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"Horror deals with the viewer's nightmares, hidden worst fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown."
This was taken from Wikipedia, and will serve as the definition of horror that I'll be using for this review.
Hearts and Minds was played up as a friday the thirteenth episode, one dealing with horror. This is cool, and a pretty solid departure from typical sci-fi of the trek genre. Frankly, it shows in the writing. Whoever wrote this, I feel, needs a return to a basic primer of just what horror is.
The entire purpose of horror is, like said above, to play upon our primal fears, our terrors and our nightmares. The biggest of these, however, is playing upon the fear of the UNKNOWN. The monster in the closet is terrifying because we can't see it. The shadow frightens because of what it could contain. The monster we conjure in our minds is always, without fail, scarier than the one we have on screen. It is the reason that most horror movies are dark. We can't see well in it, and who knows what the darkness contains. Darkness is, as well, one of our primal fears. Predators lurk in the dark.
This episode failed to provide enough of this unknown mystery element throughout. From the beginning, the mission log sounds ominous. We're quite well telegraphed that SOMETHING will go wrong, simply from how this is toned. This was played up, so we knew this coming in. I'll let it slide as we'd probably not be fooled anyway.
Secondarily, the mission objectives are laid out simple, easy, and coldly on our sidebar. Now come on. The easiest way to give us unknown in a mission like this would be to make nebulous the kind of thing we're encountering next. Simply editing these to be more ominous, less specific, or even more thematic would go a long way.
The final issue with the unknown element is that we're given too much information. His journals are clean, concise, easy to understand. We're not really given any sort of suspense regarding what it is he's doing. Our bridge officer of choice doesn't help, bumbling behind us like the more annoying iterations of Watson. "He's been cut open. Someone else must be nearby!" No, really?! Our characters couldn't have figured that one out? This mission would have been much more enjoyable had the information been laid out, allowing us to draw our own conclusions. We find him there, cut open, scanned. That's all you need to tell us. We can figure out on our own that someone did that. We aren't two. Most easily solved by simply removing the bridge officer and making it a solo mission.
Removing our buddy would also add to the horror, as that plays on our primal fear of power, or not having it. There's a reason why slavery is so abhorrent, imprisonment a deterrent, and kidnapping so heinous. All of these remove an individual's power over their situation. It's also the reason that most horror (that doesn't move into the thriller or zombie-killing areas) present protagonists with weak or ineffectual weapons. That's why Drozana worked so well. These otherworldy beings, resistant to our weapons, seemingly killing at whim... That's power. Even with a full team, at the basement there are times when you feel outmatched and outmaneuvered.
Having us kill spiders breaks that. Shatters it. From that point on, we're encouraged to go through guns blazing, shoot first and ask questions later. That's action, not horror. This is a pity, since there was such hope when the turrets came online, giving us the feeling that the environment is against us. Even better when the gas began flooding the room. We're powerless to stop that with conventional means. We need to be clever. We need to use our brains. I was sorely disappointed that the need to go around a problem rather than shoot it dead didn't run throughout the episode.
While it's not required, I believe that in a story, any story, there should be some sort of plot. This means a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning sets up the plot, tells us what we need to know. I thought that the beginning of this was alright. We were told to check up on him, yadda yadda, pretty standard.
The middle was mediocre. Something's gone wrong. However, we don't get a sense of what that is (which is good) but nor do we get any sort of leading clues as to what it is (turning our curiosity to indifference). The logs don't work to convey that sense of suspense, of giving us just enough to lead us along. More logs, and making them more fragmented throughout the room, would have done this, I think, as well as let us build a sense of atmosphere that was sorely lacking after that second door.
The end was HORRID. Clones. They're not my clones. I don't get primal terror from clones in vats anymore than I do when seeing twins. They don't act in tandem, they don't... do, anything. And we have to shoot them. From this point on, we're given out power back. We know what we're fighting (it's the middle's problem that we don't really know WHY) and we have an easy means to do so. Namely, our guns.
The final encounter was beyond disappointing. They simply attack us after shouting what ends up being a garbled mess. They don't act in sync, they don't strike me as clones, or even moderately related by the way they act. They should express teamwork, they should express tactics! This is a limitation of the game engine's AI, which should have told you that this ending is unfeasible.
After that combat... we're done. There's no wrap-up, there's no ability to see additional information, we're not allowed to solve it. All we get is another blithe comment from our second (this time spouting information we didn't get enough information to deduce ourselves), and told to gtfo. No, no, no.
A minor, by comparison, quibble. We got a clone reward. Really? These moral abominations we're supposed to be terrified of, and we take one on as an ADVISOR, of all things?! That would be like going out, beating the zombie horde, then taking one and making him your butler.
All in all, this episode showed promise at the beginning, but rapidly deteriorated. For the first room, which I would play again if bolted to something decent (and the mission's only true redeeming feature), I would give this mission a 2 out of 5. There is no replay value.
tl;dr version -
-Atmosphere needs to be darkened, and the interface needs to be less blatant.
-Make it a solo mission.
-Reduce or eliminate the combat.
-Increase the suspense by showing glimpses and teasing, not telling us dumps of garbled facts.
-Ending makes no sense.
-Reward is headscratching.
-2 of 5.
-Would not play again.
I'd have to agree with the assessment of this mission as reported by the OP. I found the mission to be quite laughable in terms of "horror" or "Creepy"..
SPOILERS: Mad Vulcan Scientist who clones himself and something goes horribly wrong? Ho hum.. The only funny thing is that the clones, in some versions, look like Freddy Kruger. The mission honestly could have been made it be abit.. longer. Making you hunt through a much larger station.. running across bodes every where.. A person getting killed, defeating that enemy.. and then a minute or two later.. the "Wait a minute.. didn't we just kill him? What the?" Would have gone a long way to getting creepy. You want a lesson in Creepy? The Drozana Mission where you have to go down into the Station's Bowels was freeking Creepy.. And any time I do that mission and hear the creepy Hologram's little Speech I always get the chills. Never fails.
We should have had to drag near invincible enemies back into that security room and turn it on them.. Lock them in there.. Might have been better tbh..
Ah well.. at least we get a free Doff and a new Lirpa with strange new powahs... Yay.. Nice try Cryptic. Better luck next time.
Umm okay stargate525, thank you for your thoughtful 1000 word Master's thesis meta-analysis of the mission. Please pick up your diploma with our dean's heartfelt congratulations.
Seriously, the mission is straightforward and almost too easy. Except the isolinear chip puzzle which is nearly impossible to do without dying a dozen or so times. I get the feeling that the Cryptic Powers That Be held a 10 minute meeting to decide what the player base thought of as "horror" and came to the brilliant conclusion that it had something to do with evil scientists. Too hard at first, then too easy.
"No wonder cloning is an ethically murky issue." What was that? Preaching, or a moral that was simply an afterthought? I thought I was playing a MMO that was made by adults intended for adults, but apparently it was made by simpletons for children with weak hearts. Really!
I can't believe I paid a Lifetime sub for a flimsy mission that is best demoted to the Foundry, along with thousands of self-replicated Lockboxes!!
For a horror themed mission it failed for me, it was too easy and i felt in no way in peril as if something was going to come bursting out of the walls to get me or my compainion (that would have been cool having your companion/follower taken in the middle of combat when the lights go out suddenly).
Having the place much darker so you have to use a light until you could reroute power would have been better imo as that would have made it creepier while exploring
The reward at the end was nice but wierd - looks like you kidnapped a clone lol
I'd really hope to see Cryptic sponsor a Halloween-themed Foundry mission contest this August. (Two months development time, leading to the late October judging/prize announcement.)
I was really disappointed with this "Hearts and Minds" episode, too.
It was hobbled together too quickly. I liked the chamber with the... (no spoiler given). But beyond that, the mission fell flat. It was a nice try for Friday the 13th. But some new map assets would have been welcome.
STO player PoisonFox posted a "Hearts and Minds - Speed Run " video link to Twitter (as picked up by StarbaseUGC's Twitter feed).