22/07/2017

5.4: Shadows, Shuttles, and Scoundrels

So again I come up with a post idea immediately before BioWare announces something that's worth commenting on. Oh, my timing, you never improve.

Yesterday, Keith Kanneg revealed more details about what's coming with 5.4. This Patch will be, as we've been aware for quite some time, the first Patch to contain an actual new Flashpoint since Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 3.0.

It was also promised in the new Roadmap to continue the trends seen since 5.2.2 and 5.3; Class Changes and Companion Customisations.

Finally, it also promised to herald the end of Season 8 of Ranked PvP.

So, with all that riding on it, what's there that's interesting and/or surprising?

21/07/2017

The Return of the GSI Satellites

In Patch 2.9, a little service known as the GSI Support Satellites was added on Makeb. These bolstered a Player's gear substantially, provided 2% Healing every 3 seconds while in combat, and provided a massive 250% XP Bonus to Exploration on Makeb, and only on Makeb, while active.

These proved both popular and semi-controversial. People loved them for the exact same reason as other people hated them; they made Makeb very accessible and all-but removed the risk of 'losing' the big fights, which were somewhat challenging when they were first released. I say this wincing at the mere memory of how bad the Cartel Mining Mesa used to be. 

In 4.0, these Satellites were removed, and for good reason. Level-scaling pretty much ensured that they had next-to-no reason for existing in the first place; there was a cap on the maximum amount of Health, Armour, and Damage/Healing values which had never been in place before, and with the numerous ways of getting shedloads of XP a Player would more often than not be above the cap of 56 by the time they reached Makeb, let alone finishing it. 

Additionally, since gear no longer mattered for Companions and they could have any role, it was no longer of import whether or not you had a Companion appropriately-geared for the fights they'd have to endure. 

However, in spite of their comparative uselessness, it seems that they were missed by quite a substantial amount of people, because at some point in 5.0 - I recall it being a relatively-recent re-addition but I can't for the life of me even find the relevant Patch Notes where their return is mentioned - they made a return.

Being the curious sort, when I went to Makeb the other day to finally get around to working on the <Kill it with Fire> Achievement now that I actually had a character with burns I was willing to use regularly, I decided to indulge in using the Satellite just to see what it did.

As suspected, Level-Scaling has nullified the Bolster aspect. Provided that you reach the cap of Mastery, Endurance, and Power (which is attainable at Level 70 by completely removing most of your gear), your character only gains the 250% Exploration XP buff and the Healing Probes, both of which are nice to have, but shouldn't necessarily be the biggest selling-points of the Satellites in the first place. 

Notice how I deliberately specified the things which your character gains? There's a reason for that. Companions benefit from this far more than any single Player does. 

How, you might ask?

Well, you know how every time you go down to a Planet the Companion is synced perfectly to the Level-cap, so much so that they don't even say they're 70/whatever down to 56 but for all intents and purposes have always been Level 56? 

The GSI Satellite does away with that. Your Companion is left at their highest present Level and thus has access to all their big non-scaled stats and numbers.

This basically means that you become immortal. Either your Companion is steamrollering over everything in its path (and creating far more Threat than you could ever hope to even as a DPS), or it's outhealing every bit of damage done to you by an absolute payload (and again creating vastly more Threat because of the passive healing Threat and because it'll still deal damage when it sees no reason to heal you), or your Companion is literally an Immortal Juggernaut of a Tank.

Which means that everything on Makeb is an absolute walk-in-the-park as long as you're under the effect of this Satellite. Since nothing can even so much as touch your Companion, there is virtually no risk of death unless you happen to get knocked off a cliff or your Companion is unable to either see you or the target you want it to kill because of reasons. 

Of course this isn't even mentioning the PvP aspects of this. Say you decide to go onto a PvP Instance just to see if you can get a few more kills for your Achievements. 

You yourself don't find anyone, but are instead found. Let's say while mounted. Your opponent has the drop on you while your Companion is tucked safely away from harm's way. Unless you are dismounted by the force of the attacks and your instantly-summoned Companion is very quick-on-the-draw with its Healing (if it's even a Healer at all) you're pretty much dead in the water instantly.

On the other hand, you may get locked into a stalemate of constantly being unable to negate either Companion's healing, since of course you yourself can't defeat their Companion, and nor they yours, since being Level 56 trying to tackle a Level 70, every ability will miss or be resisted

~~~

So basically, the return of the GSI Satellites, while welcome in some centres, is quite a ridiculous phenomenon. It's practically unnecessary for several Player characters and it presents the "Companions are over-powered" crowd with far more fuel than they know what to do with.

Whilst the Satellite is of course optional, I do think that the Companion aspect of it should be tweaked, even if only to address the aforementioned concerns regarding a Companion's usage in Open World PvP. That said, I do acknowledge that this isn't a frequent occurrence to begin with. In some ways, this Satellite could be considered a soft-exploit if used solely to gain an unfair advantage over other Players in such theoretical battles, which I don't see as being acceptable in the slightest.

Still, it's interesting to see the Satellite back for whatever reasons. I am very curious to know just how many people wanted to see it return. 

12/07/2017

Decoration Documentation: Manaan

So as everyone should be aware by now, the Manaan Stronghold was released yesterday, allowing Players to add an additional 25% to their Conquest bonus, and providing another opportunity for me to be thankful that I don't put effort into all of my Strongholds.

I had only put effort into one of my five Strongholds, Tatooine, whilst the rest have just had a whole host of random items thrown in just for the Conquest bonus. The only other one to have had a 'set theme' was my Yavin temple, but only because I decided to chuck 750 Republic Guardsmen into the Stronghold in my own form of personal protest against the impracticality of a temple being your average living quarters.

Or so I tell myself anyway.

Regardless, it had been some time since I had actually dedicated time and effort to working with a Stronghold, and since Manaan is one of my favourite planets of all time, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to see what I could do.

07/07/2017

5.3: Sisters, Strongholds, and Silliness, Oh My!

As mentioned in Wednesday's Blog Post, 5.3 is right around the corner. I've already touched on the balance changes which will be coming in this Patch, but we didn't have any official previews of anything else on which to comment. We knew that the second Gods from the Machine fight would be being released and that a sixth Stronghold would be being released, but outside of the class changes and a list of pending bug-fixes there was nothing more concrete.

As of yesterday via an update to the general Knights of the Eternal Throne story page and the Influencers being allowed to post videos of the ESNE and AIVELA fight, we do now finally have something more tactile to comment on.

05/07/2017

Gaining Balance

5.3 is around the corner and if you've been paying attention to the SWtOR Roadmap and especially the DevTracker you will be aware that Class Balance will begin another phase with this patch. Eight Disciplines were announced as being updated to fall more in line with where the Developers wanted each of them to be, with the promise that they will get around to other specs eventually. These were just the eight which needed the most attention.

Immediately, however, there was a slight discrepancy. The Roadmap announced that Scoundrels (forewarning at this point: all of my personal thoughts on these changes will be from a Republic player's perspective) would be seeing changes in 5.3 alongside Vanguards, Commandos, Sages, Shadows, and Gunslingers, but when the specific Disciplines were listed, there were no Scoundrels to be seen. They're probably going to be the 'main' focus of 5.4.

The eight Disciplines that will be changed are as follows:
  • Serenity
  • Gunnery
  • Plasmatech
  • Seer
  • Dirty Fighting
  • Balance
  • Assault Specialist
  • Saboteur
Along the way, Eric also posted a really long post about "how Class Balance happens", which detailed exactly what they categorised the different Disciplines as and where they wanted each of them to be. It also revealed that no Utilities were being adjusted this time around; these changes were only affecting the offensive potential. I do question their logic of listing Dirty Fighting as the Quasi-Sustained spec for Ranged DPS, however; I would honestly have thought this would apply most to Saboteur. 

I'm aware that this isn't the first time BioWare have detailed exactly what their views on the different Classes are, but I always appreciate it being done all the same, since even if I don't always agree with a certain perspective it's (mostly) always interesting to read another's point of view. 

Anyway, on with the list.

15/06/2017

Life of the Night

The Nar Shaddaa Casinos are once more brimming with activity, which can only mean one thing; the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife Event is back, and with it come more opportunities for people to wile away the weeks spending as many Credits as they have trying their best to win the newest rare items.

05/06/2017

300 #2

The end-result of focusing on characters the way I do is that one or two end up incredibly far ahead of the rest due to the amount of time spent dedicated to the front-runners. In prior expansions, this has nearly always resulted in one character getting full set-bonus gear while everyone else is left with high-endurance Comm Gear, or a set composed from a mixture of PvP and Comm gear.

There have been two exceptions to this: 2.0 and 5.0. In the case of 2.0, this happened when Calph took over from then-main Ziodus the January after DF and DP came out, so both ended up in full Dread Forged gear during their 2.0 careers. In the case of 5.0, Calph is still far and away the 'leader of the pack' at roughly Command Rank 1,161, but finally as of yesterday evening I've got a second character at 300. For context, my next highest is Command Rank thirty-five, whilst Calph has been CR 300 since January 29th.

As I've written elsewhere on this blog, I've become quite a big fan of Jedi Guardian DPS. I was hooked on it as a 'main-backup' during 3.0, and since Miorahna became pretty much my favourite character in terms of looks during 4.0 and the Class is a hell-of-a-lot more mobile now in 5.0, my love for the Class has grown all the more. So, it seemed right that when it came to focusing seriously on an Alt, Miorahna would be the perfect choice. 

Whilst she didn't get full 242 despite reaching Tier III after the new drop-rates came in, she still got a fair few pieces of 240 and some 242. Combined with spare 246/248 Mods and Enhancements from Calph, that meant that by the time she reached Tier IV she was in at least full optimised 240 with one 242 Earpiece, Relic, and Implant, and the 242 Chest, Bracers, Belt, Headpiece, two 242 Offhands (the armouring from the second is used in her Boots as the offset piece), and full 246 or 248 Mods and Enhancements. 

She did also have 1,000 Unassembled Components, so I traded in both her Offhands to get a 248 Offhand Saber and the Generator as well as the Earpiece, meaning that she had three 248 pieces before even hitting Tier IV. After earning several more Components she was able to earn a 248 Relic of Serendipitous Assault yesterday by trading in a spare 242 Relic, which was then complimented rather nicely by the only good piece she received from the three Tier IV Crates she's so far earned; a 246 Relic of Focused Retribution.

I'm still not the best at Guardian DPS, but I was quite happy with how she coped in the final fight of Scum and Villainy yesterday evening; she did the worst of the team in terms of output at 6.8k but was only 900 DPS or so behind the leading Player, neither of which I'm sour about considering that I still haven't got the optimal rotation down for Guardian properly yet. I still mess up on which filler to use when. 

Then again, of the final bosses I'd argue that Styrak HM is probably one of the better ones for Melee, so it remains to be seen how this result translates across to a melee-unfriendly fight which still requires well-above-average DPS output...

It comes to something when, as a result of my growing respect for this Class, Miora's Imperial equivalent, Ferok'ia, is actually better geared than Calph's Imperial counterpart due to actually bothering to get both the Guardian and Juggernaut their 'peripheral' (Relics, Implants, and Earpiece) pieces crafted. Pippera still only has her 220 and 224 peripherals, not to mention 220 weapons. That Sniper's just been completely ousted from her post since 5.0 and I'm actually okay with that.

~~~

As much as the criticisms levied at Galactic Command are totally justified (and they better be, since I've thrown quite a few of them against it myself), it can be seen to work out pretty nicely sometimes. Ignoring the Mods and Enhancements sent over from Calph's spares, none of Miora's current gear was won during an Operation; it's all come from Command Crates and then been upgraded from there. I won't deny that this outcome was very fortuitous even with the new drop-rates, which are still a bit of a nuisance to deal with. I think she received about four 242 belts...

I'm very much looking forward to 5.2.2 bringing in purchasable set-bonus optimised 230 gear for Command Tokens; finally, for the first time in literally ever, all of my characters will be in optimised set bonus gear and I can begin to use them 'happily'. I legitimately can't wait.

Additionally, I am seriously tempted to pick up the Tank armour set for Miora (and craft the unoptimised Mods, Enhancements, Relics, Earpiece, and Implants), just so I can practice off-tanking. I'm not confident to say "yeah, I'll happily main-tank something", but I've been delegated as the off-tank for a good number of times for certain boss fights even when not on a Tanking class so I'd be happy to give it a proper shot. For example, I volunteered as the DPS-with-taunt for the aforementioned Styrak run whilst Calph has been an off-tanking Gunslinger for SM DF and DP runs which my guild did at the start of 5.0 and then again in early 5.1.

So based on that, I think I'll dedicate some time to learning to do it properly for a change. Just start, see how it goes, and go on from there. I'm someone who only learns what a bad idea is when it's pummelling me in the face, so I imagine that this will happen to me here. :P