Let's get started!
Similarly to Fallen Empire's Veteran Mode, there are no new mechanics; everything just hits harder. This results in actually a lot more challenging situations than in Fallen Empire, mainly because the fights were seemingly designed with this in mind even in Story Mode, and thus could have been somewhat challenging even then.
Thankfully, compared to the previous expansion, there are very few end-boss fights which feature constant add-spawning. Indeed, the only end-boss to feature adds is the Horizon Guard fight at the end of Chapter VI if you had redeemed Arcann, so this isn't even a compulsory fight depending on your choices.
Of course, this means that a lot of 'mini-boss' fights feature adds as a compensation. The Walker in Chapter I features multiple adds who, if you're not careful, can rip through you easily since Rocket Skytroopers hurt in Veteran Mode. Meanwhile, Chapters I, IV, V, and IX feature scenarios where you have to repel mob after mob after mob, with only IX thinking to move between locations between each instance.
So, based on this, Veteran Mode doesn't seem to have that many painful instances, right?
Whilst there are proportionately far less boss fights to be worried about in Throne compared to Empire, there are so many other things to watch out for as well.
The mob-rush phase in Chapter I - thankfully featuring a checkpoint system which is incredibly helpful - is okay, but you and your fellows will likely be overwhelmed to point-of-death by the time the Horizon Guards start showing up, but thankfully the checkpoint kicks in just before this moment, so huzzah!
Chapter II starts with one of the most painful fights in all twenty-five Veterans with the Vine Cat. If you're melee, this fight is extra fun since it likes to leap away from you and back again at various instances, and of course this is one of the mini-bosses who likes to summon adds so you'll have your work cut out for you even at this early stage. The Bounty Hunter mid-boss is also somewhat painful and annoying due to stealth and yet more add-summoning.
Chapter VII kicks things off by throwing two groups of paired Horizon Guards at you. These guys hit so goddamn hard; their Master Strikes and Blade Storms hit for at most 80k apiece, which just absolutely melts you. I found the easiest way to kill them was to lure them to the bridge and knock them off (since they both respawn even if you kill one), which as a Gunslinger is very easy to manage since you can just reset the knockback.
The next problem comes when you finally manage to kill the first pair. Rather than give you a moment's respite, another pair immediately appear from nowhere and put you in-combat before you've even acknowledged their existence. The really fun bit is that when you die you have to make that three-minute trek all the way back to the bridge, so depending on how much of a success you have with goading the remaining two Guards to the bridge to be knocked off, you may be making this walk a lot.
Thankfully, killing the first group results in their permanent deaths, leaving only the second group to be taken care of.
Chapter VIII makes the already-fairly-tedious Walker trek even more tedious. Okay, so the majority of the groups you'll come across are fine. The problem comes with the Walkers you'll come across along the way. I don't know what it is about your own Walker's abilities, but even using all of your ranged abilities dutifully results in far too slow damage and your inevitable demise. Surprisingly, the fastest way I found to kill the Walker was literally to stand right next to it and repeatedly "Stomp" it.
Because why give Walkers legs if they can't kick another Walker to death?
Conversely, only one of these Chapters has a boss which reflects the difficulty of other fights along the way. It's one of three bosses or 'boss moments' which are incredibly painful, but I'll get through the other two still-painful-but-not-as-painful fights first.
Starting with the alternative Chapter VI fight, the Horizon Guard. This one is painful in two ways; first, the Guard summons adds constantly, so you and Theron may very well be overwhelmed very quickly. Second, you need to keep Arcann alive; if he dies, the fight instantly resets. This does make it an interesting challenge since Arcann does have a lot of really nice Tank-style abilities which provide you with some much-needed respite, but using them too much, or too inefficiently, will of course result in Arcann taking too much damage and keeling over.
This one, however, is not a compulsory fight. You'll fight Arcann if you hadn't redeemed him in Chapter I, and this fight is easier since it's just you and him with no "this person must survive!" requirements. Apart from you, obviously.
Chapter IV doesn't really have an end-boss; it's just a room where dozens of Iokath droids just swarm your location. For those of you who don't know my Companion dedication habits, this was one of only two instances where I was joined by an Influence 50 Companion, in this case Vette. The sheer amount of damage which goes out even in Veteran Mode is too much for even an Influence 50 Healer to keep up with, so this should give you some indication of the difficulty this room poses.
What makes it truly annoying, though, is that if you kill all the groups out at the front first (you know you're close when the Strong Iokath droid appears) but then die to either one of the sides - even if it was the last droid of the entire pull - then nothing respawns and you'll need to exit the phase and re-enter to trigger the entire pull again.
So, let's talk about the GenoHaradan Leaders in Chapter II. This fight is incredibly painful. For those who can't remember it, it's a fight with three Elites, two of whom constantly leap around whilst the third sits in the middle spamming AoE attacks and occasionally becoming immune whilst placing down about six or seven circles of fire.
There are certain ways to make the fight ever-so-slightly easier, but only if you're one of three advanced classes. The two adds can be CCed, meaning that Sages, Commandos, and Scoundrels can remove them from play for an entire minute. Everyone else just needs to wing it and see how things play out.
The next issue is the Companion you have no choice but to use in this moment; Acina. She's melee, which means that she'll be hitting one of the adds in close-range even if she's a Healer. This is especially problematic since you won't be able to position her in a 'safe' section of the room like one could if she were Ranged, but instead just try awkwardly to not only manage where the central boss is pointing, but what the other one (or two if you can't CC) is pointing at as well. Companion AI being Companion AI, she prioritises healing herself above healing you, so making sure that she isn't in danger of being hit at all is a top priority.
To give some examples of trial and tribulation from a guildie: despite being a Sage and being able to CC, he still found himself absolutely melting even with Acina healing. The only way he was able to beat the fight was by not only keeping Acina as a healer but also going healer himself, and thus slowly but surely whittling away at them whilst surviving through sheer heal-power.
The remaining boss fights really aren't that bad in comparison. ARIES in Chapter V is the most tedious of the ones remaining, but he isn't really that painful when all is said and done; the fight just takes too long. The fights with Vaylin and Valkorion largely play out exactly as they do in Story Mode so aren't much to worry about (although I was with an Influence 50 Companion for Valkorion...), and I've seen several people laugh at how easy Vaylin is in Chapter VIII compared to the rest of the Chapter.
Despite going into Veteran Eternal Throne with all Companions (besides Gault, Vette, and Arcann who were already 50) at roughly Influence Level 27/28, I have to say that this still felt too low, particularly for some boss fights (*cough* Chapter II). Whether or not this is a reflection on the design of the fights in Throne compared to Empire, I don't know, but it's certainly interesting to note.
All in all, I did enjoy Veteran Mode. I still think it's a real shame that they didn't add any new mechanics into the offing and only increased damage dealt, but otherwise this is my only real criticism of the Veteran Chapters in-general.
So, Master Mode tomorrow. I don't know how long it'll be until I continue this mini-series or even if I ever do, since it will probably be talking about what I've already talked about for Veteran, just re-tooled for Master.
Time shall tell.