I’ll admit it: Voyager was my least favorite Star Trek incarnation, by far. I made it through maybe half of the fourth season before I stopped watching it, except for the occasional episode and the finale. Yes, I liked Enterprise better.
But my prejudice against Captain Janeway doesn’t extend to Delta Rising, the next free expansion for Star Trek Online. Set 32 years after the end of Voyager, Delta Rising adds a ton of new stuff to the game, including a couple of firsts for the MMO: a new class and a new level cap.
The next level-ization
The new, fourth, class is intelligence. Senior Producer Stephen Ricossa described it as a kind of stealth class – not dissimilar to most MMOs’ rogue classes – with a “whole new suite of powers for ground and space.” Examples of shipboard intel powers include a brief cloak or the ability to mess with your opponent’s controls – basically, “messing with stuff” is the name of the game for intel officers.
Players will be also able to advance their captains to level 60, while taking their favorite Tier 5 ships along for the ride. T5s will actually upgrade to T5Us, until players reach level 60, at which point they’ll unlock Tier 6 ships. T5Us and T6s will also gain XP and “level” up on their own, gaining passive combat abilities, like crit bonuses, when they do.
Captains themselves will also have a different method of advancement, allowing them to specialize in fields like piloting or, my personal favorite, cooking. Only one specialization can be active at a time, however, so you’ll need to pick what you want to go with for each mission. Figuring out the best way to advance your captain was one of the most confusing aspects of the game when I played it, so anything that helps simplify that matter is welcome, in my opinion.
Voyaging in the Delta Quadrant
The heart of the expansion is the Delta Quadrant content. The focus is on two minor races seen during the TV show’s run, the Kobali and the Vaadwaur. In brief, the Kobali are the “good guys” whom you’ll ally with to fight against the Vaadwaur, the “bad guys” – except when you find out that the Kobali are doing something questionable and the Vaadwaur, who conquered much of the Delta Quadrant a thousand years ago, are actually semi-justified in fighting them. It’s a bit of a moral “grey area” that Ricossa liked to point out as the kind of moral dilemma the Voyager crew faced in a regular basis.
Speaking of the Voyager crew, you’ll fight alongside them for much of the expansion content, with the original actors for Tuvok, Neelix, Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, and the Doctor lending their talents to the effort. You’ll work with them individually and as a group, with Tuvok, now serving as the Voyager’s captain, acting as your guide through the main story mission.
In the story, you’ll check up on the Vaadwaur, who have gained a surprising amount of new technology in the intervening three decades. As if to celebrate the debut of the intelligence class, one mission has you sneaking around a Vaadwaur base, rappelling and using ziplines to navigate your way through, while taking out groups of hostiles with knockout gas, instead of confronting them directly. Don’t worry if you’re not the stealthy type; Ricossa told me that they’d eventually let you through if you couldn’t hack hacking.
You’ll also spend time in the Kobali Prime adventure zone, which is a large, open-world area unlike STO’s usual instanced content, where players can pop in and out at their leisure. It features a kind of 25th-century trench warfare, where you and your fellow captains will have to battle through waves of Vaadwaur, with Harry Kim leading the way, to find out why the Vaadwaur are here in the first place. Hint: It’s about that “moral dilemma” we talked about earlier. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.
Once all the information is out in the open, it’ll be up to players to find allies to defeat the Vaadwaur. Each of the bridge crew has a race he or she is cozy with, and you’ll go on missions with each of them to bring those allies to your side. The culmination of the story arc has you fighting through a series of giant space battles against the Vaadwaur fleet, picking your allies for each encounter. Choose the correct allies and they’ll be more effective; choose wrong and you’ll be at a disadvantage. I likened it to picking the right Pokémon – water beats fire, lightning beats water, and so on. It adds a nice tactical element and stretches out the content over a series of battles, rather than just having one giant free-for-all at the end.
Of course, what would an MMO expansion be without some kind of new group content? In this case, it’s a raid, titled Bug Hunt, in which players, assisted by Harry Kim, are out to stop the defeated Vaadwaur from blowing up a star. Talk about your sore losers. It comes in several difficulty flavors – normal, advanced, and elite – with the elite version not only having to take down the Vaadwaur ship but also having to shoot down the missiles they’re shooting at the star. Ricossa tells me it’s their toughest content yet, and players will need to work together and be at the top of their game to succeed.
An enterprising expansion
There’s plenty of fan service in Delta Rising, from the Voyager cast reprising their roles, to the ship itself, to familiar races making an appearance. Paramount allows Cryptic Studios to be “creative within the IP,” as Ricossa put it, and the ability to take that basis and tweak it to their own standards is a nice luxury to have. As someone who’s personally worked on Star Trek licensed products, I can confirm that they’re pretty good about that sort of thing – as long as the approvals process goes smoothly. (Scott Bakula, for one, is pretty awful about the use of his image.)
The expansion is free to all players, though you can purchase a Delta Rising Operations Pack, which contains with its nine unique ships, unique intelligence bridge and duty officers, upgrades for T5U ships, unique titles and costumes, upgrade kits, ship upgrade tokens, and more. It’s pricy, but as was explained to me, if you bought all this stuff individually, it’d cost around double its hefty $124.99 price tag. Still, it’s a little surprising not to see a cheaper package available, for maybe $20-$50, to let players spend on the expansion without breaking the bank.
Delta Rising beams into Star Trek Online Oct. 14, and Cryptic’s got a 50% XP boost going on in advance of the expansion’s launch, to make sure people will be ready for that high-level content as soon as it goes live. It sounds pretty cool, and I might even overcome my loathing for all things Voyager long enough to give it a shot. That’s saying something.