Category Archives: General SWTOR

Can’t You Hear the Thunder?

This week, as I await the next game update, I thought I’d check in on my Hardcore challenge one last time. First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who entered my Shae Vizla raffle. Because the raffle required an extra step of including a screenshot of their player’s story progress, most of the entries I received came to me via email, but it also allowed folks to share with me their experiences on SWTOR‘s new Asia-Pacific server. Hearing people’s stories about how much fun they had starting fresh on Shae Vizla was very cool to see, and I was especially impressed to learn how many people attempted, failed and triumphed at my hardcore challenge. It’s gratifying to know that I’m not the only one who gave it a go! Everyone who entered received a prize, and if you haven’t heard from me check your email or the in-game mail of the character who entered. Otherwise, leave me a comment below and I’ll track you down!

As Shae Vizla entered its third month, we received an answer from Broadsword to the hotly debated question about whether server transfers would be allowed to the new server, with the confirmation that they will be coming sooner rather than later. I think this is very good news for players in the region who want to make the server their home. Yes, it will affect the economy, but I don’t think that is sufficient reason to not allow transfers. I know I’m not alone in being very attached to the characters I’ve played the most over the years, and allowing players access to their main characters is an important part of making sure Shae Vizla has a chance to succeed.

I’m also glad to see that free transfers will be included for subscribers as well. If you were transferred off an APAC server during the old server mergers, it’s only fair that you shouldn’t have to pay to get back now that one exists again. Broadsword has indicated that they will limit the number of credits that can be transferred, and I concede that is a reasonable step to control the economic impact transfers will have on the local economy.

The question of what the future holds for Shae Vizla is a fair one to ask. My general impression is that older MMOs tend to close down servers, not open new ones, and I imagine Broadsword is closely watching Shae Vizla’s progress. I very much hope it finds a large enough population to sustain a reasonable amount of endgame activity. Xam Xam and Shintar report that now that the excitement of the launch has cooled off, and we find ourselves between Galactic and PVP seasons, things are quieting down on Shae Vizla, and I hope transfers help the server find a stable population of players and an identity of its own.

The move to the Amazon cloud services gives Broadsword the ability to more easily set up servers these days, but I doubt we will be seeing an explosion of new servers. I think it’s possible that we might see some limited time “event” servers akin to what Classic World of Warcraft has done with their Hardcore and Seasonal servers. I’ve watched the WOW Classic community bounce between Classic and Hardcore and new Season of Discovery events, but I don’t know to what degree SWTOR would be able to chase those fads. Could Broadsword try? Sure! I would absolutely give an official hardcore server a go, but I don’t think I’d want to see the SWTOR team devote the kind of energy that goes into something like WOW‘s Season of Discovery if it comes at the expense of content on the live servers.

Overall, I think the addition of Shae Vizla is a good sign for the health and future of the game, and I look forward to seeing what else the game might “serve” up.

 

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Filed under General SWTOR, Legacy of the Sith

We Can’t Rewind: Five Predictions for 2024

My list of predictions of what we can expect to see in Star Wars: The Old Republic for the coming year has become an annual tradition in folly. Despite the fact that I thought for certain there were one or two slam dunks among last year’s prognostications, I ended up missing especially badly. Indeed, if not for the addition at the very end of the year of a hat that also shows our character’s hair, I would’ve put up nothing but goose eggs.

It’s not clear to me if the Life Day Officer’s hat is working as intended, but perhaps it suggests that the good folks at Broadsword are thinking about how to solve the problem. Time will tell.

Clearly my predictions should be taken with a grain or two of salt. If I’m going to be completely honest, if I start getting them right, I suspect this list will be significantly less fun to make, but at this point nothing can stop me now. So on with the show!

What’s Shae Up To?

As part of the last update, we have learned that Mandalore herself, Shae Vizla has gone dark and no one seems to know where she is and where she’s doing. So what is she up to? The answer is obvious: nothing good. It’s never a good sign in SWTOR when one of our companions goes rogue. I have a feeling Shae means to rip some pages from the classic Theron Shan playbook and make our characters’ lives a blizzard of torn paper.

But what exactly is her plan? I think she’s gonna bust Malgus out of jail. Shae and Malgus are former co-workers after all, and she has experience getting into highly secure locations. “The enemy of my enemy is my ally” feels like Mandalorian logic to be sure, and I imagine Shae’s hatred of the Hidden Chain is blinding enough that she might think she can trust Malgus to help her take down Heta Kol. This is probably a mistake.

Ever since he was captured, we’ve all been waiting for Darth Malgus to have his “You should’ve killed me when you had the chance!” moment, and I wonder if it’s coming this year. Perhaps this will be the thing that kick starts the story into high gear and leads to some hotly anticipated revelations about Darth Nul.

It Takes a Very Steady Hand

I like to include one impossible dream among my predictions each year, and this one is likely it. But I hope raiders get some love and attention this year. First off, let me get this out of the way: no, I don’t think Nightmare R4 is in the cards this year, or ever. That it launched as a “Hardmare” was a clear indication to me that no Master Mode iteration was in the works even before Eric Musco came out and said as much.

I don’t consider R4 to be one of SWTOR’s more successful operations; story mode raiders can’t complete it on Story Mode; and its final boss on Veteran Mode is more difficult that most Nightmare bosses. Anyone who raids knows this, and I’m certain Broadsword is well aware of R4’s participation and completion rates.

That doesn’t mean SWTOR should abandon operations content. Raiding is a vital component of any MMO whose importance goes beyond the number of players who actually do it. For one thing, much of the game’s institutional knowledge or “paratext” typically is passed down from raiders who dive into the game’s stats and creates the guides that help other players gear up and play their class even if they never set foot in group content.

Raiding is fun. Raiding is aspirational content for new and veteran players alike. Despite the fact that Dread Fortress is more than a decade old, I was thrilled to see my friends Kats_Tales and Capt_Roman recently defeat Brontes on Nightmare and earn their Wings of the Architect!

With a couple of exceptions, I think SWTOR has done a very good job making operations accessible to all players. As a guildmaster and raid leader, there is nothing I enjoy more than taking players intimidated by the thought of joining a raid and showing them the ropes. Working with friends and teammates to overcome a challenge they thought out of reach is one of the best feelings in the whole of this game.

Raiding is fun. The Dread Master saga told throughout the first two expansions worth of operations is one of SWTOR’s best arcs. Gods from the Machine is an epic capstone to the Iokath story.

Will we see a new full-scale Operation this year? I don’t think so. But it’s been more than five years since we journeyed into the Hive of the Mountain Queen, and I feel like we are overdue for a new lair boss. An addition of that scope does not feel impossible or too much to ask.

Could we uncover a rogue Basilisk droid on Ruhnuc or awaken a giant Firaxan shark on Manaan or revisit the final fight with Tenebrae, Vitiate and Valkorian from Echoes of Oblivion in a raid group? Who knows? But I do think it is content worth advocating for.

A Room With A View

Last month Keith Kanneg marked SWTOR’s twelfth anniversary with an overview of how far the game has come during what must have been a tumultuous year for the developer team. I think he has every right to be proud of the team’s additions to the game last year, but Keith also knows the players well and was sure to give us a tease of what to expect in 2024, including a return to a place with “quite a view.”

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that that Papa Keith is referring to a long rumored Stronghold that certainly would come with a “penthouse view”, but since this is an exhibition not a competition, I am free to suggest a different option, and instead I’ll guess that we will be returning to Oricon.

Oricon has been a much requested location for a Stronghold, one for which Sith characters would have a strong affinity. As players who have journeyed into the Dread Palace know, the jagged spires atop Oricon’s fiery, volcanic landscape have a heck of a view, and nothing ties a room together like liquid hot magma. I can imagine all sorts of potentially cool areas that could be included in an Oricon Stronghold: a throne room, a smelting forge and even portals in space and time to hidden chambers. And, hey, if we are returning to Oricon, maybe we’ll find out what Dread Master Calphayus has been up to all these years.

Who Rang? Huyang!

One of the things that has allowed SWTOR’s story to flourish despite being part of the sprawling shared continuity is that it more or less exists in its own corner of the Star Wars universe which lets the game’s storytellers play in their own sandbox without having to worry about what is going on in other media. To be sure, SWTOR has always embraced its ties to Star Wars history from Knights of the Old Republic and the Tales of the Jedi comics, but in recent years the game has been more willing to bring in elements from modern Star Wars lore, especially in the realm of cosmetics.

When it comes to characters and storylines, however, there are few direct connections bridging the thousands of years that separate SWTOR from mainline Star Wars lore. During Jedi Under Siege, players who met the slumbering ancient Jedi Master Ood Bnar, who first appeared in the Dark Empire comics, know that SWTOR is willing to play with concepts that exist across the ages. There is one newly prominent character in Star Wars media who could, and perhaps even should, make an appearance in SWTOR.

I refer, of course, to the droid archivist Huyang who first appeared in The Clone Wars cartoon, but last year had a significant role in the Ahsoka live action series. For countless millennia, Huyang guided Jedi in the construction of their lightsabers. Even during the time of SWTOR, he would be considered unfathomably ancient, and there is no reason he could not be around for our characters to encounter.

Before you say it, yes, it would absolutely be fan service. But I’m on the record that not all fan service is bad. I also understand that SWTOR’s story has other things on its mind right now, but Huyang already shares similarities with one of SWTOR’s existing protocol droid models, and perhaps with a few tweaks and customizations we might discover Huyang in a workshop on Tython or Ilum helping a class of eager Padawans build their first lightsabers.

And it would be even cooler if his appearance was tied to an unexpected bit of exploration or a side-quest for the players to discover.

Darth Nul is a Porg

At this point, I can only hope that you admire my commitment to the bit. If I have to keep it going, I’m gonna go big. Big and stupid.

We haven’t seen Darth Nul’s face. We don’t know she’s not a Porg. No one can tell me that it is impossible. Heck, I’m even willing to accept that Darth Nul could be a stack of Porgs in a trench coat. And if you think about it, it all makes sense that she would be a murder of Porgs. Who better to see the Force potential of every living being in the galaxy than the Porgs? They were drawn to the ancient temple on Ahch-To. Porgs made a bee-line for Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber. They followed Rey when she left the planet. IT’S ONLY LOGICAL.

Here’s the thing: my very first Dumb Top Five List was the template for my annual predictions, and on that list was a request for Loth Cats. As everyone knows we got an adorable and mewing Loth Cat as one of the ultimate rewards of the latest Galactic Season. Could Porgs be next? Don’t count them out! Please, Broadsword, don’t count them out. I’m running out of Porg jokes!

What do you think? Let me know what you hope to see in SWTOR in the months ahead! In the meantime, I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start, and that 2024 is a fun and rewarding year for SWTOR and all of you who took a moment to drop by this silly blog. Cheers!

 

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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