Star Trek Online is, what else, an MMO based in the Star Trek universe. You fly a space ship, look at other space ships, blow them up, beam down and shoot people. It has a strong story component and a significant solo/small group presence, with almost all content tailored for play sessions shorter than an hour.
What's happening now?
The recently resolved story event through seasons 12 and 13 is a conflict between the Son'a (of Insurrection infamy) and Tzenkethi (of DS9 mentioned a few times), which arose from first contact with the Lukari and Kentari, yet another pair of races from the same ancestral homeworld evolving down different paths. The conflict is heavily charged with superweapons, as everyone involved uses their own equivalent of the Genesis Device, some for constructive and some for destructive purposes. Returning characters from the shows are Rodek, the false identity of Worf's brain-wiped brother, and Martok, who survived his apparent death after the end of DS9 by actually being thrown in a secret alien prison deep in an asteroid belt where he was forced to fight other prisoners and his jailers constantly in a brutal pointless bloodsport. Upon rescue, he is quoted, "Yes, this shit again."
What's happening next?
September 12: Geordi La Forge returns in a special event including new TNG themed uniforms and shuttlecraft and a new Galaxy-class interior. This mission will feature the return of the Nexus energy ribbon from Generations. Make sure your tractor beams are installed *before* Tuesday.
Season 14: Emergence. We don't know a whole lot about this yet, but its most prominent feature revealed so far is a new fleet holding, the Colony. Unlike all the holdings released after the original Starbase, the Colony is a full, 3-track, 5-tier holding like the Starbase, which like the Starbase will take the most dedicated fleets over a year to complete. There will also be a new engineering themed specialization called Miracle Worker, and more stuff with Geordi La Forge continuing on for the rest of this season.
(see the last bit of the video above)
Expansion 4, Victory is Life. All we've seen so far is the moment just before you shit your pants, as the wormhole opens and a massive Jem'hadar fleet floods out of the wormhole to descend upon Deep Space Nine. This would be infinitely more intimidating if we didn't see this same sight years ago in The 2800 when the wormhole spat out the fleet it swallowed in Sacrifice of Angels. Presumably time it's the real deal. The last time we saw the Dominion they joined the Iconian War at the last minute and helped save Earth from destruction.
Compared to launch, or even just to the last OP, ships have diversified immensely. The classifications are getting blurrier, there are more sub-types within each, and there's a lot of ships that just defy the system, like massive terror weapons with the bulk of a cruiser and the weapons of an escort.
I've pared this section down a lot, since much of what was in it was obsolete.
The game is split between space and ground. The three main classes are Tactical (DPS/tank), Engineer (defense/pets), and Science (support/techno-magic). However, classes get very fuzzy because you also have an entire bridge crew with a slightly reduced power set covering all three classes. Up to four members of your bridge crew join you on away missions, and up to five fill seats on your starship, contributing more to the power loadout than your captain actually does in the end.
Your ship class isn't tied to your captain class, so you can do things like have a tactical captain in an engineering ship for a huge variety of loadouts that blur the classes together.
: Big heavy engineering ships, built mainly to fight broadside with beam arrays. Battlecruisers can use heavier forward facing weapons, but many still favor the broadside arrangement. Cruisers have special commands that give them a free "aura" buff to themselves and their nearby allies. Different types of cruisers have different selections, the more battle-leaning the cruiser is, in general the fewer command auras it can select.
: Faster tactical ships built for heavy forward facing weapons and either hit and run harassment or just vaporizing targets with huge burst damage.
: Despite dev insistence that "destroyers are not escorts" destroyers are just escorts. Some of them are slower and heavier, some are lighter and faster, some are exactly the same, all of them are escorts.
: Mainly a Klingon thing, though Feds and Romulans have a few equivalents, raiders are very light escorts with universal bridge stations and the ability to cloak while in combat. Raiders have a flanking mechanic where they do increased damage to the rear arc of targets.
Escorts, raiders, and Destroyers all have a special "heavy weapon" slot. There's only a few options here, but it's a powerful, longish-cooldown weapon, usually with some kind of multitarget gimmick. Options include a dual torpedo launcher, an electrical weapon that hits everything in a straight line, and flak cannons that saturate an area with light kinetic damage that's as much point defense as offense.
: Distinguished from Escorts by having eight weapon slots. There are only a handful, but they are generally just destoryers without a heavy weapon.
: The name is misleading, but these are vessels built for science. Control, support, healing, and other fancy technomagic effects. If it comes out of a deflector and modulates the tachyons, it's probably a science vessel. Science vessels have a special secondary deflector dish. This doesn't mount the normal navigational deflectors all ships get, but has special equipment specifically meant for channeling your quantums. Their boosts are significant, but focused on narrow types of science powers.
: Carriers launch pets. Many cruisers, several science vessels, and a handful of escorts have hangars and can launch fighters, however, the true "Carrier" designation is generally reserved for ships with two hangars, generally with limited weapon loadouts and heavy support abilities and usually access to bigger frigate pets.
: Romulan ships with singularity cores and fancy battle cloaks that increase mobility. Warbird is something of an arbitrary designation, since they come in escort, cruiser, science, and carrier flavors, but all Warbirds do share some unique mechanics related to their special warp cores. In combat, your singularity core will charge, enabling you to fire a wide variety of unique powers only available to Warbirds. However, they generate less power, with a base of 45 per system rather than 50. Warbirds are generally slower and more fragile out of cloak than equivalent antimatter cored ships.
STO has a massive, branching leveling system.
First, your captain levels. Up to level 50, you follow a traditional skill tree style system, with tracks corresponding to the three classes. If you reach the bottom of a track, you unlock an "ultimate" power for that track. This doesn't have to be the same track as your class, so you can actually have, say, an engineering-focused tactical captain.
The first branch of progression are duty officers, the minor mooks that do all the real work while you and your bridge crew are being awesome. You can send them around on and off the ship to do all kinds of missions on their own, and they'll bring you back loot and experience. There are a number of departments that level up from this, but the levels don't actually mean anything. After the last level is an "overcap" space that you can store up experience in, and cash it in at your fleet's starbase for fleet marks.
The next branch, where your duty officers make equipment for you. At first glance, this all seems like the same stuff you get in random loot, but as you level up each track, you actually get a chance at traits you can't get normally and higher qualities. R&D also has a variety of unique gear that unlocks at higher levels, and is the main source of upgrade packs for the next branch...
Once R&D tracks hit level 10, you can start upgrading gear with special packs. Each item has two exp bars - the top bar is a direct leveling progression from Mk I to Mk XIV, and the bottom is the chance to get a quality level upgrade when the top bar circles around. At Mk XIV, the top bar loops, allowing you to build up the bottom bar until eventually you will get quality upgrades, if you're willing to sink that much effort.
Unlocking at level 40 when the older endgame content starts to appear, each reputation is entirely self-contained. Each one is connected to a set of themed content, which rewards its own progression mark, and unlocks rewards themed around the enemies in that content set. Unlike the other progression branches, each reputation has its own project slots, so they can all be pursued without tying up limited resources (aside from your time) needed for other tracks.
At level 50, the leveling system changes. Level gaps become wider, and you stop gaining normal skill points for the grid you've been filling so far. Now you get specialization points, and unlock a number of new trees. These trees can be completely filled, once you hit the level cap it just loops giving you a new point every time. You can set one primary and one secondary specialization, with the secondary specialization only benefitting from the top half of its tree (some trees only actually have this half). You can also train bridge officers in these specializations and teach them new powers, though using them in space requires special ships that support those specializations.
The last branch is Admiralty, which is basically doffs but with ships instead of mooks. Every old ship you've flown at any time will be available for use here (even if you got rid of it), as well as some specially unlocked ships you don't get to fly but can use here, and you can assign them alone or in groups of up to three to do all kinds of jobs, just like your doffs. Like your doffs, they bring you back loot and experience. A lot of experience, in fact, at high levels and in the level 60 loop admiralty provides more experience than anything else. There are currently four tracks of this, each one themed around the defense of a major faction and with rewards themed around that faction. Each faction also has a ten-mission "Tour of Duty," which, when completed, gives a very large reward, like several specialization points at once or a large amount of dilithium. Tours of duty reset after completed, so you can get that big reward again and again.
Fleet progression takes the form of major building projects. Each holding strongly resembles a reputation, with its own project slots, but this time sharing a single input mark. There are two levels of holding:
Major holdings are the Starbase and the Colony. These have three sub-tracks and five tiers, and timegating means they take a minimum of just over a year to complete. These are immense projects, especially for small fleets trying to work on both. Both major holdings also have several queue events tied to them to earn fleet marks.
Minor holdings include a dilithium mine and several various facilities around the galaxy. These have two sub-tracks and three tiers, and can be completed in a couple months.
Holdings are immense resource sinks, but unlock many of the best and most unique things in the game, from guns to starships.
Sub-track tiers and holding tiers visually upgrade your holding as well as unlocking rewards. For example, your Starbase starts as a tiny nub of a thing smaller than some player ships, but at full development is a massive station to rival Earth Spacedock with four smaller space stations surrounding it. Each holding also has a rotating selection of special unlocks that offer visual upgrades of their own. These at generally big dilithium sinks, but many of them look really cool, and... Really, just admit it to yourself, your fleet's going to do them because they're there.
PLAY WITH US!
Penny Arcade has a fleet, the "Arcadian Defense Fleet
We have a chat channel setup, this is where we Arcadians chat. To join, type the following:
/channel_join "Penny Arcade"
The quotation marks are important, don't forget them.
There is also a PA Klingon Fleet, called the "House of M'rch
." Everyone uses the same old Penny Arcade channel no matter