Yearly Archives: 2023

Fortune and Glory, Kid

This week, to end the year in style, let’s take a look at a pair of unexpected additions to SWTOR from Game Update 7.4, Chains in the Dark: two propaganda posters featuring none other than Heta Kol.

These new posters were a surprise to be sure for two reasons. First, these graphics, as well as some other Republic and Imperial fleet posters were unannounced additions, but it’s also odd that Heta Kol would be promoting herself on the Fleet hubs while the forces of her Hidden Chain invades the worlds of the Empire and the Republic.

Within the context of the game world, two explanations spring to mind. Perhaps the Hidden Chain sliced into the Fleets’ advertising systems to illicitly include their own propaganda as a form of digital graffiti. Another possibility is that the Republic and Sith Empire are so hard up for ad revenue these days that they’ll take credits from anyone. Frankly, that second explanation feels all too realistic and plausible.

But let’s take a close look at the posters themselves. The text of both uses the Mandalorian alphabet which was created for Attack of the Clones but continues to be used and refined in live action Star Wars including The Mandalorian. As with the Mandalorian language banners introduced in the Spirits of Vengeance flashpoint, these posters translate not into English but into the Mando’a dialect, which was first introduced in the Republic Commando novels but has also been developed in other media.

Because the text does not directly translate into English, the challenge in translation was two fold, and I decided to create both Mando’a and English language translations of the posters. Typically, my recreations feature letter-for-letter transcriptions whether the source is Aurebesh or another alien typeface, but in these cases the English language translations do not exactly align with the Mandalorian originals. Fortunately, the message of these posters is direct enough that the changes I made don’t feel like they have dramatically upset the posters’ original designs.

As for the translation itself, Mando’a is not a fully developed “conlang” or Constructed Language like Dothraki, Elvish or Klingon, and most of the usage we see is chiefly concerned with the kind of things Mandalorian are typically going on about anyway. Since the intent of the posters is to be propaganda that delivers a short, direct message, I don’t think I needed to look for nuance in my translations, despite the temptation.

The design of these images are similar to wartime propaganda posters that you might have seen in real life or scattered across SWTOR’s worlds and Strongholds. Both posters feature a powerful portrait of Heta Kol against a background that propels the viewer’s gaze upward to the sky, along either beams of light or launching spaceships.

The background of the second image features an emblem that is new to players with this update. This seems to be the symbol of the Hidden Chain, and it is also featured prominently on the swanky new red and bronze armor worn by Mandalorians of the Hidden Chain. I think the iconography of this symbol is worth exploring.

Let’s start in the center, that hexagonal shape has its origins in the breast plate of Boba Fett’s armor and has over the years come to be symbolic of the entire Mandalorian aesthetic from their armor and spaceships to their art and architecture, particularly as seen in The Clone Wars and Rebels shows. On either side of the hexagon, two shapes that appear to be links of a chain seem to pull apart the hexagon which is broken into two pieces. The symbolism is clear: the goal of Heta Kol’s Hidden Chain is to tear apart the traditional structure of Mandalorian culture.

I don’t think Heta just wants to be the next Mandalore. She truly wants a revolution that will remake Mandalorian culture into something else, for better or worse. This is why Shae Vizla has reacted so strongly and stridently to the Hidden Chain’s challenge. Heta isn’t being subtle in her intent as we saw when she destroyed the Clan Cadera banner on Ruhnuc for all Mandalorians to see. This perspective reinforces the central theme of SWTOR’s story over the last two expansions. Darth Malgus wants to break free of the endless cycle of conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, which has left him chained physically, mentally and metaphorically. Similar questions are on the mind of Sa’har Kateen and Shae Vizla as they try to make sense of their places in a new and changing galaxy that is still emerging from the ashes of the war with the Eternal Empire.

To me, this is all very cool. These graphics echo the themes of the story, and the story is connected to their design. Sure, they are neat posters, but they also enhance the player’s experience of the story within the game world. You don’t need to know the literal meaning of Heta’s propaganda to understand its intent, and that’s a mark of very good design.

My Hardcore Journey – Act Three

Finally, let me share the conclusion of my Hardcore Journey with the completion, just barely, of Act Three of the Jedi Knight story.

My biggest surprise about this challenge is that it turned out to be harder than I expected. My choice of Shadow for Combat Style turned out to be most fortunate; the ability to exit combat with Force Cloak saved me from certain death on multiple occasions. As I neared the conclusion of the Jedi Knight story, I barreled ahead at full speed, and took on the Emperor for the first time in years, with only a vague memory of the encounter’s mechanics. T7 was defeated quickly, and I would’ve followed soon after had I not hit Force Cloak to reset the encounter. A quick Google search reminded me what to do, but even so I only survived by the skin of my teeth.

Looking back at the experience, my main piece of advice is to take it slow. While within the level range of a planet and wearing only quest rewards for gear, a group of two or three enemies could be a lot more dangerous than I might expect, and my companions weren’t always as helpful as I would’ve liked them to be. “Kira! What are you doing?!”

One thing I would change is to fuss less with heroics, and do more side quests. I rate the experience gains from planetary side quests higher than the gear upgrades from heroics. Entering nearly every new planet while three levels lower than the mobs I encountered was usually fine, but led to some spicy combats that would’ve been trivial with a couple more levels under my belt.

As for crafting, I stuck with Artifice and it did eventually result in a steady supply of purple quality color crystals, but I found it more trouble and expensive than it was worth to craft level appropriate lightsabers or off-hands, and I suspect this would have been the case for any other crew skill I might have selected. That said, next time I go, I think I’ll give Biochem a try. My Jedi Knight never wanted for medpacks, but I wonder if a constant supply of stims could have helped out more.

I also want to remind readers that as of this post, there is still more than three weeks to enter my Act Three raffle. All you need to do to enter is to show me that you’ve completed Act Three of any class story on the brand new Shae Vizla server. I’ve received many entries already and it’s been neat to hear about folks’ journeys on SWTOR’s new home down under. It’s also been gratifying to hear that many of you have taken up my Hardcore Challenge as well. This raffle features the biggest prize pool I’ve ever offered, and there is still plenty of time to enter!

Finally, let me close out 2023 with thanks to everyone who has visited my little corner of the Internet this year. I strive to have a slightly different perspective on Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’m looking forward to new adventures in the year to come, and I hope to see you there as well!

 

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Filed under Legacy of the Sith, Mandalorian to English

Second Best View

SWTOR‘s next update “Chains in the Dark” is set to launch tomorrow, but before then, I’d like to take a moment to share my submissions to the Best View in SWTOR contest, whose winners were announced last week.

I awaited the announcement of the winners with keen interest this year, because one of my submissions was among the contest’s finalists. While watching the last livestream I was in my guild’s Discord with friends, and they might tell you that I was a just little excited to see my screenshot from Onderon in the video showing off the finalists. I tried to play it cool afterwards so as not to jinx it, but I was pretty giddy in that moment. I like to think that I have had some very, very small effects on SWTOR over the years, but to be completely honest, I really hoped to win so that I could point at a decoration in my stronghold and say “I made that!”

“It was not to be, Chérie.” I refuse to look for fault in the winners. The winning landscape of Belsavis is especially lovely, and I’d be hard pressed to find a more iconic view of Ilum than what was selected. It comforts me that my screenshot in the tunnels of Onderon is thematically not too different from the winning selection, as are a couple of my other submissions.

I hope this contest comes around again! I’ve often said that I enjoy exploration in MMOs, and this contest is an excellent way to engage in the game’s many environments without thinking about them as nothing more than lines between one quest and the next. Taking in the scenery, looking to the sky and finding pleasure in unexpected vistas is as important in a galaxy far, far away as it is in this whole wide world of ours.

Once again, I’ll spare the commentary, and simply share my submissions to the contest. If your submissions are online, let me know where to find ’em, I’d love to see ’em!

Balmorra

Belsavis

Corellia

Dantooine

Ilum

Nar Shaddaa

Onderon

Oricon

Ruhnuc

Voss

My Hardcore Journey – Act Two

Before I go, let me leave you with a quick update on my Hardcore Challenge attempt on the APAC Shae Vizla server. I should’ve taken my own advice not to get cocky, because not a day after my last post, my Scoundrel perished in the Storymode Flashpoint Taral V. “How is it even possible to die in a Storymode flashpoint?” you might ask incredulously. Well, it’s pretty easy if you dismiss the GSI Support Droid and are two levels below the Flashpoint’s suggested cap. The encounter with Captain Shivanek and Ripper did me in. Stunned by the Captain, I was easy prey for Ripper. The death was frustrating because I know that had I been a more proactive with the healing stations, I would’ve survived. One of the things I’ve really struggled to get used to in this challenge is just how bad Companions are at low influence levels. I died with a curse for Corso on my lips.

With my fourth character, I resolved to learn from my mistakes and minimize risk as much as possible, so Flashpoints are off the menu this go. My current character is a Jedi Knight with the Shadow combat style, and instead of splitting time with multiple Companions, I’m sticking with Kira come hell or high water. I prefer having stealth at my disposal, although I have to be very diligent about completing bonus mission that requires me to defeat enemies in phased areas. The problem of constantly being slightly under leveled for each planet remains. For encounters in the story this is rarely an issue, but I do keep Kira set to heal more than I would normally. Something that did help out last week was the Bounty Broker Event, which daily awards a nice chunk of experience points. By the weekend, I’d collected enough Contracts to try a Kingpin Bounty, which was more than a little spicy. On Alderaan, I took the Claw down (and alive!) even if it took all my cooldowns and a medpack. Having to approach encounters that I’ve gotten used to steamrolling with care and consideration continues to keep the journey fresh.

Since I’m not out-leveling any of the planets I’m visiting, I’ve discovered that companion conversations after completing each stage of the story actually award, as a whole, a decent amount of experience points and has meant I don’t feel as much pressure to go back to do extra heroics before I leave. And, look, I won’t lie, making level after smooching Kira has got to be one of the best ways to level up.

With Act Two complete, I’ve just Voss and Corellia ahead of me. I’m in the home stretch, but I need to resist the temptation to rush. With the next update mere hours away, I don’t want to die foolishly trying to get this challenge done. Wish me luck!

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

My Hardcore Journey – Act One

SWTOR‘s new APAC server Shae Vizla is just over one week old, and I’d like to share an update with my progress Down Under. Looking back at my previous entry, I realized that even though I had thrown down the gauntlet for a hardcore challenge, I didn’t make it clear that I would attempt it myself. While we wait for news of the next update, I, of course, had to give the challenge a go myself. I mean how hard could it really be?

Not Great, Bob

I won’t lie. I’m on my third character. The first two died at nearly identical levels on Dromund Kaas. In both cases their deaths can be chalked up to greed and sloppiness. My first character was an Operative, and while Stealth is great for slipping past enemies, it’s also great for accidentally aggroing groups I’d skipped. My second character was a Sorcerer who died because I was certain I could easily defeat two elite mobs at once. Had I been just a little more cautious in the first case, and in the next not so frugal with med-packs (a problem I’ve had going back to my potion hoarding days in World of Warcraft), I would have surely survived.

The problem with the hardcore challenge is that dying means going again, and it can take some motivation to start over from scratch. If I’m going to be honest, after the second death in a single day, I considered giving up or worse cheating by reviving and continuing as if nothing had happened. But I’d know the truth, so after sleeping on it, it was back to the character creation screen I went.

For a long time, SWTOR front-loaded many of the key abilities of each class, so that by the time a character had completed their second planet, they had access to much of their class’s tool kit of abilities and tricks. However, these days, skills are doled out at a slower pace. This is a better experience for new players who aren’t overwhelmed with a constant barrage of new abilities at the very start of the game, but as a veteran, I do miss those extra buttons and have needed to remind myself not to play as if I have them from the start.

Third Time’s the Charm (Hopefully)

So I switched factions, and had another go at a stealth character, this time a Scoundrel. I’ve also been much, much more cautious. As I write this, I’ve just completed Act One and perfectly timed hitting level 30 with the death of Skavak. While I am very eagerly awaiting Disappearing Act and Tranquilizer dart, I feel like I pretty much have the tools I need to win any fight. At least any fight in the Smuggler class story.

After my bad luck on Dromund Kaas, I’ve mostly been sticking to story quests. The game is generous in awarding XP Boosts after each planet, but I’ve found that I’m starting to lag behind. I’ve been completing each planet’s story without out-levelling the planet, which is a new experience for me. I do want to stay within each planet’s level range, but seeing enemies whose levels are written in orange reminds me to stay frosty. However, before departing each planet, I have been padding out my xp bar with a few Datacrons and one or two heroics.

By sticking mostly to story, I’ve found that gearing has been the biggest issue. A belt I looted from a mob on Ord Mantell lasted me until level 29, and I only managed to fill my final equipment slot when I remembered that Matrix Shards can be turned into relics.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I made a Matrix Cube, and there was a fun jolt of nostalgia as I plugged the shards into the Assembly Machine on Coruscant. Matrix Cubes are such an afterthought nowadays, that I could not find an up-to-date guide on the cubes since SWTOR replaced the Willpower, Strength, Cunning and Aim stats on all gear with Mastery. Going by the numbers on the old versions of the cubes, I had a good idea I wouldn’t get one with tanking stats, but I honestly wasn’t sure until I’d fired the machine up.

Credits have not been a significant issue, especially once I completed Conquest, and I’m sitting on almost 50,000 right now. I Quick Travel whenever possible and since training is free, I don’t need to spend them on anything else. I’d hoped to keep up with crafting as I leveled, but the cost of chain running Mission skills does add up, and I’ve simply not been keeping my crafting on par with my gear. I dipped into Artifice to make a couple color crystals, but since it costs 8,000 credits to remove a color crystal, and the story awards a main and off hand weapon on each planet, I would’ve quickly gone bankrupt had I burned 16,000 credits upgrading my weapons each planet. So for now, my weapons are without Color Crystals. I find myself missing the modable weapons, especially the long lost A-300 Sonic Needler, that SWTOR used to award players from heroics and at key story points. I’ll take the green weapon upgrades for sure, but they don’t have much character compared to the old quest rewards.

Don’t Get Cocky, Kid

Now that I’m well on my way, I’m having more fun and feeling more confident that I’ll make it to Act Three without perishing. It’s definitely the “Salad Days” on Shae Vizla, and not being able to rely on Legacy Perks and all the credits I’ll ever need still feels refreshing.

“Stay on target”, I keep telling myself. “Don’t get greedy” and “Avoid elevators at all costs!” I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do the Revan flashpoints. I feel like solo-mode flashpoints with the GSI droid would be too cheesy, but I fear they might be too much of a slog without it. I think it’s all going to come down to my mood next week.

Finally, let me finish up with a reminder that my Act Three Challenge Raffle runs until the middle of January. Show me that you’ve completed Act Three of any class story on Shae Vizla, and you’ll be eligible to win. I’ve received a bunch of entries already, but I am certain that there will be more than enough prizes to go around. Check out last week’s post for details!

 

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Filed under General SWTOR

Go Again: The SWTOR Hardcore Challenge

After months of speculation and hope following last spring’s trial run, yesterday Papa Keith Kanneg announced the launch of a brand new Star Wars: The Old Republic server for the Asia-Pacific region called Shae Vizla! I won’t lie seeing SWTOR open a brand new server is pretty exciting, and I am very happy that my friends on the opposite side of the planet now have a quicker and more reliable server to call home for their characters and adventures.

To celebrate I want to revisit a topic I posted this summer and throw down a HARDCORE CHALLENGE to veteran players looking to check out the Shae Vizla server. This challenge is, of course, inspired by the success of World of Warcraft‘s community driven challenge and recently opened Hardcore servers. I have enjoyed watching players test themselves this way in WOW, and this spring I started wondering if this might be fun to try in SWTOR. Let me be clear from the start, leveling in SWTOR is significantly easier than it is in Classic World of Warcraft. My goal is not to force players delete beloved characters because they missed a jump to an elevator; instead I think veteran players might find some unexpected pleasure in leveling characters without endless credits and character, legacy and guild perks.

There are two elements to the challenge, but the main one is simply to advance your character to maximum level without dying. Should you accept the challenge and your character dies at any point on their journey, you are expected to abandon that character and try again. The second element of the challenge is that players play using a set of restrictions called SSF: “Solo-Self-Found”. That is to say that the only weapons and armor and accessories they can use are those they’ve looted, crafted or earned as quest rewards. Use of the auction house, the mailbox and trading with other players is forbidden. Without being able to feed a fresh character unlimited credits and high quality equipment, Hardcore players need to be careful when forced to make do with the loot they find for themselves along the way, just like founding players did back in 2011.

Here is the rules set for a my “SWTOR Hardcore Challenge”:

  • Players may not use the GTN. They may not trade with other players (or their own alts) in person or through the mail or Guild or Legacy storage. Use of Legacy gear obtained by other characters is forbidden.
  • The gear vendors on Fleet and on the leveling planets are off-limits. Cheap and plentiful mods were simply not available back in 2011.
  • XP Boosts awarded from the story may be used, however boosts and other consumables from daily log-in rewards or the Cartel Market are off-limits. My initial impulse was to ban all boosts, but it seems unfair to prevent players from using fairly earned quest rewards.
  • Conquest rewards may be used. Conquest is a later addition to SWTOR, but it feels too ingrained into today’s gameplay to ban.
  • Each planetary Heroic and Story-based Flashpoint may only be completed ONCE and ONLY while your character is within the suggested level range for the planet or that part of the story. Once you out-level the planet, you CANNOT go back and do its Heroics.
  • Today the GSI Droid super-companion is an expected part of most Story Flashpoints, but I would award an extra gold star to players who opt to dismiss the “Jesus Droid” in Story Flashpoints.
  • Crafted gear is allowed. You may even drop and level new Crew Skills if you want to craft different types of gear. All crafting materials must be found by the character or generated from their own crew skill missions. The use of Jawa Junk is forbidden.
  • Claiming cosmetic gear, mounts and pets from Collections is allowed. I’m not a monster. Absolutely take advantage of the Outfit Designer and ride your favorite speeder. However, because they have stats, Color Crystals cannot be claimed.

I will be giving it a go myself and will be sure to let you know how it goes!

It’s All About the Journey

These rules aren’t really so much a code as a set of guidelines for a more old school pace of leveling. The degree to which anyone might want to engage with this challenge is entirely voluntary and there is obviously no way to enforce them. No, my goal here is to encourage veteran players like myself to take a step back and re-experience the game like a new player might now or maybe in a manner closer to how we leveled back in the day. Many aspects of the leveling experience have changed over the years, and mostly for the better. SWTOR has always aimed for a slower leveling pace, but things like waiting until level 14 for Sprint and level 25 for Speeder Piloting deserve to stay in the past. Nevertheless over the years, I’ve leveled many characters “efficiently” and while it’s quicker, it isn’t exactly fun. Running the same Heroics and the same Flashpoints over and over gets tedious. I started a fresh legacy on a new server recently. and opted level just through a class story I had not run in a long time. To my surprise, I became more attached to that dumb little blue haired Smuggler than nearly any other of my recently created characters. Advancing my Legacy to the point where I could unlock Rocket Boosts felt like a genuinely momentous achievement!

Since Shae Vizla is a fresh start server closed to transfers for now, all players there will be able to experience a new economy both for themselves and the server, It will be interesting to see what life is like when you have to pinch your credits! Indeed many players will have no choice but to follow some of the rules above at least to start!

I Ain’t In This For Your Revolution

But what’s in it for you? The quiet satisfaction of a job well done or the simple joy of playing a fun video game? Of course not! To celebrate the new server and to encourage folks to check it out, I am hosting raffle whose prizes include more than three dozen codes generously donated by the good people at Broadsword that are redeemable for Cartel Coins, subscription time and even a few Mandalorian Heavy Jet Packs! To be eligible to win a prize all you need to do is send me a screenshot (as seen here) of your Achievements window from a character on the Shae Vizla server showing that you’ve completed Act Three of ANY Class/Origin story of either faction anytime between today and midnight of January 17, 2024.

Do you have to follow the rules of the Hardcore Challenge to enter? NO! The challenge is for fun, but it is not part of this raffle. All you need to do is complete one Origin Story in the next two months on the Shae Vizla server in any manner you prefer. If you do attempt the challenge, please let me know how you did!

Does the character have to be on the Shae Vizla server? YES! I want to celebrate the debut of the server and help launch it with a bang.

Do you need to be subscribed to enter and win? NO! Any player regardless of experience or subscription status is encouraged to enter.

What are the prizes? I will be awarding up to forty SWTOR prize codes including twenty codes which can be redeemed for 450 cartel coins, ten codes that can be redeemed for 30 days of SWTOR subscription time, five codes that can be redeemed for a Heavy Mandalorian Jet Pack, and five codes that can be redeemed for 2400 Cartel Coins. Codes will be distributed randomly among all entries after the raffle period ends.

To enter, contact me with the following information:

  • Your character name (be mindful of spaces and special symbols!) on the Shae Vizla server
  • Your faction
  • A screenshot of your character’s achievements window (Achievements>Locations>General>) showing that you have completed Act Three of any Class or Origin story between November 16, 2023 and January 17, 2024.

That’s it!

I will accept Entries through email at twia@generic-hero.com, or through Twitter, or Instagram or here in the comments section of this post!

I will accept entries for two months from this posting and will randomly select winners on January 18, 2024 at 1 PM ET.

There are no country restrictions on any of the prizes that will be awarded. Each entry can only win one code.

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

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

Please only enter for yourself!

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

If you’re a new visitor, I hope you’ll take a look around. I’ve been translating SWTOR’s alien languages for a few years now and sharing commentary about the state of the game as I see it.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

Trick or Treat: My 5 Favorite Halloween Costumes

I’m out of town this week, so let’s shift gears a bit and instead take a break to check out how my friends and I celebrate the spooky season in Star Wars: The Old Republic and share my top five Halloween costumes that I’ve created over my years playing the game.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year and I have many fond memories celebrating with friends and family. Some years ago, the officers of my wonderful guild New Outriders began dressing up and it has become a tradition in the guild to celebrate the season with a costume party and some trick or treating, with the emphasis on tricks!

I also enjoy using the costumes as an excuse to tear a hole or two in the time-space-continuum while recreating some iconic scenes featuring the characters as whom I’ve dressed up.

If We Can’t Protect the Galaxy…

Our very first Halloween theme was super-heroes and we ended up with a nicely appropriate group of avenging heroes and I commemorated the event with a faux comic book cover. Truthfully, my Iron Man suit is just a yellow and red dye slapped on some goggles and the Powered Exoguard armor, but in the future, I tried to get a bit more accurate in my costumes, and I hope I made up for it in this presentation, which, do to an errant “Save as” error, sadly now only exists in this low resolution version.

Go Go Power Rangers

The following year, we went with a somewhat similar theme, and it pleased me that after divvying up the colors ahead of time, we found unique ways to create outfits for each of the classic Power Rangers, and special props to good ol’ T7 for filling the gap in the roster! To be honest, the Power Rangers phenomenon missed me, and I gather the other Rangers are more iconic, but I am happy with my efforts for the Yellow Ranger and these days she uses a vibrosword, which is more accurate to the character.

We Don’t Need Their Scum

Not surprisingly every piece of the gear needed to cosplay as the infamous background bounty hunter Dengar can be found in game as a quest reward or loot from heroic crates, but it took a little mixing and matching to get as close as possible. It wasn’t until Legacy of the Sith‘s combat styles that he was able to finally equip a rifle like the original character. And even though a very similar arrangement of bounty hunters can be found in game on the bridge of the Ziost Shadow, I decided to also have a go at duplicating the tableau of bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back.

More recently I created another character based on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it the bounty hunter: Aurra Sing from The Phantom Menace. Aurra Sing was a last minute addition to the movie, and her costume is not especially elaborate so Canderous Ordo’s vest does most of the heavy lifting here, but even though Rattataki lack Sing’s top-knot, antenna and creepily long fingers, I am very happy with how close I got.

To Boldly Go

Finally let’s smash all barriers of time, space, continuity, and opposed fandoms with pop culture’s most famous starship captain. The remarkably versatile Czerka Corporate Shirt gets a second (or even a third if you count the communications officer) appearance on this list, but its use here feels entirely “logical.” My only regret with this costume is that despite the myriad number of blasters in SWTOR, none of them quite feel enough like a phaser to me. I suppose that might be intentional!

Honestly this is only the tip of my cosplaying iceberg. I fully and proudly engage with SWTOR‘s Space-Barbie endgame. I’ve created characters and outfits inspired by seasons of the year, other holidays and even a favorite anime character or two.

SWTOR has events for Life Day at the end of the year, the Thanksgiving adjacent Feast of Prosperity and the summertime Nightlife event, and while there is a gap in the calendar where a springtime event could easily fit it, I confess the event I’d most like to see added to the game is a spooky Halloween celebration. Aside from the Rakghoul Resurgence, SWTOR’s events tend to be lighthearted, and I think a horror-tinger, Sith-themed event with masks, candy and hauntings by angry Force ghosts could be a fun addition to the game. Who doesn’t love a tasty treat and a scary trick?

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR

Surprised at Life’s Little Quirks

At the start of this month This Week in Aurebesh celebrated its seventh improbable birthday. When I think about this project, I sometimes imagine myself as the Dread Pirate Roberts telling Wesley every night “Sleep well, This Week in Aurebesh, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” And, yet, after the better part of a decade, it’s survived into yet another day. I’m still finding things to write about, and as long as I continue to need a valet, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

This post is belated because one of the hazards of life in the big city is the noise, and over the last few weeks, indeed the whole darn year, the racket in my neighbourhood has been excruciating, and I have found it very hard to write and I’ve not discussed every topic I’ve hoped to cover recently.

Therefore for this blog’s birthday, I’ll try to catch up and cover as much as I can, and even toss in a quick Aurebesh translation as well.

Darth Nul

The story of Darth Nul has been percolating mostly in the background of Legacy of the Sith, but it finally seems to be moving on to SWTOR’s main stage, hopefully as soon as this winter’s story update.

The story of Nul revisits a concept from SWTOR’s original class stories, “The Children of the Emperor.” In short, the Children are the result of a secret program designed to condition or brainwash Jedi and Sith often unknowingly under the influence if not the direct control of the Sith Emperor himself. Both the Jedi Knight and Consular played key roles in exposing and dealing with the Children in their initial Origin Stories. The concept of “Children of the Emperor”, however, begs the question: If Vitiate was the father, who was their mother?

That’s where Darth Nul comes in. Players have learned that it was Nul who developed many of the techniques used by Vitiate to create his “Children.” The source of this discovery was Darth Malgus who had access of many of Vitiate’s secrets during his short time as the False Emperor, and once he was freed from the current Sith Emperor’s control, Malgus started tracking down relics related to uncovering the origins of Darth Nul.

Over the course of the last year or so of updates, we have discovered that Nul was once a Jedi named Reniah whose theories were considered radical by the Jedi Council; after connecting with Vitiate through the Force, she was subjugated and turned to the Dark Side. Like Revan, Nul started as a Jedi but later became a Sith. Unlike Revan, however, it seems she was not given a chance at redemption, but her final fate remains tantalizingly unknown, All we can say for certain is that Darth Malgus seems to believe she is the key in transcending both the Jedi and the Sith in a way Revan never accomplished.

As a side note, it’s worth considering Darth Malgus’ role in all of this. Clearly he has set things in motion, but it’s fair to wonder how much control he has over events now, especially from his current position of confinement on the Fleet. I don’t believe he is the mastermind behind the recent actions of Heta Kol or Sahar or Ri’kan. Rather I imagine, Malgus might be more like a Star Wars version of Pandora who has ripped open a box of curses and wants only to see the disorder its contents creates. That said, I don’t think his part in the story is over.

And since I’m digressing, I might as well briefly touch on the theory floating around that Darth Nul might be Lana Beniko, whether she knows it or not. How much do we really know about Lana, anyway? I suppose it could be possible, but such a shocking reveal feels too far out of left field to really land successfully. Nul is known to be an inventor, and Lana hasn’t shown any particular affinity towards technology, and I have a hard time believing that Valkorion would not have noticed or remarked upon Nul’s presence so close to the Outlander during the Fallen Empire story. That said, could Nul have Children of her own without anyone knowing it? Sure, why not? And could Lana be one of them? Maybe. She does feel like a likely candidate if such a thing should come to pass. Time will tell!

Old Wounds

SWTOR’s most recent story update Old Wounds continues the investigation of Nul’s history, but as with Showdown on Ruhnuk, the focus is less on our character, the Alliance Commander, than other characters involved in the past several years of story. It starts with a confrontation between Darth Rivix and Tau Adair. Tau is fun when she gets to be a stubborn bad-ass, and Rivix being simultaneously treacherous and smooth is a delight. It’s worth pointing out that while each of our characters’ play through of the story remain mutually exclusive, in this case watching both the Republic and Imperial versions of the opening encounter rewards players with a fuller picture of Rivix and Tau’s duel.

The story also takes time to focus on Sana Rae, the Voss mystic who has been guiding our Alliance’s Force Enclave since its earliest days, Arcann and Torian Cadera. I want to focus on Arcann here, but I am always pleased when SWTOR devotes space to characters that may or may not have survived in everyone’s story. It’s usually (but not always) the case that when the player opts to save or dispatch a recurring character, they are neither seen nor heard from again even if player spared the character in question. When it comes to companions, I know there are many, many mouths to feed, so it’s nice that players who have connected with Torian and Arcann can continue those relationships in the game even if only occasionally.

My main character for playing story content is my Consular, and she spared Arcann out of a sense of mercy. I do not run Heroics and Dailies with him as an active companion or send him on crew skill or crafting missions. For the most part, I have always considered him to be under house arrest on Odessan, under Sana Rae’s supervision. The interlude with Arcann during Old Wounds was the first time I actually felt sympathy for him since Fallen Empire and believed that he truly is seeking redemption. He has a long way to go, and still needs to take responsibility for his war crimes, but I do think he is on the path.

When the player does come to the forefront during Old Wounds, it is one brand new area on Voss, and it’s in a way that is somewhat unusual in the main story, and possibly not to every players’ taste. If there is one theme that SWTOR has been returning to again and again since the end of the Fallen Empire saga, it has been an exploration of the harmful effects of war on those who fight it. Tau is haunted by the battles she’s fought. Malgus rages against the endless conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, and Shae is barely keeping it together while she attempts to prevent her Mandalorians from splintering into yet another civil war. Likewise, the story of Voss is about both the physical reconstruction of the planet after its bombardment by the Eternal Empire, but also the strain on its people, the Gormak and the Voss, as they attempt to reconcile after generations of conflict and accept their shared heritage.

Old Wounds puts our characters in the middle of that conflict. Are these galaxy-shattering events meant to shake the pillars of creation? No, of course not. But I’ve always found the story of Voss to be fascinating. The Voss are a fundamentalist culture struggling to reconcile things they’d been taught which justified war with the Gormak with the actual fact of the matter that they are the same people as the Gormak. The Gormak had gotten so used to hating and fighting the Voss that they also never learned how to act in peace. These are knots as thorny to untangle in the Star Wars universe as they are in ours. But as the saying goes, all politics are local, and the Alliance Commander finds themselves in a position where they can guide both parties towards reconciliation or back to conflict.

The Interpreter’s Retreat area on Voss is a daily area unlike the others in SWTOR. There is no reputation track, no weekly quests, just optional quests and achievements for players to pursue. If you feel that cooking lunch for strangers, mopping floors and taking out the trash is beneath your Dark Lord of the Sith or Battlemaster of the Jedi Order, I get it. Once you complete the main story, you can choose never to step foot there again and not really miss out on much.

But I had fun. The quests are fairly easy, and unlike the Ruhnuk dailies, navigating the zone as a non-stealth using character isn’t bad. At the very least the mob density is much less, and you won’t ever have to slog your way through corridor after corridor choked with elite enemies. For achievement and decoration hunters, there is plenty to do in the Retreat as well.

I have been enjoying the different style of storytelling we’ve seen in Legacy of the Sith. Since the end of the Fallen Empire saga, the pace has been a bit slower and the threats more existential than galaxy threatening. We are now seeing scattered story threads begin to be woven together, and I do hope it is time that things start coming to a head. The next story update is scheduled to arrive in just a couple of months, and instead of sifting through more clues, I’d like to see our characters begin taking direct action so that the story can build to a climax.

Ri’Kan Can Wait

I do want to discuss some of the elements of the story of the siblings Sahar and Ri’kan, but I intend to do so in comparison with some of themes of the recently completed Ahsoka show on Disney+. Because I want to show solidarity with and support for the Screen Actors Guild’s ongoing strike against AMPTP which includes Disney, I have chosen to refrain from all “content creation” for media produced by companies targeted by the strike.

I know my reach and influence is meager, but let me unequivocally state that those who create and tell the stories we love should absolutely be treated and compensated better by the corporations who would rather pay executives exorbitant bonuses than their employees a living wage. The Writer’s Guild recently successfully concluded their strike against the AMPTP, and I hope SAG does as well.

And, yes, my stance will apply to video games, should it come to that.

So for now, let’s leave it off here. I want to thank each and everyone who has visited this site over the years, and I hope to see you on the adventures to come!

 

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Filed under Aurebesh to English, Legacy of the Sith

My Plastic Pal Who’s Fun To Be With

Within Star Wars lore, SWTOR is something of an outlier. It seems to exist within a liminal space between Legends and Canon, based on the lore of the former but still influencing the latter. Mostly, however, SWTOR has been off in it’s own corner of the Star Wars universe doing it’s own thing, and speaking only for myself, I kind of like it that way. But that also means that SWTOR rarely if ever crosses over into other aspects of Star Wars fandom that I enjoy, but when it does, it’s a special event. A few years ago I wrote about how I still enjoy collecting Star Wars action figures and that remains true. Star Wars figures can be found in many scales and styles, but my focus is mostly on Hasbro’s “Black Series” line which features characters in the 1/12th scale, whose figures are roughly 6 inches tall. This week, the first character in the Black Series specifically inspired by SWTOR arrived on my doorstep: Darth Malgus.

And, boy howdy, is he terrific. Hasbro’s Black Series line is nearly as old as SWTOR, and without going into nerdy detail, Hasbro has been refining and updating the design of their figures, and all of the best hallmarks of the modern Black Series are on display here. Malgus is an entirely new sculpt with a good range of articulation; his joins are pinless, minimal and mostly unobtrusive, which means  I am able to pose him dynamically enough that he looks cool standing on my desk, and I can almost believe he jumped right out of the game!

In addition, Hasbro is now able to digitally apply paint to their figures allowing for a remarkable level of detail on Malgus’s scarred face. This extends under his breath mask which can be removed if you are willing to yank the head off its peg. Malgus is also one of the biggest, broadest Black Series figures, taller even than Darth Vader, and he towers over Revan, his fellow Darth from the Old Republic era.

The question of whether this Darth Malgus action figure is a toy or an “adult collectible” is a fair one to ask. Hasbro, I’m certain, would like to have it both ways. While I wish these figures came with a few more accessories (every Jedi and Sith should include swappable Force wielding hands, for example) and a little extra punch of paint details in the costumes, I still feel like the Black Series figures I get are worth the price, even Malgus who is a few extra bucks more than a standard figure. When it comes right down to it, similar, actual “adult collectibles” cost anywhere between four and ten times as much as a standard Black Series release; so I can’t blame Hasbro for cutting corners here and there.

I may be wrong, but I think this Black Series Darth Malgus might be the first all new bit of SWTOR merchandise we’ve seen in years. And while I know it’s not up to Broadsword, I do hope this is only the beginning. At the very least, Hasbro can’t just leave it here. If they’re gonna do Malgus, they have to do Satele Shan so we can recreate their duel on Alderaan. Hasbro recently re-released the Republic Trooper and Shae Vizla figures from the “Vintage Collection” line of 3 ¾ inch figures, and you can’t tell me that they wouldn’t also look great in the 6 inch scale next to Malgus.

To do these characters justice in plastic form, all of the figures would require original sculpts from head to toe, so whether Hasbro is able to keep producing figures based on SWTOR may depend on how well Malgus sells. As I write this, Malgus is still available in the United States from Hasbro, Entertainment Earth and Big Bad Toy Store. It’s not for me to tell you how to spend your money. As I said in my original post, these “toys” are not cheap and when deciding whether I want to get one, I have two criteria: I have to like the character, and I have to like the figure they made of it. Sometimes I’ll fudge one of those, but Malgus easily checks off both boxes, and seeing him on my shelf makes me smile.

 

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Filed under General Star Wars, General SWTOR

What One Wears Oneself: The End of TOR Fashion

Two weeks ago, Exile, who had been maintaining the MMO Fashion website which was home to TOR-Fashion and TOR-Decorating, announced that she was returning to school and could no longer keep those sites active. I’m sad to see the sites go. Thanks to Exile’s hard work, both were regular resources of mine for many years. MMO Fashion played an important role in helping players answer the question of “Oooh! Where did that outfit/mount/weapon/pet/decoration come from and can I get it myself?” Exile documented thousands upon thousands of SWTOR‘s cosmetics from every corner of the game.

People joke about SWTOR’s true endgame being “Space Barbie,” but I think it is true for any game in which players can customize their avatar’s appearance. Casual or hardcore, raider, PVPer or solo story player, I’ve never met anyone in SWTOR or WOW or any other game who did not care what their character looks like.

For better or worse, it’s fallen on the fans to catalogue significant chunks of this information because SWTOR itself doesn’t make it easy or in some cases possible to find it. MMO’s require something that Youtube essayist Dan Olson calls “paratext”: detailed information about playing the game: theorycrafting, quest guides, history, lore analysis, and, of course, fashion advice. This information comes not from the game itself, but from players who are willing and able to do the research and have the means to share what they’ve learned with the game’s community. Could a new player jump into SWTOR and successfully play it without consulting an outside guide? Sure, but they’d miss out on so many fun, weird and overlooked adventuress and rewards. Moreover transitioning to the game’s more difficult PVE or PVP content would be all but impossible without a helping hand or two.

As useful as Exile’s site was, it’s important to remember that hobbies and interests change for all of us. Fan sites of any size have some upkeep associated with them, and if they become unsustainable, it makes perfect sense to let them go. When any content creator decides to move on from the game, it’s not on them to maintain their content, even if they could keep it going for free. SWTOR‘s fan community does include a vibrant list of creators for this type of content; indeed Illeva founded Swtorfashion.com with a similar goal to allow fans to share their favorite outfits.

In addition, Swtorista was able to take on the herculean task of rescuing Tor fashion and decorating’s content, and I’m glad to know it will not be lost. SWTOR has been around long enough and gone through so many changes that fan created paratext functions as a sort of institutional memory of the game’s evolution throughout the years. Some of this information has been lost to time. I recall getting tips from Torhead and DarthHater way back when, but whatever guides were hosted there are long gone. Even Dulfy, whose site was the primary source of SWTOR information for years is no more.

It certainly is to SWTOR’s benefit that fan site creators, podcasters and streamers exist to help players of all kinds find information about the game, whether it’s putting together the right outfit or maximizing their class’s performance. Moreover, I think preserving SWTOR’s history is important, and it’s fallen on the fans to do much of it.  I have fond memories of the original Rakghoul and Chevin events, but did not think to preserve either in my screenshots or record the cut scenes. If not for Shintar, I’m not sure I would even know where to tell people to go to find out what those one time events were like!

SWTOR is not the biggest MMO, and even though I know few people who like the term “content creator,” it does have a dedicated community of fans who really do want to show you why they love the game and how you might get the most out of your experience. Don’t take ‘em for granted!

Finally, I’d like to admit the first draft of this post was originally intended to be a comment on Shintar’s post on this topic for her blog Going Commando which you should definitely check out! Going Commando is SWTOR‘s longest running and snappiest blog, and definitely inspired me to start this project myself.

Update!

Shortly after this post went live, Swtorista posted an article about her efforts to preserve the content of TOR-Fashion and TOR-Decorating.

What happened to TOR Fashion & TOR Decorating?

In addition, it contains a link to a fundraiser to benefit Exile and thank her for hard work over the years. If you can spare a buck or two, consider sending it Exile’s way!

 

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Filed under General SWTOR

Cloud City

This week, Star Wars The Old Republic officially began moving forward with its plans to migrate its servers to Amazon Web Service’s cloud based servers. As I write this, the French Leviathan server has already made the move, and so far things seem to be off to a good start.

As with many other of SWTOR’s structural changes over the last couple of years, this might be something that many people may not even notice, but in the long run should result in more stable gameplay for players and less need for back-end support from the developers. Folks who’ve been playing on Star Forge this past year know very well that the server has been prone to outages, and I am looking forward to the day that the poor, tired Star Forge Hamster earns its wings up in the cloud after keeping the old server’s wheel spinning for so long!

Cloud based servers open all sorts of possibilities for the game. For now Broadsword’s plans are vague beyond migrating the current servers, but I do hope the Shae Vizla Asia-Pacific server that we tested last spring becomes a reality for everyone down under who currently has no good option for a responsive server to call home.

Beyond that, it’s fun to speculate. Could we see event servers or seasonal servers or more localized North American or European servers? I wonder if cross-server grouping might even be possible one day. I don’t know, but it’s promising to think that maybe some of this could be in SWTOR’s hopefully not too distant future.

SWTOR Hardcore Challenge?

As I said, I hope that the Shae Vizla server becomes a permanent fixture for my friends on the opposite side of the world. While the possibility of a completely fresh server with an untainted economy is intriguing, I also trust that free transfers to the new server should be open to all players who would want to make a new home there.

However, for folks like myself who would only be visiting, a fresh start offers an intriguing possibility, one in particular inspired by a popular community driven game mode in World of Warcraft Classic: the Hardcore Challenge.

There are two elements to the challenge, but the main one is simply to advance your character to maximum level without dying. If your character dies at any point on their journey, you are expected to delete that character and try again.

As a former long-time WOW player, I found the initial World of Warcraft Classic experience a curious one. Even though Blizzard did a very good job recreating the gameplay of the original game, it rather missed the mark when it came to recreating the feeling of playing WOW in its earliest days. The main issue is that there are no mysteries in World of Warcraft Classic. The question of which classes are best at which roles has long since been worked out. Players can easily target and acquire their best-in-slot gear. And the strategies for efficiently defeating each and every encounter in the game have been known for years if not decades.

I started playing WOW in its first year, and can assure you that none of those things were known to me. I learned my class by gut instinct and only had a vague notion of what the various stats on my gear did. As for dungeons and raids, I had no idea what to expect from my first visits to both the Deadmines as a pup and to Molten Core as a fresh level 60 Priest. This is something I suspect few if any players of today’s iteration of WOW Classic experience.

Despite being a community-driven initiative, the Hardcore WOW Challenge has been a considerable success to the point that Blizzard will soon be rolling out official Hardcore servers. I think a big part of the appeal of the mode is that the challenge comes closer to replicating the feeling of leveling back in WOW’s golden age. With the threat of death hanging over players’ heads, they have to be more circumspect in how they play when a reckless encounter with Hogger or a South Shore Guard can send them back to the character creation screen.

The second element of the challenge is that players are expected to play using a set of restrictions called SSF: “Solo-Self-Found”. That is to say that the only weapons and armor and accessories they can use are those they’ve looted, crafted or earned as quest rewards. Use of the auction house, the mailbox and trading with other players are forbidden. Without being able to feed a fresh character unlimited gold, bags and high quality equipment, Hardcore players need to be careful when forced to make do with the loot they find for themselves along the way, just like I did back in 2004.

This spring I started wondering if a ”SWTOR Hardcore Challenge” might be viable on a fresh server should one come along, and what sort of rules it should entail. First we must acknowledge that leveling in SWTOR is significantly easier than leveling in World of Warcraft Classic. The goal as I see it, however, is less about making leveling as difficult as possible than it is to try to approximate the pace and experience that SWTOR players had back in 2011.

When I mentioned this notion to Kal from Today in TOR, they suggested banning the use of Companions, but I feel like Companions are so integral to SWTOR’s gameplay and story that denying them to players is too much to ask. Likewise, outlawing the use of Sprint until level 14 and Speeder Piloting until level 25 seems outright cruel. Those are two aspects of the vanilla SWTOR experience best left in the past.

That said, I think veteran players might find some unexpected satisfaction in leveling a character without endless credits and character, legacy and guild perks.

Here is the rule set I propose for a hypothetical “SWTOR Hardcore Challenge”:

  • No grouping. I know this makes the challenge less social, but an extra player and their companion trivializes most if not all leveling content.
  • Players may not use the GTN. They may not trade with other players (or their own alts) in person or through the mail or Guild or Legacy storage. Use of Legacy gear is forbidden. Leave that Victorious Pioneer armor in your Legacy bank!
  • The gear vendors on Fleet and on the leveling planets are off-limits. Cheap and plentiful mods were simply not available back in 2011.
  • XP Boosts awarded from the story may be used, however boosts from daily log-in rewards are off-limits. My initial impulse was to ban all boosts, but it seems unfair to prevent players from using fairly earned quest rewards.
  • Conquest rewards may be used. Conquest is a later addition to SWTOR, but it feels too ingrained into today’s gameplay to ban.
  • Each planetary Heroic and Story-based Flashpoint may only be completed ONCE and ONLY while your character is within the suggested level range for the planet or that part of the story. Once you out-level the planet, you CANNOT go back and do its Heroics.
  • Today the GSI Droid super-companion is an expected part of most Story Flashpoints, but I would award an extra gold star to players who decline to summon the “Jesus Droid” in Story Flashpoints.
  • Crafted gear is allowed. You may even drop and level new Crew Skills if you want to craft different types of gear. All crafting materials must be found by the character or generated from their own crew skill missions. The use of Jawa Junk is forbidden.
  • Claiming cosmetic gear, mounts and pets from Collections is allowed. I’m not a monster. Absolutely take advantage of the Outfit Designer and ride your favorite speeder. However, because they have stats, Color Crystals cannot be claimed.

This isn’t really so much a code as a set of guidelines for a perhaps more old school style of leveling, and the degree to which anyone might want to engage with these rules is entirely voluntary. I’m also not suggesting that Broadsword make official Hardcore servers. I believe WOW’s Hardcore challenge has worked best as a community event for players, and it doesn’t require Developer intervention.

What do you think? If SWTOR gets a new server, would you transfer your legacy there or would you be interested in a fresh start? Are your lenses rose-tinted enough that you might want to try leveling in a manner closer to SWTOR’s old days or do you just want to race to the level cap?

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

A Vision Softly Creeping: Five Reasons You Should Visit the Shrine of Silence

Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s Game Update 7.3 comes with the latest chapter in Legacy of the Sith‘s story and a new questing area, but today I want to focus on its other major new addition: the Shrine of Silence flashpoint.

My very short take is that I really, really like it. Indeed, I think Shrine of Silence is one of SWTOR’s very best flashpoints, and I am certain players of all skill levels will have fun exploring it. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Dumb Top Five List, but it strikes me as a good format for my review of the games latest flashpoint.

Its Setting and Pace

SWTOR’s flashpoints, especially in the last few years, have been amazing settings to explore. Copero is certainly one of the most picturesque worlds in all of the game’s galaxy and Elom is filled to overflowing with breathtaking and sublime vistas. But as flashpoints, Traitor Among the Chiss is choked with 20 minutes of annoying trash before groups even reach the first boss. The Ruins of Nul is marred by a button puzzle that requires backtracking and a dangerous cliffside run that isn’t so much an exciting race against time as a slog through trash mobs. And let’s leave out Nul’s infamous final boss fight that launched with a floor bug that rendered the encounter impossible to complete for many players.

None of that is a problem in the Shrine of Silence. Players are dropped into a spooky Temple of Doom-style setting, and the flashpoint’s layout smoothly moves players through its locations. The Shrine’s secret chambers and remarkably hazardous broken walkways certainly recalls parts of The Nathema Conspiracy and the Hive of the Mountain Queen, but it is made distinct by a haunted atmosphere that enhances the overall experience. In the Shrine, players will discover ties to Voss lore and mysticism going back to SWTOR‘s first visit to the world in the game’s earliest days.

I’ve run with lots of friends lately and there is always one or two times during everyone’s first visit when they stop to take in the scenery and say “Oh, wow!”

It’s Fun

The Shrine of Silence includes three main bosses, one bonus and two mini-boss encounters, and each has their own unique flavor. The mechanics of the fight are telegraphed clearly, and if you can get out of the red circles and cones and know that some things can be interrupted, you can figure out the fights. In addition there is simple problem solving needed to unlock the shrine’s secrets. None of this requires outside guides, and I’d be shocked if most players can’t overcome these obstacles on their own. The biggest indication to me that I enjoy visiting the Shrine is that I am still, weeks after release, willing to run it on any character whether they be melee or ranged or stealth-capable or not.

Like most of SWTOR‘s recent flashpoints, Shrine of Silence has mobs that can detect or decloak stealthed characters. I don’t believe we’ll ever again see a flashpoint as ninja friendly as Red Reaper, and that’s fine. I think it is perfectly reasonable that trash can and should be used to set the pace in a flashpoint. That said, I agree with the criticisms that many of the other recent story driven flashpoint have so much trash that the overall experience feels sluggish. But that’s not the case in Shrine. The non-boss mobs are not dangerous or difficult, and players should be able to leap from pack to pack at a smooth and steady pace as they advance through the flashpoint.

Finally, players like me who love extra bosses won’t have to go out of their way to complete the flashpoint’s bonus encounters, but they are also easily skipped by groups who hate fun and just want to get to the end.

Its Rewards

Players will of course earn the usual flashpoint gear and currencies in the Shrine of Silence, but the flashpoint also is sprinkled with additional rewards for decorators, fashion mavens and achievement hunters. All of this serves as incentives for players to make repeated visits to the Shrine. Two different decorations can drop from trash mobs, and each boss can drop boxes that contain an entire legacy armor set inspired by the aesthetic of the Voss characters we’ve met throughout the game’s history. These armor sets aren’t for everyone but there are some neat pieces to be found here, and looting them from the flashpoint’s bosses is a much cheaper option than purchasing them piecemeal from the vendor in the Interpreter’s Retreat.

The achievements associated with the Shrine include stronghold trophies (which I’m very glad to see again after their absence from KotET), but there are also achievements which unlock additional decorations on the vendors in the Retreat. Finally there is a secret achievement for truly dedicated players looking to rock the “Untouchable” legacy title.

I’m very happy to see rewards for players who journey into the flashpoint whether they are a freshly minted level 80 character or a fully decked out veteran. That said, although it is practice now for decorations based on flashpoint bosses to be holographic trophies, I have to say that I’d really prefer to put an actual giant plant monster in my stronghold and not a hologram of one.

It’s Easy

If you are in the queue for random Veteran Mode Flashpoints and Shrine of Silence pops, you’ll be fine. The mechanics are easy to understand and explain. “Don’t stand in red stuff and avoid lightning” pretty much covers it all. If you want to skip the bonus bosses, you’ll fly through. Even if your group is wearing potato gear, healing stations should keep everyone topped off long enough to win.

No, you won’t blaze through Shrine as fast as you might through Hammer Station, but I firmly believe Hammer Station should not be the benchmark for SWTOR’s flashpoints. Instead, it feels on par with other classic flashpoints such as Battle for Ilum, False Emperor and the Czerka flashpoints, and to me that feels like the sweet spot.

It’s Hard

However, if you queue for a Master Mode flashpoint and Shrine pops, get ready for a fight! I expect most groups in 330+ gear should have few issues with the first two bosses. However, the final boss, the Curse, is a genuine step up in difficulty. I’m wearing augmented 336 gear and both dpsing and healing this encounter was tricky. I’ve only done this fight with friends, and I truly enjoyed the challenge but random groups will definitely have their work cut out for them.

The fight feels on par with the original versions of the Gemini/Zildrog encounters at the end of the Nathema Conspiracy flashpoint, which is to say that everyone in the group will need to be able to think and act on their feet to defeat the boss. Shrine of Silence has two other extremely accessibly modes, so I don’t mind that the developers added some extra challenge on its highest difficulty.

In addition each boss has achievements associated with perfect execution or by choosing to add extra difficulty to the fight. “Make Your Own Hard Mode” mechanics are something we’ve only begun to see recently in SWTOR’s operations, but they are a neat addition for players looking to spice up their flashpoint run.

Not everyone enjoys dropping into a flashpoint with a boss that might take a few tries, especially if the Group Finder puts you there, but a dedicated and persistent team may very well enjoy rising to the challenge.

I’ve long considered Voss one of my favorite planets in SWTOR, and the Shrine of Silence is a most worthy addition to the world’s rich body of lore, so if you’ve got a level 80 character and are looking for something fun to do by yourself or with friends, I definitely recommend a visit!

 

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Filed under Dumb Top Five, General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith