Warrior’s Way #6: What’s the Story Anyway?

Over the past few weeks, I have been going through the KDF storyline and analyzing it both as a gamer enjoying an MMO and as a reader taking in a story. But what is the KDF story anyway? This is my question. In the present installment of Warrior’s War, we look at “Dominion Domination” (“Second Wave,” “Of Bajor,” “Operation Gamma,” “Facility 4028,” “Boldly They Rode”) an exciting episode that serves as a prelude to the later Omega Force alliance between the KDF and the Federation. Fans of DS9, Bajor/Bajorans, and the Dominion conflict will be particularly pleased with how prominent a place these aspects of Star Trek are given in “Dominion Domination.” In many ways, this episode exemplifies excellent MMO storytelling. In other ways, however, the story leaves me puzzled and occasionally frustrated.

The story goes like this: The player receives a summons to attend a meeting at DS9 to discuss the growing threat posed by the Borg. Given the KDF-Federation war, this is obviously a case in which two enemies join together to combat a greater one. In the midst of diplomatic proceedings—which don’t make very much headway anyway—a Dominion fleet bursts through the Bajoran wormhole, assaults the station, boards it, and kills the Federation’s main delegate. After rescuing the remaining delegates, you fight your way back to Bajor, where the Federation has established a base of operations. While there, you engage in a number of tasks on Bajor itself—including, if you so choose, some special operations tasks for the Empire—and attempt to negotiate with Loriss (the Vorta now in charge of DS9), who thinks the Dominion War is still in play. It is decided that the best strategy is to contact the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant and convince them to help you deal with the situation on DS9. Ultimately, the Dominion agrees to help, as long as a Founder, who is being held at Facility 4028, is released. You are then sent to Facility 4028 to obtain the Founder and bring her back to Bajoran space, so that she can help diffuse the situation. After dealing with a prison riot, you finally make your way back to DS9, along with the Vorta Eraun and the Founder.

The story reaches its climax in the final mission, “Boldly They Rode.” The strategic decision to use the Founder’s divine status to coerce Loriss’ surrender is effective, but this is not the end to your problems. While Loriss willingly surrenders, her Jem’hadar “first,” Kar’ukan, refuses to comply, stating that the Founders have turned their backs on him and his warriors and that the only glory remaining for them is in battle. This unexpected obstacle requires you to infiltrate the station secretively using an environmental suit. Your path is littered with incredible dangers and intriguing puzzles. Finally, however, you confront Kar’ukan and his forces both in DS9’s operations center and then again in an epic space battle. In the end, DS9 is retaken, as part of a joint KDF-Federation operation.

There are so many aspects of “Dominion Domination” that commend themselves. Two environments, in particular, are worthy of mention: Bajor and the exterior of DS9, which one walks on in “Boldly They Rode.” Bajor is one of the most charming environments in the game. Everything from the beautiful fountains and lamp posts to the shifting light conditions makes the planet an enjoyable and pleasant experience. The signs, shops, and streets strike a subtle balance between a rural village and an urban center. The farmer and the politician, it seems, would feel comfortable in such a setting. Bajor, to say the least, has many special touches that are easy to overlook. It is too bad that the planet is never featured again, and in many ways it is even overshadowed by DS9. Almost everything that can be done on Bajor is more conveniently available on DS9, and then some, making Bajor largely superfluous, apart perhaps for role playing purposes. If Cryptic/PWE opens up the Gamma Quadrant and the wormhole a bit more in the future, this charming planet may yet gain the attention it deserves.

One of the most interesting aspects of this episode is the spacewalk one has to do in “Boldly They Rode.” The exterior of DS9, of course, is well known. But one gains an entirely different perspective it when the player is required to traverse across large sections of the station’s exterior, reworking sensors, evading Jemhadar ships, and eventually breaking in to the station’s interior. The views of space and of the station afforded by this experience are absolutely stunning.

In my view, however, the best part about this story was the way in which the developers were able to create highly original tasks that move beyond the standard, interact-with-this-console, shoot-this-bad-guy, etc. kind of thing. The devs did an astounding job making “Dominion Domination” an episode that requires the player to make use of a wide range of skills. In particular, players with an interest in diplomatic tasks will likely revel in “Second Wave.” In this mission, the player has the option to win over the various diplomats by accomplishing small tasks for them. For instance, the player can choose to help the Deferi ambassador secure a holosuite session, or even help S’taass—the Klingon Ambassador to the conference—with some clandestine observation of Starfleet’s facilities. The tasks given by S’taass are particularly interesting, because they involve making your DOFFs available to the ambassador for espionage purposes. To my knowledge, this is the only time at which DOFF missions are part of a story mission.

The diplomatic tasks, however, do have a downside. The tasks in which the player tries to win over the diplomats by performing tasks for them have absolutely no effect on the conference proceedings themselves, at least not as far as I can tell. Given the hard work one puts into softening up the delegates (at least a 20 minute job if one does all the optionals!), this is very disappointing. In fact, the entire conference room scene just before the Dominion invasion is—well—lacking, insofar as diplomatic skills are not required whatsoever. The player is given a set number of responses, all of which have to be selected if the conversation is to go forward. A player could literally just click through the options without even having to read, much less think, about them. The subpar nature of these diplomatic negotiations is amplified when one compares them to the dynamic and fragile interrogation one undertakes with Tran (“Cold Comfort”)—the cooperative Breen officer who, if you are sufficiently skilled in negotiation, will help you remove Breen-embedded implants from Deferi patients. In this task, the player can actually fail. The DS9 negotiations, however, are diplomacy with water wings. Nothing you do affects the negotiations.

Putting these criticisms aside for the moment, a number of interesting tasks can also be found in “Of Bajor,” where the player is called upon to help Starfleet in its preparations to retake DS9. The player does everything from fixing broken equipment (Engineering career) to training for combat against changelings on a holodeck. And for all those Tom-Paris-shuttle-loving-types, “Operation Gamma” also gives you the chance to pilot a shuttle through the wormhole, aid (and later kill) an unscrupulous Ferengi trader, navigate a field of asteroids, and make contact with the Dominion. The task of tasks, which I have already discussed above, is the spacewalk on DS9; hands down, this is the coolest part of the entire episode. In short, where “Dominion Domination” shines brightest is in its abundance of creative, challenging, and interesting tasks.

My biggest complaint with this mission has to do with narrative consistency. I too often felt that the dialogue was simply cut and pasted from the Fed storyline, without any regard for how a Klingon perspective might affect the dialogue and even the story’s possibilities. Here’s a glaring example. During the diplomatic negotiations in “Second Wave,” the player is forced to insult S’taass, the Klingon ambassador by asking: “Will the Klingon Empire cower while the rest of us go out to fight the Borg?” Not only is it bizarre for me, a KDF officer, to insult one of our dignitaries, the question is also factually incorrect. In particular, the question assumes that I am not part of the Klingon empire. At another point I tell him that the Empire would be foolish to ignore this fight with the Borg. As a KDF captain, would I truly make such an insulting remark to the ambassador of my people, who has been sent to represent the interests of the Empire? Likely not. These two comments are clearly stated from the Federation perspective and should have been completely rewritten for a KDF player.

I also came across a few references that seemed inconsistent with the larger storyline. For instance, at the beginning of “Second Wave,” I receive a message from Mesi Achebe, who becomes my primary contact with the Federation. She says at one point, “By now, you have faced the Borg.” The Borg? When? None of the episodes thus far have involved the Borg. The only chance, as far as I can tell, to have faced the Borg would have been in the daily Omega Leonis missions, and these are just dailies with little to no connection with the larger story arc. A similar problem arose in my discussion with Surah, the Deferi ambassador. He greets me and says that it is nice to see me again? At this point, I just looked at the screen in puzzlement. In the current ordering of the episodes, the Breen Invasion material—in which Surah plays a prominent role—doesn’t come until after “Dominion Domination.” I have never seen Surah in my entire career, unless I somehow inadvertently skipped over a Deferi-oriented mission. Whatever the explanation for these inconsistencies, it seems prima facie that little to no attempt was made to conform “Dominion Domination” to its new place in the broader story arc. Whatever the case may be, such inconsistencies make for a rough reading experience.

Apart from a few problems, I really enjoyed “Dominion Domination.” The episode fits, albeit parenthetically, into the KDF-Federation war, insofar as Borg incursions require the two factions to lay down their arms for the moment to address a much larger threat from the Borg. But this parenthesis in the story doesn’t diminish the quality of the episode in my view. It is ironic, however, that—given the general lack of content related to the KDF-Federation war in the preceding Romulan, Devidian, and Fek’Ihri episodes—the one episode that fits best into the KDF-Fed war story arc is one in which the war is placed on pause to create an ad hoc alliance against the Borg! One can only wonder if the unveiling of the Iconian threat will have a similar result. Will peace between the KDF and Federation be forged in the furnace of war with the Iconians?

In the next Warrior’s Way, Sargon will venture into the Breen conflict with the Deferi. This episode widens—yet again—the cosmic conflict, adding both new enemies (the Breen) and a new protectorate (the Deferi). Whether adding another conflict to the Empire’s current lineup of enemies (Federation, True Way, Borg, Tholians, Romulans, Iconians, etc.) is wise or compatible with the broader story remains to be seen.

Sargon is a member of -x-treme (KDF) and The 300 (KDF). 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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