A year after going free-to-play, Star Trek Online has received its first full expansion, Legacy of Romulus. We took a dive back into the Star Trek universe, to follow on from our our initial review and see how the new expansion changes the game.
Technically, Star Trek Online is still a two-faction game. The central point of all PvP and most PvE content in the game is based on the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, with the Romulan Star Empire in disarray after the destruction of their home-world. Now living on colonies, spread around the quadrant, the newly-formed Romulan Republic are on a mission to re-unite the Romulan people, and settle on a new home-world. The Tal Shiar, under the authority of Empress Sela, are branding the Republic as terrorists, and attempting to put an end to the movement.
New Romulus was, of course, introduced to us as Federation or Klingon Empire players during Season 7 (the previous big update). Legacy of Romulus is a prequel of sorts – a chance to experience the birth of the new Romulan home-world through the eyes of a Romulan.
Playing as a Romulan character will see you join the ranks of the Romulan Republic after Tal Shiar attack forces wipe out your starting world colony. From this point on, it’s a story of deceit, betrayal, re-uniting of old friends, and a lot of fun along the way. At around level 10, Romulan players will be given the choice of aligning with either the Federation or the Klingon Defence Force. There are legitimate reasons for this alliance, but I don’t want to spoil the storyline for you. Gameplay-wise, this aspect helps keep endgame content strictly binary, Fed vs KDF.
Legacy of Romulus brings so much new lore to the game: Mission content for Romulan players will take you from pre-level 1, all the way through to level 40. At that point, you’ll also have access the masses of mission content available to Federation/Klingon players (depending on which alliance you chose). It is a shame that the Romulan story arc doesn’t stretch until level 50 – but of course there are ample ways to level up in STO, including the PvP and PvE queueing systems.
Once you do reach level 50, that isn’t the end, as the Reputation system has new content too. Joining the New Romulus and Task Force Omega Reputations, is the Nukara Strikeforce. Completing tiers in these Reputation systems will earn new end-game gear for players. Whether helping protect New Romulus and defending the surrounding systems, fighting off the Borg with Task Force Omega, or combating the Tholians in the new Nukara Strikeforce, there is plenty of end-game content there to keep solo players entertained, either by queueing solo or fighting in Elite Special Task Forces (eSTFs) with a fleet.
If you do start a character in the Romulan faction, you’ll have the choice of up to three races, bringing the total playable races up to 25. If you purchased the Legacy Pack (which is a bundle containing ships and perks for the expansion), or if you’ve completed the Romulan Reputation as another character, you’ll have access to the Reman race. There’s also the option of alien-gen, which gives players freedom to design their own race with the popular Cryptic character-creation tools. There’s a large selection of Romulan Warbirds to choose from, too. From level 1 – 50 you’ll never be short of birds to fly. If the Romulan selection doesn’t take your fancy, you’ll also have access to ships from your allies. This makes Romulans possibly the most enticing race to play right now.
Saying that, the Klingon faction has received a major update in this expansion, too. It’s now possible to play all the way through the game as a Klingon, something that hasn’t been possible before. Until now, the Klingon faction was only unlocked once your Federation character reached level 25, and then your Klingon character would pick up at around that level too. Now you’re free to start your experience from level 1 as a Klingon, or one of their allied races. This is big news for a lot of people.
Some of the new content is frankly astounding. The Nimbus III planet in particular stands out, because the gameplay on/around that planet is like nothing we’ve really seen before in Star Trek Online. Cryptic have introduced hub-planets before, with Deferi, but this is something else. Nimbus III feels like a real dynamic world, with actual inhabitants, be they good or bad. Paradise City, the planet’s capital and only settlement, looks identical to the one featured in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Arguably the Star Trek universe’s answer to Tatooine, the “Planet of Galactic Peace” is a desert biome, full of unsavoury characters and hostile mobs.
The story directs the player to Nimbus for a number of missions, which again, I won’t spoil. But they really break away from the traditional space/ground/space formula that a lot of the older missions feature – purposefully, I might add – as a nod to the TV series’ format, and it’s very refreshing. Seeing other players running around on missions of importance, and joining them to fight randomly spawned enemies and the closest thing to world-bosses we’ve seen in STO is exciting. It hints at Cryptic learning lessons from the development of their latest title Neverwinter, and incorporating them into Star Trek Online.
There’s a lot of new content in this expansion, with the addition of a new bad-guy enemy race, and a new Trait system, which finally allows players to select different abilities for their captains, and re-Trait if they made poor choices at the start of the game. There’s also a whole new User Interface, re-designed to match LCARS, and it’s a lot more customisable. This makes the game look a lot more pleasant, and feel even more Trekky. There’s also a new item slot on all ships in the game, adding a Warp Core. The Warp Core is mostly about speed perks for the Federation/KDF players, but for Romulans it adds a whole new dynamic. In another feature heavily influenced by Neverwinter, a bar will fill up on the Romulan player’s screen during combat. Once that bar reaches a certain level, the player is able to use a special AoE weapon, among other abilities. The Singularity Warp Core is going to be an interesting dynamic for PvP.
It’s important to mention that among all this new content, the old content is still very much at the forefront. This expansion hasn’t dated other missions, instead they have been used to an advantage (level 40+ integration, for example).
The player economy is as strong as ever. Placing a well-priced rare item on the exchange results in almost instantaneous cash results. Working together as a fleet is still one of the best ways of obtaining purple drops – by running eSTFs in an organised group, for instance. The crafting system still needs work, however, as at the moment it lacks a certain “depth”. Cryptic have acknowledged this, though, so an update could well be coming in a future season/release.
VERDICT: Much of what we wrote about three years ago in our initial review still stands. However, Legacy of Romulus is an excellent example of expanded content, and combining it with 7 “seasons” worth of additions and tweaks, great storytelling and an engine that has proved it can stand test of time means it’s only fair to readdress that original score, and critique this all over again as a complete package.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.