24/09/2018

Shintar the Revanchist

I had to google how to pronounce that and what it even means, and as my pet tank commented, it makes zero sense as a title... but what's important is that you get it as a reward for killing Revan on hard/veteran mode, which my guild finally did this weekend, oh em gee. This wasn't like the Terror from Beyond either, where we had beaten the fight before, just not at the right level. Temple of Sacrifice and Ravagers have never been in a position where you could outlevel them.


Revan is another one of those bosses with whom I have quite a long history. During the Shadow of Revan expansion his hardmode remained out of our reach because we couldn't even beat the encounter leading up to him, the Revanite Commanders. Then everything got retuned with 4.0 and we one-shot them. We didn't immediately proceed to Revan, but I have posts talking about our guild working on the fight from as far back as June of last year. We kind of worked on him on and off again, with another post from March mentioning that we were back at it, before we once again returned to the Terror from Beyond. Once that fell to our combined might, we continued things with Revan where we had left off.

We actually already came very close to beating him several weeks ago or so, but then we just kept messing up on the core phase again and again. When we finally beat him on Sunday it was a fantastic feeling.


Despite of the frustration caused by repeated wiping I also really came to appreciate the fight in a weird way. To be honest I always thought that the story mode version was a bit dull, and in hindsight I think this is because the fight seems to have been conceived as a hardmode first, and then they just removed half the mechanics for story mode, which is why it feels a bit bland. However, on hardmode the encounter is chock full of inventive and interesting mechanics that constantly push the player without being so punishing that you can't recover from small mistakes if everyone knows what they're doing (until the every end that is, where I think things fall down a bit).

As a whole, the fight is a sort of reverse Soa, where instead of fleeing down towards the ground as the Rakata warlord keeps smashing the floor around you, you are on the offensive against Revan, climbing upwards in the infernal machine he intends to use and slowly dismantling it from the inside. When you think about it that's a really cool concept; the ease of story mode just doesn't really do it justice in my opinion.

In terms of mechanics, the hardmode version introduced a whole bunch of cool things that hadn't been seen in game before, and many of which haven't actually been re-used since (as far as I'm aware).

- Debuff bouncing: Essence Corruption, the debuff that Revan keeps handing out in phase one, is the ultimate punishment for damage dealers, because worse than just doing damage to them it reduces their outgoing damage by twenty percent per stack. What really makes it interesting though is that player abilities can't actually remove it; dispelling it only causes it to jump to the person doing the cleansing as well as any other players in close range. Therefore the optimal tactic is for people with the debuff to run out of the group and then have the healers dispel it. The healers accumulate more and more stacks that way (since they are the ones who don't need to do any damage and don't suffer from the damage reduction), until a puddle appears that allows them to cleanse themselves for good.

This makes the whole thing surprisingly strategic, and as someone who's never been a fan of "dispel spam" I actively came to like this phase despite of finding it very challenging at the beginning. I just haven't encountered anything else like it. Even looking back at my WoW days, the only thing I could think of with something roughly comparable would be the Necrotic Plague in the Lich King encounter, though the "debuff jumping" mechanic was used in a different way there.

- Knockbacks as an intended mechanic: Knocking hapless enemies to their deaths has been a fun part of playing The Old Republic since its beginning. Often the game lets you get away with easily disposing of hostiles that way, though there have also been missions that could bug out if you tried to knock the wrong opponent to their death instead of fighting them the "normal" way. Revan however is the only fight I've seen where people utilising their knockbacks isn't just tolerated but clearly intended, namely as a way to deal with the blades. That does mean that you could theoretically build a group that would find the fight impossible - if your ops consisted of nothing but Vanguards, Sentinels and Scoundrels you'd have a problem I guess - but in practice so many of the advanced classes have knockbacks that it works out okay.

- Destructible environment: As mentioned the fight is as much about disassembling the machine as it is about fighting Revan himself, with the final phase being about destroying the machine core. That's somewhat novel by itself, but I thought the most interesting part of it is that during the first phase, tanks are meant to turn their backs towards the pillars surrounding the platform to avoid getting knocked off, which results in those same pillars breaking down. (That said, our tanks could largely cheese that mechanic by resisting the knockback with abilities such as a Vanguard's Hold The Line.)

- Built-in jumping puzzles: Getting from the first to the second floor is extremely straightforward, as it just involves climbing up a set of stairs with two small gaps in them, but in the heat of the moment you'd be surprised how many people still manage to fall through those gaps to their deaths! Getting from the second to the third floor involves a teleport for everyone on story mode, but on hardmode you need to brave a proper jumping puzzle that has you leaping from one rock to the next. To not be too harsh on people who are not good at that, only one person in the group actually needs to complete it, then the rest can use the teleporter like on story mode. Still, you could argue that putting something like a tightly timed jumping puzzle in the middle of a boss fight is a bad idea, but I thought it was novel at least, and the requirement for only a single person to make it gives that one player a chance to really shine.

- Looking the right way: Finally, on the top floor you have to contend with the most novel mechanic of all: aberrations that will knock you off the platform (and whose knockback cannot be resisted) if you don't look at them (as in: turn your character to face them) at the right time. The only comparable thing I've played in an MMO is probably that mission in Secret World in the parking garage in Tokyo, where you have to keep your character facing a bunch of demonic ghost girls as they will advance towards you and kill you if you look away.

This was something that I thought was both a really cool idea and highly frustrating. As there isn't anything else like it in the game, you basically make it to that floor for the first time, go "What?" and then wipe. And then you have no other way of practising the mechanic than by repeating the first seven minutes of the fight over and over, just to practise on the aberrations for a few more seconds, which is very tiresome and demotivating. Kind of gave me flashbacks to WoW's Teron Gorefiend to be honest, and at least someone coded a little flash game back then to allow people to practise that fight outside of the game!

Ultimately I also didn't like the sheer deadliness of the knockbacks. I vaguely recall hearing a talk with a WoW raid designer (I think?) from a long time ago where he said something along the lines of "killing the players is easy" and that's what this made me think of. It's not hard to make a fight difficult by simply making the players deal with a one-shot mechanic every few seconds (as in "do X or die"). The longer this goes on for, the more people will have a chance to screw up, and that's exactly what creates the difficulty of the last phase. The act of turning your character the right way by itself is not tricky (except that you have to remember to avoid certain abilities that might turn you to face something else) but having to do so over and over again while also moving around and fighting or else die instantly is simply exhausting.

All in all, hardmode Revan is an extremely choreographed fight, pretty much the epitome of what people think of when they describe raiding as a form of synchronised dancing, unlike a fight like Tyth, which has a fairly limited number of straightforward mechanics where the challenge lies in their pattern changing ever so slightly every time. Initially I found this somewhat tedious, but over time I actually came to appreciate it for the fact that no matter how badly you do initially, you will get better with repetition.

This was particularly noticeable for me in the first phase with the dispels, which I initially found extremely challenging, desperately trying to make sure I always hit the right person at the right time and never "wasted" a cleanse, which wasn't helped by our melee dps initially also not being that good at moving out quickly if they got the debuff. However, I did get better at my bit over time, they got better at their bit, and by the time we killed the boss that stage had become almost mindless to me, like riding a bike. It was also very noticeable on the second floor, where initially everything seemed extremely overwhelming, what with weaving your way through the aberrations just right while also accounting for the core's pushes and pulls etc. Yet over time it just became second nature, and I could even spare attention for things such as helping to knock off stray blades or adding a bit of dps whenever I knew that use of a group-wide damage reduction cooldown would temporarily lower healing requirements.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I'm really chuffed with this particular achievement, more so than I've been with any boss kill in a long time. All the re-tuning since 4.0 and 5.0 has changed things up a bit, but at least once upon a time this fight was known as the hardest boss encounter in the game. We still have plenty more bosses to kill, but as I jokingly said to another officer today: After successfully beating this fight, it feels to me as if we can take on anything.

10 comments :

  1. Revanchist actually does make more sense for the title than you’re making it out to be. Within the Star Wars universe, it has lore roots as the Revanchist Jedi were the initial followers of Revan during the Mandalorian Wars.

    Admittedly it doesn’t make too much sense as a killing title, but then there aren’t many other titles they could have chosen lore-wise.

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    1. Thanks, that's interesting to know! Though I'm thinking that they always could have gone with a slightly more generic title such as "Revan's Bane" or whatever.

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  2. Congratulations!

    Hudlar

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  3. Congratulations, Shintar!

    The last week i tried the fight the first time myself. I was badly prepared and haven't seen a video or read a guide at all. I just didn't expect to tackle the boss so early on in my new raid-group.

    On the first day the cleansing mechanic was really challenging. My Co-Healer gave me many tipps, and after three trys we got to the second floor...mainly because of my experienced guildmates, who all killed Revan before with other teams.

    Only after 15 wipes and on the second day, we got all the way up to the top. But we wiped twice to the "look the right way" mechanic. Only our Raidlead survived both times.

    I clearly can see us wipe many more times on this mechanic. I just got a glimpse on how hard this fight is.

    And i know how rewarding it is, when -after long and hard work- the desired achievement pops up. So...again...Congratulations! Well done!

    I remember the first time i did Tyrans (DP HC), when i thought the Inferno-Mechanic combined with the disappearing tiles were overwhelming. I got used to it. I really hope, that one day, i can say that about the aberrations in the Revan fight.

    As always...i love your blog. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Hehe, now imagine having to go through that process with only one or two people in your group having done the fight before and you'll see why it took us that long. If all your guildies have already completed the fight, things should go much more quickly, especially as you can actually do the last bit with one healer down. Though as you already observed, having beaten the aberrations phase once is no guarantee that people will get it right the next time... :D

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  4. Congratulations! Glad to hear the fight is interesting in at least one mode, I'm not a fan of story mode. At all.

    About that name.. could also just be a pun on Revan with no further meaning, aren't there several such achievement names at least?

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    1. That's what I figured (that it was just a random pun), but it's a weird word to have floating over your head in any case. Though as a commenter above noted, it does actually have a lore connection as well.

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  5. Hey, congrats! Good to see you so happy about winning that fight!

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