17/12/2015

Thoughts on Star Fortresses

While I've given the "new" endgame introduced in KotFE a thumbs up in principle, I have to admit that I haven't felt particularly engaged by it on a personal level. It seems that people are mostly excited about doing heroics if they didn't really do them before, but I've been doing them since the game came out. I got the "complete all heroics" achievement the moment they introduced achievements (because I'd done them all before), and I've done them even more times since then. But just grinding them at max level? Meh.

Likewise, I don't really care that much about companion power. I never really had any issues with my companions even before 4.0. I like unlocking new ones to see their stories, but once the story ends, so does my interest. I think the highest influence rank I have on any character is 12, and that's only because some companions start at 10.

The one thing that has intrigued me a bit are the Star Fortresses. It's like a bonus storyline that's gated behind content that is challenging to solo. My pet tank and I burnt through it quickly during the first week, and he became obsessed with chain-running them until he had all the achievements. Once that was done, he seemed to lose interest too.


The one thing that bugs me about Star Fortresses is that I'm not sure what they are supposed to be, what their role is supposed to be in the grand scheme of things. I almost felt a little offended when I first found that the tougher missions had both "Heroic 2+" and "Flashpoint" in the name. What are you, a heroic or a flashpoint? You can't be both at once; that goes against everything I believe!

Once inside, Star Fortresses kind of come across as a poor man's Kuat Drive Yards, which is to say they are mostly bland-looking space stations that try to be interesting by not being exactly the same every time. But where Kuat at least mixes it up with different scenarios, the Star Fortresses just do things like lock some doors and open others, put the bonus bosses (called paladins) in different rooms and rotate through a couple of different bonus missions. It can be kind of fun to stick your nose into every available nook and cranny to see where things are hiding this time, but it's not that exciting.

Only the final encounter with the exarch on heroic mode is genuinely interesting in my opinion, set in front of the backdrop of the glowing sun reactor, and with a gradually increasing challenge level as you fight your way through the room, even if you're in a group.

On the plus side, unlike Kuat the Star Fortresses give some pretty good loot. There are a lot of decoration drops in there, as well as miscellaneous pieces of gear that you could sell for decent amounts of money, at least early on.

One thing I found amusing is that if you die anywhere but in the final exarch encounter, instead of reviving on the spot, you wake up in prison! This is a fun little play on the way a convenient probe usually just revives you on the spot without the baddies interfering in any way, which is one of those things that simply requires suspension of disbelief. Once imprisoned in the Fortress, you have to go through a short little routine of tricking and defeating the guards to free yourself.


Another aspect that's interesting are the (sometimes hidden) achievements. For example there's one to kill an exarch with their own fiery beam of death, which my pet tank made a point of getting, so I got it as well simply by tagging along. There is one for doing the heroic version in a group and with every possible buff inside the instance unlocked, which I also did with my pet tank. There is one to spy a droid belonging to the Shroud outside the station, which seems to have an annoying RNG component to it. At first I thought I was looking in the wrong place because I ran Fortress after Fortress without ever seeing it, but once it appeared it was plain as day. I never missed it, it just didn't seem to spawn in all those earlier runs.

Finally there is "One For All", which awards a title and requires you to solo the heroic mode with no buffs. I got it on my "can't play her for toffee" Marauder with a rank five companion, but it did take a while. I died a lot and just kept throwing myself at things until I eventually managed to grind them down. At one point I was sufficiently frustrated that I was willing to give up and activate the main buff after all, except that there didn't seem to be a way to go back to that part of the Fortress. If my only options were to abandon the whole thing or to press on, I decided to go for the latter after all.

Basically everything from the moment you encounter the exarch is pure pain. Personally I thought that the first room with the two gold knights was actually the worst. They just hit so hard! I kept dying before I could even get one of them down. I think I eventually succeeded with the help of a lot of cooldown chaining.

The same was true of the subsequent rooms, where you have to deal with an ever growing amount of adds before you can force the exarch to move on. Again, I died a couple of times but just kept giving it another try every time my heroic moment was up again. (As an aside, that's when I noticed that they replaced Legacy Force Storm with Legacy Chain Lightning... how sad!)

The exarch also killed me a couple of times, but again I eventually managed to get there by chaining all my cooldowns. Really, that seems to be the key to this achievement: perseverance and remembering all your buttons.

Currently I'm going back to them on my Marauder every so often to unlock all the companions related to the storyline, but it just feels kind of tedious on my own. Plus it's just not as fun to do on multiple characters (in my opinion). Are there people who love the new Star Fortresses?

4 comments :

  1. I wish I could say I'd run enough Star Fortresses to have an informed opinion, but I can't. I've only completed them twice now (solo mode) and you hit the nail on the head: they're bland.

    Normally, the first time through anything new, I'm interested and stop a lot to look around but the first run was so boring I had very little interest in doing another. I've been trying to convince myself I should continue, just for the titles and achievements and whatever, but it's not working. I'll probably hold off and revisit them next year.... :(

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    1. It's not so bad if you can bring a friend, but there's little to gain from it once you've achieved your character's personal goals with them.

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  2. Heroic Mode becomes a slog-fest because every low level mook suddenly has a million hitpoints. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is no group finder for Star Fortresses.

    I wouldn't mind extra help to speed these things along, but I'm not standing at the doorway for hours looking for it.

    If they made it so you couldn't solo star fortresses, I think I'd skip it entirely. If they made it so these non-soloable fortresses were required for story completion, I'd probably skip the whole expansion for alts...

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    1. Those health values are definitely weird, nowhere else in the world does a "weak" mob take that much time to kill, regardless of whether it's group content or not!

      And the lack of a group finder option is definitely annoying, and part of why I can't take them seriously as flashpoints.

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