Month another, update another.
4.5 is yet another small patch; besides Chapter XIV and its associated Alliance Alert, all that has come with it are some Legacy Perks, customization options, and an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of certain classes in a PvP Environment.
How does this all hold up? Well, let's find out!
Chapter XIV: Mandalore's Revenge
I can't go much further without talking about the change of title. The previous title, which has been in-game for the majority of May and unavoidable to any who completed Chapter XIII, revealed a pretty major development regarding two certain characters. That said, it would also have been fairly easy to work out "what was what" with this more ambiguous title through the promotional artwork alone, so it's a rock and a hard place as far as this is concerned.
I also can't begin talking about the chapter without discussing the music used. Since Charles Boyd mentioned that he was very excited regarding the music in this Chapter, people speculated that the soundtrack from Republic Commando, which features Mandalorian War Chants such as the absolutely fantastic Vode An - composed by none other than Jeremy Soule who composed the initial SWTOR soundtrack - would feature. I am extremely happy to say that Vode An does feature quite heavily. Additionally, so too does the generic "Eternal Empire theme" which we hadn't heard since the end of Chapter VIII, so it's nice to hear that make a return.
I also really can't avoid talking about the location: Darvannis. Contrary to every single instance in KotFE beyond Zakuul, Darvannis is an actual planet! You can travel to it via your starship, it's open-world (leading to a rather annoying bonus mission where you have to kill three walkers - which do respawn very quickly - whilst avoiding people stealing the pulls), it has Quick Travel points, and it has numerous phase-gates. Oh, it's so absolutely wonderful to actually have a proper full planet to visit again, especially one that only used to be an Operations environment until now!
So now I've sidetracked to every possible sidetrack, it's time to focus on what story I can under the basis of it being "spoiler-free". Thankfully, only the Outlander's main prerogative for being there can be counted 'as such'; if you're familiar with Mandalorians and how their culture works, virtually every single trope regarding honour and worthy foes works its way in here somehow. As it should very well be!
There are also several familiar names - including Jos and Valk from Blood Hunt - but only two familiar faces outside of the obligatory Returning Companion, Torian Cadera. I won't say who the second one is, but the first is obviously Shae Vizla. It's fantastic to be able to interact with her once again. It's still hard to believe that this is only the second time she's appeared in-game with her appearance in the Hope trailer all those years ago...
The combat, sadly, is as tedious as ever. Skytroopers are absolutely bloody everywhere, and often in such close proximity (due to the winding passages) to phase-gates that outrunning their aggro range is not a suitable strategy, if that makes sense. That said, there are some moderately interesting fights interspersed throughout, and a brand new colour of Skytrooper; Gold!
That's all there is that I can say about the story; it's far better experienced than it is read about, and it's a phenomenal ride. I'd say it probably makes for the best Chapter yet, but this could be due to how well they handled the Mandalorians, and they're always fun to interact with!
The Beast in the Mountains
This month's Alliance Alert is none other than the short-tempered Talz warrior, Broonmark, pursuing a Wookiee Diplomat for very ambiguously confusing reasons; basically, Broonmark believes something (which is obviously not true unless we've all been duped by the Cantina scene in A New Hope) and is angry at the Wookiee because he perceives him as slandering the name of Talz.
The build-up to dealing with Broonmark is interesting. It has elements of a logic-puzzle, and seems to be a very vague descendant of the murder-inquest of the original KotOR. The problem with this is that the game takes any attempt at working out the correct order of events out of our hands altogether, which is really rather annoying.
As for Broonmark himself, he's gained one of his possible suits of armour; whilst other Companions - notably Blizz, Qyzen, and Xalek - have changed their default forms, Broonmark is currently the only one whose 'new' form was previously-purchasable whereas the others are all ostensibly brand new. Not that I'm complaining about Xalek; his new red skin is absolutely gorgeous!
Balance's Precarious Balance
It's no secret that Sages and Sorcs have been dominating in PvP. Their heal output:efficiency ratio is the highest of the healing classes, and their survivability and damage potential makes them formidable foes. This patch attempts to fix that by greatly increasing Heal costs (and effectiveness by a very small percentage), reducing self-heal value to match that of Shadows and Sins, and reducing the radius of Force-in-Balance to match that of other DoT-spread classes. This latter change also affects Shadows and Sins, in spite of the fact that their Force-in-Balance does not spread Periodic Effects.
As needed as these changes were, they won't change things all that much; whilst they won't be as approachable as they were before to newer players, people who know how to play these classes well will still continue to dominate.
Meanwhile, Powertechs and Vanguards have lost their 30-metre range Rail Shot/High-Impact Bolt, instead having it at only 10 metres, and their self-healing potential has been reduced as well as the Developers believed that their survivability was too great. Having seen how some Vanguards absolutely melt in PvP, I do have to wonder what parameters they're judging against.
Spaceport of Redundancy Spaceport
The new Legacy Perks are nice to have, but two in particular are potentially redundant. These are the inclusion of Modification Stations and Legacy Bays (at a whopping 5. Million. Credits) on ships; with Strongholds being a thing, neither of these is a crucial inclusion, but they could easily be useful to levelling characters who are pretty much relegated on board their ships.
That said, there is a very nice new Legacy Perk for those who are running out of storage; the Legacy Cargo Bay can have a sixth slot purchased! Whilst it would be nice to see this done for the bog-standard Cargo Bays as well at some point, it's a nice little addition for those who constantly find their Legacy Bay at breaking-point.
New customization options have been added for Togruta (which annoyingly almost entirely pertain to jewellery options with only one new facial pattern), but more importantly, the Human Hairstyles 1 bundle can now be applied to all other species, and the Hair Colour bundle can now be applied to Cyborgs.
Now we wait and see how many "fabulous!" Sith Warriors emerge from Korriban with the Qui-Gon Jinn hair...
Overall, 4.5 is a really unobtrusive Patch. The Chapter is phenomenal, the new Legacy Perks could be seen as pointless to many, and the customization increases are very nice. It's nice to see the Developers putting more customization options into the game for free which aren't tied to the Cartel Market, and I hope we'll get more in future for other species (*cough* Shae Vizla's hair *cough*).