07/02/2024

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.

8 comments :

  1. I don't know quite what to make of datacrons becoming more and more involved nowadays. On the one hand, I [i]do[/i] like that the Kessan's Landing one was far more optional in terms of its special secret item compared to those of Ruhnuk... but on the other, I do rather miss the joy of just happening upon a datacron in the open world and trying to work out how to reach it.

    Plus, unlike fleet and Rishi, the complexity behind Ruhnuk and Kessan's Landing's datacrons feels rather bizarre given that it's just the one datacron in both instances...

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    1. I can relate to that. For me it's specifically the enforcement of tough solo challenges... while just getting summoned to a datacron could be considered "cheating" in a way, it's something that requires friendly interaction with other players and I can't say that's entirely a bad thing. (For example, a friendly guildie summoned me to the Makeb endurance datacron on Shae Vizla. I logged out after claiming it, and made sure to offer a summon to others in turn the next time I logged in.)

      Yet at the same time, there are arguments for the more involved approach. The simpler datacrons were created when you still needed to collect them on every character individually for example instead of it being a one-and-done thing. And I guess after more than a decade the devs figure that those of us who go for datacrons in new areas are pretty "hardcore" about the game one way or another and need to be challenged at least a little bit. It's definitely not a clear-cut matter.

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    2. I don't mind long or involved datacron challenges if it is broken up into steps. The Makeb endurance one is very annoying if you fail and have to start over from the beginning. Having respawn points part way through would make that one a lot more palatable.

      It's also not so much fun if you find that turning down your graphics settings to Minimum makes the run much easier. If I'm running things at High or Ultra let me have the same ease of effort as someone playing on a potato. ^_^

      I'm also finding that as I get older some of the harder jumping puzzles aren't so much fun, especially if you aren't trying it on a body type 1 character.

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    3. Yeah, I'd consider the Makeb endurance datacron the most brutal one that can also be cheesed. I never went back to do it a second time after all the effort that was involved the first time, and only revisited it if someone offered a summon.

      Though I think the most brutal one that can't be cheesed is the mastery one on Onderon.

      What datacron are you thinking of that becomes harder or easier based on graphics settings?

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  2. " 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."

    Is 7.4 and 7.5 considered to be still mostly BioWare pre-production or is this already Broadswords own stuff?
    Do you think, we will see a hard cut between what the new studio will be capable of on their own?

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    1. We know that at least 7.4 was already being worked on in some capacity at the time of the studio transition.

      I don't expect to see a hard cut at any point as the game is still being made by the same people, just in another office. Since the move came with some lay-offs, I wouldn't entirely be surprised if there had to be some reduction in capacity (like having more of the KOTOR-style cut scenes we've been seeing), but I think overall the team's direction hasn't changed, and it's unlikely that the new management will want to rock the boat too much, so I would expect any changes from a player perspective to be more gradual.

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    2. Isn't "some lay-offs" not kind of trivialized?

      First, it was 50%. That is massive. You just need to imagine your own workplace operating with half of the staff suddenly.

      And second, i suspect, that even some of the 50%, that stayed, are on some kind of temporary contract, with the goal to finish the stuff they started at BioWare.
      I assume it is highly likely, that those contracts will end, as soon as that is done.

      Either way. I can't wait to hear the news next week. And finally seeing some stand-alone Broadsword work in 7.6 or 7.7 or 8.0. The end of this year or the next year will decide which path the game will take. FFXIV or DAoC.

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    3. The original announcement said that "more than half" of the dev team continued to Broadsword, so we don't know the exact number they lost. And I see no reason to assume that further downsizing is planned. I mean, you never know for sure what's going on at the top of any given company, but for Broadsword, SWTOR is now their biggest product and I'd expect them to want to make the most out of that.

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