13/11/2019

Teenage Mutant Ninja Kephesses

The new operation that came with Onslaught is SWTOR's first multi-boss raid to be released in full since late 2014. In the intervening years we got Gods from the Machine, which was released over the course of more or less a full year, one boss at a time. While I do like Gods, I think it did suffer somewhat from this piecemeal approach, at the very least in the narrative department, as no other operation is so confusing and confused in terms of what's actually going on beyond us taking out some big baddies one at a time.

With the Dxun operation - which does have a proper name, incidentally... I think it's Nature of Progress? However, nobody actually calls it that, and even the one-time story mission just tells you to "complete the Dxun operation". With the Dxun operation, Bioware's team shows us once again what they're capable of when they actually get to put a whole operation together in one go, and it's great.


They originally said that they were going for something similar to Ravagers, and I wrinkled my nose a bit since that's not one of my favourite operations, but I can see why they made that comparison. It also reminds me a bit of Scum and Villainy though, in the sense that there is a clear narrative progression from one boss to the next and you're not just entering some random lair full of monsters.

What really stands out though is how utterly hilarious it is. The basic story is that Czerka Interstellar - totally different from Czerka, honest - lost control of their research facility on Onderon's moon after an incursion by Trandoshans, and as usual this upsetting of the status quo has revealed that they've been up to all kinds of shenanigans.

During your journey to reclaim the facility you get constant running commentary from your "assistants" from Czerka, who are radioing you instructions about how to get past various obstacles, and their dialogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious. "The most important device in the entire facility routinely catches fire?!" became quote-worthy to me pretty much instantly. (It's over the top, but if you've ever worked in a certain kind of office, it may also sound scarily familiar...)


Now this is isn't entirely without issues, as I saw @DrSWTOR highlight on Twitter during PTS testing...
As I said in response to him then, I very much had an issue with this in Ravagers back in the day, where a big story twist happens in the middle of the final fight which I completely missed the first time around, leading to me being quite confused. I don't think it's as much of a problem in Dxun though, as the dialogue there consists more of jokes and tips about how to beat the fight, so if you miss some the first time around it's okay if you simply catch them next time (and the opportunity to catch jokes you missed before can in fact increase replayability).

The boss fights offer a nice variety of new mechanics compared to previous operations, without anything feeling completely strange and out of left field. For example the very first boss is somewhat reminiscent of the Enhanced Vrblther from Czerka Core Meltdown, in that you have to drag her around and pop little plants near her, though in Dxun their purpose is to reduce damage on you rather than to increase damage done to the boss. You also have a much larger area to move around in.


The second and third fight are gauntlet type encounters that force you to fight your way through a stream of unending adds, something that isn't exactly new and innovative for the genre but hasn't really been featured in SWTOR before.

The fourth fight was a source of much hilarity for my guild. We went into story mode completely blind, wanting to figure things out on the go. When we saw two mutant Trandoshans in colourful body armour standing in an underground lab, someone quipped that we only needed two more and we'd have our own set of ninja turtles, and what do you know, shortly after the pull two more of the reptiles joined in and it was a hoot. Even better was the actual lightbulb moment when we finally figured out what we were supposed to do to beat the fight. I managed to catch that one and the kill that followed on video.



It might not be as funny to others watching after the fact (maybe it was one of those things for which you just had to be there), but for us it was a right laugh. The end of the video also shows us running into a bit where the devs clearly decided to troll us raiders a little by making us climb a huge staircase that debuffed our characters with fatigue, causing us to go more and more slowly over time. We joked that on hardmode it would have holes and on nightmare they would be invisible (a reference to the infamous bridge on Darvannis).

There was one more encounter featuring some interesting mechanics and a little surprise that I won't spoil here for anyone who hasn't seen the fight. The final boss is the only thing I'm not so sure about, mostly because he took us more than ten minutes to kill even on story mode, which struck me as a little insane (then again, maybe we are still doing something wrong). It's also a slightly odd fight in that there is very little to do for most members of the ops group, except for the tank repositioning the boss every so often, and one guy having the unenviable task of running around the room activating various doodads at the right time to counter certain of the boss's abilities. I don't usually mind if a fight has a special job that you can give to one of your "star players" who then carries the rest of the group a bit, but in this case the contrast between what that one person has to do and what everyone else has to do is very stark, plus as I mentioned the fight just goes on a bit too long for my liking.


This does sort of segue into the aspects of the operation that are less good, of which I don't have many right now, but they are still worth mentioning:

First off, the new system of story mode lockouts resetting every day was a major pain in the butt during the first week as our blind approach meant that we weren't clearing the whole ops in a single night but had to start over from scratch every evening.

Also, the last boss launched with a bug that made him unkillable for anyone but a handful of world first teams as one of the doodads intended to counter his abilities wasn't working. That bug has since been fixed, but it was still annoying for the operation to launch in an unclearable state, even more so after we had (re-)cleared everything else three nights in a row just to get to the last boss... and then find him bugged.

Finally, effort vs. reward for doing the operation don't feel very well balanced right now. Each boss drops something like two pieces of gear, compared to the dozens you can get from a single flashpoint run, and I don't recall seeing a single set piece or tactical drop yet, despite of certain items being advertised as having a higher chance of dropping in this operation. I mean, we're still going to run it for the challenge and for fun, but it would be nice to get a little bit more reward out of it.

I'm also once again somewhat unsure about the difficulty tuning. Story mode is no Gods of the Machine for sure (thankfully!), but fights like the two gauntlet bosses still require an amount of co-ordination that I wouldn't expect to find in your average pug. This strikes me as a shame as it once again means that the content will remain inaccessible to many more casual players even on what's supposed to be the easiest difficulty, which is particularly sad considering what a fun operation this is.


Hardmode seems good fun as well so far, as after two nights we've beaten the first two encounters and made some progress on the third. This does feel more in line with the sort of hardmodes we used to get in the game's earlier operations rather than the "hardmare" that we've been treated to in more recent years (and which I personally tended to find rather off-putting).

Anyway, it's nice to see Bioware throw SWTOR's raiders a bone again, and such a tasty one at that. It's not a game about raiding, but for at least a percentage of us raiding is still one of our favourite pastimes between story updates and it's good to see ops players get some love again after the long and dry years of KotFE and early KotET.

11 comments :

  1. The majority I've read about this expansion has been positive, and that theres new content for most every playstyle certainly should be seen as good news.

    Now to find the time to commit to an MMO...

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    1. It does seem excellent so far. I mean, you can never please everybody (the most negative review I've seen so far basically seemed to expect the game to be nothing but their personal Lana Beniko dating simulator, which of course it isn't), but they really got so much right in this expansion. You can tell that Bioware has refocused on giving their core player base more of what they like instead of chasing new audiences with experimental features.

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  2. Oooh, I haven't even cleared SM Gods yet! I'm so far behind (I did Queen recently, just SM as well... Honestly, it can be very hard being a totally different timezone than the rest of your guild), last I played Gods, Izax hadn't been released -- that's to tell you how long it's been. People in guild are planning a 16 man Dxum on saturday afternoon - and I'm going to try as hard as I can to get myself awake and available to play through the early hours of the morning (lol) - in spite of the fact that I don't even know if I'll have a chair in my new house (or: this is why I need a chair, any chair, asap)

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    1. Ah well, Izax has "only" been out for one and a half years, you haven't been doing too badly. ;) Good luck with getting up early for that raid spot; I think the new op is definitely worth seeing.

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    2. What, really? Hahahaha
      Idk, it's complicated - I did quit the game January after 5.0 dropped (too much work, not enough reward, crazy crazyness exploding on my (IMP, I should say) guild and worst of all, anything in gaming seemed to trigger my morning-turned-motion-sickness. Not fun, let me assure you!). I briefly returned in 2017/2018 year beginning and then ended up dropping it again because I couldn't find time to play with home + work + baby + teenager (I think some of my oldest comments here are from about that time). I did check every story update, but I didn't really play regularly, and I'm too conscious to let people carry me through stuff I don't know what's going on, so I just didn't. And then - by late 2018 I knew I was moving here, so while I did play some, I didn't have the time or energy I needed to put in stuff outside paperwork and transatlantic moving. Now I'm starting to make a point of making time, or I'll just succumb and become a Desperate Housewife hahahaa

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    3. Real life can be exhausting sometimes. :) I hope things are looking up for you!

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  3. What sort of item level do you need for the new operations in story mode? Can you just do them whenever, or do you need to get to 306?

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    1. You definitely don't need to be 306, but I'm not sure what a good average would be as my guild went in with quite a mix of gear levels. Generally we did find while gearing up that a climb of nearly 40 item levels made a fairly large difference to everyone's output and survivability.

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  4. Sounds cool, good to know that they're still capable of delivering such content.

    If not for the raid nights I'd quit the game much sooner than I did for sure. Asation as a whole and parts of Denova and Darvannis still rank among the top of my MMO group-experiences.

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  5. didnt see anything in here about the huntmaster encounter. anyone care to share strategies or experiences...currently stuck on the sm version

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    1. Yeah, that's the one I said had a surprise at the end that I didn't want to spoil.

      General tactics however are as follows:

      - When the white flare is up, stay inside it and nuke the boss, only running out to drop the fire circle outside the group. Ignore adds, they'll just prowl around you.
      - When the flare disappears, tanks have to make sure to pick up all the adds so they don't eat dps and healers.
      - Make sure to stay out of the way of the reek, so it can knock the boss out from behind his shield, then kill the reek.
      - When the boss reappears by the lake and casts attractor flare, try to kill as many adds as you can to prevent them from running to him (though he will gets buffs from killing a lot of them anyway). Don't enter the circle. Gunslingers can just about do some dps on the boss from outside it.
      - Rinse and repeat, final phase is just a manic burn.

      If there's anything specific you are having problems with, do let me know and I'll do my best to give advice!

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