Yesterday, Keith Kanneg revealed more details about what's coming with 5.4. This Patch will be, as we've been aware for quite some time, the first Patch to contain an actual new Flashpoint since Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 3.0.
It was also promised in the new Roadmap to continue the trends seen since 5.2.2 and 5.3; Class Changes and Companion Customisations.
Finally, it also promised to herald the end of Season 8 of Ranked PvP.
So, with all that riding on it, what's there that's interesting and/or surprising?
Into the Shadows
As the first new Flashpoint since late 2014 there's a fair amount of hope that Crisis on Umbara will live up to previous 'golden' standards. The Star Fortresses were very lackluster and repetitive while the Uprisings were just too small and noticeably lacking that story incentive to truly get us sucked in to what we're seeing and doing.
Crisis on Umbara should hopefully provide a 'proper' small-group experience once again. Considering that it's continuing the post-Eternal Throne story you can be sure that the story either side of the Flashpoint be will be a fairly strong element, even if the instance itself feels somewhat lacking. Basically, I fully expect this to be another Forged Alliances-type Flashpoint, where the story was literally you just talking to Theron/Lana/Both, then going and completing the Flashpoint.
That's pretty much all we know about it as an actual instance for the time being.
However, what makes this very interesting is that they're trying to implement a "gear cap"; in order to be eligible for Master Mode through the Group-Finder, your character needs to be in full 242 on average. This means that if you want to PuG this thing and not go in manually in a pre-made you'd need to be on a character who has not only done the whole Galactic Command slog but got all the appropriate gear from it (although the lowest Tier IV gear, 244, should count in this regard).
Whilst I'm a bit on-the-fence about gear restrictions, and not just gear recommendations, for 'mere' Flashpoints, I do really hope this experiment pays off. It would be interesting to see what else becomes subjected to gear-restricting-through-Group-Finder in the future. For example, I wouldn't put some of the Master Mode Uprisings through the Group Finder in its current state, but I think they would probably 'benefit' most from such a cap at-present.
Certainly, if no single fight in Umbara comes anywhere near similar to Ikarr & Nyris Ko or that Demolition Droid in sheer complexity in the Master Uprisings then I just can't see the justification behind not giving them their own Gear-restriction. Those fights are tough and nigh-impossible even with a pre-made Team hardened by Operations, let alone a PuG group.
Also, just to help you understand what your average Gear-Rating is, they're adding an identifier on your Character Window. This doesn't seem to be including Crystals or Augments, since adding both of those parts of the gear set (max. rating of 136 and 228 respectively) results in a maximum average of only ~237, which of course is below the average score required for Group Finder PuGging.
PuGging. Hmm. Some abbreviations don't suit being made into verbs.
I'm getting a very strong NeverWinter vibe from all of this, so let's move on.
Renovation of the Umbara Express
With 5.3 we received the Manaan Stronghold and as you've probably guessed already even if you haven't read the main discussion topic we're getting an Umbara Stronghold with 5.4.
Also it's on a train.
A moving train.
Well, that certainly makes for a surprising addition. I doubt anyone would have predicted that Umbara of all planets would get a Stronghold prior to Alderaan, Corellia, Rishi, Zakuul, or anywhere else more prominent which has had a Stronghold request in the past.
Additionally, if we hadn't already had the Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace I would say perhaps based on this train we could have a Hutt Sail Barge Stronghold at some point in the future. It certainly could lead to more interesting Stronghold types in the future (maybe a Storm Carrier on Makeb?), so I'm interested in seeing what follows on from it.
This also implies that Umbara, much like Manaan, will be a planet whose only purpose is to be the Flashpoint entrance, and that's only if Umbara becomes a Planet. If Umbara doesn't become a Planet, then it could well be that the main entrance for the Umbara Flashpoint is on the Fleet. Perhaps where Theron/Lana first introduced themselves to the Player for Forged Alliances? There is an entire half of that map which is currently blocked off, after all...
If Umbara is a Planet whose only purpose is to provide a Flashpoint entrance and a generic story hub then having a Stronghold exit point seems a little... bizarre. But then again I thought a similar thing of the prospect of Manaan getting a Stronghold and we ended up getting one, so who knows?
However, it is worth noting that apparently you need to do the Flashpoint a few times to even access the Stronghold. Now this I am very interested in seeing. I would never have thought that they'd be able to tie a PvE aspect into the acquisition of a Stronghold, but lo and behold they're going and doing it.
We'll learn more about this Stronghold in a future post.
(Addendum: It is worth noting that the Umbara Shuttle may be similar to Manaan; small space but a huge Hook requirement. If this is the case then I don't really see how practical this shuttle's going to be as a Stronghold and I just don't have either the will or the available Decorations to make it even attempt to look decent at the moment. I am, however, very curious to see what it's like, so I am far from writing it off completely.)
So we knew by inference that Senya Tirall would be made customisable with 5.4, although there was also the chance of Star Fortress Companions Veeroa, Hemdil, and Rokuss, and the even slimmer chance of Arcann receiving this treatment as well.
As it is it's only Senya. As with Lana and Koth before her, we do sort-of-know what proportions she's going to have after the fact, as previewing gear on her currently reveals that she's built on a Body-Type 2 skeleton. Shame; I was quite hoping that we'd finally get a female Body-Type 4 Companion. Also we do need another Body Type 3 one at some point as well. Akaavi's getting lonely.
Also, much like Lana and Koth, her equipped gear will probably 'shine through' beneath her Customisation for other Players even though it looks normal to you due to the nature of their Customisations being unique skeletons on top of 'standard' bodies. Thankfully, as far as I'm aware, the skeletons of their 'default' forms don't do the same thing, but the easiest person to see this on of the two is Lana and even in virtual worlds I have the personal-space-confidence of an especially-paranoid squirrel, so this is something which I won't be trying to verify or deny at all that thoroughly.
Thankfully, Koth gets off very very easily. Only his hands and wrists are noticeably-different proportion-wise between his selves, and even then the difference is slight and only noticeable in the Preview Window or on another Player's Koth; his gloves and sleeves will 'shimmer' as his skin will become visible. No closer-inspection needed here, thank goodness.
Also of note is the fact that Lana, Koth, and Senya's hair will all be made purchasable for use by players.
I am assuming that Lana's hair is going to be the one seen on her 'default' and Forged Alliances self rather than her unique frame, so that's going to be very popular provided that it adapts itself well to the different colours; we've seen it in blonde, brown, and a gradient from blonde-to-dark-blonde, although we'll almost certainly never get that third hair colour, which is something of a shame because gradient hair-colours in general would certainly be welcome for those who are fans of Sabine Wren.
Much like the Shaecut, Lana's hair was quite highly-sought-after, although Shae's hair was (rightfully in my opinion) much more popular than Lana's "spaghetti" hair. It's nice to have another shoulder-length and 'free-flowing' hairstyle, though, so maybe down the line I'll consider using it for someone. Not immediately springing up any inspiration, though.
Koth's hair is also doubtless going to be a welcome addition. I can see many people making a "Doc. Emmet Brown"-lookalike with this hair when it comes out. I personally don't like 'wild' hairstyles so this one will be a complete and total pass for me. Plus it just looks weird without those goggles by the hairline...
The one I'm really looking forward to is Senya's. There are so very few 'practical' (i.e. not too fancy considering that there are frequent combat situations) short hairstyles in-game for female characters, and Senya's is a mix of both practical and elegant. I'll certainly be looking into giving this one to my Guardian if, again, it adapts to different colours nicely enough and it translates well to the standard body-types.
Also Companions can now be summoned while moving. Um, hooray?
More Class Balance was known to be on the cards since the Roadmap was announced. People noticed pretty quickly once the first batches were 'properly' announced that Scoundrels were missing despite being initially announced, and seemingly in response to this all three Scoundrel specs are being adjusted in 5.4.
We don't yet know what's going to happen to Scoundrel, and because I don't play as one or group up with one enough to know their weaknesses and strengths inside-and-out I don't want to even so much as hazard a guess.
Also Combat and Concentration are being adjusted as well. Again, we don't know what's going to happen here, and again I don't want to hazard any sort of guesses because I just don't know Sentinels well enough.
Next step buff Vigilance Guardian plzkthxbye.
Now that I've washed my keyboard out with soap following that horrid final 'word' of the last section, it's time to dirty my spirit by indulging in PvP Talk.
I jest, of course.
In all seriousness I don't keep much of an eye on Ranked PvP at all, but it's nice to know that they're keeping relatively on-the-ball with their doling out of rewards. Just as long as we don't have another 3.3 debacle where several people got Titles/Mounts they didn't earn.
We know that the top rewards will be "a weapon set" (couldn't have guessed that, after all the weapons that were rewards the last few times!) and a mount, in this case an Ember Makrin. We also know from earlier posts that there will once again be Titles for all three Tiers and for the top 96 Players, and there will be Flairs for all six categories of people as well.
But we still don't know what they look like, an omission which will hopefully be fixed sooner rather than later. I hope for the sake of those who do bother to indulge in Ranked PvP (who have either far thicker skin or more tenacity than I do, so they do earn my respect) that they at least look nice. Looks aren't everything, of course, so I also hope as mentioned previously that all the rewards are dished out as appropriately as possible.
Also PvP Daily and Weekly missions will have their Unassembled Components rewards vastly increased. Huzzah.
Those Shadows aren't just on Umbara
It's fitting that the Patch we get the Shadow World with no sunlight that they bring in new settings to provide greater 'realism' for contrast and shadows.
5.3 introduced a relatively-controversial change to Crystals and Tunings; if they came from the Cartel Market (which, sadly, affects all Tunings because they still haven't got around to adding them to Reputation vendors yet) then they could no longer be transferred via Legacy Weapons. This was in order to prevent people 'unfairly' unlocking a Tuning in a Character's Collections without unlocking the item first.
For context, this nullified fifty-five Crystals along with the fourteen Tunings.
So in 5.4 this is being changed yet again; this was just step one. Step two makes it possible to transfer a Crystal and a Tuning again, but only if they've been unlocked in Collections first.
You don't need me to tell you why this is regarded as controversial. EA as a company - and thus all of its underlings including BioWare - are commonly presented as money-hungry monsters, and here was an easily-interpretable instance of BW getting in on that by making it impossible to transfer stuff for free rather than pay money for it.
After almost three years of it being looked-down-on but not prevented. There was reportedly one time when Collections were first introduced that people were being suspended for doing it, but if this was the case they certainly backed down afterwards.
I myself don't really use Cartel Crystals all that much, and if I do it's often in a weapon where you don't even see the Crystal's colour, such as in a Focus or in a Generator just because that's more convenient (although as a temporary result of this change all of my Foci/Generators now have the crafted Yellow crystals). For those whose colour can be seen, I'm much more a fan of the 'standard' colours because to me the vast majority of Cartel Crystals are incredibly ugly.
Indeed, the only Crystals I use regularly from the Market are Imperial Crimson and Desert Green, and the actual characters (i.e. not Companions) who use them presently have their own Lightsabers anyway.
Still. It's interesting to see all this develop regardless of the controversy.
So on the whole 5.4 looks nice. We get a whole new Flashpoint, the seventh and-second-in-as-many-Patches Stronghold (we're going to be seeing a total of twelve by the time 6.0 lands, aren't we...?), some more new hairstyles, the ability to ruin - I mean - bring shame - no, that's not it either - enlighten Senya with new clothes, and the end of another Ranked PvP Season.
Those of you who remember the Roadmap will know that 5.4 was the third and final Patch whose details were somewhat announced, meaning that a new one for 5.5 - 5.7 is on the cards within the next few weeks. The only things we know for sure that we're expecting to see from the entirety of 5.0's run are the third, fourth, and fifth bosses from Gods from the Machine, and a new Warzone.
Everything else is purely speculation. We do seem to be getting story updates of some kind with every second main Patch so far, so if this pattern is continued throughout the rest of 5.0, 5.6 and 5.8 may contain more updates to help lead toward 6.0. Certainly I expect there to be more after Crisis, since 5.0 may well last into the 5.10s at this rate (I suspect Nahut will be 5.5's main feature, then 5.7 could be Scyva and finally 5.9 with Izax, but things may fall by the wayside or be delayed, so who knows?).
Plus of course there's the hope for weapons becoming a part of Weapons Designer. We've heard no more on this since Charles Boyd indicated that it might be a thing this year, so there's nothing more concrete to comment on just yet.
Regardless, it's something to keep an eye on.