Let's face it—there are better things to do with your fleetmates in Star Trek Online (STO) than Special Task Force (STF) missions. A group colonoscopy, for instance, would be more fun.
Having done The Cure and been seriously annoyed by fighting through miles and miles of endlessly respawning Borg, I was not too excited about doing it more than once. In fact, four of us Lotus fleetmates had teamed up to do Khitomer Accords, when we learned that our fifth fleetmate, Trusty Friend Brigham, hadn't successfully completed The Cure and couldn't come with us. In fact, he mentioned that he'd tried it twelve times before, always unsuccessfully. The other four of us, naturally, viewed this as A Challenge That Must Be Overcome, mostly because it was going to be great fun to say “13th time's the charm!!” I think poor Brigham was rather dubious, but our enthusiasm could not be squashed. Plus, it meant he could be a 5th teammate the next weekend for the Khitomer Accords STF. Never let it be said that we don't have ulterior motives.
For those not familiar with The Cure, you have to rescue Klingons being assimilated by the Borg, collect genetic samples from those that died while the Borg attempted to assimilate them, and finally, rescue Captain Ja'rod from Armek of Borg. This is actually a cool plotline, except for the fact that a. there's unfortunately no more to the story than that, and b. it's all pew-pew the entire mission.
We hopped in our ships and headed over to the Vorn system to see what those sneaky Klingons were up to with the Borg. We arrived in system to, naturally, find the Borg beating up on the Klingons, just like the Borg had beaten up on the Federation just a little while earlier in The Infected mission. Being the generous souls we are, we didn't just beam out of the system, we decided to help the Klingons. We quickly kicked Borg butt in space, and then beamed down to the planet's surface to collect genetic samples to find 'the cure' for Klingon assimilation.
This is where we had the chance to try out the new Season 4 ground combat features. The first thing we did was cheer that the Interlink Nodes were gone and that the trash mobs had been reduced. The next thing we did was groan at how long it took to use the remodulator on our weapons when the Borg adapted, and the fact that it HAD to be on the hotbar. This means one less slot for something important, like, oh, hyposprays, shield charges, a Borg tribble, the Ophidian cane, a Battle Horta, and things that would otherwise be more desirable for staying alive.
We also noticed quite a time disparity between how fast the Borg can adapt to our weapons, and how quickly we can remodulate our weapons:
Borg: We Are The Borg. We shall adapt to your weapons in .004 seconds.
Teammates: We Are Lotus Fleet! We shall hit you with this cool remodulator thingy that allows us to overcome your adaptation! The animation takes only...(oh, crap)...at least 5 seconds, WHILE THE BORG CONTINUE SHOOTING AT US.
We then discovered that Trusty Friend Jeff T didn't even have a remodulator, which prompted Trusty Friend Crist's comment, “Dude, that's like shooting blanks!” I felt compelled to remind Crist that most guys don't like being told they're 'shooting blanks'. Fortunately, Trusty Friend Athos had a spare remodulator thingy, which turned Jeff's shots into something far less blank-like.
One of the most frustrating mechanics, dreamed up by developers who clearly thought this would be another great way to torture their boss if the Perilous Pit of Pervasively Plentiful Plasma in Infected was not enough, is the one where you have to protect 4 transformers as they activate so you can power down the shields. Worker drones do not like their transformers being activated, and try to thwart this at all costs. They do this so effectively that it took us at least 3 tries or more to get them down. There are four shields in this mission, so we had to go through this in quadruplicate, not unlike filling out military paperwork. Brigham seriously thought that we were going to have to go for the 14th or maybe 100th try on the Cure after dying for the zillionth time. Fortunately, we knew CPR and could help.
At one point, I looked up at the top of one of the forcefields blocking our path and noticed nice, open, blue sky above. This made me wonder why one of our ships didn't just beam us up and over the forcefields and then plop us down on the other side. I will have to question my engineering officer and/or Cryptic about this lapse in grasping the obvious.
Finally, we made it to the section with the generator. It was crawling with Borg, now including female Borg, one of which actually seemed to fly in the air at one point. We all thought this was rather entertaining other than the fact that she then attacked us from behind.
The generator section is the most fun in the entire STF. If the team runs into the middle of it, everyone dies horribly. If everyone stays at the edge of the zone and works as a team to pull patrols back to them, it works beautifully. This was what I liked about the STF—we had to be careful, we had to use all our skills, we had to work as a team, and then we accomplished it. It wasn't fast, but it was fun. Watching the generator explode was icing on the cake. This is what an STF should be all about, not a non-stop pew-pew-fest.
The last task was to take out Armek of Borg so that we could rescue Captain Ja'rod. Before Season 4, this meant having a science officer go up to Armek with a melee weapon, use heals, shields, and all healing skills, and tank him while the rest of the team sniped at him from various positions. I did this for Lotus Fleet in Season 3, and it only took me a couple minutes.
That changed in Season 4.
When the Cryptic devs said “the STF bosses are harder”, what they meant was, “We devs are looking forward to seeing you players worshipping the respawn button.” I tried to tank Armek like I had in the previous playthrough. It took me forever to get him to just half of his HP, and mind you, I have a purple Mark XI Lirpa, a purple mark XI Borg Medical kit, and points thrown into ground skills, unlike a lot of my fleetmates who focus solely on space combat. Finally, everything was recharging and Armek hammered me. I faceplanted and had to respawn. We all had to respawn multiple times, because Armek could one-shot each of us. This was horrendously frustrating. Fortunately, Athos found a secret hidey spot where he could crouch, shoot past the shields, and not get one-shot himself. He slowly whittled down Armek’s HP, and finally, he got the SOB. The rest of us cheered.
After that, we had to beam back up to space, obliterate some ships that were docked, and then fight off a wave of assimilated ships, all in under 30 minutes. I think we did it in 9 minutes, because We Are Lotus Fleet, and We Rock.
We then collected our loot—a 200,000 EC Borg Graviton Deflector Array, which is part of a set. I already had one from the previous run-through of The Cure. So, I zoned to Sol Spacedock to sell it. I thought this was a rather decent reward after 4-ish hours of work and hardly any drops otherwise. Guess what? You can’t even vendor the damn thing. Why? Because apparently making any kind of EC after spending 4 hours on an STF seems to be too much to expect. So, I cashed in my Mark X turret and my shield battery instead. I guess I’ll put this extra deflector array that I really don’t need on my shuttle craft. I can’t tell you how excited I am at this prospect.