Warrior’s Way #5: What is the KDF Story Anyway? Part III
Qapla’, warriors! Welcome to another week of Warrior’s Way. For first-time readers, I am taking a brand new character—Sargon III—through the entire KDF storyline, beginning at level 20. What is unique about this little trek through the KDF story is that I am approaching it from the perspective of both a player and a reader. I want to answer the question, “What is the KDF story anyway?” Many of us diehard KDF players are screaming for a full story, like the Federation players have, but we don’t just want a few episodes tagged on to the present storyline. We want a comprehensible and consistent narrative—one that makes sense from beginning to end and which provides a truly alternative look at the STO storyline. This week, I cover “The Romulan Mystery,” a seven-mission-episode that features a volatile cocktail of Klingons, Romulans, Remans, and Iconians (“Alpha,” “The Vault,” “Mine Enemy,” “Frozen,” “Coliseum,” “Cutting the Cord,” and “Darkness before the Dawn”). Given the Romulan/Reman emphasis of Season 7, it seemed appropriate to dedicate an entire blog to this interesting episode.
Let me just state this outright from the beginning. My experience of “The Romulan Mystery” was both extremely positive and extremely negative. Where this episode suffered most was not in its story content but in its technical deficiencies. As with the “Fekh’Iri Return” missions, this episode excels in story but is impeded by bugs. I was completely unable to play the final two missions, “Cutting the Cord” and “Darkness before the Dawn.” When I arrived at the Brea system and tried to begin “Cutting the Cord,” the game hit me with the following message: “Could not Transfer Character.” My character was then abruptly kicked off the server and forced to log in again. I logged on/off multiple times, in each instance trying to enter the Brea system, but after several attempts, I finally gave up and submitted a ticket. Although the Perfect World staff responded in a timely manner (2-3 days or so), their message was very disappointing: the GM team is aware of this problem but is unable to resolve it since some issues require “further development from departments outside our control.” With that said, I can only hope that fixing this bug will become a priority since, according to Dev Blog # 10, players will be able to earn Romulan Marks by going through “The Romulan Mystery” mission sequence.
As you might expect, this bug had deleterious effects on my ability to review the episode, since I only had access to the first 5 missions. In some cases, I had to borrow details from the STO Wiki to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, as you will see in the coming weeks, this is not the last time I encountered this very same bug (see the next review in which I deal with the Deferi episode)! This bug infestation is one more example of why the KDF needs not only new story content, but also reworked and improved content. Now, on to the story . . . or what’s left of it.
The Romulan Mystery has three exceptionally strong features: (1) a flat-out compelling storyline that touches on profound ethical and philosophical issues like society-building, self-determination, the ethics of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), to name just a few.; (2) the character of Obisek; (3) a creative and diverse use of space and environments.
Let’s begin with the story. The plot in “The Romulan Mystery” is rich and compelling, not to mention entertaining. Haunting the entire episode are two major crises: the destruction of Romulus and the brief seizure of power by Shinzon, which was effectively the Remans’ first taste of freedom. As you progress through the episode, you discover that the Tal Shiar and the Reman resistance are on a collision course with one another. At the spear tips are two dichotomously different personalities—Obisek (the Reman leader) and Hakeev (a Romulan Tal Shiar agent working for the Iconians). The Remans are fighting for their independence from the Romulans, and the Tal Shiar are set on destroying the Remans. Always in the shadows of events are the elusive Iconians, whose cloaked hand directs the actions and priorities of Hakeev, and in some cases, you! Throughout this episode, Obisek’s choice to use thalaron weapons is a leitmotif and a significant concern for the Klingons, who see this as a dishonorable weapon. Obisek, of course, sees thalaron weapons as a key way for his resistance group to gain an advantage against the Tal Shiar, who, from his perspective, are supported by the demons of “air and darkness” (a cryptic reference to the Iconians; see, e.g., “Contagion” [TNG]). In the end, the Iconian Gate on Brea III is destroyed and Hakeev is killed. His death, while certainly appropriate to the story, is narrated in far too melodramatic a way, even as it attempts to be epic: “Hakeev’s end comes without any desperate speech or furious diatribe. As his plans collapse around him, only silence follows him into oblivion.” Hakeev is a puppet villain, and not even a very terrifying one. Let’s save the epic death notices for the destruction of the Iconians. Finally, once Haveek is killed, you and Obisek engage Empress Sela in her formidable Scimitar dreadnought. On the verge of defeat, she is towed away by a strange ship of Iconian design, whether by her own volition or by force is not clear. Season 7 will hopefully carry this story along to its next step.
Obisek is one of the most, well-crafted characters to come out of STO. Way more level-headed than Shinzon and more pragmatic than the single-dimensional Hakeev, Obisek is a complex character who takes bold stands on difficult ethical issues. His situation requires him to navigate between the tantalizing Scylla of independence and the equally tempting Charybdis of weapons of mass destruction (i.e., thalaron weapons). We do well to remember that Obisek’s actions are not without precedence in Reman history: Shinzon himself used thalaron radiation in his quest to free the Remans. Obisek might be seen, then, as simply finishing the job Shinzon failed to do. This does not make his use of the weapons any more honorable from the perspective of the Klingons, but it does situate his decision in a broader perspective. Perhaps the most important factor to consider is that Obisek’s decision to use thalaron weapons was forged in the furnace of oppression, as he tries to decide how best to fashion a future of independence for his people, who have long been at the sword tip of the Romulan Star Empire.
Obisek’s remarkable character is augmented by a stunning voice-over performance. Like his character, Obisek’s voice is even, pragmatic, firm, and resolute. One strains to find even a hint of blind rage or irrationality; in every way, Obisek exudes strong leadership and bridled passion. His voice contrasts starkly to the fluctuating, fierce, and tyrannical voice of Hakeev, whose overblown body language, turgid rhetoric, contorted facial expressions, and over-the-top vocal inflections make him a caricature of the very worst leadership qualities. All in all, Obisek is a fascinating focal point for this story, and I am absolutely thrilled to learn that he may have some role to play in Season 7 (see Dev Blog #9). If Shinzon had been half the leader Obisek is, the Reman history books would have a much different story to tell.
Shifting away from characters to environments, The Romulan Mystery missions involve a diverse and creative set of environments: the Vault, a coliseum-like arena, an expansive city on Brea III, a desert, a cave, a security satellite, the insides of a Romulan ship turned Reman base, and a mine to name just a few of the major areas. Some serious work went into creating the visual aspect of this episode and it shows! Along with the varied environments, comes a medley of interesting and diverse tasks that offer a welcome interruption to the typical PVE pew-pew, such as hand-to-hand combat with various wild beasts, hiding in a nebula, defusing bombs and tactical satellites, hunting for medicinal plants in the desert, searching for shelter, releasing prisoners, extracting intelligence from a Romulan officer, decrypting encoded messages and much more. All of these environments and tasks make playing the Romulan Mystery an enjoyable and often challenging experience.
Taking a step back and looking at the broader KDF story arc, The Romulan Mystery intersects with the KDF-Federation war at only a few points—unless, of course, the Iconians are also behind the KDF-Fed war, which is a distinct possibility. And yet, in spite of the fact that The Romulan Mystery introduces a new conflict, I am not bothered by the addition of this extra dimension—in part because the Romulans have always had a major role to play in the politics of the Klingon Empire and of the Alpha Quadrant more generally. Plus, it sounds like Season 7 will also serve as a narrative bridge that connects the issues happening in Romulan space with the KDF’s war against the Federation, insofar as the Romulan Reputation system will become—at least in theory—a place where the KDF and the Federation can compete for the chance to sway the Romulans to their respective sides. In my evaluation, if the quality of the storyline driving Season 7 matches the quality I encountered in “The Romulan Mystery” (barring bugs for the moment), then I anticipate that Season 7 will be a huge hit. Let’s not kid ourselves, Season 7 is going to be another epic grind but unlike the story-weak Season 6, it will at least have a rich narrative driving it. I don’t mind being seduced into grinding, as long as the seductress tells a good story.
In the next installment of Warrior’s Way, we take a look at “Dominion Domination,” which on the KDF side contains “Second Wave,” “Of Bajor,” “Operation Gamma,” “Facility 4028,” and “Boldly They Rode.” This episode resurrects a now-dead conflict (the Dominion War) and at the same time forces you to work alongside your current enemies (Starfleet). As always, we will be exploring the episode from the perspective of the reader, asking the question, “What is the story anyway?”
And in the spirit of “friendship” with the Federation (Sargon spits on the ground), remember that a day is not complete without leaving at least one Federation ship derelict in space. Qapla’!
Sargon is a member of -X-treme—an international, PvP-loving, Fed-busting Klingon fleet. Unlike most other KDF Generals, he was born to Romulan parents. Inspired as a young man by Worf’s visit to a prison camp in the year 2369, he eventually left the camp, against the will of his parents, and joined the KDF. Although an outsider among Klingons, the increasing diversity in the Empire gave him room to advance in the military, until he eventually earned the confidence and trust of the High Council, which granted him command of the I.K.S. Rage of Kahless, a Temporal Science Vessel.
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