Thoughts on Dxun Master Mode and NiMs in General

Nature of Progress (or Dxun for short) was released with the Onslaught expansion in 2019 and received a master mode with patch 6.1.2 in June 2020. I really liked this operation when it came out, barring some minor criticisms such as story mode still being a bit overtuned at launch in my opinion. Veteran mode was also good fun, even if a lot of community guide-writing had died out during the "Knights of" years and we essentially had to go in blind at first. I just found the last boss to be a bit of a drag.

When master mode came out however, my attitude was mostly one of "no, thank you", as I figured it was going to be way too hard for me and my team to make much progress. (Worth noting that some people in my guild felt differently, did go in and did manage to kill a few bosses.)

Recently the subject of visiting the place came up again though, and it seemed like maybe the time was right for it now, considering that patch 7.1 applied heavy nerfs to all difficulties of Dxun last year.

I'm happy to say that I've seen some success! On 8-man my team managed to kill the first boss so far, and during our most recent 16-man week we made it up to the Mutant Trandoshans on master mode.

And honestly, it's been pretty fun so far! I may be biased because a lot of the challenge of these fights lies in the tanking, meaning that I haven't been too stressed as a healer so far (for a change), but I've generally been pretty impressed by the inventiveness of some of the new mechanics introduced for the higher difficulty.

Stare at Red long enough between wipes and she'll start to look cute...

What kind of came as a shock to me though was how little documentation there is of Dxun master mode. When we first decided to go there, I thought I'd start by googling a guide to the first boss to get a basic breakdown of the mechanical differences and was shocked to find that there were no results on any of the well-known fan sites. Literally the only thing I could find was this reddit post linking to a YouTube playlist of the author killing all the bosses on master mode with her team and providing a bit of narration about what was happening. I left a grateful comment on her video about Red, while also expressing astonishment that a three-year-old YouTube video appears to literally be the only guide to this content on the entire internet.

I then found myself wondering whether there were any guides for Gods from the Machine master mode, which is even older, having been added to the game in patch 5.10 in November 2018 almost five years ago now, and which - with current tuning - is considered to be the hardest operation in the entire game. And what do you know, there are no written guides for this one either. Just like with Dxun I found exactly one reddit post with a narrated YouTube playlist of the kills and that's it.

It just blows my mind that in all that time nobody bothered to create a proper guide for these. As mentioned earlier, there was definitely a period of time during the "Knights of" expansions when operations were considered officially abandoned and this was reflected in fewer active players dedicating themselves to that content. While progressing Gods and Dxun veteran mode, my guild had to rely a lot on word of mouth from more experienced players because there just weren't any publicly available guides when they first came out. But things got better again! I may not have been too pleased with R-4 Anomaly personally, but multiple sites had guides for both difficulties up within weeks, so the current lack of interest just seems to be limited to master modes.

I suppose you could argue that a difficulty mode designed for only a small number of players will always have fewer people talking about it, which is of course true, but I honestly thought there was still more interest in it than this. Especially as there was a bit of a storm in a teacup a few months ago when it was confirmed that a master mode for R-4 was no longer on the dev team's road map. From how much wailing and gnashing of teeth I saw on that subject I thought that clearly there was still a community that cared a lot about this content, even if there weren't that many of them. However, the lack of positive or explanatory content about NiMs released in the last five years seems to serve as evidence to the contrary, which honestly strikes me as a bit of a shame.


Peace Out, Again

My pacifist character Pacis hit the level cap taking part in the Feast of Prosperity. Again!

I last wrote about her back in April, when the introduction of Amity inspired me to pick her up again as she could finally go on adventures with a (supposedly) fellow pacifist friend for the first time. I was really hoping that this would rejuvenate my interest in the character and the project, but it didn't really work out.

Having the two of them hang out on Dantooine and doing the peace time dailies did initially give me a bunch of new things to think about. For example I was baffled when I found Pacis drawing a lightsaber one day, considering that unequipping her weapon was one of the first things she ever did. 

Eventually I realised that the following had happened: I had completed a Conquest on her, which rewarded me with a gear create. I haven't found crates from solo activities to be very reliable when it comes to detecting which piece of your gear needs an upgrade the most, but it clearly noticed that I was missing a weapon and therefore rewarded me one. And of course another change that came with 7.0 meant that if one of your gear slots if empty and you receive an appropriate piece of gear for it, it now gets auto-equipped, so I hadn't even noticed that saber sneaking in there. What can I say, this game really wants you to be ready to inflict violence!

The other thing that happened was that while gathering on Dantooine, a slicing node gave me my first rare crew skill mission. Considering how long Pacis had been doing this without ever getting one before, I kind of wonder whether there's something preventing you from getting these if you don't actually have a companion that could run missions... or maybe it was just bad luck.

Either way, she had Amity now, so I was of course happy to send him out. As I awaited his return, a vision of a whole new future for Pacis briefly unfolded in front of me. Crew skills as a pacifist activity! I'd actually have to read the mission text again to make sure it was compatible with her ideas though. And she could drop one or more of her gathering skills to start crafting instead! A true pacifist's career!

However, I don't think I even contemplated this for five minutes before the idea lost its lustre. Crafting is a peaceful activity, sure... but Pacis wouldn't be the one actually doing it, and it would be no different from any of my other characters sending their companions out to do stuff for them; she would just be worse at it than those with larger, more developed companion stables. Plus the materials would come out of my legacy-wide material stash, fuelled by all my regular characters who'd done who knows what to acquire them. It just didn't seem very... satisfying.

So that idea went nowhere and I just continued running the Dantooine peace time missions for a little while - until I got a bit annoyed with Conquest. As I already alluded to in my last pacifism post, Conquest as a pacifist post-7.0 is annoyingly hard. Doing one round of dailies on Dantooine, she now just gets "Dantooine: Mission Complete", "Missions: Bonus Missions" (for petting the Kath Hounds), the one for getting a crew skill skill-up and the one to harvest ten gathering nodes. That's not a lot, and meant that I had to be diligent in doing those tasks every single day of the week or she wouldn't be able to hit her personal Conquest target.

Maybe you're wondering why it matters, but I really like Conquest as a pacing tool and like to hit my personal target on all characters I decide to play in a given week. Inevitably, a week came when I forgot to log in and do my Dantooine round one day, which caused me to barely miss my personal target for the week and made me quite annoyed. After that I kind of stopped playing her again, except for doing a bit of swooping at some point (I think?) - though I still haven't looked further into those one-time swoop story missions I meant to attempt two years ago.

Until the Feast of Prosperity came around again that is, and I decided to leave Dantooine to do charity for the Hutts again, which is such a nice and peaceful pastime, while also being great for both Conquest and XP, and resulted in Pacis eventually hitting level 80.

I'm a little disappointed that I didn't feel inspired to do more with her on the way to the new level cap, but I'm also reminded of this post I wrote back in 2021 about how my pacifism experiment had essentially become a solved problem. That's still the case, plus 7.0 also took some of Pacis' more fun tools away, such as the ability to CC multiple targets or to keep missions with quick travel items in her log to get around the galaxy at any time. So it's just generally not as fun as it used to be. Which is fine I guess, as this was only an experiment and I have allll my other characters to play with. But it's still a little bit of a shame as well.


A Livestream About 7.4 and Beyond

Yesterday was livestream day for SWTOR, a day that's quickly becoming a major event to look forward to for me, as we finally find out what's to come in the next big patch while getting to connect with the devs and deriving some entertainment from the process at the same time.

The stream lasted for more than an hour and yet time seemed to be flying by! A lot was said and done, and as usual you can watch a recording on Twitch or find a full written summary of absolutely everything that was revealed on the sites of the usual suspects:

I have no desire to go into that much detail myself, but will instead comment on the main things that excited me, of which there were still a lot! So let's get into it.

First off, it was interesting that they started the stream with Papa Keith saying hi and showing new studio pride by wearing a branded Broadsword jumper. (By contrast, I noticed that Musco was still wearing a SWTOR shirt with the Bioware logo on it; naughty!) What was really interesting about Keith's intro though was that he immediately started things off by telling us that beyond 7.4, they just reviewed their road map up to 7.6 with Broadsword, content that is meant to come out over the next year.

This was reassuring in the sense that it showed that there are no signs of things slowing down after the studio transition, and it was interesting to note that this planned patch cadence basically confirmed that there isn't another expansion coming soon. I personally didn't think there was, but I'd certainly seen some people speculate that the next patch after 7.4 would be 8.0, so I'm kind of glad to have that misconception dispelled. Obviously I'm not saying I never want another expansion again, but Legacy of the Sith definitely feels like it needs more time to cook at this point so I'm okay with adding more patches to its runtime.

The main announcement was the reveal about 7.4's story content, which will take us to... a new town on Ord Mantell? Can't say I expected us to return to another existing planet immediately after the return to Voss in 7.3, and Ord Mantell wasn't on my personal list favoured destinations, but I can't say I'm unhappy with it either. Actually, it's an interesting callback to the ten-year-anniversary news post from two years ago, when it was teased that as part of this expansion, we might "gain an opportunity to return to where your character’s journey first began so long ago…" My only disappointment was that when there was some talk about how it can be safe for Imperial characters to go to Ord Mantell, nobody thought to mention Lost Island. Come on!

I won't go into any detail about what they said about the story there to keep things as spoiler-free as possible, but unlike the Interpreter's Retreat, the new town Kessan's Landing is going to be a proper daily area and yes, we'll chase after Heta Kol and the Hidden Chain again. No, I don't know whether we'll actually achieve anything this time around. But! We'll interact with both new and returning characters, and I was particularly pleased to hear of the return of Sergeant Captain Blyes and Gizmel Gam. If those names don't mean anything to you, Sergeant Blyes is literally the first NPC troopers and smugglers talk to outside their class story phase, the guy who gives you your very first side mission to blow shit up in the village. And Gizmel Gam is the shady heroic quest giver who wants you to fetch his illegal drugs from Savrip Island (without telling you that it's illegal drugs). I love it when minor characters like that get to reprise their roles.

A story-related announcement that surprised me was the continuation of the Lane Vizla story from Ruhnuk. Now, again, trying to keep it as spoiler-free as possible... the way that story ends on Ruhnuk does sort of imply that there'll be a follow-up, but I honestly figured it would just be a mail or maybe a short conversation. But no, it looks like it's actually turning into a proper side storyline that has you seeking out new characters and places, and I'm here for it.

Next they announced a technical update that probably had me way more excited than it should have: "cinematic lighting". What does that mean? It means older in-game cut scenes will have better lighting, making better use of "natural" light sources and shadows instead of artificial spotlights. They showed a few clips from starter quests for different origins and I just kept thinking how gorgeous the new versions looked.

What can I say: this is a game with a heavy focus on watching your character look cool in cut scenes and it heavily encourages you to play alts. I'm not sure there's any other game where an announcement about improved lighting would make me feel like it's one more reason to make a new alt, but it really does in this instance.

Also, my favourite side story related to this was that when I checked the forums afterwards, I found this thread by someone going by the forum name Jazulfi, posted about a month ago and complaining about how bad the lighting in some of the old story cut scenes was. Needless to say, they were over the moon about this announcement. Just imagine being in that position, making an incredibly niche complaint about something and a few weeks later the devs announce that they are about to release a major technical upgrade addressing your specific issue. The timing just cracked me up. Good for you, Jazulfi!

Also interesting was the demo of the GTN update that had been teased before. At a glance I thought it looked kind of similar to the way things are set up in the modern World of Warcraft auction house - which is not a bad thing, as it's mostly quite convenient. Even better, the new GTN will have a "claim" button so you can grab your stuff directly from the GTN terminal instead of going to your mailbox, which I really appreciate because in WoW I always buy stuff from the auction house and then run off without remembering to actually take it out of my mailbox, so this is a very real problem for me. The only slight concern I have was that there was a brief mention of the deposit now being classified as a fee, which makes me worried that it might no longer be refunded if your item doesn't sell. That would be a shame as this particular bit of generosity of SWTOR's GTN was a really nice feature and meant that I was never shy about re-listing stuff as I didn't have to worry about actively losing money if nobody purchased right away. We'll see I guess. (Edit: This has now been confirmed in a forum post.)

In terms of gear, we were told that 7.4 will bring another gear rating increase. Implants and mods will become upgradeable to 340, and Rakata gear's max rating will increase to 344. There was also a cryptic mention of Rakata gear for everyone, not just ops players. The main takeaway I got from this is that after about a year of R-4 Anomaly on veteran mode being the only source of max-item-rating gear, they're basically dumping that entire idea and nobody will ever go there again. Can't say I'm sad, though the thought of updating gear across my entire stable of alts again is a little tedious, even if it won't be hard to do.

Now, the Cartel Market section of these streams never really interests me that much, but this time they had something that caught my attention... because it was SHINY! Basically, they're adding a new type of dye that doesn't just colour your gear but also gives it a shiny or matte effect, and the example they showed looked amazing.

To be fair, this is a brand-new gear set that has likely been optimised to work well with this new effect, and it might not look as great on older armours, but still... I could definitely see myself picking a couple of these up to see if I can give an old outfit a new shine. This gets a thumbs-up from me.

Finally, they finished the stream with an interesting twist on the Best View in SWTOR contest - they haven't chosen the winners yet, but Jackie wanted to share the five finalists for each planet... and I can see why, as they were all gorgeous. I kept an eye out for any of my own submissions, but while one of the Nar Shaddaa finalists looked kind of like one of mine, it had someone else's name on it so was presumably submitted earlier. However, apparently no fewer than three people I know found themselves featured among the finalists. Yay them! Either way, I loved seeing all those screenshots and they looked like worthy winners regardless of which ones actually end up being the final choices.

Oh, and if you read this before November 1st - they gave out a free deco code again, so you can redeem "LotsVizla" until then for another in-game poster of your (perhaps not) favourite Mandalorian(s).

Either way, the stream clearly did its job for me as it got me properly excited for 7.4. We don't have a release date yet, but based on how they've been handling these recently, it's probably going to be late November or early December.


Master Mode Flashpoint Tips: Infinite Army Prototype


It always surprises me when I google something that I think should be fairly well known, just because I want to double-check a specific detail for example, and then it turns out there's actually (next to) no content about that thing out there. In this particular case, said "thing" is the bonus boss of master mode Legacy of the Rakata, a flashpoint that has been in the game for about nine years at the time of writing this. So I thought I'd write a quick guide on how to deal with it myself.

I wouldn't say that this is a particularly hard flashpoint boss, but he's not trivially easy either. It's definitely not the type of fight where you can just wing it and hope for the best - you have to understand the boss's abilities and coordinate with the rest of your group.

The boss in a nutshell

He sits inside a small bunker and you'll want to stay inside said bunker for the entire fight, as leaving it while in combat causes annoying womp rat adds to spawn. However, once a minute he also does a massive channelled AoE called Unstable Barrier that is as big as the bunker and that you can't just stand in.

I think the intended way to deal with this was that you would run out during the AoE and deal with womp rats as needed, however I've never actually seen it done this way as it's actually possible to avoid the AoE damage without leaving the building: by breaking line of sight to the boss and hiding behind the vase highlighted in the screenshot below:

What to do as a tank

Make sure you have your back against one of the bunker walls, as the boss frequently does a knockback in a frontal cone and you don't want to go flying out of the building and cause womp rats to spawn unnecessarily. You'll also want to be facing him away from the rest of the group.

Ideally you'll want to have your back against one of the bunker's side walls, so the rest of your party can stand on the other side, and if someone gets aggro, at least they'll only bounce off the wall there and won't be knocked outside either.

When you see the Unstable Barrier cast, run behind the vase to line of sight the boss, then jump back into the fight once the channel is over.

What to do as a damage dealer

Stand behind the boss so you don't get hit by his knockback. Ideally the tank should position the boss in such a way that you'll still be able to have a wall behind you as well, just in case aggro is unstable and the boss twitches. Note that you'll want to stand directly behind the boss even if you're ranged, as standing at a distance will cause him to constantly yank you back into melee range and interrupt your casts.

When you see the Unstable Barrier cast, run behind the vase to line of sight the boss, then jump back into the fight once it the channel over.

What to do as a healer

Stand directly behind the boss with the rest of the damage dealers to avoid both his knockback and his grapple. Focus on healing the tank as the boss hits quite hard, and everyone else should be nicely grouped up for some splash AoE healing. When you see the Unstable Barrier cast, run behind the vase to line of sight the boss, do some more AoE healing there (the rest of the group should have come with you!), then jump back into the fight once the AoE damage is over.

Note for everyone

Hiding behind the vase and actually breaking line of sight with the boss requires a certain amount of precision. Watch your health bar, and if your health keeps ticking down, you're not in quite the right spot yet.

It's also technically possible to just power through the AoE without hiding at all if your healer is sufficiently overgeared and the group has the right damage reduction cooldowns available. A Gunslinger's Diversion and Scrambling Field are hugely powerful in this fight for example and can negate the majority of an Unstable Barrier's damage to the whole group if deployed at the right time. Various personal damage reduction cooldowns also work. However, I would only advise going with this strategy if the healer is comfortable with it and you have a plan for how to negate Unstable Barrier's damage once every minute for the entirety of the fight.


Galactic Season 5 Story Review

Galactic Season 5 is still in full swing, and I could have left writing about this until my usual end-of-season review, but I thought I had enough to say about it to justify a separate post. Also, for some reason the devs decided that the GS5 story would end at season level 40 instead of something closer to the end... I guess it's got something to do with metrics relating to how far the average player makes it into the season.


We don't tend to think of seasons as something with a story - after all, their primary purpose is to get us to revisit old content and maybe try something new for the sake of special rewards. Still, there's been an evolution to the themes and narratives of seasons that's been very interesting to watch:

  • Season 1 had a KOTOR-style intro conversation with Altuur and that was it.
  • Season 2 had a similar conversation with Fen Zeil, but then he offered two more conversations on your ship, tied to his influence level.
  • Seasons 3 and 4 both had extended intro quests for PH4-LNX and Amity that actually had you do more than talk, again followed up by two more missions each based on companion influence level, and those missions also required you to actually go out and do some stuff.

Finally we arrive at the current season, which no longer features a special companion, but instead simply includes a story that consists of three parts. The missions are still done in a style that only requires a minimum amount of resources, with KOTOR-style conversations and all the NPCs speaking alien gibberish, but they are a bit more involved than before and actually include some choices that lead to slightly different outcomes.

I'll get into spoiler territory now, so read on at your own risk if you haven't played through the whole story yet and want to see everything for yourself.

Part one, "Dark Tidings" has you encounter an Imperial astromech droid called EV-1L (subtle!) on the fleet who is a bit like an evil version of T7-O1, enthusiastic about teaching people about the dark side and recruiting them to serve its mysterious master. This includes trying to recruit you and it gives you a "dark side trial" that you're supposed to pass. When you walk away, an agent from the Strategic Information Service/Imperial Intelligence (depending on your faction) contacts you to let you know that they've been watching the odd droid and would be interested in hearing what you find out during your interactions.

As if the droid's way of talking wasn't enough of a giveaway of how silly this story is, its "dark side trial" has you controlling a mouse droid in a cantina and basically committing a bit of vandalism and bothering the patrons. This is a little mini game that's decent fun and also a recurring seasons objective. If you find the prospect of doing this too silly however, you also have the option to announce that you'll prove yourself by defeating some powerful foes instead, which results in an alternative mission to kill five strong enemies each in selected heroic areas on Coruscant/Dromund Kaas, Taris/Balmorra and Nar Shaddaa. The droid approves either way, but leaves you none the wiser.

In part two, "Price of Victory", EV-1L recalls you to present you with the second trial: to assassinate three people on Rishi, Nar Shaddaa and Mek-Sha. Your intelligence contact informs you that they are complete nobodies and that it doesn't seem like the droid really knows what it's doing, so they suggest you just steal an item from each person and pretend to have offed them. Again, you have the choice to either comply and pick the non-violent option, or to kill the targets as originally requested. They really are nobodies though, super low-level NPCs that die in a single hit if you do decide to kill them. EV-1L explains afterwards that they had to die because they rejected or insulted the master, calling him names like "sucker".

Finally, part three, "Chains or Freedom" has EV-1L telling you that it's time for your final trial - you shall duel it to the death on Tatooine, so the winner can take their place at the master's side. When you get there, you find that the droid has been upgraded to EV-2L however, making it about five times the previous size and a champion mob that actually makes for quite a formidable opponent. On death it drops a datapad which you pass on to your intelligence contact and they identify it as a cipher that can be used to decode the droid's previously intercepted transmissions. It points to a certain "Lord Umbral" hiding out on Mek-Sha.

You make your way there and find that said Lord Umbral is a red Twi'lek who fancies himself a Sith Lord, and while he does have the Force he's also incredibly clumsy and inept, with seemingly more of a talent for mechanical stuff (thus the droids). You can capture him alive or kill him, plus there's also a third option to take pity on him and let him get away. I found the latter quite hard to achieve in spite of all my characters generally approaching him in a manner that wasn't too hostile, as he's incredibly trigger-happy and will initiate a fight to the death in response to a lot of things. A forum post tipped me off that you can also send him to the Order of the Cold Moon if you have Amity with you to chime in on the conversation. Either way you get a final wrap-up with your intelligence contact on the fleet, and that's the end of the story. 

I gotta say, I really enjoyed it! The introductory mission immediately sets the tone for this to be something more light-hearted, and the mouse droid mini game is pretty good fun for what it is. Part two is admittedly the weakest one in the series as the mission objectives basically require you to travel to three different planets just to click on one thing either way, which isn't super satisfying. However, I was properly intrigued by the end of it, wondering just what kind of person this "master" was going to turn out to be.

And I'm happy to say... the finale made perfect sense! It showed his ineptitude but that he also had a certain degree of engineering talent, as demonstrated by the battle against the upgraded astromech. I even felt a little sorry for him when he commented that both Republic and Empire had rejected him and killed his "friends" before, with the camera panning over more destroyed droids. I thought it was a bit of a shame that it seems to be quite hard to achieve an outcome that doesn't result in him dying or immediately being imprisoned, but I guess he isn't meant to be a recurring character.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this new approach with more of a focus on story and no new companion, but I really liked it, despite the low production values. We've come pretty far from Altuur simply introducing himself in a few sentences and that being the entirety of the season's "story". I hope that with some practice and (hopefully) more positive feedback, the SWTOR devs will be able to expand on this idea.


The Devs Speak

It's been three months since Star Wars: The Old Republic was transferred from Bioware to Broadsword, and I've got to say, at this point it almost seems kind of silly how worried I originally was about this development. Seeing the recent news coming out of Bioware, I'm honestly glad that the SWTOR devs won't be impacted by all this stuff anymore.

From a player perspective, nothing has really changed yet, and I actually don't really expect to see any noteworthy changes until the new year either (for better or worse). There is one small thing that I've noticed out of game though: that the devs seem to have become more talkative.

Now, the SWTOR team has had a reputation for not being very chatty for quite a while now. It wasn't always this way - for example when Keith first took charge, I wrote about how excited I was about all the communication we were suddenly getting. However, at some point that died down again... I'm not really sure when and why, but I suspect it may have had something to do with a certain part of the fan base that likes to take to social media any time plans for upcoming content change, just to announce to everyone that the SWTOR dev team are clearly a bunch of lying liars. This is why we can't have nice things I guess.

Legacy of the Sith's launch didn't go too well either, which caused the devs to clam up even more. I'm not gonna lie, I too would have liked to hear some sort of explanation of just what went wrong for them to have to cut this much content out of 7.0 for example, but I get that a business doesn't like airing its dirty laundry, so I can understand that whatever happened simply wasn't something they wanted or could talk about. However, that doesn't change that it was a bit sucky from a player perspective!

Since then I would describe the communication that we've gotten as adequate, no more and no less. What I mean by that is that we get timely updates about things like server maintenance and patch dates, basic explanations of new features and acknowledgements of particularly egregious bugs, but not really a lot outside of that. Most of the time we don't really know what's coming in the next patch or what sort of greater plan the devs have for the next few months and years.

So it stood out to me when only about a week after the official move to Broadsword, Eric Musco suddenly popped up on the official forums to give a detailed breakdown of what had gone wrong with the legs of a piece of Cartel Market armour. I mean, this wasn't a particularly important bug (in my opinion anyway, I'm sure some fashionistas would disagree) and his explanation went into much more detail than usual.

As the weeks went by, I noticed more "unusual" dev responses like this on the forums that deviated from the rather minimalist communications style that we've mostly had for the last few years. I already mentioned how quick they were to change the way you unlock the Galactic Season 5 story missions on alt characters. The other day, Musco ended up making a massive post in a thread called "Features and improvements that do not need a lot of money" to clear up some misconceptions about just how much effort is involved in certain kinds of development tasks. Not something any player particularly needed to know, just something that provided an interesting look behind the scenes. Finally, I even spotted Narrative Designer Ashley Ruhl jumping into a Vette appreciation thread to give a bit of insight into how they pick which companions to feature in a story update. Again, not something that was desperately needed, but just something that's nice to know.

I don't want to read too much into every single word the devs post on the forums (after all, that kind of scrutiny might well be another factor contributing to their past shyness), but I find it hard not to at least feel a little bit encouraged to see them open up again a bit, daring to tell us a little about what's going on behind the scenes and what they're thinking about. I don't know if there was anything or anyone at Bioware in particular that would've discouraged these sorts of interactions, but I'm once again hopeful that this will mean good things for the future of the game.


Thoughts on the Ahsoka TV Show

Fashion in SWTOR is strongly influenced by whatever else is going on in Star Wars. The Mandalorian forever changed the way people view and dress bounty hunters in the game, and recently there've been a lot of Togruta characters called some variation of "Ahsoka Tano" running around, thanks to the show named after the character premiering on Disney+. I've been watching along as well, and it has been a weird experience.

If I had to compare Ahsoka to other recent live-action Star Wars shows, I think I'd say it's better than Book of Boba Fett, worse than Mandalorian, and maaaybe about on par with Kenobi. However, where Kenobi was an overall enjoyable package with some weak moments for me, Ahsoka was this weird mix of stuff that mostly seemed pretty good in isolation but just didn't come together in a satisfying way. Even though I was keen to see the Rebels characters find Ezra, I just couldn't get myself to truly get excited about anything in this show. Which was so strange!

The overall plot was quite weak in my opinion, a basic MacGuffin chase with few attempts to make anything make sense, something that seemed to be an intentional choice to focus more on the characters instead. Which would have been fine if I'd found their motivations truly convincing, but something was always just a bit off.

Ahsoka, for being the titular character, did not really take the spotlight as much as I would've expected. She was overall portrayed in what I thought was a believable way, but the problem I had was that her performance felt too disjointed. There were moments where she was the perfect "just-like-in-Clone-Wars" Ahsoka, and there were moments when she delivered what I thought was a convincing portrayal of an Ahsoka that had become somewhat calmer and wiser with age, but there just didn't seem to be an in-between, and it always felt jarring to me when she switched from one mode to the other seemingly at random.

Her arc mainly seemed to consist of two parts, one focusing on her relationship with Sabine (and I'll explain in a bit why I wasn't too fond of that one) and the other on her remembering Anakin and seemingly being worried that considering his ultimate fate, she was perhaps also destined to walk down a dark path. In the grand scheme of things, that would've been a perfectly good story to tell, but it's not something that really came up before in previous shows, and this one also doesn't really bring it up until that one episode with the Clone Wars flashbacks that seemingly everybody loved, and then immediately resolves it within that same episode as well, so the notion that this was some deep conflict and major turning point for Ahsoka wasn't really very convincing to me.

Sabine was probably my biggest issue with the show. She was a solid character in Rebels: a mechanically talented and artistically inclined Mandalorian with family issues. That's... a lot to be honest! And Ahsoka decides to just discard almost all of that in favour of having Sabine become Ahsoka's padawan and try to learn how to use the Force despite basically having zero aptitude with it. In the scene where Sabine tells Ezra about this development, he goes "What?! Why?!" and all I can say is I felt that.

People can twist themselves in knots trying to explain why it's justified for Sabine to suddenly find the Force in the last episode, but even if I could get on board with this kind of depiction of Force sensitivity (which I just can't), Sabine was not the character to use for this kind of story. She had so much else going on; she of all people didn't need the Force. It just felt like such a betrayal of the character to me that I simply couldn't get over, even if the interactions between Ahsoka and Sabine were otherwise well done.

Hera was a character that was simply nice to see again and seemed entirely in character, trying to navigate the realities of the New Republic while still looking after her friends. I also enjoyed seeing a slightly older Jacen, who had none of the weird uncanniness of his cartoon counterpart. He seemed appropriately child-like without being annoying and I liked the dynamic between him and Chopper. I also approve of the way his Force-sensitivity was portrayed, and that Hera was a good Mum, listening to her son even when he was being a bit odd.

The actor who played Ezra was an absolute delight and seemed to also elevate other people's performances in every scene he was in - too bad he didn't come in until close to the end.

The droids also deserve a shout-out, as David Tennant as Huyang had some of the best lines, and live-action Chopper was every bit as charismatic was his cartoon version.

The villains were a slightly odd bunch. Thrawn lived up to his Rebels portrayal, except that I didn't get why the damn ship didn't just get off the ground in the last episode if they had finished loading it at the end of the previous episode. Morgan Elsbeth isn't really given much to do other than drive the plot forward occasionally and serve as a foil for Thrawn that states whatever the obvious "dumb Imperial" reaction to any given event would be.

Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati are a mysterious duo of dark Jedi that again, doesn't really have that much to say or do, but both actors did a hell of a job with what they were given. Shin in particular has only a handful of lines, but her existence means that there's now an official canon character that shares a nickname with me (wink), and she's an attractive blonde that has a strong visual resemblance to Lana Beniko, both in terms of hair style and lightsaber colour. I've seen people compare her to Boba Fett and Darth Maul, in the sense that she just looks cool and people like to project their own ideas onto that.

Oh yeah, and Hayden Christensen had some cameos as (ghost/flashback of) Anakin which people mostly seemed to love, but I thought his make-up and digital de-ageing looked uncanny and horrible, so I didn't enjoy those scenes much even though his acting was fine.

In summary: yeah, it was a weird show! It certainly made me think hard about just what I liked and didn't like about it as per the above, but emotionally, almost nothing seemed to resonate with me. It was interesting enough that I would absolutely watch a second season, but if there wasn't one, I honestly also wouldn't feel like I was missing anything important, in spite of the last episode ending with a lot of unanswered questions. It's a strange place to be.