Saturday, 6 February 2010

STO: Cruisers – Speedy Molasses

Post soundtrack: “Love Resurrection” by Alison Moyet.  (I’m on a brief 80s kick – enjoy it while it lasts)

Another post, and another tier of ship opened up for my enjoyment.  Fortunately it’s challenging to play.  Unfortunately they’re rather a little aesthetically lacking – and they’re not a class of ship for the impatient captain.  Anyway, meet Miss Exploration Cruiser, my shiny new tier 4 ship.

There's whole planets ahead of me!

Needless to say, that’s not her real name: she’s the USS Discordia-C, NCC 99309-C (tradition is a wonderful thing). 

As I’ve mentioned previously, there are three ship classes in tiers two, three and four.  (Tier five gives you two subclasses for each class, but that’s a tale for another post)  The starter ships, the tier one Light Cruisers, are jack-of-all-trades (and as you would expect, masters of none).  As a player levels, the three different ships classes that become available upon reaching Lt. Commander (level 21) begin to differentiate themselves more clearly:  the escorts increase in turning speed and weapon power, and science vessels are more effective in their role as support class (while still possessing mobility and decent damage capability).

This was my first version, but it just looked too top-heavy when it turned (and the colour scheme was awful)

Cruisers are defined by three things:  their ability to mount a large number of weapons (4 fore and 4 aft at T5), their ability to take massive damage, and a turning radius the size of a small planet.  Needless to say, these all increase with each tier, although the latter is rather unpopular with the masses.

The turning radius is a tad annoying, but to be honest it wasn’t that much of a jump from the T3 cruiser – I think the secret is to have the right engineering consoles, and custom power settings.  For a cruiser, the consoles I look for first are EPS Flow Regulators, which effectively regenerate power much faster.  This allows you to fire you weapons faster, your shields regenerate slightly faster, and adds a little to your turn rate.

Another view - it's almost the vanilla Galaxy, but with a circular primary hull instead of the Galaxy's oval one.

I use custom settings for all four settings:

Weapons:  75/45/25/55
Shields:  45/75/25/55
Engines:  25/25/50/100
Balanced:  55/60/25/60

I tend to switch between them where it’s needed, but with the level of equipment I currently have there’s a degree of set-and-forget (followed by quickly-change-when-being-pwned, on occasion).

  • Weapons is great for groups of small ships – frigates, fighters, birds of prey.  Also good for low-level content if you’re helping friends.
  • Shields is fairly self-explanatory – a life-saver against named ships.
  • Engines is what I switch to if I want to turn quicker (when out of combat, at least).
  • Balanced is just that – a fairly balanced power distribution (I tend not to use it though, as the other three settings cover most situations).

My secret to successful cruiser captaincy is to have spare auxiliary power available whenever you can (hence my slightly higher aux settings), which leads me to my next secret.

No, it's not the USS Fanta

Beam arrays are fun.  Conventional wisdom appears to be that a cruiser can’t successfully stack beam arrays because chain-firing them will reduce the cruiser’s weapon power dramatically, which in turn reduces their damage.  It might be my power settings, or the EPS consoles (or maybe both) but I don’t have any problems with weapon power and don’t have problems killing any nasties either.  (It’s actually quite satisfying watching fighter packs melt away under a 5-beam-array barrage)

The fun thing about beam arrays is that they play to the strength of a cruiser, which is the much-maligned large turning radius.  The fun thing I’ve found is that the slow turns make it fairly easy to keep my target broadside, which is within reach of both fore and aft banks.

Some of the inspired naming you'll see in-game

The hardest part (after making sure your speed is adjusted for best effect – faster means larger turn radius, slower means smaller) is spamming the spacebar to keep firing everything while holding down the turn key.  (Needless to say, I’m getting a sore thumb – I’m beginning to consider investing in a gaming keyboard like a logitech g13 and setting up an autofire toggle to get around it)

On a more general note, there have been some interesting missions and tidbits of information that show up as you progress through the sectors.  The Romulan sector has some novel missions, not least of which is probably the mission that felt most like a Trek episode to me, which involved “ghosts”.  Amongst other missions, you also visit the remains of the Hobus system, the location of the supernova that facilitated the Trek movie reboot last year, and not only explains it but also weaves it into the game plot quite effectively.

Time for some more screenshots from the last few days.

A dusty day amid the crystals

"It's worse than that, she's..."

Deep in the Badlands

Another pretty little planet on which to hunt for "things that don't want to eat you.  honest."

The Crystalline Entity, already a fleet action, now also wanders the Alpha Centauri sector block

When good animation turns bad: the npc sticking out of the crate is actually swaying on here feet, and is actually standing just in front of the crate she's just leaning back into.  Other than that, it's actually quite polished.

The mission where [CLASSIFIED]

"Greetings from DS9!"  You know, this would actually make a good holocard for her family back home...

Not your average debris-filled wormhole...

Another view of that dusty world.  (Love the weather effects)

They grow their turrets big on this planet

Yes, I’ve been a busy little starship captain.  And as soon as the server comes back up, I’ll likely be busier for a little longer yet.

Boldly going where...  quite a few people have been before, actually...