Delta Rising is here and I must say, I am a little underwhelmed. This is the first big expansion since the launch of “Legacy of Romulus” a year and half ago. Cryptic set the bar really high with ‘LOR’. There is much to discuss about this latest expansion so I’ll dive right in.
First of all, Cryptic did a little UI housekeeping which is welcome. Some of the fonts were increased so those of us running high-resolution can actually read the labels. This time around they gave us a lot more voice over work than in other releases. We get Tuvok, Harry Kim, the ever sexy, 7 of Nine, the Doctor and Neelix. I must say that Ethan Phillips (Neelix) is by far the best voice actor in STO. His dialog flows and sounds like it is natural and integrated into the experience.
Speaking of the “experience”; I spent a king’s ransom buying the Delta Rising Package. I hope I don’t end up regretting that expense. The 12,500 Zen ($125.00 US) is steep but it does grant every new tier six ship for all three factions plus the new Dauntless. It gives special costumes, some great upgrade tokens, 3 ultra rare BOFFs and the usual assortment of extra goodies. I figured I would end up buying at least three of the new ships and so what the hell. If I am going to spend a minimum of 9,000 Zen just for 3 ships, why not drop the big bomb and get it all this time!
So now we have a new area to explore. The Delta Quadrant. They have added all new sectors to discover. It has been a very long time since STO added new “space” to play in. I have yet to venture beyond the first map of new sector blocks. As promised we get to interact with the species that we were introduced to during the Voyager series. The Kazon are prominently featured as a random baddie to fight. The weapons on the Kazon ships sound like the phasers from the TOS Enterprise! Cryptic didn’t break any new ground on the missions, still standard fare and sometimes a little grindy. but well done none-the-less.
They revamped the PVE queues a bit and to my dismay there are even less Romulan queues! WTF Cryptic? I like the Romulan PVEs because I like the Romulan store and reputation projects! They also seemed to have made the PVE advanced/elite missions MUCH harder. I will have to investigate this a little further but Elite was hard enough before. I like a challenge, but when you have to run these PVE missions over and over and over again to grind away for marks, the challenge quickly goes from exciting to painfully crappy.
OK so the title of this blog post is “Welcome to Tier 6″. So, welcome to Delta Rising. This is very interesting; we now get to push our captains all the way to the very top of the quasi-military food chain. Level 60, Fleet Admiral. Yeah 5 bars, OK admiral Quinn, bite me, I do what I want ;) We get to fly a whole new set of ships called Tier 6. As promised we can also upgrade existing Tier 5 ships. It seems like all of the ships earned in special events, like the Summer Festival and Q’s Winter Event are free to upgrade. The veteran reward ships are also a free upgrade. Other ships will cost 700 zen for an upgrade token or four tokens for 2000 zen is available as well.
The only new Tier 6 ship I have flown so far is the Starfleet “Phantom” which is an escort ship similar to the “Defiant”. I am really not that impressed with the Tier 6 ships, well not yet anyway. The fleet versions are not available at this time, so you are better off upgrading a fleet ship you already have. My Fleet Patrol Escort is upgraded to T5-U and would crush this T6 Phantom without breaking stride. I am not exaggerating here. Virtually every stat on the upgraded Fleet Patrol Escort is signficantly better with the sole exception of turn rate. Had I upgraded my Fleet Tactical Escort Retrofit the turn rate would have been equal as well. I expected Tier 6 to have a little more puffed up hull and an extra console and/or BOFF station, but they don’t. These ships are 3000 Zen a piece, so expectations run high.
The Phantom does have a built-in cloak so it is nice not to have to burn a console slot for a cloak, but it is still the lame, non-battle cloak. In fact the Phantom stats are shown right here next to a standard Tier 5 tactical escort retrofit. When you upgrade the standard tac escort retrofit the hull jumps to approximately 34k at level 50! I expected Tier 6 to have an across the board slight advantage over the Tier 5 upgrade ships after all they cost 3000 Zen and an upgrade is 500-700 zen.
Now in fairness, the Tier 6 ships do have some explicit advantages over their Tier 5-U counterparts. First; the Tier 6 ships have one or more “hybrid” BOFF stations. These BOFF stations allow for the new “Intel” BOFFs. Intel BOFFs still have a career; tactical, science, or engineer. But they have a whole different set of BOFF abilities. Some of these abilities are pretty cool. I haven’t explored them enough yet to really vet them. The Tier 6 ships also have the addition of a 5th starship mastery unlock. Speaking of that, the T5-U and Tier 6 Ships level up as you do. They get stronger as you get stronger. As you gain skill points in that ship, the ship gains hull points and mastery levels which offer additional passive bonuses. T5-U gets four mastery levels where as Tier 6 gets five. As I use the new Tier 6 ships I may come around, especially if the “Intel” BOFFS are a big advantage or the active sensor arrays that are on this Phantom ship turn out to be really cool. Fighting the way I do now, my T5-U Fleet Patrol Escort is light years better than this new Phantom. That said, I may just need to learn how to use the new “Intel” ships properly. That remains to be seen.
I can say that the people who were worried about Tier 6 ships being vastly superior and thus creating an “arms race” and a feeling of “I wasted all my money on end game ships that are not end game any more”; can relax. The advantage of Tier 6 over Tier 5-U is not going to be big and it may not be an advantage at all depending on your play style. So Cryptic deserves a favorable nod on this; I think they tried to balance this as well as they could. STO needs to grow and expand to keep users in the game and of course as a F2P game they also need to make money to pay for the expansion. I think the upgrade system for weapons and equipment is a little too expensive and they need to tweak it down a little. The cost to upgrade a ship seems to be a fair value since it really offers a significant boost and saves the player at least 2300 Zen over buying a new Tier 6 ship. Over all I am quite happy with the T5-U ships I have started flying with my eight level 50 plus toons.
Now I need to get online and get Admiral Sager up to level 60 :)