Finding My Season 3 Groove

During Galactic Season 1 I kept a diary of all the objectives I completed, because the way the system worked encouraged you to play in slightly wacky ways and it was fun to document that - e.g. me trying to squeeze in two rounds of dailies before having to go to an emergency dental appointment. I was grateful that Season 2 eased up on that, but it also made the whole thing somewhat less fun to write about because a lot of objectives more or less completed themselves, in the sense that they simply got done as a side effect of normal play.

Since everything was so easy to complete, I took up the additional challenge of completing Season 2 on the game's other four servers as well, and that was actually quite engaging and interesting. Since Season 3 only made some very minor and (to me) inconsequential changes to how things work, my plan was to go for completion on all five servers right away this time.

In many ways I figured that this would actually be easier now that I have established legacies on all servers, but as it turns out, going all in from the beginning does actually feel like a bit much. Originally my plan was to just focus on Darth Malgus to begin with and only earn points from logging in and completing the daily objective on the other servers, but then I was like "well, this weekly isn't that hard, I'm sure I can do at least that one on multiple servers" and then things kind of spiralled from there.

I thought things would be better during week two, since it was also Total Galactic War and I wanted to focus on helping my guild win a planet through Conquest, but our competition turned out to be a lot less competitive than I expected, meaning I soon felt that I could ease up on the point grinding and do other things anyway, such as completing the CZ-198 weekly ten times (twice per server) - madness!

So while it's only the end of week two, I'm already sitting on seasons level 23 on Darth Malgus and 16 on all the other servers. I'd really like to pace myself better because part of the appeal of doing the season on multiple servers is that it'll give me something to do for longer, without being done quite so quickly, but obviously that doesn't work very well if I push my legacies on the other servers too hard from the beginning.

The "problem" is that the weekly objectives often encourage doing things in planned-out chunks, so you do just a little bit and then log off to do something else... and if you're like me you might go: hey, why not do the same little bit on another server, and on it goes until I've suddenly done the same daily zone ten times.

Trying to find the right balance in that regard is going to be... interesting.

Also, I know you can't complete more than seven weekly objectives, but I liked how close I got to getting all ten done near-simultaneously last week.


Andor Is Amazing

I'm perhaps not the most discerning Star Wars fan, which is why I don't really get it whenever people get super upset about not liking some new piece of content. I'm generally happy if I derive some sort of enjoyment from it, even if it's not perfect, and I'm okay with not everything being good or appealing to me personally. I thought the sequel trilogy was ultimately disappointing, but I've been enjoying most of the stuff Disney's been producing for TV. I thought Andor was going to be just another one of those shows - not groundbreaking, but enjoyable enough.

And the first few episodes did start out that way for me - entertaining enough, with some interesting parts, and others that were a bit more meh (in my opinion anyway). However, something happened around episode four or five: things started to ramp up, tension started to build, characters got more interesting. Episode six had me glued to my screen. I had to watch episode seven a second time to make sure I hadn't missed anything important (and I had, so it was good that I did that). I started seeking out articles and conversations about it because just watching the show wasn't good enough anymore. Andor reminded me what it's like to not just enjoy something, but to truly be a fan.

Poster taken from the show's IMDB page.

Why is that? Well, I do think it can be said that it's objectively very well produced. The acting is good, the writing is sharp and clever, there are some great visuals and it's supported by a strong soundtrack. It presents a number of interesting characters with a lot of nuance to their actions, and it does a lot of world building - not in the sense of inventing new locations, though that's something that does happen as well, but in the sense that it really explores what it means to live under the Empire as a regular person, to work for it or rebel against it.

I get that if for you, Star Wars is all about the lightsabers and spectacle, this may not be your cup of tea, but for me as someone who's always been very interested in the wider setting, it's fantastic. I liked this about Solo as well.

Unlike Solo however, Andor leans heavily into a more serious interpretation of the setting, to the point that I feel it genuinely manages to shift genre. The core Star Wars films could be classified as family-friendly action adventures - sure, there are some serious themes and bad things happen, but we're not meant to think too deeply about e.g. what it means for a whole planet to get blown up and a whole civilisation to be eradicated. That's not a flaw; that's just a convention of the genre.

My fascination with Andor led to me rewatching Rogue One the other day as well, and while that tried to be grittier in many ways, it still feels like a traditional Star Wars film in most other aspects... which actually makes all the tragic deaths feel a bit weird, because all the heroes dying doesn't quite fit the genre, yet at the same time the film also doesn't go far enough to really pause and think about what it all means.

Andor on the other hand is a full-blown... drama, spy thriller? I find it hard to categorise actually, but it's definitely not just an action adventure. In fact, one of the criticisms I've seen levelled at it is that there hasn't been enough action, that it's "too slow" because we spend so much time just watching characters talk with seemingly nothing happening except character development, but I can't say that I've ever felt that way, even during the first few episodes that didn't really excite me that much.

Usually I'd wait to write this kind of post until a show or at least the season is over, but in this case my excitement has got the better of me and I couldn't really contain it any longer. At the time of me writing this there are four episodes left in the season, and for all I know the writers could still mess up horribly and ruin everything, but at the moment that doesn't seem likely to me. I'm pleased to hear that a second season is already in the works.

Assuming that the show can stick the landing, I hope that this will inspire Disney to allow more Star Wars films or TV series like this to be made. And by "like this" I don't mean that they all have to be dark and super serious. Rather, I see Andor as confirmation that the Star Wars setting is rich enough to produce all kinds of excellent stories, and that they should dare to venture outside of the traditional boundaries of action adventures about Jedi more often. That could mean other more adult shows, but I'd be just as happy to see a good comedy set in the Star Wars universe for example, or even a romance (we've actually seen the latter done quite successfully in written form already, in Lost Stars). It doesn't all have to be aimed at my own personal tastes; I just love seeing this vast universe being given some room to truly breathe.


Meeting "Fay"

So the launch of Galactic Season 3 ended up being delayed by a couple of days due to Bioware discovering an issue during patch deployment (what else is new) but on Thursday we finally got to dig into it.

I have to admit that my first impression involved a slight feeling of disappointment when I looked at the weekly season objectives and saw a lot of the exact same ones that had been used in Season 2: Capitals of Dichotomy, complete the Revan flashpoints... there's nothing wrong with these as objectives, but while I wanted them to keep the structure of Season 2 for Season 3, I'd been hoping for a bit more variety in the content of the objectives.

However, soon I was off to pick up my new companion, and here I was quite positively surprised. Again, I wasn't immediately keen on a Scorpio-lookalike (the initial announcement about the season being "Galactic Gaming"-themed made me think we might get a Huttball player or something as a companion... wrong type of gaming it turns out) - but her intro really won me over.

I thought PH4-LNX has a much more interesting backstory than the previous companions, what with being a former Gemini droid, being captured by Czerka and being indentured to a Hutt! The little introductory storyline where you hop from planet to planet has her allude to even more tales of crazy adventure, such as when she tells you that she once killed a Hutt on Tatooine and became an Alderaanian Duchess.

One weekly objective that is new to Season 3 also involves travelling around the galaxy with "Fay" in tow to catch cheaters in casinos and cantinas and it's... weeeird. On the one hand I kind of like how it encourages you to visit different planets to find an uncontested spot to watch over, but on the other hand the scarcity of the designated gambler NPCs makes the whole thing a bit dystopian.

What I mean is that you end up with these scenes of half a dozen people staring at a character playing at a slot machine and just waiting to pounce on them to get them arrested for wrongdoing. Every gambler cheats at some point or another as well, and there are no false positives or anything where it turns out that their "acting suspiciously" was actually something innocent. I don't know, maybe I'm overthinking this...

The only real hiccup I've run into with the intro mission on Republic side (I don't know if the same issue exists on Imp side) is when it tells you to slice a terminal on Coruscant, pointing you to the Senate Tower cantina, and when you get there you see a gambler playing at a machine, surrounded by half a dozen people staring at him, so your natural inclination is probably to be confused in some way... is that the "terminal" I need to slice? Everyone seems to be looking at it, but I can't click it; does that mean it's bugged? I had to look it up when I got to that step myself and have since seen other people be equally confused by it. Bioware seems to be aware of this though and is looking into how they can reduce the confusion.


Galactic Season 3 Starts Tomorrow

On Friday we got (rather short!) notice that patch 7.1.1 will go live tomorrow, with one of the biggest patch features being the release of Galactic Season 3. After how decidedly meh I felt when Season 1 was originally announced, the concept of seasons has quickly grown on me (especially with all the positive changes that were made from Season 1 to Season 2) and I'm actually looking forward to Season 3.

That said, I'm a bit surprised by how little we've heard about the upcoming season this time around. Before the first one, we got a decent (if not fully finalised) overview of what it was going to entail about a month in advance, and Galactic Season 1 hadn't even ended yet when Bioware took to the forums to explain how they were going to make massive changes for Season 2. With Season 3, we haven't really heard anything beyond a vague mention that it will be "Galactic Gaming themed". (Note: While I was writing this, the patch notes went up and clarified that the official title of the season is "Luck of the Draw" and that the new companion will be "PH4-LNX, the new Croupier Droid".) I'm hoping that means they were happy with how positively Season 2 was received and aren't making any major changes to how it worked, but truth be told, we don't really know.

Assuming that Season 3 will follow the same general pattern as Season 2, I'd like to complete it on all five servers again, while jumping into that project from the beginning this time. If I start casually accumulating points just by logging in and doing the odd objective here and there from week one, I should hopefully be able to achieve full completion everywhere without having to resort to credit buyouts.

Looks like the next few months are going to be quite busy for me in terms of gaming... are you looking forward to the start of the new season? Or are you more interested in other aspects of the patch, such as the return of the Feast of Prosperity or tweaks to class balance?


Imperial Saboteur, Part 3

It's been a few months since I wrote about my decision to make my Chiss Sniper an Imperial saboteur and how that changed the story from Jedi Under Siege onwards. Part one, which covered the story content up to Onderon, could largely be summed up as "these saboteur options are pretty neat and interesting", while part two was still fun but veered a bit into the ridiculous with how obvious my character's sabotage was at times.

Last week I finally got the character caught up with the latest content - at the time of writing this, that's the "Digging Deeper" story update, though I can already tell you that I won't have anything to say about that one as I didn't encounter any saboteur-specific options in it; it seemed to be exactly the same as for all my loyalist characters. As far as everything else goes however, there'll be post-Onslaught spoilers in this post; you've been warned.

I previously covered up to the end of the main Onslaught story, so I had to pick things up with The Task at Hand and the introduction of Darth Rivix. Your sabotage is shown to have had consequences here as unlike the briefing for loyalists, the one saboteurs get from Rivix describes the Empire as being in deep trouble after the loss of the Meridian complex.

There's also a little section where Rivix asks your opinion on something that's specific to your origin story, which I don't actually remember catching on to before... for agents he notes that Darth Xarion appears to have planted some spies among the Hand's prospective staff and as a saboteur you can get him in trouble with the Emperor or Empress for that, though I didn't choose this option. I was also a bit confused why Rivix called me "Keeper" as I don't remember my agent attaining that rank (not that this is something that's specific to saboteurs).

Echoes of Oblivion and Spirit of Vengeance unsurprisingly had no saboteur options, seeing how they're not about the Republic/Empire conflict. In the "intermission" after that I didn't really note any saboteur options either, other than being able to dismiss going after Zenith as not worth your time, which I liked.

Secrets of the Enclave felt like the saboteur option was given some more thought again here. Krovos justifies her delayed arrival with Imperial forces facing "heavy resistance", which is not the case for loyalists. Before you set out, you also have the option to contact Jonas Balkar to give him a heads-up about where you're going.

With that in mind, I kind of enjoyed the bit where you land on Dantooine and are shocked that the Republic is already there. I mean, I know that's how the story goes regardless and that it has nothing to do with being a saboteur, but considering I'd literally tipped them off personally, it just made so much more sense, you know? Just like the complete abandonment of Malgus at the end of Objective Meridian makes more sense when you have reason to dislike him for being suspicious of you.

When you rescue the medical droid inside the caves, you've got the option to instruct her to also transmit her data to Jonas/Odessen, which I thought was a bit blatantly suspicious with Krovos and Rivix just around the corner, but whatever it takes I guess...

After the mission I got a mail from Jonas which initially confused me and I was actually going to ask my readers whether they could tell me what the encoded message in it was, but as I was looking at the screenshot again while editing this post, I suddenly noticed it myself: "Got message from droid. Good. Talk soon."

Again, the "intermission" style updates leading up to Legacy of the Sith didn't contain anything relevant to saboteurs other than that there was obviously no Zenith follow-up.

Now, Manaan was a weird one. I immediately noted that it was lacking the sorts of small touches I'd really enjoyed during Onslaught, where you let a Republic fighter escape after doing some damage if you're a saboteur instead of destroying them completely as a loyalist. On Manaan, our saboteur is shown to have no such reservations and seems perfectly happy to blow up the Republic pilots that are chasing Major Anri at the start. Also, I felt kind of bad about the bonus missions to kill what felt like a million Republic forces... couldn't they have thought of something more appropriate for saboteurs? Maybe to complete the mission while only killing less than a certain number of Republic NPCs...

I don't think it had anything to do with my saboteur status, but at one point while Anri was telling me who Darth Norok was, she also commented that "Darth Shaar's retired to some frilly palace on Dromund Kaas" and I was like, "What?". I actually had to pause and go back through the text in the conversation window to make sure I'd heard that right, because I didn't remember encountering that comment before.

Anyway, as far as Manaan goes, I'd actually exposed myself to some spoilers about the saboteur path by accident so I knew that something was going to happen at the end with Colonel Korrd, but I wasn't really sure how it was going to play out. I chose to cover for him in front of Darth Krovos, and then went with the saboteur-specific option to say something about how you protected him because you still have a use for him and you'd like him to report for debrief with your people on Odessen.

I honestly found that kind of confusing, because while Korrd is fed up with a certain kind of Sith, he still seems deeply loyal to the Empire, so I'm not sure what the angle is supposed to be here. The spoiler I'd read seemed to interpret it as him being recruited into the Alliance, but that doesn't really make sense to me. My best guess is that the implication is that you'll mine him for Imperial secrets since he owes you and has no reason to distrust you, but if so, that's not made very clear.

The conversation at the end where you have the option to flirt with Anri and where she tells you how amazing you are reminded me of my comment in an earlier post about how nonsensical her admiration feels when you've been playing a saboteur who's messed up one mission after another.

At the end I got a call from Jonas about the Republic weapons platform being destroyed, and there was no option to say that you feel bad about it. You can say something about how you've gained new intel through Colonel Korrd (somehow...) and how you secured some kolto for the Republic, but I mean... they were already doing well on that front before you came in to help the Empire beat them. It just didn't feel like a very satisfying exchange and like I didn't really help the Republic, considering how many of their people I mowed down.

Ruins of Nul didn't have any saboteur-specific options again, except that during the intro conversation, after Rivix asks you to come to Elom, you can say to Lana: "Let Malgus tear the Empire down. What do we care?"

All in all, the saboteur role still provides some interesting variations on content but I've got to admit that the post-Onslaught stuff has generally felt more muddled and less impactful to me. I know the story is progressing very slowly, but at some point you've got to wonder where we're going with this whole saboteur thing and how much longer it makes sense to maintain it. More than three years ago I wrote a post called "Will we ever get to change sides?" and my answer to that question back then was that it seemed very unlikely.

However, I've got to admit that since Bioware has gone through all the hassle of decoupling origin story from combat style since then, it seems... less far-fetched now that they could do the same thing for faction one day, though this would actually increase the amount of work required from the voice actors, as they'd now have to account for every base class being able to play through Republic or Imperial story. Whichever way they go, my main hope is that they didn't just add this whole saboteur thing with no real plan for where it should go in the long run.


Enjoying the View

A year ago, in the run-up to the game's ten-year anniversary and the Legacy of the Sith expansion, Bioware held the "Best View in SWTOR" contest. It wasn't anything fancy, just a basic screenshot contest inviting players to capture nice views of their virtual environment, but I liked the idea. After all, I like taking screenshots!

In the end I only submitted screenies for three of the ten eligible planets though (the ones used to illustrate this post) - I honestly don't remember why I didn't go for more. I only remember running around Zakuul for a while trying to take a shot that satisfied me but that I was ultimately not happy with any of the results.

I didn't win anything, but I can't really complain about that. In the news post that announced the winners, they stated that they received "thousands" of entries, and their chosen winners were all highly deserving. I still don't know where the winning Yavin IV screenshot was taken, but it looks amazing. (Feel free to enlighten me in the comments.)

Either way, I figured this contest was just a one-time thing for the anniversary, so I was very pleasantly surprised when the team announced a few days ago that we were all invited for another round this autumn, just with a different selection of planets.

I'd already liked the contest last year, but this time around it very much felt like the right thing at the right time for me. The other night I spent a whole evening just travelling to different planets and taking screenshots of the sights - it was quite refreshing to not think about gear or Conquest points for a change. As a result I've already submitted shots for nine out of the ten eligible planets this time around. I'm not sure I'll still come up with something for Odessen... in my opinion there just aren't a lot of good opportunities for nice views outside cut scenes there.

Again I'm not really expecting to win anything... but it just felt like a nice feel-good exercise, you know? I suspect that the devs and artists also enjoy looking at all the pretty screenshots and take satisfaction in knowing that players really look at their work and appreciate it. If you're feeling inspired yourself, you still have until the 12th of October to send in one or more submissions of your own.