Like most STO players, I have a bunch of alts/toons. At current count, there are eleven in total, but among those I count only six as “mains” that I regularly run game content with. And of those six, only three are considered “Core” in terms of spending considerable resources on to develop.
Recently I have been looking at the neglected toons and wondering what can be done to make them more interesting, and I came to the conclusion that this can be achieved by finding unique niches for them that aren’t a duplicate of a main toon. A stroke of brilliance (if I do say so myself) breathed new life into one of these, my Delta Recruit Tellarite Engineer Zdrossk, who has been benchwarming like a pro since he managed to hit level 60 a year ago!
Gawd, has it already been a year??!!
I briefly mentioned Zdrossk way back when; he is an Engineering Captain who has been flying a Presidio CBC (the U.S.S. Serengeti) for most of his endgame career — unfortunately this makes him very, very similar to my other Fed Engineering toon Kala Kendris, who flies a tactical Odyssey. While the builds are different, they fill the same niche of a tanky, BFAW broadsiding cruiser. With his limited resources, Zdrossk is less developed than Kala and less effective in battle, which may explain why I don’t play him much — there simply is no incentive to build up a second toon who does essentially the same thing as someone I already have!
I looked around my small stockpile of ships and noticed one that has gone almost completely unused — the Jupiter class carrier. When it first came out, I bought it for Heidy to play with, but quickly I found that it wasn’t worth giving up a proper Science vessel for. None of my Fed toons is properly skill-specc’d to support hangar pets, nor do they have the appropriate traits or gear – I can drop them in a Jupiter but they’ll be at best passable, so the ship has been sitting in the garage gathering dust. I figured why not take a redundant cruiser captain and switch him to a dedicated carrier captain? I did a complete skill respec on Zdrossk with carriers in mind, purchased some new gear (i.e. Hangar pets, Flight Deck Officers, lockbox traits), reset the various personal traits, started grinding out some specific Ship Mastery traits and went out on a test drive.
The initial tests were… NOT promising. Even with relatively high shields and hull as well as decent damage resistances, the lumbering Jupiter kept dying in Red Alerts… and this was with the Samsar’s RIF console on the ship. The Callisto frigates were decent, but the Advanced Peregrine fighters were absolutely worthless — every time an enemy ship exploded, it took three fighters with it. What did they teach them in flight school??
Out went the Peregrines to make room for more Callistos, and a Neutronium console was added (which is subsequently replaced by the mission rewards Temporally Shield Datacore and Trellium-D consoles). Things gradually improved and now the Jupiter is not sinking so much anymore. That being said, flying carriers is still tricky because hangar pets get temperamental; the Callistos are very durable — they currently clock out at 69k hull each, which makes them sturdier than half of my main toon ships! That’s a little crazy. Keeping them alive is no longer the issue; keeping them where I want them to be, on the other hand, definitely IS. As many carrier captains can attest, hangar pets don’t follow orders very well, and I have found it very challenging to make them do things. Every time I hit Full Impulse and travel more than a few seconds, the pets get left behind and are apparently confused as to where their mothership went. Similarly, the Recall command works about 50% of the time; I’ve found that if I stop and remain stationary for fifteen to twenty seconds, there is a much greater chance of the pets docking properly. Workarounds notwithstanding, this is a major problem for any map that requires a great deal of traveling.
With the inherent problems with hangar pets, I can see why carriers are so unpopular with the top DPS crowd. But for Zdrossk, it’s mostly mission accomplished. I gave him a specific niche and a different play style than my other toons, and that makes him unique enough to be worth playing.
P.S. As a side note, I want to mention that while I was grinding out Ship Traits, I flew the Sarr Theln and realized that it is in fact a very competent alternative to the Jupiter… I could, but I didn’t even buy the available Plesh Blek hangar pets. In fact, the Sarr Theln is some ways better than the Jupiter because it’s already Fleet grade, and it’s FREE. If I weren’t a stickler for Space Barbie/Federation aesthetics, the Sarr Theln would be a perfectly good choice for a carrier.
Compared to the Fleet Jupiter, the Sarr Theln is less durable (less shields, less hull) and slightly more maneuverable, but gets an extra Tactical console by trading in an Engineering one, giving the Breen ship more direct firepower. Pretty impressive for a free ship!