The Long Ride to Fleet Admiral

It has been 9 days since the launch of Delta Rising. So far I have mixed reviews of this expansion. Of course I have had a few bugs along the way but that is to be expected. There was a substantial “emergency maintenance” a few days ago. I like the content thus far but there isn’t a whole lot of it. They have made it more difficult to advance levels once above level 50. So the idea of going from level 50 to level 60 as fast as one could go from level 40 to level 50 is not happening. This is a good thing methinks. OK, pardon the annoying modernized slang of old English there ;)

admiral

I mentioned the last week in “Welcome to Tier 6″ that there isn’t a whole lot of upward mobility left once a captain has become a Fleet Admiral. Making this a longer road to travel makes sense. Each subsequent level on the ride to level 60 is significantly longer than the previous level. Admiral Sager is about halfway between level 57 and level 58 and he has 34,000 more skill points to go before arriving at 58. That means it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70k skill points between these two levels. It was only a 100k to go all the way from 40 to 50. The missions aren’t rewarding much in the way of skill points either. This is not a complaint, but rather an observation. One problem is that there is a lull in content. Often I have found myself twice with only 3/4 of the way to the next level but no new missions available until I hit the next level. I then find myself grinding on patrol missions or repeating the featured PVE event trying to get to the point where I can continue the story. This was almost never a problem in the pre-level 50 episodes.

t6

I have managed to get my first Tier 6 ship to mastery level 5. I now have a starship trait unlocked. This trait follows the captain not just the ship. The first four mastery buffs are tethered to the ship. The fifth is actually a trait that is granted to the player. I switched out ships to test the theory and sure enough the trait remained available to my captain. Since upgraded ships do not offer a fifth level of mastery this is an advantage to getting a Tier 6 ship. There are four active slots for starship traits, mastering at least four different Tier 6 ships will unlock four starship traits that can all be active simultaneously. Maybe buying that Delta Rising package wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

traitsI really do like the ship growing stronger with the captain. It is nice to get a boost in performance with each new level you reach. I have been flying the Phantom quite a bit and must say the ship is growing on me. I still think that is silly to have it weaker than the T5-U tactical escort retrofit. None-the-less this ship and its “intel” features are pretty cool. I can’t say for certain whether I feel the intel BOFFs and active sensor arrays offset the overall weaker hull and shields when measured against a comparable class T5-U ship. The active sensor arrays however, are pretty cool. This feature allows you to activate the sensor array and as long as you remain locked on a target every 15 seconds a vulnerability is exposed and you can take advantage. Reduces damage resistance, weaken shields, weaken weapons, etc. It does seem to work pretty well.

The Vaadwaur are very tough. This little Phantom T6 is also tough. I find myself able to engage several Vaadwaur ships at once and although it takes a while to kill them, they have a tough time putting any real pain to my ship. The Phantom is by no means a tank either, it just hangs in there. I am beginning to get a soft spot for it.

While I am on about the T6 ships, I really like the Klingon T6 Raptor. That is a baller ship! I have only flown a couple of missions in it so far with my top KDF toon, Tactical officer Roddicka. It doesn’t have a battle cloak which sucks, but everything else about it is really cool. The ship looks cool, and packs a good solid punch. Like the Phantom it is still weaker than upgrading a Qin Raptor to T5-U but it has a special intel BOFF station and it has a 5-2 weapons layout for a serious forward punch in the face to your enemies.

I still have not flown any of the other T6 ships despite the fact I have them all unlocked. It takes time my friends, time. My other toons are all flying T5-U ships so I can get a feel for how the upgraded ships perform. So far my Fed Engineer, Rodanna is doing well in a T5-U Tactical Odyssey Cruiser. Fed Science Officer, Rodessa is flying the T5-U Dyson Strategic Destroyer, Fed Engineer and profiteer, Akir has a T5-U Risian Luxury Cruiser, KDF Engineer, Rodamark is in a T5-U Bortasqu Command Cruiser, Romulan Engineer, Be’ina is flying her favorite ship ever, now in T5-U status; The Falchion Dreadnought, and finally, Romulan Tactical offcier, D’Rodda upgraded her Daeinos Veteran Reward ship to T5-U. So far all of these T5-U ships are performing admirably.

If you are thinking about upgrading a C-Store ship such as the Tactical Odyssey or one of the retrofit ships, the upgrade will unlock for all characters on the account flying that ship. That is 700 Zen well spent. I mentioned last week that I felt the T5-U was a great way to help players on a budget and I still feel that way now. Akir is flying the Risian Luxury Cruiser T5-U. This was a free ship earned in the Risa Summer Event and it gets a free upgrade. Akir is not one of my stronger toons. In fact I built him without spending any Zen. He is a holy terror in that T5-U Risian Cruiser. He is competitve and has no more trouble with the big, mean and nasty Vaadwaur than my other toons with Zen gobbling ships.

If you are thinking about buying a T6 ship choose carefully. As with all other C-store ships these will unlock for every qualifying character on your account. These ships have different ship traits. Each mastery level may be different from ship to ship. I recommend using the STO Wiki and reading up on the ships before you make a purchase. Get the ship best suited to your favorite toon or try to get a single ship that you can use with the widest variety of characters if you have a lot of toons like I do.

The T6 Phantom is similar to the Defiant class ships in its looks, handling, weapons, shields, play style, etc. This ship will reward you with passive bonuses to weapon accuracy, then defense, weapon damage and then crit chance. The starship trait at mastery level 5 will follow your captain even when he flies other ships. this is called reciprocity and provides a reduction in tactical and Intel BOFF cooldown every time an enemy misses you.

Hopefully I will have Admiral Sager at level 60 this time next week.

PS a few weeks ago I posted a poll and so far 41% of you prefer the Assimilated Space Set the best.

results

 

Welcome to Tier 6

phantom1Delta 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.

phantomdefiant

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 :)

Stake Your ‘Reputation’ On It

tierSince Cryptic launched the Double XP bonus a few weeks ago many more people may finally be sitting pretty at the top of the food chain, level 50. Vice Admiral or Lt. General for the KDF. Feels good doesn’t it :) Of course you only have one more week at the top because 10 new rungs will be added to the ladder.

Once a player hits the big FIVE- Oh, they get to start participating in special PVE mission events that offer faction marks. Players can use these marks to help build “reputation” in one of five factions. Players complete projects that generate reputation in that faction and then level up in reputation earning the right to access a special reputation store and participate in special projects for top grade very rare gear. The reputation system also unlocks new character traits that make toons stronger. For players with multiple characters there is a system called sponsorship where by a higher level toon can sponsor a lower level toon and all the reputation projects are half cost. Check out details on the WIKI here.

Which is best? Where should a player start? That depends heavily on the play style of the character and the preference of the player. Admiral Sager has reached the maximum Tier V in all five reputation systems and 7 other toons have a variety of standings in the various factions.

In the early days of STO the only system that was available were the Omega STF missions that mostly remain in place as part of the Omega Reputation system. Omega is probably the best place to start working on reputation. There is a wide variety of equipment projects for both ground and space. The store is also quite robust but it does not offer any ship weapons.

Omega offers MACO and Adapted MACO gear for Fed. KDF has Honor Guard and Adapted Honor Guard gear. They have the Omega Space Set. There is also the Assimilated space set and the Adapted Borg technology set.

The Omega Task Force offers enough variety in the equipment to satisfy most player’s needs.

The next best choice really depends on the toon’s career path. Engineers will like the Romulan Reputation. Science will like the Dyson or Nukura. If the science captain is planning on using the Dyson ships, then Dyson is the best choice. Tactical captains can enjoy stealth bonuses through the Romulans or fast healing shields through Nukura.

repequip

The 8474 Counter Command has great weapons in the store, I like the bio-molecular weapons. The PVE missions against the Undine are pretty tricky, especially if you are playing on Elite. I wrote about them here.

Most of the equipment in the reputation projects are sets. These sets gain specific bonuses when two or more pieces in the set are equipped.

My favorite set is the Reman Set when used in conjunction with the Romulan  Singularity Harness set. Admiral Be’ina has this on her Falchion and it is pretty epic. The Romulan Hyper-Plasma torpedo launcher is also epic.

If you fly a fast and maneuverable ship the Assimilated set and the Adapted Borg tech set are great together. The Omega Plasma Torpedo launcher is the most powerful in the game by DPS.

Spend some time on the STO WIKI and read up on the items available in the reputation system. The projects and the dilithium store items. It takes 40 days to reach Tier V of a reputation system and 20 days if sponsored. A player can do all five at the same time if they want to spend the time grinding. It is only a once a day login to collect the completed project from the previous day and start a new project. That takes literally a few moments. Then every few days you will have to run a PVE mission to get more marks to complete more projects. The daily projects are the best but there are hourly projects. They are expensive however.

I like the reputation system and I have been fortunate enough to get all of the reputation project space sets and try them out. This is really good gear and for the most part it can be acquired without spending any Zen.

So what are you waiting for, finish reading this, vote in the poll and get work grinding on some reputation marks :)

upgrade-poll

BTW: Last week’s poll shows that most of you are not feeling very amorous towards the new upgrade system.

I have a new poll regarding the various reputation space sets, which is your favorite?