Cryptic Studios’ latest expansion to their Star Trek Online MMORPG, “Victory is Life” is a fantastic addition to the game, and should delight committed gamers and even casual players who simply love Star Trek – especially Deep Space Nine.
This review is based on several hours of play in the “Victory is Life” expansion, and represents my first impressions of the new material.
Jumping in with a new faction
As the fourth major expansion for the game, “Victory is Life” allows players to create a Captain (or “First”) in the brand-new playable Jem’Hadar faction. A Jem’Hadar Captain starts the game at Level 60 – which used to be the game’s level cap. It was fun to be able to customize my Jem’Hadar Captain – creating new characters is one of my favorite parts of the game, and the Jem’Hadar faction gives you all sorts of new options. Unfortunately, given the limited genetic range of the Jem’Hadar – creating one is reminscent of the old adage about the Ford Model T, you can have any Jem’Hadar captain you want, as long as he’s male and sort of grey.
Once your character is created, you plunge right in to the action with a set of exclusive Jem’Hadar faction episodes that introduce you to the key NPC characters – Odo, Weyoun, some assorted Jem’Hadar and other Vorta overseers – and the situation of the Dominion in the 2410’s. Those episodes train you to use the game’s controls, both on the ground and in space, and you obtain both your command rank and your first ship – a Jem’Hadar fighter with some fairly hefty firepower.
Once those episodes are completed, your character joins the “Victory is Life” story at the point where a Captain from another faction would begin it – with a mission to Deep Space Nine on the eve of a galactic conference to deal with the threat of the Hur’q. A race that in televised Trek is only referred to in the distant past, as the spacefaring race that conquered the pre-spaceflight Klingons, only to be overthrown and defeated by their former slaves. In STO continuity, the Hur’q are again active in both the Alpha Quadrant and the Gamma Quadrant, and are eating up Dominion territory at an alarming rate, as well as launching attacks on Ferenginar, Cardassia Prime, and other key Alpha Quadrant locations. Odo, now the leader of the Dominion, has come to DS9 to put together an alliance of Alpha and Gamma Quadrant powers to fight the Hur’q, to stave off annihilation or subjugation of all of the races of the galaxy under Hur’q rule.
It feels like a homecoming
The most incredible part of the expansion so far for me is the retooled DS9 map. Walking the Promenade was a wonderful experience, visiting the various locations that I knew from my favorite Trek show. The new STO DS9 is so far superior to the one they had before that the difference is like night and day. This environment is built to exacting standards, according to the original set designs for the show, and the attention to detail is staggering. Until James Cawley becomes a billionaire and builds a 1:1 scale Deep Space Nine set in the Adirondacks, STO’s DS9 will be the gold standard for an immersive tour of the station on the edge of the Final Frontier. I loved Quark’s bar (Morn!) and the security office. I geeked out while checking out Odo’s holding cells. And I loved the baseball team pennants from around the Federation hanging on the second level of the Promenade. The whole place is breathtaking, and all to scale.
DS9’s exterior has been rebuilt, as well, by master modeler Tobias Richter, and it’s similarly gorgeous. I loved flying my Jem’Hadar bug ship around the stations pylons, locked in deadly space battle with the Hur’q.
Getting the band back together, almost
Also a lot of fun were the multitude of familiar voices that now populate Deep Space Nine and its scenarios. From Aron Eisenberg’s Captain Nog, who greets you at the start of the expansion and walks you through your time on the station, to Rene Aberjoinois’ Odo, who is your character’s leader and god, everyone sounds exactly right, if a bit older than you remembered. In the course of your first assignment, you will meet Kai Kira Nerys, Grand Nagus Rom and his wife Leeta, Quark, Garak, Dr. Julian Bashir, General Martok, Weyoun, and others, all voiced by the actors who made the characters great. I particularly liked the game model of Garak (“his eyes! His eyes!”) which captures the plain, simple character perfectly.
It made it a bit disappointing one episode later when you discover Kai Opaka, still brokering peace between the Ennis and Nolennis, and she is not voiced by Camille Saviola. I guess you can’t have everything – the character model is spot on – and I could have sworn that when you meet Golin Shel-la, leader of the Ennis, he is voiced by Jonathan Banks, who played him on DS9. If not, whoever took on the role gets the voice exactly right.
An impressive first impression
What makes this expansion great is that it brings you back into the world and characters that made Deep Space Nine the best Trek there is, in my humble opinion. You meet characters you loved, and return to situations that you cared about.
The frustrations are few, and probably stem from the nature of the game. Missions fit the STO mold: you walk around and talk to specific characters, you have a ground fight, you fiddle with a few control panels, then you go into space and have a space fight, having first to hit a few waypoints. Then you go back to the ground. Lather, rinse, repeat. And in each battle, you die a few times, respawn, and eventually triumph. It can get a bit repetitive.
But along the way, through dialogue and cutscenes, the story of Deep Space Nine, and of the Prime Star Trek universe, is extended and moves forward. New alliances are made. Old alliances shift. The story – and the human adventure – continues.
Available now for PC, consoles next week
Star Trek Online is free to play, with some in app purchases. The Victory is Life expansion was released for PC in June and comes out for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on July 24th. For more information, visit the official site.
Full disclosure: Cryptic Studios provided a journalist’s kit of in-game resources to TrekMovie.com to assist in the writing of this article.