SirBoulevard is back to offer his opinion on the matter. This week a look back to the Legacy of Romulus – the first major expansion to Star Trek Online.
SirBoulevard is a prolific foundry author, co-leader of the E.W.O.C. fleet, he’s a guy who thinks he can build a canon build and DPS at the same time. We might be concerned about his mental health, but luckily the voices in his head have some good ideas.
3.2 – Only Six Missions: Legacy of Romulus – When STO Went Wonderfully Right
After last week, we’ve decided that we want to hold off on any further criticisms for a bit to bring everyone’s tempers down. We all get caught up in the moment, myself included. So let’s take a break, and look at when STO did a faction and a new storyline and a new celebrity voice actor right. That’s right, we’re talking about Legacy of Romulus. Spoilers for LOR will be unmarked!
It has been so long now, it’s hard for me, even as someone who was a part of the pre-Romulan era of STO to really think about what it was like before them. They just feel like they’ve always been there now. It’s a real testament to how well STO has integrated a new faction into themselves. And perhaps, now, on the cusp of Agents of Yesterday, it’s time to see how Legacy did everything right.
Before we jump into the expansion proper, we need to jump back one season to Season 7: New Romulus. I could go on for a long time about how the introduction of New Romulus was a bold and effective move for the game. Introducing this breakaway faction of Romulans before we even get a proper name for them, to see their new home, and help them get settled was a great call. The New Romulus adventure zone is one of the best zones in the game (I will be going over it in a later piece, so please excuse the passing mention), and the tied in story with the reputation system was excellently executed.
When the actual expansion dropped, I think its safe to say we were all taken aback. First, the opening on Virinat is probably my favorite tutorial in the game. Virinat feels like a real lived in place. And when it’s so casually blown away by the Tal Shiar, many of us were legitimately angry. Fuck Hakeev! How dare he do this to my home! The clever introduction of the Elachi in this sequence was great as well, and frankly, I am sad they did not make an appearance during the Iconian War. By the end of the tutorial arc, we have a crew of rag tag Rommies (including the loved/hated Tovan Khev), a personal vendetta with Hakeev, and a goal to change things for our people.
The overall story arc is great and I credit that for two reasons. First is the decision to make Hakeev, not Sela, the primary villain. Hakeev was already a villainous dark horse in STO, so it was a natural choice. The other was to push Sela as a secondary villain. Oh, yes, Sela’s evil, but she and Hakeev’s alliance wasn’t based on trust, and really, he was ruling the Empire from the shadows and she didn’t know it. I wouldn’t trust Sela as far I could throw her, and yet, she’s more trustworthy than Hakeev. This dynamic is what sold us on the Romulan storyline. The canon character was part of the story, but she wasn’t the problem. It was still focused on STO’s original characters with the canon character part of the tapestry but neither overshadowing them nor falling into the backdrop. It was complex, and natural, and perfect from beginning to end.
The other great thing that was done was the balancing act. I know many people call the Romulans a “fraction,” but I have never thought that was accurate. The Romulans have as much story as everyone else, they have their own ships (which they must use at max level), and while they share low tier ships and starbases, I think the only trouble part is the starbase. It was appropriate for the time as Romulans were going to be behind the Federation and Klingons on gear, but three years later, it’s time for them to build their own starbases. Sharing low-level ships for consoles and gear was smart and something that I still applaud Cryptic for, especially since we’ve since seen a number of new Romulan designs as well.
Another strong point for this expansion was the art direction. The Romulan faction has very distinctive visuals and uniforms. I know some people don’t like the Republic uniforms, but I love the waist coat look they have. I also really enjoy the civilian clothing they came up for the Romulans. Unlike most of Trek’s civvies, they actually look practical instead of jumpsuits that exist solely to show off the size of the male extras’ genitals or expose the bodies on the women. In addition, ship design was spectacular. I know a lot of Rommy players are upset with the one bridge they have, but honestly, they got the best bridge and ship interior of the bunch. Even with the Intrepid and Belfast Fed interiors, I think they’re inferior to the art deco Romulan styling, and I really appreciate that as part of the story we take a painting from Virinat in the Centurion rankings to remind us of home. It’s a wonderful touch.
Another thing that LOR did great was finally finishing the KDF storyline. Cryptic promised that they would not add another faction unless the Klingons were finished. I remember early on, many Klingon players felt betrayed, only for Cryptic to actually have kept their promise and finish their level tree. The entire tutorial arc of that leveling up tree is one of my favorites to this day. Us working side by side with Worf and Alexander to expose the treachery of Torg and the Tal Shiar. If I have one complaint it’s that Torg got away and he still has never been brought to justice. You need to finish this Cryptic. You killed a canon character to set this up, don’t leave us hanging, please! We need to kill that PetaQ’!
Another strong point, though I think we can mostly all agree it got fumbled, was the introduction of Nimbus III. I’ve always had a soft spot for the planet. It’s Trek’s Tattooine, but it was always ignored because, well, Star Trek V. Need I say anything else? While the arc ran on a bit too long, it was good to make use of the planet, and honestly, I’d like us to go back on occasion to deal with pirates and scumbags in a future Featured Episode. Plus we never got those sweet space unicorn mounts.
And now, I’m going to give praise for something that was and is still controversial: the Romulan Republic itself. I like it. I like it a lot. I find a sense of meta joy in the fact that the race who was best recognized by the late Andreas Katsulas’ character Tomalak would take G’Kar’s words to heart.
The Republic was a risk. A major risk, and it’s paid off. The Republic gave us a chance to explore what Romulans could be like if they weren’t being the isolationist assholes of the galaxy. It released the Federation from the chains of the Treaty of Algeron and Gene’s really silly decree that the Feds don’t “sneak around.” It released the Klingon Empire from the hate it harbored against the Romulans so long because one sacrificed his life for that a Klingon High Councilor. I know many wanted to play the TNG sneaky Romulans, but honestly, this felt like something more. The birth of a new era for these people who have been scattered across the stars. It felt like from the tragedy of Hobus, the Romulans found a new, better beginning. And I think that opportunity, to tell something that defies the incredibly racist and simplistic Planet of Hats trope was fuckin’ brilliant.
As I’ve often said, STO is at its greatest when it does its own thing. Legacy of Romulus was the proof. Our beloved Romulan player base stands as its testament. Everything from its story down to the Epohhs are definitively Star Trek Online. In that bright shining moment, it wasn’t about the Star Treks that came before. They influenced, yes, but it was its own thing. It was like watching Season 3 of The Next Generation again. Finally free of the influences of its predecessors that kept it down, we watched it flourish, and were proud to be a part of that.
I think, looking back, this is why some of us in the community have concerns about Agents of Yesterday. Legacy of Romulus was magical and grand in scope, and since then we’ve not had anything on that level. Delta Rising, for all its escalation never felt personal as Legacy had. The Iconian War never let us face down the consequences of worlds being destroyed, while Legacy did. And while the love is on the screen for TOS in Agents of Yesterday, the sheer scope and love given to the Romulan faction was what we expected, and while the quality is on par, it’s not the same. What is exclusive to that faction is so small compared to what Legacy gave Romulans. That’s why last time I posted this image:
In Legacy of Romulus, I never felt that. The story ended naturally and after a long struggle. That is why it is the golden standard against all STO expansions will be held. I never doubt the development team’s love for Star Trek, but what Delta Rising and the Iconian war taught me is that sometimes, that can be a liability too.
Speaking of, that’s what we’re talking about next time: Only Six Missions: STO’s Storytelling, SAG Certification, and Missed Opportunities.