Category Archives: Onslaught

Turn Turn Turn

Happy May the 4th! Personally I don’t need an excuse to celebrate Star Wars, but it’s always nice to get a tiny Astromech droid in the mail and check out the latest news from a galaxy far, far away. If you are actually reading this on the 4th, then you will be able to check out a special livestream event featuring a bunch of SWTOR‘s official content creators. We will be venturing into the Dread Fortress operation on its most deadly difficulty, Nightmare! You’ll be able to tune to the show on several different twitch channels, and if you have a moment, I hope you’ll stop by and say “Hello there!” There will be giveaways, mayhem and hopefully some defeated bosses!

SWTOR is primarily known for its story, but it also features a wide variety of operations for raiders of all skill levels. SWTOR‘s story mode ops are extremely accessible for brand new and inexperienced players; the intermediate Hard Modes are a fun challenge for veterans on a casual schedule; and at the Nightmare level, seasoned players looking to test their skills can face some of the greatest challenges and earn some of the rarest rewards the game has to offer.

Over the years, SWTOR has done an excellent job telling stories through group content, and I highly recommend teaming up with friends and guild-mates to check them out. Tonight’s stream will be an excellent showcase for one of SWTOR‘s most beloved operations and will feature some of the best players in the game. And I’ll be there too. Hopefully facing the right direction some of the time!

To Everything There Is A Season

Game update 6.3 “Dark Descent” launched with two new additions to Star Wars: The Old Republic both of which bear discussing: Galactic Seasons and the Secrets of the Enclave flashpoint, but I think it’s worth splitting the topics up over two posts.

Let’s start with Galactic Seasons, SWTOR’s take on the battlepass. Seasons is a system that directs players to do activities in the game and rewards them with a variety of cosmetics: a new companion, mounts, weapons, armor and, if they stick with it long enough, a new Stronghold to decorate.

Galactic Seasons is my first experience with a battlepass system, so I don’t really have any prior frame of reference. But my first impression after a week is that it’s fine. Is it a cash grab by EA, or a way for Bioware to give players more value for their subscription? Probably a bit of both.

I don’t have any particular issues with the Cartel Market. However, for a while now the gear awarded from flashpoints, operations and reputation tracks has not competed aesthetically with what we can buy from the Cartel Market. This is surely not an accident. However, an important part of the MMO experience is finding and earning rewards through gameplay, and I think SWTOR may have swung too far towards focusing those rewards on the Cartel Market and away from what players, especially casual players, can earn in the game.

Galactic Seasons does move this balance back towards gameplay a bit. There are a fair amount of unique rewards to be found by players willing to participate in Seasons. For example, the mount subscribers pick up from the very first level of progress through the Season is quite cool. Indeed some of the best rewards are front-loaded, and players can earn some fun stuff without going too deep into the system.

If there is anything that Galactic Seasons reminds me of in SWTOR’s history, it’s the Dark vs. Light event from 2016. Like Seasons, the Dark vs. Light event was all about getting players to do stuff in the game and passing out rewards to those who participate.

I would encourage folks to treat Seasons the same way. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to complete it in one day or one week or even one month. Look at the rewards and decide which ones you want, and pace yourself to get them. Take your time, and do what you want to do. It’s also fair that you may not be interested in all the objectives you get during a given day or week. If you don’t like PVP or grinding mobs; that’s cool. Take the day off, take the week off. We have some ability to change the objectives we really don’t want, but I don’t mind that Galactic Seasons encourages us to venture outside our comfort zone a bit. Last week, I found an excuse to revisit Galactic Starfighter after years away. I was terrible, no doubt, but I can’t deny doing a fist pump when I scored a kill during the match.

Starting next month, Seasons will have a mechanism allowing players to pay credits to catch up their progress if they’ve fallen behind. It will almost certainly not be cheap, but if you’ve got the credits, stuff like this is what they’re here for.

Are there problems with Galactic Seasons? Absolutely. Players can skip the grind completely simply by paying Cartel Coins. I know battlepasses in other games tend to have pay-to-skip options, but I think it’s a little hinky that SWTOR has one on top of the monthly subscription. However, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to spend their money, and I can’t fault players who don’t have the time to invest in the system or the credits to burn, but still want to check out some of the unique prizes.

As I see it, there are two key questions to ask about Galactic Seasons: First, is it mandatory? No. Not at all. To be brutally honest, I think many of the rewards are neat, but they’re not that neat. A character based on that alien with twenty seconds of screen time in one movie is not exactly an iconic addition to our existing roster of companions.

I might be wrong, but that’s probably fine. I think Bioware might be better off aiming for “neat” rather than “OMG I MUST HAVE THAT.” Could the rewards be neater? Yeah, I think so. The first of the two armor sets is dull, and I’m not sure we needed three different colored versions of the same creature mount. As much as I enjoy decorating, I wish the signature reward of the season packed a bit more punch than the fleet strongholds. Overall, I do believe some of the rewards are genuinely neat, but I don’t think anyone ought to feel disappointed if they miss out on them.

The second and most important question to ask of Galactic Seasons is this: Is it content? To me the answer is no. It’s something to do between actual content releases. That’s all. Every SWTOR player knows that it can be a long wait between story updates, and Galactic Seasons is a framework doling out tasks and rewards to players. Between major updates, active players traditionally self-direct themselves by choosing to play class or expansion stories, competing in PVP, clearing operations, completing achievements, etc. Galactic Seasons seems to me to be another option for players.

However, SWTOR already has two other systems for rewarding players for playing the game: Renown and Conquest, and I think Seasons doesn’t quite mesh well with them. Solo players will likely find that most objectives align with existing Conquest goals, but players focused on group activities, especially PVP and progression operations, will have to go further out of their way to complete most Galactic Seasons objectives.

I wish players had a little more leeway when it comes to the random objectives. I know Onslaught’s play-your-way philosophy leads to people grinding the fastest, easiest content, but I lead weekly guild events, and depending on the week’s Conquest theme, we might run the daily operation or hunt world bosses, but since players might have different Daily or Weekly Galactic Seasons objectives, I am put in the frustrating position of selecting to run content that rewards people unequally. This is not fair or fun for people who find themselves the odd ones out because of bad luck with objectives.

Ultimately, if Galactic Seasons doesn’t interest you, that’s fine. You can opt in or out as much as you like. Once again, it looks like players who have been subscribed at any point during Onslaught will continue to have access to the expansion’s future story updates. If you subbed for one month back in October 2019, you can still hop on and see how the war is going and find out what Malgus is up to. That content is waiting for you, no charge.

 

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That Which Does Not Kill Us

With SWTOR‘s next game update “Dark Descent” arriving in just a few days, I figure it was high time to finally translate the third of three Mandalorian themed banners introduced late last year in the Spirits of Vengeance flashpoint.

While it was the last one I recreated, this will be the first one players encounter on their journey through the flashpoint on board the Clan Varad crewed starship, Champion’s Glory.

The sign is gold with purple and black accents and features a fitting slogan for the Clan. Described as “restless” by a Dark Lord of the Sith and bloodthirsty by most everyone else, Clan Varad served as the antagonists of the flashpoint Mandalorian Raiders and are likely already familiar to many players of the game.

The slogan is vague enough to appeal to the single-minded goals of Clan Varad, but it does beg the question: “Strongest at what?” I doubt Mandalorians who align with Varad have much interest in self-reflection so the question seems likely answered by whichever beskar-pot dictator shows up with the biggest blasters that day. Millennia later, these would go on to be the last words of the Deathwatch’s Pre Vizsla, so the slogan remains fittingly ironic.

When Is A Skull Not A Skull?

All three of the posters featured in the Spirit of Vengeance flashpoint feature unique and truly very cool takes on the famous skull icon made famous by Boba Fett. Of the three new symbols, the skull on the Clan Varad banner is most similar to the classic Mythosaur skull, but this version has a hand-printed texture rather than a stamped one, suggesting that if nothing else, Varad is far more hands-on than most Mandalorian clans.

Next up, the Darmanda logo from the Fortune’s Folly is quite similar in shape to the skull, but more closely evokes the contours of the equally if not more famous T-shaped visor of the Mandalorian helmet, but with a sleek, futuristic flair.

I alluded to this in the post in which I translated the banner from Heta Kol’s ship, the Seeker’s Vigil, but I might as well put my tin-foil hat theory on the record sooner rather than later. I suspect that symbol is not a skull at all, but the hilt of a weapon. But what weapon? Now, the Darksaber as seen on the shows The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian was created well after the events of Star Wars: The Old Republic, but what if Heta Kol is looking to create or acquire a proto-Darksaber? While other weapons inspired by modern Star Wars lore have found their way into SWTOR, this distinct take on the lightsaber feels conspicuous by its absence. This addition could also firmly connect Shae Vizla to Clan Vizsla, which has also played a significant role in Star Wars stories recently.

Or maybe I’m overthinking it, and it’s just a fancy skull. Hopefully we’ll find out before too long!

 

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Filed under General Star Wars, Mandalorian to English, Onslaught

These Go to Eleven

Longtime readers will know that I’m not usually one for hot takes. It’s been a more than week since SWTOR‘s last update, but I think it’s probably worth putting my reactions on the record. Consider this my lukewarm take on game update 6.2.1.

First let’s start with the elephant in the room, because relatively speaking, it takes up about as much space on our screens: the Amplifier sidebar. It is a real head-scratcher. The newly designed character sheet puts Amplifiers in a position of prominence that far, far outweighs their actual importance to players, while the information that actually matters is relegated to a tabbed table in the bottom left.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. The User Interface should, above all, account for how players will use it and make information and functions easier to access. I often check my Accuracy and Alacrity when swapping gear, I generally don’t care what Amplifiers I have. Additionally, putting the weapons smack dab in the middle of the column of armor slots in remarkably non-intuitive. I can’t tell you how many times last week I tried to equip a belt in my weapon slot.

I am all in favor of an improved Amplifier interface, and I have no issue with the cost of rerolling locked Amplifiers. The game needs credit sinks, and the players who most care about their Amps likely have the most cash to burn. I tell new players not to worry about Amplifiers at all; as they acquire maximum level gear, consider setting aside good mods with good Amps if they want, but, aside the daily reroll for Conquest points, I think the vast majority of players have no need to fuss with their Amplifiers.

The Amplifier window should not be a massive caboose that distracts players from the real reasons they want to access the character sheet.

This was not the only annoyance to be found in the latest patch. SWTOR game updates often come with new and unintended bugs. This time those bugs have affected Utilities and Tacticals that grant extra stacks of buffs. For example, the Tactical that is supposed to give Sage healers an extra jump of Wandering Mend currently has no effect, and the Force Harmonics Utility that should grant Shadows an extra charge of Force Potency is likewise ineffective. Pretty much every class has at least one spec affected, and it’s frustrating that we are into our second week of discussing which bad Tactical or normally subpar Utilities should be used instead while we await a hotfix.

Finally the update did bring some changes to Uprisings, Knights of the Eternal Throne’s forgotten group content. The Uprisings have been rebalanced for level 75, and I’m honestly glad to have more max-level content to romp around in. I am on the record as someone who enjoys Uprisings. The have some neat mounts and achievements to farm, the power-ups are fun and they are a nice change of pace from the Flashpoints I’ve run many times over the years. There, however, is legitimate confusion over how the difficulty designations of Uprisings and Flashpoints don’t align. A Storymode flashpoint is meant to be soloed, but a Storymode Uprising is meant for a group, and a Veteran Uprising has more in common with a Master Mode flashpoint. I think some nomenclature clarifications are in order.

While I haven’t tried any of the rebalanced Master Mode Uprisings yet, I have run a few Storymodes with a friend and they seem to fill the spot that the old school Heroic-4’s used to: quick, small group content where companions can fill in for players in a pinch. Even in 270 gear with mid-level companions, we were able to complete several Uprisings in 15-20 minutes without much fuss. The boss fights felt maybe a bit too long, and some mechanics chewed up companions while others had very little effect, but that’s always been the risk when subbing in companions in place of players.

If you’re tired of Hammer Station and the same old heroics, grab a friend and your favorite companions and try a few Uprisings. You’ll get to revisit some familiar locations, watch trash mobs explode like popcorn and hopefully have a laidback, good time. In the meantime, we await official word about whether the Character Sheet will be revised due to player feedback and when those frustrating bugs will be quashed.

 

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Cherish the Past

This week let’s take a look at the second of three Mandalorian posters found in the new flashpoint Spirit of Vengeance. Beware! My comments on this poster, found on the Ash’ad ship, the Seeker’s Vigil, could be considered spoilers for the flashpoint’s story, so definitely check that out first.  Although the Mando’a spoken language has been frequently used in SWTOR, the Mandalorian font makes its SWTOR debut, I believe, in Spirit of Vengeance.

The poster is available as a Stronghold decoration that can drop from bosses in the flashpoint, although it seems to have been mislabeled as propaganda from the Dar’manda ship, Fortune’s Glory.

At first glance, the most prominent image on the poster seems to be the familiar Mandalorian skull symbol, but I don’t believe this is meant to depict the Mythosaur at all. The poster’s color scheme and design most closely recalls the flashpoint’s final boss, Heta Kol whose helmet shares a similar arrangement of horns and prominent dorsal fin. Whether it is meant to be an image of a specific creature, I cannot say. I’d actually suggest that the icon better evokes the shape of a dagger or sword or saber hilt.

If that is the case, then the visual design appears to be at odds with the written message of the poster which implies that whoever created it clearly does not believe that the pen is mightier than the sword.

The mystery of Heta Kol has become a hot topic of conversation since the release of the flashpoint, and the text might be a reference to Canderous Ordo, otherwise known as Mandalore the Preserver. Should we take this as a clue that she has ties to the brothers Jekiah and Ras Ordo, whose sister is presumed to be dead? Maybe!

Overall I like how the poster immediately evokes in its color and design classic Mandalorian imagery, but gives it an unexpected twist or two.

Sell the Sizzle

While it’s not unusual for news from SWTOR to dry up this time of year, Bioware has put the next game update on the PTS unexpectedly early. But the most dramatic news this week came from starwars.com which announced that future Star Wars games would now share the official identity of “Lucasfilm Games.” To mark the announcement, they showed off a “sizzle real” of clips from numerous Star Wars games including, The Old Republic! The news has already triggered announcements of more Lucasfilm property games from publishers other than EA. SWTOR has very often been relegated to the roll of the forgotten middle child struggling for attention whenever newer, hotter games come out. Nevertheless, SWTOR has remained a stalwart over the years, and it’s always nice to see it get some love from Mom and Dad at the official website as the game celebrates its tenth anniversary.

Fingers crossed that there is more excitement to come!

 

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Fight the Future: Five Predictions for 2021

Happy New Year! Let’s all hope that 2021 is a big improvement on the previous year. As is tradition, let’s kick things off with my dumb top five predictions for the next year of SWTOR that are likely to be wrong.

Looking back at last year’s list, it did look for a moment like I might, shockingly, come away with a winning record. A Blurrg mount was briefly teased on the PTS late last year but it did not seem close to making it to the live game. One should always remember that the PTS is not a promise. While this does suggest we might lope around on a Blurrg at some time in the coming year, I cannot fairly give myself a point for that one.

As for my two correct predictions, guessing that we wouldn’t see changes to Spoils of War was not a stretch. No one has ever gone poor betting that something in SWTOR would not change. As for my story prediction, technically it has not been explicitly confirmed, but the subtext is clear enough that I feel confident putting that one in the win column. I am being somewhat vague since it still feels spoilery, but I will say I am pleased with how that beat played out in the Echoes of Oblivion story.

Without further ado on with the show! These predictions are based on my years of experience not developing a mass market videos game inspired by one of the world most popular intellectual properties. So, of course, I know what I’m talking about.

Expansion Hype

SWTOR’s tenth anniversary is next December, and it seems reasonable to expect that Bioware would like to celebrate with an expansion. That will give Onslaught a roughly two year lifespan, a stretch more or less in line with SWTOR’s other expansions. With much of Onslaught’s 2020 content backed up to the end of the year, this does leave a lot of ground for the game to cover before getting ready for a new expansion, so this prediction is far from a slam dunk. Will 2021 end with a new expansion or a new expansion announcement? There is a fair amount of ground between the two, but I will boldly predict that this time next year, we’ll be level 80 and grinding new sets of equipment. Hopefully not in Hammer Station.

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

The possibility of an expansion does make the business of predictions easy this time. I suspect that the Spirit of Vengeance flashpoint and perhaps one more (or two if we’re really lucky) to come this year, will act as the prologue to the next expansion, in the same way the Forged Alliances flashpoints set up Shadow of Revan. That means the next expansion could very well focus on a Mandalorian civil war. Mandalorians are having their moment in pop culture right now so I don’t think it’s outrageous that SWTOR might get in on that action. In addition, it’s also a faction neutral setting into which Bioware could easily insert both Republic and Sith aligned characters.

This could also allow Bioware to keep the loyalist/saboteur storylines going without having to resolve them. I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing Republic Bounty Hunters looking for work on Carrick Station and Jedi saboteurs recruiting on Korriban anytime soon.

End of Expansion Gearing

If we do get an expansion, I suspect it will be preceded by a tried and true MMO end of expansion gear bonanza. I don’t think a new tier of gear would be out of the question to drive up those Veteran’s Edge stacks. At the very least I’d say the Dxun class sets and crafting materials for gold augments will become easier to acquire. While I know the mechanics of how Ossus gear was acquired during Jedi Under Seige was controversial, I do think we might see new loot gained from a new daily area and perhaps a lair boss.

Hey, What About Malgus?

The fate of Darth Malgus remains the major thread from Onslaught still dangling, and resolving his story seems like the thing Onslaught will most likely accomplish this year. Whatever Malgus is up to on Dantooine could very well take us to the ruins of the Jedi Enclave there. In the end, I think we will face and defeat Malgus in final battle. I’ve seen other possibilities suggested for Malgus, but as fond as I am of him and the tragic figure he’s become, I think his days are numbered. I don’t imagine we’ll be able to join him, recruit him as a companion, or install him as the Sith Emperor. He is reasonable to be suspicious, at best, of the player characters regardless of class, faction or allegiance, and I just don’t see him going down without a fight.

A Porg in Every Pot

It’s not a running joke until I run it into the ground. So, yes, I am hopeful that 2021 will be finally the year that an adorable Porg will be able to follow and passively observe me on my adventures! Once again, I am here to offer helpful suggestions for how to add Porgs to SWTOR. First off, clearly, there will be Porg tacticals that replace all our spoken dialogue with Porg calls. This will make the recording of all future dialogue a significantly easier task. But let’s be clear, there must be distinct Porg sounds for characters of all genders and alignments. Clearly a Sith Inquistor’s clucks should be distinct from a Republic Trooper’s chirps. And since I’ve predicted that a new tier of gear is imminent, the system to acquire it should be named “Spoils of Porgs” which will allow us to grind unwanted gear into “Porg Fragments” that we can use to purchase Best-in-Slot equipment. And, yes, Bioware, you can have these ideas for free.

For these predictions to come to pass, it would mean we’d be getting outrageously more content from SWTOR than we’ve almost ever seen from the game’s history. So I’m certainly letting my sunny disposition get the better of me. Still, I believe Bioware plans to mark the tenth anniversary of SWTOR with something special, so I am honestly hopeful it will be a party to remember.

 

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Echoes of Vengeance Review

This week I’d like to share some spoiler free thoughts on SWTOR‘s Game Update 6.2, Echoes of Vengeance. I won’t lie, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to SWTOR‘s first significant story update of 2020. I doubt there is anyone out there from the players to the developers who isn’t disappointed that we didn’t get more story this year, but I do think the game has closed out the year with a bang.

Echoes of Oblivion

MMOs aren’t really known for endings. To one extent or another, they’re all about keeping the treadmill running and hyping up the next big thing. Echoes of Oblivion, however, feels like the capstone to a journey started nine years ago. It ties together the major strands and story beats woven through eight class stories and all of the expansions, and brings them together for a conclusion that felt to me immensely satisfying.

There are the expected heroes and villains doing their thing, a few pleasant surprises, and one or two things put right that had gone wrong. In service of the story, there is once again an incredible setting to explore. We visited a similar mindscape before during Knights of the Eternal Throne, but this time the environment seems to have been modeled on the landscape of a brain with synapse-like paths connecting suspended islands of memories illuminated by glowing neuron-like formations. It’s unique and fantastic, and I definitely recommend taking your time to look around as you make your way through this adventure.

The who story itself is appropriately epic with moments of high drama and even a funny running joke early on. Each of the major non-player characters get a moment to shine and be cool, but none of it feels like kill-stealing or overshadowing of our characters. It’s our choices and actions have made it all possible and brought us to the end of all things.

With so many story beats and characters to juggle, it’s not surprising, however, that not every thread got pulled, even ones that perhaps should have. The climax surely could’ve had more personal impact if the Consular’s Shielding technique or the Inquisitor’s Forcewalking powers had been invoked. Moreover, I think it’s fair that players of Jedi Knights who have newly reignited or recently started romances with Kira and Scourge might be disappointed that their relationships weren’t acknowledged on-screen, despite their major roles in the story. I know there are countless combinations of characters and companions, and I don’t envy Bioware’s task of finding space for them all, but it does feel like any romances outside of Lana and Theron have gotten the short end of the stick for quite a while now.

I suppose I could also argue that Echoes of Oblivion is just SWTOR taking a victory lap, but if it is, it’s well deserved. Bringing a decade’s worth of story told by countless writers, artists, designers, developers and players to a rewarding climax is no mean feat, and the good folks at Bioware should be commended for sticking the landing.

The Spirit of Vengeance

But, of course, this is not the end. No sooner have we caught our breath than a new threat has emerged, and we’re off to a new flashpoint, the Spirit of Vengeance. Given the popularity of The Mandalorian, it’s not shocking that SWTOR would want to explore Mandalorian’s unique brand of politics. But they’re hardly riding any coattails. Generations of Star Wars fans have been mad about this stuff since Boba Fett made his debut in 1978, and SWTOR has been having fun with Mandos since launch. If the show’s popularity is an excuse for a deeper dive, I’m cool with that.

The flashpoint focuses on three clans familiar to SWTOR players, and each section is distinctive, giving the whole flashpoint a sense of progression. I’ve run the SoV on solo, veteran and master modes and each of the boss fights are pretty fun, although it’s not always clear how their mechanics work. I’m still not sure how best to deal with Bask Sunn’s tether and Troya Ajak’s songbird volley. That said, aside from the healing check on Troya, I didn’t find the flashpoint too taxing on Master Mode, especially as compared to the Onslaught‘s other new flashpoint, Objective Meridian. It is a long flashpoint, and that may not be for everyone. Personally, I consider Hammer Station speed runs to be the death of fun, so I am more than fine spending some extra time in SoV. That said, a group of four should have no problem moving through at a reasonable click. Curiously, I found solo the slowest mode since I had to slog through all the trash by myself. I wouldn’t mind if those power-ups from the Uprisings were a standard feature of solo-modes. A thermal devastator or two certainly would have come in handy!

Dar’manda

The flashpoint comes with numerous decorations to collect including three new Mandalorian themed posters. One can be seen below.

While the two other posters are written using the Mando’a font, this one is in Aurebesh, and for good reason. It features Indigo, leader of a clan of  Mandalorian exiles called Dar’manda who we met on Mek Sha. To their credit, the Dar’manda understand that it would be completely inappropriate for them to use the Mando’a language in their propaganda.

At first, I thought the text of this poster was a fairly basic aphorism, but in thinking about it in the context of the story and setting, it’s clear to me that the rewards being promised here are not the honor and glory sought by your bog-standard Mando, but far more material rewards. “Besom better have my credits,” as they might put it.

The logo at the bottom is a variation on the mythosaur skull and the standard Mandalorian T-shaped visor and helmet seen across Mandalorian lore. I don’t know if this is the first appearance of the symbol, but it’s pretty cool, and I hope we will get to see it in other contexts again.

I confess I went with a quick and dirty recreation here in hopes of publishing my take on the game update’s content while it was still somewhat hot. However, when I return next year, I plan to take a look at the two Mando’a posters in greater detail.

The Undiscovered Country

As this honestly crappy year comes to a close, I’m looking forward to the next. This silly blog, SWTOR and the good people with whom I’m honored to play have all been things that made a 2020 a lot easier to take. Next year is SWTOR’s tenth anniversary, and as Echoes of Oblivion closes the door on one adventure, the Spirit of Vengeance opens the path to another. Let’s see where it leads.

Stay safe, have fun and may the Force be with us all!

 

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Give Me Steam

Last month saw the debut of a new event in SWTOR, the All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally. I’d intended this post to be my overview of the Rally, but the news from this week’s livestream is worth discussing instead. With the Swoop Event’s return next week I hope to revisit the topic and look at another Aurebesh sign prominently seen around the race tracks.

For now, however, let’s quickly check out this display from the news terminal on fleet which hypes the rally and serves the breadcrumb quest that introduces players to the event. This static screenshot fails to capture the charm of the Sportscenter-style animation that plays on this screen. Here the Aurebesh text seems to be a leaderboard of rally champions with some amusing and very Star Warsy names. This display reminds me of the Bounty Hunter Guild’s posted sign of most wanted targets that can be seen around the galaxy.

As I translated each name I made a guess as to which swoop team they race for. I’m quite confident that Scabend must be on the Blatent Beks!

Steampowered

This week SWTOR had their first livestream since the lockdown, and how you judge the stream’s big announcement depends on your point of view. If you are already playing the game, SWTOR’s arrival on steam probably won’t affect you. However, SWTOR’s prominent placement on gaming’s biggest platform is a very nice signal boost for the game.

I’m sure many fans of the game have encountered people who are surprised to learn that SWTOR is still around. Even with little promotion, SWTOR has outlasted most other MMOs and certainly earned a good profit while doing so. As a fan, I’m glad to see SWTOR get some attention again, and an influx of new players is always welcome. I don’t doubt that this wave will subside, but it can only be a good thing going forward that Star Wars fans might have an easier time finding the game. For old and new players alike, one of the immediate benefits of Steam is the ability to easily give gift subscription time and cartel coins to your friends, something that has become more difficult to do through other online retailers lately.

The other news from the livestream included the “Feast of Prosperity” a new seasonal event coming in the fall. The addition of two new events in a single year must be unprecedented in the game’s history. Like the Swoop Rally event, this one will be mostly free of combat and something that all players regardless of gear or level can participate in.

We also got some teases of the next story update and a Mandalorian themed flashpoint as well. Sadly, this story content is not likely to arrive until later this year. This is one delay that I won’t pin on Bioware. The logistics that go into creating SWTOR’s story content, even just the recording of the sixteen members of the main cast, scattered around the world, must be considerable, and the current situation in this country can only amplify those challenges.

I suppose they could deliver content faster using the silent “KOTOR-style” dialogue interactions we get with the Fallen Empire recruitment missions. SWTOR has employed this for the Swoop Rally and revised Nightlife events, and I imagine they will with the Festival of Prosperity as well. I’m no fan of the format, but I don’t mind it as much for content that is meant to be repeated. I cannot imagine it working or being received well for a major story update. The fully voiced and animated interactions are the defining hallmark of this game, and I’m fine waiting a little longer to get it.

It sucks that we’re not going  to experience as much story as I am certain Bioware hoped to deliver this year, but I don’t believe it can be helped. In the meantime, I have enjoyed the content they have produced under conditions that are not ideal for anyone. While I am unlikely to ever visit nightmare Dxun, I’m no where near finished decorating my Alderaan stronghold and I’ve found the Swoop Rally to be a lot of fun, and I’m glad to continue it next week.

 

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Arise, Go Forth and Conquer as of Old

Top of the Fourth to You!

This week let’s take a quick look at a sign that is quite appropriate for the fourth day of the fifth month. This neon sign glows from many of the cantinas, casinos and skyscrapers of Nar Shaddaa. It is written using the Trade Federation Basic font that has its origins on screen in The Phantom Menace.

I’ve previously translated another display with the same font and similar design that also can be found wherever fine goods advertised around the galaxy. The two graphics have an identical frame and layout, but the one above is animated with flashing lights and pulses between a red and purple glow. Unlike the previous sign, this one can be translated. Does the use of the number 54 refer to May 4th? Maybe, but I’d suggest given its context that it might equally evoke Studio 54, New York’s famous nightclub which was at its height during Star Wars’ initial release in the age of disco.  Perhaps 54 is the “top” floor of the most exclusive casino or sky-palace where only the most famous holo-celebrities, crime lords, and Sith boogiemancers are allowed past the velvet rope blocking the blast door to the hottest dance club atop the Smugglers’ Moon!

Conquest Bonanza

I want to comment on the most recent Conquest changes. Where the last initial round of Conquest revisions had us briefly earning conquest points at Ludicrous Speed, I think everyone now agrees that Conquest has gone to plaid!

Last week I scored on my own, more than enough points to meet my guild’s small yield target. I don’t deny this feels extreme, but I did play that character a lot last week, to the exclusion of most of my other characters. And since it was a character I was leveling, I took full advantage of the many Conquest objectives that came naturally with doing the story, heroics and flashpoints along the way.

Of the people in small guilds I’ve talked to, everyone is happy with the update. These are the folks who benefit the most. Nothing will change for the large guilds, they’ll continue to hit their yields, and the same guild that comes in first every week on your server will continue to dominate. But these changes will be huge for small groups of friends who just want to level up their guilds, gain access to perks, unlock their guild ships and earn useful crafting materials.

No one should have to pick between playing content that will benefit their guild’s conquest effort and playing what they want. Now anyone can level a character and still meaningfully help their guild when previously the points gained from basic leveling were not significant.

Are many of the conquest objectives trivial? To veterans, they sure are! But if Conquest allows new players to safely test out systems like Strongholds and companion influence and Amplifiers, I’m all for it. I do know PVPers feel like they got the short end of the stick again, and I think Bioware could add more objectives to reward PVP play without fear of it turning into the new KP or EV trash farm.

When it comes right down to it, if Conquest points are meant to be guild xp, then I think all activity should count towards it, not just a particular set of goals that change from week to week.

The most common remark I hear is that everyone expects this to be nerfed, so I encourage you to take advantage. Ride that speeder! Place those decorations! And pick those flowers while you can!

May the Fourth Raffle Time!

I fully acknowledge that as fake holidays go, May the Fourth is pretty fake, but I think this year we all could use a reason to celebrate, and as a member of SWTOR‘s content creator program, I’m in a position to help make that happen. The good people at Bioware have provided me a code which can be redeemed for 1050 Cartel Coins and I’m pleased to share it with one of my readers! To enter leave a comment to this post below. Do you have any thoughts about the conquest changes? What outfit, weapon or color crystal would you like to buy or unlock in your collection? How many characters are you planning to level during double XP? Comment below! Make sure you let me know how to contact you if you win: include your character, faction and server name and I’ll mail you the code in game. If you prefer twitter, include your twitter handle and I’ll send it that way. If you’d rather not comment publicly, I’ll also accept entries via email at twia@generic-hero.com.

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

I’ll choose a random winner from all submissions during the Conquest reset Tuesday May 12th.

Good luck, and May the 4th be with you!

 

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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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Taking the Edge Off

The topic of controversy swirling about SWTOR’s raiding community concerns the removal of the Veteran’s Edge buff from Master Mode/Nightmare difficulty operations. Veteran’s Edge is a buff that increases a character’s main stats based on the overall item rating of their gear in most group content. With the release of Onslaught all pre-existing operations and flashpoint content were “level locked,” and characters running that content are scaled down to level 70. The buff is meant to take in account the gear characters are wearing and to complement Onslaught‘s emphasis on horizontal gearing. Assuming your character has equipped item rating 306 gear in every slot, you will get 30 stacks of Veteran’s Edge in most Flashpoints and Storymode and Veteran Mode Operations, meaning once you complete the short vertical progression grind, you will out-gear nearly all of the group content in the game. With Game Update 6.1, this buff has been removed from all Master Mode Operations, dramatically increasing the difficulty of these operations across the board.

Before I continue, I should make absolutely clear that I am not a hard-core raider. During Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, I actively raided SWTOR’s Hard Mode (now called Veteran Mode) operations and I’ve recently picked it up again. The only Nightmare boss I have ever killed without the benefit of an extra tier of gear or extra levels is Nefra. Farming the easiest Nightmare boss for implants does not at all qualify me to talk about the concerns of the Nightmare community.

But I have some thoughts about level locked content, and they intersect with what is going on in the Nightmare community.

The purpose of level locking content is to keep it “evergreen” so that it does not require additional tweaking as the level cap increases in future expansions so that players will always be able to experience it in a fashion more or less as originally intended.

Level sync was first introduced during Knight of the Fallen Empire as a way to keep questing on the game’s many planets relevant for players even if they exceeded the intended level range of a planet. Flashpoints and Operations, however, were instead scaled up to the maximum level and again for Knights of the Eternal Throne. For the most part, level sync has been successful on the planetary scale, and it’s fair that Bioware would want to apply the system to group activity, freeing them to focus on new flashpoints and operations going forward rather than spend time re-balancing old content every time a new expansion launches.

That said, level sync is not perfect. Important stats like Endurance, Mastery and Power are capped in level synced content. The Veteran’s Edge buff is meant to account for our character’s gear and increases those stats. Let’s take two characters in full 306 kits, one has best in slot gear and augments in every slot; the other has a completely random assortment of unmodified equipment. When level locked, the two characters will have identical hit points and mastery. The character that is well itemized will have superior tertiary stats like Accuracy, Alacrity and Critical, but the difference will not be so great as when you run into both of them on Fleet or Dxun where stats are not scaled.

It gets even weirder when you realize that there are many, many set bonuses, stims, adrenals, class buffs, group buffs, relic procs and guild perks that boost Endurance, Mastery or Power and therefore have absolutely no effect in level locked content.

This is why you see people using relics that were previously scorned, why everyone including tanks and healers should use Accuracy stims and why some guides recommend dps and healers use Warding Mods; they are, after all, literally the only mods that have any effect on our stats in level locked content.

Onslaught’s Spoils of War system has given players the ability to customize our gear far more precisely than in any previous expansion; yet in the vast majority of the game’s group content it makes little difference. It’s not a bold statement to say that proper gearing should matter and that it should reward better performance. That some players keep a traditional set of gear for the Dxun operation and another that exploits the exceptions of level locked content strikes me as bad design.

Veteran’s Edge does a good job smoothing over those rough edges in Storymode and Veteran Mode content, but in my experience there are two parts of progression raiding: gearing and practice. During 2.0 and 3.0, gearing took longer since bosses dropped upgrades that people could use. Since 5.0, and arguably 4.0, it’s common to walk into an operation with gear beyond anything you’ll loot from a boss. I’m cool with that. To me, learning fights and getting the point where the team is properly executing them is more rewarding than wondering who will get their Underworld Relic this week. It also means it is much easier to bring in new or returning players without having to revisit old content to gear them up.

I run operations much more casually than I did a few years ago, and it’s nice that Spoils of War allows my teammates and me to jump to the fun part without needing to spend excess time on the boring parts.

Many nightmare raiders have different goals. They want the challenge and the knowledge that everyone on the team needs to perform perfectly to succeed. That is completely understandable and a legitimate thing to want out of the game. I’ve seen some raiders complain that Veteran’s Edge is a crutch, but others say that getting upgrades that improve the individual and therefore the team’s output should be a part of the raiding experience.

I’m not at all the one to resolve this dispute, but I think the problems with Level Sync have exacerbated the difference between those positions. Right now the jump between Hard Mode and Nightmare operations seems bigger than ever, and it may be rougher than necessary for raiders who want to make it to the big leagues.

Rather than put it off, I think it would be worthwhile for Bioware to take a hard look at how level sync works now.

 

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