Coming Up: Lots of Pictures! #IntPiPoMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, and a few years ago someone came up with the idea of International Picture Posting Month to go along with it, as a picture is worth a thousand words, right? I've taken part in this cute little initiative several times in the past; it was just on break last year.

Chestnut of Gamer Girl Confessions has more information about the event here, including a link to a sign-up form where you can officially join in to have your efforts recognised.

Since I'm not someone who always includes a lot of pictures in her posts organically, I'll also revive the tradition from past years to go through my themed 10 days of SWTOR screenshots over the course of the month, in which I'll post a selection of screenshots centred around a certain topic every few days and tell whatever little stories go along with them.

My self-imposed rule for selecting the screenshots has always been that anything's eligible that I've taken since the last time I did the challenge (minus any images that I already included in other posts, as per IntPiPoMo rules), which means that I can go as far back as November 2018 for my screenies this time! We'll see what I'll dig up...


Big 7.0 News!

Sorry, we still don't have a release date for Legacy of the Sith. Considering that Onslaught's launch date was announced about seven weeks in advance, and if we assume that Bioware is aiming for a similar schedule this time around, they're rapidly running out of time. If we don't have a date by the end of next week, I expect we'll eventually be hit with an announcement that they have to delay until January because things just aren't quite ready yet.

However! We did get a big info dump yesterday, detailing more major changes coming with the expansion that had previously not even been hinted at, so I thought those were very much worth talking about.

Goodbye to Set Bonuses, Say Hello to Legendaries

First off, we had a big news post detailing how they'll be phasing out set bonuses in favour of simply putting similar effects on single pieces of gear for either the ear or the implant slot, which will be called legendary items and you'll be able to equip two at a time.

This was quite a big surprise to me personally because Bioware generally seemed happy with the way gearing in Onslaught has panned out and hadn't said anything about wanting to make any major changes to this, so this announcement comes on fairly short notice. Aside from the surprise, I can't say that this evokes any particularly strong feelings in me though. As mentioned in my Onslaught in Review post, one downside of the current system has been that it felt a bit clogged up with too many useless sets, but I don't really know if this change is going to address that (there could still be plenty of useless legendaries).

Needing fewer pieces to swap between different bonuses will be nice for min-maxers who like to adjust their gear for different situations while also wanting to have every piece augmented, but I'm not really one of those so that won't impact me personally. I do wonder whether the removal of the whole set concept won't make these new legendaries too similar to Tacticals... as the only difference between them will effectively be that legendary ear pieces and implants can also be augmented and still have regular stats on them as well.

Oh yeah, since legendaries are effectively regular gear pieces with an item level, you'll also be able to upgrade them if you get a good one at a low level. No details have been provided about how that's supposed to work though.

Then there was also a big forum post announcing not one but five other major changes. Click the link if you want all the details as I'll just be summarising and adding my thoughts on each item.

Daily and Weekly Mission Resets

According to this, Bioware will change the way dailies and weeklies work, so that progress won't be saved anymore past reset time and old dailies/weeklies will be removed from your log. My first thought on reading this was that this must surely be meant to combat the kind of Conquest prep my guild has been doing for Total Galactic War by e.g. getting the PvP weekly to 9/10 the previous week and then finishing it quickly on the next day, but on second thought that's such an incredibly niche thing to do that doesn't really harm anyone, and while this change would put a stop to it, I don't think that's the primary intention.

Thinking about it some more though, I still couldn't help but see anything but negative effects to this proposed change. On Iokath I like to pick up several sets of rotating dailies over the course of several days so that I can then knock out all the quests in a single area in one go - with this change this would no longer be possible. Also, Conquest prep aside, things like the PvP weekly can require quite a bit of time to complete with its ten win requirement, so in this brave new world of constant resets you'd have to be very focused in your play to ever complete it before it gets reset, which would go very much against SWTOR's casual and alt-friendly nature.

The reasoning given for this change is that they want to rotate weekly content for bonus rewards, so I guess that some weeks the PvP weekly would be different from the "normal" version? I have to admit I don't fully understand what they're planning to do here, so I'll have to reserve final judgement until we know more, but as laid out it doesn't really sound appealing to be honest, with the downsides of these forced resets far outweighing any potential benefits I can imagine.

Economy Adjustments

Credit inflation has been a hot topic recently, so I'm not surprised to see Bioware address this. I am somewhat surprised that Conquest credit rewards are their first target for a nerf, but then they are the only ones with hard data on just which activities inject the most credits into the economy so I'll take their word for it.

I'm less clear on why they want to remove certain rare material rewards from Conquest, as that will drive up their prices even more and not have any effect on the influx of credits? Unless Bioware felt that these particular items are actually worth too little at the moment, but if that was their thinking they didn't make it very clear.

Shared Tagging for Mobs

This is something that many more modern MMOs have, so I'm sure many will rejoice and go "finally", but from me this one gets nothing more than a shrug to be honest. I've spent enough time in MMOs with and without shared mob tagging to have seen its benefits in areas where mob spawns are contested or fights are very tough, but from my experience it also has downsides that don't make it objectively superior. People sometimes say that it makes the community better when other players are not viewed as competition, and it may well reduce incidents of someone yelling at another person for "stealing" their mob, but at the same time it reduces incentives to group up with and talk to other players, and at least in my book, basically being able to ignore the people around you because their actions don't affect you in any way isn't actually "friendlier".

When it comes to open world mobs and bosses with rare drops, it could also increase hostility as basically someone could run in and e.g. hit Dreadtooth twice while an ops group is fighting him and then get his rare loot assigned to them by RNG. If you can't "secure" the loot by tagging, certain players may feel that they instead need to discourage competition for loot with abusive behaviour, though I admit that would likely be an edge case. My point is that in my opinion it just trades one potential source of occasional bad experiences for a different kind.

Combat Change - Vanish

So this one is interesting - vanishing into stealth will no longer cause you to exit combat in flashpoints and operations; it will just drop aggro, with the stated intent of doing away with the stealth res meta. For those not too up-to-date on these things (I wouldn't blame you), the way it works currently is that every advanced class that is capable of healing is able to revive in combat, but the ability to do so has a four to five minute cooldown for the individual, and also puts a five-minute debuff on the whole ops group so that combat res can't be used again during that time, even by another player.

This always seemed pretty reasonable to me, but balance was thrown out of whack by the fact that characters with stealth could vanish during the fight, exit combat, and then use their normal, out-of-combat revive which was unaffected by the debuff - as a Scoundrel/Operative you could do this multiple times in a row! While this has technically been possible forever, I think in the early years it was relatively rare as it takes some skill to not get put back into combat by bad timing, so it took some time for the meta to truly permeate the community I guess.

Nowadays it's pretty common in higher-level content though and puts a very high value on having multiple stealthers in your group. My own ops team doesn't have someone who can stealth out to revive in our normal setup, and I found it very noticeable that when I went to help out my other guild's progression team on some nights (who run with more stealthers) that they relied quite heavily on those extra revives sometimes and that this allowed them to recover from many a mishap that would have forced a wipe for my own team.

So this change is meant to get rid of this whole meta... but to make up for it, Bioware will remove the debuff that limits combat revives and instead just restrict the ability to healing specs. I've seen some negative reactions to this, primarily from people who liked to prove their skill with well-timed stealth reses or dpsers who feel they are losing some utility with the removal of combat revives for non-healers, but for the average ops group this is simply a big buff as you'll have way more combat revives available, and without having to stack stealth classes.

Dps-specced resers losing their in-combat revive is a bit of a downer for those classes, and it does mean that it will always fall on the healers to do the resing going forward (which does have its own risks - I've seen many a wipe triggered by a healer deciding to stop healing in order to do a combat res at a bad time), but overall I'd expect the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks on this one.

The one question mark that remains is what other bits of "stealth cheese" will be affected by this change, as the post does call out the fact that vanishing in general often makes it possible "to circumvent intended game mechanics" - a good example of this would be the first boss in TFB, where having a Shadow tank vanish out during the tank swap currently causes no small adds to spawn, which means you don't have to deal with that mechanic at all and your dps gets a lot of extra uptime on the boss. It's not entirely clear just how many of these sorts of situations will be affected by this change though.

Weapons in Outfit Designer

This mostly made me smile due to a couple of comments I got in the past that claimed that Bioware couldn't do this and that combat styles were in fact supposed to be a "replacement" for this feature, which I never thought made any sense. Seeing it announced as another addition coming with 7.0 felt somewhat vindicating in that regard, though I'm kind of surprised they didn't make a bigger deal out of it.

For me personally this won't actually do anything as I never understood why people wanted this so much (if every Jedi in my flashpoint and ops groups used the exact same lightsaber I would never notice), but I know it's something that a lot of people have been requesting for quite a while, so it's a good thing that it's being added.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Most of the early reactions I've seen so far have been somewhat mixed, with people loving one thing but then hating another. I'm honestly kind of neutral about most of them at this point, with the vanish nerf striking me as the most positive change and the plans to reset repeatable missions sounding the most unappealing - with the caveat that I feel there are aspects to the latter that I don't think we fully understand yet.


10 Years of SWTOR, Split into Periods

SWTOR's tenth birthday is still more than a month away, but I've decided to get in on the reminiscing a bit early. It's crazy to think that I've been subscribed to this game continually since launch - at this point I've played SWTOR for longer than even my early love World of Warcraft. During this time, I've been witness to a lot of ups and downs... and I think it's interesting how - at least from my point of view - the game's history can be broken up into a number of very distinctive and different periods, usually lasting around two years on average.

The Short-Lived Subscription MMO - December 2011 to November 2012

SWTOR launched in late 2011, towards the end of what I'll just call "the WoW Killer Years", a period during which a lot of different publishers tried to get into the MMO business after World of Warcraft's runaway success, hoping to outdo Blizzard and earn even more subscription money than they did - just to fail pretty spectacularly (at least in terms of achieving that goal). SWTOR looked like it probably had the best chances of them all, having a massive budget behind it (some estimated that at release, it was the most expensive video game ever made up to that point) and being based on one of the world's biggest IPs.

It launched to resounding critical success and an initial subscriber pool of nearly two million, causing Bioware to open lots of new servers during the early weeks just to accommodate everyone. As late as three months later, the game was still celebrated as a success and even dubbed "the fastest growing MMO of all time". But as the like-dislike ratio on that video shows, clouds were already starting to appear on the horizon as subs were stagnating and people were expressing discontent with the game.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that there wasn't anything fundamentally wrong with it in terms of gameplay, even at launch... it's just that trying to out-WoW World of Warcraft isn't something that's worked for anyone, ever, and Bioware tried to do so with a budget and degree of ambition that might have been unrealistic even if they had gotten ten million subscribers. At the same time it wasn't actually different enough from other MMO launches of the era from a player's perspective: People who played it like they were used to playing WoW rushed to max level and then complained that there wasn't enough to do. Many who embraced the more narrative-driven nature of the game enjoyed the story, but felt that it was dragged down by all the "MMO stuff" such as needing to do content other than the main story to level up.

With how public Bioware and EA had been in their boasting about the game's success, the fall from grace was no less publicly visible: After initial brags about how they weren't worried about sub numbers at all because even in their projected "worst case scenario" the game was going to be totally fine with as little as 500k subs, it was very uncomfortable to watch the publicly reported subscription numbers approach that number at a pretty rapid pace. Soon, servers were merged and devs laid off.

It's interesting to note though, that if (like me) you really enjoyed what the game had on offer and didn't pay too much attention to the bad PR, it was actually a great time to be a player. Eight unique class stories provided months of story content to play through (assuming you didn't play 24/7 like some people), and new MMO content (such as flashpoints and operations) and quality of life features were being added pretty much every other month.

Still, thanks to the dropping sub numbers, SWTOR ended up announcing a conversion to free-to-play after only seven months of being a subscription MMO, which I think remains the fastest U-turn of its kind in the genre to this day. The actual implementation happened less than four months later.

Early Free to Play - November 2012 to October 2015

SWTOR wasn't the first MMO to switch from requiring a subscription to being free to play, but its predecessors like LOTRO and DDO had largely done this by granting free players only limited access to the game and chopping the remaining content up into bits that could then be sold as individual DLCs. SWTOR surprised everyone by taking a completely different approach and making all the then current content free... while also looking for every possible avenue to charge you money in other ways, from restricting certain quest rewards to subscribers to not letting you use emotes to selling random loot boxes in the newly minted cash shop.

This was greeted with understandable scepticism by genre veterans, and some of the more awkward monetisation attempts such as charging for extra action bars in the UI were (rightfully) mocked, even if they ultimately didn't leave much of a mark. The public consensus seemed to be that the rapid and somewhat clunky conversion to free-to-play was simply a sign that the game had failed and that was that. We do know now that behind the scenes, the business model change actually really turned the game's financial fortunes around though.

As a subscribing player meanwhile, you could continue to play happily as you had before, just with the addition of a cash shop with cosmetics. And again, the next three years actually weren't such a bad time if you enjoyed what was on offer. Despite the reduced scope and the admission that there wasn't going to be enough budget to add any more class-specific content, new releases kept coming out at a good pace. During those two and a half years we got two story expansions, housing, space PVP, seven new flashpoints and five more operations.

If dataminers are to be believed, this was at least in part made possible through the use of a lot of art assets that had originally been created in the game's early days to serve as backdrops for more class story and which could be repurposed for flashpoints or different storylines without too much effort. The only thing you could argue which was perhaps a bit lacking during this time was class-specific personalisation, as companions became irrelevant to the story and both the Makeb and Revan storylines were written to be one-size-fits-all, regardless of your originally chosen class.

Knights of the Drastically Different Direction - October 2015 to November 2016

In June 2015, Bioware surprised everyone by dropping a shiny new CGI trailer for the next expansion, called Knights of the Fallen Empire. With it came the announcement of a planned change in direction - instead of piling on more and more of all this MMO stuff, the game was going to focus more on being the always-online KOTOR that so many players apparently wanted it to be, with a more engaging and personalised main storyline and no immediate plans for more group content (though the existing content was going to be re-scaled to make it infinitely re-usable instead of something you eventually out-levelled).

Fans of group content were not well pleased by this - my previous guild leader quit the game as a result - but I think I was probably in the majority in hoping that this was still going to be a positive thing for the game overall. After all, a love for story was why we were playing this over something like WoW, right? And they could always add more group content later, right? (Insert "For the Better, Right?" meme here.)

Knights of the Fallen Empire (KotFE for short) released in October 2015 to what felt like universal critical acclaim. The new chapter format featured much more engaging cut scenes, and changes to companions meant that they were more involved in the story than they had ever been before. The renewed attention from the wider media seemed to bring in a whole new audience. It all looked quite promising... until you got to the end of the initial nine story chapters and were told to wait a couple of months for the release of the next one, with seemingly not much else in terms of goals to pursue. Anecdotally, the new story-only players went "okay, that was great, see you later" and then only came back for new releases or not at all, while the existing audience felt frustrated by a lack of new, social endgame.

Bioware actually did a pretty decent job with releasing one chapter per month over the next few months, even if they didn't manage to stick to their original schedule perfectly. The problem was that there wasn't much to engage players between chapters (which would only take an hour or two even if you were taking it slowly), and as the story progressed, the narrative direction was also viewed more and more critically by an increasing number of players, especially those who didn't main a Force-using class (yes, I'm biased here). Why was there so much focus on these new NPCs? Where were the Republic and the Empire, not to mention our old companions? Why were smugglers and bounty hunters alike shoehorned into a narrative full of Force mumbo-jumbo that made you out to be some sort of Chosen One?

KotFE's last chapter released in August 2016, and already two months later the follow-up expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne was announced, again with a shiny CGI trailer. Taking in the feedback that KotFE had felt unnecessarily drawn out, they did away with the monthly updates and just condensed everything into nine more chapters that could be released all at once. There were also plans to bring at least a little bit of group content back in the form of uprisings, which were meant to be something along the lines of "flashpoints light". Oh, and they were going to introduce a whole new gearing system, which immediately set off alarm bells in every seasoned player's head because it was completely RNG-based, with no more item drops and just a sort of endless levelling where you'd get a lootbox with random contents every time you levelled up.

When the expansion launched only another month later, the story was once again mostly well received as a conclusion to previous events, but uprisings were no great success, and the new gearing system called Galactic Command was every bit as bad as people had feared, if not worse. Once again, I saw several veteran players throw in the towel during this period and to be honest it was the closest I've ever come to wanting to step away from the game myself, as the day-to-day gameplay was just that frustrating.

The In-Between Years - November 2016 to December 2018

In many ways, the game was not in the greatest of states after the release of Knights of the Eternal Throne. It's funny because to this day I can find comments from people who think that KotET was SWTOR at its greatest - but usually they are the type who played through the story once and then left, never interacting with the rest of the game or the community at large (which is a valid way to play, don't get me wrong, but it does make you somewhat less qualified to comment on the overall state of the game and its health).

The new gearing system was terrible and immediately required damage control that took time to implement. Many players who'd previously focused on group content had dropped out or let their subs lapse since Bioware had shown little interest in catering to their interests for almost two years. And even the story, for all the focus KotFE and KotET had put on it as a feature, felt rather derailed, as it had thrown much of the detailed world building of the base game out in favour of telling what turned out to be basically someone's tabletop campaign full of overpowered NPCs and ended with your character pretty much being the most powerful person in the known galaxy. Where do you even go from there?

I'd love to know what was going on behind the scenes during the "Knights of" years and immediately after. Maybe we can get a Jason Schreier-esque exposé on the subject one day. As a long-time player it felt as if someone who didn't really care that much about the game as it was had somehow managed to give a good sales pitch for injecting their personal pet project into SWTOR in a board room somewhere, and when that didn't pan out the way they planned, they jumped ship, leaving the rest of the team to pick up the pieces.

And that's what the next two years felt like, like the people in charge now slowly picking up the pieces and trying to recover what was left of this beautiful MMO. Galactic Command was eventually transformed into something that wasn't totally terrible. The story had to find a way to dial the player character's OP-ness back down a bit, something that never feels great even when it's necessary, and the focus was slowly shifted back to the older factions and existing companions. We even got our first new piece of proper group content in ages, in the form of an operation that was released one boss at a time over the course of nearly a year, plus a series of three flashpoints. Personally I did appreciate the general intentions behind this, it was just hard to be super enthusiastic about some of the results as the team initially seemed to struggle to find its feet again based on the awkwardness of some of the storytelling, plus releases just felt very slow after the rapid-fire way in which Bioware had added group content pre-KotFE and then story chapters during the "Knights Years".

A New Hope (The Expansions Strike Back?) - December 2018 to now

After more than two years of small, piecemeal content releases we were eventually told that we'd get a proper expansion again, though the name and details for it weren't announced until 2019. The reason I put the transition to this period in late 2018 is that this is when we got what you could call the "prelude" to the Onslaught expansion, in the form of the Jedi Under Siege update, which was a sudden return to form in the sense that it was much closer to the sorts of content updates we used to get before Knights of the Fallen Empire, with a whole new planet and separate, well-written storylines for Republic and Empire. This was continued in the Onslaught expansion that eventually released in October 2019, and now we're looking at a late 2021 release for the next expansion, Legacy of the Sith.

I'm sure some jaded old-timers will wonder why I've titled this section "A New Hope" when the content release cadence hasn't actually improved much since the post-KotET years. To that I'll say that first off, it has improved at least a little, even with the disruption by COVID, but secondly, the quality has been so much better and for me that counts for a lot.

Even more importantly though, unlike the early post-KotET content, it all feels very well thought-out and like it's part of a bigger plan, with the devs actually being in it for the long run. They're trying to add different types of content for all of the game's existing players again instead of hyper-focusing on one new idea that someone thinks will be a runaway success. The stories actually make sense and use the game's vast cast of characters to full effect. Old features are getting revised alongside new releases, not to give them some sort of drastic revamp but to keep the early game in shape and attractive to newer players as well. Basically, it feels like the game is finally being handled like an MMO should be handled, with realistic expectations, long-time planning and appreciation for its most loyal player base. And without wanting to jinx it, that absolutely does give me hope for the future and SWTOR's next ten years.


Maximum Pacifism Achieved!

At last, the time has come! Last night my pacifist Jedi Pacis hit level 75 after another round of Cantina Rush on Nar Shaddaa. The Feast of Prosperity turned out to be nothing short of a fountain of XP for her. Two daily quests each for cooking and serving food plus a weekly associated with both, plus the ingredient gathering that she could at least do when it involved picking fruit on Belsavis or gathering ice crystals on Hoth. Three weeklies completed then also granted the meta weekly, and all this with double XP - what more could you ask for?

The only slight disappointment was that she couldn't do any of the one-time story quests past the intro. The mission to Rishi doesn't require any combat and therefore would have been compatible with her ideals, but alas... Rishi doesn't have any heroics or other accessible quick travel options, so she can't actually go there.

Want to know what was the first thing I did upon hitting max-level? I went to the fleet, bought the "Go to Sleep, Go to Sleep!" Tactical and then returned to Tatooine to rescue Raith's loved ones. Yes, I never deleted that quest from my log and it had been staring at me from my mission tracker ever since. The funny thing was, after I used the double CC to peacefully remove the toy robots from the chest, I ran into another player on my way out who was just barrelling through and killing all the mobs anyway. If that had happened back during my first visit, I could have completed that quest over a year ago, but of course at the time nobody else just happened to come through at the right moment.

As for what's going to happen to Pacis now... I don't know, I'll probably let her participate in the Feast some more and then give her a bit of a break. Next time the swoop event comes around I might have a go at seeing how many of the one-time story quests for that I can do - I picked them up last time with the intent to just do them whenever, but then found out that the quest NPCs on other planets also disappear when the event isn't on, so you can't progress the off-Dantooine steps during that time either. When LotS raises the level cap to 80 I'll probably get her up there as well at some point, but certainly not as a priority over my regular characters.

I would say something about what a long, strange trip it's been, but it really hasn't been all that long. I created Pacis back in August 2019, over two years ago now, but the only reason it took this long to level her was that my interest in the project has been very on and off. Her actual /played time after hitting the cap was only two days and six hours, which isn't long at all, especially when you consider how much her pacifism hobbled her ability to level up normally.

Either way this has been a very interesting experiment. In a way I was both surprised by how much full pacifism limited me and by how much I was still able to do despite of all the additional limitations I put on myself. As an example of the former, I'm thinking of things like being unable to click certain quest items or use a lot of abilities without a weapon equipped (even when the ability didn't sound like something that should require a weapon), or how many side quests didn't even unlock without having made sufficient progress on the main storyline. And of course there was being unable to leave Tython via shuttle after having fully explored the map at level five.

I actually think that you wouldn't be able to replicate Pacis' exact levelling path today, since she only managed to "escape" the planet via the Pirate Incursion quick travel option to Dantooine, which was originally accessible from level one, however this has now been patched out to require level twenty (at least according to this event guide by Vulkk) and is therefore no longer an option.

On the other hand though, I was surprised by the sheer amount of quests that didn't strictly require any fighting or killing, despite of SWTOR's early levelling being very much designed in the classic "kill ten rats" tradition. As players we just tend to kill everything that's in the way because it's the "natural" and easy thing to do, and the game also pretty much assumes that you will do this - it never ceased to amuse me when some NPC dialogue referred to me supposedly beating people up when I had done no such thing.

Travel without a ship was also more feasible than I had expected. Generally speaking, the game really expects you to do your class mission up to the end of Coruscant at least and to definitely get your ship asap... without it, you can't freely fly from planet to planet, you can't accept guild ship summons, and you can't use the "exit to planet" option from a stronghold. But the quick travel items added for heroics in 4.0 and later even for some other missions make no such distinctions and were a surprising godsend in terms of getting around. I would have been quite content to level from 5 to 75 purely by running the two dailies on Dantooine (though that would have been quite boring) but being able to planet-hop via these quick travel items certainly made things a lot more interesting and varied.

EDIT: This was a big enough deal for me that I also made a post on the subreddit.


Feasting So Far

The first week of this year's Feast of Prosperity is behind us and it's been going well from my point of view. The funniest thing that happened to me so far occurred when I did the story quest on Rishi on my Sorc on the second day, and while the Selonian was talking to me about how I should please not kill this rare Orobird, another Sith sprinted right through my cut scene (a glitch that sometimes happens), immediately followed by sounds of lightning and bird screeches from off-screen. I actually laughed out loud at that.

Immediately afterwards another player ran up to me and asked me if I could help them kill a Tonitran. I said sure, but even as I did so I wondered why they needed help killing a single silver mob... it was only then that I noticed that the character was only level 36! I'm surprised you can even pick up the quest at such a low level, but I guess strictly speaking the Rishi step doesn't require you to kill anything...

I've been doing the dailies pretty consistently on at least one character per day. Initially I was quite motivated to earn the event currency to buy rewards too - something that's quite rare for me - because last year I realised fairly late that there were actually a lot of rewards that I liked, and that I hadn't earned enough tokens to afford them all. However, after a week I've managed to buy most of the things I wanted for my main and that I missed out on last year, so my enthusiasm to earn more tokens that I'm not sure how to spend anymore is admittedly waning a bit.

There are some achievements left to chase, and apparently achievement hunters were quite pleased that Bioware finally fixed the one hidden achievement that was impossible to complete last year, but what they haven't fixed is the hidden achievements revealing themselves on cue in the first place. Clicking on other people's progress has revealed to me that I've apparently also been working on them (unknowingly) but being unable to keep track of my own progress because it won't show in my achievement panel has been a bit of a downer.

It's a good thing I at least really love the world boss hunts, whether I still need them or not. There were some issues here too, with the Primal Destroyer not respawning properly if people tried to evade its adds instead of killing them, though I'll confess that I blame that one more on the players than on Bioware. Yes, it's a bug, but why even bother trying to evade a couple of mobs that only take seconds to kill... it astounded me that there were enough people doing that to bug out the boss in every single instance at one point. It's just so unnecessary. Like when people try to circumvent that one weak mob in Directive 7, someone gets stuck and then everyone has to wait around for them to un-stick themselves.

But I do love the feeling of the world boss hunts in general. Just pop down to Nar Shaddaa, pick up the daily mission, type "+wb" in chat and you're pretty much on your way. It's great to see ops groups filling up to their max capacity within minutes and see the traces of each group coming and going in the form of multiple dead copies of the same world boss lying next to each other. A lot of SWTOR's focus is on instanced and/or solo content and that's absolutely its strength, but I do love the hustle and bustle of these world boss groups reminding us that it's still an MMO for a reason.


82.4% Towards Fleet Admiral - Maybe I DO Like GSF?

One of the things I've been doing to gain my two to three Renown levels a day while working on my goal to reach Renown rank 999 before Legacy of the Sith comes out, has been playing Galactic Starfighter. I quite enjoyed binging on it during Total Galactic War, and I kept thinking that it was kind of odd how I kept doing random matches on all kinds of alts with minimal ship upgrades unlocked while my main had maxed them all out ages ago and yet I pretty much never did anything with that.

(After making an attempt to make more use of them I will say though, despite of what's considered common wisdom on that subject, I found that the ship upgrades don't make that much of a difference. There's something to be said for having all your preferred ships and components unlocked, but despite of many upgrades nominally increasing your survivability and damage output by quite a chunk, I can't say that I really feel more powerful in my fully upgraded ships than in ones that aren't. It's still possible to just get blapped out of the sky sometimes before I've even had time to realise what's happening, and that process remains as opaque to me as ever.)

On a whim, I decided to have a look at the GSF statistics in my achievement panel and I was... actually kind of surprised! I always say how I'm not a huge fan of GSF and that I don't feel that I'm very good at it, but some of those achievements felt like they were trying to make a liar out of me. I knew that I'd unlocked all the crew members and mastered all the ships at some point (except one on Imperial side, hmm... need to go look for that and finish it), but I was surprised to see that according to the Matches Played category of the GSF achievements, I'm also on 824 out of 1000 matches played for the legacy title of "Fleet Admiral" (which is what inspired the title of this post).

I mean, 824 matches played seems like a pretty big number for something that only makes up a tiny portion of the game and that I've always professed to not like all that much. At the date of me drafting this post, 2,875 days have passed since Galactic Starfighter went into early access, so that averages out to a match every three to four days (even if in reality I've gone months without playing and then just binged on it during certain periods).

Even more astounding, I've apparently won 422 out of those 824 matches, which is 51.3%! I was certain that I must have lost more matches than I've won. (On a side note though, with a win-loss ratio this close to 50%, maybe Bioware's match-making isn't quite as dire as it feels sometimes...)

Similarly amazing, I've got 95% completion on the "Battle" category, which includes such random feats of strength as finishing a match with a 6:1 kill-death ratio - something I apparently achieved once in Feburary 2014 - who knew? The only one I'm missing for completion is the one to destroy 12 enemy turrets in a single match, which... yeah, I don't think that would ever happen organically, but I could actually see myself achieving it if I specifically went for it over the actual domination objectives one day.

You don't get to give out MVPs in GSF the way you do in ground PvP, but apparently the game awards some automatically in the background based on certain contributions, and while I haven't completed any of the categories in this section, I'm still kind of impressed that I managed to get the MVP for most damage dealt during the match 75 times so far, even if it was over the course of eight years...

I'm also on 84% completion for the medals category, which led to me googling what they all mean because sadly the achievement panel itself doesn't explain what causes you to e.g get an "Annihilator" medal. Apparently I've completed all the achievements in 13 of the 18 sub-categories, with the only incomplete ones being Demolisher (destroy 8 turrets, surprised I've organically done that twice apparently), Mechanic (repair 2k total damage, 66 out of 100!), Ravage (get 8 kills, 77/100), Savior (repair 4k total damage, 11/100) and Siege (destroy 4 turrets, 14/100).

Seeing all these statistics progress slowly but surely, I could even see myself getting close to reaching 100% completion of GSF achievements one day! Though I don't think I'll ever actually reach 100%, because there's a line in the objectives category that requires you to gather five power-ups during 100 death match games and I've not done that a single time. I'd actually have to do some research on how to even do that and then put some work into it while potentially playing rather sub-optimally in all those matches, and that's definitely more than I can be bothered with.

But still, overall... I'm kind of surprised by the picture these numbers paint. Maybe I enjoy GSF more than I give it credit for while also being at least a little bit better at it than I thought.


Peaceful Adventures on Hoth & Belsavis

I took last week's Pirate Incursion event as an opportunity to take a break from having Pacis look after the Kath hounds and dig for relics, and instead had her resume her mission to explore the galaxy and find out what else there is to do that doesn't require you to fight anything.

As I mentioned previously, Hoth is where I lost interest in this part of the project at one point, but nonetheless I felt compelled to go back and at least finish it up. I tried to do the main story quest where you're supposed to trigger an ambush and then have Imperials come to your aid, figuring that maybe I wouldn't actually have to get involved in the fighting myself to get credit, but as it turns out the traitorous bastards don't even show up if you don't attack the ambushers yourself first.

Besides that, I re-did the one heroic that's doable without any combat and finished exploring the rest of the map. In the Starship Graveyard I ran into these two troopers that appear to be brothers or something and looked like they were sparring with each other. I don't recall ever seeing them before.

When I moved on to Belsavis, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this snowy prison planet perpetually stuck in a state of rioting is an unexpectedly great place to get things done without fighting! There is of course the perennial favourite of heroic runners everywhere, looting Agent Mynock's corpse, but I also found three other heroics that I could do.

Open Communications just requires you to loot an item and as a stealther you can vanish out when this act spawns a group of attackers, and of course doing the Stasis Generator without fighting anyone reawakened fond memories of the game's early days when these missions were part of the daily circuit that many people did in a group and it wasn't unusual for us to chill by the door while the stealther in the party took care of things. Doing it on my own was a bit more boring though since I didn't have anyone to talk to while waiting for Force Cloak to come off cooldown four times.

The biggest and most amusing surprise however was the heroic to save captured scientists from rioting Gand. Most of these "rescue" type missions require you to kill the mobs around the captives, but I couldn't remember that being the case with this one for sure, so decided to give it a quick go anyway. And what do you know, not only can you rescue the scientists without fighting anything, it doesn't even break stealth! So I just had to walk up to them, nudge them in stealth, and they'd just get up and walk away. Never mind the armed prisoners with guns pointed at their heads, clearly it was just their own negative attitude that was keeping them imprisoned. Life lessons!

After that I was planning to explore the map and look for some more one-time missions to do, but then the Feast of Prosperity came around and I realised that this was too good an opportunity to engage with some temporary non-combat content to pass up. The event missions also happen to give tons of experience, which is only enhanced by it overlapping with three weeks of double XP this year, so the level cap is now so close that I can smell it!


Star Wars: Visions & What's Canon Anyway?

I didn't think I was going to have any interest in Star Wars: Visions when it was first announced, because I'm not really a fan of anime and the trailer didn't look interesting to me at all. But then I saw it pop up on my Disney+ feed and thought: Eh, might as well see what that's all about!

And as it turns out... I enjoyed it overall! My very first exposure to the Expanded Universe back in the day was Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, so I'm actually quite partial towards random short stories simply set in the Star Wars universe, and every animation studio gave the property a slightly different flavour. Let me do some mini-reviews for each episode - these will contain spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, it's (mostly) safe to continue reading below the list.

1. The Duel

This one was very moody and visually interesting. I rolled my eyes a little at the Sith lady fighting in heels and wielding a lightsaber umbrella, but then I was kind of like... it's not canon, so who cares? The revelation at the end was intriguing. It occurred to me that I could see the young chief telling his own children one day about the events leading up to him being given this rare crystal, and if this was his re-telling that would explain why some things are a little over the top.

2. Tatooine Rhapsody

It seems most people weren't too impressed with this one but I kind of liked it once I got over the shock of how different the style was to the first episode. Chibi Boba Fett hunting a Hutt with a wig that wants to play in a band? Why the hell not! I liked that the main character's "microphone" did indeed just remain a microphone and he didn't suddenly ignite his lightsaber for a heroic rescue at the end. This appealed to my "not everything in Star Wars has to be resolved by using the Force" leanings.

3. The Twins

Based on other opinions I've seen, people seem to either love or hate this one. I'm more in the latter camp, though "hate" would still be too strong a word. I was after all entertained, just by laughing at how ridiculous it all was instead of being able to take the story seriously in any way whatsoever. It just reminded me of bad fan fiction, the sort where someone just picks one or two aspects of a film they saw and decide to write a story all about that, which doesn't mesh with anything else from the source material. Star Destroyers, X-Wings, something something dark side, massive battle scene woo!

4. The Village Bride

This one was probably the least memorable of the lot for me. It was competent and I did like it well enough while watching it, but it felt like a fairly generic story of a low-lying Jedi choosing to reveal herself to save a village. I liked the guy with the bucket hat. Oh, and someone pointed out that the ship that the bandits arrive in is the same as SWTOR's smuggler ship, which was neat.

5. The Ninth Jedi

Now this one was fun. Come on, do you really think that ominous guy with the full body armour and the red glowing eyes wants to just help out some Jedi? Are you daft? But then! A delicious twist! I loved that.

6. T0-B1

First off, was anyone else slightly amused by the main protagonist's name kind of sounding like "Teen Obi-Wan" when said out loud? No, just me? Oh well.

This one was kind of weird and I didn't really know what to make of it. I was on board with the idea of a droid wanting to be a Jedi, and I liked how during the big battle getting his arm chopped off didn't phase him at all because duh, droid! But then the whole "you're just like a real boy" vision gave me Pinocchio vibes and I never liked Pinoccio much. Also, I was a bit put off by the planet initially looking kind of like Tatooine but then it clearly wasn't.

7. The Elder

This one had very strong Qui-Gon Jinn and young Obi-Wan vibes, but I didn't mind. For all the aspects of Star Wars that the franchise has cloned and repeated to death, this particular dynamic is not one of them I think? I liked how this was the calmest and most dialogue-heavy of the episodes, reminding us that Star Wars doesn't have to be all about flashy battles. The only slight negative from my point of view is that the dialogue felt kind of weirdly paced in the English dub sometimes, but then I've read somewhere that this is fairly common with anime due to the way the Japanese language works (?)

8. Lop and Ochō

This was probably the most visually beautiful of the episodes, and I liked the theme of found family over blood relations, which is something the sequel trilogy kind of undermined with its weird focus on genetic heritage. The only con from my point of view was that I thought the dialogue was a bit weak (just how many times does Lop repeat something or other about bringing the family back together...)

9. Akakiri

This one was visually and stylistically very interesting, but I found the cuts a bit weird and honestly got confused at one point because I didn't immediately recognise that a couple of scenes were meant to be flashbacks. It also felt the least "Star Warsy" to me somehow, because even though there was mention of Jedi and Sith, everything looked very stereotypically Japanese, and most of the other common Star Wars trappings, such as aliens, droids or familiar locations were notably absent.

Overall I enjoyed seeing the IP get explored in this different style, though I think some critics are giving it too much credit for originality... e.g. Forbes reviewed the series under the headline of "Star Wars: Visions finally breaks free from the Skywalker saga", which I think made most Star Wars fans go "Dude, where've you been?" There's already plenty of supplemental content out there that explores other aspects of the Star Wars universe. I'd even say that in terms of themes, Visions is fairly conservative by having most episodes be about some sort of Jedi vs. Sith conflict. Which is not a problem! However, it's hardly revolutionary either.

Now, what really got me thinking about Visions was the fact that it's been labelled as "not canon" and that in my own reactions to individual episodes, I sometimes perceived this as a good thing (like in The Duel, where I saw it as an easy excuse to hand-wave away some awkward details) and other times as a bad thing (like in The Twins, where I felt kind of annoyed that the writers seemed to have zero respect for established norms in the Star Wars universe). Why is that?

I thought about what exactly canon even means in this kind of context, and the definition that seemed the most appropriate is "the works of a particular author or artist that are recognized as genuine" or "the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality". Of course George Lucas waived the exclusive right to come up with Star Wars stories a long time ago, so it's less about the author and more about what the IP holder, in this case Disney, has deigned to give the stamp of approval as "the true story".

I feel that having an established canon does add value to a universe like this, because it adds authenticity to the stories by ensuring that they contradict each other as little as possible, and ideally there should also be some sort of minimum quality control. (Ideally...) But in a fiction as vast as the Star Wars universe, it can also become restrictive and cause fans to become weirdly obsessive about pointless details, fretting about things like why that one stormtrooper in that one scene wore the wrong helmet for the time period and what that must mean.

And I think that explains why I felt the way I did about Visions too. In The Duel, my initial reaction to seeing the Sith's weapon was to think something like: "Oh no, I thought we'd seen all the weird things people could do with lightsabers... " But on reminding myself that it wasn't canon, there was a certain sense of relief that I didn't have to worry about where it fit into the "canon of lightsabers", I could just take it at face value in this particular story and enjoy it for what it was.

Comparatively, The Twins made me think: "OK, I know that Star Wars isn't very concerned with physics, but people still aren't able to breathe in space, usually..." It didn't just violate some obscure part of canon, it clashed with most stories taking place in space and just gave me the feeling that the creators didn't care about any kind of logic or credibility, which in turn made me feel detached from the story.

If you've watched Visions, what did you think of it? And did you see the lack of canonicity as a pro or a con?


Onslaught in Review

As I said previously, we still don't have a launch date for Legacy of the Sith, but it can't be far off now, and I don't expect us to get another major content update before then, so I thought it would be interesting to look back on how Onslaught has gone as a whole. I wasn't sure what conclusion I'd come to when I first started writing this, but honestly, now that I've added it all up, this has been a pretty ace expansion.


After Bioware tried (and failed) to reinvent the wheel for the last two expansions (with the single player focus in KotFE and Galactic Command in KotET), it was nice to see them refocus on simply adding features that players had actually been asking for in one form or another.

  • Nautolans as a new playable species: They ended up looking a bit more... weird than most people expected I suppose, but I still think they were a good addition. Based on forum polls and the like, Nautolans were easily the most requested species that wasn't available yet - so much so that after this, I'm not actually sure what playable species they could add next. Sure, there are lots to choose from and you can find people suggesting pretty much all of them on the forums somewhere, but I haven't seen anything else have the same kind of consistent demand as Togruta and Nautolan had before they were added.
  • Spoils of War: Gearing was a mess towards the end of KotET and needed a revamp desperately. I think the new Spoils of War system worked out well overall! It's not perfect, but what ever is? I'd say its biggest flaws are that a lot of set bonuses and Tacticals they introduced were pretty useless so that there ultimately weren't that many viable choices to make about what to get, and that drop rates for both types of items were pretty poop, meaning that most of the time, you were better off just saving fragments to buy from a vendor, even when all you were doing was gambling at Kai's. Still, overall the ease of gearing up in terms of item levels was amazing, and everything being bound to legacy so that you could gear all your alts in one fell sweep has been super neat.
  • Material storage: I liked how they never even advertised this as a feature; it was just suddenly there and amazing, freeing up tons of space in cargo and legacy bays across the land. This is the kind of quality of life improvement we all love to see. Separate but related, they also added all those event currencies to the legacy currency tab.


I didn't love the Onslaught base story quite as much as Jedi Under Siege, but it was still excellent overall, making use of the game's large pre-established cast and adding all kinds of great little touches to remind players of their class identity. Over the course of the expansion, we then got three more story installments:

  • Echoes of Oblivion: This was a pure love letter to the game and its community, taking all kinds of loose ends that had been left dangling in an unsatisfying manner and tying them into a neat little bow.
  • Spirit of Vengeance: Probably the least interesting of Onslaught's updates, it still introduced Rass Ordo as a likeable new character and laid the seeds for what's hopefully going to be an interesting arc about the Mandalorians facing off against an intriguing new villain.
  • Secrets of the Enclave: The expansion's second piece of story that was actually different for both factions (after the Onslaught base story), this again featured a plethora of interesting character moments, even if it didn't advance the plot very much.

If I were to criticise anything, I guess you could point out that there is no clear theme to all of these to tie Onslaught together: a bit of Darth Malgus here, some Mandalorian stuff here. Then again, this is pretty in line with how things used to be in SWTOR's "good old days": After all, Rise of the Hutt Cartel was only really about Hutts for a very short time; all the content added after its launch centred on organisations like Czerka or the Dread Masters.

"MMO Stuff"

It seems to me that after the early years of most content additions being standard MMO content and the wild swing in the opposite direction with KotFE & KotET's story chapters at the expense of all else, Bioware has finally settled into a nice balance between continuously adding engaging story installments while also consistently churning out repeatable content to keep dedicated players busy in the gaps in-between.

  • Two new planets: Onderon and Mek-Sha were both smaller than I would have hoped, but they were fully fleshed-out planets with datacrons and everything. The Onderon daily circuit is decent fun. Unfortunately Mek-Sha felt a bit half-baked with its somewhat random selection of side missions in different places, some content being quite buggy initially and none of it ever really becoming very rewarding.
  • One new operation: Nature of Progress (or Dxun as most people call it) is a brilliant op in terms of story and undoubtedly the funniest piece of group content Bioware ever released. The fights are mostly good fun as well, except for the last boss, whom I find kind of tedious mechanically to be honest.
  • Three new flashpoints: Objective Meridian, Spirit of Vengeance and Secrets of the Enclave. I stand by what I said about Objective Meridian seeming a bit dull at first blush but being interesting to replay. The last boss(es) can be infuriating but in a good way (to me anyway). Spirit of Vengeance was a bit meh - some neat little Easter egg achievements couldn't make up for the fact that it consists of too much boring trash and the environment isn't exactly thrilling to look at either. Secrets of the Enclave is probably my favourite of the three, meaning it's fairly fast-paced, features decent boss fights and includes some beautiful environments to feast your eyes on.
  • Two new world events and more: We got the Ultimate Swoop Rally on Dantooine and the Feast of Prosperity as a seasonal event in autumn. I liked both of these as creative non-combat additions. I found that swooping gets quite boring quickly if you do it for too long but it is something different. I also enjoyed the little mini-games coming with the Feast and the way it livened up the world boss pugging scene - I'm quite looking forward to doing that again this year actually. Finally, we also got the Alderaan stronghold and Galactic Seasons for what it's worth.


I know people always complain about wanting more from Bioware - and it's not like I'd object to being given more! - but honestly, looking back at all this, it strikes me as a pretty decent tally for a two-year long expansion that came free with the subscription. Especially considering that for a lot of that time, Covid was interfering with the devs' working patterns as well.

I like that there's a clear effort to balance single player story content with MMO features and additions now, and most of it was really good quality as well, with just a couple of not-so-great items on the list but nothing completely awful or boring. If Legacy of the Sith can deliver in a similar way, I'll be one happy camper.


Daily Tour: Onderon (Republic)

My post about my daily route across Oricon got a better response than I expected, so I guess I'll post a few more of these over the next couple of months. Today I'd like to take you along to the game's newest daily area, Onderon - but only on Republic side, because Imperials get different missions and I've not done those often enough to have really developed a routine. In fact, the last time I did them on an Imp, I actually found myself pausing more than once and wondering whether I'd gone the wrong way.

My tour around Onderon on Republic side could be described as roughly counter-clockwise. Starting in Iziz, I first do the one mission inside the town, find the beast tracks just outside and then proceed north along the shoreline to root out Imperial spies. I'm guessing at least that part of my route must be similar for many people, considering that the beast-tracking quest requires you to hit certain markers along the way in order.

After killing the bonus guy in the cave, I usually spend several minutes flailing around trying to find the next traces of the beast - I've said it from the start: Onderon is pretty and a good place to have a gathering skill, but the missions that require you to find tiny clickies or camouflaged markers on the ground that can move ever so slightly from one day to the next are a royal pain in the butt. There's more of that sort of searching required around the crashed ship, and then I proceed to rounding up the Orlaxes.

After that I kill the big beast by the lake and cross over to the main part of the Mandalorian camp. The quest to collect Mando gear is always a bit weird in terms of drop rates, because sometimes I kill a few mobs and I'm done, while other times I have to clear out the whole camp and do another circuit around the lake and still don't have enough drops afterwards.

Then it's through the first cave to root out some conspirators, and the same in the next cave on my way to Untamed territory. There I light the torch and go into their temple/cave to challenge their champion and kill some Zakkegs. Here I have to take care to not get too distracted by gathering nodes in the surrounding jungle or my torch might go out before I can use it, and then I'd have to re-light it.

Finally I plant a few sensors just outside the area and then loop back down to flush out conspirators in the last cave to finish up.

I expect that the Onderon daily route is a lot less popular than Oricon, seeing how the planet's only been out for two years and requires completion of a sizeable bit of storyline, unlike the much more accessible Oricon, which has also been out for more than eight years now. Still, if you've done the Onderon dailies at least a few times, dear reader, I'd be curious to hear how you go about them.


No News Is Good News (from the PTS)?

The PTS for Legacy of the Sith continues to quietly chug along. When I was playing there with guildies recently, one of them commented that there were very few people online, and I replied that that's pretty normal. There's usually a big rush on opening day as everyone logs on to check whether there's anything particularly interesting to see, but since there rarely is, they log off again and don't come back. Even the few who do end up doing genuine testing will usually only play that content for a little while and then go back to doing something else. The PTS just isn't a place to hang out.

That said, I'm surprised by how many hours I've spent there already this time around, especially considering that unlike for Onslaught, Bioware hasn't offered up any rewards for participation. According to Steam I've spent more than ten hours on the PTS so far.

Last night me and six of my guildies ran Terror from Beyond master mode on the PTS with an all-inquisitor group because scaling isn't in yet and we wanted to see what it would be like to be ten levels above the content. The answer is, we managed to one-shot everything up to Terror himself and probably could have got the timer achievement (something many of us have never managed on live) but then we wiped a couple of times on Terror and people didn't feel like pushing on as it was getting late. It was still a fun time. I played as Lightning dps, something I don't think I've ever done in master mode content; I pretty much always heal on the harder stuff.

Previously we'd also tested the new inquisitor skill trees by running the flashpoints added in Onslaught on master mode, using copied level 75 characters. I tanked Objective Meridian and healed Spirit of Vengeance and Secrets of the Enclave. The bonus boss in the latter absolutely wiped the floor with us repeatedly for some reason; it did so much damage (though we did get it down eventually). We did a run on live afterwards just to compare the experience because I was kind of starting to doubt my healing abilities, and there the boss didn't even do the ability that was causing us so much trouble, so that we took almost zero damage... it was very odd.

In terms of how the class changes felt, I can only reiterate what I said in my last post about the PTS - compared to the initial hubbub, they really don't feel like that big a deal. (Though my main class still hasn't been added to the PTS - typical that they'd save the best for last - so I guess I'll reserve judgement until I see that.)

Assassin tank didn't really feel very different at all. At level 70 they make you choose between your knockback, that cone-based AoE they added in Onslaught and that no-one ever used anyway, and Whirlwind, none of which really matter to a tank in PvE. I guess in PvP people might have to decide whether they get more use out of the knockback or the extra CC. Passives are mostly centred around increasing your AoE damage/threat or some new interactions with taunt, which I found hard to judge in terms of their usefulness.

Sorc had more changes going on, but still the overall rotation felt largely the same. The only thing that bugged me at level 75 was that the utility to move while casting Innervate and other key abilities isn't unlocked until 80 now, so I was constantly interrupting myself by moving at the wrong time. Here the proposed choices at 70 are between your friendly pull, Volt Rush and immunity bubble, which is a bit more tricksy. The pull is super situational but where it is useful it's extremely useful - yet, can you really justify choosing it over the bubble? I'm kind of hoping they still change that one.

The changes to passives I found very hard to judge once again. A guildie was playing Madness and cackling about Shock finishing all your dots at once or something like that, which does sound pretty OP, but I didn't see anything as exciting in Lightning or Corruption. Not everything seemed to work properly either... as a healer one option was supposed to allow me to follow up a Dark Infusion with another instant cast but that never seemed to trigger, and as Lightning there were multiple effects that looked like they were meant to be passives but actually gave me another button to press on my bar that didn't really seem to work properly either... it's a bit hard to form strong opinions based on that.

In general I'm surprised by how much I've enjoyed these test runs on the PTS with my guildies though. Stuff like running an unscaled operation offers a different view on content that hasn't been available in the live game for years. And as far as the class changes go, it does kind of feel like the goal of the pruning is simply to make sure you don't need more than two full action bars for your combat abilities and I'm OK with that. That's still plenty of buttons to press.