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.


5.0: One Year Later

A year ago today, the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion launched, bringing with it nine new Chapters of Story Content, five new mini-Flashpoint experiences known as Uprisings, Veteran Chapter Difficulty for all Chapters of both Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne, and the controversial system known as Galactic Command.

A year down the line, what's changed, been introduced, or remained stagnant?


300 #7

One of the things 5.6 is bringing with it next week is another Double-Rewards week. In spite - or because - of this, I was determined to get another Character to 300 beforehand, for reasons best described as "eh, screw it".

My Juggernaut, Ferok'ia, had climbed to Command Rank 271 from CR71 during the last 2xCXP Week courtesy of an absolute shedload of Command Packs, so she was rather frustratingly close to attaining the big 300. I ran her through Oricon, CZ-198, Black Hole, and Section X on Thursday - the only Daily Zones she'd unlocked until yesterday - and got her to CR 284.

Yesterday, I decided to indulge in a little experiment which I'd been somewhat-intrigued about since creating an Instant-65. Since Instant-65s are granted decisions based on their faction (Imperials get Dark-Side/'unwise' actions while Pubs get the Light Side/'advised' actions) since they have nothing else to go on, I was curious to see whether the current level of a character's Alignment and the associated Alignment they were fighting for made any difference to the allocated decisions if that same character skipped straight to Eternal Throne.

Since Ferok'ia is just one of my seven Light-Siders and was thus theoretically different from the 'stock' Imperial Instant-65, it made sense to me to use her for this purpose (and again, "eh, screw it"), and of course it meant that all remaining Daily Zones were unlocked for her as well. The bottom-line is that no matter whether you're playing a Light-Sided Sith or a Dark Jedi, your Faction is the only thing that matters for the allocated choices. You may play the most kind-hearted Bounty Hunter imaginable but should you decide to skip Fallen Empire for convenience you're suddenly scum remembered for letting countless people die on Zakuul.

The other thing which factored into my decision to skip straight to Throne was the ability to more-or-less instantly complete the Alliance Alerts, and none of the associated activities were more important in this moment in time than the Eternal Championship.

Y'know, the thing introduced in 4.3 last year with Bowdaar's Alert? Despite the fact that it has been out for well over a year-and-a-half by this point, I still needed two Achievements for it (and thus the entirety of the Fallen Empire Achievements); Eternal Warrior and Eternal Legend. The former - unsurprisingly - is rewarded for completing the Championship with a Warrior, while the latter is rewarded for completing it with all Classes.

So, that's done. Eternal Legend at long last, meaning that finally my Fallen Empire Achievements sit at 100% Completion. And I never 'need' to do the Eternal Championship again, so huzzah.

Anyway. This was followed up by runs of Ziost and Yavin IV and Ferok'ia hit 300.

So, just the one Class left; the Bounty Hunter. Since I don't yet have a lot of experience with playing Powertech, particularly in group content, and she's still going through her Class Story (and to be fair she's done a lot here, being CR33 only from all Missions through Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine), I imagine that the main things I'll be using to get Phirella to 300 will be the CXP Packs. I likely won't have enough to get her above CR100 this week, so it'll take something of a while before I finally have all eight Classes at 300.


Personalised Companion Lists I'd Create for my Characters

One thing I like doing in my spare time is finding as many ways as possible to try and diversify my characters, an act which is becoming increasingly harder now that the story has us all coming to the same basic point.

Regardless of your choices, everyone always goes to the same place, meets the same people, yadda-yadda, boring. It is the hope of many people that when the Alliance finally dies we can go back to our different factions, something which has been hinted at as a possible option (although as it's 'possible' this may imply that continuing the Alliance is itself a possible choice).

In the absence of anything more 'serious', I content myself by thinking of 'ideal' Companion teams which I'd like to construct from the available Companions if ever the choice emerges to reduce the number of characters in our over-substantive Companion lists. I am not imagining for a second that this would become an option, but it's nice to dream.

Now that talk is turning to more original Companions returning, starting with Raina Temple in 5.6, this thinking is in my mind more prevalent than it ever was, so because nobody asked for it, here are my choices for personalised Companion lists. The lists I have come up with only include those characters who could be given to use as part of the Story; Cartel Companions, Reward Companions, etc. don't count because having gone to the effort of acquiring these Companions it is unlikely that people will choose to get rid of them.

These are in no way indicative of who I think fits best with all characters as a base; my choices for my Hunter are not what I'm saying all Hunters should aim to have by their sides. Accounting for the sheer amount of options which may become illogical due to personality clashes or even disagreement with philosophies and choices is impossible.  Similarly, I am of the opinion that some characters should remain Class-specific, and I'll get to those when I get to those.

For example, all of my Imperial and Republic characters will be aligning with their original faction and not have anybody change sides; thus, all of the characters who would ordinarily despise the Empire would have no problem joining up with, say, my Jedi Knight. This would be very different from somebody whose Knight defected, thus potentially drawing the ire of staunch Republic patriots and freedom fighters.

Anyway, I've prattled on long enough. On with the list.


300 #6

In my last immediate post I wrote about how I was returning my primary Imperial focus to Pippera, my abandoned-since-5.0-for-some-reason Sniper.

So as you've probably guessed already, she's now my sixth Command Rank 300 character. Considering that she started on approximately the 19th of October at Command Rank 40, gaining 260 Ranks in just under two weeks isn't bad going at all. I had hoped that she'd hit 300 prior to the next double CXP week on November 8th, since this now frees up all of the stashed CXP packs (of which I have several cargo bays' worth full) for my Juggernaut, and this has been accomplished well before that deadline.

Focusing on Pip for CXP also enabled me to make use of a brand-new capability in SWtOR; the capability to transfer Ship Requisition grants across to another character (or get more 'free' Requisition for the same character), provided that the character making the purchase has enough Fleet Commendations to do so. Since primary-GSF character Calph had over 900 Commendations, this meant that Pip gained two each of the Minor (120) and Major (350) Ship Requisition grants, which give a character 1,200 Requisition per ship and 4,000 Requisition per ship respectively.

So now, after almost four years since its early access period, I finally have an Imperial character who is actively partaking in GSF. It's nice to see how the other side flies, particularly as oftentimes when using Calph's ships on the Republic side I've been stomped into the dirt by very good Imperial GSF teams. As this is the way of the world, now that I'm flying the ship-flag for the Empire, I'm coming across a lot more good Republic teams.

Ah, well. It's nice to finally begin work on getting those Ship Mastery achievements up slowly but surely on the Empire side, and of course now that I have a better idea of what components work 'best' with each ship thanks to experimenting with Calph's, I'm not wasting nearly as much Requisition as I was prone to do beforehand.

So. Two classes remain; Warrior and Hunter. Looking forward to finally getting this done.