Today I decided to talk about the last flashpoint that my Mercenary had a "streak" of while levelling, Battle of Ilum.
Battle of Ilum was in game at launch and was originally designed for levels 48-50, meant to finish off Ilum's main storyline, together with its follow-up, The False Emperor. Since 4.0 it's available as a tactical from level 15-65 and has a solo mode option as well.
The flashpoint starts off with your party talking to their personal pilot, the
Corellian Cole Cantarus for Republic players or General Hesker of the
Imperial Guard for the Empire. Ilum's planetary storyline just ended with Darth Malgus - a repeat quest giver for Imperials but known to Republic characters as well - unexpectedly seceding from the Empire and attacking both Republic and Empire at once. A plan has been hatched to steal one of his new stealth ships and use it to find the old Emperor's cloaked space station, which has become Malgus' new base of operations. In order to do this, you need to succeed at a ground assault on Fort Barrow on Ilum, where a lot of Malgus' troops are stationed.
You get dropped off in a seemingly random
spot and immediately have to take a taxi to actually get anywhere near where you're supposed to be (the trenches). You run into a lot of aliens fighting for Malgus, as a big
part of his "New Empire" is embracing the diversity of different species that the old Empire
has always dismissed as inferior.
After lots of fighting
through trenches and mines you eventually make it to Fort Barrow, just
as Malgus' right-hand man arrives: Darth Serevin, whom Imperial players
may remember as the quest giver for the main Imperial storyline on Voss.
(Personally I was quite gutted that he turned out to be a traitor as
he had been one of the more likeable Sith that you meet throughout the game. You just can't trust a Sith that seems
likeable.) As it turns out, he has brought some Voss with him as well.
After you defeat him, you can either execute them or spare them - they
promise to join your side if you do so.
also receive a set of initially somewhat unpleasant news near the end:
General Hesker gets shot down by the enemy (though he survives) and
Republic characters get told by Serevin that an assassin has been sent
to kill Supreme Commander Rans. (Though as it turns out, he survives that
attack as well.)
Battle of Ilum has the dubious honour of probably being the flashpoint with the largest amount of skippable fights in game. I already talked about this problem to some extent when I discussed Directive 7. If you want to, you can go around killing a lot of enemies and complete two bonus missions in the process. On the other hand, there are huge amounts of encounters you can skip just to get to the end quickly if that's what you prefer. The problem lies in pug groups bringing together people who might have different preferences. I don't know if it's still the done thing or even possible, but I remember a time when people even used to skip the first two bosses, which drove me absolutely nuts.
You spend the entire flashpoint fighting Darth Malgus' troops as well as some miners that work for him. Some are human, but a vast majority are aliens. Most trash pulls are not very exciting, but watch out for the groups with the ice cats, those critters hit quite hard.
The bosses are largely in line with this, as three encounters feature alien leaders fighting for Malgus and they all emphasise some variety of the golden rule of "kill the adds". Then there are two mining droids which are a matter of tank and spank. And finally, at the end, a Sith: Darth Serevin. He throws crystals at people and is meant to teach the lesson that long casts with ominous names like "Force Explosion" are best interrupted. (It used to wipe you on hardmode if you allowed it to go through, but even on regular difficulty it does quite a lot of damage.)
Battle of Ilum is a gorgeous-looking flashpoint with beautiful environments if you care to look, as Ilum's skies are as wondrous as ever and its designers clearly put a lot of love into placing everything. Who else knows that "secret" cave that's not on the map and which has several crates for the bonus mission in it as well as a dead tauntaun with a frozen body next to it (which is probably an Empire Strikes Back reference)?
Sadly, a lot of people really don't like spending time there though, and just like in other potentially long flashpoints, that rush-rush attitude can be a pain in the backside if you actually enjoy taking your time and doing the bonuses.
The storyline of Malgus' betrayal is interesting in principle, but somewhat awkwardly put together. It's very questionable whether it was a good idea to tie a main planetary storyline and two flashpoints together, as many people do one without the other and end up confused. Actually, the really sad thing is that even if you do run everything in order, the planetary storyline on either faction and the Malgus arc seem to have little to do with each other except that they both take place on Ilum. It can get particularly awkward if you're an Empire player, where you get the option to support Malgus and his ideas repeatedly, and then he's suddenly betrayed everyone including you with no warning whatsoever. The events of the planetary storyline and the the two flashpoints just don't feel very well connected.
Also, Battle of Ilum is definitely the weaker of the two flashpoints involved in this storyline, as stealing a spaceship via a ground attack is not very intuitive and you end up feeling kind of removed from the whole mission. Republic players also get the shaft a bit at the end since they have never met Darth Serevin before, while Imperial players likely have a history with him that makes the encounter a lot more meaningful (see my comment above about feeling betrayed).
The ending with the Voss is also a bit unsatisfying, because after all the fuss that is made about their neutrality the idea that your faction might get some Voss based on a simple flashpoint choice - which will of course never be mentioned anywhere ever again - feels like a bit of a letdown if you were really hoping for a more meaningful resolution to their situation.