VICTORY IS LIFE: Expansion Review, by Hippie John

Lootcritter: Hope everyone is enjoying Canada Day today, and as a special treat Hippie John has offered his take on the new Star Trek Online expansion: Victory is Life.  Enjoy!

My favorite Star Trek of all time to this day remains The Original Series. It’s what little kid me remembers Mom and Dad letting me watch after Saturday Morning Cartoons were over. It has that childlike wonder associated with it, and nothing Trek has ever quite captured that again. But what other Trek did as it arrived over the years was sometimes reach certain high points, and one series did that (for me) more than any other. Deep Space Nine has a LOT of very high points. Maybe some of the most layered and complicated Star Trek storytelling took place on that wreck of a station orbiting a planet recovering from a war, and involving the people we met by arriving there every week.

If The Original Series is my favorite Star Trek, then for whole different reasons, Deep Space Nine is maybe the closest second that exists. What I am getting at, is that, for me at least, that Station is sacred ground.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a review of content produced by Cryptic Studios and the Star Trek Online Game. I’d like to think I’m older and wiser, but I might just be older.  The latest expansion for Star Trek Online, known as Victory Is Life is quite simply the best content this team has ever produced. By that, I mean every damned aspect of it.

I’m a casual player who mostly focuses on the storytelling. There are a load of aspects that go into “storytelling” and in this Expansion, every one of those seemed to be simply better than in the past. The environment art, the character art, the writing, the voice work, pacing, the video game aspects of the whole thing, it all was just … better than anything they have produced previously. I could not imagine a team that small being more “on their game”.  Listening to Al Rivera in an interview he mentioned there was a lot of overtime and extra work to make all this happen. Thumbs up, Where do I send Cookies and Cupcakes. Thanks for all the extra work.

First the Art.

All of the art.

The new character models in general look amazing. And the environments, from the revamped DS9 that feels so show accurate I want to cry every time I walk around there from sheer joy, to the alien environments we get to see are just stunning.

Character Animation is the Far in front MVP of this Expansion. The work of Weston Pierce cannot be praised enough. Plus seeing him on TenFWD Weekly, the dude is personable as hell.  Not enough good can be said about what he brought to this story.

So I mentioned above that Deep Space Nine is kind of sacred ground for me. Those characters, their stories and lives meant a lot to me. The team who wrote this expansion, whoever were the people in that writers circle. Thanks. I mean that quite sincerely. The writing in this whole expansion, from the inital release to the Final featured episode is so far above previous writing in this game … what is there to say besides that. Amazing, emotional, evocative writing. It really was the Deep Space Nine movie we never got to have.

Being an expansion to an almost decade old game obviously brings with it a lot of new “game”.

There is a level cap increase allowing players to bring their Admirals to level 65. Here is my only ‘negative’ feeling , is that it happens too fast. Way too fast. Like insanely fast. But what a problem to complain about. In the end, it happens fast, so freaking what? It’s a new power, some cool things and the ability to acces Tier XV equipment.

Tier XV Equipment. Fun. Not as expensive as I imagined it would be. Beautifully handled and implemented.

There is the introduction of a new “faction” for the Dominion, which is only Jem’Hadar, but honestly, I have absolutely no problem with that. I see the possibility, with (no spoilers) the way it all comes to a close, of the future potential for adding maybe Vorta , but as they said before it launched, they were telling a Jem Hadar story. It’s a damned good story. More than good enough to make limiting it to Jem Hadar worth it.

One thing this team has been great at for the last few years is implementing what I consider horizontal character progression. It’s just something they do right. From Specializations to Reputations to Ship Mastery, they have found very entertaining ways of keeping us busy at Max level.  This expansion brings with it a new Reputation which looks to be very good in all respects.

New ships come with this expansion and a whole new ship mechanic that is implemented really well. Jem Hadar and the Wingmen mechanic I hope will find it’s way to bringing some love to older seperation “pets” like Galaxy Saucers and even hangar bays. The new ships , they work better than anything like this they have tried in the past. And just WOW are they beautiful. Have I mentioned anywhere how incredible the art is in the expansion? The ship art team crafted ships I just love looking at onscreen. One of the best parts of the expansion to me.

Of course there is more. The sector wide “Battlezone” , the new Queue “Swarm”, Playable Cardassians, Cardassian Intel Ships. And all of it, I’d be echoing the words I have said about other things. Truly, in every respect, Victory Is Life is the absolute best content the Star Trek Online team has ever produced.

I personally can’t wait to see what they do next.

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