A couple weeks ago, several of us decided it was time to give the Special Task Force Missions (STFs) a try. This was in part inspired by Trusty Friend Mishy’s adventures with STFs and earning Kewl Loot ™, and in spite of Trusty Friend Kheren’s dire warnings that they were nothing more than respawn nightmares on the order of The Big Dig Fleet action. I enjoyed The Big Dig about as much as I enjoyed having a tooth abscess last year, so I was in no rush to do an STF like that, much less with PUGs.
After gaming with Trusty Friends Marconius, Jeff T, Mishy, wildardoc, Ellif, N’Eligahn, and a host of other fleet mates during the feature episodes, and hearing a number of people say “gosh, we should do some STFs together,” I finally decided to take the plunge. After all, we had a lot of fun together slashing our way through the enemies, taking down Romulan ships, earning our Reman bridge officers, and crafting Mark XI purple Vulcan lirpas. This was (theoretically) a natural progression.
So, on a weekend morning, after much encouragement from Jeff T for people to join in, I signed on. Jeff T gets extra points for enthusiasm in teammate recruiting. Marconius came on board to help out, as did Ellif and N’Eligahn. Kheren was willing to join, but only if we didn’t have the necessary 5 people. His view is that STFs are about as entertaining as repeatedly head-butting a 10-foot thick concrete wall until one’s brains splatter out, but helping fleet mates was worth the sacrifice nonetheless. I suspect Ellif and N’Eligahn joined the party so that Kheren wouldn’t have to commit ritual suicide.
Anyway, once we got all settled in, we had to decide who would call the shots during the mission. Jeff T and I were STF virgins and thus not ideally suited for ‘mission leader’. Ellif didn’t have voice chat. N’Eligahn likes STFs only slightly better than Kheren does, so Marconius, bless his heart, ended up being the leader, whether he wanted to be or not. Besides, after about 2 minutes of play we discovered he clearly had his pass to the Clue Bus and knew what the heck he was doing.
The first task: Take down the transwarp conduit in the Sibiran system. This involved taking down hordes of Borg Cubes transwarping through the conduit, along with the occasional Borg Tactical Cube. They should be renamed “Tendinitis Cubes”, because that’s what you get after shooting at them so darn long. After destroying Tendinitis Cubes, you then have the option to shoot at the conduit itself in order to do damage. Why your shots are effective only after destroying Tendinitis Cubes is beyond me. N’Eligahn assured us that our loot drop at the end would be better if we kept all 3 of the doo-dads powering the conduit functioning. After dealing with far too many Tendinitis Cubes, however, it became clear that unless we wanted to continue shooting at Cubes and the conduit for another 3 hours, we were going to have to sacrifice a little loot to get the STF done sometime that week. We chewed through 2 of the doo-dads and finally did enough damage to the conduit to bring it down.
The second task: Find Captain Ogden. This required going through various rooms on Starbase 82, killing many spawning Borg, and being repeatedly killed by many spawning Borg. Fortunately, Marconius knew all about the Interlink Nodes (aka the Insanely Masochistic Nodes) that created the endlessly spawning Borg. We quickly attacked those. I discovered that my newly crafted purple Mark XI Vulcan lirpa was awesome and made of win. It goes right through Borg shields. I think I only died a couple dozen times in this section, which made it tough on the rest of the team since I was one of the primary healers. Teammates don’t stay alive so well when the healer is sprawled on the ground after she’s forgotten to get the heck out of the way of the Bad Guys. We made our way to Captain Ogden and discovered that he was a. assimilated beyond repair, and b. surprisingly easy to take down compared to the conduit. This led us to our final room.
The third task: Upload a virus to four computers, find Capt. Simmons, and survive the Perilous Pit of Pervasively Plentiful Plasma. N’Eligahn and Ellif decided to take the center platform, while Marconius, Jeff T, and I would run around uploading viruses to the 4 corner computers. Jeff and I were admonished ‘not to step in the green stuff or you die instantly’, and that jumping from crate to crate sitting in the middle of this pit was ‘no more difficult than jumping in Mario Brothers’. I did not point out that the last time I played a Mario game there were still things like video game arcades in shopping malls and that we had to put quarters in the slots to play it. Then we were told we had exactly 6 minutes to kill the Borg, coordinate the 3 of us in activating each computer, upload the virus, and then hop around like manic Monty Python killer bunnies to the next corner and repeat the process 3 more times. THEN we could kill the final boss in a giant shoot-out. It’s kind of like golf except less fun.
Jeff and I quickly discovered that the younger generation is much more adept at jumping than the two of us are. We confirmed within approximately 2 nanoseconds of trying to jump onto our very first crate that yes, the plasma does indeed kill instantly. We also discovered that jumping back on to the boxes was next to impossible. We then discovered that when you respawn, you do so outside the force field of the room, and you can’t re-enter. We’re not entirely sure what possessed the developers to design a room with a molten moat in the first place, since the Borg die when you push them into the pit, too. I suspect Good Drugs were somehow involved. The designers must have been sitting around one day and said “Man, what would be the best way to torture Emmert if he was an ACTUAL officer on this ACTUAL mission? I know! Let’s fill the room full of insta-kill puke-green toxic waste, then make jumping so crazy that he falls into the pit, dies 50 bazillion times, then respawns outside the force field so that the entire party has to suicide in order to re-open the force field to continue. That would be simply AWESOME.”
At some point, it was determined that either Jeff or I should go to the center platform where jumping insanely into the putrescent pit would not be involved. Jeff was lucky and ended up in the center. N’Eligahn assured me that I’d only die a few more thousand times before the mission would end, but that he was ‘there for me’ and would be sure to do CPR on my poor dead body as often as needed. I made a socially unacceptable salute to him that he could not see.
After suiciding/respawning several times, I finally built up enough jumping skill to make it around the area without falling more than a few dozen times, and the final boss spawned. We died trying to kill her. So, in a fit of complete determination and/or masochism, we started over with that room, doing our manic bunny-hop from corner to corner. Miss Bossy spawned again. What happened? You guessed it; I fell in that stupid pit yet again. However, the boss was down to almost no health by then, and the team wisely decided killing the boss was going to be more effective than doing CPR on me, since I’d be resurrected to get my reward anyway once she was dead. The boss died, I revived, we all got our rewards, and life was good. I actually ended up with 2 Borg engines. Accepting both the RA and VA versions of the Cure means you get credit for both when you complete the mission once. I think that’s semi-fair for the torture the devs put us all through.
Below: Jae fails at jumping for the zillionth time and ends up buried in the middle of the crate. Note that rigor mortis has set in amazingly fast. Fortunately, N’Eligahn knew CPR!