#5: The Forgotten Trophy/Vocoder for Freedom
These two are currently the only faction-specific Alerts. Imperials get Major Pierce, whilst Republic players get M1-4X.
Both of these characters are fantastic individuals in their own right, and it does make perfect sense for them to be faction-specific. I have no complaints here, since it would be outright bizarre to see anyone on the Imperial side be followed around by a Droid which constantly spouts "death to all those who oppose the Republic!"
The biggest problem with these Alerts is how the average player gets access to them. Troopers and Warriors get a free pass, which is fine, as do people who are above Valor Rank 40.
However, for people who are neither Troopers nor Warriors and who do not have anywhere near enough Valor, the only way to get them is to do PvP. This can be problematic for a number of reasons:
- Entering PvP without gear which bolsters 'adequately enough' compared to so many other people being in full 208 PvP gear results in the player being very squishy which will of course severely hamper their enjoyment and willingness to keep slogging away.
- Depending on the teammates that they receive, the player in question may be on the receiving end of a few choice words regarding their lack of gear (and thus perceived lack of skill), which has the same effect as above.
- Depending on the server PvP may not actually pop at all.
#4: Freedom Fight
This Alliance Alert is really rather infamous due to the numerous delays which prolonged its launch. It finally came in 4.4, bringing with it the Eternal Championship at long last.
The Wookiee Bowdaar has resumed his gladiatorial ways, now being known as "the Killer from Kashyyyk", although no longer being a slave, he now has the time and opportunity to observe fights as well now, and has noticed that Zakuul is sending gladiatorial slaves into brutal and one-sided combat to the death.
Rather than wade in himself, he decides to use us in a wager with a distant member of the Dofine family. So distant, in fact, that he's a Twi'lek rather than a Neimoidian. Maybe they were into inter-species relationships in their long history. This wager will result in either the gladiatorial slaves being freed or Bowdaar being put back into the ring.
To prove our worth, we need to enter the Eternal Championship. This is either a breeze or a slog, depending on your combat role, gear-level, Companion's Influence, and general skill-level. Slamming one's face against a potentially insurmountable brick wall can only get so entertaining, but sadly if you couldn't complete beyond a certain round you'd need to exit, get the reward for what you'd done so far, and do that all again until Bowdaar's Influence was high enough.
Completing the entire Championship pretty much earned you 10 Ranks of Influence, if not more, immediately.
Upon returning to Bowdaar, he then suggests that you and he go back inside the Championship phase, where you kill some Droids. The fun continues when this is only practice for the main event, which takes place once again after you exit the Championship, talk to Bowdaar, and then go back in again. This time, you kill the three most prominent slavers and win Bowdaar's wager.
The most disappointing thing to me about this Alert is that we never get to meet or even see the slaves whom Bowdaar is trying to free. If we'd have seen but one free smiling face after the event then this would have been some excellent closure, but as it is, it just... ends. Bowdaar's wager is complete and there's seemingly nothing more which can be said.
If you don't like the Eternal Championship, this Alert punishes you with it; you have to enter the phase at least three times (Smugglers who had Bowdaar at Rank 10 get away without having to do the Championship) before the Alert can be completed. Loading screens are not exciting gameplay!
#3: Little Boss
I feel so guilty putting something involving Blizz on my least favourites list!
Blizz is one of two Companions who have us trawling over areas of Hoth to recover items which can be turned in for Influence. However, unlike Qyzen, whose mission actually makes perfect logical sense, the mission for Blizz is just bizarre.
Blizz is of course recruited on Hoth for the Bounty Hunter class, so it makes sense for him to want to return there if he wanted to rejoin with his old crew for old times' sake, but this time he's brought a whole bunch of Jawas along instead.
I like Jawas. I really do. Provided you keep them away from being mentioned in General Chat they're a perfectly fine species. Take them away from their natural habitat of Tatooine as an entire clan and they just suddenly look really out-of-place.
Not only this, but their "White-Sandcrawler" breaks down where there is very little salvage opportunity. Why the hell aren't they near the Starship Graveyard, where there are actual little piles of salvage littered everywhere?
So reclaiming the salvage and repairing their tracked vehicle is a decent enough mission objective, but then for some reason four Jawas which form the bulk of Blizz's crew are able to completely disperse all around Hoth seemingly without any form of transportation. Seriously, they're all there when we first meet with and then return to Blizz, and then they're suddenly gone.
Jawas really do get everywhere.
So of course we must find them, and we're also tasked with bringing each one a specific item; one needs socks to keep their little toes warm, another needs a "vibro-ear" (uhhh...) because they're losing their hearing, another needs a "sniff-machine" (what?) to help them get over the loss of their Womp Rat (because bringing a Womp Rat to Hoth was really wise), and the fourth gets a laser-cutter which is subsequently turned into a flamethrower.
Things escalated quickly, and this serves as a reference to The Dark Knight where the tooltip for R'bik's buff on your bar states that "Some Jawas want to see the world burn". Because that isn't an outdated reference at all.
Finally, our job is to cut through a bunch of Ugnaught scavengers and retrieve a box for Blizz's mysterious Jedi benefactor. Of course the holo doesn't load any image, but the voice is eerily familiar...
I really do like Blizz, but I feel that this Alert is just too hectic a ride. It also feels so wrong to see more than one Jawa on Hoth! We also hadn't seen Ugnaughts on Hoth before this, I don't think...
# 2: The Star Fortress Companions
This mission starts off with Theron informing you about the as-yet-indestructible Bothawui Star Fortress and six of its cousins above Alderaan, Belsavis, Hoth, Nar Shaddaa, Tatooine, and Voss. Each planet has its own resistance against Zakuul, and our job is to meet with the 'main' representatives.
As much as I appreciate the characters who we recruit in these missions all being unique and species which have never been recruited elsewhere (seriously, who'd ever have thought that we'd get a Gormak Companion?) as well as a couple of them being really quite interesting, there is one glaring issue with all of these Companions.
You turn up, chat with the Companion, inspect the Shield Generator, fight a walker, gather Alliance Crates for Influence gain, return to the Shield Generator, blow it up, and then you need to destroy each Star Fortress to finally unlock the respective Companion.
This sheer repetition becomes tedious to do on one character, let alone multiples. Indeed, of the six characters who have actually completed Chapter X: The Alliance and beyond, only two have unlocked all six resistance fighters, with a third only having unlocked the Ithorian Jedi Choza Raabat.
I do feel guilty putting it so high on this list because, as I say, I do like some of the Companions. It's just a shame that you have to do the exact same thing each and every time before you can even move on to destroying a Star Fortress, let alone recruiting the Companion afterwards.
These Alerts are also the only ones which lock out an entire aspect of "pre-existing" gameplay before a certain point. You can start the Star Fortress mission and unlock the Solo Mode without going to each of the planets, but you can only access the Heroic mode when you destroy the Shield Generators on each world. It would be absolutely painful if the Star Fortresses were included in Group Finder yet they could only be done by players whose characters were in the correct situation.
So, yeah. I do appreciate them including so many new Companions as part of this, but the lack of variety - let alone the fact that a difficulty mode of actual content is locked away - just makes these missions extremely painful to have to do multiple times.
=# 1: Reclaimed Treasure and The Last of His Kind
I'm including both of these together because together they are one whole of a 'perfect' puzzle. Separately, several flaws begin to shine through each of them.
Reclaimed Treasure has us investigating Talos Drellik's research team on Yavin IV, which has suffered mysterious losses while trying to unlock the secrets of a mysterious Sith Artefact. Picking up where they failed and unlocking the secrets grants us access to a special hidden chamber where we find an imprisoned Dashade by the name of Ak'ghal Usar.
The Last of His Kind has us attempting to locate a Wookiee Senator who can allow the Alliance access to trade routes above Kashyyyk, and yet his convoy has been set upon by a mysterious attacker, who is later revealed to be Broonmark.
As different as these two seem to be, they both have something in common; they've clearly been designed with puzzles in mind, and yet neither succeeds by themselves. Reclaimed Treasure is too vague whilst The Last of His Kind is too direct.
In the case of Reclaimed Treasure, the notes are treated far too liberally for such a mission-critical item. They contain a vital clue to locating part of the puzzle, and yet so many people are led to just read them once when originally prompted and move on without even thinking to read them again. Indeed, they may only be turned to again out of frustration when nothing else seems to work.
This isn't the only issue; when reclaiming six of the seven tablets and part of the Sith amulet from the corpse in the hollow, your character can note that some creature has nibbled at the body and most likely has the missing part of the amulet. This is all well and good, and the corpse is surrounded by at most six groups of Stonerays. One of them must have the missing piece, right?
This isn't the case, as actually an entirely different and solitary Stoneray has the missing piece, and can only be summoned by standing in the correct spot and waving the amulet around. You are notified that you are standing in the correct place, but more likely than not this can only be found by accidentally stumbling into that area. Heck, some people might not even have gone to this area whilst still trying their luck on the surrounding Stonerays.
On the plus side, the provided notes do provide a nice little logic puzzle requiring players to know how to retrace steps in the reverse direction, and the final puzzle is a good test of the player's knowledge of the Sith Code, but the damage up to this point had already been done.
The Last of His Kind's puzzle is a different beast. Indeed, it's not actually a puzzle at all. I only refer to it as such because it has clearly taken inspiration from the murder inquiry on Dantooine from KotOR, and yet the player has no input in working out the correct cause of events. No matter which order you 'investigate' matters in in each scene, your character 'pieces together' a complete picture of the various events when prompted.
There isn't even any real suspense as to who the real murderer is. Not only do you find a clump of white fur (hint hint) but the only corpses are those of Wookiees. If there had been bodies of various mercenaries around who were hired by Broonmark or, heck, even other Talz, then maybe the murderer's identity could be a little twist in itself. The senator could have been the murderer, perhaps exacting revenge on Broonmark for the loss of his family or even being a complete psychopathic impostor.
Compared to a similar Alert, Death Before Dishonour, the direct nature of this one stands out all the more. Without looking at Achievements, there's no way to know for sure that the murderer of the miners is Xalek until you come across him at the final hurdle. You receive hints that the murderer is a Force-User, but nothing more direct. With only one returning Companion having white fur, not to mention the palest Wookiee we've seen so far having light-sandy-blonde fur, the gig is up at only the second crash site.
Broonmark's motivation for exacting vengeance is also fairly weak. He's after the senator because the senator has been selling lies to his people about who they are, which is making them less violent, and so the aggressive Broonmark is seeing himself as the last of the 'true' Talz? It's really quite confusing when all is said and done.
Furthermore, recruiting Broonmark also locks you into a form of purgatory with Doctor Oggurobb. Every time you log out and back in on a character who recruited him, the good Doctor will constantly question your judgement when you attempt to turn in an Alliance Crate.
There's not much to talk about with regards to the Companions themselves beyond this. Ak'ghal is often regarded as a Khem Val rip-off, and Broonmark is one of the most disliked Companions in general.
I'm not sure what they could have done differently for either of these Alerts, but it is a shame to see Alerts which try to be puzzles or pay homage to similar affairs from previous games completely miss the mark.
As much as there are several Alerts which I would say are "middle-ground", it pleases me to say that I actually really struggled justifying my dislike of many of the remaining ones. The only reason why the PvP Companions are on this list is because I have slightly more reservations about it than the other middle-ground ones. Otherwise, the Alerts do make perfect sense.
Amusingly enough, in my attempt to finish this Retrospective series before any information regarding Eternal Throne is officially released I may have done this aspect too soon. Apparently Patch 4.7.2 is coming at some point which will provide the unto-now missing Alert for Zenith, so I may need to go back and retroactively edit this list at some point.
We'll see. Maybe it won't need to change at all?