Frozen

Having decrypted the records retrieved from the Tal Shiar base in the previous mission, you discover an attack is imminent on a Reman base hidden in the Dera System. So you must not only locate the base but then attempt to communicate with their leaders.

I’ve talked during previous featured episodes about how there seemed to be a trade off with longer, more detailed missions being paired with a shorter mission which might focus more on dialogue that moves the plot forward, and how I’ve always assumed this was a necessity in order to balance developer time and allow those more detailed missions. And so after the previous missions and their cut scenes, I’d read a few comments on the forums complaining about the length of Frozen, and prepared myself for this series’ equivalent to “Spin the Wheel”.

However, I ended up having to disagree.  Certainly Frozen is by no means the longest episode in the series, but neither did I get that feeling of shortness that Spin the Wheel gave, I think aided by having distinct space and ground sections, whereas Spin the Wheel took place entirely on Drozana Station.

For me, there’s a couple of main areas where this mission really excels.  Like last week, the cutscene technology now present in the game is well used.  Not only when you finally meet Obisek, the Reman leader, face-to-face, but also during the space section when you’re trying to trick a Reman ship that you want to follow to their base.  Its impressive, especially since the devs have been on record saying space-based cutscenes are a pain in the neck with the existing tools, so I wasn’t expecting to see any space cutscenes in the missions already.

I also loved how the end of the mission plays out differently depending on the dialogue options you choose.  While I doubt that choice will have much impact in future missions, it was nice to feel like your actions had consequences within the bounds of this mission, as you can either side with Obisek or condemn him, which shapes the final battle and whether you must escape the enraged Remans, or deal with a Romulan assault on the base.

However for me, the big thing in this episode were the revelations Obisek starts throwing around.  Several plot lines exist within the main game that are developed as you level up.   You discover the Undine have manipulated the Klingon/Federation conflict fairly early on for example, while some Rear Admiral missions shed further light on how the Undine may have been provoked.

One of my favourite plot threads though, was based on the Romulan sectors, and built on the events from the most recent movie.   The game sees you actively investigating the Hobus explosion that resulted in the destruction of Romulus, and you quickly start to discover that it wasn’t the random accident that many assumed.  This all builds up to the reveal that Praetor Taris has unknown “masters”, and she attempts to escape through an Iconian Gateway.

With Obisek revealing that the Tal Shiar are working for the “Demons of Air and Darkness”, the developers are directly following up that earlier storyline, as well as advancing the larger story of the return of the Iconians that several missions (including those Romulan ones) touch upon in the game.  There’s a real feeling that the return of the Iconians is building up to something massive in the game  and its nice to see it being built on after the previous Featured Episodes told their own side stories.  Not to play those side stories down though, but its nice to see that the new direction with Featured Episodes isn’t forgetting those plots that already exist in the game, and I can’t wait to see what the devs have up their sleeves with the Iconians.

This mission was great for showcasing the cutscenes and voice work once again, and while it was more focused on moving storylines along than an extended gameplay experience, its a massively atmospheric mission, with the Reman base well realised in its ice cave surrounding, and some of the dialogue from your Bridge Officers really brought character to them.

Its also worth finally commenting on the shift in the mission rewards as well.  Previous Featured Episodes have relied on “levelless” items whose stats slowly improve with your character’s level.  With this mission though, the rewards (new Romulan weapons) are scaled towards the level you run the mission at.  I quite like this idea, as it pushes the idea of replaying the missions more, since you’ll have to play through them at each main rank if you want to improve the rewards, while also giving you rewards with better stats, due to the mechanics of how those stats are calculated, invariably appropriately levelled equipment will always be more powerful than equipment which matches your exact level (since “levelled” equipment usually sits just above your character level).  It strikes me as a win for the player.  It means more work, sure, but for better equipment, and from levelling up some alt characters since these featured episodes were first introduced, I can certainly attest to the usefulness of being able to get this equipment early in the game.

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