This is something that needs to be done. A broken down review of this entire Featured Series. It's happened before with the Breen Series, the Devidian series, and the Romulan series, and with all of those series we saw a huge increase in quality and story telling techniques with each episode and series. For the 2800, that really didn't happen. For this series I shall go through each and every single mission here and take a look at what works, what doesn't work, and specifically go into reasons why for each. Each section will begin with the story, and then focus on the actual game play.
This was the series premiere for the 2800. As such it's job was to engage the audience, in this case the player, in it's story while setting up the situation, introducing the major characters of the arc, and most importantly do this in a manner that in a manner that makes sense. The story begins with a peace conference on DS9 to discuss the increasing Borg incursions into the Alpha and Beta quadrants of the Galaxy, so to start with you beam down to DS9 and with using a fairly clever pretext, you are introduced to what should have been the major players for the arc. Commander Andrews (the previously unknown first officer of DS9), Starfleet Admiral Trem, Deferi Ambassador Surah, Cardassian Diplomat Rungal Skyl, Starfleet Captain Va'Kel Shon, Starfleet Captain and DS9's commanding officer Captain Kurland, and last but not least representing the Klingon Empire is Gorn Captain S'taass.
That is a lot of characters to be introduced to, to spend a very significant amount of time getting to know, and to actually spend time doing stuff for them. Admittedly being errand boy wasn't my ideal choice to spend my time, however I could live with it because it's more fun to actually do something than order someone to do something for you. That said, for the amount of time you actually spend getting to know the characters, the payoff really wasn't there at all. Aside from Kurland and Captain Shon, none of the other characters you are introduced to show up again in this series. Of course for two of them that's because they kick the bucket when the Dominion attack, but for the amount of time spent with these characters, at the very least S'taass and Skyl should have been playing a bigger part in this story. But I'm getting a head of myself, back to the story at hand.
After playing errand boy, the conference starts in the station situation room in the Habitat Ring and it is your job to try and get the delegates to agree with each other over the obvious. The Borg are bad, really really bad, and standing alone against them is going to get us all killed. This is where the first couple of what the heck moments start showing up. First, the Klingon Empire being represented is understandable, (it could even be argued that sending a Gorn was both compliance with the conference and sending an insult to the Federation), as is the Cardassian Union, (even after the Dominion War they are still a major power in the galaxy), however the absence of the Romulans was noticeable, (regardless if we just fought their fleet and exposed an alliance between the Tal Shiar and the Iconians they are still one of the big three powers in the galaxy, they should have been there), and the major question of why Ambassador Surah was there at all reared it's ugly head. The deferi aren't a major space power, they don't really have much to offer in terms of fighting the borg, especially since they have to have their own planet saved by a combined task force of the Federation and Klingon Empire. So why he was there is something that wasn't really addressed.
This mission fell apart the second the Dominion fleet came out of the wormhole. First reason, DS9 is the most secure and defensible position in the entire Alpha Quadrant. The Federation knows the threat the Dominion poses to the peace of the Galaxy, heck this was even addressed in DS9 stating that the Federation has been preparing the station for possible dominion attack for ages. It is logical to assume that the Federation would have continued to beef up DS9's defenses in the last 30 years. So having the order go out as quickly as it did to abandon all hope and high tail it out of there makes no sense. Second, as a part of Red Alert, the shields are supposed to go up. Shields block transporters, so how the heck did the Jem'Hadar beam aboard the station? Furthermore after the initial attack, how the heck did Kurland know that the lift's weren't working properly from inside the situation room.
Then there is the biggest ground blunder of the whole mission, going from the Habitat ring, to the promenade, to get to the docking ring. Go from the halfway point on the station to the middle of the station to get to the outer most part of the station. It really should have been a firefight in the habitat ring all the way to the docking ring.
Gameplay wise, this was fairly enjoyable. The additions of votes for which dialogue selection you want, integrating the doff system into the mission itself, and a little taste of combat in this mostly diplomatic mission gave it a decent level of excitement and wow, this is new stuff. I could have actually gone for a few more Doff Missions, assign crew members to help with fixing the station, find a case of something or other for Quarks, find Morn, etc. Little things like that would have given more of a sense that yes I am the captain, I am in command of a ship with a crew of at least 100 members. The thing is, aside from the branching dialogue and the vote system, the other more interesting aspect of the mission (the doff system integration) did not show up again for the rest of the series.
The saving grace of the combat portion was being able to have the delegates fight with you. This was tested in the Romulan series, and it was really nice to see this feature continue in this mission.
This episode was the immediate followup to the cliffhanger of second wave. It's number one objective was to continue the story from the last episode and keep us hooked into what was going on. It failed. It failed completely on the story part. It failed for one simple reason, 2800 Dominion ships just came out of the Bajorian Wormhole and there is no possible way that that number of ships could ever hope to just bunch around DS9. The next logical step in the story was simple, Bajor should have fallen to the Dominion. The Dominion would not have been stupid enough to just secure the station. With the amount of ships they had, they would have secured the System at the very least.
As a result, what should have been a fight for our lives and evacuation of as many bajorians as possible, turned into a complete waste of time story wise. Sure, we learned about Bajoran history, we learned why the 2800 dominion ships suddenly arrived, and for those of us who didn't watch DS9 we learned how the Dominion War ended. Did this story do anything to advance the plot though? No it didn't. The Dominion is still at the station, they're still in the system (not doing anything, but they are still there). So why exactly was the Federation and Klingon Empire just twiddling their thumbs while a Dominion war fleet larger than any individual fleet in both the Federation and Klingon Empire is sitting there screaming "War is on".
The worst bit of this episode came when you were making your case to try and get the Dominion off of DS9 peacefully and you had the option to choosing the treaty of Bajor as proof. When the cut scene started for that moment, this is what I was expecting to see. The signing of the treaty in DS9 situation room from the last episode of the series. This is what we got. Notice what's missing? General Martok, Admiral William Ross, Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko, Chief Miles Edward O'Brian, Lieutenant Commander Worf, Doctor Julian Bashir, Colonel Kira Nerys, and Constable Odo. I'm sorry, I really truly am sorry, but when you recreate a scene from any of the shows, especially one that is that well known, as a flashback you do not mess it up by putting in the incorrect characters. The fact that the Starfleet Officers of that time period also have the wrong combadge is a moot point next to the above missing characters.
Gameplay wise, it was a gamble on Cryptic's part, one that ultimately didn't pay off. Branching mission options, the number one requested feature to be added to the game since launch, was finally implemented... on a mission that was nearly 100% non combat on a social map that required more map transitions that any mission prior. Changing maps usually isn't a problem, however when teaming on social maps and doing map transitions, there is the problem of the team not all ending up on the same map because of the social instances getting full. This created more problems since it was a pain in the neck to keep the team in the same instance.
I will say that the branching Gameplay options did succed in two areas. The first was that it gave my character the appearance of actually controlling what he is doing in game. He's not being told to do things, he's deciding what things to do. I loved that feeling. And I do want to see it become a regular recurring feature in game. The second was that it gave the mission immediate replay ability. I like being able to replay content, and I like it when I replay that content to have the ability to make it a little different each time. So Kudos to Cryptic for getting that right.