Category Archives: Dumb Top Five

Five For Five: Revisiting Some Top Five Lists

With so much going on in the real world right now, perhaps it’s only natural that I find myself looking back a bit. Since the earliest days of this blog I’ve been compiling “Dumb Top Five Lists” meant to highlight some of my favorite hidden corners and overlooked collectibles that can be found in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I thought it might be neat to see if some recent additions to the game could manage to secure spots on some of those old lists.

Top Non-Cartel Market Mounts: Feirocian Cruiser

The first list of my favorite non-Cartel Market stuff covered mounts, but there have been many new mounts added to the game since that post. Many of those could be found in Galactic Command Crates during Knight of the Eternal Throne. The best, by far, of these is the Feirocian Cruiser which was a very rare prize found in Tier 4 Command Crates. This large, unique speeder is the closest we’re ever going to get to driving the Batmobile in SWTOR. The massive fins, crackling plasma binders and gold trim all combine to make this one of the sweetest whips in the game.

Does it make the top five? During KotET this would’ve been a tough call since the only source of this mount was the highest level Galactic Command Crates. I won’t lie; I ground a lot of CXP hoping to find this ride. Because of that difficulty, I would have put this in the “For the Truly Dedicated” category, but I’m not sure it could replace the beloved Pleasure Speeder in my heart. However, with Onslaught, the Cruiser can now be purchased from the Spoils of War Vehicle Vendor in the Supplies section of both Fleets for the relatively low cost of 500 Tech Fragments and 300,000 credits. This change parks the Feirocian Cruiser in the Vendor category where it easily earns the top spot. I don’t tend to like big mounts, but this one is worth picking up.

Top Non-Cartel Market Dyes: Dark Blue and Gray

Only two non-CM dye modules have been added to the game since my second list was posted, but they’re both nice combinations of Dark Blue and Gray. Their recipes can be learned from the Artifice trainer at skill level 620.  Despite sharing the same base colors, the two dyes seem to apply different shades. The Dark Blue and Gray dye, in particular, is very nice for a wide variety of outfits. The blue is very dark, nearly black, and the gray has a subtle metallic blue tint to it. I’ve applied this dye to Trooper armor, Agent gear and Sith robes, and it works well on all of them.

Does it make the top five? Absolutely. Despite the dearth of player crafted customization options, the Dark Blue and Gray dye module is a standout. It handily bumps Deep Brown and Red from my original list and doesn’t feel the slightest bit bad about it.

Top Non-Cartel Market Decorations: Bioluminescent Mushrooms

Where SWTOR has not been stingy lately is in providing numerous of decorations for players to earn in game on Ossus, Dantooine, Onderon and Mek Sha. Despite the wide variety of civic, furniture, environmental and technological decorations from these sources, my favorite is easily the Bioluminescent Mushrooms sold by astromech D3-C0 on Ossus. Prior to Onslaught, these decorations cost precious Masterwork Crystals, but they can now be purchased for a mere 50 Tech Fragments each.

Does it make the top five? Given that I have spent thousands of Tech Fragments to carpet the Killik Cave of my Alderaan stronghold with these happy little mushrooms, I think it’s fair to give them top marks in the Reputation category. They are small decorations, but they pulse with a pleasant blue glow and throw off particles for a pleasantly soothing effect.

Top Non-Cartel Market Pets: Flirron

The jungles of Onderon are filled with countless creepy crawlies, prehistoric beasties, and flying fish, and resourceful players can take home a friendly Flirron as a companion pet after completing a short achievement. This four-winged fellow is part fish, part bird and pretty darn slick with its shiny blue scales and red stripes. Onderon is stuffed to the brim with secrets and achievements, and I definitely recommend making friends with the local wildlife while exploring this world!

Does it make the top five? I’m not sure, since it would replace the Nerf Herding achievement which is more involved and, to me, more engaging than the fairly simple Flirron-Friend achievement. On the basis of looks alone, however, the Flirron at the very least merits an Honorable Mention.

Best Worst Ways to Die in SWTOR: The Dxun Train

I’ve been having fun in SWTOR’s newest operation, The Nature of Progress, which keeps up SWTOR’s proud tradition of insuring that not all threats come from bosses. To raid an operation with a real sense of humor and literal running jokes has been a nice change of pace, and it helps that it does not lack for good encounters. The showpiece of the operation is certainly the Mutant Trandoshan Squad in which a brave team of heroes face off against four mighty, metamorphosed Trandoshan hunters. Despite being nigh invulnerable, they are ultimately no match for several tons of high-speed rocket trains crashing into their face. I’ve been running this operation for several months, and it still makes me laugh every single time one of those poor fellows goes splat. The Czerka Express, of course, is also fatal to players who should make sure to get clear when the hear that train a comin’. Under no circumstances should you use abilities like Rescue and Transpose to endanger the lives of your fellow party members. That would be wrong. I would never do that.

Does it make the top five? Without question. That instant comedy deaths can be inflicted on players and bosses alike makes this one of the all time greats.

Thanks for this trip down memory lane. If I missed your favorite decoration or mount, please let me know! I have more Aurebesh in the pipeline, but in the meantime, I hope everyone out there takes care of themselves, their families and their community.

 

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A Mug’s Game: Five Predictions for 2020

Happy New Year! My annual attempt at failed prognostication has become something of a tradition, and, if we grade last year’s predictions on a generous curve, I scored a 1.5 out of 5, which is much better than I would’ve expected. As usual, I shall swing for the fences and not put any pressure on myself to anticipate the next year of SWTOR and actually hope to be right. There is a reason I call these top five lists “dumb”, after all.

Spoils of War

I don’t think we will see major changes to Spoils of War. For the most part, I have the impression that players are satisfied with gearing in Onslaught, especially as it compares to Galactic Command at any point in Knights of the Eternal Throne. I imagine there might be some tweaking in the months ahead. Renown Crates might as well reward nothing but Tech Fragments considering how rarely they contain useful or interesting loot, and hopefully there will be new additions for classes or specs that still lack a cool set or tactical. I also hope crafting gets another look; making basic stuff like medpacks, stims or augments still feels a bit tedious. Having to constantly churn out six types of components every time I want to make something is already getting old. All that said, it’s been a welcome change to have more stability in gearing this time around.

Blurrg Mounts

It’s fair to say that The Mandalorian has been very well received indeed by both Star Wars fans and SWTOR players. I’ve seen a rush of new Bounty Hunters overrunning Imperial Fleet since the show’s debut. I have no doubt that armor and weapons inspired by the show are certain to make their way to the Cartel Market as quickly as the artists at Bioware can crank them out. I predict that among those will certainly be Blurrg mounts. A colorful assortment of adorably ugly Blurrg pets have long been available to players, and I’d be amazed if they weren’t being fattened up for us to ride at this very moment. I’ll be shocked if I don’t score a point for this prediction next year, and perhaps one day our characters will even be the ancestors who rode the great Mythosaur!

The Dead Speak!

Kira Carsen and Lord Scourge have returned to SWTOR‘s main story with warnings of a Dark Side plague apparently unleashed by Valkorion’s defeat. I will go out on a limb and predict that this new threat might somehow also function as a way to allow for Vaylin’s return. Vaylin is arguably the character with the most tragic story in all of the Fallen Empire saga, and that her fate is set in stone regardless of our choices has been criticized by some who just like the character and by others who are uncomfortable with the idea that someone who was so horribly abused by her father had no path to redemption or escape. I don’t think it’s impossible that we could see her return in the not-too distant future. Nevertheless it might be odd to see her join our stable of companions. That the former Eternal Empress and one of the most powerful Force users in the galaxy might wind up helping us complete dailies on CZ-198 or chain run Slicing missions doesn’t feel like a fitting conclusion to her story either.

New Planet: Honoghr

This prediction is complete and utter speculation on my part. I hope we will visit a new world or two this year, but which ones? The Noghri were recently re-introduced into the official canon during the fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels, and I think they could be cool additions to SWTOR. Their homeworld, Honoghr is a jungle planet with links to both the ancient Rakata and Sith cultists, and it very well could be a planet someone like Darth Malgus might us as a base of operations or source of minions to use in his revenge against his hated foes in the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic. The depictions of the Noghri have varied greatly in Star Wars lore over the years, so I think SWTOR might have some latitude in putting their own stamp on them, and that would be neat to see. That said, if I’m being honest, I think we are far more likely to visit the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk or Black Spire Outpost on Batuu than Honoghr this year. I would be fine with either of those destinations.

My Kingdom for a Porg!

Yes, for the third year in a row, Porgs are on this list, and, no, I will not give up on my fine feathered and tasty friends! Truthfully, I accept that Porgs are now fated to do nothing more than hold Baby Yoda’s beer, but I still cling to the foolish hope they will follow along and squawk at my characters’ adventures at some point in the year to come. Once again, I will also offer some unsolicited advice on additional Porg themed items that should make their way to a Cartel Market near you. First, and most obviously, there should be a Porg Flair that replaces our portrait with a dancing Porg. Second, a Porg Weapon Tuning should perch a Porg perilously close to the end of our blaster barrels and lightsaber emitters and also replace the weapon’s sound effects with Porg mating calls. Finally, I can imagine a countless array of Porg themed decorations for our Strongholds: Porgs nests, Porg perches, Porg Disguise Terminals, and interactive Porg BBQ pits. It’s not too late for 2020 to be the year of the Porg, Bioware!

Feel free to let me know how catastrophically wrong these predictions are in the comments below or to share a few of your own. In the meantime, I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start and that SWTOR roars into the ’20’s with another year of fun for all!

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Five

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Five: Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m sure you are shocked –shocked- to discover that someone who writes about The Old Republic, also likes Star Wars video games. That said, despite the fact that I’ve been keeping this blog for three years, I’ve never really talked about why I love SWTOR.

I’ve been playing Star Wars video games since my misspent youth in the shopping mall video game arcade. Later, during Lucasart’s heyday, I leapt into the virtual cockpit of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter simulators and later rampaged around the galaxy as Kyle Katarn in the epic Dark Forces games. That said, I discovered Knights of the Old Republic very late in its initial life. To be honest, I had more fun watching my nephew run through the game than playing it myself.

But I was there the day SWTOR launched and have been on board ever since. Sure, the initial pitch of “World of Warcraft, but with Lightsabers” absolutely appealed to me, but the game itself also hits the same buttons as other items on this list: new stories outside the movies, stories that I have some part in telling through my characters, and adventures I can share with friends.

Very early on, after staying up extra late to finish the Taris storyline on my Consular, the game did a perfect job in putting me in the same headspace as the character I was playing. By the time I finished, we were both just done with that mutant-zombie infested, nuclear wasteland of a planet and had no patience for anyone who would second guess our choices. When the Consular expressed that in a way that was far cooler than I ever could, I knew from that moment that this character was my main; and she has been my favorite ever since.

Over the years, SWTOR has continued to put my characters at the center of new Star Wars stories set on new worlds that I always look forward to exploring. There are plenty of times when SWTOR made me smile or laugh or catch my breath: the time my Smuggler finished off Skavak with a Dirty Kick; the time I agonized over Jaxo’s fate; the first time my Inquisitor walked into the Dark Council chamber like she owned the joint, or my first night on Oricon when I looked up and saw the Dread Palace looming overhead.

Like the old tabletop RPGs, SWTOR is also something I get to share with friends. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to play with the fantastic people in the guild New Outriders as well as many other good folks around the game. Overcoming challenges with other people is one of the best parts of the MMO experience. I’ll never forget beating the original version of Hard Mode Lost Island with three other patient and good-natured souls who’d never grouped together before. I’ll never forget when NOR’s first progression team clicked into high gear with our victory over Hard Mode Operator IX during the early days of Rise of the Hutt Cartel. More recently, I’ll never forget cheering like a fool when Scrubland Shad unleashed some true last pull magic and was the sole survivor of the Bad Feelings Porg Team’s first clear of Hard Mode Explosive Conflict.

Beyond that, and perhaps even more importantly, SWTOR is a game which I get to play with people whose company I enjoy. Ops nights and flashpoint runs are filled with running jokes about snowballs, Marauder tanks, pickles, the inevitable triumph of gravity and my regular attempts to “try something stupid” instead of playing it safe.

I won’t lie and say that I haven’t ever been frustrated by SWTOR many times over the years or that it’s the best video game ever or that I haven’t encountered toxic behavior from people who take a game about wizards, laser swords and space cowboys far too seriously, but as SWTOR celebrates it 8th birthday, it remains something I can hop into and know that I’ll usually be able to have a good time playing. And that is a credit both to the good people I get to play with and the talented people who make this game.

Happy Holidays

This is likely my last post of the year. I’ll get back to the Aurebesh very soon and will endeavor to keep future ramblings to a minimum as well. In the meantime, I want to wish all my visitors a joyous holiday season, safe travels and good gaming in the year to come.

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Four

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Four: Original Art

Before the internet united us all and ruined everything, there was one place nerds like me could gather and share our love for super heroes, starships and space wizards: the comic book convention. As I soon as I had money to burn and means to travel on my own, I started regularly attending local comic shows downtown and soon journeyed to some of the big east coast conventions in New York City, Baltimore and Atlanta. At these conventions, I got to meet and thank many of the creators of my favorite comic books and eventually started purchasing artwork they had for sale.

And then Ebay happened. Collecting original comic art had been a niche within the already niche hobby of comic collecting, and when Ebay enabled dealers and collectors to conveniently sell directly to each other regardless of location, a flood of artwork that was initially perceived to have little value hit the market. While Star Wars art, particularly covers, splash pages or pages from the movie adaptations, was always in higher demand than other comic art, there was still plenty out there for a collector on a budget, a collector like me, to acquire. Eventually I was priced out of the market; this may not come as a surprise to learn, but there are Star Wars fans out there with seriously deep pockets. Yet I remain grateful that I was in the right place at the right time to assemble a modest collection of original comic art and illustrations from several eras of Star Wars comics and books.

Typically, artwork for comics was drawn and inked on large 11″ x 17″ or larger boards, then scaled down for publication. For me, the appeal of collecting originals is being able to appreciate in person the care and details that were lost in the reproduction onto cheap newsprint, to see the traces of rough pencils and corrections, to read notes from the penciller to the inker, comments from the editor, but mainly to thrill at owning an actual piece of a story I very much enjoyed reading in comic book form.

The artwork from my collection that I’ve displayed here is from “Duel with a Dark Lady”, issue 96 of the original Marvel series published in 1985. The issue was written by Mary Jo Duffy, penciled by Cynthia Martin and inked by Bob Wiacek, and is one of my favorite Star Wars stories in any media. These four pages depict Luke Skywalker’s first encounter with and thorough ass-kicking at the hands of Lumiya, who assumed the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith after Darth Vader’s death. Martin’s clean, anime inspired style was unusual to see in mainstream comics in the mid-80s, and Duffy and Martin did a terrific job staging the battle like something from a samurai movie or manga. As the conflict escalates, the tendrils of her crackling whip fill the panels and overwhelm Luke, withdrawing only after his defeat. Also take note of the small detail of Lumiya’s jagged cloak which flies off her at the start of the fight, then is called back to her at the end. I loved it then, I love it now.

And, look, even in this era of lightsabers on pikes, with double-blades, cross-guards and handy bottle-openers, Lumiya’s light-whip is still just freaking cool.

This Thursday: From Quarters to Cartel Coins.

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Three

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Three: Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game

In 1987, you would’ve been forgiven if you thought Star Wars was over. It’d been four years since Return of the Jedi came out, and Marvel Comics’ series ended the year before. George Lucas was clearly more interested in continuing the adventures of Indiana Jones than anything in a galaxy far, far away. And, yet, the second great age of Star Wars was about to begin. That year, a small game company called West End Games released a core rulebook and sourcebook for a tabletop roleplaying game set in the Star Wars universe.

Over the next decade, West End put out dozens of sourcebooks, adventures and guides that became not only the connective tissue of what became known as the Expanded Universe, but also Star Wars’ official canon. The background of so much lore that we take for granted came not from George Lucas, but the writers at West End Games who named those tube-headed aliens “Twi’liks”, described the Millennium Falcon as a YT-1300 manufactured by the Corellian Engineering Corporation and introduced the Jedi Code as a core part of the background of the Jedi Knights. Even Aurebesh as we know it now, the official fake space language of this very blog, was a creation of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A few years later, writers Timothy Zahn and Tom Veitch would use WEG’s source material as background for their own Star Wars stories, and with the release of Heir to the Empire and Dark Empire, Star Wars roared back to life for a whole new generation of fans to discover.

And as a game, Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game is terrific fun. The rules are simple to learn, and the game is quick to play. All you need is a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a handful of regular six-sided dice. The better your character is at something the more dice they roll; the higher they roll, the better the result. And that’s the core rule of the game. Armed with that knowledge, new players can hit the ground running, and experienced players can pull off spectacular feats worthy of heroes from the movies.

This top five list started when a friend asked what my favorite Star Wars stories outside the movies are. As I thought about it, I realized that many of the adventures told around a table by me and my friends would be on that list: the time Thrusty, bloody, beaten and a hair’s breadth from death, absolutely would not give up the fight; the time Ket whacked Tomar upside the head with a baseball bat; the time Darth Vader cut off Aruul’s arm; and countless other dumb, wildly unauthorized, wholly non-canonical and fun stories that are as big a part of our Star Wars experience as anything in any official movie, book or comic. I still love WEG’s Star Wars RPG for being a game that allows some of my favorite people to gather ’round and tell those stories to each other.

After West End Games went out of business, first Wizards of the Coast and now Fantasy Flight Games published more Roleplaying Games based on the Star Wars license. I’ve dabbled in both, but my heart remains with the old West End Games RPG. Over the years, I’ve gotten to interact and occasionally meet some of the people who designed the game, and I’ll always be thankful for their work. Growing up I loved reading comics and throwing action figures at each other, but the Star Wars RPG is something I could play and share with friends. And that simply cannot be beat.

Next week: “Then just say it: You’re a tracer!”

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part Two

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

Part Two: Action Figures

Growing up, pretty much every single boy (and some of the girls) I knew played with Star Wars toys, and I was no exception, eventually assembling a small army of dozens of miniature heroes, villains, robots and aliens from the original trilogy. Reinforced with assorted Adventure People, Micronauts and G.I.Joes, I staged many epic battles far beyond anything George Lucas would ever conceive or much less approve of.

My favorite Kenner Star Wars figure was Bespin Luke, but Darth Vader was my first and the character I have the most versions of today. All that remains of that original Vader is his head; it is likely that his body was lost to over-eager play or forgotten by me and consumed by my mother’s vacuum cleaner. A tragic outcome in either event.

Even Vader’s replacement has long since lost his lightsaber and stylish vinyl cape/vest. Both as a child and an adult, I had no interest in preserving my figures for future sale or display. I’m what collectors call an “opener.” I’ve never had a figure that I didn’t eagerly free from their clear plastic and cardboard prison. I always have one or two on my desk at any given time. My current figures see the bulk of their action during loading screens or on patch days.

These days I suspect more Star Wars toys are bought by adults than children, and I still indulge in Star Wars figures from time to time. Currently, the figures I buy are mainly from Hasbro’s Black Series line of six inch figures. Selling for at least $20 each, however, these guys are not cheap, so I try to be judicious in my purchases. However, this can be a tough line to hold whenever a new movie is about to come out.

Aside from the cost, the figures can sometimes be a challenge to even buy. Long gone are the days when I could walk into any toy store and find any Star Wars figure I wanted. Today’s figures are produced in limited numbers, and distribution to even large retailers can be spotty. You’re unlikely to find a popular character like the recently released Mandalorian at your local Target or Walmart, so you’ll need to be prepared to hunt various online sources if you want to pay a reasonable price. On the other hand, other figures derided as “pegwarmers” can easily found even a year or so after their release. To be honest, I’m not always sure which figures will be hard to find and which I’ll see marked down for clearance later.

The latest generation of action figures have far greater articulation and attention to detail than anything I would have dreamed possible back in the day. Within the last year or so, Hasbro has begun using “face printing” in which paint details are applied to a figure digitally. The result is that these toys can often have uncanny likenesses to their real life counterparts. If you’ve ever wanted a miniature Mark Hamill for your desk or shelf, it’s a great time to be alive!

Am I too old to be playing with toys? Yeah, probably. But putting Darth Vader into a menacing pose and setting him up against Han Solo as he draws his blaster has never stopped being a satisfying waste of time.

Next week: Dice not included.

 

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A Long Time Ago: My Top Five Star Wars Things Aren’t Movies – Part One

To mark the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker I thought I’d do something a little different. Even though Episode IX will conclude the classic film saga, Star Wars was, from the very beginning, much more than just the movies. A myriad of stories told in every conceivable medium continued the adventures of heroes old and new in that galaxy far, far away. I adore the movies to be sure, but I’ve also found great joy in many aspects of the Star Wars universe beyond the films. So I’d like to celebrate some of those with a Dumb Top Five list of my favorite things about Star Wars that aren’t movies.

As I assembled this list, I quickly realized that there was no way I could keep it to a single post and give everything the space it deserved, so I’ll be presenting a new item from this list each week until the debut of the movie on December 20.

Part One: Comic Books

Back in 1977, my first exposure to Star Wars came not from the movie, but from Marvel Comics’ 6 issue adaptation of the film that concluded before I even got to see it in a theatre. This in no way spoiled the experience for me; from the opening minutes, I was still blown away by what I saw on the screen.

However, in many ways, the comics informed my overall conception of Star Wars. In the movie, the lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi is not terribly exciting, but if there is one thing comics know how to stage, it’s a fight scene. The comics’ version of the confrontation does a superior job conveying the epic duel between the old master and corrupted apprentice. Indeed, the moment of Ben’s death as portrayed in the comic is particularly macabre.

Marvel produced well over a hundred issues of Star Wars comics starting three months before A New Hope was released and continuing three years after Return of the Jedi. They are very much of their time, steeped in the styles and tropes of 1970s and 1980’s comics, but the two or three quarters I spent each month to follow the continuing adventures of the “Star Warriors” absolutely made the wait between movies easier to take. Forgotten heroes like Dani and Kiro and Plif the Hoojib and villains like Valance, Lumiya and the Nagai loom nearly as large in my memories of the early days of a galaxy far, far away as Luke, Leia, Han and Vader.

In the 1990’s, starting with the terrific Dark Empire series, Dark Horse Comics continued the licensed comic line and expanded the universe with a whole host of new stories. Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics were the first to visit the Old Republic setting and touched every era of the saga’s past and future. Currently Marvel, which like Lucasfilm is owned by Disney is again producing diverse line of comics which feature our favorite heroes from the movies but have added popular new characters like Dr. Aphra and also revisited some old and infamous favorites from the early days of Marvel’s original Star Wars series.

Over the years, countless Star Wars stories have been told, but I think the best of the comics, with their emphasis on impossible visuals and larger than life action in bite sized chunks, come the closest to recapturing the magic of watching the films. When I think of Star Wars, I’ll never forget sitting in a dark theater watching movies I love, but I also recall afternoons sprawled out on the rug of my parent’s living room floor, eagerly turning the pages of the latest four color classic.

Next week: Your plastic pals who are fun to be with!

 

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Gravity Wins Again: The Best Worst Ways to Die in Star Wars: The Old Republic

The Star Wars universe is a dangerous place. Between the lightsabers, blasters, planet smashing super-weapons and busted jetpacks, there are no shortage of ways one can meet an untimely end. SWTOR would be remiss in its duties if the game world did not reflect the hazards of living in a galaxy without handrails, safety belts and lifejackets. Sure, there is an endless supply of rage fueled Sith, righteous Jedi and twitchy gun thugs just waiting to do the players harm as they experience their hero’s journey, but the game also contains many more devious, and subtle ways to dispatch our avatars. This week, let’s take a look at the five best worst ways to die in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Please note that while I generally prefer to present my lists in no particular order, this time around I thought it appropriate to list them in order of best-worst to worst-best.

If I missed your favorite embarrassing way to die, please let me know! In the meantime, mind the gap!

The Sarlacc Pit

The coarse, rough and irritating sandscape of Tatooine’s Dune Sea is home to the ultimate tourist trap: the great pit of Carkoon, maw of the endlessly ravenous Sarlacc. This hazard easily earns the first spot on this list because players who recklessly hurl themselves into the pit of the Sarlacc will not only find a new definition of pain as they are slowly digested over a thousand years, but they will also earn the title “Worm Food” so that all will know just who has been consumed by one of Star Wars’ iconic giant monsters.

Cademimu, All of It

The planet Cademimu is the Galactic Republic’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration greatest nightmare made real. It features not one, not two but three merciless and hazardous elevators that have, I am certain, murdered more players than all of the flashpoint’s bosses combined. Cademimu’s danger extends beyond the elevators to the walkways connecting the planet’s sprawling skyscrapers. A few low railings are no match for the player character’s abilities to push, pull and knock around the droids and mercenaries blocking the way. However, heroes capable of charging into combat, should be especially careful they don’t leap towards an enemy just as it has been pushed off a catwalk and follow it into the yawning chasm below. I have seen this happen; I have done it myself; I have allegedly tried to do it to friends in my party.

Scum and Villainy Bridge Boss

Massively multiplayer online games have a long, proud tradition of making the process of merely crossing a gap far more dangerous that it really ought to be. Careless players can fall to their deaths crossing spans in the Eternity Vault and Explosive Conflict operations, but the road to Dread Master Styrak in the operation Scum and Villainy is paved with danger, in that the bridge leading to his lair is not actually fully paved. Look down and you might be able to discern the countless bodies of Datacron seekers and impatient raiders who heedlessly raced over this bridge. However, the true scope of Styrak’s villainy is only revealed in the operation’s Nightmare Mode difficulty in which, the bridge appears to have been repaired and its gaps filled. This is only an illusion, and the crevices still eagerly devour anyone too foolish to not have remembered the safe path across.

Iokath’s Toilet Bowl

The first time I beheld this sprawling maelstrom of water, holo-bridges and murder droids on the way to Scyva in the Gods from the Machine operation, I knew there would be trouble. In order to safely traverse this churning whirlpool, brave heroes must carefully huddle for safety within the protection of a remarkably small force field carried by a single person; anyone with notions of charging ahead or cautiously waiting behind, or plagued by lag or de-sync will find themselves knocked down the drain by the area’s robotic guardians and flushed with the rest of Iokath’s waste. I am frankly a little surprised every time I make it to the far side of this area without suffering the most soggy and ignoble of deaths.

Ossus Elevator

Imperial players on Ossus have almost certainly encountered and fallen victim to the most devious of these threats to our safety: the elevator down the main deck of Strike Base XR-484. This elevator remains at the top for exactly enough time to convince you that you can safely get on it, but not actually enough time to do so. Moreover, clever players who think they can use a speed boost or mount to more quickly hop on will find the lift’s platform just small enough that they will pitch themselves off the edge if they fail to stop at exactly the right moment. Every time I fall victim to this deathtrap, I have two thoughts. The first is, of course, “Oh no, not again.” The second is that whoever designed this particular area must receive a small bonus every time a character belly flops to their doom from the platform above. Even though it’s been less than year since Ossus’ debut, I imagine they could retire in luxury now.

I apologize for the lack of Aurebesh again this week. It can get tough to find the motivation to poke my computer on a hot summer day. I honestly don’t know if anyone but me enjoys these dumb top five lists, but I do like them as an excuse to explore some of the game’s overlooked nooks and crannies. I will endeavor to get back to the translations very soon along with what I hope will be exciting news from his weekend’s Cantina event in San Diego!

 

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If That Orobird Won’t Sing: Top Five Non-Cartel Market Pets

“Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” When I started compiling “Dumb Top Fives” I knew that this was one list that I would inevitably have to make, but I put it off again and again because paring it down to five was sure to be a herculean task. There is a veritable stampede of plastic pals, fuzzy friends and good boys and girls that can be collected from nearly all aspects of SWTOR gameplay, and, in the end, I’ve come up with five categories of pets that can be found without ever spending a single Cartel Coin.

 Exploration/Flashpoints/Vendors: Orobirds

There was one family of fine feathered friends that was always guaranteed a spot on this list: Orobirds. There are four Orobirds available as pets in SWTOR, and none of them come from the Cartel Market. The easiest of these to acquire is the Crested Orokeet that can be purchased for 50,000 credits from the Cartel Coin Concierge in either Fleet’s Cartel Bazaar. The Galactic Command Light Side Vendors in the Fleets’ Supplies section will trade you a gray Orochick for a mere 5 Light Side Tokens. To ensure a proper upbringing, however, the vendors do require that the bird’s new owner to at least have a light side alignment of level 1. The last two Orobirds are rather more tricky to locate. They hatch from eggs which players must carefully tend before cracking open. The Unusual Egg, which can be found in nests on Alderaan, Republic Taris and Imperial Balmorra, is the source of the green Orokeet. Finally, the royal blue Orosquab, hatches from the Mysterious Egg that Doctor Lorrick sometimes drops as loot in the Master Mode flashpoint, Lost Island.

Achievements: Nerf Herding

Next up, are the Nerf calves that can be acquired by achievement hunters willing to explore the green hills of Alderaan, the snow capped mountains of Hoth and the dark heart of Voss. Included among the rewards for locating the Arctic Nerf Calf, the Nightland Nerf Calf and the Hill Nerf Calf and a painting of a Nerf to hang in your stronghold and the “Nerf Herder” legacy title, appropriate for stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking scoundrels everywhere! As long as you’re high enough level to visit these planets, I definitely recommend completing these exploration achievements, my favorites in the game.

Reputation: Gree Data Core

Nearly every reputation vendor has a pet or two available to folks who enjoy the essential task of filling up reputation bars. To me, the easy standout is the Gree Data Core. This miniature, floating wonder of Gree technology seems to draw inspiration from both the Bit from the movie Tron and the companion cube from the video game Portal. The Core requires Newcomer standing with the Gree Enclave and is sold for 50,000 credits by the Gree reputation vendor who can be found in the Cartel Bazaar or on Ilum during the Gree event.

Honorable Mention: There are so many neat reputation based pets that I had to include an extra: the Drink Server Probe, which is offered by the Freelance Gear Merchant in the Cartel Bazaar. It will set you back 39 Completed Bounty Contracts which are awarded during the Bounty Broker Event and requires Legend standing with the Bounty Brokers Association. This sleek little droid is ready to help take the edge off with a refreshing cocktail, topped off with a little umbrella, just like Niko Okarr likes it.

Operations: M0-GUL Thrall Droid

Players interested in raiding will also find pets as rare drops in some of the game’s Operations. My favorite of these is Karagga the Hutt’s gold-plated Roomba, the M0-GUL Thrall Droid. Who couldn’t use a helpful robotic assistant to clean up the dirt, dust and severed limbs galactic heroes tend to leave in their wake? M0-GUL can be looted most reliably from bosses in Veteran Mode Karagga’s Palace.

Honorable Mention: Don’t you just want to pinch the cheeks and hug Dwedtoof, the baby Drouk? Of course you do! Technically, Dwedtoof doesn’t drop in an Operation, but you will need an Ops group to successfully defeat the source of this pet: the empowered versions of Dreadtooth, the infamous world boss who patrols Belsavis’ Section-X.

PVP: Lobelisk and Lawgriffari

Even PVPers have access to a pair of unique pets, but potential owners will need to prove their worth before these scrappy little guys will heel to them. The PVP Items vendors on both fleets sell these pets for 20,000 credits each, but they do have modest Valor Rank requirements that must be met before they can be unlocked by the player. The cyan and orange striped Lobelisk requires Valor 5, and the blue-eyed, silver-plated Lawgriffari requires rank 12. There are other Lobel and Akk Dog pets available in the game, but this space-frog and dino-pup are two of the ones I like best.

This list has barely scratched the surface. There are dozens more fierce, funny and adorable pets sold by vendors, awarded from quests and achievements, won as treasure or hatched out of Command Crates. Whether you’re an Akk Dog person, a Nexu fancier or robo-phile, there’s a pet for you out there. Just remember to change the litter box, scratch them behind the ears, and take ‘em out for a walk every once in a while.

If I missed a rare find or one of your favorites, please let me know! And if you’re someone who gleefully grinds pets into CXP every time one appears in your Command Stash, don’t tell me; it’ll only make me cry. I have hundreds of Fiery Grophets and Venomous Ginxes running wild in my stashes.

 

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The Future’s Not Ours to See: Five Predictions for 2019

Happy New Year! Once again, let’s start the year off with five predictions for 2019. Looking over my list from last year, I think I would generously give myself a score of 0.5 out of 5. This year, there is nowhere to go but up!

I struggled to come up with an interesting list of predictions, often unable to resolve the difference between what I hope will happen this year and what I actually think will happen. In the end, this list is a mix of both.

Expansion Launch Date

There is no better example of this tension between hope and fear than in considering the date of the next expansion’s release. We all expect to get news of SWTOR’s future at Star Wars Celebration in April. My hope is that it’ll be more than just a tease, but a full on expansion announcement complete with new cinematic trailer. If that is the case, a summer launch would be possible and inline with past release schedules. I’m going to predict an August launch, but I suspect we might have to wait until autumn to catch some of that Episode IX hype. In either case, we’re gonna be in 5.10 territory for a while.

Kira and Scourge Will be in the New Cinematic

I admit, this one is 100% hope. A friend and I recently discussed Kira and Scourge’s over-long absence from SWTOR, and how it seems like the folks at Bioware really have their work cut out for them when it comes to giving the return of two of the game’s most beloved companions the heft it deserves. Seeing Kira and Scourge kick ass in one of those amazing Blur cinematics would absolutely go a long way towards building hype for the new expansion. In truth, I imagine the trailer will focus on Malgus, but that’s okay too.

Gear Changes are Coming

It’s not a stretch to expect gear changes after 6.0. I predict we will see PVP exclusive gear again, perhaps with the return of the Expertise stat. However, games like Fortnite and Overwatch seem to be doing okay without a gear grind, so I don’t think its impossible that Bioware might even take the extra step to remove the need for any gear in PVP altogether.

I also think it’s time for some changes to PVE gear. My hope is that we get new set bonuses on tier sets in the next expansion. Set bonuses haven’t significantly changed since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and something fresh would be neat. Before that happens, I’d like to see some of the bonuses, particularly the healer and tank cool down reductions, get baked into the base class abilities or proficiency paths.

I also hope to see some new Relics. Even tanks default to the Serendipitous Assault/Focused Retribution combo these days. Some relics are bad and have been bad for years. Ephemeral Mending remains a booby trap for healers, and my poor tank has already disintegrated two 252 Imperiling Serenity relics from my weekly Ossus rewards. Let’s see robust on-use relics or relics with weird procs. Heck, even update the Matrix Cubes. Variety is good!

The Dark vs. Light Event Will Return

I won’t lie; this one is filed under the fear category. I predict the Dark vs. Light Event will return as the big time-filler this summer. There is legitimate value in making the Victorious Pioneer armor available again, and I often see folks who missed out wish they could earn Ranos as a companion. But as someone who made it to Legendary level last time, I can say I have little desire to do it again. My biggest beef with the event is that to participate I had to put aside characters whose story, appearance and gear I’ve been invested in for years in order to play new characters I mostly discarded once the event was done. If Bioware does bring the event back, I really, really hope they make some big changes next time around.

Where are the Damn Porgs Already?

When I put Porgs on last year’s list I thought it was a gimme. I am honestly shocked and a little disappointed that we haven’t seen Porgs pop up in SWTOR. So, heck, yeah, I’m keeping them on the list. In addition to the Porg related items from last time, I’ve got more that I humbly request, nay, DEMAND to see in game this year. First, and most obviously, Porg themed tier sets: if you want the best gear in the game, you will have to cosplay as a Porg. Deal with it. A Porg mount: a lone, mighty Porg who will pick up your character by the scruff of the neck and fly you where you need to go. Finally, the highest level of reward for the next ranked PVP season should be a Porg headpiece. Yes, that’s right, we should be able to tell the toughest, most dedicated, most elite PVPers apart from the rest of us because they will have a space puffin sitting on their head. Works for me.

2019 should be an exciting year for SWTOR, and I look forward to the next expansion and maybe getting one prediction right this year. Stranger things have happened!

 

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