Thoughts on 5.2: The Good, the Bad, and the Eeehhhhhs (Volume Two)

So 5.2 launched on Tuesday, bringing with it a small-scale Story update, the first boss of the first new Operation in two-and-a-half-years, Master Mode Uprisings, and a new Daily Zone with attached Reputation Factions.

Since I locked myself into a regime of "Thoughts on [Patch.Patch]" throughout 4.0, I decided that I would resurrect this regime from 5.2 onwards, since there is a lot to discuss that isn't just "How to make Galactic Command somewhat more bearable" as 5.1 largely was.


The Good


The Iokath Story update is short and sweet. It lasts only four missions with the longest (by far) being the first one. As you've doubtless heard by now, the Story focuses on the Eternal Alliance's long-awaited scouting missions to Iokath being interrupted by the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, and our role is to say "Eh, screw us being our own democratic faction, we're siding with one of you chumps because this game was only designed with Empire vs. Republic in mind even though the Story is trying its best to evolve past this point".

It's quite clunky, basically.

Not to say that there aren't well-written moments. For example, since Theron is your only Companion for this quest-chain, you have the opportunity to flirt with his father whilst Theron is standing right beside you. Oh, and you also have the option to scare him when you come across a mummified corpse.

Basically, as someone who dislikes Theron, the moments where you could piss him off were absolutely glorious.

Still, on the whole, the Iokath story is decent. It sets up future updates relatively well and makes a substantially more-decent attempt at expanding on Iokath's lore than the Eternal Throne Chapters based on the planet ever did.


Rage-Fuelled God of War

Tyth, the God of Rage, is the first of the six Old Gods to feature in this brand-new Operation. Whilst my Guild hasn't yet attempted Hard Mode, Story Mode is nice, quick, and simple. Indeed, it's telling that we went in with only one of our members acknowledging that he had seen a video (and being instructed not to say anything about it) and we cleared it on the first try with no "true" casualties.

Unless you count the Tank's unfortunate Disconnection at the very end as a casualty. I don't think he died, though.

Still, from what there is I see a fair amount of potential, but of course it all depends on what happens in Hard Mode; some of the more recent Operation fights (*cough* Master and Blaster) have started out as well-meaning and relatively easy in Story Mode before then being taken to Nightmare-mode levels of difficulty in Hard/Veteran Mode, but because Tyth and his fellows will actually have a Nightmare/Master Mode difficulty, I'm hopeful that none of the Old Gods will follow this "HardMare" pattern.

Also, now that we know how the Pantheon of Zakuul came into existence, I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not Izax is a mechanical serpent which the Zakuulan legend of Zildrog was based off of.

I do hope so, because it would be fun to say we actually killed Zildrog.


Rise Up, ye Masters

Master Mode Uprisings have been in the offing ever since 5.0. Indeed, they were originally destined to come out in 5.1, but they decided (quite sensibly, in my opinion, even though this did lead to 5.1 being comparatively barebones) to push them back since they were only just releasing the five new ones and to have Master Mode on top of these would be slightly too much.

Master Mode Uprisings take the fights with mechanics we've seen done to death through various Flashpoints and actually does something not seen in either Veteran Mode or Master Mode Story Chapters; adds new mechanics. I've only seen two of the Master Mode ones so far, Destroyer of Worlds and Fractured, but the new Mechanics certainly make the fights more interesting.

The first boss of Destroyer now uses a Neural Scrambiliser on a random Player, which locks out all of their abilities until they're cleansed. This can only be cleansed by a temporary ability which is gained by interacting with - literally - a pair of macrobinoculars jammed into the wall computers. I do so love seeing models reused for a completely different purpose. This fight is already tedious enough, so I don't need to point out how tedious it becomes when your Healer is suddenly unable to Heal when a shedload of adds are hitting everyone at once.

The second boss of Destroyer only gains adds. These explode on top of Players similarly to the suicide Droids in Battle of Rishi (and other places of course), but don't cause much cause for concern. Cause much cause? Eh, whatever, I'll go with it. It's not as if this paragraph needs to be expanded upon for mechanics of this fight anymore anyway.

The final boss gains an add as well. In this case, this Add is actually worth keeping an eye on, since the Dark Echo is a literal Clone of the boss who uses all the same abilities and operates on a very different 'timestream' as it were to her progenitor, so you may avoid one yellow cone only to be immediately slammed by the other's purple circle. It has a fair amount of health; so much so that when it appears it isn't worth focusing to kill at all compared to the main boss. It's just something to watch.

Fractured, of course, only has one boss fight. Similarly to Jedi Master Adelade, Lord Anril's new mechanics basically entail adds. Rather than four adds spawning whenever he screams "Die and be done with it!" he spawns six and towards the end of his life four Dark Echoes spawn in and protect him from all damage. As you can probably work out, this means that they need to die.

Major Korvan, meanwhile, has mechanics which are essentially a combination of Lord Kherus's "can't be leapt to" buff from Red Reaper and the minefield from Explosive Conflict, in that she will roll away from her two adds and leave yellow hexagons in her wake. Annoyingly, whilst they appear on both sides of the "add platform", one of the halves is completely invisible, meaning that you may well get stunned and somewhat badly hurt without knowing what you're about to go and do.

It's wonderful to actually have new mechanics to see rather than just everything hitting harder, which was my biggest complaint from the higher-difficulty Story Chapters and prior Uprising difficulty increases. I'm looking forward to seeing what the others are like.


The CXP Event is Over, but not really

The CXP Event ended on Tuesday, but because everyone was a huge fan of having CXP increased exponentially BioWare have raised the new "base"-level for CXP by a substantial margin, while also making every CXP Boost applicable at any CXP Rank. Whilst we don't know exact figures, it is easily apparent that using a 100% Booster still increases CXP gain to an amount higher than the Event's base-level.

Because everything else in this regard has inflated, so too has the CXP required to achieve a Rank when you get to Command Rank 300. Prior to 5.2, you'd need 4,990 CXP to complete a Rank, but in 5.2 you now need 5,490. An increase of 500 is nothing to worry about whatsoever, especially since I believe Command Rank 301 was originally datamined to require over 6,000 CXP before 300 was kept as the maximum.

So basically; if your characters were largely Tiers I and II then they'll be seeing a noticeable drop-off compared to the maximum they could have received, whilst characters in Tier III will be seeing a substantial increase to their maximum CXP gains.


The Eeehhhhhs

Recruit the Messenger

Iokath's story sees the first returning Companions since Fideltin Rusk and Skadge right at the end of Fallen Empire's Alliance Alert streak. Elara Dorne and Malavai Quinn are tied into your decision, with Dorne joining you if you support the Republic, and vice versa for Quinn and the Empire.

However, outside of the initial interaction where they both announce their leaders bear a message of peace and union, there is absolutely no interaction with either Companion unless you are either a Trooper or a Warrior. Whilst this does make sense it is extremely disappointing to not have the opportunity to 'have closure' to the other Companion's story after the main events are over. Heck, they practically just disappear when all is said and done despite being at their leaders' sides throughout.

Indeed, there's no indication that either has joined the Alliance for the remaining Classes apart from the "xxxxxxx has joined you as a Companion" message, which actually pops up for both Companions since the missing one is relegated to the "Contacts" section of the Companion List.

It's nice to see both Companions return, but it sadly isn't handled in a very satisfactory manner for the majority of Classes. If you're a Trooper or a Warrior, you'll hopefully have a fantastic time interacting with your old friend.

Or killing the slimeball if you so desire. We all know who I mean.


"Imperial!" - "But, wait, I'm on your side!"

The Iokath story presents the opportunity to choose your faction, which is all well and good until it's time to get the Operations team together to go to Iokath and kill Tyth. In this case, any Player who chooses the opposite faction to the rest of the team will be kicked out when they land on the Planet if they had made that choice that same day. Because this choice is "once every 24 hours" you're pretty much screwed if you're in this situation since you can't reverse your choice until the next day.

Such an outcome has happened to my Guild's team and teams from many other Guilds. We had the fortunate workaround of Gods from the Machine being yesterday's Group Finder Operation, so we were able to get everyone into the Op eventually, but it was still an absolute nuisance.

Thankfully, BioWare's response indicates that this is being treated as a bug rather than an unfortunate yet intentional side-effect of this feature. It would certainly be aggravating if we had to do this every time since, of course, the Group-Finder workaround does not work for Hard/Veteran Mode (and nor should it; can you imagine how messy that would be for Ravagers and Temple?).


Re-Charted Territory

5.2 brought with it a very unexpected change; a new galaxy map!

Whilst the old one could only be accessed from your Ship, this new map can be accessed from anywhere, essentially meaning that you have unlimited Quick-Travel access to whichever Planet you desire. This also potentially reduces the need to use Guild Ship Summons since it would now be comparatively extremely lazy not to use the Map (although Summons are still useful for getting players who haven't done the Iokath story to the Tyth entrance).

The biggest annoyance with the new Map is that it is very clunky. You only have one 'proper' way of returning to the 'bigger picture' once you've selected your destination galaxy, and that's to use your mouse's scrolling wheel. There is literally nothing which you can click, on-screen or by-keybind, which does this, which does make it very confusing to use initially, since of course you'd be looking for such an option with Escape - which closes the frickin' thing - being your first port-of-call.

Thankfully there is such a "return to Galaxy view" button when you select a Planet, so it isn't as clunky as it could have been. Ultimately, it's a nice idea, if a little unnecessary.


The Bad


"Eh, what? Didn't you say that this was one of the good points, Calph?"

Yes, I did, but notice that previously I was only talking about the theory behind the Story. I hadn't touched on Iokath itself, the mechanics of the various missions, or the Daily area.

So, the first point; Iokath itself. To start with a positive, it's absolutely massive; this is one of the biggest Daily Zones they've yet done. Unfortunately it's extremely labyrinthine and it's very easy to get lost. Also aggravatingly all of the areas realised are of the technological aspect of Iokath, with no sign whatsoever of the beautiful ruined city overrun with plants that we see at the start of Chapter IV in Eternal Throne. Booooooo!

For the second, the mechanics. They do have some aspect of puzzle and logic, which is excellent, but they also excel at misdirection. The second puzzle requires you to input multiple cores (basically giant Huttballs) into a power-core receptacle. However, because there are multiple consoles to interact with it initially seems as if you need to use each of the consoles in-turn to progress the puzzle, whereas you only need to use the one and multiple cores can be uploaded into the same receptacle.

I'm ashamed to say that it took me about five minutes to figure that last point out, since I was under the assumption that you'd need to use the monitors to upload the cores in different locations and it just so happened that every time my camera faced the receptacle there was a core installed, which I took as being the one which I had previously carried over. But no, I was just over-thinking what was literally a constant ferry-over job since apparently Iokath power cores are completely disintegrated by their receptacles.

Bonus points for this puzzle allowing you to steal the power core from other droids. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody somewhere tried to pitch a version of Huttball where players had no abilities besides "Steal", "Pass", or "Kick". It would certainly eliminate all aspects of "Oh, it's on an Operative, and oh look they've scored again".

But such a pitch is silly and totally not worth anyone's time, so hopefully no-one comes up with it. Only a crazy person would do that.

Other mechanics include a "find all these things to click on!" mission, where the things you need to click are annoyingly similar to ambient scenery, and yet another goddamned Walker section. Thankfully the Walker sections in the Iokath story are relatively quick and painless, but it's still relatively annoying. Bonus points (I like this phrase) for making the final boss fight you as a Walker against three giant and especially annoying Droids.

The third aspect is the Daily Zone. To begin with, this Daily Zone gets on my nerves because it uses Makeb's new Weekly Mission as inspiration and only shows a certain number of missions from a much larger pool, meaning that it's practically impossible to get a rhythm going for this particular planet unlike any others (barring Makeb).

Then the mechanics for the various Dailies come into play. Some simply require you to replay aspects of Story missions, but then there are those where you have to buy the required components, and of course they're flimsy as hell and one-time use items so if you die or the thing you have dies you need to buy it again, and then again when it inevitably dies once more. Extra points for having Walkers cost 600 Iokath Power Shards, meaning that if you fail on this Daily once you may need to wait a week before you try it again.

Also there's a sort-of World Boss who is very glitchy and likes to reset a lot.

Speaking of the World Boss, he does have an associated mission, but unlike other World Bosses (I know he only requires a minimum of 5 people, but still...) his mission isn't a Weekly; it's a Daily. What I like most about a World Boss such as the Revanite Walker or the Worldbreaker Monolith is that because it's Weekly the only way somebody would "lose incentive" to hunt down said World Boss is if you've done the Weekly before, and you always know when the Weekly will be reset so you can plan days to hunt the blighters down.

A single Daily mission among other rotational Daily missions is something that really shouldn't be given to anything which has even so much as a semblance of a World Boss. This has the awful side-effect of "funnelling" people to trying to find and kill it since if your group misses the Daily because they weren't on Iokath the day it sprang up they're pretty much stuck without any incentive so nothing will ever get done.

Plus, you just know that with this thing being a Daily Mission it will simply be perceived as "oh, it's a Daily, so it must be easily completeable by one person!". Sort of like that giant "Codex Entry" on Voss, the Skull on Tatooine, and that rather suspicious looking corpse on Taris. I wasn't even able to find it yesterday, but even I was under the impression that it was just another standard droid just by reading the mission log.

If you know anything about me, you should know that I actually really like Dailies, so if I'm saying these Dailies are tedious and not at all worth investing much time into, then something has really been screwed up.


Gratuitous Nerfs

Nerf calves can be found on Alderaan, Hoth, and Voss as part of a not-new-but-broken-for-about-five-big-patches Hidden Achievement in the Pets section.

Basically, on each of these worlds you need to find a datapad which gives you information about Nerfs, which gives you a buff which lasts an hour, find a special plant, and then give the plant to the Nerf and there's your brand-new pet.

This is all well and good, but then we hit the serious snag of this little scavenger hunt. The single, solitary plant you need to find will despawn for fifteen minutes, and when it respawns it's in either one of two (minimum; there may be more others aren't aware of) locations and of course if there are multiple people searching for it it's essentially game over before it's begun.

It's a nice idea to introduce another pet-scavenger-hunt similar to the Taunlet on Hoth, and I'm sure that when the furore dies down it'll be much less of a hassle, but right now because it's new this Achievement is currently incredibly tedious and not worth investing time into at the moment.


It's the Unassembled Covert Tech Gear all over again

Nightmare/Master Mode Operations are programmed to drop 244 Prototype or 246 Artifact gear for all bosses save for the last, which drops 248 Legendary. This is all well and good, until you down a boss and realise that the piece you see before you is a random piece of pre-assembled gear depending on which Classes you have with you at the time.

In some regards, this does make sense when you look at the Operations gear vendor and see that only 248 gear has received a place there; there is nowhere to trade in Prototype or Artifact tokens, so there is no other way of getting the pre-assembled pieces outside of Command Crates.

Where this does get annoying, of course, is the fact that you may get pieces - notably Relics - which none of your Group can use; at least with an unassembled Token a Player can take it and buy any piece they desire, even for Alts, without worrying about it being redundant or useless, but this path is rather aggravating since again Nightmare/Master Mode has received the short end of the stick for "proper" Gear rewards.


Additionally, because of this you still can't upgrade anything but Legendary gear. I will admit that having multiple paths to upgrade gear, whilst convenient, is ultimately little but Vendor fluff to an already well-stocked Vendor, and of course it could make the gear all the more expensive.


On the whole, 5.2 is decent. There are a couple of nagging issues, but none of them are so aggravating that they can't be ignored.

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