22/08/2016

Dark vs. Light: Update After Eight Weeks

As another month has passed, I thought it might be time to take stock of my progress towards the DvL achievements once again. At least one commenter was already completely done with the event when I last posted, and at least two guildies have finished legendary tier as well since then. My pet tank is quite close too; he only needs to finish the crew skill achievements and wait for the Gree to come around again to kill some of their droids. For some reason he was terrified of facing the GSF achievement required for legendary tier and asked me to complete that one for him. I did, but I'm still baffled that this out of all things was such a big deal to him, especially after he power-levelled multiple alts to fifty in about eight hours per character.

My own progress hasn't been too great, but then I was away on holiday for a week and another weekend was more or less taken up completely by attending a wedding. Let's look at my progress one character at a time again:

Shilu, the Scoundrel

Nope, still haven't even started KotFE and am therefore officially still working on tier three. But at least I finished Shadow of Revan and did Ziost. I also ran some more hardmode flashpoints, though I still have plenty to go.

Shinister, the Assassin

I said last time that I was probably going to "retire" her for now, but as it turns out I still needed to spend a lot of time at least logged in on this character to max out her artifice (done) and grind diplomacy to get towards Dark V (still ongoing). This is taking foreverrr!

Zeresa, the Commando

Hit fifty, largely stopped playing her as nothing more was required for the event. Still logged her a couple of times to max out her armstech, but that's done as well now.

Corfette, the Sniper


Sniper is another advanced class that I actually never played before, simply because I love the stealth gameplay of Scoundrel/Operative way too much and didn't find Gunslinger particularly enjoyable when I tried it. Upon reading Vrykerion's detailed reviews of Imperial agent chapters two and three recently, I was overcome by an urge to replay the agent story. Despite of the many interesting choices you can make in that one, I've still only completed it once! My Cathar on the Progenitor was an attempt to give it another go but got stranded on Hoth when KotFE came out and my focus shifted back to my home on The Red Eclipse. I might still finish her story some day, but probably not any time soon.

So, despite of how (comparatively) slow I've found it to level through the class story on Shilu, I decided to go down that route again with this character - and I planned specifically to aim for the path that has you defecting to the Republic in chapter two, which is why her name is (almost) an anagram of "defector". I haven't yet made it far enough to do so though and have only just completed chapter one (they really condensed that bonus mission with the holograms on the chapter end boss's ship...).

As an interesting side effect, this character has also turned into a bit of an experiment in just how far you can get by just sticking to the class story - no side missions, no flashpoints or PvP, no nothing. Funnily enough, I'm still just about on track at the end of chapter one, even though things were supposed to be tuned in such a way that you had to do something extra. I guess exploration XP counts for more than I expected, as I do enjoy opening up the entire map of each planet and gathering mats for my crew skills in the process.

Also, being only just about the right level for my missions has reintroduced a surprising amount of challenge to the game. Without being level synced or wearing level-appropriate gear, my sniper's rifle hits like a nerf gun and it's mostly Kaliyo who kills things (I have her set to dps instead of healing). While exploring Alderaan, I also died repeatedly from mobs up to five levels higher than me dismounting me and mauling me to death. Who'd have thought that the game could still be this deadly if you only try hard enough to make it so?

Shin-dow, the Shadow


Yes, at this point I'm struggling for names too. I opted to make my event consular a Shadow, since I "only" have one of those as opposed to multiple Sages (and Sorcs). At first I was going to make her the same back-stabby spec as Shinister but then decided that for variety I should probably go Serenity instead. While this spec is supposed to be very powerful, I can't say that it seems to suit me very well. In a world in which most things die very quickly, relying on dots just isn't that much fun in my opinion. It reminds me of when I tried to level a lowbie warlock through dungeon finding back in WoW. And in PvP I just seem to suck at not dying.

As an aside, for some reason I felt really inspired by this character's looks and bought her a whole oufit from the Cartel market as well as a matching green mount and pet from the GTN. I'm not much of a fashionista, but sometimes a look just "clicks".

Shi-rah, the Mercenary

I haven't done much with this one yet, but I wanted to create another Imperial character with whom to run random flashpoints while Corfette sticks to her "class story only" levelling experiment. I got her up to level ten to be able to pick an advanced class, but otherwise she's still slumming it on Hutta. Bounty hunter is one of those classes of which I have too many alts for odd reasons, so this is actually my fourth. Like Zeresa, I specced her dps as I don't really need yet another healer. I also made her a togruta since I've barely used that unlock since purchasing it and I felt that I should probably cut down on creating even more twi'leks. (I can stop any time I want to, honest...)

Getting good-looking armour for togruta is a pain in the neck though, much more so than with twi'leks. That clipping! I eventually settled on the Mandalorian Clansman set, which I thought looked good and didn't seem to suffer any clipping issues. The whole thing cost about ten million on the GTN, so it wasn't exactly cheap. Then I put it on... and in the first cut scene I could see that a tiny bit of armour does clip through the top of the front montrals, just small enough that I didn't notice it on the preview. Sigh. I'm going to keep it anyway.

I also put a black/black dye into it since I happened to get one from Shi-rah's cantina crates. And for some reason it refused to take! It would look fine in most cut scenes but as soon as I was back in the regular game the chest piece was back to its basic gold/grey. I googled it and found people reporting issues with this armour not taking dyes properly as far as two years back - of course, what else did I expect? I was about to write off the dye too, but then I added some gloves to the outfit, which I hadn't done before, and suddenly the colour changed to what it was supposed to be. Who knows how these things work?

19/08/2016

Flashpoint Friday: Blood Hunt

Yep, I prepared this one in advance as well so I wouldn't break my perfect fortnightly publishing streak while away.


General Facts

Blood Hunt was released as part of the Shadow of Revan expansion (patch 3.0) in December 2014. Both Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi were part of the expansion's main storyline and the first two flashpoints that launched with a solo mode right off the bat. Group-wise they only offered a tactical version initially, with the hardmode getting added in 3.1 two months later. Since 4.0, the tactical version is available from level 15 and the hardmode from level 50 onwards.

Even though nearly two years have passed since Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi's release, we haven't seen another "regular" flashpoint since then. I don't really count the Star Fortresses, but I will be talking about those in more detail in another two weeks.

Fights

Blood Hunt is all about fighting Mandalorians and their pets, which is not totally unheard of (*cough*MandalorianRaiders*cough*) but not exactly a common theme in flashpoints, so it provides some variety from the usual fare. There is minimal trash, but instead there are six mini bosses aside from the three main boss fights, none of which really amaze in terms of mechanics, but none of them are boring either. In an interesting departure from most flashpoints, there isn't a single droid to fight in Blood Hunt.


The first boss is a giant jungle wampa called Kyramla Gemas'rugam (which apparently means "deadly hairball" in Mando'a) that throws rocks and summons adds, with the fight's main difficulty being a mix of considerable damage output and the fact that it is incredibly busy visually, making it easy to miss something important, like that your healer is getting mauled by adds for example. Said adds even used to have an enrage on hardmode (not sure if they still do), as does the boss himself.

The six mini bosses continue the theme of murderous pets, and three of them (one of two sets picked at random) need to be bested before the second "proper" boss fight unlocks. On hardmode, killing the other three afterwards counts as the flashpoint's bonus encounter, making this an incredibly easy bonus to snag.

The two sets of mini bosses are a k'lor'slug, a lurker and a rancor, or a jurgoran, a krak'jya and a tonitran. (All six are always present, but it's random which set of doors is open.) They all have little gimmicks to them, like the k'lor'slug only spawning after you've destroyed enough of its eggs, or the lurker slowly patrolling around its enclosure in a circle, but nothing that's in any way difficult to figure out. Like the first boss, they all have names in Mando'a, with the translation given underneath as a title. They are horrible to pronounce and nobody calls them by these names except crazy Mandalorian fanboys (you know who you are), but let's list them for the sake of completeness:

K'lor'slug - Adeen Edeemir - Merciless Bite
Lurker - Pirun Ut - Water Slime
Rancor - Cerar Be Kyr'am - Mountain of Death
Jurorgan - Yustapir Kyramid - River Assassin
Krak'jya - Dralne be te Oya'karir - Strongest of the Hunt
Tonitran - Hodayc Sur'haai - Cunning Eye


After besting these three randomly selected pets, you go up against the Mandalorian couple Jos and Valk Beroya, about whom I've written my fair share, mostly about what a horrible pug killer this fight is. You fight them separately at first, then a bunch of animals swarm the floor, and then you have to fight both at once. They have several high damage abilities that complement each other, and Jos has a brutal knockback that instantly sends players to their death if they are too close to the edge of the platform.

This fight is infamous for causing people issues on every single difficulty - yes, even on solo mode, as the GSI droid can get knocked off as well, or cause the bosses to evade by jumping to places he isn't supposed to be.

Tactical mode used to be relatively easy when it was originally released, but the 4.0 re-turning has turned it into a brutal death trap. The kolto stations at the edge of the platform almost feel like a cruel joke, considering that trying to activate them means leaving the safe middle and putting yourself in danger of being pushed to your death. The mobility requirements and the bursty damage that was originally designed with level 55 characters in mind - who had the tools to deal with them - is also a terrible burden on anyone coming into this flashpoint at a lower level these days.

Finally, the hardmode was incredibly punishing on release. Many groups couldn't even make it past the first boss's dps requirements, and if you did, Jos' incredible burst damage could kill even a tank in best in slot gear in seconds. Unlike the difficulty of Lost Island, which I wrote about two weeks ago, this inspired few declarations of love. Maybe the player base as a whole is less interested in challenge these days, but I would bet that the lack of any meaningful rewards and an instance with so much higher difficulty being thrown into the same mix as the other hardmode flashpoints definitely had something to do with it as well, neither of which were an issue with Lost Island. After completing Blood Hunt on hardmode for the first time since 4.0 the other night, I'm happy to say that Jos' worst abilities seem to have been tuned down a bit, but it still remains one of the more challenging hardmodes, no doubt about it.


The last boss is positively easy in comparison - while very flashy visually, she's basically a case of "stay out of the fire" (even if there is a lot of it), and as long as everyone can do that you'll probably be fine.

Story (spoilers?)

As this flashpoint is part of the main Shadow of Revan storyline, this is mildly spoilerish, but only very mildly.

While trying to find out what the Revanites are up to on Rishi, you've learned that a Mandalorian called Torch was in league with the Revanites for a while but had a falling out with them later on. You decide that it would make sense to question this Torch person to find out more about the Revanite's plans.

You borrow a shuttle to fly to the island where she and her fellow Mandalorians are hanging out. As you approach, you get shot down by its defenses and end up crashing on the edge of the island at night. It soon becomes clear that Torch is observing you and enjoys watching you fight the vicious wildlife she keeps on the island as well as her clan mates.

When you finally reach her, it turns out that "Torch" is Shae Vizla, the red-haired Mandalorian of "Deceived" trailer fame, only with some more wrinkles around her eyes by now. She still isn't too impressed by you and offers to talk only if you best her in a duel first. Once you do, she does commend you on your martial skills and is willing to share what she knows about the Revanites' plans.

Conclusion

Blood Hunt is a flashpoint of extremes. It's very atmospheric, and the Mandalorian compound could rival any James Bond villain's base of operations. I mean, Star Wars is often a bit over the top and generally embraces this, but the elaborated folding floor surrounded by lava falls in the last room is ridiculous even by those standards. While the animal bosses' names are hard to pronounce, the humanoid bosses are quite memorable, whether it's Shae's ruthless calm or Jos and Valk's endless bickering.


However, narratively it's in an awkward place in the story, forcing you to effectively spend more time and effort on interviewing a random Mandalorians than taking down the Revanites' fleet. The fights aren't bad in principle, but their wacky tuning has unfortunately made them stick in people's minds for all the wrong reasons, making Blood Hunt the sort of flashpoint many people immediately want to drop out of if they get it as their random of the day.

15/08/2016

Random Moments

Since I'm away from the internet this week, enjoy this automatically published filler post of random screenshots that I've taken over the course of the last two months, always thinking "haha, I really need to show this to someone some time" but then never doing so.


I'm open to caption suggestions for this one.


What's better than getting Risha as a companion? Two Rishas! It seems that this graphical glitch is loosely related to the "working on console" animation, because on Rishi I had the exact same thing happen with Theron.


No, tell us how you really feel about the Dark vs. Light event...


Has the group finder ever put you into a pug that consisted of nothing but stealthers? It actually took us a few pulls to realise that we could skip all the trash! Fastest Athiss run I've ever had. As a bonus, I had characters called Decent Person and Sad Panda in my group.


Speaking of interesting character names in pug groups...


One thing I quite like about Voss are the many named champion mobs. There's an achievement to get all of them (and it's a long list), and without ever having consulted a guide, I've only found about two thirds of them. The guys pictured above were new to me when I encountered them on my event Scoundrel, and the combination of two champions and two golds linked together was actually quite challenging!


I took a screenshot of this because this was the first time I saw all the nodes in the Proving Grounds active at the same time! Not seen this again since then.


I'd heard of stronghold "hauntings" before, phasing issues that cause people to appear in the wrong stronghold and such, but this was the first time that I ran into one of these myself - naked Andronikos is definitely not supposed to be there in my Dromund Kaas stronghold. When I turned around, 2V-R8 was right behind me as well. Creepy.


This was possibly my most decisive GSF win ever.


Dealing with Jakarro on my new Scoundrel, who always has Bowdaar by her side, was kind of weird. He's always roaring and mad about something, and I kind of wanted to point at Bowdaar behind me and go: "Look, it's perfectly possible to be a wookiee and act in a civilised manner!" They should have put some dialogue in there if the two wookiees meet up. It's not like it would have required the recording of any new lines.


From the category "interesting glitches observed in PvP", I present you the Voidstar match in which the left bridge extended itself invisibly. Took a bit of bravery to step on that at first.


I think the huge influx of event alts has us all struggling for good character names... it seems this guy decided to go for the "whatever's lying on my desk right now" method of naming.


Two for one in Hypergates: I quite like the name and costume combination in the foreground, and the bouncy person in the background is just funny.


I was quite gutted to lose that Proving Grounds match... closest I've experienced so far in that warzone!


Oi, Eric, get back to work!


Apparently pop-up trainers don't fall into the category of objects that get phased out during cut scenes. Since Calphy got out his Revan statue after every wipe on the tanks in EC, holo-Revan being part of the team quickly became a running gag.


The Dark vs. Light event made me realise that I hadn't created a new character on The Red Eclipse since they revamped the guild window. If you open it without being in a guild, it presents you with this nifty image plus text snippets encouraging you to join a guild.


I saw this guy and immediately thought: I bet he doesn't do regular group content (or maybe this is just his 427th alt). Why? Because we once had a guy join our guild who had foolishly named his first character "TheSexyKnight". Since he was actually a boy in his teens, we were all incredibly weirded out when during every operation he ended up being addressed as "Sexy" by everyone. He got himself a name change soon after!


You can't see it very well because I only caught it as it was already phasing out, but the latest announcement in the middle of the screen reads: "Intelligent Manhood has been defeated." I don't think any additional commentary is needed...


One of the disturbing side effects of NPCs being available as interactive furniture? You can sell Felusia Stato to herself, and apparently she only values herself at a hundred credits.

12/08/2016

KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 16: The Battle of Odessen

Let's cut to the chase. How does it all end? Not as amazingly as I had hoped, but it was still a fun ride. Time to spoil it all!



After the brief reprieve in the last chapter, we're back to starting with an outside view of the Alliance base. You and your companions are discussing the questions raised by the end of the last chapter. How much of a threat is Arcann still? What's Scorpio's endgame? Fortunately you don't have to wonder about the latter very long, as she actually interrupts your meeting by calling. She just wanted to let you know that Arcann is on his way to level Odessen. How does he know its location? Because Scorpio gave it to him... nothing personal, you understand. She just wanted to see whether he'd rather go after you or after her if given the choice.

Indeed, Arcann's remnant of the Eternal Fleet drops out of hyperspace even as you're talking about it. Theron opines that you can face it down, but you need to leave someone on the planet's surface to defend the base. Aric and/or Kaliyo volunteer (depending on who's still around) and you're asked to pick another one of your companions acquired in chapters thirteen and fourteen to stay with them. The remaining two plus your usual crew will board the Gravestone with you. If you are in a romance with anyone, they will share a brief moment with you before boarding (thanks again, YouTube - I haven't actually seen any of these for myself), otherwise Lana will just give you a brief generic pep talk.

The Gravestone flies up to face Arcann's remnant of the Eternal Fleet (which still consists of hundreds of ships)... and they shoot her a bit, but not that much. Do these ships actually ever do anything other than fly around in perfect formation? We see Arcann still obsessing about finally taking down the Outlander/his father on the bridge of his flagship.

Apparently the Gravestone will be just fine as long as she doesn't get too close (because it seems the Eternal Fleet ships really do hate leaving their formation) so you'll want to board the flagship with a shuttle. Theron volunteers to stay behind and man the omnicannon. Lana explains that Arcann's ship needs to be annihilated in case he has some kind of failsafe that could still instruct the fleet to attack Odessen after his death. She plans to go for the bridge with you while the two companions you didn't pick to stay on Odessen will sabotage the ship's guns and shields respectively. Oh, and Senya is coming along of course because it's her children we're about to kill. If Koth is still around, he also thanks you for being allowed to be part of something greater than him.

The whole part with assigning Gault, Vette and Torian to different roles is strangely reminiscent of the Sith warrior's final mission on Taris, where you have to assign different companions to different roles during an attack. Sadly, after playing through this chapter with three different configurations, it doesn't seem to make any difference whom you assign to which task. Unlike in the Sith warrior story, all your companions are competent in every role.


Theron clears a hole for you to land the shuttle, and unlike in the last chapter, the place where you landed does indeed immediately get swarmed by skytroopers! After a fun little melee with four companions at your side (whee!), the two companions you picked to take care of the ship's weapons and shields go off to do their jobs.

Meanwhile on the Gravestone, Theron is having way too much fun with the omnicannon... and promptly breaks it somehow, which prompts Tora to some laugh-out-loud meme quoting: "You had one job!" She goes off to help him fix it, and in her absence from the bridge Scorpio appears to make another attempt to take over the Gravestone remotely. Fortunately Koth is there to shut her out with the press of one button. I guess this scene is supposed to show how much of a tech wiz he is, but it comes across as a bit odd. Also, he is there to do this even if he ran off at the end of chapter ten! Apparently he managed to sneak back on board before the battle, much to T7's delight.

On the flagship, Vaylin watches you through the security cameras and makes unusually chipper conversation - she's looking forward to finally facing her mother. She also says outright that she doesn't care about the Outlander herself and won't get in the way, but hopes that facing you will cheer Arcann up since he's been so moody lately. Senya agrees to do things Vaylin's way and splits off to keep her distracted and away from you.

At a "combat terminal" you get the option to pick up either some weapons or shields, or some turrets. Based on your choice you gain different temporary abilities, and these are actually fun! I generally haven't been too impressed by these in previous chapters, usually because they were too weak for me to bother, but these abilities are actually some good stuff.

If you choose weapons and shields, you gain a knight's tower shield which slows you down and disables all your regular abilities but allows you to reflect enemy attacks, an anti-personnel rocket that does huge damage (it one-shots silver mobs) and a thermal grenade that does generic AoE. All of these can run out and need constant replenishing as you run through the ship, but they can be a lot of fun to use if you apply them correctly, for example to reflect a major attack by a mini boss.

Choosing the turrets on the other hand provides you with some portable turrets which you can plop down at the beginning of each fight to do extra damage to your enemies and which do a bit of "tanking" for you. Also, all the small turrets that pop out at various points during your journey through the ship will be friendly to you instead of hostile and shoot your enemies. I would say that the turrets are a more straightforward damage boost (and it sure is nice not to have to kill all those pop-up turrets), but the weapons and shields are more fun if you actually care about being engaged by the combat. Also, there are lots of exploding barrels to blow up on the way!


Just one small bug: a certain weapons locker can kill you instantly when you try to open it.

Thusly armed, you make your way through the ship's corridors, taking out bunches of droids and various mini bosses in the process. At one point Koth tries to shoot one for you from outside but fails to kill it - either way you know about his presence after that if you didn't before. After fighting a skytrooper with a big assault cannon, your other companions radio you that they've succeeded at disabling the weapons and shields. You can tell them to return to safety or encourage them to do more damage.

While Theron and Tora work on the omnicannon, Theron notices that the fleet has stopped shooting but appears to be lining up to fire at the flagship instead, which doesn't change your plan but means that you have to hurry up. As you approach the bridge, you notice that you've got a whole bunch of knights on your tail. Lana offers to hold them off, since she sees it as her destiny to enable you to defeat Arcann.

When you meet Arcann, he claims that his grudge isn't actually aimed at you, but only at his father. You can try to tell him that Valkorion is no longer in your head, but he doesn't believe you. When he tries to strike you, you instinctively raise a mental shield that blocks his saber the way Valkorion blocked him in chapter one if you chose not to kneel. This is a kinda cool scene if you're not a Force user but feels a bit contrived if you are. So you are using the Force to defend yourself... big deal?

Arcann is convinced that Valkorion is still tied to you and wants to fight. If you remembered to equip your super special weapon from chapter twelve, you will have some support abilities such as a damage absorption shield or a speed buff at your disposal (depending on your choices), but they are not in any way necessary to win the fight. I actually forgot to equip my special weapon two times out of three.


There is however another special ability that you'll need to pick up. At one point Arcann will become immune to damage, at which point a friendly green arrow will direct you towards picking up a shield similar to the one you might have used earlier. You need to use it to knock Arcann about some by reflecting his attacks, and also use the reflection power to destroy the Force manifestations that he summons. Reflecting attacks also builds up power, which you can eventually unleash against Arcann in the form of a mighty shield slam. This fight was so confusing to me the first time around because I couldn't figure out what to do with the manifestations and why I couldn't reflect a lot of Arcann's attacks (you're meant to get most of your stacks from the manifestations instead). However, eventually you get him down, which is about when the Eternal Fleet ships outside start nuking the flagship. Arcann refuses to surrender if you give him that option, and you strike him hard... then he appears to get buried under some rubble. While chapter eight should have shown us that this isn't a reliable way of getting rid of him, there is no time to worry about whether you really got him... you've got to run.

The omnicannon is back online and all of your companions except Senya are at the shuttle. You're told that you will have to find another way to escape the burning ship. Gee, thanks! Fortunately there are some small patrol ships nearby which you can hijack. As you make your way there, stuff explodes all around you. Fun fact: After dying repeatedly from falling to my death in the previous chapter, I was super careful not to fall into the first hole that opened up in front of me here... but of course that one actually required jumping down!

As soon as you're away, my favourite cut scene of the chapter takes place. Senya digs her way onto the bridge, tearing at the rubble in a way that's quite reminiscent of Vaylin in chapter three, and finds her son's limp body. She is heartbroken and moans about being too late... which is when Vaylin shows up and accuses her of always being too late. Senya pleads with her but Vaylin is inconsolable... and in a perfect mirror of the KotFE cinematic trailer, she makes a running jump to slice her parent in half - which is when it turns out that Arcann isn't quite dead after all, and he pushes Vaylin back. Her outraged "Why?!" at being betrayed once again is chilling. As the ship continues to collapse, she gets away, and Senya focuses on rescuing her remaining son.


You grab one of the scout ships and make your escape. Senya contacts you to let you know that she's alive but won't be joining you because she wants to take Arcann away to redeem him. Koth is outraged by the notion (as usual) but you have the option of letting them get away... or try to shoot down their shuttle. They'll escape either way.

The omnicannon has been repaired and gets used to blow up the flagship... which explodes into a huge ball of glowing... blueish... whiteness? It briefly looks like it might consume you before you can escape, but you do get away. Hurrah, victory! Except if you pissed off Koth in chapter ten, because it turns out that his renewed goodwill towards you was only temporary. He's captured your remaining crew on the Gravestone, ejects them in the escape pods and makes off with what's apparently your only ship. Jerk.

When you return to the base on Odessen, there are a bunch of NPCs cheering for you at the entrance... Bioware's attempt at phasing? Everyone is happy with your achievements (except Koth if he's still around, because he likes to rain on your parade no matter what). Lana emphasises that Scorpio is still a threat, but the battle has brought renewed support from both Republic and Empire. Valkorion's ghost appears briefly and declares that you're ready. (For what?)

Back on the Eternal Throne, we see Scorpio finally taking over command of the entire fleet and then... setting the captains free, causing some of them to shoot off into the galaxy to explore. Vaylin fights her way into the throne room, but Scorpio tells her skytroopers to stand down. Scorpio is surprisingly sympathetic to her situation and offers her the throne. Her own interest was supposedly only in freeing the Gemini droids, whom she refers to as her children. She also offers to stay and teach Vaylin how to destroy her enemies. Vaylin grins and takes her seat as the new Empress.

I know I'm not the only one who was quite confused by this scene. I can sort of buy Scorpio caring about the Gemini droids, though it's weird to see her referring to them as her children when she previously constantly derided them as inferior knock-offs. Was that all pretense? Likewise, while I can sort of believe that she has some sympathy for Vaylin, I don't really get why she would want to stay on as her adviser and offer her the services of her "children" after just making a point of freeing them from servitude. Maybe it will all make sense later.

Then... really, really, really long credits roll! So much for the frequent claims that there's only a "skeleton crew" working on this stuff...

Conclusion

I'm not usually one for hype, but I have to admit that after the brilliance of chapter fifteen, I was pretty excited to see how Bioware would wrap it all up and couldn't wait to come home after work on Tuesday to play the final chapter. When I came in and my pet tank told me that he had found it somewhat disappointing, my heart sank. And sadly, after playing through it myself, I found myself in agreement with him. The Battle of Odessen is by no means a bad chapter, but I didn't feel that it provided a satisfying conclusion to Fallen Empire.


I didn't expect to get closure on every single story thread that had been brought into play over the course of the storyline, because honestly there were a lot of them. However, it actually felt as if nothing was wrapped up at all - really, the only thing that was accomplished was Arcann getting dethroned. However, the Eternal Empire remains as much of a threat as before, Valkorion is still on the loose and we still don't have a clue what he is up to.

I found myself wondering if I had misunderstood KotFE all along. Was it really supposed to be Arcann's story and nothing else? He was absolutely central to the cinematic trailer, that much is true, but I certainly didn't get the impression that he was all that important while playing through the various chapters. We always had those "meanwhile, at the Eternal Throne" cuts to him brooding about something or other, but the only times he actually interacted with the Outlander before this chapter was the very first one, and during the confrontation on Asylum. Yet somehow, the game seemed to expect me to have a deep hatred for him... I found that in this chapter - for the first time in a while for me - my character kept saying things that didn't sound quite right to me. Why am I supposed to dislike him so much? My beef has always been with Valkorion, and then with Zakuul. That Arcann kept making a mess of things as its ruler certainly didn't endear him to me, but it was still never personal. I was oddly reminded of chapter three of the Sith inquisitor class story and how its villain is hell-bent on killing you even though you've never done anything to him. I thought that was pretty annoying. So me realising that Arcann had a similar thing going on with the Outlander was not a good thing.

I suppose the other explanation for the lack of any real resolution is that Bioware really meant to take the whole "we're treating this like a TV show" thing to the next level and therefore decided that they needed to cram enough story hooks into this first season to provide material for the next six years. I can't say I'd be particularly thrilled by this, but I can kind of understand it.

The other thing that bugged me big time was this: Where was our Alliance? I'm not talking about the mechanics of grinding out influence with the Alliance specialists - I never expected that to make a difference because it would be very unlike Bioware to gate story content behind a grind. But even if we completely ignore that, the narrative of the chapters has us recruiting allies and building up our forces. So why then, when Arcann attacks, it's all down to a single ship, plus the very same crew that has been with me since chapter three (give or take a few I guess)? I get that Scorpio's betrayal caught us on the back foot, but I can't believe that the Alliance had literally nothing but the Gravestone to defend itself. No fighter ships to help with distracting the fleet? Even the poor rebels in the movies managed to muster that!


Also, for all the talk about choices mattering, it was quite a blunder to have Arcann survive no matter what. I'm not one of those who expects every choice to split the game into two entirely different experiences, but this was a choice that could have been implemented very easily, based on similar examples that already exist in the game: If you spare Arcann, he and Senya disappear into the far reaches of the galaxy, never to be seen again. If you kill him... well, then both he and Senya are dead. Either way, you don't have to deal with them again and can focus on something else going forward. It really feels like the writers' love of their own characters got the better of them here, wanting to keep their creations alive and available for a future comback at all costs, even if it comes at the expense of the players' agency. Also, we didn't see a pay-off for any of the choices that were presented with so much gravitas in the early chapters, such as whether to kneel to Valkorion and accept his help at various points. It's kind of funny that the one thing that did end up making a significant difference (the whole Koth drama) was based on a choice that didn't feel particularly consequential at the time.

Interestingly, the one area in which this chapter did really well were the mechanics. It's interesting because this is also the one area where many previous chapters floundered, getting clogged up with boring trash or tedious boss fights. Chapter sixteen actually manages to keep things reasonably interesting with a variety of mini bosses and the extra abilities it lets you pick up. I wasn't a huge fan of those in the previous chapters because they were honestly pretty weak most of the time, but in this chapter they are really good and fun. Nothing like taking nearly half a champion mob's health off with that anti-personnel rocket, or reflecting a mini boss' big attack right back at him and killing him in the process. I can see why the final fight against Arcann might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'll be honest: When I slowly walked up those stairs, preparing for that final shield slam, it felt pretty epic.

All in all, I have mixed feelings about this chapter. It was certainly fun to play through (or I wouldn't have been able to do so three times in four days), and I actually found that it became more enjoyable the second and third time, once my expectations were adjusted. Still, I don't feel that Bioware really delivered what they promised with this storyline. At least Knights of the Eternal Throne isn't too far off, so we won't have to mull over those unanswered questions for too long before things pick up again.

08/08/2016

KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 15: The Gemini Deception

For some reason I had got it into my head that chapter 16 wouldn't release until next week - and was suitably annoyed because I'll be away on holiday during that week. With that in mind, my recent realisation that it's actually coming out this week was quite a pleasant one... except that it also made me realise that I'm out of time to complete my write-up of chapter 15. Oh well, three playthroughs will have to do. If I've missed anything important, feel free to let me know in the comments! Do I even have to mention anymore that there will be spoilers?



For once we don't start with an outside view of the base on Odessen - no, instead we get a great shot of the Gravestone flying through hyperspace. As discussed at the end of the previous chapter, we are now en route to intercepting a lone Eternal Fleet ship, in hopes of being able to hijack it with the help of Gemini Prime.

Senya lectures you about what sort of resistance you should expect upon boarding: skytroopers in the triple figures, which once again leads to some amusing bits of conversation on the subject of just how sick everyone is of skytroopers. Scorpio has figured out a trick to sufficiently confuse the enemy ship's targeting systems to allow a shuttle to approach and board. The Gravestone itself meanwhile remains either in Koth's hands (if he's still around) or Tora's. I have to admit that Tora is funnier to have around, and that's coming from someone who generally likes Koth! You are to take control of the ship with Lana, Senya, Theron and Scorpio while the Prime remains aboard the Gravestone for now since you don't want to risk her getting damaged in the fighting.

The shuttle takes some damage but you manage to successfully land inside the Eternal Fleet ship's hangar. Now the only problem is that it's eerily quiet there, and contrary to Senya's predictions not a single skytrooper shows up. Scorpio suggests that the Captain is acting intelligently and improvising. You can't really do anything but proceed into the lair of the beast.


You get the feeling that shit's about to get real as you finally get to venture forth with no less than four of your main companions... just to have a giant blast door slam down about five steps in, separating you from everyone except Scorpio. Meanwhile the Captain eyes you through a camera and comments on the foolishness of your endeavour, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Imperial agent's first encounter with Scorpio on Belsavis. She is however fascinated by Scorpio, and they once again start arguing about who's superior, which seems to be a thing with droids. The Captain finally sics some skytroopers at each team on both sides of the blast door, which you dispose of without too much difficulty.

Before you can work on getting the door open, the side with most of your companions gets flooded with some kind of gas, forcing them to move away. You and Scorpio continue to explore the ship on your own, with the Captain continuing to test your abilities with more skytroopers, poisonous gas traps, lasers you need to dodge and similar shenanigans. There is also a  bonus mission to explore as much of the ship as possible and gather supplies, which I still haven't fully figured out. Where is that damned skytrooper control device?!

Eventually you make it towards some sort of control terminal which Scorpio declares "will do". She's had enough of the Captain's games and has decided to take over. She plugs herself into the ship, shuts down the skytroopers, opens the blast doors and announces her intent to erase the Captain. At first it seems to work, but suddenly power starts to surge the other way, the Captain declares herself superior, and Scorpio is fried in her chassis, collapsing to the floor dead (as far as you can say that about a droid).


We cut to a view of the Eternal Throne where Vaylin is clearly getting ready to punish a knight for failing to miraculously prevent the events of chapter 14 - which is funny, considering that she and Arcann were very much aware of the attack on Darvannis and simply couldn't be bothered with it! The knight seems more openly fearful and defiant than we've seen previously, claiming that she doesn't deserve such punishment. Suddenly Arcann becomes aware of the attack on the Eternal Fleet ship and urges Vaylin to accompany him to finally capture the Outlander and their mother. Delighted, she pushes the knight to her death anyway. Arcann is certain that they'll succeed this time.

Returning to the Eternal Fleet ship, Koth/Tora relays that the Gravestone has suffered a power outage, meaning that she's been briefly unable to jam the ship's communication systems, which leads to the Gemini Captain happily announcing that she called for help and that Arcann is on his way. You contact Lana via holo, and she's remarkably unconcerned by Scorpio's death and even refers to it as "one less problem". However, she also claims to have found the ship's cargo from the core worlds and that it will change the plan, asking you to meet up with them again to see it for yourself.

Senya meets you halfway and together you dodge more of the captain's obstacles, including lava streams connected to the ship's sun generator, an elevator getting stopped between floors, a giant skytrooper with sword and shield, and another gas trap, this time with a bunch of droids that continuously try to repair it! I'm not ashamed to confess that I've died to that thing.

Finally you reach Lana and Theron, who reveal the ship's precious cargo - a bunch of valuable prisoners with their entourage: Admiral Zasha Ranken, whom Imperials may remember from the Kuat Drive Yards intro quest; Tai Cordan of the Galactic Senate, former president of Balmorra and friend of the Jedi consular, and finally, an aging Zakuulan starlet called Malita Tal, who encourages her people to defy Arcann. All three have been wanting to join your Alliance.


Okay, that's nice and all, but how was this important and how does it change anything? Our mission is to capture the whole ship, so even if we never got them out of their cells, we would basically be freeing them by default by taking the whole ship along with us, right? Whatever... back to the important stuff, like capturing the bridge!

With Senya in tow you get rid of the last couple of skytroopers and droids in your way and finally face the Gemini Captain herself. She speaks somewhat oddly, as if she's developed a personality she's not supposed to have. This leads to one of the more interesting boss encounters in KotFE so far, as the Captain does decent damage and splits into four parts at several points, forcing you to find the right target to attack.

Once you've subdued her she actually seems delighted, rambling on about how she's kept up her end of the bargain and is free to make her own choices now. You can opine that the battle with Scorpio changed her somehow, which she confirms but doesn't elaborate on. Her final choice is to upload her consciousness into the "hive mind" of the Eternal Fleet and activate the ship's self-destruct mechanism. There is no time to get the Prime on board and try to stop it, so you can only abandon ship.


The escaped prisoners contact you to say that they've made it to the escape pods but can't launch them. Theron explains that he can launch them remotely, but only one at a time and there isn't much of that. You get to decide in which order they get ejected and whichever one you leave until last will get destroyed. It's obvious that this is one of those slightly artificial moral dilemmas (just press the buttons, Theron, don't waste time waiting for me to make a decision) that may not necessarily have any grand consequences on the overall outcome of the story, but it's a great character-building moment and I've seen people make interesting arguments for pretty much every order. Some say that "obviously" Malita Tal should be left to die since she's only a celebrity and can offer no military or political power. Others will leave the members of their former enemy faction to die because... duh! Or they'll abandon those of their own, arguing that the Outlander already has plenty of pull in their old home, making any additional allies there the most expendable.

Anyway, what with all the moral dilemmas to ponder, you mustn't forget to make your escape yourself. The ship is already partially on fire and there are holes in the floor... on my first playthrough I actually died twice to those, not watching my step in my frantic attempts to flee the ship before it explodes. (I know it's not timed, but I got really into it!) This made me tweet that this was the "deadliest chapter yet", which actually got a like from the official SWTOR account itself, hah! You escape just in time, and Arcann and Vaylin also arrive in time to watch you get away... again. Ha-ha!

On the Gravestone the companion from the faction whose prisoners you allowed to die will grouse at you some (Lana for the Imperials, Theron for the Pubs and Senya for the Zakuulans), but for once they are easily appeased.

Vaylin notes an "interesting development" in that the ships outside their sector aren't responding to Arcann's orders anymore, but he doesn't care because he just wants to hunt down the Outlander and his father above everything else now.


Koth/Tora explains how the Gemini Prime broke after an incoming transmission from the Eternal Fleet ship just before Scorpio died.

Finally, we cut to the Eternal Throne, where skytroopers and turrets enter the room and kill all the knights standing guard. Then Scorpio materialises on the throne... somewhat weirdly - at first she looks like a hologram, but then her body suddenly becomes solid? Nice tech there...

She contacts you and tells you that she needed you to believe that she was deactivated. Her real plan was to install herself on the throne as she was apparently after command of the Eternal Fleet all along.

Conclusion

I thought that chapter fifteen was easily the best chapter to be released this year, though I'll be happy if chapter sixteen tops it tomorrow. Chapter thirteen was fun, but this was the first time since chapters one to nine that I was truly immersed in what was happening, gasping or yelling at my screen based on the newest events and forgetting about everything else. My pet tank was quite amused at my loud yelp when I got caught in the first gas trap - it gave me instant flashbacks to suffocating in that dark room on the Theoretika.


There are simply a lot of things that this chapter gets right. A return to the story's "core companions" means that we don't have to waste any time with introductions. A small strike team infiltrating an enemy base against overwhelming odds is very "Star Warsy" and brings to mind events like Princess Leia's rescue from the Death Star in Episode IV. After how thoroughly sick we've all become of skytroopers over the course of the story, their almost complete absence at the start of this chapter is genuinely unsettling, but when they do show up later, they are used sparingly and interspersed with some fun little puzzles to spice things up. The fight against the Gemini Captain is actually moderately challenging and finally moves away from the by now pretty tired pattern of each boss becoming immune to damage for a fixed amount of time while you kill its adds.

And then there is the twist at the end of course. It's not just a surprise but also raises a lot of questions. While Scorpio has obviously betrayed the Alliance, it isn't clear to what extent. Seeing how she's only ever shown an interest in self-improvement, what does she want to rule Zakuul for? Does she harbour ambitions similar to Mentor from Directive 7? Or is it more about generic accumulation of knowledge and power, which might not be totally at odds with the Alliance? Are Arcann and Vaylin even still a threat, having been stripped of much of their power just like that? I'm excited to find out tomorrow!

05/08/2016

Flashpoint Friday: Lost Island

It seems strange to be covering this flashpoint so close to the end of this series (only two flashpoints left to cover after this one), especially since it was an early reader request. I think I tripped myself up by wanting to do things in order and starting with Kaon Under Siege, which turned into a mega-post that made me yearn for something shorter and simpler to write about for the next installment... and then one thing just led to another. However, I was bound to get there eventually: It's time to talk about Lost Island.


General Facts

Lost Island was the second flashpoint added to the game after its release, as part of patch 1.2 - called "Legacy" - which was released in April 2012 and also saw the introduction of the legacy system and the group finder, as well as adding a new raid (Explosive Conflict) and a new warzone (Novare Coast). It's crazy to think that even then people were leaving the game in droves, complaining that there was nothing to do.

Lost Island finishes up Outbreak in the Tion Hegemony/Trouble in the Tion Hegemony, the rakghoul story arc that started with patch 1.1's Kaon Under Siege. A new plague of sentient rakghouls has emerged to threaten the galaxy, and by the end of Kaon you have traced it back to a rogue scientist called Dr Lorrick who secretly operates from Ord Mantell. It's time to pay him a visit and get to the root of the problem.

Interestingly, Lost Island has received only limited love in 4.0. Its hardmode has been retuned for levels 50-65, but its story mode remains an old-fashioned level 50 flashpoint that can't be accessed through the group finder, and there also isn't a solo mode.

Fights

Lost Island has achieved somewhat legendary status among players for having been stupidly hard on release, at least on hardmode (though story mode was quite challenging for your average pug as well). I know people that, to this day, will proudly talk about things like having gotten the first Lost Island HM clear on their server (not that this is something that anyone would be able to prove). In my own post about my first run, I mentioned how another group of guildies hadn't even been able to make it past the first boss, and how we also wiped a lot during our own run (though we did complete the instance). At the end I felt the urge to take a screenshot as if we'd defeated an operations boss. I also have a video of a run we did about two months later (unlisted because it's neither very well edited nor interesting, being one of my first attempts at video editing) that shows us still needing no less than six attempts to get past the first boss.


Bioware made no secret out of Lost Island intentionally being harder than any other flashpoints available at the time, rather the opposite. As I mentioned, this was the patch that also introduced the group finder, and in this first incarnation, there were two "tiers" of hardmode flashpoints: the first one consisting of everything else released until then, and the second one consisting of Lost Island alone. It also dropped better gear, with the last boss dropping the coveted Rakata chest piece, which you could otherwise only get from hardmode Soa. It was a concept that was later abandoned without much fuss or any kind of explanation, and since the first year was a tumultuous time for the game in general it's hard to say what prompted the change in direction. All I know is that to this day, whenever I see people complain about content being too easy, they like to wistfully refer to old-school Lost Island as an example of how things should be.

What is is that made Lost Island so hard? Well, the trash was actually not as bad as in Kaon (nothing could top those Infected Mercenaries and Screamers) but it could still throw people for a loop with mechanics like AoE pulls, knockbacks, mobs unexpectedly bursting out of the walls, groups requiring a specific kill order, or extremely powerful healers refusing to let any enemy die. I remember a pull close to the end that used to contain two strong medics (one of which was later removed) who could both make themselves immune to interrupts and would cross-heal the whole trash pack until kingdom come if you didn't use crowd control or focused stuns to burn them down quickly.

The first boss, a sentinel droid, is the one I actually always found the hardest personally, probably because of how many wipes I had on him over the years. There was the Incinerate on the tank that needed to be interrupted or dispelled or it would kill the tank in seconds, that other ability whose name I forget that was also useful to interrupt but not as essential, domes of lightning spawning on group members, adds, fire coming out of the ground, and so on and so forth. Basically, the boss has a lot going on that can potentially kill you, and in those early days his damage output was very high. Most of his abilities remain to this day, however they've been toned down a lot so that none of them hurt nearly as much.


The second boss, the monstrous Project Sav-Rak, is a particular piece of fun with pugs to this day, because he has mechanics that aren't easily nerfed, apart from the dot that deals damage and keeps the healer busy. Otherwise his two key mechanics are that he will jump on top of a pipe and just keep attacking you from afar, until you can force him back down via some co-ordinated button pushing from most group members, and that every so often he will do massive knockback that will send you to your doom in the surrounding lava if you don't stand in the right place. This is fun in so far as pretty much every time you do this in a pug, even if you explain the mechanics beforehand, someone will fall to their death the first time the boss does his knockback and then go: "Oh. I didn't expect it to be like that." It would be sad if it wasn't also funny.

Oh yeah, and there are also two mini bosses which aren't too challenging in terms of mechanics but who both hit like trucks. Even when running this with my guildies last week, I was the last woman standing when Transgenic Sample Seven finally died.


The bonus boss is actually the easiest fight in the entire instance, merely requiring you to not stop moving whenever he smashes the floor and to not cross paths with other people while doing so, but even that can be challenging for some.

Finally we have Doctor Lorrick himself, whom I generally don't recall ever being as challenging as what came before, but who still offers a nice and pretty cinematic fight, throwing poison vials and explosives at you and jumping around the room until he finally succumbs to the virus himself and turns into a seemingly mindlessly roaring rakghoul monstrosity of his own.

Story (spoilers)

You travel to Ord Mantell to locate Doctor Lorrick's secret base, which is once again at least partially situated inside a volcano, demonstrating that the planet has a problem with attracting people who like to build stereotypical super-villain lairs.

As you make your way past innocent wildlife outside and then some guard droids, you encounter the first log entries from Lorrick's assistants (you need to access them all to unlock the bonus boss), who describe him as someone heroically looking for a cure for the rakghoul virus... until it becomes apparent that actually he is doing no such thing but rather refining it for weaponised use. You learn that his assistants tried to stop him once they found out, but the fact that you keep encountering increasingly monstrous and intelligent mutant rakghouls doesn't make the situation look good.


Eventually you find Lorrick in his lab, where he holds a speech about how his modified rakghoul virus is in fact a perfect evolution of humanity and even offers to turn you into a rakghoul too. All his heroic assistants have fallen prey to his machinations, and like a true mad scientist he's even injected himself with the virus, eventually turning into another fearsome monster that you can only put down.

Conclusion

Like Kaon Under Siege, Lost Island is one of Bioware's early masterpieces, combining an atmospheric environment, an interesting story and fun game mechanics into a perfect blend. This is definitely still true today, even after its overall difficulty has been nerfed. Whether that initial high difficulty was even a good idea or not is debatable, but I think it's unlikely that we'll ever see its like again, and as the number of day one veterans still playing the game continues to decline, there'll also be fewer and fewer who will even remember what it was like.

I'm somewhat mystified why Bioware has largely ignored Lost Island during its 4.0 flashpoint revamp. I can sort of see several of the fights being hard to tune for a solo mode, especially considering the Jesus droid's limited AI (you just know Project Sav-Rak would knock him into the lava every time), but I don't really understand what prevented the old story mode from being turned into a tactical.

02/08/2016

The Missing Companions

We knew well in advance of going into Fallen Empire that our old stable of companions would get shaken up in this expansion... but I suspect that many of us still feel somewhat uncomfortable to be approaching the last chapter and think of all the companions that still haven't come back, especially since many of them are potential love interests and may be our character's husband or wife. About a year ago, I wrote a post called Companions I Wouldn't Want to Lose, in which I picked a favourite for each class that I wouldn't want to be without. Seven of those eight are still missing. I'm sure I'm not the only one hesitant to take certain characters into KotFE because we currently don't know when they'll ever see their companions again, if at all. I wanted to look at how badly different classes have been affected by this and consider their chances of still getting their missing companions back later.

Jedi Knight

For being pretty much the game's "poster child", the knight hasn't fared well at all in KotFE in terms of relationships with their old companions. The only one that has returned to date is T7-O1, and while he does so fairly early on in the story, his role is very minor and there seems to be little of the boundless enthusiasm left that used to define the little droid's personality in the base game.


Kira Carsen: Even though she is a love interest, which automatically complicates matters, I'm actually kind of surprised that Kira hasn't come back for KotFE. Considering her past, I would have expected her to be all over fighting the Emperor again, like flies on toast. Maybe she is afraid of him? The love letter she writes to a knight who romanced her states that she has nightmares of the knight falling under the Emperor's spell (again). She might even fear for herself, considering her past. Or maybe she's just too caught up with what's happening in the Republic right now. Either way I wouldn't expect her eventual reintroduction to pose any major problems.

Doc: Like Kira, I would have thought of Doc as someone easy to introduce into the current storyline, seeing how he is basically a good guy who tends to get involved wherever his skills are needed. Just have someone get injured on the front lines and bam! Doc to the rescue.

Sergeant Rusk: I would expect Rusk to still be busy fighting loyally for the Republic. I read that dataminers have spotted an Alliance alert for him lurking in the game files, but at this point I'm not sure we can expect any more of these to go live after 4.7 and before KotET.

Lord Scourge: Now this guy's reintroduction is a pretty big issue. He really should have had a presence in Shadow of Revan already, considering his close involvement with the Emperor (seriously, just read the Revan novel). The fact that he hasn't commented on any of the events since then has put him into an awkward hole that is going to be difficult to crawl out of. It doesn't help that Bioware doesn't appear to have been able to get his original voice actor back, considering that his voice lines for his new combat roles added in 4.0 are voiced by somebody else who sounds jarringly different. For this reason, Lord Scourge is one of the companions about whose return I'm somewhat doubtful. I wouldn't put it beyond Bioware to just cut their losses with him and pretend to forget that he ever existed.

Jedi Consular

You wouldn't have thought it possible, but the Jedi consular is even worse off than the knight, with only a single consular companion having returned in KotFE so far (Qyzen) and he's not even part of the main story, just an Alliance alert. I suppose we can take some comfort in at least an ally of the Barsen'thor returning in a later chapter, but it's not quite the same.

Tharan Cedrax: Again, another companion that has me somewhat surprised that he hasn't returned yet, at least as an Alliance alert. As a quirky genius he would be a perfect addition to Doctor Oggurobb's team of scientists.

Zenith: Apparently this is another one that's had an Alliance alert lurking in the game files already. I would think that Zenith would feel right in his element fighting against the Eternal Empire as the underdog, seeing how he seemed to struggle with dealing with "normal" politics after the liberation of Balmorra. I bet he'd love to blow up some Star Fortresses (hint hint)...

Lieutenant Iresso: I don't see any major obstacles to Iresso making a comeback, but like other characters already mentioned, he's probably been busy serving the Republic and doesn't necessarily have an easy way of operating independently like Havoc Squad did.


Nadia Grell: Nadia may have remained staunchly loyal to the Republic and the Jedi order or may have redirected some of her efforts towards her old home world, but either way she's always struck me as more of a defensive character, so I'm actually not surprised that she isn't out there fighting Zakuul already. I don't think it would be difficult to reintroduce her if the Outlander made closer contact with the Republic though.

Trooper

The trooper has probably been the luckiest of all classes (go me), as they got all but one of their companions back, and two of them even featured in the main story.

The only one missing is Elara Dorne. If you talk to Aric as a trooper in chapter eleven, he mentions that Elara got in trouble after your disappearance.. presumably still something to do with her being a former Imperial? That would be a bit disappointing considering that this issue appeared to be done and dusted by the end of her companion story, but it's not completely unreasonable. This puts a bit of a question mark on where she might be and what she might be up to at this point in time, but at the same time that just means that Bioware has options to get creative.

Smuggler

The smuggler hasn't had too much luck with their companions. Bowdaar came back in an Alliance alert, but not until several months after KotFE's release, and it looks like we should finally get Guss in 4.7. It's telling that both of their stories were delayed repeatedly though!

Corso Riggs: Based on his previous antics, Corso could pretty much be anywhere, doing anything (as long as it doesn't involve being mean to women). That should make it easy to reintroduce him. On the other hand, let's be honest.... he's a bit of a shmuck! It would take some skill to come up with a reason why any non-smuggler would want to recruit him in particular.


Risha: I think reintroducing Risha could be a bit tricky because of the whole thing with Dubrillion (trying to remain vague here). Of course Bioware could always ignore it and say that she's just continued working as a freelancer for the past five years, but to be honest I'd find it a bit disappointing to learn that she hasn't made any progress whatsoever towards reclaiming her heritage during that time.

Akaavi Spar: While Akaavi is very much of a loner, it still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that she wasn't brought back in some way related to chapter fourteen, which was about Mandalorians after all. While she's a skilled fighter, she's not someone to get caught up in fighting for a cause not directly related to matters of personal honour, and I think bringing her back would require the writers to come up with something new for her to actually care about.

All in all, the Republic got the short end of the stick here, as twelve out of the original set of twenty companions remain missing (I'm already counting Guss as returned here). In comparison, the Empire is only missing nine, and no Imperial class is as badly off as the two Jedi classes who've seen neither hide nor hair of four of their five old companions.

Sith Warrior

The Sith warrior is one of the luckier classes and had three of their five companions restored, one of whom featured in the main story arc. The only ones still missing are two love interests.

Malavai Quinn: I think reintroducing Quinn shouldn't be too difficult in terms of story, as any contact with the Empire would probably work, but I suppose the story could be tricky to write in such a way that it pleases both the people who hate him with a passion and probably want to off him the moment he shows his face and those who actually forgave him or simply don't know him at all.


Jaesa Willsaam: Jaesa is probably one of the two most difficult companions to reintroduce and I'm not sure Bioware will be up to the challenge. Since she has a separate light and dark side version, she is basically a different person depending on your Sith warrior's choices, which would require two potentially very different recruitment quests... and then you'd still be stuck with the question of which version is "canon" and should be presented to non-warriors. I suspect that even if Bioware is up to tackling this problem, it would still have to be relegated to a side mission/Alliance alert, as I can see no way that two different Jaesas could be part of the main storyline. Which is a pity, because I'd love to see her use her special talents on Valkorion!

Sith Inquisitor

Khem Val: Khem Val is the one character I would classify as Jaesa's equal in term's of difficulties with reintroducing him, because he too effectively ends up being two completely different people depending on your choices at the end of his companion arc. I'm a bit concerned that Bioware may have given up on dealing with this issue already, which would explain why they gave us an Alliance alert for a "replacement Dashade". I hope I'm wrong about that though, because nothing can replace good old Khem.

Andronikos Revel: Similar to several of the smuggler companions, Andronikos is enough of a free spirit that he could be doing pretty much anything, but one has to wonder what would motivate him to fight against the Eternal Empire and what would make the Alliance interested in him.

Ashara Zavros: The letter Ashara sends to an inquisitor who romanced her at the end of KotFE chapter one is full of despair. She feels that she's neither Jedi nor Sith and doesn't belong anywhere while everything is crumbling around her. I would have expected her to run off into Wild Space or something, but I'm open to Bioware coming up with some kind of plot to bring her back.


Imperial Agent

The Imperial agent is probably the luckiest of the Imperial classes, because like the warrior they already had three companions returned, and two of them featured in the main storyline. However, like the warrior, two of the agent's love interests remain missing.

Vector Hyllus: I think that the ease or difficulty of reintroducing Vector would depend on what he's gotten up to since the Eternal Empire took over. If he's still loyal to the Sith Empire, he can probably make an appearance related to that. If he's hanging out with the Space Killiks, it might be a bit hard to get him to care, unless they feature as an independent faction somehow and he serves as their ambassador.

Raina Temple: Temple has a similar "problem" in that she could have cut herself loose from the collapsing Empire and might be seeing herself as more of a free agent than as someone loyal to anything or anyone. That's not exactly a major obstacle though.

Bounty Hunter

Oh wait, the bounty hunter also had three companions returned already, with two of them featuring in the main story. Did I mention yet how favoured the Imperial classes appear to have been in this?

Mako: Of course the one major bounty hunter companion we're still missing is Mako, your very first friend. KotFE has given some conflicting info in regards to what she has been up to. Her letter to a romanced bounty hunter is full of despair and talks about how she's giving up on bounty hunting because all it's ever done for her is get people dear to her killed. However, in my bounty hunter's story, where Mako and Torian had been a couple, he said that he and Mako continued to hunt together after your disappearance and that he only left her because of Mandalore's summons, noting that she is quite capable of taking care of herself. I'd be happy to see the story continue in either direction... plus there is also the possibility that Mako found out more about her biological "family" in the past five years. There are definitely lots of opportunities to tie her into the main story line in an interesting way here.

Skadge: Apparently this is another companion that has an unfinished Alliance alert lurking in the game files. Like with Quinn, I'm curious how Bioware will reconcile potential re-recruitment with the many bounty hunter players who will simply want to shoot him on sight.

Looking at everything I've just written, I think the best way to reintroduce a lot of these missing companions would be to revisit the Republic and Empire in the next season... yes, I'm totally biased because that's what I want to happen, but you also have to admit that all of these loyal Jedi and dedicated soldiers might be hard to integrate if you completely disregard their loyalties and background.