Third Faction

Not long ago, Cryptic announced an expansion for Star Trek Online. The highlight of this expansion is to be the addition of the Romulans as a playable faction. In the announcement  it was implied that you can start as any faction, suggesting that the three factions would all be equal. However, in last week’s Ask Cryptic, it was revealed that:

Dstahl: This is an important question that needs a detailed answer.

The Romulan Republic was created from the ground up as a complete new faction. They have their own backstory, their own exclusive missions and episode series, exclusive costumes, faction-exclusive social hub, unique playable species, a full ship progression line from level 1 to 50, unique HUD UI, and more. What they don’t have are their own Starbases. There are many reasons why we’ve made this decision and here’s one of them.

During one of the episodes in the Romulan Republic storyline, the Federation and Klingon Defense Force will challenge Romulan captains to choose sides in the Federation-Klingon War. This permanent and personal choice forges a very important alliance. Once this decision is made, individual Romulan captains will gain many benefits through their alliance, all the while remaining their own independent faction. Romulans still continue their own independent mission journal and storyline after this choice, remaining neutral within the Romulan faction, but the choice has an impact on their progression towards end-game.

In many ways, Romulans will have the best of two “worlds” – theirs and their ally’s. Not only do they have their own exclusive stories, ships, and costumes, but they gain many benefits of their ally. This includes access to a variety of their allies’ ships, rewards, and hubs. While Romulans can’t wear the actual uniform of their ally, they do gain unique costume options, such as a Romulan Republic/Klingon Uniform variant, for example. So when a Romulan creates a Fleet, they are creating a Fleet that is open to Romulans of a chosen allegiance as well as members of that allegiance. Vice-a-versa, they’re also free to join existing fleets of their chosen ally.

Our goal is to encourage existing Fleets, many of whom have spent countless hours on their Starbases, to stay in business and welcome in New Romulans instead of splintering to go “do it all over again”. We want captains to group with Fleet mates who decide to start a Romulan and entice them to ally at end game. This not only works thematically, but it also keeps the conflict focused on the Klingon/Federation War.

Now that many established Fleets are finishing their Tier 5 Starbases, we expect to see established guilds enticing all the New Romulans to join their cause in exchange for access to the best ships and gear the ally can offer. In the future, we will consider unique Romulan Starbases. For now, the New Romulans are just getting their feet on the ground and must look to the planet New Romulus as their new home and rely on the Starbases of their ally for support.

Also, a new Fleet Holding is in development, but will be launching after the release of Legacy of Romulus.

Many people take issue with the statement “complete new faction”. This does not seem to be true since the Romulans have to join the Federation and Klingons. They do not get their own starbases, fleets, pvp queues or end-game content. If you can’t have the blood enemies of Klingons v Romulans, what’s the point of a Romulan faction?

While I do view it as rather cheap on Cryptic’s part to take this route, I can understand why they did. STO has been designed with two factions in mind and been operating that way for three years. There are a lot of elements that they would have to adjust in order to accommodate a third faction.

This approach also makes it easier to add more factions in the future, should they add the Cardassians later. It’s a lot easier to integrate a group you only need to write a few missions for and design a few ships. Not having to completely readjust the way the pvp queue system works or build a starbase or DOFF system.

There are benefits to doing it this way to players as well. I almost never play my Klingon character because of the hassle of getting him geared up and completing the reputation system on another character. While I’ll still have some of those problems with a Romulan who is part of the Federation (hence why I never play my Fed alts either), the gearing problem does become easier. Since the Romulan will be a part of the Federation, he can therefore join my fleet, and therefore has immediate access to all of the fleet gear, which is where I get 90% of my endgame weapons and ships.

The new story will be nice, though I don’t hold high hopes of unparalleled sophistication. This is a Cryptic story after all. Some of them, like the first few featured episodes, can be well done. But then there are the massive turds that show up all to frequently in the Federation storyline. There’s hope that they took the time to ensure all the episodes are good quality, instead of having to rush the episodes out because they have to launch a game in a rush.

By far the biggest disappointment with this approach they are taking with the factions is the loss of the potential for 1v1v1 scenarios. PVP with three sides is a lot of fun. If they ever added a territory control element to the game it would have been well balanced to have three factions fighting each other. You never know who might be an ally who can stab you in the back.

Overall, I’m not surprised by this approach. Some people are really upset by it but I just shrug my shoulders. Not much Cryptic can do to surprise me anymore.

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