A New Dawn Arrives

STO11After much brouhaha, anticipation and relief, Season 11 New Dawn finally arrived a few days ago! Like the rest of the players, I am figuring out the new content so right now I’m just going to do a quick first-impression review here.

The biggest addition to Season 11 is the Admiralty system, where players can make use of their old ships in essentially a second Doff system. Each type of ship gives the player a “card”, which has stats for Tactical, Engineering and Science respectively; the “better” (read: expensive) ships have better stats, but don’t dismiss the old, cheap ships either — they have the advantage of a much shorter cooldown (“Maintenance”) and frequently have a special ability to boost Critical Success chances. You pick and choose which ships to send on which missions, just like Doffs.

This whole Admiralty system is pretty shrewd, in the sense that it makes use of ships that are otherwise sitting in a garage, but also suddenly boosting the value of ANY and ALL ships. Many Mirror Universe ships and other secondary lockbox ships used to be next to worthless on the exchange, but now their values have inflated tenfold… or more. It’s absolutely bad news for frugal players like me, who work on tight budgets and only buy ships for utility, never frivolously; now I find myself with a serious shortage of Admiralty ships. Thanks, Cryptic.

This thing is still fresh, so I’m sure everyone’s playing with it, but a couple of things are already becoming evident. One, the Science rating requirements in many missions are extraordinarily high, and most of my toons have trouble getting that much Science into play; this is exacerbated by random “events” that raise stat requirements by 100 – a simple task that shows as requiring 15 in Tac/Eng/Sci might suddenly require 115 in Science. Yeah, good luck with that. Two, well, like I said this is really just another Doffing system. The novelty is already wearing off for me, I don’t know if I really want another chore to add to my daily grind.

Heidy’s Admiralty System Rating: 4

Pros: New and novel, makes good use of otherwise neglected ships.

Cons: Artificially creating a market for secondary ships. Yet another clicking exercise; more grind.

Another major addition in Season 11 is the new Terran Badlands Battlezone. It works similar to the Undine Battlezone, that the players have to cooperatively cap several points on the map. After all the points are capped, the final three “bosses” are triggered (three battle stations, in this case, similar to the three Undine Planet Killers). After this is a big brawl against a Terran invasion fleet, much like the Voth fleet in the Undine BZ.

So how well does it work?

First thing I noticed is the Badlands BZ lags worse than the Undine BZ. Why? Not sure. Maybe it’s the blinding yellow background that’s choking the life out of my video card. Or is it because of endless stream of Terran ships that continuously spawn at each of the capture points? Right now players seem to want to travel in herds, which compounds the problem because herds trigger more enemies and the whole thing just lags to hell. Stay away from the herds and spread out, and the Badlands BZ is a lot more palatable.

There is also a bug that I encountered a few times already: the upper right hand corner cap point sometimes won’t complete, especially when it’s the last one to be tackled. People have tried to let the point reset, but with a large herd present there are always some players who don’t listen or follow orders. Hopefully this is a relatively simple fix though.

Heidy’s Badlands BZ Rating: 7

Pros: Another Battlezone adds more options.

Cons: Lagfest. Rate of enemy respawn way too quick.

As the Big Bad of the New Dawn arc is the Mirror Universe Terran Empire, Cryptic has revamped the old Cardassian story arc and incorporated a lot of Terran elements into a new one. Obviously I haven’t played through the whole thing yet, but this is a good thing as the old Cardassian story arc was a bit… tedious. In addition to the new story arc, there are now two new Terran STFs — Assault on Terok Nor (Ground) and Counterpoint (Space). People are still learning these STFs but I will say that they are sufficiently complex that running these with PUGs can be painful. Both of these tend to be long, similar to the Iconian STFs in length and complexity, so if you get stuck with a clueless PUG it’ll take a while to finish (Admiral Leeta in the ground mission is particularly annoying because you can’t reliably lure her to where she needs to be). I might end up writing walkthroughs for these later on, so I’ll keep this brief for now.

Heidy’s STF Rating: 5

Pros: More STFs is always good, right?

Cons: Takes too long. Horrible for PUGGing. Terrans spawn like Tribbles!

There is also a new Feature Episode “Sunrise”, which plays as the start of a new story arc, so all it does is set up some plot hooks for future episodes. As stories go, it’s fairly simplistic and straightforward, and features a previously unknown species/civilization so I guess it fits in with the “exploration theme” of Season 11. There is also the stranger from the future, with a vessel that immediately makes you go “Tardis??!!” It’s a relatively low-key start to the next story arc, but of course not every story can start with a BANG; it’s difficult to judge this episode individually without the context of the rest of the plot. I only hope that when Cryptic promised Season 11 will go back to focus on exploration, they mean there are actual exploration content upcoming and not limited to just 4 or 5 feature episodes.

Heidy’s Feature Episode Rating: 6

Pros: Sets up the new story arc in a simple way, which immediately raises some interesting questions.

Cons: Mostly unremarkable.

Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about Season 11 so far. I may be in the minority here, but the Admiralty Ship System (called ASS by many players. I didn’t make this up!) doesn’t do anything for me. With the introduction of a new Terran Reputation, it’s more grindy time — and the only places you can get Terran marks are from the STFs and the new BZ. There has been some grumbling about the low payout of Terran marks from these, followed by some angry remarks being tossed about, before Cryptic relented and increased the reward — but it’s still pretty low. All in all, the last few days have felt extremely grind-intensive, to the point that I am just starting to feel annoyed. Hopefully, your mileage is different!

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3 thoughts on “A New Dawn Arrives

  1. Thank you for this helpful and fairly comprehensive little review here, Heidy. 🙂

    The STO Mac client is still inoperable so I’m still unable to log into the game (and I missed out on all the promotional giveaways too, of course), but at least this gives me an idea of what I’ll be up against once Cryptic fixes the Mac client (IF they fix it).

    I am a bit disappointed about the whole grindy-ness of it. I really hate grinding, so the last thing I wanted to see was yet another rep grind shoveled at us. The Admiralty system just doesn’t do much for me either, so I’m with you on that. I’m like, “Another thing to grind for… Great.” I’m frankly not too interested in still more grinding.

    And I’m SO sick and tired of these mirror Terrans. Mirror Leeta is kind of intriguing, but why don’t they just stay in their dimension and leave us alone? My theory: they just want revenge, plain and simple, for the UFP’s indirect intervention in their timeline via Mirror Spock, which ended up causing them to lose the war against the Klingon/Cardassian Alliance and lose their empire, which they’ve been fighting so long to restore. At least that’s my take on it (I could be wrong as I’ve not been able to play any of the new Terran story missions yet – and please, no spoilers!).

    But I digress. I’d been hoping that there’d be much more of a focus on exploration and “boldly going where no one has gone before,” what the UFP is supposed to be all about. But from what I’ve heard about it thus far, it just looks kinda “meh,” like more of the same DPS arms race and grind-fest.

    I still look forward to playing it once the STO Mac client is usable again and learning more about it firsthand.

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    1. Granted, I wasn’t actually expecting Cryptic to magically pull a rabbit out of their proverbial hat and come up with truly innovative gameplay to focus on exploration, because lord knows I don’t know how that can be achieved…. but I had hoped they would surprise us. Looks like that’s a popped dream bubble.

      I think at this point STO is built so much on the momentum of DPS and ships, there is no stopping the train. Power-creep, lockboxes and ASS are all focused around ships, since Cryptic well knows ships are the game’s main money-makers. There’s relatively little incentive for them to think outside of the box and try to come up with something different.

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      1. Sadly, you’re probably right about that. More of the same grind, DPS arms race, and power creep. Everything’s pretty much geared toward getting us to shell out more money (zen) in the C-store for the new ships. Sigh…

        And I’m still LOLing and shaking my head at “ASS.” Couldn’t they have picked a better choice of words, so it wouldn’t have resulted in that unfortunate acronym?

        It reminds me of the old SDF Macross anime series (1982-83), when the Macross first crash-landed on Earth and it was referred to as the “Alien Space Ship-1,” or “ASS-1.” Hilarious.

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