptic, they can’t leave well enough alone. In the process of this season they are also making a number of changes that seem to be designed solely to make players lives more difficult.

Dilithium is a currency in the game used to purchase gear, ships and is needed in vast quantities to upgrade a starbase. All of the new content being added brings many new things to purchase with Dilithium as you advance in the Reputation system. While the prices for some things seem rather excessive to me, its an element that’s never going away from the game so I can accept their existence.

What’s annoying, is that with all the new content, none of it rewards Dilithium. Aside from adding a Dilithium reward to Fleet Actions (which previously had no purpose), they only appear to be taking away ways to earn Dilithium. The STF’s, the closest STO gets to a raid, were previously the best way to earn it. 1100 for completing a run on elite difficulty. Since you only can refine 8,000 in a day (their way to limiting how much comes into the system), this was great.

In addition to the 1,100 you got for mission completion, you also could get drops which could be used to turn in for gear, or turned in for Dilithium. So in an hour, you could run 3 Elite STF missions, and usually bring in enough to hit your 8k daily take.

But now, they have reduced the rewards to 960. Not a huge deal in itself, but the items being dropped have been completely removed, as the gear is now incorporated into the Reputation system. So no secondary source of Dilithium. Supposedly, there are missions that allow you to convert the Marks you earn for a mission into Dilithium, but these only become available at the top of the Reputation tree, so that’s months away and unclear what the conversion rate will be. Knowing Cryptic, it will be worthless.

Another major source of Dilithium was this mission you could complete by running three Foundry missions. What made this nice was that any Foundry mission counted, including what were known as “console clickers”. Just by clicking on a console you could complete the mission, get 1440 Dilithium and 50 Fleet Marks. This was great for quickly running Alts through.

Now, this is clearly an exploit to the game. That much reward for that little effort was never intended. The problem is that it’s been this way for months and the games population has come to rely on it. Gathering the needed Dilithium and Fleet marks to upgrade a Starbase becomes impossible for a small fleet without this income of resources.

The Dilithium reward for this mission is actually secondary. The needed amount of Fleet Marks for starbase projects at T2 and T3 has become insurmountable. Having alts able to bring in 50 a day allowed us to keep going. Without that, we will have to go back to playing the same limited content ad nauseum.

A group of 5, playing during the bonus time, can bring in between 400 and 600 Fleet marks in an hour.  That seems pretty good. But when a single project requires 900 and you need to run between 50 and 100 projects, it gets daunting. For a small fleet, that means 2hrs of Fleet mark grinding per project. If you want to keep one project running at a time, that’s every day and it will take 2-3 months to get one of three levels to Tier 4. If you do it more sporadically, it will obviously take longer. RIght now, we’re looking at reaching Tier 4 in all categories sometime in 2015.

But that’s enough ranting for now. I am excited for all the other additions coming to the game. New Romulus should be fun. And our starbase is reaching Tier 3 shipyard today as well, so I’ll be able to pick up an upgraded Defiant to use on the new content.

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