Another month, another update.
4.3 brings with it many changes and new features, including quality-of-life changes to Guilds and Strongholds, and the first new 8-player Warzone since Patch 1.6 in 2012 brought us Ancient Hypergates. Oh, and it also provided perhaps the most interesting Fallen Empire chapter yet.
There's a lot to dive into, so let's get started!
Chapter XII: Visions in the Dark
There's been a feeling among the larger SWtOR Community that the Fallen Empire story was meant to 'suit' one particular type of class - the force-users. Whilst certain tech classes - the Agent and Trooper compared to the Smuggler and Bounty Hunter - can more feasibly 'fit' the story into which they are thrown than others, the combat scenes when fighting Arcann still required some suspension of disbelief as any one of these four Classes.
Visions in the Dark continues this "suspension of disbelief" trend. Nothing as overly-ridiculous as seeing one's character constantly dodge Arcann's lightsaber swings whilst trying to shoot the blighter, but it's still very much a factor; this time, Valkorion enables our characters to either 'glimpse' the Force or to attain a much stronger bond to it, depending on whether or not your character is actually Force-sensitive to begin with. Thankfully, these 'glimpses' do not yet result in full-fledged Force usage for Tech users.
In spite of this factor, this chapter is still really fascinating. You get to talk more with Valkorion, whose mood has considerably soured since you first got to know him, and also the Chapters' two guests, Satele Shan and Darth Marr, reveal how their own feelings - both towards you and towards the Force in general - have developed since you last encountered them.
The insights these three characters provide are absolutely fascinating; it's interesting to learn more about Valkorion's character - even if this may be contradicted by past and potential future representations of Vitiate - and we finally begin to gain some understanding of the fate of the Jedi Order since the invasion of Zakuul through Satele.
As revealed in the Trailer for this Chapter, there's also a moment where we get to build a new weapon; this is our Andúril, if you will, meant to inspire others to join under our banner. These weapons in some way take inspiration from the weapons of both Marr and Satele; all weapons feature elaborate carvings from the hilt of Satele's, whilst the Cannon, Rifle, and Sabers are adorned by spikes from the emitter of Marr's.
All of them are, in some way, reskins; the sabers borrow heavily from Satele's Sparring Lightsaber and Dualsaber, whilst the guns are all modified versions of the Primordial Weapons from way back when. This results in a very nice sniper rifle, cannon, and set of lightsabers, but the pistol and rifle leave much to be desired. As a special 'pang' of annoyance, you don't receive duplicates if you are a playing a class which can dual-wield.
As an aside, there are various fun little tidbits in one particular section of the Chapter which make for some fantastic easter eggs and even a mechanic of sorts, which I would love to see implemented again at some point!
Overall, Visions in the Dark provides for a very interesting chapter, even if you are playing a character who has no natural Force Sensitivity. Admittedly, this fascination on my part is born from my long-time interest in and passion for the Star Wars lore, so apathy towards this is probably going to result in a lesser tolerance than otherwise for Tech Classes.
Since the Eternal Championship was delayed from 4.2 to 4.4, we had gone nearly two months without an Alliance Alert. 4.3 plugged this gap with the opportunity to acquire a new Dashade Companion, Ak'ghal Usar.
Getting to Usar with no prior knowledge of what you must do is an endeavour in itself. The information provided makes it seem that any one of the sixteen-or-so Stonerays in the cave where the access-point to the Dashade's holding cell is located has a certain item needed to advance the mission, so of course a lot of confused players went on killing sprees before potentially accidentally stumbling into the correct area from which to summon a Champion Stoneray and acquire the item.
Even then, you need to think laterally to continue on with the mission; the notes do provide some information which you will need to trace backwards to find yet another artifact in the open-world, but this information is very easily missed.
Beyond this, the mission is quite simple, provided that your knowledge of the Sith Code is up-to-scratch.
Ak'ghal Usar himself is... interesting. He's no Khem Val by any means, but it is still fascinating to come across another Dashade and to learn the connections he has not only to Yavin IV, but also to you and your objective. Khem's return is still very much open, but I definitely believe he should only ever be attainable by Inquisitors due to that literal bond between them.
Amusingly, his voice changes noticeably after acquisition; in the cutscene where you acquire him, his voice seems to be newly-recorded, and his voice is nothing like Khem's. Once you acquire him, however, his voice gravitates back to that of Khem Val. It is disappointing that they seemingly went to the effort of either recording new lines or adjusting Khem's pre-recorded lines for the sake of the cutscenes and then immediately afterwards simply allocating him Khem's assets.
Working with the Enemy: PvP-style!
Odessen Proving Ground is not only a new eight-man Warzone, but it's also the first ever Warzone to allow cross-faction teams.
Since it has been available on the PTS since late February, many people have taken the opportunity to test it out and either record or write guides based on it. Xam Xam and Kid Lee have, in my opinion, provided the best written and recorded guides on it, respectively, and should definitely be checked out before trying to engage with the new Warzone.
Engaging with this Warzone is temporarily unavoidable if you queue for regular PvP; until tomorrow morning, this is the only Warzone which will pop.
Whilst I've only played a couple of matches so far, I will say that once you've figured out the map and how the mechanics work, it's probably one of the most frenzied Warzones in the game, simply due to the fact that only one player only ever needs to be present and uncontested for a matter of seconds in an open Control Point to take control of it, regardless of whether or not it was owned beforehand.
Unlike other Warzones where you might be able to delay a capper before dying in time for a team-mate on the horizon to get there and interrupt them, there is very little chance of this scenario happening here unless team-mates are in a very close proximity. For proper combat, this has the potential to be fast-paced and brutal, but this could also lead to knockbacks and subsequent stuns resulting in an 'unfair steal'.
That's also not mentioning the four Battle Mods, which can increase the rate or value of points gained by 100%, or activate or deactivate a Control Point. Whilst these can be picked up, the actual Mod you receive is seemingly randomised. These can easily result in the game changing pace at any point if applied correctly; a defender might just be able to prevent an attacker from taking a point from them by trying to deactivate it and hoping that either they can survive long enough to do so or that their enemy has used up their Interrupt and Stuns.
In other PvP-news, a new Arena has been added, and Season 7 has finally started. The Rishi Cove Arena is absolutely gorgeous with the surrounding fauna and waterfall. On the PTS, it was also responsible for a bug which needed to be experienced to be believed; players could respawn immediately after death, meaning that fights could last for many, many minutes until Sudden Death. All members of either team needed to die at the same time, with no respawns messing things up, in order for the other to be victorious. I haven't seen any mentions of this Purgatory being replicated on Live, so that's a good thing.
That Life Quality
There are a lot of very nice changes in this regard. We can now set favourite mounts - which only really affects the "Random Mount" option but it's still nice anyway - have spaces in our name, have up to 999 Decorations for the majority of cases which used to have a limit of 50, and can unlock all five Strongholds.
However, the Guild functionality has received the biggest update of all. Not only can Guilds now have a roster of 1,000 players, but characters can be identified by their Legacies which also enables a Guild Leader to mark a player as a Main Character thereof.
This not only enables very active guilds to expand their rosters - which would have been a very welcome change in the days when certain Guilds used to rely on a second Guild to hold their alts - but to more easily identify the players in these guilds. Legacy names no longer being unique means that there is still a way for guilds to be duped by an impostor who knows the identity they're pilfering very well indeed, but at least it's something.
Shift of Focus
Perhaps the most contentious addition this patch is the ability to change 'focus' between PvE and PvP and be deposited in the respective Instance, essentially rendering PvP and PvE servers null and void.
Back when this was only data-mined, a lot of people assumed that this would spell the way for server mergers, and it's quite easy to see why this misunderstanding arose: it's a lot of work to do for apparently no real reason. The reason they've given for it is simply that it will allow for friends to play together regardless of server-choice, so this is more of a way of more comfortably integrating newer players than anything for the time being.
The problem with this is that they have now 'blitzed' the definition of each Server type. Veterans know which server is which, but a new player might accidentally end up on a server where the dominant mindset is that of a PvPer when they intended to go for a PvE server-type instead. Additionally, they have also removed the size-indicator, meaning that our new player archetype could join a mostly-dead server without knowing it.
It's an interesting move, to be sure. Whether it will pave the way for anything grander in the future will remain to be seen...
Overall, 4.3 is a very nice patch. The Chapter and associated Alert are both really quite fascinating, and the long-awaited new Warzone seems to be a worthy addition to the roster, even if it does take some time to get used to.