23/10/2021

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.

20/10/2021

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.

17/10/2021

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.

14/10/2021

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!

11/10/2021

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?

08/10/2021

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.


Features

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.

Story

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.

Summary

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.

05/10/2021

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.

02/10/2021

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.