For the List of Buckets

So on Monday my guild did something insane; they listened to one of my ideas. We had sixteen people and had just tried (and failed) to locate an alive version of the Revanite Command Walker following a Temple of Sacrifice run and were after something else to do. I jokingly suggested 10-stack Dreadtooth.

It's in situations like this that I now plan to have one of the Cat's quotes from Red Dwarf on immediate standby: "You're going to go with one of my plans? Are you nuts? What happens if we all get killed? I'll never hear the last of it!"

Red Dwarf has so many quotes which suit a good number of our guild's extravaganzas.

Long-story short, we did eventually kill it on the third attempt, resulting in me completing the Big Game Hunter Achievement at long last; this was the Achievement which has formed the main spine of a sort-of "bucket list" of Achievements or stuff to do before SWtOR ends. With this having been accomplished, it's time to start focusing my attention to other Achievements on this list.

There's just one small problem; this list never actually existed as a proper list. It always just rested on my desire to complete Big Game Hunter and, until last year, I Am Death Incarnate.

With these two big Achievements now out of the way, it's time to actually create a proper official bucket list. Some of the items included are Achievements, while others are more random bits-and-bobs that I've had on my mind for a while without being 'official' Achievements.


2018 Companion Reunions, Volume 2

5.8 brought back two Class Companions, so it's time to continue with the Reunions series I started in January.

Once again, I won't just be covering the newly-returned Companions; there's a new Alliance Alert for Arcann to look over and my Juggernaut recently completed the story up to and including the Iokath story, so there are the Companions she's re-encountered along the way as well.


The Road to Somewhere: Spring 2018 Edition

So the most recent Roadmap has been posted by Keith, pertaining to Game Updates 5.8 and 5.9. As per usual, it's now the time for the blogging community to pick the most recent news apart and see what's interesting, unexpected, or potentially worrisome.

Let's get started!


2018 Companion Reunions, Volume 1

So yesterday, as most of you should be aware by now, we were graced with the first returning Companions of 2018; Risha and Corso for the Smuggler, and Andronikos for the Sith Inquisitor.

Since all of these Companions required the completion of Chapter IX of Eternal Throne, this meant that I decided to spend my limited free time this weekend taking my own Sith Sorcerer, Vahnora, through the remaining Chapters she had yet to do. There's a further tale to this than meets the eye, so I hope you're ready for yet more boring text before we get to the interesting bit about the reunions.


That Small Insight into SWtOR's 2018

Although the official early-2018 Roadmap is not due out for "a few more weeks", yesterday Eric posted a small tidbit about what we'll be expecting to see in 2018, starting with an official list of things which GU 5.7 will be bringing to us on the 23rd of January.

The fourth boss of Gods, the matriarch of mayhem SCYVA will be released probably a month or so earlier than people were anticipating considering that it took about three-and-a-half months to coax the previous boss, NAHUT, out of the shadows. Just one more boss to go after her and then we're looking at Master Mode territory and anything which could come with that.

More interesting, however, is the fact that with this update we'll be seeing more Companions returning with 5.7, with the added twist that all three will be Class-specific. Risha and Corso will be returning as a double-team for the Smuggler while Inquisitors get to reunite with their beloved pirate Andronikos.

Part of me is slightly disappointed that they're only Class-specific as I was hoping that Andronikos would make a good addition to a Smuggler or Hunter crew, but at the same time I won't deny that this is ultimately a better route than trying to find a way to shoehorn in too many characters under one roof, an act which is becoming increasingly harder to do now that the Eternal Empire is no longer the galaxy-uniting threat it used to be.

More than this, though, it also negates an issue which is currently affecting every single returned Companion; that there are just some Classes that they will never suit. Sure, Andronikos works with a Smuggler, Hunter, and maybe an Agent or Warrior, but this is realistically where the line stops for him. Meanwhile Risha would only really suit a Hunter but would more than likely find life with Blizz and eventually Mako a nightmare. Finally, Corso would avoid any Imperials on principle and would probably find the Trooper and Knight too inflexible, especially if Jorgan and Rusk are around for either character.

One thing which I am interested to see is how a potential refusal will work. I imagine that there will be a way for people who dislike any of these characters to refuse them back into their crew, which is simple enough for Andronikos but leaves Corso and Risha in an interesting place since there is some potential flexibility here; you should of course be able to accept or refuse both as a pair, but it might also be possible to only accept one. As somebody who has come to absolutely dislike Corso (despite -or because of - my Smuggler main Cal being in a romance with him), even I don't know what I'd do if presented with the option to kick him out and keep Risha alone.

Still, this bodes well for the future of returning Companions, or at least those which will be designated as Class-specific. Not only will their return be more personally-tailored to their original Class character but it will also allow for the most problematic characters to have as smooth a return as possible. I'm of course referring to Jaesa Willsaam, Khem Val, and to a lesser extent Lord Scourge. In the former two cases, giving them to all characters would result in them 'canonising' their fate in one way or another, which wouldn't be an easy situation for some Players to find themselves in.

However, it is worth noting that even though this means that people who chose to keep Jaesa or Khem as a certain way will hopefully now undoubtedly see their choices reflected in their return, the 'canonising' effect may very well still be in place for an Instant 60/65 Character. Since Khem and Jaesa are both tied to Imperial Classes and particularly an Instant 65 Imperial is treated as having made all the Dark choices 'in-canon' these particular characters will probably be designated whichever of the alternate fates is the darker. While with Jaesa that's fairly easy to work out, it's going to be interesting to see which version of Khem gets designated...

While nowhere near as intricate, the reason why I listed Scourge as being fairly problematic alongside these two is because of his connection to the Emperor and the Knight. He's too ingrained as a bridge between the two to really translate across comfortably to any other Class, especially thanks to his prophecy of seeing the Knight as the Emperor's killer; how would that be explained away? On the other hand, I would be really interested in seeing what the reaction of an Imperial character will be to the former Wrath, and particularly that of his immediate replacement, so I would still be slightly aggrieved to see him only become Class-specific even if ultimately it makes most sense.


I'm very interested in seeing where we go in 2018 beyond this. We've known for some time that there would be a third Flashpoint, the remnants of the Operation, and more returning Companions, and now we're starting to be on the final stretch before we see how everything they've already announced will be playing out.

It's interesting to see that returning Companions have been given a varied treatment across the past twelve months alone; 5.2 brought Elara and Quinn back as very minor characters in a Story update intended only to personalise the faction choice, Raina Temple back in a more involved way as the default Companion in a new Flashpoint, and now we'll be getting Companions back in what are presumably simple conversation-only Alliance Alerts again. 

As long as this time the Alerts are fully voiced, I don't mind them being handled in this way from now on, although I wouldn't mind the odd few cropping up in a more significant capacity in the future.

2018 realistically can't do all that much for 5.0, especially since so much happened during 2017. Hopefully we'll get the first hints about a shiny new Expansion within the next few months so that this entire pattern can begin anew within the year.


More Starfighter Assault Fun

Star Wars: Battlefront II has been in a very interesting situation since its launch. Doubtless the majority of people reading this will have heard of the furore surrounding it and will have taken a 'side'.

Myself, I've just been my usual self and battling on regardless since it takes a lot of tedium to get through my thick skull. Heck, I've been playing SWtOR for six years even with the last two-and-a-bit years being really quite stagnant and samey. If I have fun with the people I'm playing a game with then that overrules any potential misgivings about the game itself. That is, of course, not to say that I don't have periods of not finding stuff fun, but largely that's related to hitting our heads against something hard and getting nowhere for too long for seemingly no reason.


Back to Battlefront.

I'd already commented on Starfighter Assault being my primary tether to this new Star Wars game, and while I've been focusing more on the other modes as-of-late than I anticipated (due mostly to my guildmates who are playing it; they're strangely not as fond of Starfighter as I am) I still very much enjoy going back into it whenever I get the opportunity.

With the first DLC season, themed around The Last Jedi, Starfighter Assault was one of two modes to receive a new map alongside Galactic Assault. More than this, though; it also received an update to the Hero roster, although unlike the new Ground Heroes - Finn and Captain Pathetic Phasma - there's only one Hero and she joins the 'good' side.

For those of you who aren't aware of the current Tallie tally, this means that with the introduction of Tallissan Lintra the Republic/Rebellion/Resistance has six space Heroes while the CIS/Empire/First Order only has four. It also doesn't help matters that Tallie's A-Wing is probably the best Hero ship in the game at the moment; she brings to the table a missile-evade and the only group-heal in space, and on top of this she is an Interceptor so is an absolute beast at taking ships down.

Oh, and Poe's Black One has received an upgrade as well; whereas before it was just a different X-Wing which traded the overcharged weapons ability for an enemy-revealing pulse, it now has a fourth ability (being the only unit in-game which starts with one as default); the Accelerated Booster Pod. Basically, this gives the ship a speed boost, breaks missile locks, and gives it a small amount of damage resistance, all without sacrificing its BB-8 Heal or group support utility.

Both of these Resistance-era Heroes are thus the most versatile ships in the game, since they can not only pump out a lot of damage but sustain and avoid it reliably as well. I'm curious to see what later space Villains will be able to bring to the table, as at this moment in time the Heroes have very much stacked the deck against them with this DLC season.

While I have severe reservations about the changes and additions to the Hero roster - and I'm saying this as someone who actually really likes Tallie and Poe as Heroes - the same cannot be said of my feelings towards the first new Space map; D'Qar. Being the sixth map for this mode, it is thus also the first map where the Resistance has the defence advantage, whereas previously the only map set in the Resistance/First Order conflict had the First Order with a very strong advantage and the Resistance needing to overcome severe odds to achieve victory.

It's actually very interesting to look at the different maps and the apparent balance between each one, since it seems that 3 of the maps are fairly well-balanced and the others... well... aren't. At the same time, though, it is apparent to me that one of the main reasons why there is this imbalance at times is to do with ship shields; none of the standard CIS or Imperial ships have shields while all the other factions do.

When a faction is defending, numbers don't matter. You can throw as many sacrificial lambs to the enemy as you wish since the enemy needs to destroy an objective and killing a defender only helps advance the round by temporarily removing somebody who might otherwise prevent attackers from doing their job. For the attackers, on the other hand, numbers do matter. If people die to stupid reasons or because nobody's taking out that one guy with a 34-player killstreak then they're almost inevitably going to lose very easily.

So for the CIS and the Empire, when they're defending they're on a more even playing-field than when they're attacking. Quick deaths aren't very helpful when you need people to stay alive long enough to have a chance at attacking the objectives, and in the case of Endor it's very easy for people to die for 'stupid' reasons since there is an absolute shedload of debris to fly into, either because you turned too sharply, too late, or your internet spiked and you found yourself seemingly crashing into nothing.

That's not to say that just because the Resistance and First Order had the foresight to put shields on all their craft it makes their maps substantially easier. The ambush on the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer takes place in an asteroid field and because the first objectives are contained in the 'jaw' of the ship all three phases force attackers to duck and weave; this is made harder in the second phase by the objectives all being AI-controlled rather than stationary, so a player might be close to destroying a transport only for it to duck behind an asteroid and following it lands them directly in the path of an oncoming defender.

D'Qar, on the other hand, is a lot better in terms of objective placement. While there's still a fair amount of debris, there is a fair amount less of ducking-and-weaving required since not only is the debris a lot bigger and far harder to accidentally fly into (although it's still possible) objectives are stationary for the first two phases and fairly substantial in the third. Since there are only two viable paths into the numerous self-contained objectives (field generators) in the second phase and they're all over the place it's a fair amount harder for a defender to chance upon an attacker to begin with, and even harder for them to destroy their target once they're inside the generators and opening fire.

Thus, while the Resistance still has the advantage as the defending faction it isn't a total nightmare for the First Order. While at the time of publishing this post I had only played as the First Order once subsequent viewings of the map from their perspective has reinforced this view. While the second phase is tedious and the third phase is very reliant on sufficient numbers being left alive to complete the objective, both as remainders of the reinforcements from the previous phase and those which may be depleted throughout the third phase itself, the fourth and final phase is the easiest phase for an attacker in any map.

Basically, the First Order has almost three minutes to defeat fifty Resistance ships. That's all; once those ships are destroyed, the game ends and victory befalls the First Order. This has an additional twist in that in this phase only the Resistance has a reinforcement counter; the First Order only has a time limit and a set number of ships to kill. This is thus the first Starfighter map not to feature a direct penalty - although throwing too many sacrificial lambs to the slaughter will be detrimental if not tempered - to the attackers for losing friendly craft in the final phase, and it makes for a nice bookend for them should they reach this far.

I sincerely hope that we'll see this sort of thing added in future maps, because it also adds a greater amount of pressure on the defenders to eliminate their opponents as quickly as possible since the moment the third phase ends it's them who'll be fighting for their lives instead.


Since it had been a while since I uploaded anything to my YouTube channel, I decided to spend Tuesday recording various matches and ended up with two matches which I deemed as worthy to upload. The first is set on D'Qar and the second is set on Ryloth. This is admittedly the second gameplay video of Ryloth I've uploaded to the channel, but at least it shows off Tallie's A-Wing, so there's that to it I suppose...

I still very much enjoy Starfighter Assault, and I'm still very hopeful that we'll eventually get a nice offline mode of it. As I said earlier I'd happily spend a lot of time just shooting bots out of the sky in my own time without feeling guilty about killing another player.


300 #8

It's been an interesting week for yours truly. I've finished my first term at my new university, lost a tolerated feline friend, and by the end of today I'll have seen The Last Jedi and, most importantly, have met my family's prospective new kittens who'll be joining us on the 27th of December.

That's not what people reading about a SWtOR fan blog care about, though, although considering that this series is very much a personal indulgence, there's not much reason for anyone to care about this post either...

But yeah. Those of you who have seen the regular "300 #x" posts will have seen this coming eventually, but yesterday I finally managed to get my final character, Phirella the Powertech, up to Command Rank 300. I'd saved up enough packs over the past few weeks to get her from CR34 to CR254 on the first day of the double-CXP event, meaning that she climbed two hundred and twenty ranks from CXP Packs alone.

I love the amount of CXP you can get nowadays.

Being free of the necessary grind, I now don't really know exactly what to do. I've started funnelling most of the CXP Packs I get now towards my Sage, since of the remaining two pairs of classes I've yet to get geared up (having a Gunslinger/Sniper and Guardian/Juggernaut in full 248 including the new Augments) Sage/Sorcerer is easily the one I understand and care for more, whereas I've developed a sort of apathy for any Trooper/Hunter classes and so have no interest or desire to get them geared up any further than where they are currently.

So, yay. All 8 characters at CR300. I can relax again.