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Review: Echoes of Light – 4/5 Stars

Mission Brief

  • Exploration-intense episode
  • Trek-heavy dialogue that hints at multiple, complex storylines
  • A pastiche of Trek source material and classic TV sci-fi
  • Incredible environmental artwork
  • Eminently repeatable
  • Worthwhile, usable rewards
  • 4/5 Stars

SPOILERS AHEAD – but hey, it’s been 4 weeks since it’s release 😉

It’s our first mission since the conclusion of the Future Proof storyline, and we are ready for some non-temporal adventures this time helping the Lukaari take their first steps into the great unknown. You can’t help feel like the roles have been reversed since the early days of Enterprise, as the Vulcan’s watched over our first few steps.

While their own first starship is still under construction¹, the Lukari have been given an older Gorn retrofit vessel to get exploration underway. As a representative of the Alliance, you have been asked to accompany them on their first voyage of discovery.

 

refit-gorn
L.S.S. Concordium – a Warp 4-capable starship provided by the KDF

 

The mission begins with your arrival at the Lukari homeworld, where unexpectedly we run into a familiar Ferengi Daimon communicating with Captain Kuumaarke.  Madron was the Ferengi we first met back on Moon Khoal, Hfihar system in the STO episode Enemy Mine (Romulan Mystery E07). After a brief discussion, you escort the L.S.S. Concordium towards its first exploration goal. As she’s not capable of much more than Warp 4, your first destination is a star called 20 Draconis – a system uncomfortably close to the Breen Homeworld.

20-draconis

20 Draconis, as it turns out, is rich in space-borne life. Almost immediately upon entering the system, you detect pods of Geckli.  Unlike the Enterprise D’s first encounter, you’re prepared and both ships adjust their EM fields to prevent become a food source for the young. This call back to ‘Galaxy’s Child’ (TNG S04 E16) is a nice start, something you’ll see a few times in the episode moving forward.

 

gekli
The pink colouring was a bit of a surprise to me as well – Nebula Magic

 

Exploration through the eyes of Captain Kuumaarke is really refreshing after countless missions of attacking and counter-attacking through time. As a player, being a participant almost in the same guise as the Vulcans in Enterprise is a refreshing change of pace.

After tagging and tracking the Gecklis to their feeding grounds, you begin to get an idea why the 20 Draconis system is so unique.

 

multispectral
The first 3 times through the mission, I missed the effect as it showed up behind my ship.

 

A multispectral scan later you discover massive subspace shearing impacting cosmic strings that in turn is causing the asteroids to break up easily – providing a great location for the Geckli to thrive. Cosmic string fragments are one danger I’d rather not deal with (Disaster – TNG S05 E05), but the subspace shearing raises even more serious questions.

cometary-cluster

The exploration moves to the ‘middle planetary body’ where you intercept a cluster of three comets. After a simple scan of the first – you proceed further two for in-depth analysis. Comet Two undergoes a core sampling via the dilithium mining minigame. Thumbs up for adding a minigame to the process for added colour, thumbs down for having a dilithium mining background. A simple static image change might have offered a new layer to the mining aspect. Tractoring the third comet brings up the Radiation Scan mini game – again, a nice use of another minigame.

Some players have complained that all of these minigames ‘slowed progress’, but I disagree. Beyond the distraction of mining for dilithium, these did add another layer of flavour and colour to the episode. What it exposes through the VO and text is a self-sustaining process that appears to power ‘something’, and may play a role in what’s happening naturally later on. THIS is what Star Trek does best – big ‘D’ discovery with just enough technobabble-flavored real-world mechanics to make it believable.

Following a probe launch to the planet ahead, we soon discover yet another cosmozoan species – the Farpoint Cnidarians (Farpoint – TNG S01 E01). This planetary system, on the far edge of the Alpha Quadrant, is unlike any other we’ve ever encountered. Having one discovery of space-borne life is a rarity, but two in close proximity is something we’ve never been seen before.

cnidirian

Again the VO work and text descriptions offer more depth – the Cnidarians appear to use the atmosphere of the planet as a nursery for their young². This is one episode where the textual commentary and VO add as much to the atmosphere as the visuals.

Moving towards the next planet in the system we begin to get strange readings. A highly viable habitable world completely devoid of life and residual levels of… proto-matter.

For hardcore fans, the inclusion of proto-matter into the storyline is not something we should ignore or take likely. This is huge. First – every encounter with Proto matter in the Star Trek universe has had potentially catastrophic effects. From the Genesis Device in The Wrath of Khan, to its use in restarting a star in DS9 (Second Sight – S02 E09), or almost destroying Bajor’s star (By Inferno’s Light – S05 E15), or to killing Neelix (Mortal Coil – S04 E12) – proto-matter is something to be avoided. Except for the Lukaari, who in an off-hand remark, seemed to have solved its unpredictability with a ‘Taarfiin reduction’.

Make note STO fans – we’re not done with proto-matter yet.

in-orbit

After establishing one of the best Star Trek Online story openings in recent memory, beaming down to the planet’s surface takes on a decidedly SG-1 feel to it.

I don’t mean that as a complaint, but rather as a compliment. The next sequence could have easily substituted my away team for Dr Jackson, Col. Carter and Te’alc, with a little Guardians of the Galaxy tech thrown in for good measure.

oelsik

After examining an Ancient obelisk, we make our way further into a high rock-walled passageway leading to a large courtyard. In the distance, a courtyard with more obelisks and a building cut into a mountain with a large Chapa’ai round door.

Sorry, I can’t help myself. It’s an homage to SG-1.

chapaai

After examining various Egyptian-styled artworks showing numerous people working under the Goa’uld overseers, you begin to put together at least outwards what the structure may have been used for.

story

The inhabitants appear to have cultivated and harvested crystals for some reason, and build their settlement around this temple where they stored them. Getting inside that temple, however, was going to prove to be more challenging than excavating by phaser-blast.

footprints

By putting together forensic data from around the square, Captain Kumaarke is able to recreate an amazing detailed holographic recreation of what transpired in the square. The first time I played this I shook my head in disbelief that footprints – clearly made recently or accidentally by my own away team – somehow could carry data to facilitate her recreation. As the story unfolded, this odd bit of colour started to make more sense.

Whatever made this planet devoid of life, happened perhaps days earlier. After placing modified pattern enhancers at the four corners of the square, Kumaarke was able to begin processing a complex recreation.

 

simulation-disney
Oops, wrong franchise 😉

 

 

simulation-2
Much better.

 

The recreation shows – in detail – the order in which the four columns are a approached to open the temple carved into the side of the mountain. This part of the episode requires you to pay attention to that order – something you can revisit anytime you make a mistake and accidently resetting the puzzle.

Each column has 2 rotating bands that form a complete picture. By aligning the 8 symbols, you are able to open the Chapa’ai and connect via wormhole to another gate in another galaxy.. By adjusting these columns – in the right order – you can open the doorway.

 

and-the-chapaai-opens
Ok. So it didn’t ‘flush’ or go ‘ka whoosh’.  *sigh*

 

The order in which the cartouche is completed is pre-set (align the bottom two rows to finish the cartouche), with what appears to be 16 possible variations in the pillar order. Making a mistake doesn’t penalise you, beyond having to rewatch the recreation again.  After having completed this more than a dozen times, a notepad becomes handy 😉

 

The First Big Reveal

 

heiro-reveal
This was a holy shit reveal-moment.  Nice play STO, nice play.

 

So much for a non-temporal story, but in a way, it’s even cooler than all the temporal shenanigans of recent memory. It reminded me a lot of some classic sci-fi stories from the 50’s – we find the remnants of a previous crew that crash lands – hundreds or thousands of years in the past. What happened to them? How did they affect the cultures that grew after them?

heiro- story.png

The environment artwork is pretty cool throughout this episode, but I have to say my new favourite it the wall paintings in Echoes of Light.

After opening the inner chamber we reveal a scene that’s hard to quantify. Crystals growing inside a massive chamber – their purpose still a mystery.

reveal-inside-the-temple

How the heck, did the inhabitants escape attention from the Breen?

Are the crystals some sort of naturally-occurring energy storage device feeding off the unusual subspace activity?

More importantly who just wiped out that fed-guided, crystal-farming civilisation with a self-propagating proto-matter cascade, with a Tzenkethi signature? Note: The Tzenkethi have been spoken about in TNG and DS9, but have never been seen onscreen.

Dear God, did someone just deploy a dirty Genesis Device a few lightyears from the Breen Homeworld? I have a strong feeling that the Breen will be making an appearance in the near-future.

Wait a minute. I’m sensing more than one storyline here.

 

The Second Big Reveal – K-13

K-13 has been discovered in orbit, damaged and drawn through time. It is about to be boarded, and you need to investigate.  How and why it’s been dragged through spacetime will remain a mystery for the short term.

exterior-k-13

You have to give the environment team major props for the work done on K-13. Even in it’s worst condition, it’s an amazing visual set and feels right out of the 1960’s series. From the GNDN junctions to the ceiling tiles – this place is a visual treat.  It IS Star Trek.

interior-k-13

The Retaking of K-13

Upon arriving you’ll have to clear the station of Nausicaan mercenaries working for Madron.  The floorplan is identical to the new fleet holding, with a few of the doors and access ways blocked by force shields and debris.

k-13-floorplan

Each combat is designed to introduce you to a various part of the station infrastructure, with an emphasis on the labs and the main area where the transporters and lounge are located.

k-13-two

During the first two weeks of the episodes release, pathing for your BO’s was a wee bit buggy, preventing your boffs from entering the labs.  Last week’s update resolved that issue and made the entire experience much more user-friendly.  Engineering Captains, in particular, will find the changes beneficial; setting up a mortar or two will quickly clear the entire level.

As you progress you’ll get a chance to slowly gain control of the facility, and unlock various log entries from the survivors of the original crew.  The details in the log entries describe a much broader story on what happened to them, providing insight into what eventually became of them.

stor-elements-in-log-posts

One other surprise on the first few runs through this portion of the mission is the new weapon carried by the Nausicaan mercenaries.  Effectively a poor-mans TR-116, this nasty disruptor can breach your personal shields leading to more than one WTF comment from me.  Take your time, and draw your opponents to places where you can control the battle. The good news is that this weapon and others are available as part of the weekly reward options.

After defeating the Nausicaan Captain, the battle moves into orbit as the mercenaries make one last attempt to stop you.  The battle consists of two waves of Nausicaan ships which are not particularly difficult to deal with.  After a relatively short battle, the mission is complete.

Rewards

The mission comes with an auto reward on your first run through that includes the Nausican Gun you encounter on the ground mission.  During it’s run as a featured episode, each week it also rewarded an additional Captains Specialization point.

nausicaan-energy-lance

The weekly space reward as part of the episode included a number of new and unique options including a Disruptor Beam Array, a Disrupter Energy Torpedo and a supporting Science consoles with decent stats.

nasicaan-beam

nausicaan-capacitor

nausicaan-torp

set-bonuses

Afterthoughts and Nitpicking

The addition of Echo’s of Light to the featured episode tab, the introductory text uses the copy from “The Temporal Front”.

fe-mis-type.png


¹Star Trek Online might have had other thoughts for the timing of this episode as the introduction from Starfleet hints at. In the opening monologue, your contact refers to a new ship:

“We’ve been in regular contact with the Lukari, and they’ve recently unveiled a new starship designed for space exploration.”

As the ‘Community Design’ contest for the next Anniversary ship was only completed recently – it’s highly unlikely that there was enough time in the schedule to design a new ship – even as an NPC vessel. STO’s release schedule can be fluid at times, but I can’t help to think that at least the ship element was a little delayed – or the episode was moved forward.

²Shame we could not ‘see’ the young Cnidarians. Might have been an interesting what-if scenario if you approached the young first, with the adult Cnidarians moving cautiously towards us with a threat response – something my onboard telepaths/empaths could warn us about.

I want the Lukaari space uniforms ASAP.

In Closing

Echoes of Light  was a thoroughly enjoyable episode and a nice change of pace refocusing us on what we do best – explore the unknown.  Viewing the world through the Lukaari’s eyes was a neat opportunity, and for once I understand why the Vulcans could have been seen as such dicks in Enterprise. Writer Paul Reed, Al Rivera and Jesse Heinig wove an interesting tale that stands out as some of the best I’ve seen in-game and I can’t wait to see where it’s going.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Goa’uld Hand Weapon Delphic weapon in the Lobi store that needs my attention.

Lootcritter

2 thoughts on “Review: Echoes of Light – 4/5 Stars

  1. How does one see the Set Bonus stats as pictured in the second-to-last pic? I’ve never been able to see them in-game and always have to go to the STO wiki on my 2nd monitor.

    Like

  2. Just read your review, very nice overview of the mission. I agree with the score, and I also am with you on enjoying the mini game but wished for a different background on them. I had missed the self sustaining note on the comet, good catch there. This mission was full of neat little details like that.

    A couple additional references: Madran also appears in the warehouse mission on New Romulus unlocked at t1 rep, where he is using Orion and Hirogen mercenaries and cheating the Republic. His ship is a Nandi, which I believe is the first use of the ship in game as all the other ferengi fly D’koras.

    Proto-matter appeared before in STO during the missions at Hobus, it was one of the ingredients in Taris’ bomb.

    My favorite parts of the mission were the cnidarians and the changes in k13’s commander’s face from the first log to the last. Great work by the development team on that, I missed it on my first play through.

    Like

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