Thursday, 10 September 2020

Digital Fleets: Star Trek Online Starships Collection Issues Three and Four

What if the Galaxy Class took a jump forward into the 25th Century? What changes would be made to this already iconic design?

Issue three of the Online Starships series answers that question with the Andromeda Class - bigger, meaner, sleeker than its 24th Century inspiration but with just enough there to make the classic lineage recognisable.

Taking the move to a circular saucer over the elliptical Galaxy Class, the USS Andromeda model immediately sets the tone; it's the same but with a slightly different agenda. 

The model is as good in quality as that very first issue of the original starship collection with extensive detailing across the hull to the very tip of those sleek warp nacelles. Up front, the primary hull sticks to an off-white base coat neatly accented with darker grey striping at the edge and centre of the circle. The lifeboat hatches too are carefully dotted in with the imprints in the hull lining up against the change in colour. There's a lot of colour going on here with darker greys adding highlights but also making this model feel very cluttered.

Tragically too, the ship name and registry number haven't been applied too well to the surface, disappearing into the deflector grid lines and in some respects almost being illegible. This might, of course, be on purpose but the effect, along with the paintwork, make this ship look older than it should and in a way, worn out - that edging grey for example looks like it could have done with another coat but somehow it works and is an unusual choice for a Federation starship.

The features on that saucer are in keeping with the "older" Galaxy design encompassing a raised two-tier central section now widened to the rear rather than tapering in sharply. Fortunately that central section really comes to life through the multiple paint levels and blocking paired up with the rather delicate red stripes paralleling towards the top of the Andromeda's main shuttle bay.

The bottom of the saucer removes the thick outer edge stripe of grey with two rows of lifeboat hatches drawing down into the phaser arc then a darker hull curve to the centre. Now here's the biggest issue with the Andromeda. The lifeboat hatches look great however the decals on the sensor array/captain's yacht are way out of alignment as is the registry. The speckling of the paint in that inner ring isn't too clean either giving a dirty effect to the hull. 

This is pretty much the only thing to shake your head at with this one though because the secondary hull is packed with detail. The spine running down to the back of the engineering hull has a bit of everything. Red decalling, two further shuttlebays and a large, brightly painted up impulse engine. That worn effect from the dark greys of the saucer have made their way down onto the secondary hull and raise focus onto the curves of the class shape - especially down to the "chicken leg" style pylons that have echoes from the original plan for the Enterprise-E, sweeping forward rather than back and out.

It's a great section of detail and variation with the key elements of the ship crystal clear to see and marked up. To the front there's a translucent blue deflector which means you do see the holes underneath it into which it's attached but we do have the addition of some fine golden detailing on the deflector panels. The bottom of this hull too is well presented with a large dark grey piece slicing down the centre with more hatches lining the surface. You can even make out the tractor beam emplacement sunk into the hull at the back before it sweeps up into the flat area at the very rear.

The engines look amazing and while familiar in their wide, flat-topped approach, the detail on them is much heightened versus the Galaxy Class. The pennant striping is reduced in comparison with some impressive cut-out sections that allow you to "see" the warp grilles from above as well as along the edges of the engines.

The bussard collectors are more protected too in keeping with a more military outlook for the 25th Century online fleet, only visible through narrow slits to the front, shrouded in the housings. One of the biggest differences to its hallowed lineage is the decision to taper the nacelles vertically and as the magazine notes, this is one piece that gives the ship the impression that it's always in motion even when it's not.

Cudos also to Eaglemoss for the detail on the thick neck connecting the two main sections of the ship. Reknowned to be fiddly as hell to paint in, this time there are actual windows all the way up and on both sides of the curved structure. 

The resulting Andromeda Class model is, aside from the decalling disaster under the saucer, a brilliant replica from the online game and I'm amazed just how much work has gone into this one. The panelling detail is off the chart, the phasers all have decalled red curves at their ends; everything is just about perfect and genuinely exciting to look at. Comparing it to the Galaxy Class model in some ways does this one a disservice because there's a lot more depth to the product than we saw so many years back. I'm seriously impressed how much there is on the ship!

As you might imagine, the issue three magazine turns its attention in-universe to the development of the class from the fabled Galaxy line of the 24th Century and the mission parameters that aided in its design and build. The simple line off the back of it for the "real" world comes from how to take the classic, iconic and instantly recognisable shape of the Enterprise-D and make it relevant to the 25th Century as envisaged by Cryptic. The articles in here do well to cover both bases although you do sense that this lineage is much more concerned with its defensive abilities than before! 

To our first non-Federation ship now and we welcome in the Klingons with their digital flagship, the IKS Bortasqu'. 

What a design. Taking over from the Negh'Var, the Bortasqu' is a space-faring battle platform that looks lethal even in diecast form. The shape is distinctly Klingon with that large "head" leading into the neck piece and back into a wide engineering section where the engines lie out to the sides. 

The paintwork right across this one is stunning with the green, main colour overlaid with light grey sections which, here, look as though the base coat is wearing through in patches. The magazine makes the Bortasqu' appear cleaner and better painted however the model is a much more worthy version in every way that benefits from the wear and tear applied here.

The panel lines are much deeper than on a Federation ship such as the Andromeda Class above, notably on the neck and centre line but this may be down to the contrast grey painting that draws out the prominence of the hull detail. 

Windows are painted onto the hull in white with no indents to line up against and these can be seen along the neck into the blocky engineering section. Before we get there though, take a good look into the upper unit sitting atop the neckpiece. This is an extra piece fixed on and stretching down to the main hull from what appears as a secondary bridge unit.

I love the attention to detail on this ship and it's one of the most inspiring Klingon designs for years. The model itself feels substantial; there's a weight to it and the Bortasqu' even in metal and plastic radiates danger. The split line on the ship is perhaps more evident around the wing and pylon assembly, cutting horizontally and around the engines as well as extending forward to just before that scythe-shaped front piece.

What continues to be effectual across the ship is the choice to go with a paint scheme that doesn't mirror and reflects the wear and potential exterior neglect that you wouldn't experience on a Federation ship for example. Oddly though the green base coat, which does feature aztecing, doesn't have a scratch on it - maybe just not worth paying the extra for the highlights?

The blocky rear also contains a brilliant bit of design echoing a feature on the Odyssey Class USS Enterprise-F in that it has a Bird of Prey docked and ready for action. Sitting proud of the ship you can see the red and green warp engines but it's only when directly looking from the back that you appreciate its wings cut through the hull when docked and you can see the wingtip cannons painted grey when you take a look from the bottom up. The detail here is fascinating and this is a unique feature that Eaglemoss have wisely included in the Bortasqu' model.

At the rear the impulse engines, like the red detailing at the front are painted in but out on the engines the warp grilles within the pods are translucent, creating a glow around the units that there should have been more of to truly lift this model. 

Aside from the mention of the Bird of Prey guns that sit docked into the hull when viewed from below, the paint combination of azteced green and grey/blue highlights. The ventral profile of the Bortasqu' is nowhere on a par to the structure of topside, but it does retain the bird-like patterning and chunks of grey to break up the green.

Note also the numerous lifeboat hatches on the bottom here and none on the top - they line the edges of the engines plus along the centre line closest to all of the main habitable areas - but strangely none near the bridge - note of duty bound bridge crew perhaps? An expectation of the rank? 

Decalled only with a pair of Klingon emblems on the sweeping wings, the very presence of the Bortasqu' comes from its chunky, brutal design that is well conveyed through the structure of the Eaglemoss model. The panelling is fairly subtle but the contrast of the grey/green is magical and only bettered with the choice to have it chipped and worn. We might only be four issues into this series but already this design and product have set a high line for expectation.

What has become apparent already is just how far that level of detail online has translated into the models we've already seen released. They are damn close screen-accurate, perh
aps even that little edge above because those pixels have been smoothed out and aligned to a "real world" reflection. The Bortasqu' has also marked the first ship to include extra pieces attached - the underslung arc element to the front, the mini Bird of Prey engines to the rear, the central structure - all building on that main hull and completing an impressive - and large - Klingon flagship fit to take on the Enterprise-F.

In the magazine we have a decent write up on the creation of the new flagship itself and what is now clear from these is the length that the Online team have gone to in order to create backstories for the ships in the game. While the TV ships were sometimes cobbled together for one shot to fit a brief, these have real depth into why they look a certain way and what would have led to their inception both from the in-game and real world developer perspectives. It makes for a better read throughout with the magazine here - as with previous editions, taking both paths individually and clearly.

Two more issues in and this collection is really hotting up with some sensational models. The magazines are an insight (especially for someone who isn't that heavily into Star Trek Online) but shows the care, attention and overall love that Cryptic know they need to put into the game to keep fans interested and engaged with the stories and the craft they can command. There's a spark here that resonates off the screen and into the models which I wasn't expecting and certainly the arrival of the Bortasaqu' has heightened my interest in dipping a toe into the game once more. 

There isn't a clear preference either this month because these two just look so damn great. The Klingon flagship might have a slight advantage because the decals are all in the right place but you can't quibble with the overall structure of the two in any way. Great models, great magazines and overall a brilliant delivery!

You can find out more on the Star Trek Online Official Starships Collection by visiting the Hero Collector website HERE

What's been your favourite so far? Is this collection what you expected? Drop a comment below!

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