After a tedious but expected amount of patching, I logged onto my Commando, where a conquest reward awaited me... which immediately granted me some XP. Levelling again, hurrah!
The discipline system immediately prompted me to get my abilities all set up. My first impression was actually kind of underwhelming, but not necessarily in a bad way - if that makes sense. Just clicking "Combat Medic" got all the important bits sorted out, without me having to faff around with individual talent points. (That's a good thing in my eyes!) The utility points all seemed about equality irrelevant to my impending questing experience, so I just picked whatever. I'm sure that once I get back into max-level PvP and group content, the decisions will seem more interesting.
I was a bit bewildered that some abilities had disappeared from my bar even though they hadn't really undergone any significant changes. Having to pay to re-train six ranks of Charged Bolts felt like a pointless money sink more than anything else.
A message in my mailbox reminded me that it was expansion time and explained where I should start the new missions. I kind of miss the times when these messages were written more "in character", but I can only guess that some people found that too confusing? Oh well.
If you haven't done the Forged Alliances story arc, you get directed toward its new solo mode I believe - I don't know yet whether it's mandatory to complete this before you can start questing on Rishi or just recommended. As my main had completed all parts of the story when they were new, she and her pet tank were ready to go to Rishi anyway.
They have bird people!
It immediately became apparent that the devs were speaking the truth when they said that they had learned lessons from Makeb and Oricon. Rishi is much smaller and no longer requires you to complete a circuit of a huge area just to complete a single mission, nor do the bonuses involve ridiculous numbers of mob kills like they did on Makeb. So far my pet tank and I have only completed the first sub-zone and the quests have been flowing nicely, while also giving out solid rewards (though nothing that would have rivalled our operations gear of course).
There's definitely a certain "WoW-ification" of the questing process to be noticed, which isn't always a bad thing. For example we had a quest to gather meat from some beasts, but not all of them seemed to drop it - which is when my pet tank noticed that when you hovered over a monster, its tooltip now showed if it was eligible for one of our quests, like it does in WoW.
The biggest shock to me though was that Rishi introduces quests that are given out in the form of bog-standard quest text windows. Now, the game has had some of these since launch - but only from terminals or other inanimate objects, like lost datapads. If you actually talked to an NPC, it always launched into a full-fledged, animated conversation. Well, not so on Rishi. I was genuinely taken aback when my pet tank approached an NPC with the tell-tale triangle icon over its head and I waited for the usual green "waiting for all participants to start the conversation" circle to appear, but nothing happened. No, I had to click on the NPC myself, to receive a little text box pop-up with the mission while the NPC just did a little voice-over in the background.
I'm sure some people will rejoice over this - after all the complaints about the voiced side quests supposedly being a drag have been numerous. But I liked them, damn it, and I hate the very idea that progress in a theme park MMO apparently has to mean "regress towards the way WoW works". That said, I will admit that this is a matter of principle more than anything. In practice it's not a big deal for me to pick up a bunch of side quests in text form; after all I've been doing it with dailies for years. If nothing else, this format seems to have allowed Bioware to include more of them at less of a cost, which is good for flavour. Makeb felt oddly devoid of side quests to me sometimes, with the odd daily on some mesas being the exception. On Rishi on the other hand I've only completed the first area so far, but aside from doing the main mission, I've also hunted down several types of wild animals, freed some slaves, retrieved the scattered parts of a broken droid, and unearthed more than one sunken treasure.
I've also done my one new class quest already. I've recorded it and plan to upload it on Youtube, along with all the other new class missions, once I get around to them on my alts. How much is there to the new class missions? Well, like they said, it's "just" one class-specific quest. You pick it up, do some stuff, then hand in - but the story behind it seemed quite meaty to me, at least for the trooper, like they could have actually made more out of it if their resources weren't limited. I might have more to say about the exact implementation once I've seen how it's been done for other classes.
Another thing that caught my attention was that what used to be group phases for the main story mission are now all personal phases, like the ones you get during your class mission. I thought this was a rather odd choice. There was one quest in a phase that transitioned smoothly into the class mission at the end, and in that one case I can understand that it had to be a personal phase - but for all the others it just felt weird to me that my pet tank and I were forced into separate instances (if we wanted to complete the mission simultaneously) just to have a simple conversation or kill a couple of mobs. I'd quite like to know what Bioware's reasoning was behind this change.