Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Road Maps!

Since I had some time to kill while waiting for the new Star Wars trailer, I figured I’d jot down some thoughts on SWTOR’s latest roadmap, as well some other related news that came out of this week’s Twitch chat and NYC Cantina.

My first impression was very positive. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it are always good things. And being exciting about what is to come makes it even better. My biggest frustration with Knights of the Eternal Throne has been the gaps between new content and not knowing when they’d be filled We’re still well over a month away from the next chapter in the story of Theron’s betrayal, and it’s disappointing to learn that the Gods from the Machine Operation will not conclude this year. I’m psyched to see what happens on Copero and the new op has been really fun so far, but I do feel like content has been released at a snail’s pace this year.

Server Mergers

Of course, the big changes coming early next month are the server mergers. These have been long anticipated and truthfully long needed. Personally, I am nervous about them. I play on Ebon Hawk, and it has been a remarkably chill place to call home. I worry that the new Star Forge server won’t be as relaxed and welcoming to new players. And the possibility of losing character names is not great either. If I have to rename any of my favorite characters, I will be pretty grumpy about it.

That said, the mergers are necessary. Those low population servers are booby traps for new players. Discovering that you can count the Fleet population on one hand, that flashpoint queues take hours to pop even at peak times and that the GTN is devoid of anything of value completely sucks. The need for multiple servers is outdated for even much more popular games, and I can’t fault SWTOR for ditching barren servers so that new players will have the chance to actually interact with others if they choose.

It will be up to the players to create a server identity worth being proud of. Should we cross paths, gentle reader, I promise I won’t freak out if you want to watch the cut scenes, don’t know the fights or want to take on a bonus boss.

Devoting as Much Space to the Hot Prospect/Satele Shan Thing as it Deserves

All’s well that ends well.

Galactic Command

The Galactic Command system has been the cause of much consternation, and living through its growing pains wasn’t always great, but I think the Bioware team has done a good job iterating it into a pretty good place, with the changes to come helping to smooth out more rough edges. There are a change or two more I’d like to see, but I suspect the next expansion/gear reset will go much smoother.

One of the things about Command XP has been that it has been something of moving target. Uprisings, PVP, Flashpoint and Ops, and dailies have all seen their time in the spotlight as the best way to gain CXP. I doubt it was intentional, but I do think this has worked out to be a good thing and has kept things a bit fresher for folks whenever they want to farm up some Command levels. Going forward, I hope this is something Bioware keeps in mind.

Cuts, Copero and Companions

Bioware dropped more hints about the content to come this week beyond the road map. The most striking has been the teaser revealing Theron’s new look. I almost feel bad for mocking his faux-hawk a few weeks ago. Good ol’ Theron; he’s always one for rash decisions.

I get the same vibe from the betrayal story as I did from “Forged Alliances” at the end of The Rise of the Hutt Cartel, so it seems likely that we’re building to a cliff-hanger for the next expansion. However, I imagine the soonest we see a new expansion would be early summer.

On the way, I’m always happy to visit new flashpoints. Copero’s design takes elements from Makeb, Alderaan, and Rakata Prime but assembles them in way that makes it feel unique. The Chiss are probably the Expanded Universe’s most enduring contribution to Star Wars lore, and I’m looking forward to exploring their culture more.

During the SWTOR team’s twitch chat last week, lead writer Charles Boyd teased the return of many still missing companions, name dropping most but not all (Come home, Nadia!), and this is most welcome and overdue news. One of my hopes for the next expansion is to see more focus on those beloved but side-lined characters and romances that haven’t seen much daylight since launch.

Catch me in the right mood and I’ll grouse that I think this expansion will probably end more or less in a state in which it should’ve launched. That may overstate things, and I’ve very much welcomed the news we’ve had this week. I hope the development teams remains engaged with the community. Since I’m eagerly awaiting halftime of tonight’s football game, I think it’s fair to borrow a sport’s metaphor: keep the chains moving, guys!

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, KotFE

I’m a Space Cowboy, on a Steel Bantha I Ride

This week, let’s turn our attention to some monitors that first appeared in Chapter 10 of Knights of the Fallen Empire, “Anarchy in Paradise”. The walls of the Overwatch headquarters are lined with wanted posters for a wide variety of criminals who flaunt the laws of the Eternal Empire.

The three posters I’ve recreated this week have also made their way into our Strongholds as decorations, but there are several more, which I’ll be sure to check out in the weeks to come.

The display on the left is easily the most remarkable of all the posters since it seems to feature a distant ancestor of Ahsoka Tano, the popular hero from The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels animated series. By her armor, this Tano looks to be a bounty hunter who is operating in cahoots with a Gamorrean and Ortolan, which suggests that she might have ties to the Hutt Cartel.

The right poster features someone who I imagine is a renegade from Sith Intelligence that continued to act against Zakuul even after the Sith Empire’s surrender. I am certain that a rogue cipher agent operating within the Eternal Empire could cause no end of trouble.

Last but not least, we have a Twi’lik bounty hunter with a very cool name. However, this poster, as well as the one for the Sith agent, shows that the Eternal Empire would not be bothered with such minor technicalities as spell checking in the pursuit of wanted criminals.

Many of the Overwatch posters share elements and text with each other, and several draw on elements from other signs in the game. The five letters atop the first poster appear in many, many other places, and the text beneath Tano’s known associates is amusingly non sequitur and seems to be drawn from a list of common Aurebesh phrases that appear elsewhere, such as the GTN screens.

The content of these posters basically amounts to what a friend of mine would call “useless flavor text”, but it sure would be cool if some of these characters showed up in the game. I’m certain folks would get a kick out of crossing paths with Ahsoka’s bounty hunting great-great-great grand ma.

They Say It’s My Birthday

Finally, this post marks exactly one year since I’ve started this blog. I hope visitors to this site have gotten a kick out of seeing elements of SWTOR in a slightly different light. I want to thank everyone who has given me feedback, corrections, and suggestions. It is all appreciated. I should also give special thanks to SWTOR Central, Xam Xam Says, Going Commando, Swtorista and FibroJedi for the shout outs, links and help over this past year. And, of course, major props to my friends from New Outriders who make SWTOR feel like home!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English

Back in Black

In honor of the bug that has, for the time being at least, turned daily questing zones into CXP bonanzas, I thought I’d a pay a visit to the Black Hole section of the planet Corellia.

The Black Hole is home to the HyperMatter Corporation, which refined and sold hypermatter, the extremely volatile fuel used by the fastest hyperdrives in the galaxy. The notoriously corrupt Corellian councilor Torvix attempted to seize control of this hypermatter manufacturing center, but instead only attracted the ire of both the Republic and the Sith Empire. The conflict between the three factions turned the Black Hole into a warzone overrun with toxic sludge and rampaging gang members.

This daily hub features several logos, signs and posters related to the HyperMatter Corporation that appear no where else in the game. The sign above boasts of HyperMatter’s commitment to safety, but the fact that radioactive waste literally runs through the streets and basements of the neighborhood suggest that these claims might be slightly exaggerated.

This sign seems to feature one of the taglines featured in their advertising. I don’t doubt HyperMatter’s desire to see their fuel sold across the galaxy, but it’s also worth noting that the poster makes no mention of whether their product would be fairly or affordably priced.

Finally, here is an advertisement clearly aimed at Corellia’s large and infamous population of smugglers and hotshot pilots. I’m certain a crate or two of hypermatter could shave a parsec or two off many a freighter’s run, but hopefully it won’t also cause that ship to be consumed by an explosion of tachyonic plasma should the gas cap not be screwed on tight enough!

These signs are pretty cool, and I’d like to see all of them (as well as a Hypermatter crate) added to the roster of stronghold decorations. I should point out, however, that they do include some “incorrect” Aurebesh punctuation and use the comma glyphs when periods were probably intended. In the interest of clarity, I corrected the punctuation in my recreations.

I think SWTOR has a pretty good track record when it comes to its daily quest zones, and I’ve always found them an enjoyable way to kill time in the game, especially compared to the far less interesting heroics. That the ridiculously excessive CXP rewards have breathed some life back into these areas has been pretty neat and it’s nice to see people running around them again.

 

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Watch (Your) Step

This week, let’s look at this large sign, which I’ve seen on Coruscant, Corellia and Cademimu.

That this is a warning sign is pretty obvious whether you can read the Aurebesh or not. The eye is drawn to the prominent orange text and striped bar that indicate that the sign contains important safety information.

Beyond that, there is a lot going on here. It shares a similar design and graphical elements with many other signs in the game; in addition, it also includes a bit of clunky grammar which is also not unusual. At first glance, I thought the star graphic used in the background was the logo of the Black Sun criminal syndicate, but I quickly realized that it relates to the “Sun Section” referenced in the sign. Twelve must be someone’s lucky number because the digits pop up no less than four times on this one graphic. The large D  or “Dorn” letter is a common sight on other Aurebesh signs as well. In my recreation, I italicized the letter to make it more closely match the angle of its Aurebesh counterpart.

Finally, the tiny text in the left sidebar of the black, bottom section is probably also aurebesh, but if it contains any juicy tidbits, I can’t say since the text is far too small and low resolution for me to decipher.

Despite sharing elements with many other Aurebesh graphics in the game, this sign remains distinct from its siblings and works well in a variety of settings across the galaxy.

 

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Your Number is 2187, Isn’t it?

Your humble blogger is feeling a tad under the weather, so this week I thought I’d choose an easy sign to translate. While the recreation was a fairly simple task, this sign did lead to an aspect of Star Wars history to which I had not been aware prior to researching this post.

This sign is similar in style to many others found around Coruscant and other developed worlds of the Republic. It contains the usual bits of random letters and numbers, a neat calibration icon, a warning about stellar regulations, and a gentle reminder to always secure your safety harness when traveling by speeder.

While the large numbers atop the sign may seem random at first glance. They are far from it. Many fans will recognize them as the number of Princess Leia’s cell in Star Wars. And the numbers would come to even further attention as Finn’s stormtrooper designation in The Force Awakens.

The number’s true origin lies in the name of a short film titled 21-87 by Arthur Lipsett. This film had a profound effect on George Lucas as a young filmmaker, influencing Lucas’ aesthetic style and his habit of titling his early movies with numbered sequences; perhaps most importantly the film provided Lucas with the initial inspiration for the concept of the Force, which would lead directly to our beloved Jedi heroes and Sith villains.

The movie itself is quite abstract, occasionally disturbing, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s interesting to see something that had such a seminal influence on Star Wars. “In terms of understanding the power of sound and picture relationships there is no one better than Arthur Lipsett,” George Lucas said of the man who created 21-87.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, General Star Wars

Crisis on Umbara Review

This week, I’d like to share my review of the Crisis on Umbara flashpoint and story. I’ll divide this post into two sections, the first is spoiler free and the second shall delve deep into spoiler territory.

Part One: Last Train to Umbara

Crisis on Umbara is well done and is everything I want from a flashpoint. The designers did a fantastic job with the new environment, and filled it with a neat variety of new creatures and foes. Crisis is filled many cool moments, from moving through and over the train cars to escaping the crash and exploring the purple, glowing Umbaran terrain with its weird creatures including half-dinosaur, half-mantis predators and an enormous and terrifying iridescent landshark of a boss.

Each boss encounter is distinct and all the fights require some understanding of mechanics, regardless of mode. Solo and Veteran mode are appropriately forgiving, but while I wouldn’t say they are tough, these modes require a bit more personal responsibility on the part of the players than most other flashpoints. I’m okay with that. Crisis’ Solo mode is the first not to include the GSI Support Droid which is so ridiculously powerful that it makes the players irrelevant and we end up more spectators than participants in the action. In my book, this change is a good one, and while I haven’t run solo mode to death, it feels on par with a tougher planetary heroic, which is where I’d imagine it should be.

Master Mode, on the other hand, is no joke; it is easily the most difficult Master Mode Flashpoint in the game. Because of real life concerns, my usual crew hasn’t yet seen the final boss, but so far fights are big and satisfying challenges, as they should be for the toughest mode.

I do have some nits to pick however. As cool as Umbara is, I do feel like it should be darker. While the first third takes place on a high-tech train, and it’s reasonable that the outdoor boss areas be illuminated, I wish the rest of the environment had better evoked the world’s appearance in The Clone Wars where the characters were often seen in silhouette and it seemed monsters could jump out of murky shadows at any moment. Umbara’s shadowy nature is right there in its name, but both Ilum and Imperial Taris are darker, and when I recall how well another flashpoint, Kaon Under Siege used darkness, it makes me think Crisis could’ve used a bit more shadowy atmosphere.

I do want to discuss the rewards. I discovered the hard way that the Umbara stronghold was the first to be released that also did not come with an increase in the cap on the maximum number of strongholds, so I am not yet able to purchase it. Because of my attachment to the other strongholds and the time I put in decorating them, I don’t think I’ll be unlocking Umbara until the cap is raised. Given my fondness for decorating, this is a bit of a bummer.

As for the other rewards that can be purchased with Alliance Recon Data, what we have is nice. I like the armor set, and a friend whose main character is a biochemist was overjoyed to see the return of reusable stims, medpacks and adrenals.

That said, there should be more. The flashpoint currency is character, not legacy based and has a weekly cap, but the value of the currency can vary widely between different characters. If you don’t have biochem as a crafting skill and don’t want (or already have) the stronghold, there is little else worth saving up for. No recipes for other crafters, no weapons, no dyes, no decorations. It is very easy to get to the point where Recon Data becomes useless to players. While I think that should happen eventually, it shouldn’t be after only a run or two.

I am glad to see that the bosses drop decorations, and that the drop rates are not ridiculously low like they are in other flashpoints, but I must say that I’m not at all a fan of the fact that the decos are holograms. I want an actual alien landshark in my stronghold, not a holographic one.

Once again, the achievement rewards are also anemic. Where are the trophies, the titles and other weird stuff to work towards? Crisis on Umbara is the only flashpoint without a trophy decoration. What’s up with that? Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’d rather have a trophy to hang on the wall of my stronghold than 20 Cartel Coins.

I made the same points regarding rewards and achievements in my review of the Iokath dailies. SWTOR has done well with these things before, and I think it’s fair to hold new content to those same standards.

I’d also like to see specific loot attached to the Master Mode version of the flashpoint. Because of the limited use for Alliance Recon Data, there should be extra incentives to run the flashpoint in its toughest mode. Given the 242 gear requirement and difficulty of the encounters, I don’t know what type of gear drops would be appropriate, but if I had a shot at a cool, rare vanity item, I’d gladly run the flashpoint again and again.

Part Two: Who Spoils the Spoilers?

The revelation of the traitor’s identity was probably and unfortunately the worst kept secret in recent SWTOR history. I’m probably being over-cautious to wait more than week before writing about it, but I’m sure there are many folks who don’t follow the SWTOR gossip and news as closely as I do. I figure better safe than sorry.

That said, let’s dive in! I managed to avoid having the traitor’s identity spoiled, but the general level of freak out in my social media feed pretty much insured that the traitor could only be Lana or Theron. Once I started the story, it was clear within the first dialogue scene that it was going to be Theron. So I can’t say I was shocked by the reveal.

Another reason I wasn’t that surprised is because it makes perfect sense that Theron is the traitor. I mean, of course, he is.

I like Theron Shan a lot, but the guy has enough issues to fill a comic book collection, and he chose a profession where betrayal is a part of doing business. First off, if the Outlander has made Dark Side choices or is even a little Sithy, the only surprise should be that it took Theron so long to make the heel turn. Nevertheless, even if your Outlander is like mine and made every Light Side choice, saved every unicorn and hugged every kitten, I buy Theron’s defection too. To him, that Outlander might seem too good to be true, and it’s not a stretch that he would pre-emptively self-sabotage the relationship. Why wouldn’t he? Ever since we first met Theron back during Rise of the Hutt Cartel, it’s been clear that he has chosen to nurse his abandonment and trust issues rather than deal with them.

Screwing things up is kinda what Theron does best, so I don’t think it’s out of bounds that he’d betray the leader of an Alliance he helped build.

I know Theron has many ardent fans, and I write this not to slag him. This stuff is what I like about Theron. It’s what makes him an interesting character. He may think he’s the James Bond of the Star Wars universe, but his Member’s Only jacket and faux-hawk reveal the truth that he’s really just a dork like the rest of us.

And Yet…

Do I think Theron has really betrayed the alliance and the Outlander? No. No, I don’t. There are two or three hints in the Crisis on Umbara story that pretty strongly suggest that he has done all this to infiltrate the mysterious Order. Indeed, going off half-cocked without checking with friends and allies first is another signature Theron Shan move. It’s exactly what he did on Ziost, and I think it’s what he’s doing here. That he wouldn’t let the Outlander know ahead of time makes sense to me given those trust issues I mentioned earlier.

We’re still in the earliest stages of this new story arc, and I’m reluctant to draw too many conclusions. We are certain to learn before long who and what “The Order” is but I’m not sure we have anything to go on at the moment. Beyond the return of Malgus anyway.

I think it might be interesting if the sincerity of Theron’s betrayal hinged on the choices the players has previously made during Knight of the Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne, but I suspect that might be a bit much to ask of both Bioware and the players.

It seems to me that Crisis on Umbara has got folks talking, jump started the next chapter of the story and has me curious to find out what happens next, so I’ve got to give Bioware thumbs up on this. Then again, I would’ve figured Theron for a Hawaiian pizza guy, so what do I know?

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, KotET

Shut Up and Stellar Drive

I’ve been wanting to recreate this sign since I started this blog. For all its interesting elements, however, there are also parts of it that frustrated me, and I’m not sure I completely cracked this nut.


The sign itself can be seen all over Corellia, but many players’ first encounter with it may be at the start of the Cademimu flashpoint. The sign includes at least two different languages, the non-standard Aurebesh font Galactic Standard and a touch of Futhork.

The resolution of this sign is low, and the writing is blurry and indistinct no matter how close you get to it. On the left, the white text on the black background is so distorted that I can make neither head nor tails out of it. The word that appears twice beneath the Futhork ‘E’ is also difficult to decipher. I think it might be written using the Sith Prophesy font, and have done my best to translate it that way, but I would not be surprised in the least if I got that wrong.

If any sharp-eyed reader has better suggestions, I hope you’ll share your insight with me!

One interesting element of this sign is the array of five letters over the graphic of the planet and moon. This exact arrangement appears in very many other signs throughout the game, even ones that otherwise use proper Aurebesh. Whether it is simply a piece of commonly used clip art or an inside joke of some kind, I cannot say.

Even though aspects of this graphic remain obscure to me, it is still one of my favorite signs in the game. The use of space letters give it an alien touch, but the design keeps it grounded and recognizable as something that fits naturally in the Star Wars setting.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Futhork to English

“Scouting Iokath” Daily Quest Guide

This post is a follow-up to my review of the Iokath Dailies.

Recently I participated in a twitter discussion regarding the dailies on Iokath and mentioned that I’d worked out a quick path for completing the “Scouting Iokath” daily quest. Initially I skipped this quest assuming it was too much running around, but as I got used to traversing the Iokath Expanse. I realized I could get to the scanning points without too much trouble, and I thought I’d put together a visual guide for completing the quest.

While this might look complex at first glance, the trick is realizing that most of the travel is handled by Iokath’s trams and transporters, and the player’s own Quick Travel ability, with only a wee bit of speeder piloting on the side. Getting through the Weapons Factory will require a bit of fighting, but if you’re there anyway to work on other quests, it’s not too bad.

I want to give special thanks to FibroJedi whose screenshots of this daily came in handy while compiling this guide.

Iokath Suggestions

Since I’m on the subject, I thought I’d also make a few suggestions that might improve the questing experience on Iokath.

First and foremost, I think the Monitor and Mouse droid dailies should be revised to be more fun. As it is now, the player spends a lot of time on both quests just waiting. Waiting for the Monitor’s self-inflicted stun to wear off. Waiting as a Mouse droid for mobs to respawn (sometimes three or four times) and ever so slowly whittle down the walker. The Monitor design is really cool. Instead of looking forward to taking control of one, I actively avoid it. The mouse droid daily should be silly and funny, but, in practice, it’s a bore.

I’d like to see a revised set of abilities for the Monitor. They don’t need to be over-powered, and the notion of a major attack coming with a downside is a good one, but stuns are the worst.

As for the Mouse droid, either the self-destruct should do significantly more damage or the droid’s secondary attack should be able to debuff the walker so that it takes more damage from the nearby droids when they agro on it. This debuff could even have a short duration. Having to dart in between the walker’s legs and zap it while it’s fighting other droids could be neat.

The “Colossal Threat” quest should be a separate weekly, much like the “Walking on Hallowed Grounds” weekly on Yavin. In addition, the quest could use better rewards. The Colossus Droid is certainly nowhere near as difficult as the Revanite Walker, but as it is now, I haven’t bothered with it since getting the achievement. If it were a significant source of Power Shards or CXP or had a chance to drop a rare decoration or a pet or a mount, I’m certain there would be more interest in this quest.

Finally I’d like to see some unique quests or achievements based around the command modules that drop from the ops bosses. Having something to do or shoot for while controlling the Machine Gods out in the expanse could be fun. I think coming around a corner and seeing a player controlled Tyth raging in battle should not at all be a rare occurrence!

We will return to our regularly schedule programming next week!

 

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When You Come to a Futhork in the Road, Take It

Vacation is over so let’s dive back in! This week we pay a visit to the war torn planet of Corellia, whose cosmopolitan history makes it a welcome home to many alien languages. Indeed, some of the signs found on Corellia can be found no where else in the game. This time, let’s examine two displays that prominently feature the language Futhork from the planet Naboo.

The large sign featured here includes a somewhat rare example in SWTOR of Futhork that can actually be translated into readable English. Therefore it quite literally speaks for itself. I also translated the smaller neon sign, which includes some bonus Aurebesh and Futhork. The two Futhork letters are oriented in different directions, although it’s hard to tell in my recreation; in addition the “I” glyph is modified with an extra arm stroke at the base of the letter.

Like many others in the game, this warm, glowing sign features arrays of seemingly random letters. This one is hanging upside down, but my translation has set it right side up. The center group of glyphs is again Futhork, but the shapes at the top and bottom seem to be cropped letters written using the Trade Federation script. This font, created for The Phantom Menace, can be found in many signs around the game, but when used, the glyphs are very often distorted or smashed together. The Trade Federation letters here are not only cropped at their midline, but by flipping the sign to make the Futhork orient properly, the partial letters have become flipped. This translator can’t win either way.

As I mentioned, Corellia is home to a vast trove of signage in Aurebesh and other languages, and in the weeks ahead, there will be plenty more material to explore.

 

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Turning Day Into Night Time

This week, let’s continue to examine some of Nar Shaddaa’s neon signs, focusing on two that Sith faction players will see as they enter the infamous Star Cluster Casino.

First up, we have something that at first seems to be another standard, simple advertisement exhorting viewers to travel to the Outer Rim, but there is quite a bit going on here, with several layers of graphical elements including rectangular and circular frames, two different starburst graphics as well as two different colored scattered accent shapes. Recreating this in English was a bit more challenging than I expected it would be!

This sign, which can be seen prominently on the Nar Shaddaa loading screen, is, of course, not written in Aurebesh, but looks to have been created using Erik Schroeder’s font Sith Prophesy which models the language officially known as Common Sith. This language mainly appears in Star Wars as the writing seen on Darth Vader’s chest control panels.

Given that pureblood Sith are common in SWTOR’s setting it’s not surprising that they’d have restaurants and advertising aimed specifically at them, although I confess I wonder what constitutes fine dining to a Sith.

This sign’s translation is a fairly common diner name, but I imagine it might also be a reference to Alton Brown’s beloved television show.

Manaan Stronghold Review

Patch 5.3 brought a bunch of stuff including the controversial change to tunings (I’m fine with it, especially once unlocked crystals and tunings become mail-able in legacy weapons) and the second encounter in the Gods from the Machine operation (crazy, fun fight!), but the one I’ve spent the most time with is the new Manaan stronghold. I thought I’d share a few impressions as I work my way towards 100% completion.

First off, it’s beautiful and I’ve absolutely enjoyed my time decorating. My complaints are mostly the familiar decorators’ laments about hook placement and type. Why aren’t the rug hooks where I want them? Why won’t that deco go up against the wall? Why won’t that deco fit on that hook?

Manaan does have a few specific issues. I’ve heard some folks complain that it’s too small, but after the massive sprawl of Yavin, I’m okay with a smaller stronghold. However, its size is actually deceptive. The stronghold’s main staging area is actually huge, but it kind of feels small. Yavin’s Temple Grounds area is much larger to be sure, but that section is subdivided into distinct areas (the temple roof, the bridge, the paved platform, the various clearings, the cave, the swimming hole out back, etc.), Manaan’s main area, on the other hand, is just one connected and visually identical area. I think this section could’ve been better subdivided using elements from the existing Manaan zone such as the tunnel that splits the two open areas and the side office in which we met Theron and Lana during Forged Alliances.

I welcome the generous inclusion of numerous centerpiece hooks (especially the ones on the ocean floor), but it’s frustrating that the alternative layouts for centerpieces are not great. Two out of the four options waste fully half of the hook space, and the other two can be awkward to use. This is especially the case in the two side rooms on the Underwater Observatory level. If you don’t want to place a centerpiece, getting those rooms just right can be a tricky. Personally I’d like to see an alternative layout (seen below) with both horizontal and vertical orientations for the Centerpiece hook that consists of two large hooks, flanked on either side by a mix of medium, medium narrow and small hooks.

The small wall hooks in the ceilings of those two rooms are a strange choice. I get that many large ceiling decorations might clip in those spots, but many other fixtures such as hanging lights and chandeliers would fit wonderfully. I know that Manaan’s architectural style doesn’t lend itself to large, flat spaces, but it should be up to the decorators if we care about the clipping.

Otherwise, I’m not a fan of the invisible wall outside the rooftop garden. I imagine that the entire complex is probably not fully rendered, but I do wish I could explore more. And even if I can’t decorate the interior spaces below the garden, I’d still like to place decorations on the roof down there.

My last Manaan specific nitpick concerns the elevators in the stronghold. When you exit them, your character is facing the elevator, forcing you to turn around whenever you enter a new level. You really should be facing the room as you step off the lift.

Finally, I thought I’d conclude with some general Stronghold and decoration changes I’d like to see. I like the hook system, I really do. Working within limits prevents me from going too far down the decorating rabbit hole and has sparked some creative solutions, but it could use some tweaking.

My main frustration is this: which decorations fit on which hooks has never been consistent. A café table will fit on a medium hook, but the similar-sized Dejarik table will not. Why? If a decoration can even remotely fit on a hook, we should be able to place it on that hook. I’d like to see the hooks for every decoration given another pass. There are many large decos that would fit just fine medium hooks, and it sometimes feels like the designers have forgotten the medium narrow hook even exists.

The introductory cut scene currently plays whenever you zone into Manaan, and I’ve seen this described as a feature not a bug. While I don’t want to have to spacebar through the scene every time I go to my stronghold, I will say it is sometimes cool to see that scene play once there are decorations in place. It’d be nice to have an on demand option to take the tour of a stronghold after each characters’ first visit. Could an option to watch the scene be added to the control panel that exists in every stronghold?

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy decorating strongholds, and Manaan has not been an exception. It is easily the most scenic stronghold and while, unlike Coruscant, it doesn’t feel like a place I’d live, it sure is a beautiful place to visit. I look forward to basking in the sun and putting the last decoration in place in the not too distant future.

 

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