24/01/2018

KotET Chapter 1 Master Mode

Last year I dipped my toes into veteran mode chapters for the first time. (Gosh, has it really been a full year since that fateful encounter with the vine cat?) I did complete both KotFE and KotET eventually but concluded that I probably wasn't going to attempt master mode any time soon, since I wasn't interested in repeating the story on characters that had already done it and none of my alts seemed well-suited to jumping right into the most difficult version of the content available.

However, it has been a year, more returning companions have given me an incentive to take more characters through the "Knights of..." expansions, and good gear for alts is about as easy to come by right now as it's likely ever going to be this expansion cycle, so I thought that I might as well give it a go, once again defying chronological order and starting with KotET instead of KotFE.

Unfortunately, already the first chapter didn't go well at first. I quickly got stuck on my Operative and soon gave up on it, downgrading the difficulty to story just to finish the chapter. Then I tried again on my Scoundrel. I don't know why I expected different results really, since that's essentially the same class, but I guess I figured that having slightly better gear and having completed all the Star Fortresses (which actually gives you some small perks in this chapter) would give me an edge somehow. And it actually did!

So last night I finally managed to complete one chapter, after several hours of fighting and dying and about a million credits in repairs. Ow.


Similar to what happened during my veteran mode experience, I found myself quite annoyed by how few resources there seemed to be about this particular content, even a year later. So I decided that I'm going to write down everything I learned that might help someone else with completing this chapter, and I'm planning to do the same for continuous chapters, assuming that they'll continue to be challenging.

So, where to start?

Like in many veteran mode chapters, get ready to die to trash a lot. At least for most of the first half of this chapter there are usually also some NPCs involved in the fighting, which helps to keep aggro off you. Nonetheless, be prepared to die to sudden (near-)one-shots and to not let this put you off. At least with most trash, you can simply get up again, dust yourself off and just soldier on - whatever you already killed will stay dead, so it's just a matter of slowly whittling away at the enemy's numbers.

The first real road block I encountered was the PA-717 Planetary Assault Goliath a.k.a. the big droid boss you run into early on. In fact, this was actually the fight that gave me by far the most trouble throughout the whole chapter, which made me feel extra bad about being unable to find anyone even talking about having had difficulties with it.

The first issue I ran into was the conal AoE attack that he starts with and which he repeats often. Just something to step out of, right? Sure, but tell that to Lana. And with my Scoundrel being a healer, it was usually Lana who had the aggro! I experimented with different set-ups but no matter what role I set her to, it just didn't work. As dps she would usually get one-shot. As tank she could take a couple of hits, but it was still too much damage, too quickly to keep her alive for longer than a few seconds. With both her and me healing, we could stay alive for a little while but got absolutely nothing done. And trying to manually move her out of the AoE didn't seem viable with how frequently and quickly it got cast.

In the end I did something I'd never done before: I respecced to dps, even though I have zero experience with it as a Scoundrel (unless you count me playing a hybrid spec for a while before Shadow of Revan did away with those). And as it turned out, in this case even bad and clueless dps was better than anything else, because with me on dps and Lana healing, I consistently kept aggro and could make sure to always aim the AoEs away from squishy old Lana.

The next problem I had was the inescapable AoE knockback the droid does every so often. It tended to knock me out of the boss's regular range, at which point he starts spamming instant orbital strikes on you which hurt a lot. Usually he then also yanks you right back, but that's a lot of time you spend sort of incapacitated and getting nuked. I died to this a lot. Until I took note of the little Voss flag next to the boss that is! By running next to it every time he wound up one of his knockbacks, I could just bounce off the flag harmlessly and then get right back into the action.

Finally, there are the mines, which move around and cannot be destroyed from range. Initially I was pinning all my hopes on getting help from "Deadeye" Leyta - if you destroyed the Tatooine Star Fortress before starting the chapter, she helps you out with a snipe ability that can actually destroy mines. However, it only works on one at a time and has a really long cooldown (on master mode anyway, I can't remember what it was like on story mode). I mean, it's still handy to have, but with the sheer amount of mines going around, it's not much more than a drop in the bucket.

In the end I realised that I simply had to take out some of the mines purposefully while hitting a damage reduction cooldown. As a Scoundrel I found my roll very useful for this. This helped me remove the worst offenders while minimising the damage they would cause. I even recorded a video of me finally beating the fight:



Note that it was still far from a perfect run - for example you can see me rolling right past the flag at one point and getting knocked back anyway! But it was good enough, and combined with a bit of luck I actually made it through. Boy, did that feel good.

The next bits of trash were easy enough, and having destroyed the Voss Star Fortress prior to the chapter, I also got free bonus completion from Rokuss. The next real challenge was the defense of the Tower of Prophecy, where I actually found my regular old healing spec pretty useful, as I spent most of the first half of it just healing myself and the NPCs while trying to break line of sight with the constant stream of adds. Since almost all of them were weak, they fortunately died quickly enough to the fire of the NPCs.

The real challenge comes when the three Horizon Guards come in, because all three of them cast an undodgeable thunderous blast that is once again a (near-)one-shot. At first I actually had to laugh at how quickly I died every time they appeared - I usually didn't even have time to do anything, not to mention understand what was going on.

My eventual approach was to immediately dodge behind the ramp leading upstairs as soon as they spawned, to use the way it breaks line of sight to avoid the one-shot - though not without putting down a Bushwhack at the door first, to make sure that I'd gain at least some aggro on the Guards and they wouldn't just immediately go and kill the NPCs instead. This was a bit RNG dependent to be honest. The NPCs would usually kill one of the Horizon Guards quite quickly, but the other two would go after me. Now, if I got unlucky they would both stick to me and then I'd usually die because I couldn't dodge both of their abilities simultaneously. However, as you can once again see in my video of the kill, when things went well, the second Horizon Guard would initially go after me but then turn around and go after the NPCs again, while losing enough time in the process to give the NPCs time to kill him as well. That only left me to deal with the last one, and he was easy enough to kite around a pillar at the back.



You can also see in the video that I was a bit hesitant initially when the last boss came in because I expected him to have thunderous blast too, but he's actually safe to approach and in fact better to nuke quickly while interrupting all his big casts.

Next came walking the walk to the Shrine of Healing and well... you probably won't need a guide for that but it was still pretty tedious. I've died at least once on that section pretty much every time I've done it, regardless of difficulty setting, and master mode cranks that up to eleven. Specifically there are rocket troopers to watch out for (handily marked by giant red arrows over their heads), whose long cast will take off about a third of your walker's health in one go. Oh, and they usually come in packs of four, so you can do the maths. Once you know what to look out for it's not too hard to take them out first, but the first time a set of them spawns you'll probably see your walker get blown to smithereens before you've even realised what's happening.

Also, to add insult to injury, the repair teams are for some reason unable to heal your walker back to full on master mode; they only repair you a little bit. But hey, like with most of the other trash, it's just a matter of attrition. The slow walk back every time I died never felt longer though.

The walker boss at the end also sports rocket trooper adds now but otherwise functions similar to veteran mode. Just keep walking in circles around him and shooting him whenever he's not in an immunity bubble, hit your shield if you happen to get rooted in the big beam, and kill adds as they come... unless the walker is really close to death, then it might be better to just go for a quick final nuke.

The inside of the shrine features some more hard-hitting trash mobs... /yawn. And I've got nothing on how to fight Senya because light side all the way, baby.

I hope that this will help some people at least, and if you have any tips of your own to share, feel free to do so in the comments. There just doesn't seem to be that much interest in these master mode chapters beyond farming a select few easy ones for CXP, considering that nobody seems to have written a comprehensive guide about them to this day.

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