With the Iconian involvement behind the Tal Shiar now revealed, Starfleet decides its time to deal with Hakeev before things get out of hand. You’re sent to the Tal Shiar base in the Brea system, and its not long before you’re running around the Tal Shiar-controlled city, with Obisek and his Reman forces seeing their chance for freedom.
Much like last week, the scope of this mission is what really sells it. After a brief space battle to clear the way for transport to the surface, you find yourself in probably the best city map Cryptic have designed yet, running around gantries and rooftops planting charges and signalling for orbital bombardments. There’s no real puzzles this week, as its all about the final battle against Hakeev’s forces.
Instead the developers have littered the map with great little set-pieces. Whether its calling on your ship for orbital bombardments on Romulan artillery positions, or being pinned down by a low-flying Scorpion fighter, this mission is a lot of fun, and you really appreciate the work that’s gone into the map, culminating in the reveal of a giant Iconian Gateway that was a great moment. The space scenes as well, were very welcome. The featured episodes tend towards a lot of ground-based action, and this series has been especially heavy on it, so the initial moments of clearing the defences around the planet, followed by the final fights against the Romulans were very welcome. However, saying that, the developers have done such a great job on this series keeping the ground portions varied with puzzles and the like, that I wasn’t particularly aware of how space-light this series had been until I actually thought about it. These Romulan episodes have doubtless been the strongest Featured Episodes yet, and quite possibly the best missions in the game.
The story with the Romulans also leaps forward in a major way this series. After defeating the remaining Tal Shiar ships, Sela herself (sadly no Denise Crosby voiceover, but understandable given its just one line) turns up in her Scimitar-class flagship, striking back against you for the incursion into Romulan space. You then get a pretty fun and challenging fight against her ship, which is pretty tough, and also possesses the thalaron radiation attack that can near-cripple your ship if you don’t get out of its way. Its more of a traditional STO boss fight than last week’s, but was still just as fun.
Once you get Sela’s ship down to a certain damage level, another Gateway opens up and an Iconian ship grabs Sela’s ship in a tractor beam and they vanish off. This leaves things very open for the progression of the storyline. What will be the Iconians next move? Was Sela working with the Romulans, or was she ignorant to their plans, in which case why have they kidnapped her? Its worth also noting that Sela’s flagship was one of the transport locations mentioned in Hakeev’s Gateway during the Coliseum mission, so even if Sela herself hasn’t been working with the Iconians, certainly someone on her ship has been, unless its a clue that she has been working with them. Its a great little mystery that’s suddenly opened up, and I’m massively pleased by the developers ramping up this storyline. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the developers drive this storyline forward in future missions.
So overall, I have to say this Cloaked Intentions series has been the most satisfying yet. While some missions have suffered from bugs that’ve affected them early on, those issues have quickly been resolved, and the constant improvement we’ve seen in the Featured Episodes is never more obvious than in this series with its frequent cut scenes, voice acting, and experimental missions like the shuttle-based The Vault. The move from more standalone plots, to going back and pushing forward the main story in the game was undoubtedly a highlight for me, and while I wouldn’t want to see it in every series, as it would dilute the impact and run the risk of becoming stale, it does help make things that bit more memorable.