Published on May 23rd, 2013 | by Fraser Brown3
Trekkers Rejoice: Star Trek Online’s Legacy of Romulus is here and it’s actually quite good
Jolan tru, people of Earth. Cryptic’s Star Trek Online has grown into quite the splendid MMO after its extremely shaky start three years ago. It’s a content-rich title that draws from decades of Star Trek lore, offering players the ability to captain a Starfleet or Klingon vessel and embark on missions filled with classic Star Trek tropes from time travel to prime directive quandaries. As a free-to-play experience, it’s one of the best, giving free players hundreds of hours of content.
On Tuesday, Cryptic launched the MMO’s first ever proper expansion — for free — finally allowing players to command a Romulan vessel and fight for the newly created Romulan Republic. Legacy of Romulus begins two weeks before the events of the attack on Vega Colony, the original tutorial for Star Trek Online‘s Starfleet faction. Players have a pivotal role in the founding of the democratic Romulan Republic before the expansion properly opens up, joining the Romulan players with their Starfleet and Klingon chums.
I’ve had a couple of days to flit around space in my warbird, and once again Star Trek Online has gripped me by the balls and refuses to let go.
Even with Cryptic’s excellent handling of the F2P model in Star Trek Online, I was rather cynical about when it came to Legacy of Romulus. There must be a caveat, I thought; how else were Cryptic going to make their money back? Well, as it turns out, they are just doing the same thing that they’ve been doing since Star Trek Online made the move to F2P. Legacy of Romulus is filled to the brim with free content, yet offers some nice incentives to premium players in the form of new ships, costumes, bridge officers and the Reman race being added to the Zen Store.
Conveniently, silver players (those who bought the game but no longer subscribe) even get a free extra character slot, so there’s no need to delete an existing character to experience the new Romulan content. Right from character creation, the changes to Star Trek Online start to appear. The creation screen has been reworked, making it cleaner, easier to read, and it comes with tons of premade uniforms if you can’t be arsed to fiddle.
Upon creating a Romulan character, players begin on one of the independent colonies that cropped up after the devastation of Romulus, the Romulan homeworld, referenced in the Star Trek movie reboot. A leisurely tutorial teaches newcomers how to get to grips with the ground systems while giving an excellent sense of place. But before long, the Tal Shiar, the oppressive military branch of the Romulan Empire, attacks, and players join the resistance movement, attempting to create a new home for the Romulan diaspora.
The initial storyline not only serves as an excellent introduction to the game, both mechanically and narratively, it’s a genuinely interesting tale that should be even more eye-opening to returning players, as they will meet enemies and allies that their Klingon and Starfleet captains have run into before, but this is their origins.
The first series of missions will take captains up to their tenth “level”, promoting them to Lieutenant Commander (known as Centurians) and giving them a brand new ship once they are done. At that point, players can choose to join either Starfleet or the Klingon Defence Force. Despite their new allegiance, this just means that in the greater war between these two factions, the Romulan players will be able to pick a side. The Romulan Republic faction doesn’t suddenly disappear, and players will continue to experience new Romulan storylines and content.
Much of Legacy of Romulus is taken up by story and character development, and offers less of the free-form exploration and smaller missions experienced by Starfleet and KDF players. It’s a welcome change, however, as it doesn’t tread the same ground as the core game, offering up new experiences and a more cohesive narrative.
Bridge Officers, the crew members who will give captains extra abilities during combat and accompany them on away missions, are now fully fledged characters rather than blank canvases. Through the story missions, new Bridge Officers will join your Romulan crew, and they all have their own personalities and histories, making them less like a bunch of red shirts. One can still recruit vanilla Bridge Officers, however, which is especially helpful if you’re not a fan of the new Romulan Bridge Officer’s combat abilities.
The green blood captains will be able to acquire Starfleet and KDF vessels, depending on their allegiance, but there are also iconic Romulan ships up for grabs. There aren’t as many, lamentably, with only one free option per promotion, so if you really care about having a strong build, it’s sometimes better to select one of the older ships from the other factions. The first warbird offered when players are promoted to Lieutenant Commander, for instance, is based on the escort class of ships, and that class is more tailored for Tactical Officers (though strangely it has two science officer stations rather than two tactical officer ones).
The new ships are certainly worth taking for a spin, though. Warbirds use singularity cores instead of warp cores (which dictates a ships top speed and power levels), and this gives them a unique ability in combat. There’s a singularity gauge on the fancy new UI, and when it’s charged from a captain’s damage dealing shenanigans, it can be unleashed to cause a devastating AoE reaction, messing up enemies ships or turning damage into health. It’s an extremely nifty new device that somewhat makes up for the lack of Romulan ship diversity.
Legacy of Romulus is a wonderful addition to Cryptic’s constantly improving MMO. The low, low price of free makes it impossible not to recommend, and it makes the developer’s F2P contemporaries like Star Wars: The Old Republic, with its Hutt update, look awful for offering less content with a not insignificant price.