It's time for another Top 5 post series!
It's been a while since I've done one of these; the last series touched on Operations, and now it's time to turn to their lesser PvE partners the Flashpoints.
As per usual, this will be in parts. This post will focus on the my personal favourites and the follow-up will focus on those which I absolutely despise. There will also be a third post covering the Flashpoint story-arcs consisting of two back-to-back Flashpoints; the Forged Alliances arc is its own beast when it comes to this as they're a part of the overall Shadow of Revan story rather than its own independent little section and thus it wouldn't be 'fair' to compare it to anything else.
So, without further ado:
#5: Maelstrom Prison
There's nothing quite like storming an enemy stronghold to complete an objective, and the Maelstrom Prison serves as a fantastic arena for such an incursion.
The story of Maelstrom is basically you going to recover a temporarily-anonymous "Jedi Prisoner" at the behest of Jedi Master Oteg, who is the same species as Yoda, who you can send to their death as part of this Flashpoint. Along the way, you encounter droids, soldiers, Sith, atrocious voice-acting, and finally Grand Moff Kilran, an individual who has been plaguing Republic characters since the Level 10 Flashpoint The Esseles. At the end of it all, you encounter the man you were sent to free: Revan.
Whilst veterans of Star Wars Lore should be familiar with who Revan was and why he's such a necessary figure to rescue, there's nothing really in-game which achieves the same effect for newer players. The only things that are made apparent through the story beforehand and the Flashpoint itself is that he is only one of a maximum of thirty high-security Prisoners held in this vast facility (okay, but who are the others and why aren't we also freeing them?), although admittedly Darth Malgus and Grand Moff Kilran responding directly to your incursion does indicate that you're more than inconveniencing the Imperials. The subsequent problem with this is that Revan just vanishes, and so there's no real 'closure' for anybody.
Given what happens to Revan after this on the Empire side, there isn't much that could have been done to rectify this.
The boss fights in Maelstrom are fairly memorable, even if for all the wrong reasons. There's the droid which pulls people in and explodes on them, the cyborg general who punishes players who don't know how to "Line-of-Sight", the fat Sith with his Tuk'ata horde, the giant Terentatek with a tendency to knock people off a very high edge, the Sith whose voice actor was clearly paid too much, three Sith who are "kinda?" bosses, and of course at the end there's Kilran who reminds people why Snipers can be especially annoying. Being able to kill him is one of the most satisfactory moments in all Flashpoints, especially as he appears in more Flashpoints - four including one on the Empire side - than any other NPC in the game.
Smarmy gits are always fun to take down.
#4: The Foundry
The Imperial mirror of Maelstrom Prison, The Foundry was the last time that Revan appeared in the game until the end of the Forged Alliances arc.
Basically, having been freed from Maelstrom, Revan has decided that he has the most foolproof strategy to defeat the Empire; use an ancient space station, a 'cousin' of the famous Star Forge, which can create an Infinite Army of Droids and in turn use that to invade and destroy the Empire, kill the Emperor, and along the way eliminate every single individual with "Sith genetic material" (97.8% of the Imperial population).
Unlike Republic players, Imperials have not only had a lot longer to get used to who Revan is due to specific missions on Dromund Kaas and Nar Shaddaa, they also speak with him at a very early point in the Flashpoint. There's not much mystery regarding his identity here, especially as a certain HK Droid shows up immediately after this first conversation.
Due to the fact that Revan's release from Maelstrom is touched upon by Malgus, Phennir, and even Revan himself, players do not necessarily need to have completed Maelstrom Prison beforehand; it adds useful context, of course, and this Flashpoint offers a more than interesting perspective on Imperial 'damage control', but otherwise the acknowledgement of Revan's presence is effectively self-contained.
Compared to Maelstrom Prison, this Flashpoint feels a lot grander. Not only does it take place after a proper military-style boarding operation rather than an Endor-style covert infiltration, but your strike team is in contact with none other than Darth Malgus very early on in the overall story. This, along with Revan's really quite bizarre plan, really makes you realise that the entire Empire could be at stake. Additionally, the setting of the Flashpoint is phenomenal and the scores of music which precede and play during Revan's 'final duel' are absolutely fantastic. It wasn't a neat 'end' to Revan, but it was still relatively impressive.
However, where it does fail in comparison to Maelstrom are its boss fights, only two of which have any really memorable aspects, positive or negative. There's a droid which is fairly unmemorable, a Jedi who is "kinda?" a boss, HK-47 and his power-enhancing core and army of Droids, a giant Slug with annoying spit - or worse - puddles, a droid which is fairly unmemorable (wait a minute...) and can easily be missed, and Revan and his multitude of powerful attacks, including knockbacks, saber strikes, Force storms, and asteroids being chucked at group members.
Somehow everyone survives.
The Foundry also serves as a 'stepping stone' for numerous plot-points of other Flashpoints beyond this arc. Not only does Revan himself resurface and start the Revanite takeover which is the basic plot of Forged Alliances, but HK-47 is reassembled and reprogrammed by Darth Malgus and put to work as his "personal exterminator" aboard his space station in The False Emperor.
#3: Colicoid War Game
The only Flashpoint to not receive any attention from BioWare since its initial release outside of compressing a building to prevent people from skipping a large section of the Flashpoint. Seriously, there's nothing to this one outside of its (not Solo or Tactical!) Story Mode.
Yet it's still the most unique Flashpoint in the game.
The story, what little there is, entails you going along to a little 'competition' organised by the intelligent cousins of the Mutated Colicoids from Balmorra; the winners will receive elaborate technologies and weapons, and as Colicoid weaponry is highly-sought after there are numerous factions present from Mandalorians to Imperials. You can sabotage or kill the team of whichever faction is the opposite to your own using a computer terminal towards the end.
As part of this competition, you have to first defeat scores of Colicoids (one of my friends recently tallied it as a maximum of 486 when farming Companion Kills achievements) with turrets, then move on to an obstacle course; this requires your group to split up and deactivate various gates in-turn in order to progress. This then leads to an arena where you fight and kill two Nexu and an Acklay.
As for boss fights, there's only one: Annihilator 6K-A2, a Colicoid Droid who has been monitoring your progress, constantly finding himself surprised by your success, and thinks that he's studied you enough that he can kill you effortlessly. Of course he fails.
This Flashpoint is purely a puzzle-environment, and this is something which no other Flashpoint has attempted since. The only thing to have come close, whilst being roughly ten-times more tedious, is the [HEROIC-4] at the end of the Shroud's quest-chain. We'll likely never see anything of this sort again, which is a real shame, and it's even more disappointing that this one couldn't be included in the desire to make everything relevant again.
#2: Legacy of the Rakata
Legacy is the final Flashpoint in the Forged Alliances arc, and is the only Flashpoint where all four NPCs key to the arc - Lana Beniko, Theron Shan, Colonel Darok, and Darth Arkous - have a physical presence. Both Darok and Arkous appeared side-by-side in Depths of Manaan in which a hologram of either Lana or Theron also appeared, depending on your own faction, but now everyone's here together. Yay..!
The story of this Flashpoint is that Arkous and Darok, their true allegiances known, have started grafting Rakata technologies onto willing volunteers to create an Infinite Army. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? You have to fight through natives and cultists to reach them and end their scheme for good. Or so it seems...
The setting of this Flashpoint should be instantly recognisable to anyone who's played the original KotOR: Rakata Prime, complete with faithful reconstruction - and far better ambient scenery construction - of the Temple of the Ancients. To top it off, four pieces of music from KotOR - The Unknown World, Rakata Ancient Ruins, Sand People/Rakata Ambush, and Darth Malak Battle - accompany your traversing the landscape, tussle with Commander Rand, and duel with Darth Arkous and Colonel Darok. This all serves for some instant - if in one particular context (*cough* Arkous and Darok *cough*) really out-of-place - nostalgia.
Of course, the Rakata are around as well, and are far more all-over-the-place than they were when we accompanied Revan to the planet in KotOR; rather than being in camps with their leaders (either The One or The Elders), they're now in their own hunting bands with only one apparent designated leader, before they then vanish once you encounter the Revanites.
The boss fights are also all fairly memorable. There's the Rakata War Chief Rekhta who traps people in pools of flame whilst fighting alongside a Rancor (the only Flashpoint Rancor), Commander Rand who is responsible for the Tactical Repositioning mechanic which has been used multiple times in KotFE so far, an Infinite Army Prototype with his pulsating barrier and some really annoying knockbacks and pulls, and Darth Arkous and Colonel Darok who you fight as a pair. These two have a really annoying mechanic in Hard Mode; Darok would stab two people, causing blue circles to appear under them, and if these circles touch at any point, the people die instantly. This is all well and good, except for the fact that these circles can and will be placed on the rogue element in the fight: Jakarro.
That Wookiee has been responsible for too many wipes.
#1: The False Emperor
The story for this Flashpoint is quite simple. Darth Malgus, the person whose visage basically formed ~60% of initial marketing for this game, has assumed the position of Sith Emperor in the actual Sith Emperor's absence and has created a "New Empire" with the aim of 'fixing' what he perceives as a broken and doomed Sith Empire. You have to board his station and dethrone him, either shooting or stabbing him in the face or knocking him into a deep chasm.
Like that has ever truly killed anybody in Star Wars!
This is one of those Flashpoints where it's hard to know which faction 'takes' this one. The Republic of course don't stand for this as one Empire is as bad as another, but the Empire are equally keen to shut it down since it potentially undermines their great society. In fact, it actually succeeds in many ways: not only can Imperial characters admit that Malgus actually may have a point and that the Empire does need to change to survive, but its anti-Alien dogma is all but lifted following his brief coup, allowing Aliens to hold high positions in the Imperial government and military.
The setting of this one of course has a very similar aesthetic to that of Maelstrom Prison, but it scores bonus points for a certain Republic class who would have actually visited this exact station beforehand. The throne room has changed locations, of course, so that what it once was is now the reactor room with the HK-47 fight, and its new location is much more grandiose.
The bosses in this one are all really quite memorable. There's a big Trandoshan who can hurt quite a bit, a Mandalorian whose D-5 Mantis has an annoying tendency to break on Hard Mode and thus gradually kill everyone, two Droids who take turns in being immune, HK-47 who stuns, stabs, and stealths his way through this fight, a Chagrian who's just kinda... there..., a Sith Entity who summons miniature versions of himself as adds, and Malgus himself who reminds people why Juggernauts can be especially annoying.
The Malgus boss fight is, in my view, the best Flashpoint fight in the game. Not only is Malgus himself a memorable character - whose apparent death is a complete and total waste of a fantastic voice actor - but he occasionally selects group members and stuns the rest before engaging them in single combat for about 15 seconds. On top of this, there's also "Unlimited Power!" which needs to be interrupted else he kills everyone, and back when people's DPS was not off the charts the only reliable way to kill him when he starts doing his "lightning phase" was to buffet him around with stun grenades and then either push or pull him into that aforementioned chasm. In these days he was also able to isolate virtually every group member before this phase as well, whereas now he can easily be killed before this happens.
Additionally, should you take HK-51 along with you as a Companion, he and HK-47 will share a brief little spat regarding which model of the two is superior. Companions receiving dedicated scenes in Flashpoints is a rarity, with only the Ewok Treek having a similar scene of this nature in a Flashpoint environment; in her case, she's shown blasting a group of Skytroopers during the escape from the [HEROIC] Star Fortress.
This list has actually been restructured several times since I began 'compartmentalising' Flashpoints in this manner; whilst Maelstrom, Foundry, and War Game have been sitting in the same order all this while, False Emperor and Legacy have both jostled for first place. When I really thought about it for a while, I realised that, actually, False Emperor had far more 'meat' to it than Legacy, which is admittedly so high on the list only because it evokes major nostalgic feelings.
It also has so much screenshot potential!
Since I've only really 'maintained' this list since Legacy was released, I honestly don't know what I would have included on this list instead in what would otherwise be fifth place. My guess is that it would go to one of Directive 7, Taral V, or Boarding Party, since I like these all fairly equally (even if the Gree Computer in Taral V is annoyingly wasted potential).