Pretty Fly for a Jedi (Enclave)

Oh look, 6.3 is here; feels like I wrote about the preview for that patch only yesterday! How time flies... *cough*

Naturally, there's lots to talk about, but I wanted to start with something relatively simple: expressing my appreciation for just how damn good-looking the new story content is.

I mean, I've always been happy with SWTOR's art style (even though I know it's not everyone's cup of tea), but there's been a clear improvement in the design of new environments over time, which - in my opinion - reached its current peak with the release of Copero. Since then, I think the SWTOR artists are sadly often somewhat hampered by their own setting - I criticised Spirit of Vengeance for being kind of dull to look at not because the artists designing the flashpoint did a bad job, but because there's only so much you can do with three ships' worth of running through corridors.

With that in mind, I was all the more delighted to see that the new Dantooine environments are absolutely gorgeous. Sure, there's a bit of running through tunnels as part of the flashpoint too, but a good chunk of it actually lets you enjoy the beauty of Dantooine and I loved it. It also makes for an interesting juxtaposition to see your character and their allies look somewhat grim-faced, with their minds on a serious mission, while they walk through dense flowerbeds for example.

Speaking of faces, it also struck me with this update just how much better the artists and their tools have become at rendering believable facial expressions. Around KotFE/early KotET I seem to remember reading a dev comment about how they were very proud of how much they'd improved their facial expressions with that expansion but to me personally the results were still a bit... "meh" at the time. I don't know if the artists just got overexcited by all the new possibilities, but to be honest I thought the expressions were often awkwardly exaggerated. I actually can't find a screenshot of it right now, but I'm sure many players will know what I'm talking about when I say that the player character in particular often made a sort of weird "o-face".

In this update on the other hand, I found it really striking how good the facial expressions were throughout the whole thing. I took particular delight in the variety of faces Darth Rivix pulled depending on his mood, but they were never silly or over the top. There were also a lot of really subtle eye movements to convey the feeling that characters are thinking - I just really enjoyed it.

This was also enhanced by some really good camera work. I'm not really very well-versed in the art of film-making, but even so I couldn't help but think while playing through some older content recently that a lot of the old conversation cut scenes - for as revolutionary as they may have felt ten years ago - are nothing but endless sequences of a simple shot/reverse shot. Not so with new content like this, where the camera angle changes at least slightly with every shot and a lot of really cinematic and plain good-looking scenes are created - I mashed my screenshot key pretty hard on my first runs through the flashpoint on both factions but still missed a lot of great moments that I'm definitely planning to try and re-capture next time.

Finally, the voice acting also deserves a shout-out, as it seemed snappier than usual in places, with fewer awkward pauses, and the last boss of the flashpoint on Empire side in particular was an absolute delight to listen to, as the actress put so much emotion into the performance - again, simply delightful.

It's just great to see how much the game has evolved in that respect, and I can only hope that the team will continue to deliver consistently at this high level. More thoughts on story, mechanics, and of course the new Seasons system to come!