The new feature episode that came with the giant patches is “Echoes of Light”, which focuses on the Lukari’s (who we met in the episode “Sunrise”) first steps towards interstellar travel. We are essentially playing Vulcans during the Enterprise era, shepherding a new spacefaring species along the way.
There has been mixed reviews about this episode, although I think there are more positive than negative. The players who didn’t like it cited “boring” as the main reason, with too much clicking and scanning stuff. Actually I think “boring” is the wrong descriptor — this episode is much more focused on exploration, including encounters with some pretty awe-inspiring Cosmozoans, the mystery of a dead civilization, and the rediscovery of the K13 station. It’s markedly fresh and different from the normal ‘pew-pew’ fare, and feels much closer than an actual Star Trek episode. Yes it’s slow-paced, but I will take this any time over mindless fighting. Remember all the Delta Rising patrol missions? All shooting and no thinking involved. Now THAT was BORING.
Both the space around Draconis 20 and the planetary surface are rendered beautifully; I’m sure they’re enhanced by the brand new lighting system (which I will get to in a minute). The only nitpick I have about the mission is ironically K13’s interior — you know how everyone, including myself, has always complained about the ridiculously sized ship and station interiors? Well K13 actually corrected the scale, and lo and behold, the NPCs have all sorts of difficulty navigating the narrow corridors. I spent more time getting them through doors than fighting the enemies!
Also, the Lukari ship in the episode turns out to be a Warp-4 vessel, which makes sense! Unfortunately that ships looks…. a bit… too… phallic… >.> <.< You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Ultimately, those are a minor quibbles about an otherwise outstanding episode. I really enjoyed it! Special mention goes to Kuumaarke, who absolutely steals the show. The voicework is brilliant (British accent and all), conveying a sense of wonder and excitement as she experiences the cosmos. She puts the Lukari as a whole in a very positive light, and I can’t help but feel protective towards these people (as compared to, let’s say, those fishy Deferi). Kudos to Kipleigh Brown for an outstanding performance.
P.S. Let’s not forget the lighting update now. After tinkering with the new graphics setting, I spent quite a bit of time going to various places just to see how different they look…. because they do look very different. Qo’nos in particular is greatly improved; neither First City nor the Academy look like they are underground caverns anymore — Qo’nos now has a proper sun! DS9 is a lot more moody. ESD is more majestic. New Romulus Command is bright and beautiful (and looks a bit fantasy elvish now, in my humble opinion). I still have lots of places to visit and see, but it feels like seeing a new world all over again. Now that’s exciting.
Note: Remember, when you first run the game after installing the patch, all the graphic settings will be reset, which means you have to customize them all over again. One important detail is the renderscale is reset to 0.65, so everything is fuzzy at first. Once you log in, make sure you do /renderscale 1 to correct that.