Around the SWTOR-sphere: February 2024

February is the shortest month of the year (even with the extra day we get this year) and it was a fairly quiet month in SWTOR as well, though we did get some news about what's coming next in the 7.4.1. dev stream. This post however isn't meant to be about official news, but rather about random community content I came across throughout the month and that I wanted to share.

  • First off, Swtorista did a thing again (shocking how she keeps doing that, isn't it) and released her updated "Ultimate Guide of Guides" for 2024. This is a massive list of resources covering pretty much every possible aspect of the game that she and her right-hand Admiral Zahk (is that his proper title?) have been maintaining for several years now. I'm flattered by the number of useful posts they found on this blog, considering that being useful is not my primary goal. I can only recommend checking this guide out, even if you don't have a particular question right now... the links are sorted by topic, so maybe just have a quick look at an area you're interested in, and who knows, maybe you'll find a link to a page or even another content creator that you didn't even know existed. I had no idea that Swtorista had name generators for every single species you can play as for example. (Also, fun fact, before this year I never realised that she actually kept a copy of this guide on her website, as I only ever came across the version maintained in a sticky thread on the official forums.)
  • Ted from the SOTOR Podcast lived up to his promise of not going quiet for quite so long again and released not one but two new episodes this month. I'd like to particularly recommend the one about server transfers to Shae Vizla, especially if you're planning to make use of the free transfers coming in March. I've never actually done a server transfer in SWTOR myself (not counting character copies to the PTS), and there are actually quite a lot of things to keep in mind in terms of what will come with you and what won't. Outfits not getting copied over and needing to be recreated on the new server is a big one for example!
  • On the subject of the Shae Vizla server and transfers, I came across a video by small YouTuber Thomas Midena called "How not to launch Australian servers (a Star Wars: The Old Republic story)". As the title suggests, he hasn't been too happy with how things have gone so far, but I thought it was interesting to hear from another player in the APAC region and I really liked his measured approach and the way he articulated his thoughts.
  • In happier video news, another small YouTuber I came across this month was HomeMade SWTOR. Specifically I watched his video "The Mandalorian: StarWars story Episode 15 || The Shameful Hunt ||", which is basically... the bounty hunter story on Corellia? I'm not usually one for SWTOR story playthrough videos because let's be honest, I can and prefer to do the playing myself, but I thought it was interesting how HomeMade tried to edit things together in a unique way, with bits of different music added and by interspersing snippets of footage of movement and combat between the in-game cut scenes to make things flow better.
  • Aaand, one more video about something completely different - an operations boss kill! A video called "SWTOR Master Mode Styrak With No Knocks 7.4" by Draxzim caught my attention due to its title. I wrote a whole long-ass post about my own "history" with Dread Master Styrak a few years ago, but to summarise in a nutshell what intrigued me about this video title: on master mode, this fight has a mechanic that usually requires several people in the group to have a knockback, so I immediately wondered how this group achieved a kill without ticking that box. My first reaction was to theorise that 344 gear had allowed dps numbers to get so high that it simply wasn't needed anymore (since the main purpose of the knockback is to buy you time to kill an add). Spoiler: not exactly. Instead, what this group did was bring a party that consisted of nothing but Powertechs (except for the healers obviously), and they all specced into the Sonic Rebounder utility, which causes their AoE taunt/aggro drop to put a ring around everyone in range that reflects the next attack done to them back at the attacker. Then, when it came to the phase where you'd usually use the knockbacks, they didn't interrupt the big add's AoE damage channel but instead rotated through all their rebounders to reflect its own damage back at it for a massive damage boost. This is, frankly, incredibly cheesy and bizarre, but it clearly took no less effort than organising knockbacks would've done, so I totally respect it. I'm always fascinated by people coming up with alternate solutions to gameplay challenges.
  • Finally, my favourite post from the SWTOR subreddit in February was one that only got a moderate number of upvotes but which I personally thought was amazing, called "What is your favorite / least favorite noise made by your toon when being attacked?" Why did I love it? Because it's an extremely random question that I never would've thought of asking myself, and the way people described their characters' groans and shouts in writing in the responses was very funny to me. "HEEUUURRRGGHHH!" (That's someone describing a male Sith warrior, and I bet if you've ever played or spent time around one, you'll know exactly what it refers to.)


Republic Saboteur, Part 3

It's been a while and a half since I last wrote about my Republic saboteur character. I think I put her on ice for a bit since she's a smuggler and at the time I felt that I should prioritise getting my "main" smuggler fully caught up with the story first before taking this one any further. Also, she'd just hit Echoes of Oblivion, which is an excellent piece of story content but not the most appealing in terms of replayability

A pink twi'lek smuggler and Arn Peralun watch an Imperial fighter get away in the Manaan night sky

Anyway, to mirror my series about my Imperial saboteur, I still wanted to write a third post about her journey through the rest of the Onslaught story after Objective Meridian, up to the Legacy of the Sith launch content. There've been a few additional saboteur choices in the updates that have been released since then, but I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do about those, if anything at all. Maybe I'll make a sort of summary post at some point to talk about how 7.2 and beyond have treated both Imperial and Republic saboteurs.

Anyway, I'd actually like to start with a comment on the Dantooine pirate event, whose little story tidbit strictly speaking takes place before Onslaught, but which I often do whenever, since it's not really important to the main storyline and only accessible once every couple of months. I didn't mention it at all when writing about my Imperial saboteur, so I was quite surprised and perplexed when I did the Dantooine dailies on my Republic saboteur and noticed differences! For example the mission to "take back" supplies from Imperial Pillagers has you delivering them right back to the Imps at the end, which I thought was hilarious but also kind of blatant? And the one with the Republic traitor has you warning him so that he can get away instead of being killed. So much detail for saboteurs in a daily area that isn't even active most of the time! I was most pleasantly surprised. In hindsight I do seem to vaguely remember that for Imperial saboteurs, at least the mission where you sabotage the farms also may have had some sort of choice and I simply forgot to write about it? I'd have to go back and double-check some time when the event is active again.

Anyway, to get back to the main storyline, in "The Task at Hand", the immediate follow-up to Objective Meridian, saboteurs are told that things are not going well for the Republic. There's a conversation choice where you can recommend fighting Hutts that are demanding bribes.

When Lana brings up Balmorra and Zenith, the saboteur option is once again to ask her to not even bother. I just find it kind of amusing that regardless of which faction you're on, "don't bother with weapon shipments on Balmorra" is sabotage either way.

When I started Secrets of the Enclave, I was surprised by dialogue that had Arn stating in an insecure tone that Tau was away on another assignment on Balmorra that he didn't know the details of, something I didn't remember encountering in any of my other playthroughs, but I'm not sure whether that was actually related to being a saboteur, as I seem to remember reading that there are some conversation choices - regardless of your overall loyalties - that drive Tau and Arn apart somewhat? It's not something I've researched in great detail.

Like on Imperial side, I had the option after the initial briefing to tip off the opposite faction in regards to our impending Dantooine trip, and I was amused that NR-02 thanks you but tells you that Imperial Intelligence already knew about it anyway. I thought that was an interesting touch and shows them being a step ahead of the SIS. After landing on the planet and seeing the Empire there, you can further complain to your companions about how the Republic is always too slow and therfore frequently loses to the Empire's ruthlessness.

A pink twi'lek smuggler offers kolto to an injured Lord Ziliss in the Secrets of the Enclave flashpoint

The big thing that caught me by surprise in this flashpoint though was that after the fight with Lord Ziliss, I had the option to send the others away, implying that I was going to "take care" of her by killing her, just to then hand her a kolto pack and send her on her way. That was another delightfully overt act of sabotage that I hadn't expected - I guess because Imperials get no such option due to Rivix always killing the Republic Captain, even if you want to spare him.

Finally, while doing Manaan, the main thing that struck me was that it was funny how unimpressed I found myself by Gallo's rants about the Republic as a saboteur. It's not as if I'm here to work for them either, you know! When it comes to blowing up the ion cannon, the saboteur option was to weaken the blast so that some ships would be able to escape, which I didn't think was too impressive.

However, what I didn't anticipate that when it comes to choosing between saving Gallo or the kolto, the saboteur option is to save neither! For all the scummy things I've done in the name of sabotage (still haunted by shooting Narlock in the back), this one was a bit too much for me. It just had too much of a "watching the whole world burn" vibe, which I didn't think suited my smuggler, so I just decided to sacrifice Gallo in order to save the kolto. I don't think this is saboteur-specific, but I was surprised to hear Admiral Rava actually reveal why Gallo had beef with him at the end, something I'd always wondered about. Did I really never choose the kolto over her before? Huh.

Anyway, I was still curious how that saboteur option of saving neither would have played out and specifically how you'd justify such an action to Arn, so I looked it up on YouTube and was surprised to find that if you choose that option, your character pretends to save Gallo and her men but then sabotages the pod so that they die anyway? Cold, man.

Once everything's said and done, Darth Xarion himself gives you a holo call to congratulate you on your good work, and like on Imp side I wasn't really convinced. Sure, I did some sabotage, but more than anything I still helped the Republic drive the Empire off, which seems like it should've been the bigger deal...

A pink twi'lek smuggler stands at the edge of the ocean on Manaan while talking to Darth Xarion via her holo communicator

And that's it for Republic saboteur options up to 7.1 - oh, except for one more bit that doesn't really have anything to do with the main story but that I noticed when I picked up the one-time story mission for R-4 Anomaly: I thought it was very odd that it's given by Jonas Balkar even if you're a Republic saboteur, because as a smuggler my character had never actually met him! And he doesn't introduce himself either. That seems like an oversight to me (and a problem that Imp side doesn't have, because while Imperial saboteurs don't really interact with Darth Xarion, they've at least met him during Onslaught so getting a call from him doesn't seem completely random).

Still, all in all I've got to say these saboteur playthroughts have only increased my appreciation of the Onslaught story content - I think that short of the original class stories, Ossus to Manaan is probably the series of updates with the most complexities and variations influencing different outcomes in the game. It's not entirely bug-free and there are some bits and pieces where certain choices feel like a bit of a stretch, but still, it must've been a humongous piece of work to script all of that, and in a manner that still mostly makes sense for so many different choices.


Three Months of APAC Life & Waiting for Transfers

The situation on SWTOR's newest server Shae Vizla remains fascinating to me, and I feel compelled to keep writing about it.

I've continued to play my characters on there even after the end of seasons. With no seasons objectives to chase, I've dialled down my time investment, but I basically made it my goal to at least still reach my personal Conquest target on all four of my characters every week. It may sound silly, but even though I'm not in the APAC region myself, I really want this server to succeed, and I kind of feel like I'm helping at least a little by adding four encryptions to the guild bank every week to help with further expansion of the guild ship.

A Togruta trooper looking out at the Coruscant skyline

At the moment it certainly does feel like the server needs every bit of help it can get. I'd love to be able to say that everything is going great, but to be honest things are a bit down in the doldrums right now. I fully expected activity levels to decrease after the end of seasons (after all, it happens on all servers), but I wasn't quite prepared for how drastic a change it was going to be.

During the last week of PvP Season 4, I was still spamming level 80 warzones on my warrior to get the 2000 medals achievement. The next week, after the season ended, I spent several mornings (which is evening prime time in Australia) questing while in the warzone queue, and on most of those days, I didn't manage to get into even a single match. There was one single day on which I managed to get pops for two games where both teams were only partially filled. I eventually gave up on queueing, since it was clear that I didn't stand much of a chance of getting any more PvP weeklies done in that environment.

The server is not "dead" exactly; there are still plenty of people questing and guilds organising group content, and looking at the guild Conquest boards as a measure of activity, Shae Vizla still seems to have more active players than the French server for example. However, content you have to queue for has definitely taken a hit, and I'm sure those who were still trying to get into e.g. warzones like I did, were only further discouraged by queues dying out so suddenly.

I already mentioned last month that the devs told us that transfers were incoming, and while I feel that's good and even needed at this point, it probably didn't help with keeping the server lively in the short term either. I'm sure more than a few people took the transfer announcement as their cue to go back to their main legacies on other servers for now, knowing they'd soon be able to transfer them over anyway.

We have more details about the server transfers as well now, though we're still lacking an exact launch date - we just know they'll open with patch 7.4.1, coming at some point in March. The details of how everything will work as per the forums are:

  • If you're a subscriber and have been subscribed since the 2nd of January, you'll have 30 days to claim up to 16 free character transfers to Shae Vizla. You don't actually need to live in the APAC region to get these; subscription status is all that matters.
  • If you're a subscriber but not since Jan 2nd, or if you used up all your free transfers and want to buy even more, they'll be available at a discounted price of 500 Cartel Coins (which is roughly 5 USD).
  • Free or preferred players have to pay 1000 CC per character, which is the normal price for character transfers. It will also be the normal price for everyone once 90 days have passed.
  • To be eligible for transfer, characters need to be at least level 20 and can only carry 15 million credits.

This was originally announced about ten days ago, originally with stricter requirements to be eligible for free transfers and a lower credit cap per character, but there was a lot of pushback against those two items in particular, so I wasn't surprised to see the devs listen to the feedback and make adjustments.

How "fair" all this is, I don't know, and opinions seem to vary wildly based on people's backgrounds. I've seen some comment that when you're opening a new regional server, obviously everyone from that region should get limitless free transfers. To me, as someone whose first exposure to MMOs was World of Warcraft charging an arm and a leg for character transfers and making big bank from players struggling to find the right server for them, this seems pretty generous. Either way, it's not really relevant to me personally in the sense that I'm not planning to move any characters as I'm quite happy to keep all my legacies separate.

I am curious however to see what the influx of credits will do to the GTN. 15 million credits may not sound like much, but if you make full use of the free transfers, you could bring up to 240 million over. And again, to some people that may not sound like much, but I can't emphasise enough how different the economy on Shae Vizla is right now compared to any of the other servers.

After three months of casual play, I have less than 10 million credits in the bank (though I've also spent a few million on unlocking legacy perks). The GTN doesn't let you see all the items on sale at once, but after a quick search through various categories, the most expensive item I could find for sale was one of the new shiny dyes for 50 million, so whoever gets in there first after the transfers open will get to have a field day snapping up some bargains I guess.

As Xam Xam mentioned in her recent post though, worrying about the economy is one thing; ultimately the server needs active players more than anything though. I'm curious to see whether the launch of the new PvP season in ten days will make a difference (I will certainly try queueing again myself), but the new Galactic Season and the opening of transfers in March will be the real litmus test. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will give Shae Vizla the desired injection of activity. Whatever happens though, I'll be writing about it!


7.4.1 Dev Stream Highlights & Thoughts

Last night we were treated to SWTOR's first dev stream of 2024, centred around patch 7.4.1. This was actually unusual, as the pattern in the recent past has been to only have livestreams in the run-up to a major patch, not for the minor ones. Interestingly, Jackie noted right at the beginning that they are planning to do more of this kind of thing going forward, which is nice in terms of communication, though I think at least in the short-term, it also confused some players who don't necessarily pay super close attention to how the game's patch cycle has been shaking out in the recent past.

What I mean by that is that I saw more than a couple of comments from people who seemed to simply equal "dev stream" with "next major update" and who then expressed disappointment that the stream didn't show off any new major additions. To be clear, everyone, 7.5 is still coming and will have more in it! In fact, they did tease a little bit about that, but more on that closer to the end of this post. This stream simply talked about the launch of the next Galactic Season, something that wouldn't have received its own stream in the past.

Galactic Season 6 & Other Bits

We haven't been given a date for Galactic Season 6's launch yet, but they stated that they're targeting a March release, which makes me expect that it'll come out in three to four weeks. They're continuing in a similar vein to Season 5, with some lightweight story missions and no new companion. Instead, this season's big reward will be a new stronghold on Copero of all places, and the seasonal quest givers will meet you inside it. You'll unlock basic access right away, with more rooms being added via the subscriber reward track, and the three final rooms apparently requiring Cartel Coins to unlock. This seemed to stir some controversy, much to my surprise, considering that the seasons track usually also contains some CC anyway, so I'd expect it to finance those final rooms more or less automatically.

The sun setting behind a mountain range on Copero

Hearing about the return to Copero was a pleasant surprise, and I like that they're continuing to experiment with different rewards. From the screenshots, there's maybe a small risk that the Copero stronghold might end up feeling a little similar to Rishi, what with the beach front property with palm trees and all, but it's definitely different enough to still be interesting. I'm also happy that we'll be getting another seasonal storyline.

We also learned that PvP Season 5 will start in two weeks, and that character transfers to the Shae Vizla server will open up with patch 7.4.1, but I'll talk more about that in a different post. There was also the usual promotion of new Cartel Market stuff, though none of it vowed me like the original reveal of the shiny new dyes did last time. Maybe the Gothic Master armour set for one of my Sith warriors...

Date Night's Here!

The big and unexpected reveal of the stream was the release of "date nights" coming with 7.4.1. Now, these have some history already, as they were first data-mined about a year ago and people have been going nuts about the idea ever since. I even saw someone ask on the official forums how to get the mission to go on a date with Arcann, just to be told that this content wasn't actually in the game. This is why I always say not to put too much stock into data-mining!

However, they really are coming with 7.4.1: Alliance alerts that let you hang out with your romanced companion for a bit. Why did they promote this as a new feature instead of simply a bunch of new alerts? Because they will apparently be weekly repeatable, which I thought is quite neat. I remember reading a comment somewhere once where someone bemoaned that once the story was done, you could never ever talk to your companions again, even if one of them was officially your spouse. That person said that they wished that they could at least have some repeatable conversations like at the campfire in Dragon Age. And this sounds pretty close!

Before you get too excited though, we only get four to begin with: Lana, Koth, Theron and Arcann. The devs' desire is to eventually include something for all romanceable companions, but considering just how many of them there are, even the most optimistic timescale I've seen quoted would require more than five years to get to those last few companions.

Personally, I'm not a huge romance fanatic (my main never romanced anyone in my twelve years of playing for example), but I have dabbled in it on different alts, and I do like the idea of adding a bit more depth to companion relationships this way. I've never romanced Lana or Koth myself, but maybe this will give me an incentive to do so! More reasons to get characters to the other side of KotFE and KotET are always welcome.

Finally, in regards to 7.5, they confirmed that it will take place on Hutta and that you could indeed tell so from the current loading screen. The update will be called "Desperate Defiance" and will also feature the final part of the Lane Vizla storyline as well as a new spring-themed world event. That last part was actually the most intriguing to me because based on previous releases, I wouldn't have expected 7.5 to land before June. However, that's almost summer and would be very late to launch a spring-themed event, which makes you wonder whether this patch might actually launch earlier, and if so, what else that might mean for the game's patch cadence in the future. Most curious!

Freebies & Links

As usual, there's a free stronghold deco you can claim, using the code LotSKrovos (not case-sensitive). Just don't get tripped up when trying to claim it, as the old link to redeem codes from the main user interface appears to go to dead page right now. Make sure to log in, go to your new account page, and scroll down to the "redeem code" button there instead.

Also, not exactly a freebie, but they also announced a major Cartel Market sale for the armour and decoration categories running until the end of February. There are some good deals to be had there if either of those things interest you. Swtorista has some recommendations and screenshots of everything, while Kal offers a full written list of everything included in the sale, which is handy if you just wanna do a quick Ctrl+F to check whether something specific is reduced.

Finally, if you want to see or read more details about the stream for yourself, you can watch the Twitch VOD, the YouTube upload, or read detailed written breakdowns on the official website, at Swtorista, Vulkk or Today in TOR.


Bad Romance

I actually finished the Sith warrior class story on Shae Vizla! For as long as I've had alts on other servers, this is the first time I've actually completed a class story on a server other than Darth Malgus, and while it may be silly, I'm kind of proud of myself. I also realised that it had been a really long time since my last full Sith warrior playthrough in general... six or seven years, based on some comments I made on this blog.

A female Sith Pureblood standing next to an Imperial banner with her lightsaber drawn, near the end of the Sith warrior class story

Something I hadn't done in even longer was romancing Quinn. I wrote a post about the different base game romances for female characters last year in which I mentioned that I quite enjoyed the dynamic with him, but I've got to confess that this was all based on memories from over a decade ago at this point. I thought it would be fun to finally go through that particular storyline again with my newest Pureblood. Boy, was it a confusing experience.

To be clear, it's not that I completely changed my mind about Quinn or anything, but I basically hadn't considered that the way companion conversations work had changed in the meantime, and what effect this would have on the experience.

To refresh everyone's memories, at launch the class companion stories weren't tied to main story progress but rather to that particular companion's influence (then affection) level with you. I don't remember when exactly I went through most of Quinn's conversations, whether it was earlier or later, but I do recall that I was generally very bad at maxing out companion affection (I made a whole post on that subject back in 2014), so I probably didn't see at least half of his storyline until after completing the overall class story. Either way, I have no memory of how this interacted with his "big twist", but I figure it probably can't have been that big of a deal or I would've remembered it.

The point is, with Knights of the Fallen Empire, companion conversations were changed to unlock automatically after completing certain steps in your class story. I was very much in favour of this change, since it meant I actually did them at a sensible pace now instead of oscillating between basically ignoring my companions and going on gift-giving binges to get them to talk to me. I'm not sure how I expected this to affect the Quinn romance, but I know that what I actually got, wasn't it.

I was initially quite excited and keen to get the ball rolling, so I always made sure to talk to Quinn before any other companions, but he seemed coyer than I remembered, and it felt like it took forever for things to heat up between him and my warrior. I kept waiting for the big confession of love, but it just didn't come.

Eventually we got to the end of Voss and then the visit to the Imperial ship where... "the thing" happens. I couldn't help but think that surely it would've been more impactful if we'd already been closer beforehand, but I still chose a conversation option that said something like "we're breaking up". I was reminded of just how incredibly clunky the bit where you end up sparing him for "reasons" feels.

Then we got back onto the ship and I went to talk to him again to see what the next conversation was and... it was the big confession of love. My jaw just kind of dropped. Like, we literally got close to killing each other five minutes ago. Timing!? And I'd chosen the conversation option that said we were done, too!

Close-up of a female Sith Pureblood kissing Malavai Quinn

I tried to justify it in my head with something like that the emotional turmoil of all that just brought their real feelings to the surface even stronger or something like that, and I allowed the romance to continue, but it still just felt weird.

It's kind of funny to me that even replaying content I've done before while trying to achieve the exact same outcome can result in such a dramatically different experience. Maybe the game has changed more over the years than I usually give it credit for.


Kessan's Landing

I've settled into a kind of routine when it comes to writing about SWTOR's major patches: write a first impressions post, put together a detailed review of the new story content, sum up how I feel about the new planet/flashpoint/operation/whatever the main new gameplay feature of the patch is, followed by a couple of additional posts for any other business, such as UI updates or other minor changes.

As far as 7.4 goes, I covered most of that, but the one thing I was still missing was a rundown of the new planetary map on Ord Mantell, Kessan's Landing. To be honest, I think the main reason I've been putting off writing about it is that it's been... fine. Good, even! I have no major complaints. At the same time I didn't exactly feel blown away by its awesomeness, so... I've just kind of struggled to find a lot to say about it.

I suppose the one thing I'm not too fond of is that it's night time there. I guess the devs opted for that to strengthen the slightly oppressive mood that hangs over the town, plus to create additional visual distinction between Kessan's Landing and "old" Ord Mantell, as the two areas use a lot of the same general "building blocks" otherwise, such as sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and glowing lava flows. Night time is never great for taking screenshots of your character though.

A building next to the sea side at Kessan's Landing, with a giant full moon on the horizon

Doesn't mean there aren't any nice vistas to look at.

I also thought it was interesting how much bigger Kessan's Landing is compared to many older in-game towns. All the villages on the starter planets tend to consist of like, five buildings, which is quite video-gamey and not very realistic. I liked that Kessan's Landing felt more like a real place where people could actually live.

The dailies were decent fun. As I've said many times before, I'm not a huge fan of dailies, but I do like doing them sometimes, and they are one of the better types of content for me and Mr Commando to do together nowadays, considering that the story is a purely solo affair. After the troubles we had with Ruhnuk, it was nice to return to a mode of running dailies that felt more relaxed and less punishing. The map is reasonably open for the most part, meaning you don't have to fight every single mob you encounter, except for the narrow tunnels leading up to and inside of Fort Ronning, but that's okay because it adds flavour by making that particular area feel more dangerous.

Mr Commando soon figured out a path that took us through a full round of both normal and heroic dailies in good time, and we faithfully did that every week until we maxed out the reputation track. I thought it was interesting that while most of the dailies come from the terminal in town, there are a couple that have to be "found" and picked up from NPCs around the area, something that reminded me of Yavin IV and Ziost. I was just a bit disappointed that the missions seemed to be exactly the same for Republic and Imperial players - with exactly one exception, oddly, in that Republic players have to save grazers while Imperials capture an asharl panther.

The heroics were decent fun to duo as well, and the [Heroic 4] is proper hard without feeling like a slog, as you basically just have to fight one mob with a lot of health that also has some hard-hitting mechanics. Ironically, the open world boss FR3-D0M felt relatively easy in comparison, though at least it has some bad stuff you actually need to step out of - as opposed to Kithrawl on Ruhnuk who's basically a big sack of potatoes that you just need to wear down.

Kessan's Landing also has a new datacron, which... honestly, maybe I should just make a whole post about the evolution of datacrons at some point. However, for this post it's enough to say that the most recent trend with them has been to force players to do the work themselves, ensuring that people can't just get summoned to the datacron location on day one and get their stat buff without even knowing what was involved in unlocking it.

The Ruhnuk datacron also required you to do a lengthy relic hunt quest chain first, which I didn't mind - my issue with that was more that it also felt like it was meant to benefit your daily-running, and completing it for that purpose on every alt felt tedious to me. In that regard I have to give the devs props for making the relic hunt equivalent for Kessan's Landing irrelevant to the dailies and only required for the datacron, so you only really need to do it once. As it was, I thought it was a fun little quest chain that sent you traipsing around the galaxy (and that featured another cute gonk droid). Fun fact: during the part on Quesh I got the codex entry for "lobel" on my main... only took me thirteen years. I might even repeat the quest chain on an alt at some point, but I'm happy knowing that I don't have to in order to be able to do the dailies efficiently on alts.

Shintar the trooper looking at the Kessan's Landing datacron

Completing the chain unlocks access to a secret cave where you then have to go through some puzzles to get to the datacron. I initially got a bit frustrated by the part inside the cave because it felt quite lengthy, yet any failure would send you back to the very start and force you start over from scratch. On my first visit I eventually gave up after dying to the hidden droids in the lava one too many times, but funnily enough, when I came back a couple weeks later I simply changed one utility to boost my speed and easily made it through that same lava bit on my first try. Gotta use that brain!

After that I was extremely paranoid though as I didn't want to get sent back to the start yet again, so I only progressed very slowly and with a guide on hand. I was in fact so slow that the door you're meant to unshield and blow up had re-shielded itself by the time I reached it. Fortunately I only had to backtrack a little bit to unshield it again. Ultimately it was far from the hardest datacron I've ever done, though I definitely would have appreciated a couple of check points along the way.

Most of all though, I'm really happy with the way the dev team has managed to deliver a new planetary zone three major patches in a row now, and with any luck we'll get another one in 7.5. This is something I love and definitely don't take for granted. And as I said previously, I'm more than happy to revisit existing planets, so I don't mind at all if it's not entirely new environments.


Bring Back Kuat Drive Yards!

The other week I stayed up late to join some of my guildies on the APAC server for a little activity called "doing flashpoints that aren't in the group finder". This meant running Colicoid War Game and Kuat Drive Yards.

I hadn't done Colicoid War Game in literal years, and I'd forgotten how quick and fun it was. I kind of found myself longing for reasons to visit it more often, but it's been out of the group finder for so long now (it was removed with the launch of Fallen Empire) that I don't expect it to ever make a return to the mainstream at this point. And for as much as I do love it, I also can't deny that it is indeed very different from pretty much every other flashpoint, which doesn't make it very accessible to the average pug. At least it gives normal veteran flashpoint loot now if you do decide to run it manually - I recall at least one occasion in the past when I completed it with some guildies and we discovered that it gave no loot at the time, which was shortly after it had been taken out of the group finder.

Thinking about Kuat's removal from the queue was a bit strange though. It was, after all, designed with the group finder in mind - in fact, the story mission still tells you to queue for the flashpoint via the group finder, even though that's no longer possible. (Fortunately it also progresses when you enter normally.) In fact, there was a period between its introduction and the release of Shadow of Revan when running KDY was all the rage for fast levelling. I had guildies who would do nothing else during double XP and I honestly found it kind of obnoxious at the time. I was glad when this behaviour fell out of favour after the levelling changes that came with Fallen Empire. However, Kuat stayed in the veteran queue for years to come... until it was taken out with 7.0, that is.

Three player characters listening to Admiral Ranken and Lord Krovos during the Imperial Kuat Drive Yards intro

I've tried to find out what could've been the reason for this but haven't been able to find a conclusive and satisfying answer. One poster suggested that people would drop from it because it was too long, which instantly struck me as absurd, considering that we also have flashpoints like the Esseles, the Foundry and Directive 7 in the queue.

Another suggestion I saw was that it was too difficult, something that at least seemed to be corroborated by the fact that our little guild group had to discover that you need to be level 55 nowadays to be allowed to enter. (This sucked because one member of the group was 53 - which should have been more than good enough to do the flashpoint - and was forcefully excluded.) The minimum level used to be 15! Remembering that also seemed to make the idea of KDY ever having been too difficult kind of ridiculous, but then I recalled the time I made this video... the last boss in KDY (any of them) could definitely be a bit challenging depending on your group setup if everyone was low level. Still, even if it was maybe too hard for a group of level 15s, if they already raised the minimum level required to enter, I don't get why the devs couldn't have left it in the group finder in that form.

The only other idea I had was that it might be related to the fact that only the last boss in Kuat drops any gear, which definitely makes it kind of unrewarding compared to any other flashpoint. Surely that's not something that's impossible to overcome though? There's a bonus boss in every wing; if they added gear drops to those, you could get three per run in total, which is closer to other instances. Or maybe they could add some of those loot boxes that drop from the sky in other flashpoints after the completion of each wing? Heck, even if all of that is too complicated to implement, I still don't feel like "it gives less loot" is a reason to completely remove an instance from the group finder. I'd still rather have it there, with the risk of some people dropping group if they get it, than just being unable to easily find a group for it entirely. People already avoid certain other flashpoints for other reasons too.

Unlike Colicoid War Game, Kuat is not a stand-alone story that doesn't really tie into anything else. Aside from its lore connection to Galactic Starfighter, it introduces several characters that become more important later: Admiral Aygo for the Republic and Zasha Ranken and Lord Krovos for the Empire. Seeing the cut scenes with them should be accessible! And that's without even getting into the fact that it has a reputation track with rewards tied to it that can't be advanced anywhere else. I guess I'd even take a dedicated solo mode at this point (even though I'm not a fan of them in general). As it stands right now, it's technically possible to solo veteran mode at max level, but the last boss can be a major PITA and is likely beyond soloing for a lot of players that could otherwise clear the rest of the instance by themselves with ease.

It feels funny for me to be campaigning for the return of KDY to the group finder when there was a time when I rather disliked it, but that was so long ago now... as the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder - and I've definitely not seen enough of Kuat Drive Yards in a while now. Bring it back!