A Productive War Week

As mentioned previously, last week was Total Galactic War once again. It was a very successful one for my guild, as we conquered Hoth, which was one of four planets remaining that we had never won before (this includes the two planets added with Legacy of the Sith by the way).

That aside though, I just had a really good time playing. Total Galactic War is one of the rare occasions when I make a point of logging into and playing every single one of my (Republic) alts in the same week (in order to spread out the Conquest points and maximise my rewards), which makes for a pretty varied week of gaming. Sure, a lot of my focus was on high-yield objectives like the GSF and warzone weeklies, but once those were out of the way, I'd usually also do a bit of whatever progression was specific to that character.

I got two more alts to 80, and another three are now sitting at 79, with less than a full level to go to the cap as well. In fact, I realised that it's been so long that I made a new Republic alt on Darth Malgus that I only have a single character left in the lowbie PvP bracket (sub level 45) and even she will outgrow that soon. In midbie, I also have only three more characters left, aside from the level 79s I already mentioned. That feels strange and like I should really roll up some fresh lowbies at some point.

Then again, keeping track of how to play all these alts is a challenge by itself. One of the characters I got to 80 was my Sentinel - probably my least favourite combat style in general. I did a story mode operation on her to progress the implant mission and realised only afterwards that I'd done so without realising that one of my spec's main abilities wasn't even on my bar.

Two other lesser-played alts that got some love were my Serenity Shadow and my Balance Sage, who both saw some PvP action. DoT specs are pretty flavour of the month (year?) at the moment but personally I don't tend to get along with them that well. However, my Shadow had an absolutely insanely good time in warzones and it definitely made me re-evaluate my stance on the spec. Balance was a bit more of a mixed bag... I could kind of tell how extremely OP it was, but I repeatedly ended up in matches where the enemy enjoyed ganging up on me, and even as I was keeping three or four of them busy for a while my team mates got nothing done, which did not feel great.

I also pugged a few flashpoints, something I hadn't done in a while, and it was... interesting. With 336 gear being very accessible now, the content doesn't feel so tough anymore, but it's still possible for things to go wrong if people don't try at all. In a master mode Assault on Tython that I tanked, we got a Shadow dps with pretty low gear - I didn't think anything of it at first, nor was I upset when they wiped us by accidentally pulling an extra group on trash. After all, that can happen to anyone.

However, on the first boss I started to notice that things were dying really, really slowly, and just from the visuals, it didn't look like the guy was doing more than spamming a single attack. Okay, maybe someone new to the game and not great at it... that still would've been fine. However, by the second boss, he periodically stopped attacking at all, began spamming target markers around the area, and kept taunting the boss even though I asked him not to do that. By the end of the fight (which felt like it took ten minutes with only a single damage dealer really doing anything), the group had had enough and initiated a vote kick, and for once I had little sympathy. We'd really tried, but the guy was just not responding to anything and making things way harder than they needed to be.

After that much action, I've been taking it easy again this week... and we now know that next week will already bring the new seasons patch, meaning a return to that grind. I don't really feel ready, but I guess we'll see what it's like.


All SWTOR Planets, Ranked from Best to Worst

The other week, the SWTOR Escape Pod Cast devoted an episode to the subject of ranking SWTOR's planets. It's a light and frivolous evergreen topic, and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed the discussion - these sorts of lists are always a fun opportunity to hear people articulate their opinions, from the relatable to the bizarre (such as Max's love for Mek-Sha... heh).

Naturally, I was left with the urge to do my own ranking. The type of drag-and-drop "tier list" that they used in the show doesn't work as well for the written format though, so I decided to go for a plain old numbered list instead, ranking each planet from best to worst. I was surprised by how easy I found it to pick my favourites and least favourites - in the middle I felt a lot less opinionated and I'd probably rank some of them differently on any given day. Without further ado, let's get started!

1. Tatooine

Tatooine, to me, just has everything. The desert planet with its twin suns is super iconic and SWTOR brings it to life perfectly. It's mostly sand, but the blue sky gives it a pleasant air, while mountains and ravines break things up just enough in the visual department to make sure the environment doesn't get boring. The low mob density makes it easy to get around, and the missions are fun (the planetary quest chain involving Czerka and the imprisoned Rakata is particularly memorable). It's also the kind of place where (somewhat contrary to its theoretical reputation as an outer rim backwater) lots of stuff happens, from Rakghoul Resurgences to swoop racing. When strongholds first came out, I made Tatooine my main home.

2. Alderaan

Has any other game depicted Princess Leia's home world in this much detail? Alderaan's environments are absolutely gorgeous, and I love the lore about all the different houses. (Makes a nice change from the many random bandit/pirate incursions that most planets seem to deal with.) Like Tatooine, it's also a place you get plenty of reasons to come back to, whether it's for a set of particularly easy GSI dailies or to hunt rakghouls.

3. Coruscant

I'm not a huge fan of city planets, but Coruscant just has a certain oomph to it. As someone who primarily plays Republic, the first time I stepped outside the Coruscant spaceport and made my way to the Senate Tower, I was simply in awe. I'll admit that most of the sub-zones are not that visually interesting, but I still love all the quests and how they paint a picture of what the Republic is like for the new player. It's funny because the first time I wrote about Coruscant, I noted that "I didn't actually like this planet very much" because at the time the questing didn't feel particularly inspired to me, and as it was the planet where all the starter experiences converged, it felt very repetitive during the early alt rush. However, these days I don't level that many alts from scratch and nostalgia reigns supreme!

4. Ossus

I loved Ossus so freaking much when it came out, because it was the first time that one of the newer planets actually felt as good to me to play through as many of the original planets. It's reasonably sized, nice to look at, and the dailies are super easy and fun. I also had a blast with the world bosses back when they were current content... it's such a shame that they did not age well due to requiring such a big group.

5. Tython

Even though I main a trooper, Tython is my favourite starter planet. I love how lush and green it is, plus the whole vibe of the Jedi Temple and the ancient Jedi ruins. The bit where your Jedi character gets their first lightsaber is just... chef's kiss every time.

6. Onderon

I was kinda hesitant to rank this one this high, because at Onslaught's release, I was actually a bit disappointed by Onderon - I expected it to be bigger, and all the dailies with their green markers on green grass were annoying me. However, it's held up surprisingly well, and is one of the newer daily areas I actually visit quite regularly. It's a pretty pleasant environment visually, and a great place to farm grade 10 crew skill mats while you're at it.

7. Dromund Kaas

As I said I'm primarily a Republic player, but the Imperial home world is pretty cool as well. The mix of stark architecture surrounded by jungles and subject to constant thunderstorms creates a pretty unique vibe, and the missions are varied and interesting, introducing you to several different facets of the Empire. 

8. Nar Shaddaa

I was a bit conflicted about how to rank Nar Shaddaa because I've long thought of it as one of the original planets that I'm less fond of, mostly because the sub-zones have similar issues as Coruscant, only without exuding the same kind of charm. I also ranked it as the worst planet to navigate in the entire game at one point. But at the same time... it's kinda the place to go for anything that needs to happen on neutral ground, Hutts are fun in their own peculiar way, and both Soovada and the Feast of Prosperity are centred on Nar Shaddaa. It's definitely got something going for it, you know?

9. Belsavis

I immediately loved Belsavis' unique aesthetic when I first saw it, combining snowy glaciers with tropical jungles. I think fondly of the old dailies there, and Primal Destroyer remains a favourite to revisit among world bosses. All the enemies being either Esh-ka or escaped prisoners does make the whole place feel a little same-y though, and Section X is a bit too much of a slog for me to enjoy revisiting often.

10. Odessen

Odessen is a hard one to rank because outside the story phases there just isn't much there, you know, but I decided to still put it relatively high up, because it's a neat little base/hub and I'm happy to go there. Though I do wonder whether the devs ever expected it to seriously replace the fleets as central hub locations...

11. Balmorra

Balmorra is pleasant enough to look at, and the fact that it changes hands from Empire to Republic as you level up is interesting. Killing colicoids is decent fun, but the all-encompassing civil war/rebellion theme does wear on you a little after a while.

12. Makeb

The layout with all the little mesas made Makeb feel a bit odd when it came out, but I liked it well enough. It's of course the first planet where we no longer got a class story, plus at launch the mob density was also horrible. The dailies aren't great either, but I did enjoy the main storyline on both Republic and Empire side very much, plus I just like the visuals.

13. Manaan

Manaan is a bit of a funny one to rank because it consists of both the small but pleasant visitor area that introduces the Depths of Manaan flashpoint and the larger Invasion Zone that came with Legacy of the Sith, which is a dark and rainy warzone. I like the aesthetics of the former and not so much of the latter, however I've actually come to quite enjoy the Manaan dailies, which is what bumps this one up.

14. Oricon

I used to frickin' love Oricon for its atmosphere and all the small little touches like the holocrons granting codex entries, the seeker droid/macrobinocular bonus missions and the challenging heroic area. However, recently I've just not enjoyed revisiting it as much as I used to... the mob density is quite high and can make it a bit of a pain to get around if you don't have stealth, especially when compared to some of the newer daily areas.

15. Dantooine

The addition of Dantooine is of course what inspired and enabled my pacifist levelling project, and it's got not one but two world events going on, the Pirate Incursion and the Swoop Rally. Outside of those events, there isn't really much there though.

16. Rishi

I've got kind of mixed feelings about Rishi (which goes well with it sitting smack in the middle of this list) - I like its visuals and it does have some fun things going on, but Shadow of Revan is also when Bioware started to funnel everyone (including the two factions) into one storyline and putting everything in solo phases and I'll always remember that with a certain bitterness.

17. Hoth

Hoth is similarly iconic to Tatooine, but I don't really like it nearly as much. Its bright whiteness is rather unpleasant on the eyes, and there are far fewer reasons to go there in general.

18. Ord Mantell

I like the starter planet for troopers well enough, but it's not as pretty as Tython, and like on Balmorra, absolutely everything being about the local civil war gets a bit tiresome.

19. Korriban

I'm sure many Imp players would rate this one much higher, but I've just never been that impressed by the Sith starter world. It's got a lot of orange and a lot of rocks, and the quests are fifty percent decent fun, fifty percent evidence of just how insane most Sith are.

20. CZ-198

I'll admit that like many others, I make CZ-198 my number one destination if I need some quick daily commendations or Conquest points, but other than that it doesn't really have much going for it. It's just a place with some offices basically.

21. Iokath

Iokath is another place about which I have some very mixed feelings. I remember being so hyped about us getting a proper planet again for the first time since the KotFE/KotET era, but then it was just a let-down in so many ways. Unlike seemingly most people though, I've come to quite enjoy the Iokath dailies though.

22. Ziost

I like the Ziost daily area for how chill and different it is, but other than that, there just isn't anything going on there. It's literally a dead planet. The "live" version of Ziost was more interesting, but of course you can only access that one for a limited time while doing the story. 

23. Ilum

As one of the original "endgame planets" at launch, Ilum did not impress me. It just always felt unfinished to me. It has a beautiful skybox, but the fact that it's always night kinda gets me down. I have some fond memories of Ilum from the game's early days, but it's been many years since I had anything close to that much fun there. Outside of the Gree event there's no real reason to go back. 

24. Mek-Sha

This is kind of the opposite of Onderon in that at Onslaught's launch I was kind of pleasantly surprised by Mek-Sha after not expecting to like it that much based on previews. However, it failed to really provide any good reasons to revisit, with the few repeatable quests being extremely hodgepodge and buggy at launch. Ultimately it just feels like a lesser version of Nar Shaddaa to me. 

25. Ruhnuk

I feel a bit bad ranking this so low, considering that I did like the Ruhnuk story overall and think that the planet is a good size and very good-looking. However, that terrible first impression of the dailies has stuck with me. I've gotten better at getting around, but I still find the area difficult to navigate and every indoor area is an absolute slog packed with tough mobs. It's just not very fun. I expect that it will rise in my estimation once it isn't the most current content anymore and distance has had a chance to make my heart grow fonder.

26. Yavin 4

I'm kind of surprising myself by ranking Yavin so low, but I just couldn't come up with any reasons to justify putting it any higher. Like I said when talking about Rishi, Shadow of Revan didn't really wow me when it came out, and I remember doing these dailies on so many characters for the (at the time) extremely powerful companion gear they rewarded; I just burnt out on them to a ridiculous degree. To this day I don't enjoy re-running the Yavin dailies a lot, even though I can't point at anything being particularly wrong with them.

27. Taris

It's a swamp full of ruins and all the mobs are rakghouls. It's not that deep, bro.

28. Corellia

I appreciate that Corellia looks a bit different from other city planets visually, and the tram was a cool idea at the time, but nowadays everyone just quick travels everywhere anyway. Overall it remains a pretty dull city planet that is another nightmare to navigate.

29. Voss

Voss is a funny one because it has some good things going for it like the beautiful environments... but the Voss as a people are just so bleh, as is everything about their storylines... I wrote a whole post about it back in 2017.

30. Hutta

Whether you're starting an agent or a bounty hunter, your class story makes it clear that you're at the ass-end of nowhere and can't wait to get out of there. All the quests emphasise what a swampy hellhole the place is, and I'm afraid the designers did such a good job with it that I'm always happy to get away and never to return.

31. Zakuul

Zakuul has some interesting tidbits going on with the swamp just outside the city and the Eternal Championship, but it's never really felt like a proper planet outside of the KotFE/KotET story phases. The best I can say is that I enjoyed farming grade 9 crew skill materials in the swamp and in Breaktown when that was the highest level of crew skills, but that's it.

32. Quesh

Another disgusting swamp world, but this one doesn't even have much story going on, has no repeatable content whatsoever, and felt small and weird even at launch. I also hate that you have to pick up the planetary storyline on every single character to even be able to travel to the surface.

33. Darvannis

I mean, I like the operation that's set on Darvannis, but the "open world" version of it has literally nothing going on other than the phase entrances for KotFE chapter fourteen and some crew skill materials that you can farm, but the omnipresent skytroopers made even that annoying back in the day.

As I said, these rankings are not set in stone and I could easily see myself changing my mind about some of these planets over time. I think the main thing I noticed while justifying my opinions is that a planet's aesthetics are very important to me - if I don't enjoy what I'm looking at, I'm not going to enjoy playing there very much.

Anyway, feel free to let me know in the comments which of my picks surprised you and which ones you strongly disagree with and why!


Killing a Disco Ball

The last post I made about Legacy of the Sith's new operation, R-4 Anomaly, was back in September last year. Since then I haven't really mentioned it other than to shine a bit more light on just how badly my frustrations with it have been affecting me in my year-in-review post from December.

This may have been giving the impression that I haven't spent any more time in the place, but that would be a misconception. My break from progression ops ended after only a month and I soon rejoined my team to farm the second and third boss in R-4 veteran mode with them. This wasn't exactly the most satisfying thing ever, but people raid for a number of different reasons (to see the content, to challenge themselves, for gear, or as a way of socialising) and it scratched at least a number of these itches, preventing us from having to worry about "what to do next" for the next few months.

However, eventually we reached the point where we had pretty much everything those two bosses could give us and we had to face the question of what to focus on next: some old master mode operation we hadn't cleared recently, or IP-CPT, the first boss in R-4 that we had been skipping with lockouts, commonly referred to as "disco ball" (because it's literally an orb that hangs from the ceiling and the fight involves a lot of flashing lights). We held a vote among the members of my ops team and IP came out ahead.

Now, I mentioned before that this boss was considered horribly overtuned relative to the rest of the fights in R-4, however the dps requirements had been nerfed ever so slightly since launch, and some people in the guild had in fact killed it with other ops teams at this point, so the idea of trying to take it on didn't seem entirely crazy anymore (especially with all the extra gear we had acquired). There were still problems though, most notably that the fight requires zero tanks, and tanking is the only role Mr Commando likes to play nowadays, which meant that leading progression nights on IP suddenly fell to me. This wasn't actually too bad in terms of what it required from me, since we had several group members who knew the fight and I could delegate most tasks and call-outs to them, but it also sucked because running ops is also a way for Mr Commando and me to spend time together, and this meant that we weren't.

I will say that the fight did grow on me over time though. When we'd first checked it out briefly last year, just to see what it was like, it seemed horrible to me. There is so much going on in story mode already - it's a recipe for massive visual overload - and on veteran mode all those mechanics are actually deadly. I kept dying to standing in fire and knew that I was being bad; I just couldn't manage to pay attention to everything that was going on and keep my eyes on people's health bars at the same time.

Once we started attempting the boss in earnest at the start of this year though, I began to see an odd kind of beauty in it. I watched videos of other people killing it successfully and admired how easy they made it look, avoiding all the fire and lasers with the absolute minimum amount of movement required and dancing around each other's red circles beautifully. And while our own progression was comparatively slow, we did also get better at dealing with the various mechanics over time, including me.

Even so, stress levels in general were amping up. We suffered turnover for real life reasons, due to personality conflicts, and one guy just plain deciding that we weren't good enough for him anymore and that he wanted to play with better players. This would set us back some nights, which then in turn frustrated the people who remained, and I was the one who got to hear all about it. There was one night when I already felt stressed out due to other factors, and when I sat down to raid I just burst into tears at the thought of having to deal with all the same nonsense for yet another evening. Mr Commando was kind of shocked and shuffled me off to bed while quickly looking for someone to replace me.

When we decided to tackle IP once again this past Sunday I was almost apologetic towards the group, telling them that we could always go do something else if things didn't go well and we ended up having a bad time. However, things did not go badly this time. They went exceedingly well as we managed to get to the last phase over and over again. Then we had one wipe at two percent. And then we killed it.

I won't deny that this felt really nice. It's been a while since I felt a rush to upload a video of a new boss kill while all fired up from adrenaline. It felt like the sort of win that my team sorely needed, and suddenly the future looked brighter again, with other goals not feeling quite so out of reach anymore either.

And yet... I think back to other frustrating bosses that had us emerge triumphant in the end, such as master mode Dread Master Styrak two years ago. That was a hard time too, but it kinda felt worth it in the end. With R-4, I'm still not quite sure, as it does feel like that operation has been too much of a drain on my happiness for a quick burst of joy to just make up for it all. We'll see how things in there go over the next few months I guess.


Between Seasons

Both Galactic Season 3 and the PvP season are finally over and yet she's still talking about seasons? This or something similar might be what's going through your head after seeing another blog post with "seasons" in the title. I can't deny it though, the introduction of seasons has really changed the way I play the game in some ways.

During the season itself I get very focused on completing it, with most other activities taking a backseat to completing my weekly objectives. This can be a pretty intense time in terms of how time-consuming things are. Naturally, when I'm done with the season, my first instinct is to lean back and relax. I still like to log in every day to progress my login character if nothing else, but there's no real pressure to play every day or do anything at all. I quite like to use this time to catch up with other games a bit that may have gotten neglected in recent months.

Another thing that happens during seasons though is that I'll play a variety of characters to complete objectives and will often find myself thinking something along the lines of "gosh, I should really do X some time", with X being some kind of task tied to the character in question, such as finish their class story, get them through the most recent patch content, level them to 80 or whatever. When the season is over, I quite enjoy casually coming back to these bullet point items and actually ticking some of them off at a casual pace. After the laser-focus of the season, this can feel particularly rewarding in a different way.

Unfortunately, it usually doesn't take long for things to get somewhat repetitive. Getting that first alt caught up with the current patch feels great. However, then I look at the next one on the list and think "well, I just did that, didn't I" and don't necessarily feel like doing it all again right away. I do enjoy replaying story content in SWTOR, but I still tend to need a bit of a break between doing it yet again and again.

And, to be honest, that's when my activity in the game tends to drop off a bit and I start to feel ready for the next season. Looking at Steamcharts for general trends, it does look like a season ending does result in somewhat of a drop in activity in terms of the wider population too, so it's no surprise to me that Bioware seems to be looking to get Galactic Season 4 out the door as soon as possible.

I also thought it was interesting to see earlier this week that next Tuesday is going to bring the first Total Galactic War of 2023. I don't think it's a coincidence that Bioware decided to schedule the game's biggest Conquest event to go live only a week after the end of seasons. They know that this is an event that players find interesting in a similar way to seasons, and until the next one of those is ready to go, it's best to pull out all the stops to keep people engaged. I can't say I feel like complaining.


GS3 Review: Star Forge

Galactic Season 3 ends tomorrow, so today I'd like to talk about the last server on which I finished my GS3 goals: Star Forge. Of all my secondary servers, this one has long been the most progressed for the sole reason that I've had a character there for many years that was actually at the level cap during several expansions, even if I didn't really do any endgame with her. As such, Star Forge was the only secondary server where I already had a character hit level 80 during Season 2.

However, with all the new max-levels I've gained on the other servers, it feels like Star Forge is no longer as ahead of the pack as it was, even if my Cathar trooper has marginally better gear than the others, with an average item rating of 328 and being only a few tech fragments away from maxing out her second implant at 334.

That said, my legacy here is still the most advanced by quite a margin (aside from my home server of course), coming in at legacy level 37, and I also did more PvP here than on the other servers, incidentally reaching level seven in the PvP season without trying.

In terms of story I didn't make a lot of progress but that was okay, since my trooper here has been trying to do all the quests just like the one I made on Tulak Hord. She was on Belsavis at the end of the last season, and made it about halfway through Voss this time around. I did the Belsavis bonus series for the first time in what felt like forever and boy, did that bring back memories. I was a little confused though that there was one mission I remembered that I couldn't find anymore, the one to stop a Sith from escaping on a shuttle. Wonder what happened to that and why anything happened to it in the first place, assuming I wasn't just being blind.

I also ended up soloing Kuat Drive Yards at one point (though I don't remember how that tied into seasons, having to complete missions as a trooper perhaps) and ran into a massive wall by getting Station Guardian One at the end, who must have killed me a dozen times before I managed to got him down. I wasn't sure whether he was soloable at all as I couldn't find any evidence of it online, but well, now I know that he is. I'll have to upload the recording I made of it to my YouTube channel at some point.

My other two characters on the server, a Gunslinger smuggler and a Shadow knight, didn't see much play this season, though the smuggler did make some progress on her class story, and seeing how she didn't do all the side missions, it felt rather weird when I realised that she had almost caught up to the trooper in terms of story progression. I guess completing chapter two on her was notable in so far as it made Star Forge the first of my secondary servers on which I have access to two of the legacy class buffs instead of just the one.


GS3 Review: Tulak Hord

In an interesting contrast to Satele Shan, my trooper on Tulak Hord did not get removed from the guild she helped create back in Season 2. The one guy who actually remained in it was still active, but didn't seem to mind that I - the only other person in the guild - hadn't been around for a while. I don't remember whether we even talked at all this season, and yet I felt a strange sort of contentment about still sharing a guild with him. Yes, I'm clearly odd in my attitudes towards guilds.

My Commando finished Season 2 at level 67 and with her class story still on Taris. This season, she hit max-level and worked her way up to an average item level of 327, with legendary implants at 330 and 328 respectively. In terms of the PvP season, I only got up to level three.

As mentioned previously, I also made an Imperial alt that took the form of a Sith inquisitor and who got up to level 21, with my overall legacy hitting level 20.

In terms of story, I didn't make much progress on my trooper, only moving on from Taris to Nar Shaddaa, however unlike on the other servers I've opted to go for a more completionist approach on Tulak Hord, which meant actually doing all the things on Taris: fully exploring the map, doing all the exploration missions and getting all the datacrons. Yes, I even found a nice person to help me with the one where you need a second player to press a button for you to get it. While I filled out the map, I also found an unusual egg, something I hadn't even thought about in many years, so of course I took a brief detour to Tatooine to hatch it.

Doing the Taris bonus series was a slightly odd experience since it's been ages since I last did one of these (firstly because of how quick levelling is nowadays, but I also remember that at one point Bioware messed with the minimum level required to do them so that they wouldn't show up until you were sixty or something). At some point the bonus series were also made repeatable, which was another odd decision to me because there isn't really anything about this content in specific that screams, "Let me do this every week please!" I wonder if that wasn't just a roundabout way of dealing with the frequent complaints from players who got stuck on a bonus series due to having done some missions in the wrong order - since the individual quests reset daily now, it's easy enough to get back on track if you mess up. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall when Bioware decided on this...

7.0's new feature of having dailies and weeklies "expire" and clearing them out of your quest log every reset also added an interesting new dimension to the bonus series as the individual missions are now dailies and the overall series counts as a weekly, so better keep an eye on your progression and don't forget to hand anything in or you might have to start all over again. Fortunately that didn't happen to me with the overall chain, but there were individual missions that I had to repeat because something hadn't quite progressed far enough from one day to the next.


GS3 Review: The Leviathan

During Galatic Season 2, The Leviathan had been the server on which I was consistently the least progressed. Mostly this was due to a lack of PvP pops in the lowbie and midbie brackets, which often caused me to miss out on completing PvP-related season objectives. In Season 3, things turned around big time.

Queue times for midbie PvP were still not great, but they did feel a little better than they had been in Season 2, and I had some really fun matches. For a while I felt like I was on a proper winning streak, where I recognised the same names from one match to the next and they were always happy to have me on their team providing (what felt like) awesome heals. At max-level I could finally get into warzones reliably, and my good fortune continued. I gained five levels in the PvP season once that started, and at 65% my Sage knight has one of the better win rates for warzones among my characters. I think it helps that Leviathan is considerably smaller than the other servers, so the PvP community is also smaller and less sweaty overall, allowing even someone with moderate skill to shine sometimes.

Leviathan was also the first of the alternate servers where I unlocked seeker droids and macrobinoculars, and working on the GSI weekly there was what inspired me to write this post about "those damn eggs". I did eventually go on to unlock seeker droids and macrobinculars on all servers though, because some of the season objectives related to them were just too chill and easy to pass up.

In terms of character progress, my Sage knight went from being level 62 with her class story up to Nar Shaddaa at the end of Season 2 to hitting max-level and making it to Alderaan. She got up to an average item rating of 326, with 328 legendary implants. I also created a small bounty hunter whom I got to level 14, and together they raised my legacy level up to 19.

In general, I just really loved progressing my legacy on the Leviathan, though I couldn't tell you what made it stand out from the others. Maybe it's just that it's been a while since I levelled a Twi'lek on Darth Malgus. Seems I still have a soft spot for that species.

In terms of my French, I learned that the sides in Alderaan Civil War are called "neige" and "herbe", and when someone calls out "fufu" it means that they are worried about a nearby stealther (apparently derived from "furtive"). The more you know!


GS3 Review: Satele Shan

I've given my general thoughts on Galactic Season 3, but I also wanted to write more specifically about my experiences completing it on all servers again. Part of what has made this project so appealing to me is being able to observe different server communities; another has been re-experiencing a bit of that newbie life, in the sense of not having a max-level legacy with all the perks maxed out and actually being able to benefit from things like picking up datacrons.

I thought I'd start with Satele Shan, which is the first server on which I finished the 100 weekly objectives achievement (outside of my home on Darth Malgus that is), even if the other servers were only days behind.

My main on Satele Shan is my Shadow consular Zilek, who was level 66 by the time I finished Season 2, and on Balmorra in terms of his class story. He hit max-level during Season 3 and progressed up to Hoth story-wise. He also accumulated what I felt was a decent amount of gear, considering that gearing up wasn't really a goal I was actively pursuing - I just went to buy upgrades and trade in currency whenever I got close to hitting some kind of cap. At the time of writing this he's got an average item rating of 328, which is also the level of both of his legendary implants.

I made no effort to make any progress in the PvP season on servers other than Darth Malgus, but it kind of happened automatically as I did some warzones for weekly objectives for the regular season sometimes, which got me up to PvP season level four on Satele Shan. In general I wasn't too excited about PvPing on Zilek though - while he was still levelling, being an Infiltration Shadow felt pretty OP sometimes, but the closer I got to the level cap the weaker I started to feel compared to other specialisations. It was actually much more fun to do a bit of PvP on my lowbie Guardian knight as Focus, a spec I'd never really played before and which made me feel like an absolute monster even as I had no clue what I was doing. However, she recently levelled up into the midbie bracket, and it doesn't feel great to play anything at the low end of that bracket either.

Aside from that bit of PvP I didn't do much on the Guardian except for a few missions when there was a weekly objective that demanded I play a knight and I think she only gained a couple of levels. While they are still small, it felt like I made more progress dusting off my ancient agent and trooper, with the former getting to level ten and the latter to fifteen. My overall legacy level is also up to 22 and I was kind of surprised that I found myself even caring about that, but there are actually perks that you can't unlock with credits until you've hit a certain minimum legacy level, something I don't recall ever running up against on Darth Malgus back in the day, probably because I levelled more quickly than Bioware actually added new perks.

Finally, I noted in my Season 2 in review post that I had joined a guild that had invited me randomly and that felt quite organised. I had a hunch that they wouldn't keep me around for long once the season ended and I became inactive for a while, and this assumption was proved correct as I logged in at the start of Season 3 to find my characters unguilded again.

Ironically, I received a generic recruitment whisper from the exact same guild within days of starting to play again, but this time I didn't respond to it. I could've benefited from the guild perks again, which certainly would've made Conquest easier as well as earning me extra rewards, but I'm just not a fan of such a purely utilitarian approach when it comes to guilds. They would've just kicked me again as soon as I stopped logging in and somehow that didn't sit right with me on an emotional level, even though I completely understand it from a purely practical point of view.


Galactic Season 3 in Review

Galactic Season 3 is due to finish in a little over a week. I completed my last achievement on Darth Malgus a couple of weeks ago and am now just wrapping up a few more objectives on the other servers, so I thought this would be a good time to do a little review of Season 3.

There was actually a feedback thread on the forums where I already put a lot of my thoughts in the format of answers to the specific questions posed by the devs, but I thought it might be nice to have at least a brief summary here as well.

Overall I enjoyed this season, just like the previous one, even if I struggled a little at times to not push myself too hard. Seasons objectives tend to overlap very little with the sorts of in-game activities I usually spend my time on, which are running operations with my guildies and doing story content on alts, but I'm okay with that because I'm fine with the game encouraging me to play a little differently for a few months a year. I do appreciate the breaks between seasons as well though - eyes Season 4 nervously.

Considering that I thought Season 2 was pretty great, I was also happy that Bioware made minimal changes to how things worked for Season 3, though I was initially a little disappointed that so many of the weekly objectives were exactly the same as in Season 2 as I had hoped for a bit more variety in that regard. I've enjoyed the silly little season-themed objectives the most so far, meaning the catching of cheaters this season or the dress-up and sabotage in Season 2. Otherwise I've really come to appreciate the weekly objectives that can be completed in several different ways, especially with the whole "playing on multiple servers" project. So when the objective was to complete missions in Hutt Space for example, I could do some exploration missions on Nar Shaddaa on one server and heroics on Voss on another to keep things fresh. Certainly a lot more engaging than doing Black Hole ten times over.

As for the season-specific companion, as I mentioned in the post linked in the previous paragraph, Fay was my favourite seasonal companion so far because I thought she had the most interesting backstory. One does have to wonder a little for how long Bioware throwing a new companion at us every season is sustainable, what with them taking up space on our personal ships and all. I also really wish they didn't all speak alien gibberish though. I get that voice acting is a cost to consider, but this isn't like a new piece of story content which requires 48 high-profile voice actors to be paid just to voice every version of the player character in three different languages. It would just be the one character... sadly, seeing how the Season 4 companion seems to be shaping up to be an unidentifiable species behind a full face mask, I suspect that this will be another excuse for incomprehensible alien gibberish.

Besides the companion, I didn't actually care much about any of the rewards, which is kind of funny considering how much effort I put into completing the season multiple times over. I just enjoy the journey I guess. I really liked the fleet strongholds we could earn from Season 1 onwards, but after I got both of them (on all servers) I kind of ran out of interesting things to buy and I struggled with bumping up against the seasonal currency cap multiple times. I take heart from Season 4 supposedly adding an apartment on Mek-Sha as one of the new rewards. (It's kind of funny that strongholds are so appealing to me as rewards, considering I haven't bothered to decorate most of the ones I have, but I never claimed to be fully rational about these things.)

The rewards from the levelling track weren't bad (I actually gave one of the outfits to one of my alts) but just nothing to be excited about for me personally either. In fact, they were causing me increasing amounts of stress due to the inventory clutter they produced, and I'm glad to hear that apparently from Season 4 onwards the seasonal dye rewards at least will become stackable. As I already ran into a bit of a "cargo hold crisis" this season though, I made a point of unlocking all the rewards for my account with Cartel Coins, so I could then trash all the gear items taking up space without feeling bad. This was a real godsend for my main's bank space.

The only thing I was a little unhappy about this season was when I realised that unlike normal reputations, the seasonal ones are capped at 5k reputation points per week. This hadn't really caused me any issues previously, but this time around I thought it would be a fun stretch goal to also complete the reputation track on all five servers... however when I ran up against the weekly cap, it became evident that it was actually already too late to go for that achievement by the time I started to pay attention to it. While I technically had more than enough tokens to earn the reputation, I hadn't popped enough of them early in the season, and the low weekly reputation cap was throttling progress so hard that it was impossible to catch up in time. It wasn't exactly a huge deal, just a small disappointment that seemed kind of unnecessary.


Bugged for a Decade

I have a low-level trooper on Satele Shan that I created ages and ages ago - I don't remember when it was exactly, but it must've been at least close to a decade ago. It was before you chose an advanced class at level one, and looking at my achievements for Ord Mantell it might've even been before the achievement system was introduced with Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

I originally created this character to say hi to Redbeard on whatever server he was playing on at the time and which later got merged into something else. I also remember that I only got to level seven because I ran into some sort of bug that prevented me from progressing - which didn't bother me too much at the time because it was just a random alt and I figured I'd just come back to it at a later date, by which time the bug would hopefully have been fixed.

Only... that never happened. I made other alts on Satele Shan, but for some reason I remained reluctant to go back to this one. I remembered making a lot of dark side decisions during those early missions and felt kind of bad about that in retrospect. So she just sat there, for years and years.

However, this week one of the weekly seasons objectives was to do fifteen missions on a trooper, so I thought I might as well use that as an opportunity to dust off this particular alt on Satele Shan. I logged in, cleared out a decade worth of subscriber reward emails and ran around a bit to pick up some exploration missions. Then I talked to a twi'lek NPC just outside Fort Garnik for my class story. When the conversation finished, my personal holocom popped up and the mission instructions changed to tell me to take the call. So I clicked on the holocom and... nothing happened, except a short voice line from Aric Jorgan telling me to get a move on already. I could get that to repeat by clicking again, but no conversation would actually start. In fact, I could not move at all.

And in that moment I remembered that it was this exact bug on which I had gotten stuck last time - it was still there a decade later! I did a quick Google search to find whether other people had any experience with this bug in "The Ambush" and whether there was some sort of workaround, but all I found was someone complaining on the forums back in 2015 that this bug still wasn't fixed even though it had originally been reported in 2012. I've got bad news for you, buddy...

I tried the usual standard procedures to deal with that kind of thing: relogging, resetting the quest, restarting my entire game... and while those allowed my character to move again, I could not get past that bugged holocall. Eventually I submitted a customer support ticket describing the situation and asking whether they could move me past that step of the quest somehow. And to their credit, they did! I got a response within less than 24 hours that the matter had been handled, and I found that my trooper was now level eight and on the next step of the quest, meaning I could finally continue.

I was just kind of surprised that such a game-breaking bug was still around after more than a decade, and that there was so little documentation about it. I can only guess that it's pretty rare and triggered by an obscure set of circumstances, seeing how I've taken many troopers through Ord Mantell myself without ever running into the issue. Fortunately it wasn't a big deal for me since the character was just one of a million alts and customer service responded within a reasonable time frame. I'm just a little worried whether she's still bugged in some other way as I noticed that while running around and questing I kept getting constant "out of range" error message pop-ups without doing anything...


7.2.1 PTS News - New Credit Sinks and More Seasons

While I was walking home from work on Thursday, I found myself thinking about SWTOR. Specifically, I was thinking about how it had been almost three months since the last patch and how we still had no clue what was going to even be in the next one, never mind when it would land. Life as a SWTOR player is certainly very hand-to-mouth nowadays. Anyway, I figured that surely Bioware would have to give us some kind of hint about what's coming up next soon, and what do you know, I came home to a whole news post about the 7.2.1 PTS going up and what to expect there.

First off, they're continuing testing of their new 64-bit client. I'm quite curious about that, but I've been suffering from a lack of disk space for months, so downloading a second SWTOR client is currently a no-go for me. I'm not tech savvy enough to know what exactly having a 64-bit client would mean for the average player, but someone whom I trust to know these things better than me explained it to me as basically allowing your PC to cache more information so that you might end up with shorter loading screens in places. That sounds like a good thing, though perhaps not that exciting for the average player.

Next up, Bioware are planning to combat inflation by adding some more everyday credit sinks in the form of adding costs to quick and stronghold travel. Naturally this has players on the forums up in arms, because as much as people love to complain about in-game inflation, they love to complain about measures to counter inflation even more. Personally I think it sounds like a great idea, even if the thought of adding a cost to something that was free for more than a decade seems a bit weird at first. However, I figure it's going to be just like planetary travel, a small thing you don't even notice after a while but that slowly removes some credits from the economy. I do think the suggestion I saw repeatedly to not start this at level one is a good one, as you don't want to make life too hard for genuinely new players. Plus veterans who like to hop to their stronghold immediately after character creation to sort out their inventory and maybe get some gear for their newest alt (guilty) shouldn't be prevented from doing so just for the sake of charging them a few credits right there and then.

What kind of shocked me about the news post was that it stated that 7.2.1 is also meant to include the launch of both Galactic Season 4 and PvP Season 2. With both current seasons scheduled to end at the start of March, and assuming maybe a month of turnaround from the PTS to live, that would mean no more than a couple of weeks break between the end of one set of seasons and the start of the next set.

I have to admit I'm actually not really happy about that, because while I've enjoyed Galactic Seasons so far, pacing is an important part of that enjoyment: going all in for several months, and then getting to take a break for a while, during which I play less and recharge the batteries so to speak. If Galactic Season 4 in particular is already meant to start so soon, I'm a little worried that I won't really have the energy to invest in it the way I got excited about the previous two seasons in particular. I can see why Bioware would have an interest in not having too much of a "lull" between seasons as I'm sure they work pretty well at keeping players engaged between story updates, but I can't help but wonder whether pushing out more seasons too quickly isn't going to just cause people to get burned out or bored more quickly as well.


I Still Miss My Abilities

In her video "Is SWTOR worth returning to in 2022" from a few months ago, Swtorista had this to say about 7.0's update to class abilities: "High-skill players who were using every single one of their abilities often express frustration about missing having all their useful abilities at once, and that includes me - though six months later, I care a lot less. I haven't missed it quite as much."

When I first heard this, it made me think. We're coming up on the one-year-anniversary of Legacy of the Sith's launch, and back then I said in my first impressions that I wasn't sure yet how I felt about the ability pruning, as I liked some aspects of it but found myself somewhat frustrated by others. Do I also care a lot less twelve months later? Sadly, the answer is: not exactly.

To be clear, I don't miss every single ability that has been removed or that I've had to forfeit. Especially on classes that I don't play that often, it's not like I had ever truly memorised everything in the first place. However, on my Commando, I still have issues.

Specifically, I still don't like the level 68 ability choice, which at the start of 7.0 forced you to choose between Hold the Line, a movement speed increase that breaks snares and roots while also making you immune to them for a few seconds, Echoing Deterrence, a reflect that can be activated while stunned and that heals you for any direct damage reflected, and Cryo Grenade, the trooper's hard stun.

The main problem for me is that I just can't go back to a life without Echoing Deterrence, because I remember all too well just how much of a punching bag healing Commandos were before its introduction. Even if it's not quite as powerful these days as it used to be, not least because most players actually know to stop attacking you when it's up, I still can't imagine wanting to PvP without it. But even if I just look at PvE, it's saved my life so many times when I got healing aggro on trash or a tank was slow to pick up adds on some boss fights. It's just utterly irreplaceable for me.

Having to make do without Cryo Grenade has mostly been okay, except that I still haven't quite managed to shake the habit of reflexively wanting to stun people in the fire in Huttball, and I still get caught off guard by being unable to do it, but I'll fully admit that that's an edge case. Hold the Line was much more of an issue though, as Commandos don't have much mobility without it.

Now, over the course of several months I painstakingly trained myself to rely more on Propulsion Round instead - which doesn't help with roots, but it can get you from A to B more quickly. The only "problem" is that it goes backwards, so it's easy to get yourself in trouble with it as you can't exactly see where you're going.

And then what does Bioware do with 7.2? They swap out Hold the Line and Propulsion Round, meaning the the former is now baseline and the latter has to be chosen, meaning that just as I got used to relying on Propulsion Round, I can't have that anymore and now have to re-train for Hold the Line only. Argh!

My only temporary saving grace has been that the system is a bit buggy, meaning it granted most of my Commandos and Mercs Hold the Line or its Imperial equivalent without taking Propulsion Round away... this seems to be quite a common bug that fixes itself as soon as you switch loadouts - which has of course meant that I've tried hard not to do that. I dread the day when I either forget and accidentally make the switch or Bioware fixes the bug.

As mentioned, it hasn't been as bad on other classes that I don't play as much, but still, there are others where I'm in a similar situation of just struggling to pick one of two abilities over the other. For example my Guardian tank always feels like she's missing either Saber Reflect or Blade Blitz for quick threat, and while having to choose between Phase Walk and Force Lift as a Sage is not totally unreasonable, it feels like I find myself stuck in combat and looking for whichever ability I don't have at that particular moment way too often.

How do others feel about the ability pruning a year later? Do you also have that one choice that still feels bad? Do you have several? Or have you adapted just fine?


My Thoughts on PvP Season 1

You might think it's a bit early to review the new PvP season concept, considering that Season 1 still lasts for another four weeks, but I hit level 25 on the rewards track today and I consider myself close to done, so I thought I might as well write down my thoughts now while they're still fresh.

When I first wrote about the new PvP season setup, I noted that I was worried that the incentivisation of arenas might cause me to burn out on those, considering that I was never a huge fan of them to begin with (though I didn't really mind them either). This did indeed happen pretty quickly: I'm a lot less good at playing arenas than I am at warzones, and if you combine that with the fact that the new arena weekly requires you to play twice as many matches, I just grew tired of the whole thing by week three.

Then I realised that a lot of the new PvP currency was tied to the meta achievements that require you to complete weekly PvP quests, and I wondered whether I should give it another go for the sake of the rewards. A guildie also shared a neat "trick" he'd discovered: picking up the levelling version of the PvP weekly on an alt sitting at level 79, levelling up, picking up the level 80 version of the same mission, and then proceeding to complete two weeklies at once. This does require you to have an alt at the right level, and you can only do it once per character, but as I mentioned previously, I've actually struggled to level my whole stable of alts from 75 to 80, so I had plenty of characters available. I decided to give working on the arena weeklies another go, first on my Assassin tank and then on my Operative healer. Neither are characters on whom I'd really done many arenas before, but it was just going to be one weekly worth of arenas on each, right? So who cares if I wasn't going to be great at playing them in that mode?

As it turns out, there are people in the arena queue that care a lot, almost as if they didn't get the memo that ranking is no longer a thing. Completing the arena weekly with those two alts, I'm pretty sure I had more toxicity thrown my way than I've encountered in the game for the last five years. I'm usually pretty good at not caring when people in warzones start ranting about how everybody but them sucks, because it's usually such generic venting, I don't really feel affected by it. However, I learned that in arenas, people hone in on someone to blame and will call you out by name, sometimes seemingly at random (as in, you can tell from the scoreboard that you weren't even the worst player on the team by far so I'm not sure by what criteria people get chosen), and that really took me aback.

I tried not to engage with the insults, but they still made me feel kind of anxious, so that when I queued again, I soon started watching team formation nervously, afraid of encountering those same people again. I also saw others get raked over the coals in similar ways, and would then be torn between feeling bad for those players and being secretly relieved that at least it wasn't me this match. It didn't take long for me to decide that no amount of virtual currency is worth being made to feel like that and that I was going to stay away from arenas from now on. Which is kind of a shame, because while I was never a huge fan of the game mode, I didn't used to mind getting into the occasional arena match at random, and sometimes they would even be pretty fun. Being called useless, terrible etc. just because my random alt apparently isn't "worthy" enough to try out arenas is not fun though.

I do wonder whether this is a common experience or whether I was just unlucky. I haven't heard a lot of complaining about it, but I did see a commenter on the forums express that they thought arenas were effectively becoming the new ranked (in terms of how people behaved), even with no ranking in place... and that would be a shame.

Anyway, the takeaway from this is that the main thing PvP Season 1 did was turn me off arenas, even though that's not directly tied to the season, just a change that was released at the same time. Making my way through the seasonal reward track itself was easy enough once I started ignoring the arena objectives, though I will say that I don't think it was a good idea on Bioware's part to make it so that Galactic Season 3 and PvP Season 1 would end at the same time. While both work fine on their own, I'll have to admit that trying to wrap up my remaining GS3 goals on the other servers while also keeping up with PvP on Darth Malgus felt a bit stressful at times.

That aside though, I have to admit I'm mostly left with a slight feeling of "meh". While I like both warzones and filling up bars, something about the PvP Season just left me cold. What appeals to me about Galactic Seasons is that they encourage me to play a bit differently from my normal routine for a limited amount of time, but the PvP Season doesn't really do that... or rather, I guess it tried with the arenas but that just backfired massively. And I already like warzones; the season concept just pushed me into playing a few more matches each week than I usually would, which is kind of... shrug?

So my overall verdict is that I would take part again, but probably without being very excited about it, and I'd prefer it not happening at the same time as a Galactic Season. We'll see what Bioware has in store for Season 2 (whenever that's meant to happen).