I was excited to hear about Azure Rescue getting a remaster, as it's definitely a tedious TFO (and of course it's what I "randomly" do every fifth random TFO run on my KDF recruit). Then the event launches, and I'm immediately disappointed to see it's not really remastered at all, it's just had the lighting switched up, subcommander Mivek is replaced by commander Jarok (although we still hear Mivek's lines when ships are rescued), and the optionals are marginally more forgiving (The only reason we ever failed them in the original version was if we got nothing but 1's and 2's to rescue, and I'll address that later). It's still horribly tedious and just not fun. So, after some discussions with my fleetmates about it, I'd like to offer some suggestions for giving it a proper revamp and hopefully make it a bit more frantic and fun.
1: Shorter time limit. Nice and simple. Any of the TFOs ultimately predicated on simply killing stuff as fast as you can (Borg TFOs, etc.) will be done in 3-5 minutes, even faster if you've got anyone with decent DPS in the group. As much as I miss the early days of the 1-2 hour STFs that required coordinated effort to finish we all know TFOs are meant to be short. And especially if we're trying to grind marks by smashing that random button, we don't want to get bogged down in a TFO that's gonna take 12-15 minutes when we could have done three of the other ones for significantly more marks. We're just gonna roll our eyes and sigh in frustration.
To that end, I propose shortening Azure Rescue by two minutes. I know, it might not seem like a lot, but it'll definitely help reduce making the mission feel like a drag.
2: More spawn points. Four spawn points means constant player overlap, and wasted firepower. Even on my KDF recruit with mediocre gear, I can solo clear a 1-point Tholian group in about 10 seconds, and a 5-point group in about 25-30. My main can do it in half that time. Multiple players converging on a spawn point is essentially a waste unless it's a 3- or 5-point group and multiple players are attacking them with absolute trash gear.
Increasing the number of spawn points to six, or even eight perhaps, means that the players can spread out, not sit around singing kumbaya together while they disable tractor beams, and even have room to make actual strategic decisions as to where they want to go to next. Do I head for the T'liss or the Falchion? I know that's what you try to do with this TFO in its current form, but right now it doesn't matter because another player is already going to be there anyway.
3: Variable tractor beam counts. Further to the strategic angle, I propose changing the number of tractor beams holding each type of ship. It seems a tad weird to me they have the exact same setup holding a tiny little T'liss as a big ol' Falchion. I would suggest either changing it so there's only one beam for a T'liss, two for a Dhelan, three for a Ha'apex, and the full four for a Falchion. That, or change it so that the beams disable faster for smaller ships (e.g. two seconds per beam on a T'liss instead of eight).
So now there's a legit speed difference in freeing ships that's independent of player DPS, and those strategic decisions actually start to mean something.
4: Captured ship scaling. What I mean by this is, particularly in the old version of the TFO, you were very much at the mercy of RNG for what ships spawn (though that's still a factor here). I've had more than a few runs where I never saw a single Falchion spawn. A simple fix for this, I think, would be to add some under-the-hood tracking so that after X number of points' worth of ships are rescue, a Falchion automatically spawns. It's entirely possible increasing the number of spawn points would address this too, but if the optionals and number of marks we get is going to be contingent on the total points value of ships we rescue, I think having guaranteed spawns of Ha'apxes and Falchions would help with reducing player frustration.
5: Add an optional to defend the Lleiset. Like, seriously, why are there even extra groups of Tholians attacking the Lleiset? They're literally nothing but a minor distraction or something to do because the ship spawns are so slow and/or the rest of the group already wiped out the other Tholians anyway.
So let's make them more interesting. The Tholians captured a bunch of random Romulan ships. And now the Republic is sending its flagship into their territory to rescue them. That would make a pretty tempting target, I think. So instead of just a small group spawning every few minutes, it's constant waves of Tholians attacking it (at least equivalent to a 3-point group, maybe equivalent to a 5-point group on harder difficulties), trying to disable it. As an optional to keep it functional, that adds actual incentive to defend it instead of just ignoring those extra Tholians (and it's not like they do any damage to it right now anyway). You might even need to have one player stay on defense duty, kinda like with the starbase from Days of Doom.
Conclusion: A shorter time limit, more spawn points for ships and variable tractor beams to allow for actual strategic decision-making, built-in guaranteed Ha'apex and Falchion spawns so we're not screwed by RNG, and an actual reason to defend the Lleiset during the operation. I think that sounds a lot more entertaining than what we've got right now. Thanks for reading.