I had only put effort into one of my five Strongholds, Tatooine, whilst the rest have just had a whole host of random items thrown in just for the Conquest bonus. The only other one to have had a 'set theme' was my Yavin temple, but only because I decided to chuck 750 Republic Guardsmen into the Stronghold in my own form of personal protest against the impracticality of a temple being your average living quarters.
Or so I tell myself anyway.
Regardless, it had been some time since I had actually dedicated time and effort to working with a Stronghold, and since Manaan is one of my favourite planets of all time, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to see what I could do.
Manaan is deceptive in its size. The Stronghold itself is a quite poxy little thing, nearly being as small as Coruscant and Dromund Kaas. However, this will come as an almost unpleasant surprise to some considering that the Stronghold is built on a massive floating platform which has more substance around the back and has vast visible areas where you can't even set foot.
In-universe, this does seem to imply that the Manaan Stronghold is basically a luxurious penthouse apartment attached to a larger complex, possibly containing other apartments, but does leave a relatively sour taste in the mouth when it comes to actual decorating since Hooks are just a bit of a problem in this one.
Anyway, moving on.
Yes, alright, I'm unoriginal. I imagine a shedload of people have used this one Decoration as the main Centrepiece of the entrance, and for good reason. It's a very nice fountain, although I do wish its base was slightly larger.
Here I must mention my first issue with the Manaan Stronghold; the amount of 'proper' Large Hooks. Unlike most Strongholds, Large Hooks by themselves on Manaan are only found in the outside areas, which is wonderful if you have a lot of large plants or anything which wouldn't look out-of-place outside, but a nightmare for interior decorating since there are a lot of nice Arrangements which suddenly become unusable.
I bring this up now in reference to the fact that the fountain's Centrepiece hook is surrounded by eight Large Hooks, with a further fourteen on the main plaza. Long-story short, in order to make the most of this you need something more substantial than four Yavin Tree Plots.
Still, that's not to say that there aren't things that can't be done with all these Large Hooks.
Such as a nice café outside, complete with my best attempt at using a Dune Umbrella - sadly a Medium Hook as opposed to a Small - as a sort of sun-shade. I was never able to use one on Tatooine, so I figured I'd finally use it here.
Not too far away from the seating arrangements, some aspiring individuals have set up a food stall. Smart fellows.
Towards the end of the plaza and the lift to the other floors, I erected two Celebration Tents to use as a sort-of-impromptu Force enclave, since this Stronghold has been assigned to my Jedi Guardian and there wasn't much room left for such areas once the other rooms had begun to take shape.
In the first, we have Unidentified Kel Dor #1,764 watching over two twin Padawans, and this in turn is observed by Choza and Stronghold newcomer Veeroa. Because apparently this time around I fancied including some Companions who I'd never placed down before.
In the other, similar to my Datacron corridor on Tatooine, we have Talos Drellik intently studying a collection of Datacrons.
Since as I said this Stronghold had been designated to my Jedi Guardian, it made sense that it should be her ship parked precariously on the rooftop. We have no idea how she's been able to get down to ground-level, since there is no known way of accessing anything parked up there.
So, since I already discussed one of my issues with the Hooks on Manaan, it's time to talk about a positive! There are interior Centrepiece Hooks! This is one of three which can be found inside the Stronghold's buildings, and it's utterly fantastic to be able to use the Luxury Spa Arrangement inside at long last.
Because everyone needs help relaxing sometimes, here's a drinks cabinet to enable you to enjoy your favourite beverage whilst taking a dip in the spa. Of course Nico has to be the one 'investigating' the bar's supplies...
Although admittedly it is a bit weird enjoying a dip and a drink when the sleeping quarters of the owner is right on the other side of the room.
Okay, so this largely came about due to this room making the most sense for the bedroom. Nice view over the seas, and of course the room is nice and spacious.
I feel that I should explain why the Plaguehorn Reek is currently situated beside the bed; this Reek is my absolute favourite pet due to its very unique status, so I thought I'd place it somewhere where I'd nearly always see it and think of it, hence why it's pretty much always been besides the owner's bed because I'm nearly always next to a Cargo Bay, which are also always near the bed, when logging out.
Justifications are weird.
Another nice little café area, complete with GTN for tableside browsing.
Another 'tradition', though far more recent, is to have Koth standing near or next to the Jukebox as if he's using it, based on that one cutscene in Chapter IV: The Gravestone. However, because this room has a much more interesting feature than the room where the Jukebox is placed on Tatooine, it made somewhat more sense for Koth to be turned around whilst still being near the Jukebox.
Although this does mean that he will now be watching people in their bathing costumes. At least now he can actually put his on rather than simply pontificate about it for three minutes.
Also in the background, Guss can be seen peering into a Fish tank, because it's Guss and it's a Fish tank; why the hell not?
You may have noticed that I titled this section the "Rooftop Garden", only to then show off a very much interior-looking arrangement. This is because the floor itself is called "Rooftop Garden" despite only ~40% of it being dedicated to being just that.
So here's the garden. Yes, there are quite a lot of Yavin Jungle Ferns and Trees of Paradise. I was never really that lucky with getting nice-looking plants in the past and this garden suffers for it.
Well, that said, I guess I was rather lucky with the Zakuul Gardens. For those wondering, those are the Centrepiece Hooks in the centre. Yes, they're Zakuul, and not Manaan. Due to them using the exact same base as several features on Manaan itself and even some of the new Manaan Decorations, they fit this aesthetic perfectly. Indeed, I was intending to use one of the Gardens as the first Centrepiece for the Entrance, but when I saw this place had two I had to use them both here.
You can tell that I'm using my Guardian to take these Screenshots, because most of the Alliance Companions are in their original Fallen Empire outfits. In this case, here we have Gault and Vette sharing what appears to be a very tense moment. Curse you, inability to place Gault closer to the chair...!
Aric and Elara are also here, potentially discussing Republic military matters or something. Not my business.
"Hang on a moment. Shouldn't Master Ranos be downstairs in the impromptu Force thingies?"
I had placed Ranos here prior to creating the Force tents, but I think it works best with her staying up away from it all, since it would get crowded and I wanted somebody else to watch some fish.
These Aquarium Decorations are rather... unsettling. The fish within don't actually swim. They just float in place, flapping their fins. In the case of the smaller Aquaria, I can understand it since they're far too small for anything to swim freely in there, but this at least looks more roomy. Very disappointed in what is otherwise a superb set of Decorations.
I thought the entire purpose of this exercise was to move away from Tatooine, not bring aspects of Tatooine to Manaan? Well, whatever, looks like the Jawas stowed away and are now selling new and even more-obviously-stolen wares to their customers.
Although I'd like to see them wriggle out of justifying their selling of Kolto on Manaan. That officer's clearly onto them.
The final areas, and here's where things became difficult for me. The first issue; this room. Only a handful of Medium Hooks and an absolute barrage of Smalls, with several Smalls arranged in a way so that you'd expect to be able to turn them into Mediums/Medium Narrows. Nope. They're stuck as Smalls.
So, that was a slight disappointment, but there were still two whole rooms to investigate. Surely they'd offer more variety?
The answer, sadly, is no.
So these rooms contained an interior Centrepiece Hook each, which is fantastic if you have a lot of nice-looking Centrepiece Decorations which deserve an entire room to themselves (and which look like they suit this room; e.g. Jedi War Table).
What isn't so fantastic is the down-grade potential. Centrepiece Hooks down-grade into four Large Hooks (which all lack Small Hooks beneath), and three different Medium Hook arrangements; one with a Large Hook and two with some (maximum of eight) Small Hooks. It creates a very annoying result because the potential is just absolutely neutered.
So, yeah. I had fun with these rooms.
Considering the issues I had with the Hook layout, I think I did an okay-ish job, although I'm far happier with the second room than I am with the first. Additionally, I'd like to take the time to point out that the Selkath Console is the only one of the two larger initial Selkath Decorations (the other being the Selkath Kolto Tank) which comfortably fits inside either of these rooms. Sigh.
I mentioned earlier when discussing Veeroa's presence in the Stronghold that I had been introducing new Companions into this Stronghold for some reason. This has reached, in my opinion, its peak. I never had any intention of adding either of these Companions to any of my Strongholds, and now all of a sudden...
|Hang on a minute. Lana and Theron. On Manaan. Are we in 2.0 again?|
...Oops, Lana and Theron have joined the party. Things are about to get derailed something serious as they take control as usual.
This also enables me to talk about what they did to Lana and Koth. Since both of them used unique models rather than Player models, they created entirely new models for them (although Lana's is clearly based on her original Shadow of Revan form) which did conform to Player proportions, since using their unique models (as nice as this would have been because of the sheer potential) would have entailed remapping every single outfit so that they could wear them. The result basically means that Lana's gone up a cup size whilst Koth just looks absolutely dead due to the fact that his skin has noticeably lost its sheen.
They have given us the original Fallen Empire looks as Customisations as well, which is useful considering that they've sadly completely butchered both Lana and Koth's armour sets by giving them their nastily-simplified Cartel equivalents. However, the good news is that unlike Koth, Lana has that excellent pre-existing set of hers to refer back to. With her updated face and hair, I think her old set looks vastly superior on "new-Lana" compared to how it did initially during 2.0.
This does now also raise the question of what's going to happen to Senya. I assume that, just like Lana, she will be updated to match an existing Player body-type (it would be excellent if she becomes BT4, since we haven't had a single female BT4 Companion yet), but unlike Lana and Koth, Senya has no direct Armour equivalent on the Cartel Market. The closest thing they can do besides hurriedly creating one (watch this space) is to give her a white version of the original Zakuul Knight armour, which of course looks vastly different (again) to her standard armour.
I hope that they'll create a decent-looking equivalent outfit for her if they do go down that route, since, whilst it runs the risk of drastically simplifying her outfit so that it just looks awful, I vastly prefer the look of her unique Knight armour more than I do the 'standard' Knight armour, even if the only noticeable difference is the breastplate.
Returning to the Stronghold, it is worth noting that these two rooms also have several Centrepiece Hooks outside on the seabed. It's just a shame really that there aren't a lot of damaged/destroyed Decorations of such a size to really make use of them; there are quite a few damaged Starship-sized Decorations, but nothing of this sort for a Centrepiece.
Although this will enable you to have the ultimate Grob'thok vs. Nefra underwater showdown.
On the whole the Manaan Stronghold is, as anticipated, gorgeous.
However, there are still rather annoying issues with it; the Hook layouts are completely impractical in some places, the area which can be decorated is far smaller than the size of the platform on which the entire Stronghold is based, and for its size - remember, this is four rooms and is barely bigger than Dromund Kaas and Coruscant - the price is very steep.
I'm honestly quite surprised I was able to find enough things to make use of (even if some Decorations are hidden within other larger Decorations or within walls just to avoid over-crowding the Stronghold) to reach the full 650 Decoration limit. It honestly began to feel very tough towards the end; it took me roughly seven hours to decorate this thing from start to finish, and most of that was working out what I could possibly do next.
Still, I'm pleased to now have a second Stronghold that's actually had some decent effort put into it and a nice-looking result achieved. Will I be doing it again should another Stronghold be released?
Probably not. I think I used up a large portion of what remained of my limited serviceable Decorations in decorating this one, so if I struggled here (even if my struggling was due to having issues with Hooks) I imagine my struggle would be all the greater next time.