5.0: One Year Later

A year ago today, the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion launched, bringing with it nine new Chapters of Story Content, five new mini-Flashpoint experiences known as Uprisings, Veteran Chapter Difficulty for all Chapters of both Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne, and the controversial system known as Galactic Command.

A year down the line, what's changed, been introduced, or remained stagnant?


Single-Player Content

We've only really had one new instance of 'pure' single-player content added since 5.0's launch, this being the Iokath update of 5.2, which also introduced the first new Daily Zone and Reputation factions since 3.2 and 3.0 respectively. While other Story updates have occurred, 5.4 and 5.6 have included them as part of Flashpoints and therefore can't really be considered as single-player content alone.

As far as actual single-player content goes, Iokath was exceptionally weak. Not only does it confuse things exponentially no matter which side you yourself choose (e.g. your state of the galaxy will be completely different to somebody else's if they kept Acina alive while you didn't), but the story itself was literally an excuse just to align ourselves with one of the original factions again - a decision many welcome yet others despise since it of course directly contrasts with the initial neutrality of the Alliance - and to continue a thread already known since the Uprisings; that a fourth party is at work attempting to sabotage the Alliance.

Another aspect of single-player content which was introduced since 5.0 was the introduction of Master Difficulty for all 25 Chapters in 5.1. These are a very mixed bag, with some fights being easier than their Veteran Mode counterparts were at launch and others being virtually impossible depending on your Class. Master Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen of Fallen Empire and Chapters One, Two, Six, and Nine of Eternal Throne all contain fights which are well beyond the range of 'reasonable challenge'.

5.6's story update had a slight snag. Whereas most story missions with a Flashpoint attached had given the Flashpoint quest as part of it, Traitor Among the Chiss did not. This meant that people had to pick up the quest themselves, but because there were two solo modes - one labelled 'Story' and the other labelled 'Solo' - it was possible to choose the wrong one. While the mission did say to complete the solo instance, the fact that one explicitly called itself 'Story' meant that many players believed that that one was the correct one.

Single-player content may not be what most people expect from an MMO, but after Fallen Empire attracted a fairly sizeable crowd because of its all-but focusing on the individual player the lack of focus paid to single-player content is going to have been a sore point for several players.


Group Content

I've already mentioned in passing that we've had Flashpoints as the main focus for recent story developments, and it's nice to see that we've had not one but two Flashpoints delivered after well over two years of waiting with a third confirmed to be on the way in 2018.

Five new Uprisings were added in 5.1. These were all rather decent, but nothing truly special as after all Uprisings are intended to be just short, quick instances. A month later in 5.2 Master Mode for all ten Uprisings was made available. Much like Master Mode Chapters, the Master Uprisings are a very mixed bag, with some having almost negligible changes between Veteran and Master, and others becoming an almost unfair challenge. I don't know how many groups have successfully cleared the second boss of Master Mode Trial and Error, but I wager it hasn't been very many.

The most important thing of all, though, we finally have a new Operation! Unfortunately, it's in pieces and the pieces haven't come out nearly as quickly as BioWare were originally intending. I believe if the original schedule was to be adhered to with nothing going wrong we'd be almost ready to see IZAX rear his Zildrog-inspiring head if he wasn't out already.

As it is, we've only got three of the five boss fights; TYTH the God of Rage, ESNE and AIVELA the twin sisters of Passion and Envy, and NAHUT the Son of Shadow. From what we've seen of the boss fights so far, I honestly don't want to think seriously what they could be introducing for Master Mode, particularly for the sisters. Some nights my Ops group turns to jokingly describing potential mechanics, and it's testament to how painful some of the current mechanics are that even small-scale 'sidegrades' get a groan of resentment.

So, while it is a shame that the Operations bosses have fallen behind schedule, it can't be denied that we got a fair amount of group content since 5.0's launch; five new Uprisings as well as Master Mode for all ten, two new Flashpoints with a third on the way, and three new Ops bosses with promises of Master Mode coming out sometime in 2018. Compared to 4.0 and to some extent 3.0, this is a definite upgrade of proceedings.

Speaking of Operations, 5.0 started without them giving a single gear piece because something something pride and accomplishment. 5.1 began the aggravatingly slow process of reintroducing gear into Operations, only this time around Bosses had a scaling chance (they never actually updated those conditional numbers so we have absolutely no idea whether or not they changed) to drop a random gear piece with only the final Boss having a guaranteed piece. They changed that back to the tried-and-tested loot system pretty soon afterwards, but it was a rough time to be an Ops player.

BioWare have shown with both 4.0 and 5.0 that they enjoy tinkering with the Ops loot after years of a good system being in place, only each time they end up changing it back to a more forgiving system than was originally implemented. NiM Ops only had a small chance to give 224 gear in order to increase the incentive to do Highlighted Hard Modes in 4.0 and then in 5.0 we had to endure almost two months of no loot from Operations before a tedious 'replacement' system was introduced.

Although Story and Veteran Modes had a very nice loot system from 5.2 onwards, it took a long time for Master Modes to get anywhere near to a 'good' standard. From 5.2 onwards, they had a chance to drop any 244/246 item on all Bosses save for the last (which all drop a specific 248 piece), and these 244/246 items do not correspond with the group you have. Case in point, my raid-group has seen both a Sniper Rifle and a Vibroknife drop from a couple of Boss kills, and we're in a Republic Guild! 5.5 introduced Unassembled Components - previously only accessible via PvP as the replacement for Warzone Commendations - as drops from each boss, with all bosses dropping 35 and the final bosses dropping 100. 5.6's doubling of rates should also have affected these, but I haven't been able to see a Master Mode Op fight in 5.6 yet to verify.


Story Developments

Until 5.2, story developments since the conclusion of Eternal Throne were only presented to us via the Uprisings, which revealed that a mysterious party was uniting forces in an attempt to undermine and destroy the Alliance; the fact that data from the Alliance - such as security codes, base locations, and shipments - implied that somebody from within was aiding our new mysterious nemeses. Then, Iokath came out, rewarding us with the most superficial reunions of all time, and finally giving us official confirmation that there was indeed a traitor within our ranks.

5.4 and Crisis on Umbara introduced simultaneously the best and the worst attempt at a story 'twist' ever; Theron Shan has left us (hooray!) because he apparently feels that, regardless of the Alliance Commander's alignment and decisions, the Alliance needs to be destroyed. To this end he has joined with a mysterious Order, which 5.6's Copero Flashpoint begins to answer more about, and is apparently working with them even if it means war on the galaxy and the deaths of millions.

This only really makes sense from a triple-agent perspective, a plot-thread which has already been denounced as over-used and tired. Additionally, once again we're being asked to care about Theron and his employment issues (seriously, he got kicked out of the SIS twice only to get re-invited back each time a crisis emerged, then willingly left the organisation to come to us, and now he's left us to join this Order, which he will inevitably leave willingly or be kicked out from or be killed by as part of a trap to hurt us emotionally), which is the only thing more tired than the "is he really your enemy?" question the developers have lovingly embraced.

At the end of the day, due to the amount of times he's been out of a job Theron has proved to me that he is no longer worthy of holding an influential position anywhere. I therefore consider it my right as one of his many former employers to tear up his contract the moment I get the option and banish him into the wilderness forever, preferably to a deserted planet with a pistol with only one shot left. I owe it to all other galactic enterprises.

So, yeah. The story developments have been... questionable. While Raina Temple got a decent reunion in that she actually had something of an extensive talk with all player characters beyond the Agent and we got two new Flashpoints to marvel over, the other story developments are not good. Elara and Quinn's reintroduction was embarrassing, the fourth party and traitor storylines are just too old and tired to really be invested in them anymore, and the most recent attempt to make people care about Theron Shan is just unwarranted.

Hopefully this story will be brought to a close sooner rather than later.



With the removal of all Warzone Commendations, PvP was essentially only useful for grinding out the various levels of Galactic Command. You got nothing to earn to spend on gear. Bolster was also broken, setting our gear levels at 250 item rating. Whether or not we'll actually see 250 item rating in the game again currently remains to be seen. Some people liked this, as it meant that gear meant absolutely nothing, but at the same time it meant that time-to-kill became ridiculously high even in comparison to where we're at today.

5.1 introduced the aforementioned Unassembled Components to the game, which were basically Warzone Commendations and the various PvE Commendations rolled into one; while you only got them from PvP activities - until 5.5 and 5.6 at any rate - they could be used to upgrade the gear we could receive from boxes (and from this point forth Operations) and negate a huge part of waiting for RNG to be gracious.

Unassembled Components had a rough introduction. Not only were the gear costs insanely high (and this hasn't changed one jot) but you only received a tiny amount from completing the various activities. Heck, not even the Daily or Weekly missions granted any! Things have become a bit better over the past few months, with Master Mode bosses now dropping them, Ranked PvP missions now giving a huge amount, Master Mode Flashpoints now including them in drops and Group-Finder mission rewards, and of course gear in Command Crates being disintegrated into them, but we still have a fair amount to go before they become 'ideal'.

5.5 introduced something very few people were anticipating after years of neglect for Galactic Starfighter: substantive changes! Seriously, the list is so long that I can't even summarise what the general overview is outside of "FT-7B Clarion Supremacy", but it's very nice to see GSF get some love at long, long last. You can read the full list of changes as part of the 5.5 Patch Notes here.

Speaking of GSF, 5.6 introduced the first new map for it in three years. Good thing for BioWare that GSF is only a focus of a minority of the fanbase; while we've had to wait a long time for a new Operation at least it hasn't been three years (just two-and-a-quarter...). While it's a shame that this new map is only for Deathmatch (speaking as someone who absolutely prefers Domination) at least this means that currently it's now an even 3:3 split for maps between the two modes at long last.

Speaking of waiting, 5.6 was originally supposed to introduce the new Warzone, but it was announced on the 16th of November that it was to be pushed back until 5.6.1 on 12th December. Considering that the new Yavin IV map is basically an alternative version of Civil War, it's hard to gauge what people are more disappointed about; the delay or the fact that rather than an entirely new mode (which, considering the backlash Odessen has disappointingly received, BioWare might not want to repeat) Yavin is a near 100% perfect repeat of an old format.

Regardless, this PvP map is now the only 'main' thing missing from meaning that all active game activities had something totally new added within the past 365 days.


Galactic Command

Galactic Command was an absolute nightmare when it first launched. It was apparently intended to be an absolutely idyllic system where everybody could play what they wanted and have the opportunity to get gear and feel good about themselves. Whilst the initiative was well-intentioned, the implementation was horrendous.

As mentioned above, doing Operations and PvP - after years of them providing a very good way of getting people geared up - were useful only for feeding the Command monster, and of course the sole reliance on RNG - which did not improve as you gained more Ranks - rightfully got people riled up. Worth noting as well that CXP gains were absolutely miniscule at the start, so not only was it subject to RNG but you had to work a fair amount to get that disappointing RNG.

Things began to change rather rapidly. 5.1.1 introduced a 300% (which in actuality due to a bug was a 400%) CXP event, and the levels began to fly by. However, problems still existed in that RNG was abysmal as it ever was, and by this point we still didn't have a 'proper' gear system implemented in Operations and Unassembled Components were still gained at a very low rate compared to the cost of the gear.

5.2 affixed CXP gains to slightly lower than the event amounts and finally made a tweak to the RNG; the higher in Rank you were, the greater your chances of getting a good piece of gear. However, this change was implemented at the same time as Tier IV came out and Command Rank 300 was remedied to be the maximum Rank, meaning that people already at CR300 got absolutely nothing but a whole new RNG-infested gear grind to look forward to.

5.5 changed the victory state from one hour to eighteen hours, which was intended to reduce the chances of people missing out on them. However, depending on when the victory state started it is still very possible (and now even more aggravating) to miss out; I once got home at about quarter-past six in the evening and logged on during the last twenty minutes of a Light victory state. People getting home after half-past six stood no chance of making it.

5.5 also introduced a tweak to the Commanding Legacy perk, which gave characters who were sub-CR300 a 25% boost to CXP. Now, for one of each of the four main mirror classes (e.g. a Juggernaut and a Sentinel both fall under the category of 'Warrior/Knight' so you'd only get one stack even if both were 300) beyond that first character which enabled you to buy the buff, you get an additional 25% boost to sub-300 characters, yielding a maximum further 75% boost up to 100%. While there were some teething issues for several people due to miscommunication (basically it was originally stated that each character at 300 added to the buff; nothing about mirror classes until after the 5.5 Patch), this is probably one of the best changes to have come in for some time, but of course is a pain for those who are nowhere near to meeting the maximum requirements or are unlikely to level certain mirror base-classes through CXP.

5.6's changes to disintegrating gear earned from Crates into Unassembled Components has made things slightly more bearable again by finally introducing something of a remedy if you got a piece of gear you didn't want or no longer needed. I don't think there's all that much more they can realistically do for a remedy system, since working in a 'duplicate-detection system' would likely have some teething issues (particularly for Implants and Mods/Enhancements, which a lot of Players would actually want duplicates of) somewhere along the line.

Of course there has to be a downside - or at least a baffling aspect - of such a useful change, and in this case it's that Unassembled Components, rather than being normal Currencies as they've always been, are now actual items in your inventory similar to Gray Helix Components or Ziost Memorial Holographs. I get that they wanted to remove the limit on them, but this doesn't feel like a good 'thing' at all. It's now possible to actually lose a crucial Currency. That is not right. Quite honestly, the 3.3 - 5.0 Commendations system with its limit of 200,000 and the ability to purchase Commendation packages leave this system looking really quite weak and wobbly.

Basically, remove Commendations and all hell breaks loose when it's decided that an alternative system needs to be devised to keep the fans happy. I'll bet anything that BioWare are more than a tiny bit relieved that the furore surrounding Command and the necessity to remedy the situation never reached the heights of the furore surrounding Battlefront II presently.

Still, at least we've had a few Double-CXP weeks to enjoy throughout the year. We were originally supposed to be getting one with 5.6, but alas it was not to be. Still, at least there should be one lasting from the 12th of December to the 1st of January to compensate.

Speaking of CXP gains, it is worth noting that a lot of the 'decent' changes we've seen in the last couple of months have largely all come about due to that bug with the Daily Zones where all individual (and most Bonus - Section X's didn't have this little boon) missions on Black Hole, Section X, CZ-198, Oricon, Yavin IV, Ziost, and for a short while Iokath were granting as much CXP as the overarching mission for completing x number of Dailies. Since so many people were turning out and grinding Dailies it made BioWare realise that people were actually motivated to grind when the CXP output was very, very good.

So as a result 5.5 tweaked the Daily Zones, permanently setting their Weeklies at a rough 1k CXP/required mission ratio, although some like Yavin actually offer slightly more. This also heralded a fix to the two outstanding Weeklies; Makeb and (finally!) GSI, although Makeb wasn't working as intended in 5.5 and GSI has at least been mentioned at being looked at for a later Patch. People always seem to forget GSI... shame. They can be really quite relaxing missions at times (all my love for the Big Red mission on Alderaan).

I don't know how much can be done for Command which isn't potentially code-straining, so it's possible that this is where the train stops outside of balancing more numbers. If so, it's a relatively decent place to stop, but it still hasn't been an easy ride getting to this point.



While I've touched on the fact that gear has become much easier to acquire over the past year I've yet to touch on gear itself. Since 5.0 there has only been one additional set of tiers of endgame gear added; 5.2 added 244, 246, and 248 gear. Since the original PvP bolster set gear ratings to 250 and we will be getting Master Mode Gods next year it is quite likely that next year we'll be getting another set of gear-tiers. 

5.6 added the first upgrades since 5.2, but only in the form of two new Augments which require mats gleaned from Operations, Ranked PvP, or all four tiers of Command Crates. These Augments are the first Augments in the entire game to have three stats (Endurance/Power/Tertiary Stat) and are thus the first Tank Augments to have both Endurance and a defensive stat. It's a small upgrade, but is a nice boon nonetheless.

Not a lot, really, but then I don't think people would be best pleased if they rushed ahead with pumping out several new Command tiers before everything else was adjusted sensibly.



While the process hasn't actually changed, Levelling has seen a few boons throughout 5.0. We've had several 2x-XP weeks alongside the double-CXP, and with 5.6 a way to Boost a Character to 70 has been introduced.

Using the Master's Datacron (2,000 CC) sets your Character's Level to 70, gives them a free set of 230 rating gear, and unlocks their ship and either 2V-R8 or C2-N2 if they don't already have one. Any story beyond the point of boosting is left uncompleted, meaning that it is possible to boost a Level 1 Character to 70 and play through the entire Class Story as a Level 70.

This, to me, feels like a significantly better Levelling-skipping option than the Instant-level 60/65 options. For those who care about the story it gives people the option to do everything they'd be pre-scripted as doing otherwise (and of course they can only do what they want rather than feel 'forced' to do several extra things) and for those who want to have quickly-prepared Alts for raiding purposes, this option gives the Boosted Characters a decent 'free' set of gear to get into regular endgame activities with. Additional expenditure of Command Tokens may of course be required if certain stat distributions (e.g. Implants and some Enhancements) aren't what you'd ordinarily choose to use for the chosen Class.

Since you get CXP for almost everything (aggravatingly this excludes on-level Weak mobs while including out-levelled 'grey' mobs), compulsively doing as many Quests as possible and basically engaging in the full Levelling content as a Level 70 is really quite helpful. I'm currently in the process of taking my new-as-of 5.4 Powertech through her Class story, and with her having been 70 since the end of Balmorra she's currently at CR33 having done all quests on Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine and not having popped a single CXP Pack; however, now that she is the last character I need to get to 300, this last detail will change when the next double-CXP event lands in December.

While this may seem like a very unnecessary addition given how easy it is to get your ship anyway, I appreciate their adding the ship and the associated ship droid into the bargain, but then I have first-hand experience of seeing how much of a nuisance it is for someone to not have a ship. In my guild there's currently someone who has more than a few characters at Level 70 which don't have their ships yet because they were levelled entirely through Heroics. This is perfectly fine until the time comes for them to want to use one of those characters to go and do the Eyeless or Gods from the Machine (when it's not the Group Finder Op) since Summons don't work for Characters who don't have ships.

This has happened more than a couple of occasions, by the way. Why he just didn't do the Coruscant story on any of them I'll never know.



We've seen three Class Companions return over the past year; Elara Dorne and Malavai Quinn returned with 5.2 and Raina Temple returned with 5.6 yesterday.

Disappointingly, Dorne and Quinn's return was a very minor aspect of the whole 5.2 update. Outside of the initial conversation where we had the opportunity to choose our allegiance, our characters only had the opportunity to converse with either Companion if they were a Trooper or a Warrior. Nobody else had any further conversations with them, no questions of what they could bring to the Alliance, no getting to know them better, just nothing. They're in the Alliance and yet new non-Trooper/Warrior players who knew neither Dorne nor Quinn beforehand know virtually nothing about them.

Utter waste of two decent characters in my opinion. At least Raina Temple received a better introduction and had more opportunities to converse with non-Agent characters and have actually quite personal questions asked of her.

While we've had no other Class Companions return, we have had our fair share of new Companions as well. Obviously there's the slew of Cartel Companions, but the return of the Nightlife Event and the United Forces update provided us with two new Companions with attempts at actual personalities; the Nightlife provided the Gamorrean Guard as a Jackpot reward while completing three Warzones or three Group-Finder activities over the past three weeks granted Darth Hexid as a Companion when 5.6 landed.

For those who aren't aware, Hexid was originally one of the two potential rewards for the big Dark vs. Light Event last year alongside Chiss Companion Master Ranos. Since a red-skinned staff-wielding Zabrak Companion already exists (although she still only exists for one Class) and we had yet to see a Chiss Companion, it came as no surprise that Ranos and the Light Side were victorious. Hexid being given as a reward so easily compared to Ranos is admittedly rather hilarious, and it's probably making some people who missed out on her wish that Hexid had won last year so that Ranos would be the more easily-accessible of the two instead.

Oh, yeah, and Arcann is confirmed to be getting a romance. Since there have been no opportunities for people to advance or create romances prior to this if they had missed out on the opportunity unknowingly, it is somewhat of a silly notion that the first post-Fallen Empire romance character is one who could potentially be deceased rather than one who everyone would have access to, but eh, whatever. This does, however, mean that the dynamic of 'properly' romanceable characters from Fallen Empire onwards will be at a 3:1 ratio with three blokes and only one woman, so this does ideally need remedying at some point.

But, hey, we'll finally be getting a Companion romance option in SWtOR who's a male Force-user! That's a definite improvement over the vanilla game. In fact, Arcann will only be the third male Force-User Companion who can be romanced in the The Old Republic series of games since Atton Rand and Mical/Disciple of KotOR II. It will only have taken the best part of thirteen years to get another!

Whilst we don't know when everyone is coming back, BioWare have at least let us know that all outstanding Class Companions besides Doc, Light Jaesa, Khem, Nadia, Tharan, and Zenith are currently (at the time of this information being revealed) actively being worked on for a return. We have received no further updates beyond this, so it is very possible that the others have now moved up slightly in the schedule.

Hopefully we get some of these guys back in the main 6.0 story, and hopefully it's done 'right' this time. Many of Fallen Empire's specific-Companion-reunion Chapters felt very shallow, and hopefully we never get another Dorne/Quinn situation...



Conquest as a game feature has received no major changes since the last overhaul, but we have seen a couple of small changes to side-factors for it throughout 5.0.

Firstly, the two new Strongholds added with 5.3 and 5.4  (Manaan and Umbara), as well as 5.5's new 10-Stronghold cap, finally brought the Stronghold Prestige Boost to a maximum limit. While the current amount of available Strongholds (seven) could theoretically grant a higher amount (since the bonus requires six unique Strongholds to be fully-decorated) and no matter how many more Strongholds could be coming out (my bet's on Alderaan being one of the next ones) the Stronghold Prestige Boost will not be advancing any further than 150%, which is a pretty decent amount to cap it at in my opinion.

A new Conquest Event - Plunder of Iokath - was also added, and is notorious for being the only Conquest Event to feature only one planet; Iokath. This is particularly interesting on a server with two or three big Conquest guilds, as it provided the first opportunity where all of these guilds had no choice but to go up against one another whereas most weeks they'd deliberately avoid choosing the same Planet.

5.5 also fixed one of the longest-standing issues with the Conquest board; every Guild was shown as coming from their origin server, even though all but one of those servers no longer exist. 5.5 finally ensured it that every Guild was shown participating on that current server. So of course when the Conquest board was turned back on last week, the original issue has repeated itself; everyone is shown participating from the pre-merge servers and not the post-merge.

Ah, well. At least they got something right about it for a short amount of time!

5.5a also brought in an unexpected change; Conquest would reset six hours later. This may seem like a pointless change especially for those who work full-time on a Monday (at least over here in the UK, the Conquest board now closes just as people are either getting home from or leaving work/university/whatever) but it's somewhat more interesting to observe how the board now grows on Tuesdays with the new time reset. Beforehand, certain players' jumping-the-gun and completing weekly missions as soon as they reset could have been reflected in the board, but now completing them early could lose a bunch on Conquest points if that particular week has that mission as an objective.

Conquest still isn't anywhere near perfect, but I still appreciate small changes even if ultimately they don't mean a lot in the long-term.


Interface Changes

Several things have had something of a face-lift throughout this year, some good, some baffling, and one plain awful change.

If you're someone who relies on muscle memory a lot the slight change to the Mailbox would probably have caused you great ire. For some bizarre reason they decided to swap the "Collect All Attachments" and "Delete Mail" buttons, causing many people to accidentally delete Credits received from sails. Thankfully, Mails containing Items threw up a warning saying "Are you sure you want to do this?" so hopefully not too many items were lost, but still. Not a good change in the immediate short-term at all.

The Decoration List now has a search bar. Huzzah!

The Inventory change is probably the most pointless, since all it did was move the tabs from the bottom to the top and add a 'progress-until-filled' bar. Literally nothing else about it has changed, barring the recent removal of Unassembled Components from the Currency Tab.

The Cartel Market has received a very substantive overhaul. There are more Categories available for perusal, such as an actual separate Dye category, and many more items available for direct sale. Notably the Temple Guardian Armour and the Black/Black and White/White Dyes have been up ever since the interface was overhauled and have yet to be removed. Oh, and the Cathar Honour Sword for 500CC. That's a fantastic deal. Also, similarly to the Decoration List, there's now a search bar.

I don't know exactly what to make of the in-game cash shop receiving the most substantive interface overhaul of all, but it certainly isn't making me feel comfortable...

With 5.6, the Legacy Cargo Bay has received a small update. It's now possible to transfer Credits into a Ledger, similar to the Guild Cargo Bays, and store all of your Credits in one hopefully-safe place for all your characters to access. It's been a long time coming, but it's nice to finally have something like this!

Finally, 5.6 also gave the Group Finder a face-lift and a functional overhaul. I haven't yet been able to see it in action - due to the fact that I mainly used yesterday to do the solo-Story updates and open 1,006 Command Crates across the seven characters who had been earning and hoarding them especially for this Patch. Indeed, this new Group Finder, called the Activities Window, is actually serving as a replacement for the Command interface; this change is so extensive that it's basically replaced both systems at once.



While a fair number of people don't really care for the "space barbie" aspects of the game, it can't be denied that we've seen a fair few decent updates to the customisation side of things in SWtOR throughout 5.0.

5.2 introduced three new Hairstyles; the Shaecut, the 'Grindelwald', and the Goth-mop. In fact, because the Grindelwald had twin rat-tails at the back which very few people were fond of a second version of the style was created without them to placate those who despised them, which was a fair compromise; at least people who liked the original style can still use it.

While a small boon, 5.2.2 showed us that BioWare were still working on creating new species - or at least that previously-created new species which hadn't been seen before were now getting some attention. Sadly, neither the Grex nor the Daichyura look awfully robust - they certainly don't look like they're able to talk - so they're only going to be relegated only to background NPCs such as the first two representatives of both species hanging around during the Nightlife Event and the blue Daichyura on Odessen, but hey, at least they're something new!

5.3 introduced original-NPC-Cathar hairstyles for player-Cathar characters, which was nice. It's good to see that Cathar now have some more unique hairstyles to call their own, especially as now male Cathar can have a proper glorious mane at long last.

5.4 introduced a further three hairstyles for all eligible species, and they clearly learned that people liked the previous Patch's Cathar customisation update since these three hairstyles were the first generic new hairstyles which were applied to Cathar as well as every other species. Oh, yeah, these styles were also based on those of new-new-Lana, Koth, and Senya, but sadly the Lana-bob in particular translated really badly to several colours due to the bright gradient present. Still, they're all nice styles.

5.5 finally made it possible to purchase Companion Customisations which were previously exclusive to one faction for the other faction. However, there are still a few anomalies, such as the possibility to purchase Customisations for the indefinitely-Imperial-exclusive Pierce and the fact that Security Key and Collector's Edition vendor Customisations are still faction-exclusive. This will eventually be particularly problematic for Ashara Zavros, who only has two Customisations available outside of either vendor, being the Rakghoul Plague one from T.H.O.R.N and her awful Cartel Market one. Hopefully they find a way to transition these Customisations across to the appropriate vendors on the other faction sooner or later.

5.6 introduced probably the most substantial customisation bundle yet seen. Up until this point a customisation bundle - with the sole exception of the Chiss-exclusive customisation bundle - included only a hairstyle or only an eye colour. This one contains a bit of everything. It includes six hairstyles (one male, one unisex, and four female; these are all based on hairdos seen during the Copero Flashpoint including Theron's new style), the first new non-Mirialan-exclusive makeup options (five, all for Human, Chiss, Cyborg, and Mirialan) and the first new complexions (four for Chiss, and one for Human, Cyborg, Mirialan, and Miraluka) since launch, and some new Dark-Side inspired eye colours. Unfortunately, as an maybe/maybe-not unintentional side-effect of this, the only previous Dark Side-inspired eye colour - Bright Yellow - has been retextured from being yellow to being a sort-of greenish colour.

While we have received nothing 'tactile' by way of any new species Keith did hint in one of the streams that groundwork for new playable species may be being put in-place. We have nothing further to go on for this, so it's entirely possible that it will amount to nothing, but I imagine a lot of people are holding out hope for Nautolans in particular since they were the next most-popular behind Togruta and the more feasible of the remaining two main favourites. As much as I would love to see the other main favourite, Kel Dor, be playable I just can't see their face-mask working out well for certain cutscenes.


Planetary Exploration

Only a couple of things added throughout 5.0 which qualifies for this, but enough to talk about at any rate.

We've only had one 'proper' new Planet throughout the entirety of 5.0's lifespan, this being the Daily Zone iteration of Iokath. Disappointingly the version we have access to is solely the solely-mechanical-factory-side of Iokath with no option to travel to the beautiful areas overrun with plant-life outside of repeating Chapter IV: Where Dreams Die. Similarly, while the new Flashpoints have us visit Umbara and Copero and a Stronghold is even placed on the former neither is an actual Planet in its own right. Shame, because Copero is absolutely gorgeous, and Umbara's not too bad either. I'd happily spend a lot more time on either world in my free time.

After Rishi, Yavin IV, and Ziost for 3.0, 4.0 has given us Zakuul and Darvannis (Odessen doesn't really count as a proper Planet since it's just one tiny little hub for missions, Star Fortresses, and now some Flashpoints), and now 5.0 has just given us Iokath. Disappointing, really.

5.2 also finally saw the Nerf-calf scavenger hunt be released. The rewards for this hunt had been present in-game since approximately 4.6 I believe, with the Nerf calves and the Nerf artwork being visible in the Decorations list and 10 points suddenly being added to the until-then 0-point Pet Achievement section. Regardless, it made its way in-game at last.

To begin with, it was an absolute nightmare; due to the amount of people searching the various areas you'd either need to be very quick or very lucky to find the plant needed to get the calves to follow you. However, nowadays it is a lot better. Not only are there understandably fewer people hunting but there are many more plants available for picking; when helping a friend do their scavenger hunt I took the opportunity to explore while they were searching on Hoth - they're someone who likes to do these things only with hints and never direct directions, which is fair - and I found a plant in each of the three areas whereas initially there would only have been one.

Not sure whether this is something which they've explicitly changed or whether the fact that nobody's picking any of them up anymore has caused them to just exist in a state of permanence (respawn timers notwithstanding) in all possible areas.


Class Balance

Class Balance has been a knife BioWare have loved twisting deeper throughout 5.0. The funny thing is that a good number of the balance issues which have plagued players this year - particularly in PvP - have largely come about through changes introduced at the start of 5.0. For example, Commandos and Gunslingers received substantial defensive upgrades with the Commando reflect and powerful self-heals being given to both classes. So before 5.0 these Classes could pump out DPS but often melt before it became a prevalent issue for the other team, but from 5.0 onwards both Classes suddenly started showing their worth when it became so much harder for people to kill them.

I'm not someone who really knows a lot about the intricate details of many of the Classes or their specs and therefore can't say with firsthand experience how several of the changes have affected them. I feel it's safer to simply refrain from commenting on them in greater detail and will only offer a summary of how each Patch dished out its changes.

5.3 buffed Balance, Serenity, and Plasmatech, and nerfed Assault, Dirty Fighting, Gunnery, Saboteur, and Seer. 5.4 buffed Concentration and nerfed Combat, Ruffian, and Scrapper. 5.5 buffed Focus and Vigilance, fixed the TK Wave bug (simultaneously nerfing and buffing the TK Sage), and nerfed Combat Medic, Infiltration, the Persistent Chill Utility, Sawbones, Sharpshooter, and Watchman. 5.6 introduced some Utility and Passive changes, notably giving all Tanks a 30% damage reduction while stunned and reducing the aforementioned self-heals which were given to Commandos and Gunslingers.

I haven't yet seen how the additional 30% Stun DR has affected things in PvP, but considering that 'skank-tanking' has always been a problem I don't really see this helping matters in the slightest.

Class Balance is a very double-edged sword; it is clear that in this round the changes have been some of the most substantial the game has ever seen, so it will be interesting to see how things develop from here. 


Server Merges

They had to get here eventually.

The community's take on Server Merges throughout the years since the previous ones vary drastically. New Merges have been rumoured, requested, expected, deemed-as-inevitable, and even viewed as unnecessary, but the bottom line is they've happened again, this time compacting the last remaining seventeen servers into five; Darth Malgus, The Hot Prospect Satele Shan, Star Forge, The Leviathan, and Tulak Hord.

A particularly nasty unanticipated side-effect of the merges affected many American and even several APAC and Asian players; they transferred the West Coast datacenter over to the East Coast, thus meaning that people who lived in the West Coast or connected to that datacenter due to it being the closest one suddenly had a lot of extra server lag to contend with. The worst bit about this, by far, was that it was not made known to people beforehand; BioWare seemed to be treating this as an experiment to see whether people would notice or not, and it became readily apparent that they had noticed.

But still, the server merges happened a couple of weeks later with largely no hitches. Legacy Bay overflows were affected, however, causing many players to believe that they'd lost items in the interim, while, on a more positive note, Decorations owned by the Legacy on one server were added to those of the Legacy of the same player's characters on another server when the two were merged. This was not intended to happen; it was originally meant that Decorations would simply merge and the higher amount would persist. It is unknown whether or not this will get fixed, but I imagine it could be something of a painstaking process.

So, we're now one big condensed family. Already there have been people saying how the merges have been good for them - reclaiming names they'd lost on their origin server, reinvigorating raiding groups, getting in a more active guild, etc. - but at the same time there have also been those saying how negative their experience has been. Mainly, these complaints come from experienced and high-strung players who now have to put up with a new crowd, but others are more specific; namely, the role-players who have no 'safe haven', having lost their role-play servers altogether.

Regardless, I'm pleased that there is a sizeable portion of the in-game community who is finding their experience in-game to be all the better since the merges.



It's certainly been an interesting year for SWtOR.

As mentioned during the PvP section, all the major game features have received something new in the past year - the sole exception being ground PvP courtesy of the delay of the Yavin map until 5.6.1. Compared to 4.0 and what people's expectations were for 5.0 prior to its release this is really quite good going, since no matter what you like to do you'll have received something new by the end of this year.

Some of the new additions are utterly minor; I don't think many people give a damn that we have a new Conquest event, for example, but even then some of these are pleasant surprises. A new GSF map had practically been written off after BioWare seemingly abandoned the mode after the Denon map back in the 2.x era, but lo and behold we finally have one, and we've had substantial balance changes as well; things are on the up!

While the new Operation has been being released slower than people - no doubt including BioWare - would like, the fact that we actually have a new Operation is a fact worth celebrating. What's not worth celebrating is the fact that Veteran Mode already has enough mechanics jam-packed into it and this doesn't bode well for the eventual Master Mode; if "HardMare" is hard enough, what the hell is the actual Master Mode going to be like?

Still, at least this one will actually get a Master Mode...

The new Daily Zone is really the only aspect of this 'new' stuff which I would cite as a major disappointment. It's not only in a really uninteresting environment (compared to what it could be; I just find techno-cities incredibly boring) but the area is incredibly vast, the missions too randomised - at least at the start - and the less said about the initial state of some missions like The Meek and the Mighty the better. At least things have improved even here and not been left in their original state...

As for developments to things 5.0 introduced, Galactic Command has improved tenfold, the newer Uprisings and difficulty instances thereof are nothing special and occasionally tedious as hell, and Master Mode Chapters feel very much like an addition for the sake of providing an addition. There is no actual 'reward' for doing them; not even a title or an exclusive piece of cosmetic gear to show for your troubles. And of course it's practically impossible to define the correct 'strategy' for several of the fights as most are based on luck and the ability to survive taking huge amounts of damage.

Class Balance has been a painful note for several players and welcome changes for others. The exact same can be said of the server merges which have provided a new lease of in-game life for some Players and provided something of a thorn in the paw for others due to the vastly different crowd compared to who they're used to.

Finally, the state of 5.0 a year later raises a good question about when 6.0 is going to raise its head. We'll be seeing Master Mode Gods some point in 2018, presumably at some point in April or May. SCYVA, IZAX, Master Gods, and the third new Flashpoint are currently the only things which we know for sure will be coming out next year, so there may yet be something else intended to carry the majority of the playerbase forwards until the next expansion; certainly I wager BioWare are hoping that the hardcore raiding crowd will be content enough with hitting Master Gods.

If 6.0 is not going to hit until Autumn 2018, then is what we'll have from throughout 5.0 enough to placate the majority? It's hard to say without knowing for sure exactly what 2018 will bring at this moment in time, but certainly it's easier to imagine people being happier with the state of things as of 5.6 than they ever were during the entirety of 4.0. Regardless, I think it's safe to assume that 5.0 will be one of the longest expansions this game will ever see in its lifetime.

As said earlier, the end-result of 5.0 a year later is that in the vast majority of cases, no matter what you like doing, you'll have been catered to with something new to wet your palate. It is a shame that the Warzone was delayed; I'd have loved to say that everything had something new within this past year year, but it is what it is.

Regardless, a huge thanks to the developers for keeping going with this game and for making 5.0 a very decent expansion a year later; I doubt any critics would have believed that 5.0 would evolve to its current state based on where it started. It still has to go a long way to match the 'gold standard' of the 2.x era, but it's a lot closer to it than 4.0 ever was.

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