In between bouts of frequently-recurring illnesses and a busy few weeks, I won't deny that blogging has fallen by the wayside somewhat. I'm almost thankful that technological difficulties (long story short; nVidia ShadowPlay is recording everything but my microphone input at a super-quiet level and my attempts to fix it have so far proved ineffective) have rendered the Wednesday Warzones series inoperable for the moment, since maintaining this is impossible at-present.
It also doesn't help that, right now, things are just 'more of the same'. I could be reporting on the Command system now the 350% boost has been implemented, but I've harped on about Galactic Command for too long and inevitably I'd turn to criticising the lack of RNG fixes again. Similarly, talking about PvP and Operations would also likely see a return to prior criticisms that, whilst the changes are decent, there is a lot more which can and should be done.
However, there is one thing which is new for me to talk about; the instant-65 experience.
As everyone should be aware, you can create instant-60 and instant-65 characters and take them through the respective storylines. I'm fairly sure most people have created a quick instant-60 character during 4.0, mostly to partake in a get-alts-geared-quick scheme through the Priority Ops. Instant-65s are at a noticeable disadvantage in this regard, since it does take a greater amount of commitment to get them levelled and kept around due to the Command System.
Regardless, the above concerns didn't stop me having a series of questions regarding these newer instant characters. They would, of course, have skipped the entire Fallen Empire story, so how would the game allocate your choices? Moreover, whilst the cast of main characters would be guaranteed, would the 65s have any access to the Alliance system?
Out of curiosity to see the changes since I last played the class (well, its Republic equivalent anyway, since being exact my first Imperial version didn't make it past Level 10 whilst its fellow got to 55) way back when, I decided that I would create an instant-65 Assassin. The reasoning behind this choice was also largely because, being a Force character, she would receive Archaeology and Underworld Trading, two Crew Skills I still needed to get to 600. Since I already had a Synthweaver, I decided to scrap this Crew Skill and learn Artifice from scratch.
The first thing I had to check was the Companion situation. The first thing that caught my eye was that none of the Alliance Companions were made available; the reason for this being that among the three Alerts (Shae and Ranos don't actually require anything other than Chapter IX: The Alliance to be completed) was To Find a Findsman, the completion of which then of course causes the majority of the remaining Alerts to be unlocked.
So instant-65s get complete access to the Alliance system; huzzah! It's nice to see that they aren't locked out at all from Fallen Empire's relevant side-content, although it would understandably be bizarre for a new player to get their instant-65 to 70 having completed Eternal Throne and then recruit a whole bunch of people to help defeat the already-subjugated Eternal Empire.
Interestingly, the first set of available Alliance Alerts all grant over 400,000 XP in the current 250% XP Event, whilst the remaining six all grant ~250,000 XP. To top it off, the drop-off which affects Fallen Empire Chapters (going from over 1,000,000 XP to 250,000 XP) does not apply to the Alerts once you progress beyond Level 65.
The Companions also reveal the choices which the instant-65 has been allocated through the Interactions panel, although certain characters also become unavailable in their own right as well. Senya is unavailable come-what-may, for example, but the character that really matters in this regard is Koth, since he is the only character who can be driven away in Fallen Empire.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the 'Republic is Light, Empire is Dark' mantra, an instant-65 Imperial character is logged as having made the vast majority of the Dark/'bad' decisions; the Sun Reactor is allowed to blow up, you use Valkorion's power and lie about him to Lana, etc. etc. This basically means that Koth has taken off with the Gravestone before these new Imperial characters and players even know who he is, which perhaps explains why his appearance in Chapter I: Wrath and Ruin is given a relatively bizarre spotlight; the game is literally telling new players "look at this guy, he stole your ship, what an arrogant bastard he is".
Curiously, both Kaliyo and Aric are given to instant-65 Imperials, which means that this is one instance where a Dark/bad choice is not taken for such a character. For those wondering, Kaliyo is the one chosen to go after the GEMINI Relay for this faction, meaning that Aric is the one who betrays orders when he goes and rescues her. We know that a Dark/bad choice has not been logged here since Dark choices results in Aric being killed. Forgiving him and banishing him are both neutral choices, but even then banishment is decidedly more passionate/'Dark' than keeping him around.
Granted, maybe they wanted new players to connect with as many Companions as they could, but then new players who had the
Annoyingly, all three are the only truly original Fallen Empire Companions. Lana and Theron laugh at their misfortune and ignore my cold glare of dislike.
Okay, on top of that, losing Aric as well would probably have seemed like overkill, even if killing/banishing might have felt more in-character than keeping him around. He is, after all, merely Republic scum to a new Imperial player.
One thing which I am very curious to see is how the game will handle automatically assigning a particular choice in Eternal Throne to the inevitable instant-70s. Once again, it's fairly obvious that Republic characters will get the Light choices (sparing Senya, redeeming Arcann, etc.), whilst Imperials get all the Dark choices (killing Koth, Senya, SCORPIO, and Arcann and punishing Zakuul, etc.), but there is one compulsory choice which is neither Light nor Dark; choosing whom to save and whom to leave at the mercy of Vaylin.
I'm guessing that Republic characters will be allocated Vette whilst Imperial characters will be allocated Torian, given that the game treats abandoning Vette as the harsher (thus 'bad') choice, but then it has been argued multiple times that, actually, the choice can go either way regardless of your faction and is one of the only few choices in the overall story where this logic applies since one can't tie any aspect of passion, a trait often associated with Dark-siders, to either outcome.
Well, unless you're romancing either of them but then that's a different form of passion and they're both Imperial to begin with. Republic characters thus can't have nearly as much investment than, say, a Warrior or Hunter who could be handed a set of unfamiliar Companions whilst their prospective spouse died before they even knew them.
One thing which I haven't mentioned in all this is how I found returning to Assassin/Shadow DPS. Whilst I was certainly no expert at it, it doesn't feel all too different to how it used to be, although the new ability Reaping Strike is rather good and good lord that Utility where Phantom Stride resets after its target dies within ten seconds is ridiculously powerful with Deception's Level 68 Passive (Stride grants three Static Charges).
That's about it, really. My original reasoning for experimentation has most definitely been overshadowed by the allocation of certain choices from Fallen Empire, as it adds a surprising layer of depth to what is basically a fresh-faced (albeit boosted) new character.
Instant characters always will be at a serious disadvantage compared to characters 'built up' across the years. It's interesting to see that Eternal Throne's instant-65s are now subject to an entirely new layer of disadvantage compared to the Fallen Empire instant-60 characters; whilst both in the hands of a new player are hard to get fully to grips with combat-wise (something which super-fast levelling also makes difficult), the instant-65 is at a disadvantage story-wise as well.
A new player has little to no understanding of the story environment and so could potentially feel disconnected since the game gives these instant-65s very little reason to care about the story. Very few characters are given a proper 're-introduction' outside of Koth, and whilst this does keep the story moving fast for those who don't need a refresher, good luck helping newer players understand who Valkorion is and why the hell he's following their character around.
Which does raise an excellent question; who do the instant characters benefit most? With Fallen Empire, the answer went both ways. Newer players saw the same amount of story (ignoring previous Class stories, of course) as veteran players, whilst veteran players would receive a new alt to run Operations with and make the most out of the Priority Operations.
With Eternal Throne, the answer really isn't clear. Not only does a new player get thrown into the deep end story-wise and have no clue what they're doing or even why, but the new character isn't even that beneficial to veterans anymore, since the moment they hit 70 they hit that brick wall of Galactic Command, which is still best 'run' with only one character unless you have the opportunity to regularly run Story Mode Ops with lower-Command-Rank alts.
Quickly levelling Crew Skills and experimenting with high-level characters of a different Advanced Class are literally the only benefits I can see now to creating an instant-65, which I think is a shame.