Perfect Ten: Neat things that Star Trek Online did with Star Trek lore

    
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Perfect Ten: Neat things that Star Trek Online did with Star Trek lore

I’ve been getting back into Star Trek Online recently, which really means that I’ve been scratching the surface of the game again for a bit because there is a lot in this game. Seriously, even though I still have complaints about various aspects of the title, I think it deserves a lot of praise for the sheer volume of content within. It also deserves a lot of praise for managing to keep expanding on the game when it has a set of reference points expanding much more slowly than the game itself needs to.

Of course, one of the complaints that has been bandied about since the start of STO is that it doesn’t treat the lore as well as it should… to which I say, now and forever, balderdash. (Actually I usually say a different word starting with the same letter, but that one is a cuss word.) STO has done a lot of really good things with the franchise lore, and this week I feel like just turning an appreciative eye toward the things it does that are smart, based on my decades of fondness for this weird franchise.

Klingy.

1. The Klingon-Federation War

Right, let’s start with the thing that most people cited immediately as a problem wherein the game wasn’t paying enough attention to the lore. People were pissed about the idea that the Klingon Empire and the Federation were at war again, after the two factions made peace following the original series and then already went to war and made up again over the course of Deep Space Nine. What a lazy rehash, right?

Except, well… here’s the thing. Have you ever noticed that every prediction of the future seems to involve this happening in the franchise?

You can argue how “real” the futures we saw in episodes like All Good Things, Endgame, and The Visitor are. But it’s not that in one or two of them these two powers were at war again; it’s all of them. Every single time, KDF and Starfleet ships were shooting at one another. It’s almost like the peace between them was never as solid as anyone wanted, and maybe this was an eventuality nobody liked but everyone saw coming just the same.

In other words, this might feel like a retread… but it’s one that had the groundwork not just laid down ahead of time but telegraphed repeatedly. In some ways, having this become a major plot point actually solidified some of these ideas.

2. The Vaadwaur

One of the tricks of STO is that it has a lot of alien races to draw from, but many of those races existed to do one thing, in one episode. The Vaadwaur, for example, were very much a case where Voyager was trying to help what appeared to be disadvantaged survivors of a lost race only to discover that this species was actually the bad guys from ages ago. Then you have to expand that into a whole species instead of a one-off gag.

And it works. Very well, in fact. Aside from just having the feel of old-style battleships and assets to hammer home the idea that the Vaadwaur are old, they also have a unique attitude among Star Trek’s more belligerent races; they’re not conquering anything so much as just taking back what is, by rights, already theirs. It’s a sort of arrogant dismissal that isn’t mirrored elsewhere and changes them from being another foam-headed alien into something distinct among its peers.

Big space roundy bit.

3. The Solanae

The reality is that the more you know about something the less scary it is. The Solanae were the starring race of one of the weirder late-season episodes of The Next Generation, but part of what made them so memorable was the fact that they seemed not just unable but uninterested in communication. It was even debatable whether or not they were fully aware that the crew of the Enterprise was sapient.

Certainly, having them be somewhat-knowing pawns of the Iconians and their overarching push for power removes a bit of that menace. But at the same time, they’re still sort of… out there. They don’t field fleets against us. They’re not a direct threat to beat up. They’re lurking, and that subtle air of menace permeates their presence whenever they do show up.

4. The Tzenkethi

The Tzenkethi are easily the most important race to never show up in an episode of Star Trek, even though they’re mentioned quite a bit. Having them show up in STO as these weird monsters is actually kind of brilliant, because it simultaneously explains why we really didn’t see them on-screen on the shows while also giving them a chance to slide in effortlessly as seemingly familiar faces.

I also really like that, well, the Tzenkethi are antagonists mostly by virtue of having their own goals and not caring what their pursuit of those goals does to anyone else. They have their own goals and mostly just don’t care about who gets trampled along the way. It’s a different approach from most antagonistic races, again. (And that in and of itself is one of the things I like; that the array of antagonists never become rotating factions with the same set of goals.)

Everybody's a friend.

5. Romulus

It would have been really easy to pretend that the destruction of Romulus didn’t happen, but I’m glad the game didn’t. Instead of just moving forward with Romulans acting the way they always had, the entire arc around the Romulan Republic, the Tal Shiar, and the fight to remain a galactic power became one of the first things in the game that really made the effort to expand beyond the established setup of the franchise.

Seriously, I love that the arc here is neither as simple as “now the Romulans are our friends” or “now they’re still basically the same as always.” The Republic is much more open and personable than the Star Empire ever was, but at the same time they’re still Romulans. There’s still a strong sense of distrust, maneuvering for power, and an unwillingness to cede portions of control to the other two factions if it can be avoided.

6. The Cardassians

Meanwhile, the Cardassian antagonists act exactly like you’d expect Cardassians to act… and here, that’s actually a virtue, because one of the not-at-all-subtle points raised repeatedly during Deep Space Nine is just how obstinate Cardassians can be as an aggregate. Having factions of Cardassians who are still basically pretending the past few decades never happened in an effort to reclaim lost glories is so very Cardassian.

Whoops! We forgot to clean up after this happened. Our bad!

7. The Voth

Expanding the Voth into an actual race with history and goals and so forth is not, actually, all that difficult. Sure, there’s stuff to do, but Distant Origin (their one episode) actually does a lot of that work to begin with. Placing them into a Dyson Sphere as an antagonist makes perfect sense.

No, the part I like about this is that the lore is expanded to just go all in on the idea of space dinosaurs with laser beams. This is exactly the right way to take the Voth. They are in every way a serious threat, they are treated as such, but the designers are also unwilling to do that at the cost of the inherent amusement found in fighting outer space dinosaurs.

8. Dyson Spheres

Speaking of these big planet bubbles, the inclusion of the Dyson Sphere as a serious location was in and of itself a major departure for the game, but one that took existing lore into new directions. We knew that these existed, since the episode which introduced the concept made it clear people would be studying the structure… but at the same time, the main focus in that episode had more to do with Scotty than anything about the awe-inspiring structure trapping the Enterprise. You could replace the sphere with any number of weird phenomena and it works.

Instead, the game uses the spheres as a reminder that there are bigger and grander things than even the Federation is aware of, that even having taken technology from sources like the Borg the galaxy is still large and capable of throwing new and weird things at you. It’s kind of wild.

Space me out.

9. V’Ger Borg

This is a really, really minor thing, but it tickles me every time. V’Ger’s history in Star Trek: The Motion Picture involves coming into contact with a planet of living machines. Ever since the Borg were introduced in The Next Generation, there’s been speculation about a connection between the Borg and V’Ger. STO never once mentions V’Ger… but the massive Borg ships that accompany their deep space encounters are structured exactly like V’Ger, use the same sound effects, and seem in every way to be smaller copies of the same thing.

I love this. I love that this is just subtle environmental storytelling that requires you to pick none of it apart in order to appreciate the game’s story or the setting, but also rewards you for a bit of observation. It’s a mystery that need never be explored more than just existing, and yet if we ever get a dedicated Borg expansion, the seeds are there to make it all feel organic.

10. The Khitomer class

I love this ship. I love the weird blend of aesthetic styles into something that looks right even as it’s very visibly different from other ships in both lines, I love the naming, I love how it’s meant to be the first in a new experimental line for both factions. And it’s a sign of things changing in this timeline, that rather than rehashing the old it’s possible to remix existing beats and explore new fictional frontiers along the way.

You might say that it’s kind of weird that we have a ship that looks like it’s both a Federation and Klingon ship at the same time. I say that there’s no better way to explain how this game works, the way that it brings new things to the lore even as it still doesn’t strike out in entirely new territory. And it lets you gain access to a new starship trait and console; that’s fun, too.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Peregrine Falcon

1. The Klingon-Federation War

No. Just no.

No one had a problem with a new war with the Klingon Empire. The problem that we had was the complete lack of Klingon PvE content and with the way the devs kept ‘forgetting’ that the KDF even existed as a faction in their game.

The History Of The Klingon Empire With Cryptic Studios

Demon of Razgriz
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Demon of Razgriz

I like most of what STO has done with Star Trek lore. Taking minor or passing references and finding a way to flesh them out into a story narrative, while still respecting the hardcore fanatics of ho look for every reason to grumble, is tough. Execution on some things could be better but, for the most part, the writers have done a good job. You he only problem is keeping these stories relative as you progress during the story arcs. One thing about Star Trek is that no one faction completely disappears. It’s always easy to forget that there’s a multitude of alien races out there with their own agendas at play. It’s not hard to say that, for example, the Ferengi could be financing a Klingon House to start a fight with the Voth just to get access to a latnium deposit on a planet they control. Whether it’s a main or subplot is irrelevant. There’s so much that’s been established about each individual faction that intersectional stories are readily abundant.

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Cypher

yup, agree with most of this. Love how the Tzenkethi were literally only ever mentioned in one line of dialogue, in one episode of Enterprise (something about a war with starfleet, Long before the federation was born if i recall) but they (Cryptic) managed to make them into something worth a story arc.

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NeoWolf

Regarding the Khitomer Class, it is supposed to represent THREE factions technologies that make it up not just two the alliance is actually the Federation, the Klingon Empire and the new Romulan Republic but I struggled to find any representation of the poor old Republic. It would have been a nice nod if the ship sued a Singularity instead of a Warp core I think.

As to favourite lore moments personally I liked the TOS tutorial in particular even though it isn’t my favourite Star Trek era by far. Basically it throws the player into the Temporal mix being recruited as a temporal agent to help stop the Nakhul and some mystery being from the future tampering with the past in an attempt to destroy the federation that eventually ends up with us being thought dead in battle during the past but actually saved and moved with our crew to the future.
As part of that tutorial storyline, we also see events that lead to a TOS era space station called K-13 getting sucked into the past something at the time you think is of singular relevance. There are of course TOS era cameos throughout too from all but Kirk himself (that’s a thing in itself, the Cpatins are the only ones who haven’t done direct VO for the game pretty much).

However in later episodes much of what occurs during that tutorial is fleshed out we discover that the mystery being from the future is someone we know as well as discovering why he hates us and the federation, but more than this we also discover why the Nakhul are our enemies, something as it turns out we are inadvertently responsible for.. and even further than this we also end up rediscovering the lost K-13 station in the future and rescue many of its stranded crew who have been in cryogenic sleep. And in a nice twist that station becomes a fleet holding.

It was just a really nice, not only intro to one of the games timelines but also a nice way of rounding it out down the line to give much greater meaning and relevance to all its moving parts throughout all the later stories and combining then into on unified storyline that centres around us. It was really well done.

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Ririrawr

this had me reading with a huge dum smile on my face and nodding like a loon :P

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Richard de Leon III

For myself, STO is canon past TNG. DSC and PIC just take too much of a deviation to be c0nsidered real trek for me :(.

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Mewmew

They can do what they want with the lore because they are their own unique universe dimension. They want to loosely fit to stuff that happens in other Star Trek properties order to keep Star Trek fans happy and all, different things from other universes bleed in, but this isn’t any universe from the TV shows or movies. The lore is more open because of it.

As for the game, it’s on an old engine that wasn’t made to be real 3D at the time, but the game is still pretty fun. They do a great job with their stories and writing. They make it easy to see these shorter episodes within the bigger story lines and get to them fast with the way they do the journal stuff.

They also have done well above average in the Customer Service department when I have had to contact them, which is a big plus to me. I base part of my spending loyalty on how Customer Service does and treats me when I need to contact them.

If I saw a new Star Trek game with a new better engine, I’d love for most of the people who are working on STO now to be involved and in charge, at least the story and design writers and planners. They do a great job with what they have there.

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Hikari Kenzaki

STO does some things much better than the newer series. A lot of things, even when they have to incorporate those into the game.

Legacy brought some amazing fun into the game, even with annoyances from Discovery thrown in because the missions as a whole are tribute as much to STO as Trek.

The Victory is Life storyline is probably the best thing they’ve ever done because it went back and picked up loose threads from 10 episodes of DS9. There is a recommended viewing list to watch before you play it (and worth doing so).

The Kelvin Timeline is handled and explained better than 3 movies. They even explain why there is a Federation ‘Warp 4’ ship in that timeline.

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Castagere Shaikura

Yeah, Elliot but there is more wrong than they have done that’s good.

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Cypher

with the game or the lore?

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McGuffn

Killing Kahless. What a dumb character.

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John Mynard

But he wasn’t. The whole point of the Kahless clone wasn’t to seize power or let the priests of Boreth rule the Empire from the shadows. It was the priests doing what they could to provide an example, for all Klingons and aliens, to show what it actually meant to be Klingon. And there is nothing more KLINGON than battling a god and hurting it before you die.