29/03/2017

The Eternal Veteran

I mentioned before that I used the occasion of replaying Knights of the Eternal Throne for my Chapter by Chapter series to try the story on veteran difficulty. In fact, I made a whole post about my struggle with chapter two. Now that I've finished the whole thing, I wanted to talk about the experience a bit more.


The good news first: There were no more roadblocks similar to the final boss encounter of chapter two, though there were a couple of notable milestones still. I don't recall anything giving me trouble in chapter three, but chapter four was interesting for example.

There is this part where you are supposed to defend your base against several waves of droids, and I immediately found it impossible. They enter the room from three different directions at once, and no matter where you go, your companions get nuked before you can kill everything. You can't be in three places at once! Of course, I've also played MMOs for long enough to know that in such a situation the obvious solution is to use line of sight to force all your enemies into one place. The problem I had was that the room was circular, and I couldn't find any obstacles to efficiently herd the droids towards me.

After a couple of wipes I decided that I must have been missing something important and searched the internet for advice. Shockingly, I initially found nothing. At least with chapter two, searching had yielded plenty of mentions of other people having problems, but for chapter four, I could barely find anyone talking about it at all. I felt extra dumb. Was I overlooking something so obvious that nobody even considered it worth talking about? Eventually I found a post buried in a thread that mentioned "pulling them back to the medical droid". What, you mean the medical droid all the way across the plaza and in another building? As it turns out, the solution wasn't complicated, only completely against the objective from a story perspective: Story-wise, you're told to defend the base, but from a gameplay perspective, you're best off abandoning it instantly and taking the fight somewhere else.

In the end I recorded the time I finally beat the fight and uploaded it to YouTube. At least I can now take comfort in knowing that it's not just me who had issues figuring out the solution, as I can steadily see the video grow in views and likes, even though I haven't advertised it anywhere.

Chapter five was another non-issue. As far as chapter six goes, I had been warned that the last fight could be a pain if you were light side, as it's hard to keep Arcann alive. Bizarrely, my own experience was the complete opposite, as everything melted within seconds and I was kind of left standing there, blinking in confusion. In hindsight I think I lucked out by using Arcann's abilities very effectively (it was only in chapter nine that I realised just how powerful they really are): Basically you just need to use his AoE taunt and then immediately throw up his (reflective!) barrier to watch all the hard-hitting enemies blow themselves up in seconds.

In chapter seven I had been warned about the Horizon guards but had also been told that knockbacks could be used against them to great effect. I had some fun with the elites on the bridge, where I apparently couldn't quite knock them to their deaths and instead got caught in an ongoing cycle of knocking one down, then fighting the other until the first one finally made his way back up. I can't tell whether there were really supposed to be four of them or if I caused something to bug out and reset at some point.

I initially tried to fight the champion guard the normal way, but quickly got annoyed by the fact that even though I was dodging and interrupting everything I could, his mere unavoidable attacks were still hitting too hard for Lana to keep me alive. Of course, then I realised that unlike most boss mobs, he, too, was susceptible to knockbacks and could be dragged all the way back to the cliff side without resetting. So that was that. No idea how you're supposed to do it without a knockback though.

In regards to chapter eight, I had been warned that the walker fight could be a pain and that simply using the stomp ability in melee was - while counter-intuitive - highly effective. That worked for me right away.

In chapter nine I did a lot of dying on the way into the Spire, as I had limited control over Arcann, who kept running into bad places, and the mobs just kept on coming. There was one pretty hilarious moment when three stealth troopers uncloaked next to me at the same time and one-shot Senya... But while there was a lot of death, none of it was an issue as anything I killed stayed dead, so I could make slow progress anyway. The final fight was actually pretty fun and relatively forgiving, except that you really had to keep your back against the stairs to not get knocked into the abyss (which happened to me a couple of times at first).


In the end, it was more fun than the horrible roller-coaster of chapter two had led me to expect, but something still felt off to me. First off, I still think that the sheer randomness of the difficulty is a sign of shoddy work and goes against the whole concept of letting you choose your preferred difficulty at the start. Nothing like selecting hard mode and getting nightmare-level fights. I have a hard time imagining that anyone actually play-tested chapter two for example and went: "Yeah, that's fine."

But even if I imagined a version of veteran mode in which all these random spikes had been dutifully ironed out, something about the experience would still leave me feeling dissatisfied, and I actually had to think hard about why that was. In the end I think it's how inconsistent the whole concept is with the rest of the game. We have the denominators of weak, strong and elite mobs throughout the whole game for a reason, and it just feels wrong when a single pack of so-called "weaks" takes you out in seconds. In the past, when Bioware made heroic areas, they didn't just make the weak mobs hit harder there, they actually replaced them with silver and gold level enemies so you could see right away that they were tougher.

But would it really help to do that in veteran mode? Not anymore, and that's the problem. Apart from certain named and boss mobs, there's never been much difference between the different mob types in terms of damage output. Mostly they just had different levels of health, but that actually did make them harder because companions were weak and could only keep you alive for so long. If your enemies had more health, the fight could take too long and you were likely to die from attrition as much as anything else. However, since the big companion buff of 4.0, outliving your opponent in a long fight has ceased to be a challenge, because there's little out in the world that your companion can't heal you through anyway. As a result of this, the only way to make things tough again is to make things hit stupidly hard so your companion can't heal you through them, but that also means that it becomes more about things like reflexes, and fumbling your cooldown once can already be enough to get you killed. I miss the slower, more tactical challenge of using the right abilities to disable and kill the enemy before they could do the same to you.

That said, I'm planning to give veteran KotFE a spin as well the next time I play through it. We'll see how that goes.

9 comments :

  1. Compared to what it used to be like, Veteran mode seems to have become far less painful since Master Mode chapters launched. Heck, even some of the fights that were painful in Veteran (the Horizon Guards in VII and walker in VIII) were substantially easier in Master than they were in Veteran for the first time.

    This change is nice; with how some fights used to be it would be so very tedious if Veteran and Master were only ever so slightly different whilst still being a very different world of difficulty compared to Story.

    That's not to say that every fight is almost a non-issue in Veteran now; Chapter II is still an absolute pain but that's based entirely on the design of the fight and very little else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think Veteran mode has been made any easier coding wise (I don't recall reading anything of the likes in patch notes, and I follow them quite closely for CRR), but it is in our perception: now we're doing them with the actual gear it was designed for, rather than heavily undergearing them as we did at launch.

      Delete
    2. I dunno, some of the fights I had trouble with in Veteran were not difficult due to gear issue (damage reduction is one thing, but a small percentage increase wouldn't have made those Horizon Guards as easy as they are now; I don't even need to resort to knocking them off the edge now since face-tanking is actually feasible). Something has definitely happened between then and now.

      Delete
    3. I'm pretty sure full 242 does make a difference. :P

      Delete
    4. That's the thing, though; I haven't done a Chapter in full 242. Last time I did Veteran Mode Chapter VII was immediately after the Master Mode version came out, just to see how it compared seeing how easy the Master Mode Horizon Guards were.

      I was mainly 230/234/236 with only two 242 pieces, and my gear was only slightly better than what I had used in Veteran Mode the first time. Whereas during that first time it took me multiple tries to even lure them to the bridge and kill them it was totally unnecessary this time, since they did legitimately hit far less (70/90k hits > ~40k, if I recall correctly).

      As I say, increased Damage Reduction via gear is one thing, but roughly half the damage as it used to do is something no armour upgrades can do.

      Delete
  2. It's off topic of this post but I just want to say a big THANK YOU for the companion prize. I am really looking forward to hunting with her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll catch a free ride on your off-topicness to say that that was a really cool giveaway.

      +100 Light Side points to Shintar.

      Delete
    2. Aw, I'm touched that people got so excited about this! Especially since it was all inspired by a random late-night box-buying binge.

      Delete