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).