Monthly Archives: February 2022

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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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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