04/07/2022

Galactic Season 2 Complete on Tulak Hord

On Tulak Hord I had to spend a bit more (virtual) money to achieve season completion, shelling out 31 million credits for levels 82 to 93, but it still could've been much worse.

What made playing on both Tulak Hord and Leviathan particularly interesting to me during this project was the fact that I didn't have any characters on them before, meaning that I literally had to start from scratch - and of course they are both non-English servers.

For those not in the know, German is actually my first language, so Tulak Hord was still relatively safe territory for me. I say "relatively" because I've never played with the game's German client, and the thing with gaming terms is that their translations don't tend to be entirely intuitive, so you have to learn them by rote and can't just come up with your own translations on the fly without looking like a bit of a weirdo. As an example, you'd have to be quite lucky to guess that a Guardian becomes "ein Hüter" in German but a Juggernaut stays a Juggernaut, using the English word.

Fortunately I never really found myself in a situation where detailed discussion of things like classes was necessary, plus German-speakers have a pretty positive attitude towards English in general. I saw some people type English comments into chat in warzones and the like, and they seemed to be accepted and understood. I was also surprised by how many guild names I saw that were in English... because it "sounds cooler" I guess.

Undoubtedly the most fun aspect of playing on Tulak Hord for me was wallowing in nostalgia, as the character I made was created as a perfect clone of my Commando main, so I got to pretend that it was 2011 all over again (even if the game was quite different then and I wasn't levelling on my own at launch). I had fun wearing similar levelling outfits (the trooper levelling armour sets are great, honestly) and doing all the quests... until things went somewhat off the rails on early Taris because I had levelled up enough to engage with things like reputations and dailies and those became my focus instead of actual class story progress because it was more beneficial for increasing my season level.

Still, experience kept coming in - despite of the annoying bug that kicked in at some point and prevented characters from gaining their rested XP bonus while logged off - so that my completely fresh Commando finished Season 2 at level 67. Not bad, if I may say so myself. Whenever Season 3 rolls around, I'll be in a much better starting position now if I want to complete it on multiple servers again.

Oh, and you may or may not remember that I ended up helping to form a guild that soon ended up being abandoned by everyone but the original GM. At some point he stopped logging in too, and I fully expected to eventually inherit leadership, at which point I was planning to just disband the whole thing (no need to have a dead guild with virtually no progression take up a name)... but the GM had apparently just been taking a break and eventually reappeared. In fact, we chatted a bit and I helped him out by inviting all his alts to the guild. So I guess it's just gonna be his personal guild now. Also fine by me.

02/07/2022

Galactic Season 2 Complete on Satele Shan

Satele Shan was my second most progressed server after Star Forge in my belated "complete Season 2 on all the servers" project, but I knew I'd have to buy out at least a few levels to be able to finish in time. Since you can't buy out the last five levels with credits, I also had to do this before doing all my weeklies in the last week of the season.

After doing a bit of maths I eventually settled on buying my way from level 87 to 93, a step that only cost me 7.5 million credits - much less than I expected having to spend at the start. This left me a bit of wiggle room to reach level 100 easily by completing a few weeklies, without necessarily needing to capitalise on every single source of points available.

My season progress on this server was mainly carried by my Shadow Zilek, who was in his thirties when I started this project and finished at level 66, though with very little progress made on his class story. A general theme with my efforts to complete the season was that as long as all my characters were low-level, just questing along was one of my better sources of Conquest points for the daily objective, but past level 50 it was just more efficient to rely on reputations and companion influence for quick daily completion and to otherwise focus on the weeklies, which rarely meshed well with doing story content.

Still, having a stealther as my "season main" was a noticeable advantage compared to the other servers, as was very much in evidence this last week for example, when one of the objectives was to do the Black Hole weekly twice. This was quite a slog on most of my rather underpowered characters that did it, especially the heroic, but Zilek could just stealth past all but the couple of mobs directly required for the objective, making it a quick in-and-out operation.

In terms of experiencing what life is like on different servers, Satele Shan was a bit of a nothing sandwich for me to be honest. It's supposed to be the US west coast server (despite of no longer being labelled as such), but to me as a European either coast is just a different time zone from me, and I still ran into other players regardless of when I played. What little time I spent in group content such as veteran mode flashpoints and warzones didn't really feel noticeably different from the way I'd seen things go down on Darth Malgus or Star Forge. I still suspect that there are some cultural differences to be observed between the different English-speaking servers, but they may be too subtle to notice without spending more time there, reading general chat during prime time etc.

I mentioned in a previous post that I accepted a random guild invite on my Shadow. In fact, my lower-level Guardian also ended up in the guild shortly afterwards, simply because the recruiter was so zealous in whispering unguilded people that he also "caught" me while I was playing my alt and I was like: "Sure, I already have my main in your guild, why not?"

Since the guild seemed quite active, I eventually gave in and joined their Discord and Guilded site to have a bit of a look around. The thing that stood out to me was how convoluted the system to go up in guild ranks was, requiring attendance of dedicated guild events as well as proving certain in-game milestones such as class story progression, crew skill levelling etc. via screenshots. I didn't bother with any of that myself but found myself wondering how many players would engage with that system, considering that it's been my personal experience that it can be very hard to get people in a guild to do anything at all, never mind submitting receipts every step of the way.

Beyond having a look around and doing my Conquest I didn't really interact with the guild in any meaningful way, mainly because of time zones. Leadership was pinging @everyone pretty much twice a day about some event or other (though they've recently switched to @here, thankfully), but the events were always taking place at 2 a.m. my time or something silly, so I couldn't really have attended even just to sate my curiosity. I expect that now that my objective for Season 2 is complete, my focus will move back to Darth Malgus and I'll eventually be removed for inactivity.

30/06/2022

The Obi-Wan Show

I'm back from holiday and while away I managed to finish the last episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Do I have to specify that I'm talking about season one? There currently don't seem to be any plans for a season two and I don't think we need one either; the way it ended was fine.

Teaser art from starwars.com

In a nutshell, it was an enjoyable little series. It didn't blow me away, but I had a good time with every episode. There were occasional moments of "ehh, I'm not sure about that" where things felt a little awkward or didn't entirely make sense to me, but like in The Mandalorian, I was sufficiently invested in the overall narrative to give these small issues a pass.

After Book of Boba Fett it was particularly nice to see a Star Wars production give its main protagonist room to breathe and time to show character development again. I guess the producers didn't have much of a choice to do anything else in this case, considering that Obi-Wan Kenobi is about a major character's life between two of the franchise's main films and he's supposed to have lived a hermit's life during most of that time, so we effectively knew the story's end point: that he wasn't going to get up to anything too attention-grabbing and that neither Obi-Wan nor Vader were going to die. The question was how certain relationships got to where they were in A New Hope, and this show actually did some interesting work with that which seemed to mesh well enough with existing canon.

That said, I've got to admit I'm starting to experience a certain amount of fatigue with all this Star Wars content coming out so rapidly and how it all seems to focus on the same era and characters. There do seem to be some signs of Disney wanting to diversify into different eras and genres, but we'll see how well that goes.

16/06/2022

Galactic Season 2 Complete on Star Forge

Two down, three to go! I'm honestly quite proud of finishing Galactic Season 2 on Star Forge after first doing so on Darth Malgus. It's one thing to split your time to make progress on multiple servers simultaneously, but I'd hardly done anything anywhere else yet when I finished up on Darth Malgus, so I basically completed the season twice, without using any of the buyout options, almost consecutively. I wasn't actually sure there was enough time for that in the season.

As previously established, I currently have three characters on Star Forge: my Cathar Commando, who was my first max-level character not on my main server (several expansions ago though), a Gunslinger and my new Shadow knight created after the combat styles update. Unlike in Season 1, when conscious use of low-level characters could actually be beneficial and give you easier objectives, this season was definitely all about the higher-level characters, and as such Cathar Shintar undoubtedly did most of the heavy lifting and is the reason I managed to complete the season on Star Forge before any of the other servers, even though I started paying attention to them around the same time.


I did play my alts on Star Forge a bit when it was convenient, such as when there was an objective to complete a certain number of missions as a specific origin story, but my "main" in this context definitely earned her position, from running featured flashpoints to doing dailies. In the process, she hit the new level cap, completed the level 80 implant quest and earned enough tech fragments to buy her first legendary implant - hardly an amazing achievement, but not bad as a mere "side effect" of doing seasons objectives.

Another benefit of this is that I'll now be able to join friends for easy endgame content on Star Forge if an opportunity arises, as I know a number of friendly content creators who have their home on that server. (Intisar for example sent me some ship parts to improve my space combat experience after I talked on Twitter about having done one too many Fondor escorts recently, the on-rails space mission for complete beginners.)

As for the other servers, I already know I won't be able to reach level 100 there without using the buyout option for at least a few levels. Bioware helpfully put out a post detailing all the objectives for the last few weeks of Season 2, making it easy to plan ahead. I'll completely miss out on week 19 due to being AFK in real life, which means that I'll have exactly one week left after my return to earn some final points. While it'll be a good week with many easy objectives, a bit of maths tells me that even if I earned the maximum amount of points for that week, I'd still end up 6-18 levels short on the other servers.

I've also been told that you can't buy out the last five levels or so with credits, so I'll just have to make sure to do my credit buyouts immediately upon my return and then just do a few more weekly objectives on each server to cap. What a ride!

11/06/2022

Looking Forward to 7.1

I'm in a bit of a funny place with SWTOR at the moment. I was rather disappointed with the expansion launch after Bioware had splurged on our first CGI trailer since KotET and had previously alluded to Legacy of the Sith containing "LotS" of content. Unlike others, I didn't really have any major issues with what was there, but I didn't like that half of the intended launch content was effectively cut out and postponed until later.

This was almost four months ago now, and we still don't have a launch date for 7.1, just a vague target of "mid-summer". If I were to bet on it, my money would be on the 5th of July, because that's when Galactic Season 2 ends; and the datamined schedule for the ops rotation that someone posted in our guild's Discord a few months ago also cuts off the week before. Bioware better have some kind of plan to drop an update around then, because if not we'll just end up with awkward bugs again if nobody remembers to update the schedule for certain events. I also think that around then would be a good time to reactivate Nar Shaddaa Nightlife to be honest...

Despite of the objective lack of content, I've been keeping pretty busy in game. The new gearing system is neither significantly better nor worse than 6.0's was (in my opinion) but it was different and something to do. I still haven't crafted a single gold augment because I keep spending all my tech fragments on implants for my alts and could probably keep doing so forever, but in my experience diminishing returns set in after a while when it comes to the fun of gearing alts.

Running ops with my guild has been enjoyable - we currently have three different progression teams, something I'm not sure we ever managed before, and it's been decent fun so far, but the brutal tuning of the legacy content and newly introduced class imbalances are starting to take their toll. We're basically scrambling to find master mode bosses that are realistically within our reach with the people and gear that we have, just to pass the time until the launch of the new operation.

I've been making some story progress on alts too, though I soon fell into familiar patterns in the sense that I pick up an alt and go "hey, I'd forgotten how fun this is to replay, I should do this more often", but then I get another alt into the exact same content and kinda go "ok, it's too soon to do this again right now" and then I become a bit aimless.

Galactic Season 2 has been super fun and as I wrote before, working towards the goal to complete it on all servers has been quite demanding and takes up a lot of my play time right now. Sadly my progress would be kind of disjointed and not very exciting to write about, what with the constant starting and stopping on different servers, and doing the exact same weekly objectives four times over. I do plan to do a sort of summary post about my experiences on each server at the end, and I'm excited to say that I can see the light of the tunnel on Star Forge at least, where my Season level is up into the nineties.

How are you passing the time if you're still playing right now? Or are you taking a break until the new content drops?

03/06/2022

Imperial Saboteur, Part 2

Continued from part 1!

I completed the rest of the Onslaught base story on my saboteur agent and there were some interesting things to see. However, first I'd like to note that I also did a round of dailies on Onderon and was quite surprised when I realised that one of the daily missions has a cut scene with a different outcome if you're a saboteur! It's the one that tells you to hunt down a Republic assassin, and to be honest I always wondered why the end of that took place in a phase, considering that you just kill him (usually). However, if you're a saboteur, you get to talk instead of attacking straight away and you have the option to distract the guards to help him escape! How cool is that? Now if only the quest giver had remembered that King Petryph wasn't alive in my playthrough anymore...

As for Mek-sha and beyond: There are a couple of opportunities to randomly be nice to people aligned with the Republic, which generally didn't strike me as a wise thing to do in public, not to mention unlikely to actually achieve anything, so I didn't always choose those options, except to try out the concept on Tau, to whom my character said something like: "You have nothing to fear from me, Jedi". I think her reply was something along the lines of: "We'll see about that".

When you infiltrate Junker Jott's base to steal the schematics for the failsafe, you can intentionally leave evidence of what happened, which results in Anri's diversion at the end being less successful. At least I think that's how these two things were connected... it wasn't entirely clear to me what Anri's diversion being less successful actually meant in practice.

I didn't get to find out because I chose to commit maximum sabotage again by simply not triggering the failsafe and pretending that it just didn't work.

Darth Malgus doesn't go ballistic on Darth Shaar during the debrief at the end the way he did on Savik, so I chose to actively throw her under the bus by saying that her whole plan was bad when Malgus asked me about what I thought went wrong. It was fun to see Shaar get pretty mad about that, though Emperor Vowrawn downplays the whole thing when you talk to him later.

I already felt that my sabotage on Onderon was pretty suspicious, but having a second mission in a row fail in the exact same way - because I mysteriously couldn't press the right button when left in a room on my own - made things even worse, so I was pleased to see that at least Darth Malgus seemed to agree. He sent me a pretty angry letter afterwards in which he asks: "How is it that you, who have accomplished so much, display such incompetence?" Good question, Malgus; very good question.

In the run-up to the attack on Corellia, you can try to sabotage Krovos' proposal to bomb civilians on the other side of the planet by suggesting that she's hiding something, but it doesn't work. (Good on you, Krovos.)

During the actual attack on Corellia, you see the consequences of your sabotage on Onderon and Mek-sha, as the Imperial fleet struggles and several ships get blown up before your strike team can make it to the surface, which I thought was another neat difference compared to the very successful assault that loyalists get to experience.

The Objective Meridian flashpoint goes the same as always, with Malgus being back to talking nice to you. It struck me as kind of amusing that the ending with you escaping without displaying any concern for your fallen companion - something that always struck me as a bit weird - is something that actually makes sense for a saboteur. I mean, Malgus was obviously on to me, so good riddance to him!

At the end of the flashpoint you do actually get to choose again whether to do what the Empire wants or make the whole mission a failure. I did the latter, though this also made it the third time in a row that I mysteriously failed to press the right button when left to my own devices so I don't know how the Empire can continue to put any faith in me at this point.

Jonas Balkar actually gave my agent a holo call right in front of some Imperial guards just before I was about to meet the Dark Council and nobody batted an eyelid. You can chide him for calling you at a bad time and he responds that calling during the actual meeting would have been worse. That's a false choice, Jonas, and you know it!

Watching the Dark Council play blame games with each other about who was responsible for the mission failure was admittedly quite amusing, though it's once again surprising that the finger doesn't get pointed at your character more directly. One thing of note was that while Vowrawn talks about reinstating the Hand, he didn't ask me to return the Alliance to the Empire as a whole - though Lana kept making comments later as if he had.

In the chat on the fleet afterwards, Theron is actually very angry that so many civilians died on Corellia and questions the point of being a saboteur if we can't do more to prevent this kind of stuff. In the in-person debrief with Jonas later, you can also ask whether you can join the Republic properly now, and he's kind of evasive about it and says that you're more useful continuing to be an undercover agent - I can't say I'm entirely convinced by that argument. He does introduce you to Master Sal-Deron via holo, however.

I also had a note here saying ,"Why does Anri still admire me so much?" because she only met me on Ossus and I've done nothing but mess things up for the Empire since then. I guess she might still have been impressed by my character's prowess in combat.

All in all, Onslaught has some pretty interesting content variations for saboteurs - in fact, I found out while doing some reading up on the subject that there's an additional variant if you agree to become a saboteur at the beginning but then always choose not to sabotage at the crucial moments, making you a sort of triple agent... oh god, does that mean I need to take another character through this to see that dialogue?

I also have to say that your character's not really a very convincing saboteur here and I don't think it's great storytelling for the most part, as your repeat failures are just too obvious - you kind of have to tune out any concerns about realism at that point, and just agree to roll with it for the fun of seeing how much the game will let your character get away with while still praising you for how amazing you are. The question is whether that will actually end up going anywhere.

29/05/2022

A Season for Everything

I mentioned over a month ago that after completing Season 2 on my main server Darth Malgus, I started engaging with the whole season concept on other servers. What started with making characters just to log in and score free points, gradually progressed into actually playing them regularly and has now become a personal obsession of mine. Last week I actually completed all daily objectives plus the maximum amount of weekly objectives on all servers.

Truth be told, it's becoming a bit stressful to keep up with, which is kind of ironic, because one feedback I had about Season 1 was that while it was kind of fun, it was also a bit much to keep up with all the daily and weekly objectives next to my "normal" gameplay and I definitely felt like I needed a break after three months of that. I greatly welcomed the changes introduced with Season 2 and how they eased the pressure to play in a very specific way every single day.

However, I guess in a way it ended up being almost too easy for me, which led to the notion that making some additional progress on other servers might be a nice challenge. In this roundabout way I've taken myself almost back to where I was in Season 1, where trying to keep up with my objectives every day was actually a bit much. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

It is fun though. It's been enjoyable to revisit some low-level content that I haven't played through in a while, and playing on Leviathan and Tulak Hord in specific quickly highlighted how many of the weekly objectives expect you to have a higher-level character or else you can't even access the relevant content. Because of this, hitting level fifty on my characters there has felt like a huge milestone, as that's where you unlock access to the reputation objective which is good for earning a huge chunk of Conquest points quickly, and it's also when you're first able to access some sort of endgame content, since level fifty was the game's level cap at launch (those were the days, am I right).

When I first started investing into seasons progress on other servers I said that "I won't get close to completing the season on any of these servers", but at my current rate, reaching the end of the track doesn't actually seem completely out of reach anymore. On Star Forge in specific I might actually get there naturally (since I had a high-level character there from the beginning, my progress was faster than on the other servers), but even on the others it doesn't seem completely unfeasible that I might be able to get close, and buying out a few levels with credits could do the rest.

Now, the credit buyouts get stupidly expensive very quickly, and I don't have a lot of money on any of these servers, but as noted previously, the Cartel Market effectively allows access to a lot of credits quickly if you know what to buy for re-selling. It's not something I felt comfortable doing in order to buy gold augments, but financing a few levels of season buyout is a different matter - you can do that by using Cartel Coins directly anyway; buying and selling Cartel Market items in order to then go the credit route just makes it a lot cheaper in terms of real money value.

A few weeks ago a guildie highlighted that the black/black dye module was the daily Cartel Market deal of the day, which meant that it was on sale for half price (500 CC), and noted that this item is something that both sells well and is valued at up to a billion credits. So I took that opportunity to buy one module on each server, and assuming that I can sell them, even if it's for less than a billion, that should finance any amount of credit buyout I want to invest in, and without spending the thousands of Cartel Coins the direct buyout would require.

At the time of writing this, there are 36 days left until the end of Season 2, and my progress looks as follows:

  • Star Forge: season level 73
  • Satele Shan: season level 60
  • Tulak Hord: season level 53
  • Leviathan: season level 51

I know I'll miss some days at the end of June as I'm going on holiday for a bit, but with the credit buyout serving as a backup plan I'm not too worried about that causing any issues. Fingers crossed!

26/05/2022

PvP Ups and Downs

I stayed up late this past weekend, running warzones on the US servers for the weekly season objective, and as the hours went by, I found myself getting quite philosophical about my PvP experience.

In terms of gameplay, SWTOR's unranked warzones are the most fun PvP I've had in any MMO I've played. Even with the annoying desync issues on certain maps, the way abilities work allows for a lot of fun combos. Balance isn't perfect (is it ever?), but it's good enough most days, and matches are set to last just about the right amount of time. The map variety is great and provides an interesting selection of objectives.

However, by its very nature, PvP also promotes a certain amount of friction, and it doesn't take much to tip the balance in that area to the point where things start to feel bad. People shouting insults at each other over who's responsible for the team losing. Bad matchmaking making you feel like you never had a chance. Just... generally annoying situations like that one guy from the enemy team deciding to pick on you all match.

I think that in general, I have a pretty good temperament for PvP because I'm usually not quick to anger. I'm not going to pretend that I don't experience moments of annoyance, but compared to some of the types of characters I regularly encounter in PvP, it takes quite a lot for my mood to turn sour. And even at my worst moments, I've learned long ago to not let outbursts of anger control what my fingers do to my keyboard. I might shout at my screen in frustration, but never at my team mates. That kind of thing just never helps anyone.

However, in recent months it has sometimes felt to me like my mood was tilting towards the negative in PvP more quickly than before, like it took less to make me feel bad and I generally wasn't getting as much enjoyment out of the game mode as I used to. I was starting to wonder what I ever saw in it.

And then this weekend came along and it was glorious. My win-loss ratio wasn't so bad, but more than anything I had some of those moments that remind me of why I do love PvP in this game. There are certain moments, usually when I find myself in a tight spot, where time slows down, the adrenaline starts pumping, and I'm completely immersed in the game in a way that's hard to achieve even in the most intriguing story update or challenging operations fight. In those moments I see my character almost like the protagonist of a movie, with key moves happening in slow motion.

My Commando healer backed against a wall of the southern bunker in Novare Coast, fighting a losing fight, until she's finally the last woman standing and all guns turn on her... when I hear a Juggernaut's roar from behind me, a Guard bubble surrounds me, and my freshly respawned team mates descend upon the enemy like the Rohirrim on the orcs in Helm's Deep.


Me running along the bottom ramp in Huttball and making it about halfway across the pit, when the enemy team finally notices me and comes for me. I know I don't have the cooldowns to continue and survive the final stretch, so I desperately look around for someone to pass to - I throw the ball just before an enemy has a chance to stun and push me, and a Sentinel gracefully hits Transendence and speeds into my target circle in time to catch the ball and whisk it over the finish line.


My lowbie Guardian in an only partially filled arena match on Tatooine, two of us vs. three of them. Somehow we manage to get the upper hand anyway and whittle down two of them before my partner dies, and then it's just me vs. a Marauder. He manages to run out of sight and get out of combat, so I quickly heal myself up (knowing that he's doing the same) before we meet again in the middle of the arena. Sabers clash, he runs and I chase, we both chain cooldowns and go down at a roughly equal rate, I can feel my blood pumping - and then I land the killing blow and we win. (When the same Marauder ended up on my team in a follow-up match, he congratulated me on the good fight, and we enjoyed kicking ass against a common enemy this time around.)

Yeah, this is what I'm talking about.

22/05/2022

SWTOR's Endgame Is Alts, Not Gear

It's been a while since I ran into a piece of content about SWTOR that inspired me to write a direct response to it, but yesterday morning I found a video called "SWTOR Endgame... Why Has EA Let This Happen?" in my YouTube recommendations.

It's by Bellular, who I believe is best known for making videos with clickbaity thumbnails about WoW and other MMOs. The actual content of the videos tends to be much more mundane than the title suggests, and this was the case here too, as I think a more accurate summary of the twenty-minute video would be something along the lines of: "I tried SWTOR's endgame and found it quite disappointing". He does mention that he thinks EA doesn't seem to be supporting the game enough, which is where the title comes in, but that's only really a small part of the video.

Clickbaity titles aside, I think it's a solid piece of content and I don't really have any major criticisms of it. He's not wrong when he points out that keeping players busy at max-level mostly seems to revolve around running the same old content over and over, and I was honestly quite happy to hear someone else point out how crappy GSF is at communicating to players what's happening to their ships in combat, something I also wrote about a few years ago.

I did however take some issue with his conclusion that SWTOR wasn't really suitable for being someone's "main" MMO, seemingly based on the unspoken premise that engaging with an MMO in-depth must mean focusing on a single character, doing some sort of max-level grind, and expecting a steady stream of more of the same so that your single character's progression rarely comes to a halt. I'm not saying I wouldn't love for Bioware to be able to put out more content faster, nor that I think people are wrong if that's how they like to play. In fact, if you're the kind of person who really does just want to focus on a single character and who thinks that the real game starts at the level cap, I fully agree that SWTOR probably isn't for you.

Because SWTOR is and has always been a game about alts. It launched with eight unique class stories, and you better believe that the devs didn't intend for you to only play one of them! Playing alts in SWTOR isn't some kind of side activity that you engage in when you've hit a bit of a lull with the "main" game - it is the game!

I thought it was very telling early on in Bellular's video when he talks about being a bit put off by what he saw at max-level and says: "I'd rather do another origin story, one I haven't done before... but that wouldn't be too fair." I'm not sure how playing the content that seems like the most fun to you, the content that the game is focused on making interesting, wouldn't be "fair". I guess because he considered levelling an alt a lesser form of gameplay? Or thought that you can't compare different ways of keeping busy in different MMOs to each other?

I know we've just had a new expansion (for better or worse) that raised the level cap and gave us new gear to grind for - and yes, that is an activity that exists and that people engage in. However, I think it's important to understand that this isn't SWTOR's "real" endgame. Throughout Onslaught, we stayed at the same item level of gear for more than two years! Improving your gear is something to work on for a few weeks or months throughout the entirety of an expansion, but then you're done with that and it isn't the main gameplay for people who consider SWTOR their main MMO.

I think it's safe to say that most people who consider SWTOR their online home level alts, and not just a few of them. Most long-time players I know have literally dozens of different characters. And when new story content gets added to the game, it's not necessarily just a matter of seeing it once, but of taking all your alts through it to see a number of different variations. And again, I get that this isn't for everyone, but in the same vein grinding out a completely new set of gear every few months isn't for everyone either. (I sure don't have the stomach for that anymore personally.)

Fittingly, the same day I saw the Bellular video and started writing this post, I ended up watching a video by Swtorista called "All My SWTOR Characters", in which she introduces viewers to her entire alt stable on Star Forge (presumably she has even more characters on other servers). It's nearly an hour long, so that should give you an idea! I really loved it though, and not just because it was interesting and funny, but also because I saw a lot of similarities to the way my own alts are organised: There are the mains who have a backstory, have seen lots of play time and have lots of different outfits; the also-rans where there's not as much going on, but there's usually still some kind of story attached to each one, whether it's that you levelled that character with a friend or created it as part of some crazy project. Finally there's "the rest", including many characters that just exist because you didn't have that particular species-class combination yet and wanted to try something different. This is the kind of thing that keeps people coming back to the game, and I do think SWTOR provides an excellent playground for it.

19/05/2022

Imperial Saboteur, Part 1

Ever since Jedi Under Siege introduced the concept of loyalist vs. saboteur (the faction switch on Iokath was treated as more of a one-off before that), I've been curious to see the saboteur story options for myself - problem was, all my most advanced characters in terms of story were pretty loyal to their faction and I couldn't see any of them going down that path.

So I've slowly been chipping away at progressing more suitable saboteur characters through the story as a sort of side project... and the other week I finally reached the crucial point on my Imperial agent Corfette, the Sniper who became a double agent for the Republic during her class story - is there a more natural fit for the role of Imperial double agent?

What follows are my impressions of this path up to the end of Onderon, so consider this your spoiler warning for that content.

First off, I gotta say that it felt a bit odd to return to the Empire as a saboteur after openly siding with the Republic on Iokath. Paradoxically it actually felt better to return to being an Imperial loyalist after betraying them on Iokath on my bounty hunter, whose loyalties were always a bit questionable and for whom Iokath had been a somewhat impulsive decision based on a dislike for Acina's scheming and being in a relationship with Theron at the time.

On my agent however, who had previously been assisting the Republic undercover, Iokath was almost a sort of "coming out", and to then go back into the Imperial closet so to speak felt weird and like my old faction would obviously be suspicious of me now.

Incidentally, on Nathema I was confronted by the former Watcher Two, who did not look kindly upon my involvement with the Republic, despite of everything I'd done for her on Rishi.


Anyway, so the start of Ossus felt a bit awkward, but it seemed easy enough to slide back into the old agent patterns, what with Darth Malora expressing distaste for my character and the option to commiserate with Major Anri about the moods of Sith superiors.

I'd previously been told that Ossus wasn't that different for a saboteur vs. a loyalist and I would say that's broadly true. The bonus mission at the start is to sabotage the Imperial fighters instead of giving them a boost, and when it comes to the Jedi farming data, you tell Major Anri that it's not really your focus while secretly passing it on to the Republic. The main events stay the same however.

Interestingly, the wrap-up at the end sounds very pessimistic compared to the optimism a loyalist gets presented with, with the implied justification being that your small acts of sabotage made the whole mission way too costly. However, it doesn't really feel different, because the base still gets shot up by a Republic attack either way and the damage doesn't look any different as far as I could tell, even if it gets talked about in very different ways.

During Hearts and Minds, I told Theron about my saboteur status and he actually commented: "So it's true what Shara said on Nathema", which made me squee except that I thought it was it a bit odd that Theron would be on a first-name basis with my former Imperial colleague whom he saw exactly once.

I was also happy to choose the saboteur option for the speech at the end of the mission, which was pretty hilarious in that you're not saying anything that's obviously meant to be detrimental towards morale, you just come across as being absolutely abysmal at giving speeches. After the repeated air punching while yelling "Empire!" over and over again, you're basically quietly escorted away, and Doctor Oggurobb sends you a message in the mail later to suggest having you checked for Geonosian brain worms. (Nice reference!)

Onslaught starts with your character being involved in this little space battle, and I was pleased to see that as a saboteur, you don't end up killing the Republic fighter you're engaged with but let them get away.

The mission on Onderon initially goes exactly the same as on a loyalist, what with ingratiating yourself with King Petryph and enlisting the aid of the Untamed. But then! When you're at the point where you'd usually use the cannons in Iziz to shoot down the Republic fleet, you can pretend that they're not working. (Your character gets a very over-the-top smirk on their face as they do this - you won't survive long as a saboteur if you make faces like that every time you successfully perform some sort of sabotage! I just thought it was funny.)

Savik frets but doesn't panic quite as much as I would have expected and tells you to at least get to the throne room to help King Petryph. And here I got the opportunity to just shoot him and leave Senator Nebet be, which is exactly what I did! To be honest this is an option I've kind of wanted to have even on my loyalists sometimes, simply because it seemed like it could be useful to capture a Republic leadership figure that isn't a complete idiot.

Then I got back to base and Malgus absolutely lost it with Savik for failing, going instantly into remote Force choke mode, at which point you get the option to suggest whether you think she should be allowed to live or die. I really liked this choice as you could argue that either one can make sense for a saboteur: You can position yourself as a voice for moderation and potentially earn Savik's favour for the future, or you can simply let her be offed and be happy that there's one less Sith in the galaxy. I chose the former option here.

I gotta say the saboteur options on Imperial Onderon felt extremely satisfying and I was quite surprised that they actually allow you to blow the whole mission this time. You'd think that might make the Empire suspicious... but I guess from the point of view of the NPCs you aren't "the player character who never fails at anything" but simply another person who's fallible to some degree... plus you were just following Savik's plan, right?

I'm looking forward to what more there is to see. Continued in part 2!