A Non-angry R-4 Post

I haven't really felt like posting for a week since real life has been stressful, and at the same time my continued inability to clear the new ops on story mode really put a damper on my enjoyment of the game. Naturally, when my team finally did get the kill last week, it was on the night when I was sitting out. So when it was finally my turn today - halfway through week three of the new operation being out - I didn't even feel jubilant, just relieved that it was finally over. Plus as our tank commented (the other person in the run who hadn't got his achievement yet): Ultimately it felt kind of random that we survived the last phase on our first try tonight when we had continuously wiped to it during the previous weeks, so I can't say that I got to feel a great deal of satisfaction for overcoming a challenge.

However, as much as I think that the difficulty tuning has been god-awful and has really overshadowed everything else about R-4 (and my enjoyment of the game in general), there were some other things that I found noteworthy about the new operation. Now that I've actually seen the end, I want to talk about them all.

First off, the environmental and cinematic work is top notch as usual, but Bioware has never really let me down in those areas. Mr Commando was a bit thrown off by the fact that there was no short intro cinematic the first time we entered the operation while on the story mission, but the cinematics before and after the last boss were very cool.

The ops as a whole uses space very well, alternating between giant, cavernous rooms that make you feel really small and tight corridors in which you get overwhelmed by enemies and traps, both of which really play up the horror theme that the designers chose to go for in this operation. The closest thing already in the game that it reminded me of is Kaon Under Siege, though that obviously has a very different setting with its urban landscape.

The trapped corridors are a bit of a mixed bag mechanically - I guess some of our early struggles with them have been due to not doing the mechanics entirely correctly, but some of it is also just unfriendliness towards groups not being super tightly organised or mechanics simply being a bit buggy. During my first visit to the ops it took us ages just to get to the first boss as those force fields that go up in the hallway with the fire ended up separating people, then we exited area, came back in and were trapped with no way to advance, had to exit again and reset the whole phase... and so on.

The first boss or giant disco ball is reasonably fun I guess. The mechanic requiring you to press the buttons with different symbols is kind of interesting and different, but everything else about the fight is basically trying not to stand in five different kinds of fire and just makes me feel kind of old. I don't mind having a bit of that sort of thing, but the degree to which this fight takes it just stresses me out (though at least on story mode it's reasonably forgiving and you can survive quite a few mess-ups). Apparently veteran mode requires you to memorise a complicated dance pattern for the whole fight just so you can stay out of everything and... yeah, no.

Also, without wanting to touch too much on tuning issues again, the dps check for the final burn on that boss is kind of whack. My first kill on it was actually a draw as it blew up and killed the raid at the exact same moment as we killed it. That was certainly funny, but it was only afterwards that we learned that it was beneficial to ditch one tank for the whole operation and take a fifth damage dealer instead, in order to be able to beat dps checks like this one more reliably.

The second boss, Watchdog, is again reasonably fun mechanically and probably the most complex of the bosses in a non-obvious way. There's a lot going on with colours and bombs and stuff that doesn't immediately make sense, though it's quite fun once you understand what's happening. Apparently my ops team misunderstood the mechanics so badly the first night (while going in blind, without having looked at any guides) that their instructions to us on the second night were to "intentionally blow up the grenades" which led to all kinds of hilarity. We only wised up when a member of another team listened in on us and kind of went "WTF are you doing".

Lord Kanoth is probably my favourite boss of the operation, and not just because he shares a name with an old WoW buddy of mine whom I could amuse a bit by telling him that he's now a raid boss in SWTOR. The room just before the boss gives sufficient explanation of how to handle the Nihrot spread and it's a fairly intuitive mechanic that allows everyone to contribute to keeping the battlefield clean. There's also a lot more going on with the details of how Nihrot spreads that we didn't really pick up on and that I only learned from looking at a guide later on because it's not really essential to fully understand on story mode, and I actually appreciate that.

Finally, we have Lady Dominique, my personal nemesis, but aside from the annoyances of her burn phase, she's a pretty decent fight. On an intellectual level I like the attempt at using verticality in an environment that isn't circular like Soa's room or the machine in Temple of Sacrifice, but I also main a Commando so I can't claim that it's super fun to be knocked down at regular intervals and then having to slowly leg it back up to the boss while everyone around me insta-leaps to her. (Tonight I played as Scoundrel and having Trick Move made that part so much more bearable.)

Which just leaves the story of the operation, and to be honest that's something that's not great either. I've always loved it when SWTOR's ops convey a little narrative, but when they mess it up it's pretty awkward. The first time I remember feeling that way was in Ravagers, where there's this big twist happening in the middle of the last boss fight which is only conveyed through a voice-over that is easy to miss over the sounds of battle and it was just so confusing the first time. However, the worst example to this day remains Gods from the Machine, the ending of which is just a big ball of confusion, what with you killing Scyva but then she's immediately alive again and on your side now, somehow.

I had high hopes for R-4 in that regard since Dxun's story was so good and funny and this one was supposed to be a sort of follow-up, but something clearly went a bit awry somewhere. Cal has a much more detailed post about it on his blog, but in a nutshell, you start with ARIA speaking in a deep voice pretending to be someone else, then speaking in yet another voice pretending to be a third person (I think?), then suddenly being back to being her usual chirpy self, and then going "yes, it's me" and none of it is really tied together narratively. It's not as big of a deal as in Gods, because at least the dead don't come alive again and switch sides randomly, it's just this low-key itch of confusion that follows you through the whole instance. I'm fine with a bit of mystery and not knowing everything, such as ARIA's motivations or who exactly EVE is, but that part felt like it was supposed to tell us something but then just didn't make sense.

While trying to research whether I was missing something, I learned that apparently there was evidence of a fifth boss called Lord Valeo on the PTS, whose fight was supposed to take place on a train (similar to the first boss in Crisis on Umbara), and I wonder whether his inclusion would have shed any more light on what's going on with ARIA, but I could only find some deleted voice lines for the boss himself, not any potentially cut intermission content. I guess this is just going to be one of those "what could have been" mysteries of SWTOR.

All-in-all, I've got to admit that I've found R-4 somewhat disappointing. There's some good stuff in there and it might still have a chance to redeem itself if they do some re-tuning soon, but at the current rate I suspect it's just going to be one of those places that people avoid most of the time because the fun parts just aren't worth the required hassle.


  1. Having mixed feelings on R4. On the one hand--I love it! Kanoth is my favorite, but all the fights are super fun, imo. On the other hand, I hate that I can't just take literally any group of my guildies into this op and expect a full clear. We have older players. We have casual players. The reaction time and coordination required in this op is not friendly to either.

    Both my HM teams cleared Lady Dom without too many issues, but beyond that, I've seen a lot of frustration at the last boss. It's not even necessarily a dps issue, I don't think. It's just that the mechanics are incredibly punishing for an sm operation. One person not getting out of the group for recursive blast can cause a wipe. I personally don't think monstrosities should exist in sm, either.

    As much as I enjoy this op, forming groups with an eye on mechanical proficiency, dps, and passive cleave for an op that is ostensibly story mode(!) feels very wrong to me.

    1. I think the issue with Lady D is the combination of unforgiving mechanics. You're right that the dps check probably wouldn't be so bad if the mechanics were easier to deal with, but it's so easy to lose massive amounts of dps due to issues with recursive blast or monstrosities and then the soft enrage mechanic just causes you to get overwhelmed.

  2. I have actually really enjoyed R4 - love the ambience, and I love all the weird ass climbing and platforming. I have enjoyed all fights, and just this week a guildie called Kanoth "reverse Tyrans" and really this is th best description I could ever see of it! hahahaa.

    I hear HM is hellish, but, you know, I'm not doing that much HM these days, so, I'm not too worried about it for now.

    I hear your pain on Dommy Mommy and being kicked downstairs; while nothing can really help with recursive blast (although if properly lined you shouldn't go TOO far), for the white circle I've found that the best option is dropping to the lower ramp (where we normally would put orange circles) and position yourself as to have the head -to -waist of your model blocked by the ramp ahead - that way you're knocked into the ramp, fall back in same place, get in range real quick! :)
    As Shadow Stride doesn't ALWAYS make it in time (and angle for you to be "seeing target" is finnicky), learning this trick helped immensely (like I started parsing 2.5k more x.x), same for merc heals as you know so well :)

    1. for the white circle I've found that the best option is dropping to the lower ramp (where we normally would put orange circles) and position yourself as to have the head -to -waist of your model blocked by the ramp ahead - that way you're knocked into the ramp, fall back in same place, get in range real quick

      I had to re-read this comment a couple of times before I got what you meant, but I tried this last night and it actually worked really well, so thanks!


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