Yearly Archives: 2022

Fade and Glow: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Color Crystals

The recent addition of weapons to the Outfit Designer has been a bigger deal for me than I ever expected. Up until now, I really only actively used one or two weapons at a time per character. But in the last weeks, I’ve been pairing up countless lightsabers, blasters and rifles with dozens of outfits across my legacy. A big part of accessorizing a weapon with an armor set is the choice of color crystal in that weapon, so I thought now would be a great time for another Dumb Top Five list spotlighting the best color crystals that can be found in Star Wars: The Old Republic without spending a single Cartel Coin.

A quick glance at this post will immediately reveal that there are fifteen crystals on this top “five” list. Leaving aside that math has never been my strong suit, it’s simply down to the fact there are so many neat color crystals available to players through crafting and gameplay that I wanted to highlight as many as possible. Besides, my list, my rules.

The Classics: Red, Blue and Green

A red lightsaber looks good on any Sith, and blue and green are so iconic for the Jedi that any list of the best color crystals should absolutely begin (and could arguably end) with the three classic colors of the lightsabers in Star Wars’ original trilogy. Artificers can craft a dozen different color crystals, including these, but I find I return to the primary colored stalwarts again and again. I’ve seen some strong opinions about these crystals having the wrong shade of green or tint of blue, but the movies are hardly consistent when it comes to coloring, so I’d say that you cannot go wrong with these colors, especially given how quick and easy they are to craft.

Eternal Championship: Cyan, Magenta and Purple

Knights of the Fallen Empire’s Eternal Champion boss rush/fight club encounter reintroduced the neon glowing Cyan, Magenta and Purple color crystals that had previously been included in weapons found in the level 50 Operations. Each crystal costs only two tokens awarded from completing the Eternal Championship, but Artificers who had been around prior to KotFE were able to reverse engineer the Cyan and Purple crystals and to craft themselves. In addition, the recipe for the Magenta crystals still drops from level 50 areas and world bosses. If you don’t feel up for a run at the Eternal Championship, you can still find these crystals on the Galactic Trade Network auction house, often affordably priced, but sadly they can no longer be reverse engineered.

Black Core Crystals: Red, Green, Blue and Purple

There are several brand of distinctive “black core” color crystals available in the game. The Red, Blue, Purple and Orange (not pictured) drop in Operations and the Green-Black crystal can be purchased from Jeelvic the Jawa for four Rakghoul DNA Canisters, event currency that can be earned during the recurring Rakghoul Resurgence. Of the four pictured here, I think Black-Blue is my favorite, but all of these crystals stand out in a crowd and look especially dramatic when paired with the right weapon tunings.

Just like the original purple and cyan crystals, these black core blue, orange, purple and red crystals also could be reverse engineered by Artificers prior to Fallen Empire. Therefore they are likely to be found on the GTN as player made items or simply the BOE versions that still drop in Operations to this day.

Tricolor Crystals: White-Purple-Blue, White-Orange-Yellow, and Red-Blue

Of the many different variants of crystals in the game, the triple color crystals are among the most unusual, and Artificers can craft two of them: White-Orange-Yellow and White-Purple-Blue. I also included the Red-Blue crystal here since its color interactions suggest a white inner glow. Attacks that involve throwing a lightsaber or attacks with wide, spinning strokes really show off all the different hues these crystals apply to lightsaber blades, and I find them fun to see in action. Of these three, I consider White-Orange-Yellow to be the stand out. There are other orange and yellow color combinations out there, but this particular crystal looks and feels the most like gold. If you’re playing a High Republic inspired Jedi, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Best Crystal for a Blaster: Fire Red

Color crystals, of course, most dramatically affect the appearance of lightsabers, but I would be remiss if I did not also include my favorite color crystal for all those pistol packing, rifle slinging and bazooka blasting troublemakers out there. Blue, green and red blaster bolts are the standard from the movies, but the Artifice crafted Fire Red will spice up your blaster bolts with an extra dash of heat. This is my go-to for most of my ranged tech classes, and it looks especially awesome spraying from a Commando’s auto-cannon.

Honorable Mention for the Truly Dedicated: Silver-Black

I like to include a “For the Truly Dedicated” entry on these lists, but I’ve decided to give the Black-Silver crystal mere Honorable Mention status on account of the fact that it can only be acquired through playing Ranked PVP. While it does cost a modest amount of Ranked tokens, I know that for many players, there is no amount of Ranked PVP that they would consider even “modest.” However, if you want to come as close as you currently can in SWTOR to wielding the Darksaber, then the Black-Silver color crystal is for you.

At the time of writing, SWTOR is currently in a ranked “pre-season” so wins and losses do not count towards overall ranking, so now is the best time to dip your toes in the game’s most competitive PVP mode. If you are curious if it is something you’d like to attempt, I suggest checking out this video from the great and powerful Kogass_ who has some advice for those thinking about ranked. Kogass recorded the video during Onslaught, but his advice equally applies to Legacy of the Sith. And if you want to check out some exciting level 80 Ranked PVP action, tune into Kogass‘ Twitch channel!

All of the color crystals on this list are Bind on Equip or Bind to Legacy which means that you will not be able to unlock additional versions of the crystals like you can using Account Unlocked Cartel Market color crystals. So be careful when swapping in new crystals over ones that you might want to save. Artifice crafted crystals can be replacd with relative ease, but some of the rarer ones might be tougher or expensive to reacquire.

Keep in mind that stats on the weapons and armor you stamp into the Outfit Designer do not matter at all, just their appearance! Go ahead and put a Power Crystal in a weapon you stamp on an outfit you intend to tank in. This goes for low level crystals too. If you’ve been getting a pre-order bonus +4 Endurance Black-Yellow crystal in the mail of every character you’ve made in the last ten years, you at last have a reason to slap that yellowjacket in a saber and let it sting!

Finally, if you have a few hundred thousand credits to spare and are at least Valor Rank 10, you can skip the middlemen of crafting and the GTN for most of the crystals on this list and simply purchase Mastery versions of them from the PVP Items vendor in the Combat Training section of both Fleets.

The updated Outfit Designer has made it easier than ever to embrace every color on the rainbow of color crystals and I encourage everyone to check them out. If you’ve got a favorite color crystal, let me know in the comments what weapon and tuning it goes with best. I’m always keen to discover new combinations!

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Outfits, Guns and Money

This week’s game update 7.0.2 to SWTOR has delivered a long requested feature to the outfit designer: the ability to add weapons to outfit slots. The Outfit Designer has been one of the best, if not the very best, features for player customization for its ease of use and versatility, but expanding it to include weapons was a notion that seemed like it would never come down from Bioware’s infamous “Wall of Crazy.”

I know that adding weapons to outfit designer was far more complex a task than it might seem since weapons come with a host of unique characteristics: color crystals, tunings, sound effects, visual effects on individual weapons and more, things that the outfit designer wasn’t originally built to track. I imagine it took a lot of rejiggering to make weapons to work, but I’m glad it’s finally made it into the game. For me the most frustrating part of Legacy of Sith‘s launch was having to retire weapons I’ve been using for years in favor of the non-moldable gear we’re earning now. To be completely honest, I did not care for some of the weapon models I’d been sporting the last couple of months.

But now that it is here, I gotta say this upgrade to the outfit designer is darn good. Obviously its nice to be able to draw my first choice of blasters and sabers again, but it’s even neater to dust off some old favorites from the bottom of my cargo hold to use with different outfits. Since the stats on the weapon being plugged into the outfit slot don’t matter, it’s also been fun to have an excuse to craft some low level, non-moddable weapons with designs I’ve always liked.

The system does have limitations mostly related to what your active Combat Style is and the weapon skills that come with it. If you have two styles that use the same main hand weapons, say Power Tech and Mercenary, you’ll be able to share the same outfits with both styles. Off-hand weapons won’t apply to your PT style, but main hands will work for both Loadouts. However, if your Combat Style uses different weapons and you want to apply the same armor set to both, you will have to set up a second outfit with that second weapon type. This is an inconvenience and a bit of a credit sink, but spending credits is what they’re for. There is an exception is for Snipers who can apply Rifles to their main-hand slot and still access all their sniper abilities. This little loophole dramatically expands the number of options for Snipers, and at last allows rifles to be used by a ranged DPS class! I suspect this exception is because Snipers are the only class that can use two different weapon types that share the same animations.

Should the Outfit Designer allow this exception for other classes? I can see an argument for Vanguards and Operatives to use Sniper Rifles, since it wouldn’t affect their combat animations. But for the other classes the weapon types they use are so strongly tied to their “class identity” that even if there weren’t conflicts between the weapon abilities and animations, it would still seem weird to me to see a Shadow using single bladed lightsabers. Likewise a Gunslinger crouching down with a massive auto-cannon doesn’t quite makes sense to me either. In that last case, however, I would gladly make an exception for Vette so she could use her beloved Spewie again.

Finally it should be noted that color crystals and tunings cannot be stamped into weapon slots in the outfit designer in the same way dye modules can. So if you want to change your lightsaber color or blaster tuning, you’ll need to plug them onto the original weapon and re-stamp them on your outfit.

I make no apologies for caring about how my characters look. Whether it’s with the Kell Dragon lightsaber I fondly recall earning with my operations team, the blaster I got after kicking Skavak in the nuts, or a swanky rifle inspired by The Mandalorian that I just bought from the Cartel Market, I’m glad my characters will be charging into battle with their preferred ray guns and laser swords again, and I complement the designers at Bioware who have made it easier than ever to take advantage of every iron in my golf bag of destruction.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Walking on Black Sunshine

This week I’ve maxed out the second Galactic Season track, and I thought it would be a good excuse to take a look at some alien writing that ties into this season’s underworld theme.

If you’ve ever visited the Black Hole sector on Coruscant, even if only to do the “Face Merchants” heroic, then you’ve seen that the neighborhood is covered in graffiti which makes it clear that the sector is under the control of the Black Sun criminal syndicate.

Black Sun’s first appearance in Star Wars lore was in 1996 as part of the Shadows of the Empire multimedia event designed to give to fans all the books, toys, comics, video games, soundtracks and merchandise that they’d expect from the release of a brand new Star Wars movie, only without an actual movie itself. Several of the concepts, characters and vehicles introduced in Shadows found there way into other Star Wars stories, but Black Sun with its distinctive logo and ominous name has remained a regular presence in stories set on the seedier side of the Star Wars universe.

SWTOR players will discover that Black Sun was born out of the chaos caused by Darth Malgus’ surprise attack on Coruscant, a seminal event in the Old Republic’s history. Even after the siege of Coruscant was broken, the Republic capital’s security forces were in disarray, and entire sectors of the world were left to fend for themselves. This void was eagerly filled by crimelords and gangsters who united to seize control of as much territory in Coruscant’s lower levels as they good. Helpless citizens under their thumbs ultimately had no choice but to hope that better a black sun than none. Black Sun’s advancement was nearly unchecked for years, and in that time they became a syndicate whose influence reached both across the galaxy and the ages into the era of the Clone Wars and the Rebellion against the Empire.

The Black Sun graffiti in SWTOR is written using two languages. The first is, of course, Aurebesh, but it is written in a free hand style appropriate for its context as spray painted vandalism tagged on a wall. Handwriting seems to be something of a lost art in Star Wars, with examples in lore being few and far between until the appearance of the “sacred Jedi texts” in The Last Jedi. In SWTOR, as in Star Wars in general, freehand writing most often appears as graffiti. In the example above, the larger text declares Black Sun’s presence with bold authority, and the smaller slogan threatens that they are as inevitable as the dawn.

The second language used for the smaller tag is now called “Outer Rim Basic” but at the time these graphics were created for SWTOR it was generally known as Huttese, and I’ll stick with that identification here. This writing style first appeared during the pod-racing sequences in The Phantom Menace, and iterations of it can be found in many other stories that touch on Star Wars’ criminal underworld. Fans of The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ might recognize the graffiti tag used by the Kintan Strider’s swoop gang as being the letter “K” in a version of Huttese/Outer Rim Basic.

Given the overlap and rivalry between Star Wars’ various criminal syndicates,  it does not strike me as out of place to see Huttese used in this circumstance. For example, Skadge, the infamous and not-quite beloved companion from the Bounty Hunter story, at various times worked for both Black Sun and the Hutt Cartel, although his time with the Hutts (like most of Skadge’s relationships, I’d wager) ended in betrayal and violence. Regardless, an association with the Hutts, whether real or implied, could only help Black Sun’s burgeoning reputation in its early days, both with others gangs and local citizens who doubtless already knew of the danger of crossing the Hutts.

Nevertheless, for those interior decorators who would like to add a dash of scum and villainy to their stronghold’s ambiance, the Black Sun-Graffitied Underworld Couch is a reward for subscribers and free-to-play players alike at the fifth level of the current Galactic Season. As you kick back and plop your backside on top of it, take note, perhaps ironically, that it has been tagged with the same graffiti seen in my recreation above.

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Galactic Seasons, General Star Wars, General SWTOR, Huttese to English

First Impressions: Legacy of the Sith, Part Two

Before I begin, let me apologize for the unexpected absence. I’ve always found writing difficult, and one of the reasons I started this project was to keep that particular creative muscle limber, but it can be hard to break through the block when the real world keeps intruding. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things now that Spring has sprung!

Without further ado, I’d like to continue my first impressions of Legacy of the Sith with a focus on the story. With the benefit of the extra time between posts, I’ll also touch on my gameplay experiences over the last few weeks as well.

Manaan, Manaan, Do Doo Be-Do-Do

Legacy of the Sith kicks off with a return visit to the Manaan system. If you thought things were a mess the last time you visited, wait until you see it now.

However, before we land, there is a pleasant surprise for players: the return of our class ships which play a prominent roll in the opening sequence. Whether it’s the Millennium Falcon, the Moldy Crow or the Gravestone, a cool space ship is as an important character in a Star Wars story as a trusty droid or adorable Muppet, and I was very happy to see my characters at the controls of their beloved hunks of junks once again. I trust we’ll be taking them out for a spin more often going forward.

Upon landing, we discover that events are already in motion, and whether you are playing a Republic or Sith character, you’ll be catching up with the situation and resolving things as only you can. Both Republic and Sith players will team up with a welcome familiar face, but there are some new characters to meet along the way. Colonel Gallo is very much a soldier’s soldier, someone with whom Republic players will interact, not unlike Major Anri on the Imperial side. She gives a tired, suspicious voice to the people of Manann who yet again are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war.

Imperial characters will meet Darth Norok, whose initial introduction is a clever fake out. When we’re finally in the same room with him, we discover he is, as Shintar pointed out, every Dark Side Sith player character’s cliché made manifest. Despite being someone who has taken the Sith code to its logical, nihilistic extreme, Norok is a totally entertaining antagonist for reasonable and unreasonable characters alike.

As we saw on Ossus and throughout Onslaught, both the Republic and Sith stories take place in the same setting, but this time around the two narratives feel more distinct. Previously it could seem like the differences between the Republic and Sith play throughs were that you were experiencing roughly the same story, just in different directions. On Manaan there is more separation in time and less overlapping events between both stories. Ever since Shadow of Revan, each of our character’s SWTOR stories has taken place on separate narrative timelines, but once again, the two factions’ stories expands on the events and backstory of the other and once again I think its rewarding to experience both versions.

Regardless, there are definitely themes shared between the tales on Manaan and Elom. The seemingly endless war between the Jedi and Sith, have left the worlds caught in the middle stuck in a hopeless situation. Is the Republic really there to help or just exploit the Selkath with a smile instead of at the tip of a lightsaber? What is victory to a Sith? Is it enough to achieve an objective or must all their enemies be driven before them, regardless of the cost?

It’s into the midst of this morass that our players arrive, and, sadly as current events show, the answers to these sort of questions are not easy to find, and while our characters may triumph, neither story seems to feel like victory for Manaan. And the war goes on.

The renewed conflict between the Republic and the Empire flared up during Onslaught, but was more or less kept in the background with the focus on Darth Malgus’ ambitions and Heta Kol’s rebellion against Mandalore. I think taking a beat to touch base with what’s going on with the war is important to establishing the setting of all the narratives strings tugging at our characters, even if we may have less personal stakes in the larger conflict.

Not for Nothing: Disorder and The Ruins of Nul

Because those stakes matter to Malgus. He’s been in this fight for decades and at the center of every up and down along the way. At this point, it’s fair to say, he’s feeling pretty down about it.

I’ve always found Darth Malgus to be an interesting villain because he’s almost sympathetic, y’know, except for all the murder and the betrayal. Certainly, several of my characters would’ve joined his New Empire on Ilum given the chance. The thought of a united Sith Empire that has its act together is a truly terrifying notion, but his coup accomplished nothing more than to cement the status quo and leave him bound in more chains than the lowest acolyte on Korriban.

At the point, we catch up with him on Elom, he’s done with it all. Free of the shackles placed on him by the Dark Council, he no longer wants to restore or remake the Empire. His goal is to burn it all down, Sith and Jedi alike.

But is he wrong? The war between the Sith and the Jedi has ravaged the galaxy for centuries with no end in sight. Of course the Sith Empire should be resisted; their every policy and petty infighting mark them as the enemy of freedom. But the story of the Jedi in Star Wars is more often than not about their inability to live up to their own standards and their failure to protect those who need it the most.

These issues are reflected in the wonderful “Disorder” cinematic. There are clear allusions to the story of Arcann, Thexan and Vaylin in this interlude, but instead of watching children struggle under Valkorion’s corrupting influence, we are confronted with the sight of a Jedi breaking up a family and forcing another child into a life they haven’t chosen. There is more going on here than we know, of course. Perhaps the machine, or Malgus, or even Darth Nul are manipulating the memories of the young Twi’lek Jedi, Sa’har Kateen. Nevertheless, as a child, how could she have possibly understood the path before her to become a Jedi? She is right to ask her master Denolm Orr whose decision it really was. I think his failure to answer in that moment speaks volumes.

I’ve often joked that if Anakin Skywalker had been able to date girls in high school and call his mom every once in a while, there never would’ve been a Darth Vader. Sure, the Jedi can teach you to move rocks with your mind and do a bunch of cool flips and splits, but they don’t seem to be the best parents. Certainly Theron Shan would agree. Valkorion’s treatment of his family is monstrous, but the Jedi tradition of separating children from their families hardly reflects well on them.

I’m glad to see SWTOR address these issues, because these kind of questions have always been at the center of the game’s stories and every choice our characters have made over the years. What kind of Jedi or Sith do we want to be? What kind of Republic or Empire do we want to represent?

I get it. It’s called Star Wars. “War” is right there in the name. If the Sith defeat the Jedi or the Republic topples the Empire once and for all, there is no game left. But that doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked. It doesn’t matter if its a Padawan hopping their first shuttle to fleet, a Trooper fighting their way across Corellia, a Dark Lord of the Sith descending upon Oricon, or a Bounty Hunter caught in a shoot out with a Smuggler in a back alley on Mek Sha. The trials never end. And the choices are only meaningful if we keep making them.

As for the flashpoint where all this takes place, the Ruins of Nul is breathtaking in its beauty. I reckon its SWTOR’s most picturesque flashpoint. I took great pleasure in stopping to admire the world’s misty valleys, the snowy peaks, and the cold, grey sky. I’ve thought for a while that players could use a Sith-themed stronghold to call home, and while I had imagined that Oricon or perhaps Nathema would be the ideal place for one, I feel now that I’d love to decorate a mountainside lodge or temple on Elom.

But the thing the flashpoint is most infamous for is the Darth Malgus fight and the bugs that have vexed players and developers alike. Personally, I haven’t encountered significant issues completing that encounter, but a guildmate of mine hasn’t been able to beat it at all, and I watched another get punched through the floor seconds into our first Veteran mode pass. It’s a drag that what should be the dramatic climax to the flashpoint is instead the source of frustration for players. I hope this is a bug that gets squashed very soon indeed.

You Should’ve Killed Me When You Had the Chance

I do want to speculate a bit about what I think might be coming next in the story, but that seems like a topic for another time. Instead, I’ll quickly touch on some of the system changes introduced with 7.0 now that I’ve had some time to play with them.

I continue to love the addition of Combat Styles and Loadouts. It’s allowed me to focus on the characters I most want to play and makes swapping between roles and gear easy.

The focus of a lot, but not all, of my playtime since 7.0’s debut has been gearing. I hit the 326 item rating for my main spec recently and I don’t think it was bad process at all. I took it pretty casually, mainly along the flashpoint path, supplemented with some PVP and Operations gear. I didn’t grind world bosses or pug Nefra, I just did things with friends and guildmates and let the heroics and dailies I do for Conquest take care of the rest.

Gearing in Legacy of the Sith is an engine, and everything you do is fuel for that engine. Once it starts humming, the upgrades come at a steady pace. The problem, I think, is that it can take a bit to get that engine up to speed. It took me longer to get from 320 to 322 than it did to get from 324 to 326. I’d like to see it get a little easier for fresh level 80 players to jump-start the process. Maybe reduce the cost of 322 gear or make it a bit more likely to get those first upgrades from some of the daily sources or easier group content.

I know there have been complaints about the various currencies, but the only ones that I think serve little to no purpose are Medals of Commendation. Once you collect your first Conquest reward, you won’t ever worry about them again. I don’t know any active player who is not capped out in Medals. The cap is low compared to other currencies, but given that I have more than I need and there is nothing to burn the excess on, I just kind of think of them as pennies. The only time I notice them now is when I have to clear out a few to collect even more from the Galactic Seasons reward track.

I vacillate between thinking Bioware should get rid them altogether and wishing there were something else to spend them on. Tech Fragments are still useful to most players, but maybe Kai Zykken could start accepting Medals for his random loot. Or maybe we could purchase crafting materials like Iokath Recombinators or the OEMs and RPMs needed for gold augments. For now I keep the Medals in a jug on a shelf that I only empty when I have to.

The other thing I’ve been doing with my time is fully engaging with the new Galactic Season. The updates to the second season have given me much more flexibility and freedom in how and when I score points along the track every week. It’s so nice to be able to team up with friends and bang out objectives together. I’ve also enjoyed the change of pace from some of the more usual objectives as well, and I hope to see more of that in the future.

I also think the rewards are pretty rad. Fen Zeil may be a hatless Cad Bane, but, he still looks cool in action alongside my characters. The Thurbb mounts are a hoot, and the weapons are all very slick. I’m eagerly awaiting the addition of weapons to the outfit designer so that I can actually start using them!

So, yeah, I’m having fun in Legacy of the Sith so far. Absolutely, I am jonesing to check out the new R4 Anomaly operation, and, yes, indeed, there are many storylines flying around right now that I’m hoping to see resolved before long. Are the bugs annoying and frustrating? Absolutely.

But I’m still having a good time when I play. Since we’re at the start of the gearing cycle, the old flashpoints and operations feel a lot like they did when I first ran them back in the day, and that’s kind of refreshing. It’s satisfying to get upgrades from more difficult content, and it’s been neat playing with different combinations of skills and loadouts.

If your experience is different, I get it. Maybe you’re tired of the same operations and flashpoints you’ve run for years. Maybe the visual changes aren’t to your tastes. Maybe you’re just here for the story. Maybe you’re just not having fun. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone they are wrong about any of that.

SWTOR has always been the theme parkiest of theme park MMO’s, and they made it easy to come and go as you please. Heck, if all you care about is the story, you likely won’t even need to re-subscribe to play the remainder of Legacy of the Sith’s story updates over the next couple of years.

But SWTOR’s not going anywhere for a while yet. There are good people working very hard to put our characters at the center of an epic story and to make it the best game they can. I’m here for that, and I hope they succeed. Because more often than not, over the last decade, I think they have.

As for me, I can’t promise my writer’s block has been crushed to powder just yet. Sadly, my plans for April Fools will have to wait until next year, but I promise, at least, to dust off the Aurebesh and get back to the translation business very soon.

 

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Filed under Galactic Seasons, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

A Skulk of Opal Vulptillas

Just a quick update to announce the winners of this week’s Opal Vulptilla mount raffle! Congratulations to Willielo and Locos Tacos from the great state of Star Forge, Civilian from Satele Shan best Shan, Rin’or Valae from Tulak (For the) Hord, and Kha’mûl from the matter, forme and power of the Leviathan!

Check the in-game mail of the character on your entry for details about how to redeem your mount. And if you could let me know you got it, I’d appreciate it!

Thank you to everyone who entered! As always, I am grateful to everyone who took time out of their day to stop by, I hope to see you again soon!

 

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First Impressions: Legacy of the Sith, Part One

Legacy of the Sith launched this week and there is a lot to discuss, but I’ll try to break it down, but I am going to chop this overview into two posts. So let’s get the spicy parts out of the way first.

The big question at the heart of discussions I’ve had this week is this: Does Legacy of the Sith feel like a proper expansion? For a lot of people the answer is no. The story content, by far the game’s central feature, is the shortest of all of SWTOR‘s expansions. Both Fallen Empire expansions launched with six chapters each, Onslaught debuted with stories on Onderon, Mek Sha and a concluding flashpoint on Corellia. Legacy of the Sith comes with a single planetary arc on Manaan and a flashpoint on Elom to continue the Darth Malgus story. Compounding the issue is that some of Legacy’s launch content has been pushed to the next update even after 7.0 itself was delayed.

SWTOR does not charge extra for expansions, so to some extent the question of whether Legacy of the Sith feels like a true “expansion” is a semantic one. For bettor or worse, calling Legacy an expansion and not “Game Update 6.4” definitely attracts additional attention and anticipation that can be tricky to live up to. When push comes to shove, the scope of Legacy’s story content simply does not compare to previous expansions. And for players who care about story, and I include myself in that group, it’s fair to wish that there were more to play. But I can’t ignore the other features that have come with 7.0, even if the aren’t as literally dramatic.

Combat Styles and Loadouts

Legacy’s most significant new feature outside the story is, of course, Combat Styles. Combat Styles allow players to adopt the play styles of other classes and specializations even across the faction divide. To me, this is a very fun feature indeed. For a long time, the character I play for story has been different from the character I play in group content. Combat Styles allow me to focus on my favorite main character, regardless of whether I’m checking out the story or running an operation with friends.

But if you’re happy with your character and play style, this may be a feature you never interact with, regardless of how complex it was to implement in the game.

Combat Styles also come with the most significant class updates in SWTOR’s history. Class changes are always fraught for players. Logging on a not recognizing your character after an expansion is one of the worst feelings in MMOs, and certainly one I recognize from my time in the World of Warcraft. But as far as I can tell, my characters still play mostly like they did last week.

After 10 years, I think it’s fair to say that SWTOR’s classes got a little complicated. I used to be able to keep everything I needed on a pair of action bars with room left over for a medpack or a on-use relic. During Onslaught, I was lucky if I could fit everything into three. I’m honestly glad to see things get pared down. I’m not quite back to needing just two action bars, but I am close.

I don’t think more buttons makes the experience of playing the game more fun. Many of the abilities added over the years felt redundant or were simply extra things to keep track of during a fight without making combat more visually or rotationally interesting. Now, players willing to interact with the updated skill trees will find they can enhance their abilities in new ways. There are some new buttons, but many of the most interesting choices in the skill trees cause old abilities to function a little differently, often enhancing our ability to heal or attack a single target or groups of enemies.

Many of the abilities added in previous expansions are still options in the skill trees, but players might not be able to add everything to their repertoire that they want. The focus of this cull has been on defensive abilities, which even the most jaded player must admit have gotten out of hand over the last couple of expansions. We all love to cheese mechanics, but all that cheddar was starting to trivialize some encounters and cause significant class imbalances.

In my opinion, for most classes, the paring down of skills hasn’t been a big deal since the available options make it clear which are useful in one type of encounter, and which are a better choice for another. This isn’t quite true for all classes, however. Juggernaut and Guardians and Commandos and Mercenaries have to make a tough choice between abilities that had become popular parts of both classes’ tool kits. I feel for those players, and I agree with the notion that being forced to opt out of at least one skill that had come to be integral to their play doesn’t feel great.

LotS or Less?

I don’t think SWTOR’s user interface has aged well, and is rooted in a style well over a decade old, so I fully understand the desire to spruce it up. Over the past couple of years Bioware has updated parts of the UI, and the 7.0 changes are meant to make it more responsive with a cleaner, modern aesthetic. I am mostly fine with the new look, but it does clash with the older UI elements that are still in play, suggesting that this upgrade project is ongoing. And that’s basically the rub. Legacy of the Sith can come across less like a finished product than a work in progress.

The unfinished aspect of Legacy that stings me the most is the lack of weapons in the Outfit Designer. Right now, the gear we are collecting does not have removable mods. Since we’re at the start of the fresh gearing cycle, this doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to mod gear I’m just going to replace anyway, and thanks to the Outfit Designer its appearance doesn’t matter either. However, the weapons are we earn at level 80 also do not have removable mods, so to remain current we must use those weapons.

Jokes about Space Barbie aside, I’ve rarely if ever met anyone who doesn’t care how their characters look. We all want our avatars to look cool or ridiculous or bad-ass or sexy or funny. A big part of that are the weapons we choose to wield, whether they’re beloved quest rewards, hard won trophies from operations or PVP or even just a swanky prize bought from the GTN.

I understand that integrating weapons into the Outfit Designer comes with extra layers of complications that armor sets lack, but it truly sucks that for the first time since launch, we will have no say in what lightsabers and blasters we use. I also know it is expected that weapons will be included in the designer in the next major update, but I cannot defend the decision to force non-modable weapons on us until then.

Now What?

So where do I land on all this? To be honest, I had a feeling that 7.0’s story content would be about the scope that we got, so I am not disappointed. I truly enjoyed Manaan and thought the events on Elom were thrilling. Do I want more? I always want more! I hope Legacy of the Sith kicks into high gear in the coming months. There are epic narratives circling around the galaxy, and I want to see where they go in as full and exciting ways as possible.

I am also very happy that I get to play my favorite character in a new role. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new skill tree choices work, and that Loadouts let me quickly swap skills and roles at the click of a button is pretty darn cool.

The good folks at Bioware have said that they want SWTOR’s tenth year to be an anniversary to remember. So I intend to hold them to that, and I hope they succeed!

Next week, come back for part two of my first impressions of Legacy of the Sith, in which I discuss the fantastically impressive cinematic Disorder, the events in the flashpoint The Ruins of Nul, and what it might mean for the past and future of SWTOR. There will be significantly less hand-wringing, I promise. I can’t say the same about potential flights of fanciful speculation.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Onslaught Review

As Onslaught’s final hours tick down, I struggled to find a topic to discuss in the lead up to Legacy of the Sith. Things like SWTOR’s tenth anniversary or the possibility of cross-faction grouping that I thought might make interesting posts seemed to work out better as quick tweets. I did consider writing about Boba Fett, but I’m not sure I’m able to untie the Gordian Knot that is my conflicting reactions to his new show.

Instead, I think it’s fair to stick to tradition and go with an overview of the Onslaught expansion. I liked it and I’m glad I got to go along for the ride. As I indicated during reviews of individual game updates, I had fun with each new story addition, and I’m sure I’ve run out of ways to describe how amazing each new location we get to visit along the way is, but I genuinely enjoyed exploring Onderon, Mek-Sha and Dxun, confronting an ancient enemy in the theatre of the mind, fighting my way through Mandalorian warships and exploring the ruins of Dantooine.

The Stories

Unlike the Fallen Empire saga, Onslaught’s story has been rather more episodic with three major arcs that seem to be only lightly connected to each other. The Sith Emperor’s tale has likely come to a conclusion, although, I don’t imagine that we have seen the last of “Syl” just yet. However, the ambitions of Darth Malgus and Heta Kol, the antagonists of the other two storylines, have yet to fully play out. I wrote last year that I wish those stories had a bit more heft, but I am certain that those arcs will indeed bend in Legacy of the Sith.

The edges between the various SWTOR expansions have always been fuzzy. Is the Forged Alliance arc part of Rise of the Hutt Cartel or Shadow of Revan? Certainly the two Fallen Empire expansions elide together almost seamlessly. And I suspect this will be true for Onslaught and Legacy of the Sith as we pick up where we left off on Manaan and Elom.

I do want to briefly touch on the Swoop Rally and Feast of Prosperity events, which were added during Onslaught. I think both are worthy additions to the game. That I don’t need to equip proper gear to race on a swoop bike or even put on any at all to cook a meal of spicy glowshrooms in the kitchen is, for me, a welcome change of pace. SWTOR is filled with an endless array of ways to shoot lasers and swing lightsabers at my foes. But sometimes it’s nice to just do something different. Your mileage might vary, and I can understand that someone else might instead prefer to spend their time in the game fighting the actual star war. These events remain optional with cosmetic rewards, as they should, and I’m glad they’re here to mix things up.

Spoils of War

Onslaught’s gearing system “Spoils of War” seemed to work as intended. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t find gearing to be interesting. Getting upgrades is nice, but I’ve always considered min-maxing to be nothing more than busy work. With Onslaught, it was a relief to spend the majority of the expansion rarely if ever worrying about gear, which was, I think the chief intent and benefit of the Spoils of War system.

It wasn’t all perfect, I pushed some Veteran and Master Mode content this expansion but was rewarded with bags and bags of junk. From what I saw on the PTS, Legacy of the Sith hopes to bring back the thrill of getting upgrades from defeating more difficult content.  This is a good thing!

As a Vanguard tank for my guild team, I did go through the expense of acquiring the Emergency Power set, partially from Veteran Mode Dxun, but mostly from Kai Zykken. I’m glad I finished the set, but having to spend months of Tech Fragments on spins of the dial for random loot was not a fun way to gear up. Hopefully Bioware will not repeat that experiment.

Without any vertical progression, Onslaught’s attempt to introduce horizontal progression was a mixed bag. There were countless sets for each class to collect, but most of them were not worth the space they might take up in your inventory. Moreover, I suspect most players just took the advice of fellow players or online guides about which sets and Tacticals and maybe Amplifiers to use and never gave it a second thought.

I do think there was some fun to be had with builds and sets that were not recommended as “Best in Slot.” I would swap gear, especially Tacticals, depending on circumstances, but I wonder how many other players were also doing so, even when it might benefit them. The Victor’s set, for example, was brilliant for solo play in daily areas and heroics where bonuses from other sets would rarely, if ever, make a difference. The new Sage/Sorcerer ability Telekinetic Blitz/Volt Rush was roundly derided, but when paired with the Endless Offensive set and the proper tactical, it opened up a neat way to play as a healer, even in dps spec! I don’t know how much action it saw in “real” content but I enjoyed dusting it off for runs with friends.

The Nature of Progress

Speaking of Dxun, this time around I did complete the expansion’s signature operation, the Nature of Progress, on Storymode and Veteran Mode (I’m not nearly competent enough for Nightmare!). I had a fun time learning it. Red is an excellent first boss to get a group’s feet wet and the two containment breach encounters are exciting run-and-gun fights, something that SWTOR doesn’t do very often.

Up next comes the Mutant Trandoshan Squad, quite possibly my favorite operation fight in all of SWTOR. I’ve always been fond of council fights, but I like that the bosses’ mechanics feel like natural parts of the encounter, that different group compositions need to approach the fight in different ways, and that raid members who feel up for the challenge get to perform extra duties during the encounter. And that defeating each Trandoshan requires running them over with a high speed train has not gotten old for me in the least. I love this fight when the team executes it perfectly, but I think I love it more when it goes a little sideways.

I also enjoy the next encounter against the Huntmaster, despite some desync glitches. It’s chaotic and random, but in a good way. And that it also includes comedy deaths at its climax is another point in its favor.

After all that, the final boss, the Apex Vanguard is a bit of a let down. In Storymode, its mechanics are in the hands of just one player while everyone else simply beats the boss down. Assuming the group has one person who knows what to do with the battery, Apex is probably the easiest encounter in the entire operation.

For my Hard Mode progression, I was on flare duty, which is a tense job critical to beating the boss, but it was not very engaging. I spent most of the encounter watching cool downs and running in circles around the room. To top it off, the fight is long, very long, and the final burn required, for my group at least, cresting its own separate learning curve. Wiping at 3% meant having to slog through another 10-15 minutes of fighting just to get to the same point again and again.

Overall, however, it is a fun operation, with a lighter comedic touch. It’s not as intimidating as Gods from the Machine, and I’ve had lots of fun introducing many new players to it. I think it’s a good example of why I enjoy raiding in SWTOR. I also have a bet going regarding whether ARIA, the rogue Czerka artificial intelligence from the operation, will return in Legacy of the Sith’s upcoming R-4 Anomaly operation. I’m confident I’m gonna win that dollar.

Launching into Legacy of the Sith

I try always to be sanguine about SWTOR. No, there wasn’t as much content as I would’ve liked last year. And I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed that some of Legacy of the Sith’s features are delayed, but I also know that the last couple of years have been tough on everyone. I commend the good folks at Bioware who managed to produce an expansion to be proud of. I’ll remember Onslaught as an expansion that made some difficult times a little easier to take, and that counts for a lot in my book.

I’m looking forward to seeing SWTOR’s tenth anniversary begin in earnest in a few days. I’m looking forward the new stories the game will tell. And I’m looking forward to the adventures I’ll get to have with friends old and new.

I hope to see you on Manaan and beyond next week!

Opal Vulptilla, You Say?

Just as I was preparing this post, the good folks at Bioware provided me with a fresh batch of Opal Vulptillas in search of a place to call home. To be entered in a raffle for one of these glittering beast mounts, let me know in the comments what your favorite part of Onslaught was. Just like last time, the more comments I get, the more winners I will draw!

To enter, leave a comment below with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!)
  • Your faction
  • Your server

That’s it! I will accept entries for one weeks from this posting and will randomly select the winner on February 17 at 11 PM ET.

If you prefer not to comment publicly, I will also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com or through twitter.

There are no country or server restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded.

This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with LucasFilm Ltd, BioWare or Electronic Arts Inc.

We’re on the honor system here, so one entry per person, please.

 

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Adopt-a-Grophet

With Onslaught coming to an end in just a month, it’s time to take stock of my over-stuffed inventories and clear out the clutter in preparation for Legacy of the Sith. I am a longtime MMO pack rat, and one of the changes coming with 7.0 is the removal of the Renown system and apparently its associated stash, and, well, I’ve been storing a “few” companion pets in my characters’ stashes and it’s high time I found them a good home!

These little fellows were previously available in Knights of the Fallen Empires Galactic Command crates, and whether it was out of a love of critters or sheer stubbornness,  I refused to ever grind pets into Command XP. Over the course of the expansion, my Legacy’s stashes became overrun with hundreds of Grophets and Ginxes. Rather than lose them to the void, I’d like to deliver as many as I can to a good home.

If you are on the Star Forge server, I will gladly send, free of charge, this lovable pair of pets to anyone who wants them! This offer is good as long as supplies last, and, believe me, supplies WILL last!

If you’d like to adopt a Grophet and a Ginx, send an in-game SWTOR mail to “Iamthe Grophet” on the SITH SIDE, or you can leave a comment on this post, or you can Tweet @IntisarNOR or you can leave a comment on the reddit post announcing this giveaway. Include your character’s name (remember to be mindful of spaces and special characters) and your faction, and I’ll gently put them on the first hyper-train from darkest Rishi to your stronghold’s mailbox.

As a special perk for readers of this blog, if you’d like some extras for your alts, let me know and I’ll tuck in up to four of each to your in-game mail!

If you’ve ever wanted the perfect pet to help you role-play as Nicholas Cage or Din Djarin, here’s your chance!

Update! Offer Good While Supplies Last

Over the past long weekend, I lost count of how many pets I sent out, but it was in the range of two hundred. I made a big dent in my stash, but my supply is not exhausted. Please consider this offer evergreen! My original tweet and reddit post will soon fade from my feed, so if you come across this next week, next month, next year, feel free to send a note to “Iamthe Grophet” on Sith Side, Star Forge, or leave a comment below, or tweet at me and I’ll cut some holes in a shoe box, pack it with an old towel and some newspaper and send a Star Wars pig and toad your way as soon as possible.

 

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Whatever Happens, Happens: Five Predictions for 2022

This week, let’s continue this blog’s annual tradition of embarrassment with my top five predictions for SWTOR in 2022!

Before we begin, I should take stock of last year’s list. Even though my predictive track record is traditionally not good, last year was a total miss. Looking over the post, I did briefly consider that the year might end with an expansion announcement rather than an actual expansion, but discarded that notion as unlikely. Ah, youth!

So this year, there is nowhere to go but up! However, it’s been tough to come up with predictions this time around. I’ve already engaged in plenty of wild speculation about Legacy of the Sith, and it’s hard to predict too much beyond what little we know already. Nevertheless, I’ll try to focus my speculation to what happens after 7.0 and what we know of its content.

Ready for Launch

I feel certain that Legacy of the Sith will indeed debut on February 15, its second announced launch date. I’ll give them a day or two wiggle room, but I don’t imagine it is a stretch to say that folks at Bioware really, really don’t want another delay. Will there be bugs and glitches? Of course there will. This isn’t my first MMO, and I’m sure we’ll have to endure some growing pains as we gear up, wait for things to get fixed and see how players are actually interacting with 7.0’s new systems.

Hopefully most bugs won’t affect the average player, but veterans know to strap themselves in and get ready for a bumpy ride for the first part of the expansion. The early weeks of Legacy of the Sith should be an interesting time in SWTOR, but hopefully not too interesting!

That Eriadu That You Do

While much of what we know about Legacy of the Sith focuses on Darth Malgus and the conflict between the Republic and the Empire, I don’t think the burgeoning Mandalorian civil war will be ignored. I have a feeling the next phase of that story will take us to the planet Eriadu. Heta Kol’s interest in Clan Cadera may be leading her to Eriadu where Clan Ordo fought alongside Torian Cadera prior to his introduction to SWTOR’s main story. That Eriadu appears on the starmap of Heta Kol’s path through the Outer Rim is probably not a coincidence. Is it a hint or red herring? I’m sure we’ll find out this year.

Beyond that, I have no idea what might be coming next. I still think Darth Malgus might meet his end on Elom, but I’m no longer feeling quite as sure as I did at this time last year. Will Darth Nul be the next big threat to the galaxy? It seems like a safe bet, but it remains too early to tell.

Origin Stories

Combat Styles and Load Outs are SWTOR’s big system changes coming with the expansion, but I fear an unintended consequence of characters having two Combat Styles is that the difference in gameplay between our characters might flatten out the uniqueness of our alts. I have many characters that I play to fill certain rolls in group content: a Shadow I made just to tank, a Sorcerer who only heals, etc. Come Legacy of the Sith when my group needs a tank while I’m playing my healer, I’ll just click a couple buttons to go from Sage to Shadow and Bob’s your uncle. While one character won’t be able to cover every single style, we’ll have more versatility in swapping roles. That’s pretty neat, especially since it will allow me to spent more time playing the characters I like the most, but I hope that doesn’t reduce out the importance of our Origin Stories especially when it comes to SWTOR’s ongoing narrative.

An Agent playing as an Operative and a Bounty Hunter playing as an Operative, should still have different story experiences. The difference can be subtle, but still feel big. For example: let’s see the return of our class ships as not only means of transport to new worlds, but also as settings for conversations. It’s become a running joke in the game itself how many of those Zakuul shuttles we’ve crashed, and I think it’s high time we take flight in our classic, iconic ships again.

I also think they can personalize the story with companion interactions. Instead of having Lana delivering the same exposition to each character, how about Troopers get their briefing from Jorgan, Consulars from Iresso, Sith Warriors from Pierce and Agents from Temple? Everyone would be getting the same information, but it would go a long way to make each play through feel different.

SWTOR has a huge cast, and wrangling them all into recording booths, especially in this day and age, must be a logistical nightmare, so I know what I’m suggesting is highly improbable, but I always like it when the game remembers that my Consular isn’t the same character as my Jedi Knight.

More Customizations

I was very happy indeed to see on the PTS several new hairstyles and complexion options in the character creator. More diverse and inclusive customizations are always welcome, and I hope what we’ve seen on the PTS is only the beginning. Obviously, I’d love to see more hairstyles, beards and make-up options for everyone! More skin colors and tattoos (including full body ink) for Mirialan, Rattataki, Togruta, Twi’leks and Zabraks! More elaborate horns for Zabraks and piercings for Rattataki! I’d love to see Cyborgs have access to weird and distinctive enhancements: glowing robotic eyes, segmented faces and mechanical jaws. How cool would it be if Valance’s half-metallic skull became an option for Cyborgs?

I could suggest new additions for days, but I do hope for more appearance options for our characters inspired by the evolving interpretations of the peoples of the Star Wars universe that we have seen since SWTOR‘s launch. I honestly don’t know how much bang for the buck new haircuts or tattoos get versus a cool armor set or weapon, but I definitely feel like the options from SWTOR’s character creator are starting to pale in comparison to the competition and the more of those we can get the better.

Once Porg Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

Look, you knew this one was coming. I seriously considered giving up on Porgs this year, and instead would’ve devoted this last prediction to a desperate hope and plea that SWTOR not embrace NFTs this year. But I want to keep the tone of this list light, and any such prediction would’ve ended with me curled up on the floor, sobbing “Please, God, no.” Beside SWTOR already has a cash shop, and while you may not like the Cartel Market, at least it isn’t preventing anyone from getting a PS5.

Moreover while watching Aviriia’s interview with Charles Boyd last fall, I couldn’t help but notice that, SWTOR’s Creative Director had a Porg perched on the bookshelf behind him. To that all I can ask is this: WHERE IS MY PORG, CHARLES? WHERE IS MY PORG?!

So this is it. I’m calling it now. 2022 will be not only the year of the Porg, but also the Loth Kitty, the Flesh Raider Baby, the Force Owl and the Rancor Toddler. I predict our characters’ menageries will overflow every wide-eyed, adorable critter the galaxy has to offer. But no Grogu, That’s just crazy talk.

So here’s to 2022! Last year was pretty quiet, and I hope SWTOR makes up for it with a tenth anniversary filled to the brim with new characters, breathtaking locations, exciting action and unexpected plot twists that we can all enjoy together. I realize this year’s predictions have ventured a bit farther into what I hope for Legacy of the Sith rather than what I actually foresee, but it seems to me that the days before an expansion are a great time to dream big. What are your hopes and predictions for this year of SWTOR? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, Legacy of the Sith