Category Archives: KotET

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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“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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Iokath Dailies: The Good, the Bad and the Walkers

This week, I thought I’d share my impressions of the Iokath daily area now that I’ve had some time to explore the zone and get used to the dailies. I’ve maximized my reputation on Republic side and am closing in on finishing Sith side.

Overall, I’d say it’s… okay. I like how SWTOR has handled daily areas in the past. In truth, I personally consider them weekly areas, since completing the weekly quest is the main incentive, and I like not feeling the need to revisit the Black Hole or Section X once I’ve knocked off the weekly. Iokath, however, isn’t like those other areas. The first thing you’ll notice is that to complete the weekly, you will to need finish more quests than are available on any given day, so you’ll have to return to Iokath two or probably more times to complete the weekly. Moreover, the daily quests change every day, and some quests aren’t always available.

Personally, I prefer the type of weeklies we have in previous daily areas, but once I worked out how to approach questing on Iokath, I got into it. Basically, I’ll head over to Iokath, check out that day’s quests, and focus on one zone, typically either the docking level or the main expanse. I will grab the other dailies, but keep them in my log so that when other quests in the same area are available, I can complete them all at the same time. For example, there are three different “kill X number of mobs” quests, and I try to bank those for when the walker daily is up so that I can kill four birds with one heavily armed stone.

Using this approach, it will take several trips to Iokath to complete the weekly; on the flip side, I spend very little time on Iokath on any given day as I only complete two or three related quests at a time.

SWTOR’s other daily questing areas, from Black Hole to Oricon have a flow to them. Completing a quest in one area naturally leads to the next, and the chain often climaxes with a tougher heroic or in the case of Ziost the dramatic reveal at the end of the scanner droid quest.

Iokath’s dailies, on the other hand, don’t really feel connected to each other structurally or narratively. Questing there means zipping around from one unrelated area to another.

I also want to mention a few other issues that I find frustrating. The Monitor daily is just a drag. That the Monitor droid’s most potent attack leaves you stunned and helpless is no fun. Nobody likes being stunned, and that I have to constantly inflict stuns on myself while playing as a Monitor, makes me avoid that quest all together.

Another issue is the mob density in the main expanse area. It is easily the most hazardous zone in the game to travel through. If you want to get to the droid factory or that one out of the way spot for the macrobinocular quest, you will have to fight lots of droids whether you want to or not. Given Iokath’s design, getting around without aggroing crowds of enemies is nearly impossible.

Lastly, it may just be my obsessive need to pick up all the things, but I hate that I can’t loot while controlling a droid or walker. I don’t know if it’s a design choice or technical limitation, but seeing all those loot beams go uncollected drives me bonkers.

However, it’s not all bad. Iokath itself is an impressive environment to explore and play in. There is a decent variety to the quests beyond standard killing mobs and clicking on objectives. And Iokath’s saving grace is the walker daily. Stomping around in a walker is absolutely a blast. You feel tough as crap, your weapons hit hard and all the big attacks are fun to use. I’ve seen some folks say that they won’t spend credits and shards to control the walker, but I think it’s totally worth it. It is the most fun repeatable quest in the game.

Finally I’d like to touch on the rewards you can earn on Iokath. The reputation vendor has the bare minimum of loot for sale: legacy armor sets, pets and mounts. What is there is indeed very nice; the sith faction’s armor set in particular is outstanding. Beyond that there isn’t much. No weapons, no decorations, no dye module recipes, no toys, and no companion customizations (how about Iokath themed customizations for HK, T7 or SCORPIO?). Likewise, the achievement rewards leave much to be desired. The Ziost and Star Fortress achievements rewarded decorations, titles and mounts, but aside from a quarter’s worth of cartel coins here and there, there isn’t any incentive to bang out those achievements once you hit the reputation you want. I’ve seen SWTOR do better in the past, so I don’t think I’m asking too much here.

As I said, I like dailies. I still enjoy questing on CZ-198 and Oricon, and I hope Iokath finds a place in the rotation of worlds I’m happy to revisit even years down the line. It’s not quite there yet, but I think it could be.

I hadn’t meant to spent a whole post on Iokath, but I’ll be back to translating Aurebesh soon!

Update

The patch notes for game update 5.2.2 were posted a couple days after I wrote this post and I was very pleased to see this note on the list:

Players can now loot enemies while in other forms while on Iokath, such as the Mouse Droid.

The beams will vex me no more! NO MORE!

 

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Good Hair Day: Five Hair Styles That Should Be Added to SWTOR

Last month, I was pleased to see that three new hairstyles were added to SWTOR’s appearance designer. When it comes to character customization, the more the better. Inspired by Kid Lee’s video exploring the possibility of body tattoos and Xam Xam’s blog post requesting more outfits from Star Wars lore, I thought I’d add to their excellent suggestions a few of my own with another dumb top five list of looks I’d like to see added to the appearance designer.

These suggestions are drawn exclusively from the Star Wars movies, and while I’m totally cool with more popstar and hipster haircuts, I think there is plenty of inspiration yet to be drawn from the film canon.

Leia’s Buns

Yeah, I know that there are already two kinda-sorta versions of Leia’s infamous buns available already, but neither feel just right to me. Leia’s coif in the first movie is THE iconic hairstyle of the entire Star Wars saga, and I firmly believe a screen-accurate version absolutely should be available to players in the game. As far as I’m concerned this one is a no brainer.

Padme’s Braids

Padme wore her hair in a great number of styles over the course of the prequels, but I thought I’d pick one that was both not too outlandish and not too likely to cause many clipping problems. Besides, her bun of tight braids from Attack of the Clones is totally cute and functional for any character of any class.

Anakin’s Shag

Players can find decent matches for most of the male hair styles sported in the movies, but all but one of those haircuts are quite short, so I’d like to see some longer options. Anakin’s shoulder length mane from Revenge of the Sith is similar to the look sported by Kylo Ren and old Luke in The Force Awakens, and having a choice between short hair and the full Qui-Gon would be nice.

Rey’s Triple Buns

I know, I know, still more buns, but, Rey is awesome, and I’m honestly a little surprised this look isn’t already in the game. While Leia and Padme’s hair tends to be neat and smooth, I think this messier look would work well too. And again, this style shouldn’t have too many issues clipping the game’s armor.

Cassian’s ‘Stache and Scruff

Okay, this isn’t technically a hairstyle, but I’d like to see more options for facial hair. Generally you’re out of luck if you want a mustache like those sported by Lando, Biggs and Cassian or a thin beard like Obi Wan’s in both the original trilogy and Attack of the Clones. Sometimes, you just want to be scruffy lookin’.

To be honest, it was tough to stick to just hair. I’d be interested to see more tattoo options for not just humans but also Togruta and Twi-liks and Zabraks, oh my! And pity the poor Cathar whose customization options are the most anemic.

I grok that the right haircut won’t kill a boss or cap a node any faster, but it’s hard to beat the feeling you get when your character looks just the way you want them to. So I hope more customization options will be on offer in the not too distant future.

SWTOR’s 2017 Road Map

Last week, Keith Kanneg shared with us the long anticipated Road Map for the next few months of SWTOR. I’m a bit late to the party with this post and I don’t really have much to add to the general happiness with which the road map has been greeted, so I’ll keep my comments short. On the one hand, most of the announcement contained information we already knew, but having a detailed idea of what is coming and when to expect it is excellent news. I’m not the biggest fan of the Nightlife event, and class changes always make me nervous but knowing that I’ll be able to go nuts decorating a new stronghold next month and run a new flashpoint with friends after that is great information to have. I have every hope the fine folks at Bioware keep up the good work they’ve done communicating with the community lately.

 

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Futhork meets Aurebesh

After an unexpected break, we’re back! This week, let’s look at this huge poster which hangs over the outdoor docks in Coruscant’s Old Galactic Marketplace. Unlike most other posters you might see in this area, it is not an advertisement. Instead it is a notice of trade restrictions that are probably no longer enforced now that the Migrant Merchants Guide is running the zone.

The most notable feature of this poster is the use of the Futhork font in its prominent center section and in the small text at the top and bottom. Conceptual designer Iain McCaig created Futhork as one of Naboo’s writing styles for The Phantom Menace. and it is featured throughout the prequel trilogy. In SWTOR, Futhork and many other languages can be seen most commonly on Nar Shaddaa in the neon and holographic signs that dominate the skyline of the infamous Smuggler’s Moon.

Futhork is described as an elegant hand-written font and I imagine it is used in the same way as Blackletter or Gothic script to make a design seem more elegant or official.

The poster itself has a nice warm feel that I quite like. The Futhork flourishes make it stand out from other signage in the game. The accidentally repeated word in the third line of the block of text in the center section again exposes the danger of writing in an alien language, but I don’t think it detracts from the overall design. Another nice touch is in the orange tabs at the top and the bottom. Although the layout is the same in both sections, each of the small boxes has its own element.

Finally, the text in the two white sections is blown out and difficult to read. If you look at the poster from an angle or play with the levels in Photoshop, however, the text becomes visible. In my translation, I kept the words readable.

Patch 5.2: The War for Iokath

Since I last posted, patch 5.2 was published and I thought I’d share some quick impressions. Overall, I’m pleased. The story itself is mainly seems to be prologue to the next big arc and thus has a lot to set up: the return to Iokath, the return of two of the game’s signature companions, the renewed conflict between the Republic and Sith, the return of Zakuul’s old gods and the emergence of a traitor in the ranks. That’s a whole lot ground to cover and not everything gets the space it needs, but I’m curious to see where things go from here.

Without getting into spoiler territory, one thing that did impress me was the use of Quinn. It’s an understatement to call him one of the game’s most infamous companions. My consular sided with the Republic, and while Elara remained mostly a background character, I was pleased that the story did a good job making Quinn into a quality antagonist who I wouldn’t mind seeing as a recurring villain. Given how story choices work, I’m not sure he’ll ever pop up again, but I never thought I’d want to see more of Quinn!

The operation’s first boss Tyth is a fun fight, requiring appropriate coordination on Veteran Mode, but remaining welcoming to new and inexperienced players on Story Mode. I look forward to facing the twins Esne and Aivela next.

I haven’t spent too much time in the daily area. I received so many reputation tokens just from the story that I haven’t felt the need to dive too deep into the dailies and have only completed the weekly once. The zone is sprawling and still confusing to me. This is a good thing; I don’t mind knowing that I will need to explore the area and get comfortable with its layout. That said, the map’s tooltips pointing to quest objectives need some work. The environment itself is very cool, and I’m happy to just stop and admire the scenery.

However, some of the quests are buggy. I’ve killed the Colossal Droid twice but have yet to receive credit, and surely the Mouse droid daily isn’t meant to be so frustrating and difficult as it is now.

I know having to spend power shards to access the quests to control the various droids and vehicles on Iokath has been controversial, but I can see what Bioware is going for with this system. The problem with daily areas is that they get old fast, and adding a mechanic where certain quests can only be unlocked with extra effort strikes me as a neat idea. The notion that taking control of a walker is something I have to save up for makes it a bit of a special event. The rub is in making these quests as fun and rewarding as possible, and I’m not sure they’re there yet. I won’t lie, getting killed by random mobs while wandering around as a mouse droid is not awesome, especially since I have to burn more shards just to try again.

My stash of shards is pretty thin right now, but if the Iokath currency becomes like all the other event and area currencies in the game, I’ll eventually have shards coming out of my ears, so having a use for them after I have all the reputation rewards I want doesn’t strike me as a bad idea.

Hopefully the bugs will get squashed in short order, and I’m curious to see what comes next.

Lastly, SWTOR’s new Game Producer Keith Kanneg and Creative Director Charles Boyd have both made some appearances on the forums recently and their posts have included actual information and teased upcoming improvements. This has been a most welcome change of pace and I’m hopeful this continued engagement with the community will continue.

 

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I’d Buy That For a Credit

I received a suggestion via twitter to take a look at the GTN screens, and as my consular often reminds me, “The Jedi way is to serve.”

The Aurebesh used on the four large monitors adorning the Galactic Trade Network kiosks seen on the Fleets, Nar Shaddaa, Odessan and possibly your stronghold is primarily used as a design element. While the screens can be translated into actual, though often fragmentary words, they don’t make sense in context.

Read a lot of Aurebesh displays in the game and you’ll eventually see a stock group of phrases repeated over and over. “Will proceed as scheduled.” “At full power” “All systems active.” There are many others. Fragments from these can be read in the two GTN screens featuring the weapon and armor graphics. This collection of phrases is SWTOR’s version of lorem ipsum. The nonsensical writing is meant to evoke the kind of text on monitors you’d see around the galaxy rather than have specific meaning.

The GTN’s other two large screens display a random selection of letters and numbers much like a stock market ticker. Similar information appears in the holographic “crown” rotating above the kiosk. Whether the letters and numbers have any significance I can’t say. Perhaps the artists snuck in their initials and birthdays, or just pulled them out of a hat. All I can say is that I know what I would’ve done.

This last screen is on the interface players click on to access the GTN, and it does contain text that makes sense in context. The monitor flashes through a variety of items while displaying sale, refund credit, and purchase labels and prices. When it comes to their customers the Hutt Cartel, which runs the Galactic Trade Network, wants to make it clear that they appreciate their patronage.

The War For Iokath

Thursday’s long awaited live stream finally gave us some details regarding the next major content patch for SWTOR. My first comment is that the broad strokes of what they announced absolutely should’ve been shared in October, if not sooner. Fans and subscribers should’ve not have had to wait until two months after the launch of the expansion to know that more story, a daily area and operation content are indeed coming. Certainly details surrounding the setting and story could’ve been held back, but, as both a fan of SWTOR and a guild officer trying to keep my friends engaged, I was very frustrated that KotET launched without even a hint of what the end game is to be. And, no, Galactic Command is not end game. Not even close.

Time gated raid content is not my favorite thing, but I agree that launching one boss at a time is preferable to delaying the whole thing until the autumn, so I will take what I can get.

I am looking forward to exploring Iokath and having a go at the Master chapters and uprisings. And, yeah, I’ll be charging into that Operations instance day one. If all I cared about was raiding, then I’d probably sit out the next few months, but if there is other new stuff to do, I’m on board. What I liked about KotFE is that that the chapters came at a steady and reliable clip, and in the meantime, it is up to Bioware to do the same and keep KotET interesting.

 

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Cat’s-eye View

Just a quick post this week (it’s that time of year), but here is a look through the targeting scope of the great Aric Jorgan from KotFE’s chapter 11, “Disavowed” in which everyone’s favorite Cathar finally gets to show off his much vaunted skills as a sniper.

Unlike the view through HK’s optical sensors, the information displayed here is much more economically presented with significantly less editorializing on the target’s potential status as a meatbag.

The translation was straightforward, but there are a couple non-standard bits of Aurebesh. The comma symbol is used in the numbers, but I substituted decimal points since that seems to make more sense in context.

The krenth (kh) and onith (eo) symbols are used as angle brackets on account of how the font handles those symbols. Given that the Aurebesh ligatures are almost never properly used, I’m sure they’re at least glad to see the light of day for a change.

Galactic Command Update

I wrote this entry while listening to Bioware’s latest Producer Livestream during which they discussed upcoming changes to the Galactic Command system. There are details to come, but since this week’s post is short, I might as well toss in my two credits. I’m most curious to know how many Command Tokens and Unassembled Components will be needed to buy gear. Assuming that number isn’t ridiculous, I think these are very positive changes, targeting the people, raiders and PVPers, who need certainty in gearing the most, while preserving the benefits of the system for everyone else.  If you do run operations or compete in pvp, gearing alts and off-specs should also be easier. We’ll still be able to throw tokens at fresh 70’s, but I imagine they will still need to get a few Command Levels before they can cash them in. Given how quickly the first few levels come, I don’t think this is too much to ask. I also like the changes to how tokens will be dropping since it may at last encourage folks to raid places other than Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace.

All that said, while I think these changes to gearing are good, I’m still eagerly waiting for some place new to use that gear.

That’s all for now. Have a Rogue One-derful weekend, everyone!

 

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First Impressions: Knights of the Eternal Throne

With a week or so of the new expansion under my belt, I’d like to share some first impressions of Knights of the Eternal Throne. To folks who haven’t finished or started yet, fear not, I promise to avoid spoilers.

The Story

Following up on the events of Knights of the Fallen Empire, the nine-chapter conclusion is a terrific ride. Once again, Bioware has crafted a story where you get to be the center of a massive Star Wars adventure. The scope is epic, and the stakes couldn’t be higher, but the drama stays focused on the characters. I’m not embarrassed to admit I got choked up a couple times and sat at the edge of my seat during the climax. While not everything is explained and a few plot threads dangle, the major characters and story beats come to an extremely satisfying conclusion. If you enjoyed the previous chapters, it’s worth hopping on to see how it all ends.

New Abilities

Most of the classes have received some tweaking and several abilities have been revised or replaced with others. Operatives’ new ability to throw ninja throwing stars already feels like something they should’ve been able to do from day one. However, I already miss some of the other old animations. Flame thrower is such an iconic Bounty Hunter ability that not only was Boba Fett shown shooting fire on both his first action figure card and poster but it is also the icon for SWTOR’s Bounty Hunter class. The Jedi Knight’s and Sith Warrior signature channeled attacks have also been replaced with instant abilities. Mechanically, the Jedi’s Blade Dance and the Sith’s Ravage were the same thing, but the animations boldly set the classes apart: the Jedi’s attack was acrobatic and precise and the Sith’s was an overwhelming display of power. The new animations are nice, but they just don’t compare. I understand that these changes were made in the interest of giving melee classes more mobility, but from an aesthetics point of view, I can’t help but feel like something has been lost.

And while Mercenary Bounty Hunters can still use Death from Above, my Powertech has had it replaced with a move a friend has dubbed “Backpack of Doom.” In this case, the change strikes me as a solution to a problem I’m not really sure exists. I’ve always described Death from Above as my all time favorite MMORPG button to press, and I’m disappointed that the Bounty Hunter I play can no longer blast into the air and rain down missiles on her foes.

Galactic Command

Upon reaching level 70, characters will unlock the Galactic Command interface, which provides a wide array of activities in which to participate and the framework from which gear upgrades are now earned. The loot boxes with random rewards have been the cause of much uproar, but I can’t say it’s bothered me too much. After a week and a half, between crafting and drops from the boxes, I feel like my character is appropriately geared considering how early into the expansion it is.

The transition to Galactic Command has been a shock to be sure, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the gearing system we had during KotFE was outright terrible. That we could farm content that ran the entire gamut from trivial to easy for 220 gear every week, and best-in-slot gear two out of every eight weeks was horrible design. It had the net result of rending every other bit of content irrelevant. Crafting and flashpoints and storymode ops (some of which are harder than HM Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace) yielded worse gear, so why bother? As for other Hard Mode Operations, there was no incentive to attempt tougher content. Why spend hours banging your head against Hard Mode bosses for gear you can get for free elsewhere? I’m not blaming the players for taking advantage; heck, I got my 224 mainhand from Soa just like you did, but I won’t fault Bioware for wanting to move away from that system.

Is Galactic Command the solution? I don’t know, but I’d argue it is a step in the right direction. Players can participate in whatever content they like, and still work towards rewards whether their thing is farming heroics or wiping on HM Revan. Yes, there are flaws in the system. It’s not friendly to off-specs and alts; for now crafting is going to have to cover those gaps. And you have to feel bad for folks on cold streaks. A friend has opened twice as many crates as me, but is still waiting on her first set piece. That’s just not fun. In addition I truly believe teams running Hard Mode content beyond EV and KP should have more control over how their group gears up since they are actually doing stuff where that loot matters. However, these are not insoluble problems that require scrapping the entire Galactic Command system.

The last thing about Galactic Command upon which I want to comment is in regard to the Galactic Command XP boosts. It’s not my place to tell people how to spend their money or cartel coins, but I will not be buying any. Having to pay extra on top of my subscription to maximize GC advancement is something I simply refuse to do. These boosts are something more than cosmetics or conveniences, and I think everyone knows that.

Uprisings and Veteran Chapters

I’ve only just dipped my toes into SWTOR’s latest group content, Uprisings, but so far they are a blast. These are flashpoints without the fluff. They are intense and fun with hilariously over the top power-ups and genuinely neat boss fights. So far the best part for me has been how great it is again to be discovering challenges where I have no idea what the junk is going on. Learning fights, getting lost and screwing up with friends is a great way to pass the time in an MMO.

I’ve also tried a few story chapters in Veteran mode and was pleasantly surprised how challenging they are. I expected that they’d be nothing more than non-face roll mode but quickly learned that I couldn’t spam AOE on every pack and expect to survive. I had to use my cool downs and play smart to finish many fights. I’m truly looking forward to learning these a bit more.

Now What?

As I write this, it is a weird time for SWTOR. For the first time, I’m not really sure what to expect of the game next year. Beyond more Uprisings, Bioware has been frustratingly coy about their plans. With previous expansions, I felt like I knew what to expect in the months ahead. I don’t have the impression that more story is coming anytime soon, and “operations” remains “the word that must not be spoken.” Uprisings are great, and I expect I’ll get some mileage out of replaying chapters on increased difficulties, but I’ve got to wonder how long that stuff will hold my interest. It really is long past time that Bioware let the players in on their roadmap for the game in the coming year. The ball is in your court, Bioware. No pressure.

 

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How to Spend Your Data Crystals Before KotET

crystals1

Last month, Bioware announced that with the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne they will do away with all commendation currencies and convert any accumulated crystals and Warzone Comms into credits:

As we have discussed previously, Warzone Commendations and Commendation Crystals are being removed from the game with Knights of the Eternal Throne. Our intention is that all of these currencies will be converted into credits on 11/29 when early access starts. Here are the conversion rates for each currency:

 

1 Warzone Commendation = 50 Credits

1 Common Crystal = 500 credits

1 Glowing Crystal = 1,000 credits

1 Radiant Crystal = 1,500 credits

 

Upon logging in on 11/29 each of these currencies will be completely removed from the game and the appropriate credits will have been granted to each character on your account. Note that there is a 2 million credit per character limit on this conversion. Please check the conversion table above, if you would earn more than 2 million credits on a character, we recommend that you spend the appropriate currency before that time so that it is not lost. If you have any questions about this conversion, let us know.

I don’t know all the details of the transition from crystals to credits, so take everything you’re about to read with a grain of salt, especially if you’re on a low population server. But I can suggest some options for preparing for the upcoming conversion.

Take the Money and Run

This is the easiest way to go. No muss, no fuss and all your characters will find some extra walking around cash in their pockets on the 29th. With the removal of tokens and commendations, I suspect we may have to buy more things with credits during KotET than we’ve been used to. In the meantime this cash infusion will probably cause GTN prices to jump in the short term, so the extra credits might come in handy

I can think of a couple circumstances in which I’d suggest spending at least a few comms and crystals. Preferred status players who are at their credit limit will likely see these credits go straight into their escrow and not receive any benefit, so they might as well burn their crystals now.

It’s also possible to exceed the 2 million credit limit. To do so, you’d need to max out all of the crystal caps and have 5000 Warzone Commendations or be sitting on 40,000 WZ comms. That’s well within the realm of possibility for many players. To them, I’d at least recommend spending down to the limit.

Companion Gifts

Silas Fleetfire, the Smuggled Supplies Vendor who can be found on Odessen and Darvannis will trade you companion gifts and alliance crates for common crystals. Bioware has said that we will be able to buy companion gifts for credits in the future, but that the credit cost will be high since Command Crates are meant to provide a regular source of gifts. Even if the price for the rank 6 gifts is at the conversion ratio of 12,500 credits, it couldn’t hurt to stock up on specific gifts for that companion whose return you’ve been patiently waiting.

At the moment, Companion gifts still have high value on the GTN, so if you want to work the market, you can probably get a better return on those crystals right now.

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Crafting Materials

The few non-gear options that cost Glowing and Radiant Crystals are Exotic Isotope Stabilizers and Dark Matter Catalysts, which are also sold by Silas. These crafting materials are still moving on the GTN, although their prices have dropped in the last few weeks as folks clear out their inventories. I suspect there will be less demand for them after the expansion. However, Exotic Isotope Stabilizers can currently be used to make Dark Projects, which can be traded for starship decorations. I imagine the decorations and projects might be good investments even after 5.0.

Legacy Armor

There are three vendors trading common crystals for legacy armor sets. The Adaptive Gear Vendors in the Supplies section of the Imperial and Republic fleets offer many of the iconic, faction specific class sets from launch, and the Black Market Goods vendor in the Underworld Logistics section of your Alliance base on Odessen sells the Sion set. There is bound to be a look to suit most tastes, and a good looking legacy set or two to trade around will always come in handy.

Mounts! Pets! Decos!

Credits and utility can only get you so far. Decorations are where it’s really at. The Data Crystal Decorations vendors on the fleet hubs sell a variety of Rakata themed decorations. I particularly recommend the yellow and blue hanging lights. The Black Market Goods vendor of your Alliance base on Odessen also has decorations on offer including the beloved and battered stolen shuttle you’ve flown all over the galaxy during KotFE.

That vendor also has some miniature space ships for sale. Who doesn’t want a tiny Gravestone following them around everywhere? Not you, I bet!

The Alliance Vehicle Engineer in the Military Hangar on Odessen has a couple unique mounts for sale. And don’t forget the Common Data Crystal Vendors who can be found on Ilum, Section X and the Black Hole. They will take your green crystals for a couple more mounts. I’ve always thought the red Longspur Blaze was pretty slick.

crystals-blaze

Alliance Crates

You might also want to build up a stash of Alliance Crates. I can’t say for certain if these will still be rewarded from max level heroics. I assume they will be, but it never hurts to have a few extra on hand.

Warzone Comms

If you’ve got Warzone Commendations on hand, then you’ve got tons of options. With the removal of Expertise, War Hero crystals will soon give Mastery, and you can buy many different classic color crystals from the PvP Items vendors on fleet. I don’t know if Critical, Mastery or Power crystals will be best in slot at level 70, but I’ll wager that the difference between the three will be so minor that you can pick the color you want and it will be perfectly fine.

I also suggest grabbing a PVP class set or two if you can afford it. These armors’ set bonuses will function in bolstered or level synced environments such as flashpoints and storymode Operations, so they’ll certainly remain useful for leveling and gearing up at max level.

There is also the PvP Weapons vendor on fleet with some unique low level, modable weapons. They’re BOP, but you might find a look you like.

If you’d just like to maximize the GTN value of your excess WZ comms, your best bet is to convert them to Jawa Scrap. Crafting materials wills always be in demand especially during crafting heavy Conquest weeks.

crystals-pvpdecos

Finally, pay a visit to the Starfighter & PVP Decoration Vendor in your fleet’s Strongholds and Crew Skills section. They offer a wide variety of decorations that you can get for WZ comms. These decorations are not bound, so they can be traded and sold. But, really, if you don’t have a Custom Huttball Stand in your stronghold or guild ship, you’re doing it wrong.

In the end, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to spend your crystals and comms. Most of this stuff will still be available for credits after the expansion, and credits have never really been hard to come by. However, if you fancy the look of the level 65 armor or weapons from the PVP or data crystal vendors, you might want to grab them now, since that stuff has been cycled off the vendors after the launch of previous expansions.

 

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