5.0 Pre-Feelings: The Good, the Bad, and the Eeehhhhhs

Today's the day. 5.0, Level 70, Eternal Throne, and the controversial Command System all come out later today for Early Access players.

As I mentioned yesterday, today's plan is to look at the upcoming Expansion and list the things I am excited about, dreading, or somewhere in-between.

Let's get started!


The Eternal Throne Story

The game story since roughly Hutt Cartel has of course drawn serious criticisms for being the same across each faction with next-to-no class uniqueness before evolving to the same for all classes. Eternal Throne is no exception, as it serves as a direct sequel of the 'class story killing' Fallen Empire

However, this is currently the first time that the story of one expansion is a direct sequel in-full to the main story of the previous expansion. Shadow of Revan is a sequel to the Forged Alliances story arc from 2.7 onwards, but not to the actual 2.0 expansion Rise of the Hutt Cartel, whilst Fallen Empire itself is mainly a sequel to Rise of the Emperor but not truly for Shadow of Revan itself. 

Point is, prior to Eternal Throne, other expansions have moved away into their own territory very quickly compared to their 'proper' predecessor, but Eternal Throne is very much a direct follow-on to Fallen Empire. This is also exemplified by the fact that the cast of characters is going to stay largely the same with no actual Class Companions returning, and the chances of multiple new full-time Companions are slim. 

So I'm curious to see how this direct follow-on occurs. It is incredibly likely that this is going to be the last time that such a direct follow-on can occur given that the Fallen Empire story (dealing with Zakuul, Valkorion, Arcann, and Vaylin, etc.) is rumoured to come to a total close with Chapter IX: The Eternal Throne, so future expansions may well return to the "doing their own thing" theme. It also 'helps' in this regard that 4.0 had next-to-no deviation from Fallen Empire.

The Alliance is probably going to be kicking around for a long time yet, though.

Perhaps one of the most important things about the ET story compared to the FE story is that it's a complete beast when it comes out. Fallen Empire dragged on for such a long time and dramatic moments had their impact significantly lessened by having to wait a month whilst the last seven chapters felt distinctly less 'streamlined' in a group compared to the first nine. Granted, there were some exceptions to this, but I like the fact that we're just getting these nine Chapters and the story's done until the next Expansion.

It has been claimed that this is quite a brutal story, with multiple characters potentially dying throughout. I've already hypothesised that Senya and Arcann will live and die together, but I'm sure that most people are hoping that Koth Vortena's demise is coming closer and closer. There may yet be more Companions who die beyond this, of course, so we'll have to wait and see.



We're actually getting proper Group Content with the launch of 5.0!

Granted, it's just five (so far) Flashpoint-esque environments, but I'll gladly take these above the bloody Star Fortresses from 4.0. From what I've seen on the various streams (not to mention the Influencer Exclusive Uprising preview videos), the fights within these environments are nicely laden with mechanics, but unfortunately BW have implied that all the mechanics in Story Mode will be present in Veteran and later Master Mode with nothing new added to spice up the challenge. 

Simply making things hit harder is not a sufficient enough increase to challenge, BioWare!

All the same, I'm pleased that we're getting them. Additionally, there is word (I think they also stated this on a stream) that there may be more Uprisings coming out in the future, so even this has future potential throughout the entirety of 5.0!


Future Potential

Musco et al. have commented on a few things which may potentially come into the game throughout 5.0. Obviously there's the whole "there may/may not be group content including Operations and PvP in the work" vague comment thing, but there have been other "we may look at doing this" options.

On another stream, they talked about possibly including Daily zones on the brand new planets of Nathema (okay, so for SWtOR lore veterans, this planet is not at all new, but it will be new to visit in-game) and Iokath. It is possible that any new Operation content may also be tied into such a daily zone, similar to Rishi and Oricon, as this would also allow for a brief 'story update' without actually being a story update, but I'm not holding my breath on this score.



Galactic Command

Some aspects of Galactic Command I really like the sound of. 

Based on the interface they showed a while back it looks like everything is being 'lumped' together for easy access. You can queue for Flashpoints, Uprisings, Operations, GSF, and PvP, enter into Chapters, and be ported down to planets for Daily and Heroic missions from the window. You should still be able to queue for things the more traditional route (as well as enter things manually, of course), but it's going to be interesting having a 'generic' window for everything now.

I like the indication that Light and Dark points are going to have more of an impact on the game (players on each server can essentially 'battle' with the decisions they make and the alignment points they earn), which then causes special World Bosses to spawn and items from new Dark/Light vendors to be purchasable. 

I also like the fact that the gear one can earn from the Command Crates is tied to the character and Discipline who receive them at the time. Whilst it's still horrible RNG (more on this later), at least it's not as bad as getting a Vanguard Tank piece on a Gunslinger as what could have happened with the BattleMaster PvP Bags.

The other aspects.... ecch... don't fill me with enthusiasm.

The maximum level of Command Rank isn't something 'standard' like 50, 100, or even corresponding to our own maximum Level (70), but something ungodly high: the maximum Command Rank is Rank three hundred. I don't even want to think how long getting even a single character up to this point is going to take, and SWtOR's unto-now alt-friendly nature has led a bunch of people down the path of alt-itis. This Command Rank system benefits players who have one defined favourite playstyle and character and play almost nothing else except for "just because" reasons.

Certainly now you won't see people with multiple characters at full endgame capability shortly after the expansion launches, something which did happen with 4.0 thanks to the Priority Ops System. However, in many ways this was fine because it encouraged people to play on otherwise unused alts and potentially broaden their horizons, whilst the amount of gear one could get meant that you could come to the game relatively late and still get geared up quickly. The change in the cost for PvP gear in particular was a godsend, and now this has been 'rectified' as well.

On a similar note, I really don't like how all of the gear is now all but totally subject to RNG. The only 'reliable' way to get gear is from crafters, who can largely only get the schematics through the Command system (Patch Note update: Modification Schematics will also be drops from Operations bosses) themselves. I may decry that the Priority Ops system was 'too simple', but at least it was guaranteed Gear. On the flipside, I do sort of appreciate how they've thrown crafters a bone, but again they too are very much subject to the Command Crates (and Random Drops) to even get the 'useful' stuff they can craft...

Outside of 228-rating stuff. Based on how 4.0 worked it is unlikely that they'll be able to craft optimised 228 items outside of the Augments, but the Barrels and Armourings (for that one offset piece and Generators/Foci) in particular will be very highly sought-after to begin with.

The final point is a point which I've made before; this whole system relies on people who use it having a ton of spare time. Command Rank 300 is going to take the best part of a year (certainly a few months at least) for even some of the most prolific players, so people who can only dedicate a couple of hours per week to the game are going to be left behind and potentially suffer in comparison as a result. 

Maybe the system won't be as tedious as people fear. Maybe it will be just as tedious, if not more, as people dread. Only time will tell.


Removal of Base Classes

We've all heard of those players who play from Level 1 to Max Level as a Sith Warrior or a Smuggler or whatever. From 5.0 this will be impossible since, just like creating an instant-60, you'll only be able to create your character with an Advanced Class at Level 1.

This is mainly why a lot of abilities (Scoundrels in cover, Sages with Thrash, Assassins with Force Lightning, etc.) are being removed or changed around, since this allows BioWare to attempt to define their own identities for each Class, which does make sense.

However there is something to be said for having that 'entry period' whilst still playing the game for the first time which not choosing your Advanced Class until Level 10 allows. "Oh, so you're a new initiate to the Sith Academy. Why don't you show me your advanced Force techniques with that totally-not-suspiciously-gained lightsaber of yours?"

Plus, you just know that so many animations will break based on certain weapons for certain classes. I'm sure several players who choose Commando before entering the Separatist Stronghold now have seen their character pull an invisible rifle from their back in the final cutscene whilst their cannon just stays stationary.


Repeatable Story Chapters and Story Difficulty

On the one hand, I really appreciate the opportunity to take our characters back through the story and see how certain choices might have played out with them, as well as exploring maps and collecting elusive Codex Entries which couldn't have been done in the past either due to glitches or to simply not finding them in the first place.

Similarly, the Chapter Difficulty does have me intrigued. As someone who has a 'passive' competitive streak (I won't seek competition but if something's going on I will be there), I probably won't seek out completing Veteran Mode right away, but it's certainly something I'd like to do at some point.

However, if the Story Chapter difficulties are done similarly to Uprisings, whereby there are absolutely no new mechanics compared to their Story Mode versions, then that's my interest virtually out of the window outside of attempting it once for the probable Achievements. I like my challenge to be something I can learn rather than something which leaves me at the mercy of that thing hitting hard or that thing hitting hard.

I also have to question what enjoyment a Healer player could get from this initiative. Granted, in most single-player games where there is the option to choose your difficulty (which this is clearly emulating) a 'Healer' role is rarely an option for the player outside of some small abilities which supplement a wider set and aren't the main focus. Entering Veteran Mode on a Healer (as much as some players in PvP like to forget, we can't ignore people who main Healers) could essentially be Nightmare outside of Nightmare (or, rather, "Master Mode"), as the Companion is the one taking the full brunt of the situation and things will just go so slowly...



PvE/P Gear

For the last four-and-three-quarter years, there has always been a clear distinction between the two 'types' of endgame gear: PvE and PvP. One had Expertise, which bolstered your performance in a PvP environment, whilst the other did not. Clearly, the latter one is the one which is best for PvP, right?

The sane amongst you would say "No!", but BioWare are now saying "Yes!"; they are going to outright remove the distinction between the two gear-types, meaning that the best possible PvE gear is also the best possible PvP gear.

This has quite a few major problems already.

Firstly, going straight into the new Expansion the people who will benefit most from the off regardless of the Bolster are those who already have full 220/224 PvE gear. People with full 208 Expertise gear could potentially be finding themselves overpowered by (Elitist PvP Emulation: Engaged) a 'mere PvE player' who has the audacity to actually have full PvE gear whilst their 'Proper PvP Gear' is rendered utterly worthless (Elitist PvP Emulation: Disengaged).

Secondly, different Classes have different 'requirements' for Accuracy in PvP. Some don't need it at all (most notably Sages), whilst others (most notably Gunslingers) could benefit from just a small amount, and there's a certain contingent out there who say that nobody ever needs it in PvP at all. Point is, there's a lot of inconsistency and nobody knows the correct answers, but now that everybody's getting the same gear, it's going to be much harder to optimise for different situations, especially since there is no clear differential between your PvE and your PvP gear outside of the armour in which you put the mods and armourings.

Thirdly, Ranked is going to be a nightmare. The current gear costs make it so very easy to just get a full set of the max PvP gear, and you'd be absolutely set for Ranked. Now, that environment - already very toxic on certain servers - is going to be flooded with people in a mismash of gear ranging from greens and blues with no set bonus to a good piece of gear which is 'unoptimised' for PvP combat and yet it isn't affecting how they survive in any great capacity. 

The really nice thing about 5.0 is that they're finally bringing in a Valor requirement for Ranked, but this definitely won't stop people from being concerned about the gear of the participants.


5.0 is certainly going to be interesting. There's a lot of uncertainty as to how certain things will work out, whilst there's also a fair amount to look forward to as well. As I always say, time will tell.

Regardless of how things turn out, bring on 5.0!

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