Another update, another month.
4.4 brings quite a few things of interest; Chapter XIII, the Eternal Championship, and returning unique gear-sets now made BoL. It's quite a slim update, but there's still quite a bit to talk about.
Chapter XIII: Profit and Plunder
It's hard to talk about this one in any great depth, really. As a story chapter in the long-term this chapter doesn't have a lot of things riding on it as it's literally just a distraction - and it takes no measures to disguise this fact - whilst waiting on your assets from Chapter XII to return, which in itself is the only "meaningful" part of the new chapter.
That said, from a personality standpoint alone, this Chapter is one of the most entertaining yet released. The chapter's two guests (we all know who they are; Gault and Vette) are both incredibly entertaining and have plenty of in-character moments which shine through what seems to be a mildly uninteresting chapter on the surface, including nice little touches of character history with Gault which Hunters will definitely appreciate.
From a gameplay perspective, it's mostly the same as before, yadda-yadda Skytroopers, Knights, blah blah blah. There are, however, a couple of aspects which make this chapter somewhat more interesting than otherwise from a combat perspective.
The first is dealing with pirates for the first time since Chapter VI, which is all but completely dropped once the main 'mission' of the chapter gets under way even though there is potentially still some closure to be had there. The second involves having two Companions out at the same time and both counting as "actual" Companions.
We've seen this done before in Fallen Empire in Chapters V and VII, but not to the extent that Chapter XIII does it; you can actually talk to both Companions as if they were each properly active, whereas in the aforementioned chapters T7 and Senya could not be conversed with. It's small, but it's a nice touch.
Compared to Chapters X and XI, the final boss is definitely more mechanically interesting than that of XI, and slightly less so than that of X. It can pack a bit of a punch, so using this temporary dual-Companion system strategically could be a good idea depending on your own role.
That's about it, really.
That Wookiee ain't no Rookie
With the Eternal Championship finally having made its debut on Live, so too has Bowdaar become an available Alliance Alert, using your newly-acquired status as Arena fighter as a means to free slaves.
Recruiting Bowdaar is an interesting experience, to say the least. The best way I can describe it is "in, out, in out" - although I don't know who exactly is doing the "shake it all about". Not including Smugglers who have Influence Rank 10 with Bowdaar, players will have to enter the Championship Arena three times (also not including players who can't get past a certain round and choose to restart the entire thing for whatever reason), each under different circumstances, before the mission can be concluded.
Additionally, as someone whose Gunslinger hasn't yet made it through Chapter X (because, seriously, Smugglers and KotFE don't mix), I appreciated being able to accept the Alert for Bowdaar due to the Championship being available for those players who only completed the first nine chapters, as opposed to someone like Blizz whose mission is only available to those who complete the chapter which came out that same month. Chatting to Bowdaar as a Smuggler is quite a bit of fun and provides an interesting line if you romanced one of your other Companions.
I will say that it is somewhat disappointing that we don't get to meet the people whom Bowdaar is trying to free. You only get to kill their captors and mock a Twi'lek (with the surname Dofine, so he's clearly responsible for something vile, probably involving Neimoidians) for losing his wager with Bowdaar.
Thankfully there is no Adoring Fan for this Arena
The Eternal Championship has been in the pipeline for quite a few months now. We were informed about it first in December with its prospective launch being in February, before being pushed back twice. Now it's finally here, so has it all been worth it?
Whilst the first five rounds are nothing special, Round 6 onwards makes for a fun experience. There's a fair bit of strategy to be aware of (such as Drake Raven and Nocturno completely ignoring Companions save for sending out G0-0N Kidnappers in Round 7 and knowing how to separate King Crush and Mister Ripper in Round 6), although Round 9 has a tendency for "cheap shots" with its multitude of stunning circles if you're unfortunate enough to get caught by one.
As far as "challenge" goes, the Championship can be breezed through by people in average of (220) gear and above, especially if they also have a high-Influence Companion accompanying them. That said, certain rounds (6,7, 10, and possibly 9) will still likely prove problematic for solo-Healer players than for any other role due to the mechanics of the fight and Companion AI needing babysitting at various points.
Speaking from personal experience as a Ranged DPS, I've found that only Rounds 6, 7, and 10 "need" a Healer, whilst the others are completable with a DPS or Tank Companion (I personally would advise a Tank for Rounds 5, 8, and 9 instead of a DPS).
Also of note are the items offered by one of the Championship vendors. He sells Decorations of every boss (and respective aide) you encounter in there, as well as Bind-on-Legacy Purple, Cyan, and Magenta crystals, the latter of which used to be one of the most unique-to-craft items given the amount of preparation needed to do so. Such items being simply purchasable is a shame, but at least people can't buy these crystals solely to sell them on the GTN for a tidy profit.
RD-17A Hellfire, Dark Fire...
The Adaptive Gear vendor on the Fleet used to only sell gear for Level 7 characters and above, and is still the easiest means to acquire a modifiable Offhand for low-level characters.
With Patch 4.4, this vendor now sells every unique armour set (TD-17A Colossus, RD-07A Spider, et al.) for their respective faction. Not only this, but they're now Bind-on-Legacy (still uniquely-named, so appearances will not shift on the other faction!) and have had their class restrictions completely removed. There are some very nice sets on these vendors now, so definitely do go and check them out.
4.4 is a nice small little update. The Eternal Championship and Chapter XIII are fun distractions in their own right, the reintroduced gear is a very welcome addition, and the three Companions one can gain from this one update are all absolutely fantastic.
It may not be the most meaningful update we've had, but it's probably going to be one of the more memorable.