What with 2016 coming to an end and me going through my blog archives for my look back at another year of blogging, I was reminded of how I was engaged in my "flashpoint levelling experiment" around this time last year. With that still in mind, a random comment on Reddit (I couldn't find it anymore now) caught my attention the other day, seeing how it once again claimed that tactical (now veteran) flashpoints are still way too hard. The reason this complaint stood out to me was that it was oddly specific in citing Hammer Station as being impossible to complete for a group of level 15 characters these days (which is the lowest level at which you can start doing most flashpoints), even though it was originally designed for levels 15-21. I also remembered a supposedly new player posting a similar lament some months ago, claiming that he and his friends had been unable to make it past one of the early trash pulls even though they'd gone in with a proper trinity group.
All of this sounded kind of hyperbolic to me, but I do know from experience that group composition and level can certainly make a massive difference to your experience of a random tactical flashpoint run. But how to know for sure just how bad it is with a full group of level 15s? It's not like you're randomly going to get a group like that through the group finder... fortunately my guildies came to the rescue and agreed to support me with yet another one of my random projects.
I asked three of them to level a new character to 15 (and no further!) on Tomb of Freedon Nadd, where none of us had a legacy already, therefore ensuring that none of us would benefit from any legacy-wide buffs such as the stat increases you get for having collected all the datacrons. Of course we couldn't precisely reproduce the new player experience like-for-like, since we can't "un-know" what we know about things like pulls and tactics, but I tried to at least up the difficulty a bit by imposing the rule that nobody was allowed to pick an advanced class that had any healing abilities, because having a healer is easy mode, right?
It was therefore with great excitement that we ventured forth today with a group consisting of a Vanguard (me), a Shadow (my pet tank), a Sentinel (Calph) and a Gunslinger (all dps) to brave the challenges of Hammer Station at level 15. And of course I recorded it, because what good is an experiment if you can't share the results with anyone?
If you don't want to watch the entirety of our silly half-hour romp, let me point you at some of the highlights:
5:11 - "The Pull of Doom"
9:50 - 1st boss
17:50 - 2nd boss
21:06 - Champion turrets at the bridge
25:25 - 3rd and final boss
Actually, it was a lot easier than I expected - I certainly anticipated a lot more deaths on trash with us having no healing abilities whatsoever. There were only two pulls that gave us trouble though: the early "Pull of Doom" highlighted above, which everyone who's ever done Hammer Station probably knows because it was the most painful pull in the instance even at launch. We had to hurl ourselves against that one and wipe twice, slowly reducing its size by killing off some of the weaker mobs before dying ourselves. The other one was the pull of two champion turrets just before the laser bridge, where we could only just kill one of them before wiping and then had to run in again to kill the second one. The first and third boss could have been tough I suppose if we hadn't known how to react to the mechanics and when to click the kolto stations (in fact on the first boss I had a brief moment of panic when we ran out of kolto stations to click from going through them too quickly).
Still, dying a couple of times is a far cry from "impossible for a group of level 15s". I'm not saying it can be done without dying if you have the sort of group composition we did, and I don't know how a group of level 15s would hold up in any of the other tactical/veteran flashpoints (considering how quickly you level up, it would be hard to test this for every single one of them), as I've observed previously that the tuning can vary a lot from one flashpoint to another. Hammer Station though? Definitely still working as intended and doable at level 15. I'm just not sure about those double loot drops...