The Brewing Turbulence

Over the previous week various points of conflict have started rearing their heads. First was the reveal of the "unprecedented" subscriber rewards and more recent was the clarification of how Nightmare Operation loot is "supposed" to work in 4.0.


The Companion Comparison: HK-51 vs. HK-55

It's official: HK-55 is returning to our sides!

As excellent as this is, it does set up an interesting conundrum. Many Subscribers will, as a result of this, have not one but two HK Droids in their Companion rosters. The question remains; which is better?

There's only one way to find out!


4.0 Impressions: The Characters

One of the strongest anchor points of any BioWare RPG, alongside the story, is the cast of characters thrown into the mix. The character list of Fallen Empire is no exception to this, providing a slew of decent, entertaining, and interesting characters onto the already quite sizeable pile of characters one can encounter in this game.

Before I begin, this list is only looking at the main characters/followers and villians in order of appearance; the various Alliance Specialists and related Companions will get their own post next week.


4.0 Impressions: The Knights of the Fallen Empire Story

BioWare have always claimed that Fallen Empire was going to be their big chance to return to their roots, something which was met with both enthusiasm and scepticism. With the expansion having launched, we can finally see for ourselves how successful they were in achieving this outcome.


4.0 Impressions: Universal System Changes

So 4.0 has finally hit and whilst not everyone has access to the story, which I shall cover next week, or Level 65, everyone has access to the changed systems such as Companions and Level-Sync. This is just to look over what has changed and what my feelings are on the matter.


The Imminent Falling Empire

So, here we are, just a few short days away from Knights of the Fallen Empire. 3.0 still feels like it hit only relatively recently and yet already we're preparing to embark on yet another expansion, and one that's changing so much more about this game than any update that came before it.

At this late stage I've been keeping myself busy by acquiring various bits of armour and armaments for Companions, mostly from the GTN and Cartel Market; I would write a blog-post about that, but it would be an incredibly boring read even with pictures. No reason to do anything more than that as far as I'm concerned since I like to get a feel for the new systems on one geared character long before worrying about managing the gear of other characters for their inevitable playthrough.

I'm looking forward to it. The story promises to be one of the most compelling and captivating "universal" stories done in an MMO - at least on the first run-through but much like Shadow of Revan people would likely only be able to tolerate a few repeats at most - and the level-sync system should hopefully pave the way for reasons to return to former planets in the story and complete aid missions to add more context to the galaxy's turmoil under Zakuul. At least, I hope they make use of it for that and it won't only be a feature just for the sake of it being a feature.

Other than that, I'm curious to see how the new Companion system is realised and exactly what difference higher levels of Influence will have on their performance, especially when coupled with maximum Presence which is, admittedly, likely to pale somewhat in comparison to the Influence "bolster". I'll also be keeping an eye on the new Hard Mode for Red Reaper, something which a lot of people - myself included - have been requesting for a long time.

I likely won't be making much or any use of the updated Crafting system outside of training some of the new BioChem stuff, but that's because I'm not particularly big on it to begin with. Hopefully certain changes won't prove too problematic in practice for those that are, since I'm aware that there's already some controversy surrounding some of the decisions made, notably the decision to take away Enhancements and Armorings from Artificers and Cybertechs, respectively. Not my scene, though, so I'll leave it at that.

Knights of the Fallen Empire is going to be an interesting expansion, that's for sure. Exactly how successful it is going to be depends entirely on whether the story is as captivating as BioWare has promised it is going to be. I don't have any doubts about that myself, but considering that this is the only new content in a game with otherwise re-relevant "old" content, this is doubtless going to be the main keystone holding everything together for quite a few months to come.


The Developer Stream and Changes to SWtOR

Finally, after such a long period of nothing but promises and actually quite interesting Class Change blogs, the Developers of The Old Republic allowed a Twitch Stream showing more than just basic Companions changes and Story spoilers. Sure, there were those included as well, but they were a part of the overall larger scheme of showing off more of what was changing in the game.

It was a very informative Stream, and only one aspect was announced at not being covered: the Alliance system. Nico Okarr is becoming a part of this for all eligible players once the first nine chapters of the story were completed, but as they detailed Companions separately it is to be assumed that this is a whole other system entirely which just happens to feature potential Companions. The more, the merrier.

This is just to offer my thoughts on what we'll be seeing when the expansion launches. Order of topics based on that of the Stream, of which you can find a write-up here and a YouTube mirror here.


The Nico Conundrum

Ever since the Return trailer, people have been asking after Nico Okarr. Much like Shae Vizla, there was never any sign of him and there were no answers as to where he had disappeared off to.

We're finally getting those answers with Fallen Empire, which many are happy about. What people are not too happy about, however, are changes to particular elements of his equipment. We as players will be receiving copies of his coat and blasters, but they are noticeably different from his trailer counterparts which has caused a bit of an uproar.

I have decided to take it upon myself to look over the gear in detail and analyse whether these complaints are justified and whether there are any "suitable replacements" for people disgruntled with the actual items. I will also be offering my own views on the matter which I shall get out of the way first.

As always, any images within just click to view larger.


The Unyielding Vault of Nightmares

For the longest while we've all been under the impression that every single Operation with its different iterations of difficulty would survive into Fallen Empire. The operations blog served as a confirmation to this.

Today, however, news has emerged that the Nightmare Iterations of both Eternity Vault and Karagga's Palace are being outright removed when the expansion launches. With them go the chance to earn the "Infernal" and "Unyielding" titles and every Nightmare Achievement, which, unlike the Makeb Weekly Achievements, are simply being moved to an "archived" section of Achievements and not permanently removed.

I can see why they've done this. Neither Nightmare EV and KP are anywhere near as challenging compared to their Hard Mode iterations as their later NiM cousins, so keeping these in the game would provide for a very simple manner of groups gearing themselves using Nightmare-Grade Gear week after week. To be fair, groups will be able to do this anyway using the "Highlighted Hard Modes", but better to have all Operations of this type present similar challenges rather than have two weak points.

I like to view this as a sign of how much Nightmare Modes have evolved since their introduction. NiM EV and KP were all about the "challenge" and never about the gear since it dropped the same as Hard Mode; Rakata. From NiM EC onwards, the challenge, whilst this was still a presiding factor, was ramped up significantly and NiM became its own considerable tier of progression with its own gear.

On the other hand, I am slightly disappointed that they aren't in some way tweaking these Operations at that difficulty and keeping them in, especially with the fact that they've been left behind ever since NiM EC was introduced. Eternity Vault is still one of the best Operations they have done, so it will be a shame to see it reduced to just Hard and Story Modes.

As far as I'm concerned, this change is thus a double-edged sword. I like that they are in some way managing this vast discrepancy between challenge between the various Nightmare Modes, but it is still disappointing that there wasn't another path beyond outright removal, or at least not that we can see to have been considered.


General Update

I'm still around, but haven't posted much due to other things taking up my time.

It doesn't help that since we are still seven or so weeks away from Fallen Empire - hard to believe that not even a year after Shadow of Revan we are once more under the shadow of another significant game expansion - so there hasn't been all that much happening in-game to discuss.

Indeed, most of what has been happening relating to SWtOR have been updates about how Fallen Empire will "work", and until the final Class Changes Blog goes live the vast majority of this is still under the "hush-hush data-mined" category as far as I'm concerned. Once all those are out of the way, there will finally be something concrete as a whole ideal to comment on much like the Companion Stream.

Hopefully, with Level 65 now creeping up on us, we will see the Rakghoul and Gree Events return once more, to give people one last chance to down the Eyeless and Xenoanalyst II before they get updated to that Level. It would be nice to see as it would also spice up the definitely-noticeable "downtime" prior to the expansion's release.

So just a short update on my whereabouts. I'm still here and about, but currently a bit "out of it", if you will. Hopefully within the next few weeks I'll be able to get back on my feet a bit more. I still need to finish up on my long-overdue Liebster Award post and follow-up on my old plans of doing PvP, since that took off more than I expected it to.


The Companions, They Are a-Changin'

The PAX Prime Livestream has recently shed light on numerous factors. First, actual gameplay - and some "interesting" story developments - of Fallen Empire, set in Chapter 3, and second, various changes coming to one of the most long-standing functions of the game: Companions.

Companions are a big thing in many of BioWare's games, so obviously these changes have attracted a lot of interest. There are still questions to be answered, but from what we know so far here is my own analysis of the changes which are being introduced.


Thoughts on the Changes to Operations and Flashpoints

I've been putting this off long enough; it's time for me to tackle this.

Changes to the game are coming in a big way. Those keeping a close eye on the data-mining scene are more than aware of just how deep the changes are going. Whilst I am aware of these myself, I will not comment on them for the time being. All I will say is that there are a lot of things changing very quickly. Instead, there is one change which BioWare themselves have detailed which I have yet to openly display my opinions on and will do so today.

Over a month ago, BioWare announced changes which were coming to both Flashpoints and Operations. The Operations changes in particular were met with some controversy whilst the Flashpoint changes were met with more or less open arms.

As someone who has a vested interest in both Flashpoints and Operations in this game, I have my own thoughts which I am at long last sharing.


One Year Under

So exactly one year ago today, this blog was more or less "officially" launched. It had been sitting unloved for two months before the Rakghoul event finally got it kicked into gear.

I haven't got anything particularly  special planned to mark this occasion, as to be honest I didn't even think I'd get this far, so just a short blog post marking this occasion seemed to suffice.

Thank you for sticking through and being patient with my ramblings, and here's to hopefully another decent year of "SWtOR nonsense".


It's Like a Warzone in Here

I've got a lot to catch up on from the last three weeks; we've seen PvP changes, a new Stronghold and even a new playable Species, and each of these things are worth commenting on. I also have a little something extra to follow up on courtesy of Zernebog which should be complete soon.

3.3 brought in the first arguably fundamental changes to SWtOR's "staple MMO components" of this year: we'll of course be seeing fundamental changes to Operations in Knights of the Fallen Empire but before this, a similar "re-defining" change has occurred to PvP.

By "re-defining", I mean that with the changes it is simply easier to get "properly introduced" to and geared-up for PvP, which hopefully will result in the diminishing of PvE-geared players and increasing the general quality of PvP combat. Balance is, of course, another issue - as is people simply not understanding the potentials of their classes - but that's something I won't, and realistically can't, tackle in this post.


Operational Completion: The "Best" Operations

I sadly don't have as much time to dedicate to the third phase as I would have liked, as I'm going to be on a "hiatus" of sorts until the 28th of July, but today I'm finishing this phase by looking over the absolute best of the Operations. This list will not include "single-boss" instances, but is instead looking at complete Operations.

Because I've already of course looked at the most fun and tedious individual encounters, I'm going to look at these Operations with all fights factored in, so there may be one or two Operations featuring whose bosses were not a part of either list. The listed fights will be presented in an extremely summarised form; having to go into full detail on twenty-six fights is going to result in a very long and boring post, although that is of course my speciality.

Indeed, "fun" and "tedious" won't factor in to any of these decisions; the ones here are the ones which, all things considered, still hold up to this day as being the cream of the crop, especially seeing as it has only just been announced that every single Operation will be Level 65 in Knights of the Fallen Empire.

I may do a roundup of my opinions on that post tomorrow if I have time, for now, though...


Operational Frustrations: The Most Tedious Operation Boss Encounters

As fun as some Operation fights may be, there are those which are annoyingly tedious. Whilst a considerable portion of these are just a means to the end of accessing the final boss and finally finishing the respective Operation, some of these final encounters are also fairly tedious.

The criteria which factor into this list are pretty much the same as they were for the "most fun" encounters, just applied as the inverse; the personalities, nature of the boss fight, and exactly what happens therein will all be taken into account in this post. Additionally, whereas the last post was fairly "timeless", this post will sadly adhere to "current affairs". This is due to the fact that with the increased number of Levels, some boss fights are nowhere near as tedious as they used to be, and we have seen new fights emerge all the while.

Continuing on from last Friday's post, these are my picks for the top 5 most tedious Operation Bosses in SWTOR.


Operational Confrontations: The Most Fun Operation Boss Encounters

I've been wanting to do a post looking over the Operations as the third phase of "SWTOR Analysis" for quite some time. What was stopping me until now was the fact that I hadn't yet seen all of the Operations fights in every available difficulty; I wouldn't be able to give a "proper" opinion on the fights without knowing their full potential. I'm not making that mistake again.

Whilst I have yet to kill the Nightmare Dread Council and Hard Coratanni and Revan, I have now at least been involved in each and every single Operations fight in the game in every current difficulty. Thus, I feel it's time to begin the Third Phase of "SWTOR Analysis" by looking at the Operations in the game, which encounters are the most fun or most annoying, and then looking over which Operations in full are the "best"; if the Difficulty factors in for any of these criteria, I will specify thus.

For the single boss encounters, what contributes to the "fun factor" isn't just their mechanics but their personalities, too. A fight can be rather boring in terms of mechanics but if the boss or bosses are fun to listen to, that can make quite a bit of difference.

Without further ado, the five - legitimately five this time, no Honourable Mentions - most fun Operations Encounters.


Accompanying Personnel: Companions I'd choose to keep

So Knights of the Fallen Empire has had a lot of questions being asked about it, particularly focusing on how Companions will be handled. Transpires that our own personal roster of Companions shall be permanently affected in some form or another; not only do we need to forage for various Companions but the implication seems to be that we can choose to not recruit a certain character; indeed, a further indication is that we can recruit or even kill a Companion belonging to another Class.

I'm reserving judgement on this last point, because I for one enjoy the diversity of the Class Companions. Whilst some are extremely difficult to work with - just try getting Ashara to like a Dark-Side Inquisitor - and some are just unpleasant - a certain Houk comes to mind - I enjoy having to spend time analysing their characters and what they like/dislike in the long run and having to adapt accordingly. I can understand the appeal for picking-and-choosing, however.

In spite of my attitude towards the matter, the question definitely rears its head; if you could choose which Companions could accompany you into the future, who would you choose? For this, I will be approaching it from the perspective of the original classes and not from the perspective of a future "potential owner", if you will.

The Companions listed, I must point out beforehand, are those which I would hold on as tightly as possible to rather than a complete list of those I could "bear to keep around". You'll notice that not a single Agent Companion makes this list, for example.


Decorations which I would like to see

So after a hilariously badly-timed post on my part reinforced the fact that I like to constantly get ahead of myself on certain matters, I'm going to be trying to keep away from analysis and/or prediction posts for the time being.

So for the first time in a long time I'm returning once more to Strongholds, focusing on the various Decoration Themes which I'd like to see either expanded upon, if they're in the game already, or those which will be brand new added into the game in future.


Cascaded Imperial Chivalry

Knights of the Fallen Empire has received a great deal of much-deserved attention from virtually all quarters.

Indeed, it's safe to say that it has received much better attention and to some extent publicity than Shadow of Revan, which was pitched as "the" big thing for SWTOR. This completely free update has received a fully-animated CGI Trailer rather than using the in-game engine to render cutscenes for trailers as what happened with Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan. A full-CG animation hasn't been done for this game since the brief HK-51 Reveal back in 2012, which even then was under a minute and just a teaser, and it's excellent to see another CG trailer even if it's still strange knowing that a free update received one whilst the two paid full expansions did not.

Some information was, as many know by now, leaked accidentally on Saturday but I decided to hold off on presenting my thoughts until the announcement was officially broadcast.

The full trailer can be viewed here, you can read the press release yourself here, and a Developer Blog update detailing more about the update, including the new Level Cap of 65, here.


Living the Night Away

A brief post on this, because I don't have all that much to say about the Event that hasn't already been said elsewhere.

It's hard to say whether the Nightlife Event is one to be recommended.

If you missed out on it last year or still have things to do, such as winning that Rancor or blowing up a Slot Machine, then I'd definitely say that it should be given a chance. For everyone else, though?

Seeing as there hasn't been anything new announced this year - it would be nice if we got some Decorations, but a non-functional Kingpin's Bounty Slot Machine is the only thing I can think of - included either in the drops or on the vendor, there really doesn't seem to be all that much "replay value" to this Event once everything is said and done.

I will say that it is nice to get a recurring Event that lasts for more than a week, as this does last until August the 25th, and it's a shame that we don't get more "interactive" Events with more-than-standard longevity, even if it is only for a second week like the Gree Event recently was due to a Conquest Glitch. It is indeed Conquest itself which would annoyingly negate the possibility of such an occurrence.

If you do wish to indulge in credit-gambling, I can point you to a lovely little spot away from the main Casinos themselves which offer Slots and should be substantially less crowded; the two Barges on the Lower Promenade offer a couple of rows of the machines. You'd be unable to sit in the middle of four machines and click to your heart's content as you can in the Casinos, but the comparative tranquillity is a good compromise, in my opinion.


Potential for Future Species in SWTOR

So today is the Stream which shows off which many people have been hoping to see for many months; the first player-created and controlled Togruta. The Togruta are only the second of two species added to the game post-launch for players to create, the other being Cathar.

With this in mind, I have decided to look at what other species would be an interesting addition to the game in general, and which species would be the most likely to become playable, based on popularity or prominence in Star Wars lore itself or whether any similar species have already become so.


Galactic Accomplishment: 5 of the Most Annoying Achievements

Achievements are actually a fairly large part of the game now. Every planet, Flashpoint, Event, and PvP eight-player Scenario has its own slew of Achievements for doing the most humdrum and staple of things to doing the most ridiculous of things. For example, those eligible can get an Achievement for killing 500 Players whilst partying with your Party Jawa, which is absolutely hilarious.

As the final part of the second phase of "SWTOR Analysis", I will look over which Achievements can be gained by absolutely everyone in the game at present - bypassing those Party Jawas and notably Sharp Dresser, both of which require items no-longer obtainable by new players - are the most annoying and aggravating to complete for whatever reason.


State of the Game: PvE, PvP, and Dev Communication

Apologies for the twelve-day absence; I had some R/L things going on which required my attention.

It's been a question many people have asked; "What is the state of SWTOR?" Each time, the answer varies. I myself have tended to avoid any attempts to address my own feelings of the state of the game, being more content to simply enjoy the experience as a Star Wars nerd rather than a game enthusiast.

Until now.

As the question is a very broad one, I will be narrowing it down to three areas; PvE, PvP, and Developer Communication.

To elaborate slightly, I've already touched on what I think needs to be done for and the state of the story, so I will not reinforce what I've already detailed. Additionally, whilst 3.2.1 did also bring in class changes, I must admit that my understanding of other classes and exactly what each change means is minimal, so I will not be addressing any form of "Class State", because I will misrepresent pretty much everything.


Galactic Employ: 5 of the best Planet Quest-Chains

The various planets have offered many varying missions. The majority are just one-time and never really lead anywhere beyond completion, but there are those which initiate a series of quests, both short and long, which feature the same style of story as we have come to expect from BioWare.

With 12-times XP currently in-progress, I have decided to dedicate the second part of the second phase of "SWTOR Analysis" to the 5 best planet quest-chains, seeing which are "must-dos" alongside the story, where possible, or just which are the definitive "best".

For this, I am only counting supplementary planet quest-chains, and not planets like Makeb, Oricon, Rishi, Yavin, or Ziost where the planet quest-chain is the only such chain on the planet with no class-specific chain beside it.


Galactic Sightseeing: the 5 most beautiful planets in-game.

Planets are a big thing in any Star Wars game; the universe of the franchise makes for a great setting for any game because there are so many different worlds to reconstruct, regardless of how the players are transported to them. The Old Republic utilises its planets as levelling areas and hubs; each has their own "recommended" level parameters, and each manages to maintain its own unique aspect, be it functionality or simplicity, or area of torturous death or serene beauty.

As part of the second phase of looking back and analysing the game we've seen for the past three years - initiated back in March with the Class Story Critiques - I have decided to dedicate a post looking at which planets I view to be the most beautiful in-game, from launch to where we are right now.

I did set myself some rules before seeking the upcoming screenshots:

  • These planets have to be accessible by both factions in order to count.

  • Any areas shown pictured must be open or at least visible to both factions, and not part of any class or faction-specific phase.

  • People have to be able to access these planets by themselves without need for a group.

  • You have to be able to use your ship to access these planets.

So, let's get started.


Analysing potential future paths for small-scale story developments within SWTOR

The story of SWTOR has always been a major anchor point for many. Even those who criticised the gameplay or certain lackluster "baseline MMO features" found something positive in the varied and enthralling stories. Since 2.0, however, the story has noticeably taken a hit. We've gone from each of the eight characters having unique stories to both factions having a unique story and are now currently in the phase of both factions sharing the exact same stories, which has garnered a lot of criticism.

I can of course understand where the criticism of the current story path is coming from. Having to repeat scenes and missions is tedious enough, but having to do the exact same things on every character you own can be next-to infuriating.

With this in mind, I have decided to write a post analysing where the stories can progress to and see how the game's world has itself aided or abetted potential future paths.


Temples and Vrakes: Thoughts from the Deep Core

I haven't ever touched on the Cartel Market properly on this blog yet, and that's mainly because there hasn't yet been all that much which I have found particularly interesting to actually talk about. That is, until these last two weeks. The first thing which of course has impacted the Market and drastically increased its worth/value has been the Outfit Designer, but I'll refrain from talking about that yet again.

The second thing which happened is the release of the first of a hopefully very promising series of packs; the Deep Core Explorer's. I won't be reviewing the armour, weapons, or the majority of the mounts as I must admit that I don't think all that much of them, but there is a lot of future promise from what remains.


The Tragedy of Ziost

So Ziost finally fully-launched today, bringing to a close the story which 3.2 brought to us. Today brings Dailies and two new World Bosses - one Open and the other Instanced - and really not a lot else.

First, as promised, I shall touch on the all-too-brief story which we get given.


Colossal Miscreancy; Vague Descriptions and Certain Activities #2

So another "affair" has emerged with the launch of Ziost, and keeping in line with the last post I did on this sort of thing, I will be really quite vague.

The story of Ziost - which I plan to cover on Monday when we can hopefully finally access the entirety of it - is currently in a sort-of limbo state. Nobody can complete it until, as I say, Monday, and as a result everything afterwards, such as the Daily Area and hopefully a not-yet-integrated Reputation Faction, is currently locked away and nobody should be able to access it.

The key word there is should.

On the PTS, a path to locked-off areas was uncovered and BioWare very wisely shut this path off before full release. However, another path has subsequently been discovered and this has led to another Ravagers-esque event. If you know what happened there, then you pretty much know what this entails. My reaction to this endeavour is pretty much the same exasperated reaction, but this one is, in my opinion, worse - for temporarily undisclosed reasons. Again, more when we get full access.

There has been one good thing from this: BioWare's response. They acknowledged that they considered this traversing to be an Exploit and that they will be taking action. Indeed, it is because of their quick response that I could be a little less vague than last time.

Bear in mind that with the Ravagers exploit, they took four weeks just to even fully acknowledge it and then another two to finally reveal what was planned for some of those who had exploited. This time around, and inspired by their course of action last time, they actually responded within 24 hours. Credit where it's due, they do seem to have learned their lessons when it comes to response.

We don't know yet the severity of the actions they shall take, but considering that people are accessing a closed-off area and enemies that shouldn't even be available to anyone in-full yet, I have hopes that they shall be stricter - even ever so slightly - in dealing out punishments. The punishments for the Ravagers were still more lenient than I think they should have been, and this is the first true test of BioWare's apparently improved-upon system of dealing with exploiters.

Not a pleasant topic, but hopefully it shows that BioWare are learning to deal with these things more and more efficiently.

EDIT: Action has already been taken against those who used this Exploit, and the response has been more aggressive than that levied against those who used the Ravagers exploit. All in all, BioWare have certainly proved themselves with this very fast response.


Thoughts on the big reveals of SWCA

So the Star Wars Celebration is in full swing over in Anaheim in the US, and two trailers were revealed to us; first, the second teaser for The Force Awakens and the long-awaited trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront.

I have a vested interest in both of these, so I decided to just write a little something giving my thoughts on the both of them.


The Wardrobe of a Sniper

Exactly two weeks from today, Patch 3.2 launches with the coveted Outfit Designer, and many many people have been acquiring several outfits to assign to their various characters.  I myself am no different, and all of my characters have one distinct costume to wear. All, that is, except for Pippera the Sniper, who has four. The maximum, of course, is sixteen, so I'm still a long way away from hitting that limit on her.

Whilst I admit that it is boring to only feature on the one character, I will more than likely touch on the others when the Designer is fully launched. For now, though, I will showcase only what Pip's costumes shall be and the thought processes which went behind them.


Celebrating the "Return" of the Solo-Mode Flashpoints

So yesterday Solo-Mode Flashpoints were made re-accessible to those who had already completed the previously one-time-iterations of the missions.

I am a huge fan of the Solo Mode Flashpoints; they're huge fun to blast through, and with the gear that drops and you get given at the end - particularly with Tython and Korriban - they're quite financially-rewarding. Not as rewarding as their Tactical equivalents, of course. Whilst you can solo Tactical Mode of Tython and Rakata - and with some greater difficulty Korriban and Manaan - the Solo-Mode provides I think currently the only manner of soloing Blood Hunt and Battle of Rishi, the Tactical modes of which I currently believe to be just a bit out-of-reach for soloing.

This means that people can now easily complete the "Complete 25 Times" Achievements without waiting on a group, and - for those of you who still need them - because across the six Solo Mode Flashpoints there are nearly 1,000 Enemies, getting 1,000 Kills with a certain companion will also be much easier and more fun to accomplish.

With this change, the solo mode of each Flashpoint now acts as a separate Daily, which is an unprecedented but actually very understandable change. This way, at least people new to the Forged Alliances and Shadow of Revan Prelude arcs won't be able to constantly go back in and just level to 60 effortlessly in the Flashpoints alone without once stepping foot on Rishi. They still could, of course, but they'd need to wait a day for it.

All in all, it's great to see Solo Mode become a repeatable affair, especially as it is something which some people have been asking for since 3.0 launched from the off.


Revan: Analysing SWTOR's take on the Expanded Universe Legend

Don't even get me started on his costume...Revan's time in SWTOR has been brief compared to virtually every other event going on: for the most part, he's mentioned more than he physically appears, and when he actually does appear in person it's only in Flashpoints, Operations, and the Weekly Enemy Within mission. That said, he has been the subject of many a debate, comparing him to the Revan of KOTOR, often to a negative result: indeed, I've seen numerous people claiming that SWTOR "ruined" everything that made Revan a great character in KOTOR.

As someone who is a self-confessed "KOTOR Nut", I have to say that I do see where some of these claims are coming from. Acting as a climactic finale to the "Analytical Weeks" of late, I have decided to look over Revan's story as it developed since KOTOR all the way through to Shadow of Revan, with particular focus on SWTOR and associated material. For all the good number of developments that happened to Revan's legacy, how many of these are, well, good?

Featuring Spoilers from: KOTOR, KOTOR II, Galactic Timeline, Revan, SWTOR, and Shadow of Revan.


Rampaging Rakghouls, Rakghouls, Rakghouls

Nothing special planned for April Fool's Day today. Dipping into critical analysis tends to impact on creative potential where I'm concerned.

So the Rakghouls have returned once more, but I can't see as much of it as I would have liked, myself being in a different part of the country on a family holiday. I must admit that I am partially relieved about this, due to previous frustrations surrounding a persistent inability to win a certain Rakling reducing enthusiasm for the event as a whole. "Next time", is the wistful cry, of course.

The Resurgence Event has gone full-circle and has landed back on Alderaan, just over 14 months since it first began there. Alderaan is, as I think I've stated on here somewhere before, my personal favourite planet to traverse, and I always take every excuse I can to visit, even if it's just to 'exercise' one of the many creature mounts I own and do nothing productive. Shame that the majority of the Event takes place away from all the beauty, but then the upside to this is that the beauty of the planet remains intact.

Giant space lasers notwithstanding.

One thing of note is that, similar to the Bounty Brokers' Association missions, anyone at level 60 - I want to say this applies to anyone over level 56 as well - can earn Elite Commendations instead of Basic Commendations, and the Credit Rewards have been upped a couple of thousand credits. Some incentive to keep more people doing it, of course, and an easy way to get 10 or so Commendations per day on each character you send down there, provided they also do the Heroic.

Commendation changes in general have been generally decent over the last few weeks; Yavin's Weeklies now granting an increased number of Elites and Basics - even Ultimates in the cases of Hallowed Grounds and Spirit of Cooperation - have proved successful and welcoming, and the change for the Rakghouls has also been well-received from what I've seen.

Whether or not you have any personal grudges against the Rakghouls, they are clamouring for their much-deserved extermination.


Critiquing Class Stories #8: The Imperial Agent

Here we are, folks, the final Class Story critique!

The Imperial Agent is the second of two Imperial classes who many claim to have the best story in-game, the other of course being the Sith Warrior. It's my own personal favourite, but, looking at it analytically, does it also deserve its high pedestal?

Spoilers, spoilers everywhere (and not a drop to drink).


Critiquing Class Stories #7: The Sith Warrior

The Sith Warrior is one of two classes which has a story claimed by many to be the best. It's easy to see why, as you're constantly in-action and constantly gaining more and more power until eventually right at the very end only the Dark Council can attempt to withhold you.

Beginning to run out of ways to say "Spoilers!", thank goodness there's only one of these left!


Critiquing Class Stories #6: The Sith Inquisitor

The Sith Inquisitor is another class whose story has received criticism for being "boring". Going into this critique, this stance seems to me to be one which is more privy to points-of-view more so than any other, because whilst most stories can appeal based on mission objectives and character, this story features history and archaeology extremely heavily, more so than anything else.

Spoiling spoilers.


Critiquing Class Stories #5: The Bounty Hunter

I'll be honest; deciding on which class to kickstart the Imperial faction critiques has been rather difficult. I decided to go from weakest to strongest, which was fairly easy for the Republic. Empire, though, has very strong stories and so deciding which is the "definitive weakest" is difficult. That said, the Hunter's storyline is the one of the four which I feel I could be most critical of.

Spoilers have returned after yesterday's neutral foray.


3.2: A Preliminary (and spoiler-free!) Look from the PTS

So 3.2 has hit the PTS, and with it comes Ziost and the Outfit Designers, along with a whole bunch of other changes relating to minor things and class skills.

Because my last four posts have been very spoiler-laden (so too shall be the next four), I decided to write a "neutral" piece and only comment on scenery and other neutral areas when it comes to Ziost.


Critiquing Class Stories #4: The Jedi Knight

The Jedi Knight's story is deferred to by many as the "definitive best" of the four Republic classes. With this statement in mind, how does it hold up?

Spoilers spoil things.


Critiquing Class Stories #3: The Republic Trooper

Today I close off the Ord Mantellian team by looking at the Trooper's story, mainly designed around a character whose primary purpose was to execute rapid infiltration and exfiltration missions. How do the developments from simple Sergeant to influential Major hold up?

Spoilerphobes be wary, as ever.


Critiquing Class Stories #2: The Jedi Consular

The Jedi Consular is privy to a story which many deem as the weakest. As someone who played through both a fully-light and a fully-dark take on the story, I must admit that whilst it was more fun going Dark the Light story did feel lacking. Overall, though, how does it hold up?

As usual, spoilers!


Critiquing Class Stories #1: The Smuggler

It's been a very slow two weeks for this blog. I haven't really found much to report on that's new save for the proposed Operation Victory and the bug which the Patch Notes for 3.1.1 pointed out with regards to the Appearance Modification Station.

In an attempt to keep things flowing for the next few weeks until something new actually does present itself, I'm going to satisfy my "inner critic" by turning to everything that has been in the game since get-go which is uniquely class-based, from class stories to companions, every couple of days. Unlike my Rishi class missions "glance-over", which kept details to a bare minimum, these posts will be laced with spoilers and so should be avoided if you've yet to complete the particular class.

So, without further ado, I launch this with a detailed look-over and critique of the story of the Smuggler.


The most fun glitch for quite some time

I normally don't encourage bugs or glitches. That said, there are those which are so bizarre on paper that just need to be seen to be believed. I don't know how long this has been in existence, but the Preliminary Patch Notes for 3.1.1 highlight a very awesome and hilarious glitch relating to the Appearance Designer.

When you enter the appearance modifier, you can still "interact" in the outside world. This includes mounting up. Until next week, if you mount up whilst modifying your character's body type and exit after applying the changes (you do have to apply; you can't just exit after changing the sliders and doing nothing else), you will find that your appearance has changed a little bit more than you could have possibly imagined, as Calphaya demonstrates.

Isn't she a majestic sight?
Theoretically, this should work with any mount. The funniest ones will doubtless be the ones which "need" a pilot, like the Walkers and Meditation chairs, although I doubt anything could top the strange sight of a set of Wings of the Architect just flapping about like it's nobody's business.

Sadly, this isn't permanent. Any cast of any sort would cancel this out, and I'd imagine the same would be true of travelling. Also, if you want to make the most of this before next week, you'd need to have a fair amount of Cartel Coins (80 per temporary transformation).

Still, this is definitely the funniest glitch I've come across for a long time now.


Operation Victory

Operation Victory

Okay, this is actually a very awesome picture created just for promotional purposes. BioWare, more of these would be absolutely lovely.

If you've been keeping any sort of eye on the gaming world, you should have heard of "eSports". These are internet tournaments which focus on a vast myriad of games, League of Legends and StarCraft II being among the most prominent.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has stayed away from any such events until now; BioWare have revealed that they are, by partnering with ESL, hosting the very first official SWTOR tournament: "Operation Victory". This particular venture will require players to complete both Operations in 8-man Story Mode within Shadow of Revan, and the fastest completion time for both will denote the winners. Prizes will be cash and exclusive in-game items, although specifics are as-of-yet unknown.

Obviously, some queries and questions have arisen. Mainly: this is a solely PvE-orientated tournament, so will the PvPers eventually get one as well?

I would like to think so, to be honest. Seeing "exclusive in-game items" really made me think that this was the PvE equivalent to Ranked PvP - although, as Season 4 is the first Season to actually yield truly unique cosmetics in terms of design and no Ranked Season has ever rewarded cash prizes, you could argue that this comparison isn't truly fair to begin with. Additionally, this tournament obviously panders to the PvE servers. Yes, PvP servers may have their hardcore raiding guilds, but servers like the Harbinger for the US and the Red Eclipse for Europe will easily be the strongest contenders for this tournament. Therefore, a similar PvP tournament pandering more to the PvP servers seems incredibly likely to me.

I'm sure that BioWare will be looking at this tournament's results with great interest. Not only because they can gauge just how successful the players of the game have the capacity to be - although quality of gear will play a phenomenal role in that unless the second heat involves Hard Mode - but they can also predict the success of similar future tournaments.

Will they be as big as other games' tournaments? I sincerely doubt it. That said, it is interesting to see their branching out in this way, and I await the results - and what else may come - with piqued curiosity.

How do you guys feel about this? Dissatisfied? Apathetic? Enthused? Or none of the preceding?


EDIT: Since this announcement last Monday, BioWare have only just one week later announced that they are, in fact, cancelling the event, due to the bugs surrounding the Coratanni encounter, among other things. Curiously, one of the things they highlighted in a follow-up post was that there is apparently a disparity between the amount of players in Temple of Sacrifice compared to those clearing Ravagers. That Underlurker fight is clearly more harmful than it seems...


Return of the Gree

So the Gree are finally back again, bringing with them another chance to down Xenoanalyst II, miss out on the highly-coveted Red Sphere, and dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge around flagged combatants in that one obligatory-PvP area.

This time, though, there are two "new" aspects to the event, outside of its now being level 60. Firstly - if you didn't have enough before this week - the Helix Components you earn this week can be put towards the Cyan Sphere, which was recently placed onto the Gree vendor instead of just the Life Day vendor. Of course, this is presupposing that you have enough Snow-covered Parcels from the Life Day event as well.

Secondly, this event's return means that, finally, every single Conquest Event has been seen at least once. Whilst you will see people who have conquered every single planet by this point, you would have never seen anyone who has completed every single Conquest Event, and it's thanks solely to this Event's attendance record.

It's good to see the Gree return after approximately seven months. We can only hope that its next period of absence, after this iteration of the event ends this week, won't be as long.


My Tatooine Homestead

Strongholds have been out for well over half a year at this point. Despite this, I haven't really taken the time to show off my own particular Stronghold. With news of another Stronghold on the way, I think it's high time that I showed off what I have done for my Tatooine homestead.

You can click on each image to get a better look if you so desire.


Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice: A Belated Review

Although both of the new Operations have been out for over two months now, I myself have seen very little of them. Indeed, I only saw Ravagers before the turn of the year - completing it on the same day - and didn't enter Temple until halfway through January of this year, fully completing it first only just two weeks ago.

How do these Operations hold up compared to the various alternative raids which the game has presented to us over the last three years?


General Site Changes

Since this blog was launched, everything has been pretty much text, text, and more text. Whilst simplicity is good, there is a fine line between simple and boring, and if you sought to escape the text-heavy blog posts by reading the Information and particularly the Legacy pages, you would not find any solace whatsoever.

As of today, the Legacy page has been redesigned. Rather than lump everything in together - such as details of my characters and particular achievements completed - I have finally split the two apart. Not only that, but the "Characters" page has far more detail than the old one ever did; as well as the inevitable blocks of writing, you will now find images spread throughout in my attempt to make it that little bit less of an eyesore. The Accomplishments page is still as boring as ever, although I can't think of how better to spruce it up at the moment.

Also new is the site's header. I didn't aim for anything particularly over-the-top, but it's there.

Nothing else to say; just a simple update as to the appearance of the blog.


'The Ravaging 2015'

Three weeks ago, I vaguely described the Ravagers Exploit, and voiced my opinions on whether or not there should be repercussions (the answer was a "yes" but nothing very specific; mainly just waffling on and on as per usual). Yesterday, BioWare came out and formally announced what actions they would be taking against those who had undergone this activity.

I must admit that I am impressed with the rigorous actions which they promised to take, which ranged from a one-day ban to a possible permanent suspension depending on the severity of your own actions. Also included in the deal was the intention to remove all schematics and even gear in the worst cases, which does seem to imply that they were going about this as seriously as they could do. I also like the fact that they claimed full responsibility for this exploit.


A Touch of Class

3.0 brought in something which a lot of people have been clamouring for ever since before 2.0: actual unique missions for each individual class. For 2.0, the only time we got to see our classes engaging in wholly unique scenarios was aboard their spaceships when flying to Makeb, so these are the first wholly "new" missions pertaining to our classes since the game came out.

Admittedly, these missions are annoyingly limited - the larger story was still the exact same, barring the snippets in conversation where your character's title was read out - in that each mission was placed in the exact same time window and was only seemingly a means to re-accessing the Old Town area of Rishi to turn in the Dailies which you still had remaining before heading to Blood Hunt.

That said, they all had several factors which were interesting. I'm going to try to avoid spoilers here, but I will briefly touch on each and every single mission.


Hints at 3.2 and Beyond: A Good Feeling

In the most recent Cantina Event at PAX South, aspects of 3.2 and beyond were revealed and conveyed to the community, most of which sounded really rather promising.

In summary, these aspects include a brand new planet, two expansions "major game updates", a new playable race, a new Stronghold, and a new cosmetic system.


Ode to the Slots

Nearly everyone who's been in the game for the last two weeks will have heard by now of the blessing/curse (delete as applicable) that was the Contraband Slot Machine.

For those who don't know, this is a decoration which one can receive from the latest Cartel Pack, the Acolyte's Shadow. Unlike the other slot machine decorations - which notably did not drop from the Constable packs as intended and was added to the Binary Star vendor for 1 credit apiece - this one is fully interactive, making all the same bleeps and accompanying Jackpot fanfare as those during the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife. It wasn't just a flashy toy, though; it actually yielded results, which included Contraband Cartel reputation tokens - which you could otherwise only attain from the second shipment of packs - Cartel Certificates, and all three kinds of Jawa Scrap.


Yavin 4, Turn and Face the Ch-ch-cha-changes.

Yavin 4 has seen quite a decent chunk of changes since it was first released in 3.0, from reducing the lag - although this could be said about the game as a whole - to finally fixing the Revan fight. 3.0.2 brought in yet further changes, and they're really quite fun.


Of Certain Activities, Vague Descriptions, and Appropriate Responses

Foreword: Vague descriptions are a necessity in this post, so apologies if people take a disliking to them.

People will always take advantage of windows of opportunity. It's a fact of life.

In an MMO, a window of opportunity is often something which the Developers never wanted to happen, and such is the case with an ongoing activity which BioWare have come out and promised to tackle this coming Tuesday.

I'm not going to directly state what people are actually doing in-game (although doubtless people 'in the know' will mindlessly flock to quickly experience it this week one last time with BioWare's announcement in mind), but it was something that can be defined easily as 'game-breaking' due to it bypassing established systems in MMOs across the board.

Unfortunately for BioWare, this endeavour can easily be accomplished by anyone at level 60 under the correct circumstances, meaning that isolation is going to be nigh-impossible; any repercussions - and there should be some for this, in my opinion - would need to be blanket. I don't know how they can check on who did what how many times, so I don't know if a blanket 'minor' punishment is possible for the majority whilst a 'major' punishment can be reserved for those who were more frivolous.

Certainly any blanket punishment is going to draw unworthy criticism from those involved, but punishment was not meted out for similar endeavours over the last two years, and it's high-time BioWare confronted them as this particular one is easily the worst of the lot.

Considering that this particular endeavour has been in-game since 3.0 began - I don't know if it persisted through Closed Beta or not - people will have been doing this week-after-week in multiple cases; the question here is "What counts as 'major/minor' or 'abusing' in this light?", and my answer would be nothing more than drawing a blank. I'm sure BioWare have a system under their belt, though, and I look forward to seeing it implemented.

Another rant post, but I am really quite disgusted that this slipped into Live in the first place and that so many have debased themselves by undertaking the activity. I for one don't see the fun of it, but maybe I'm becoming too old-fashioned for stuff like this...