2018 Companion Reunions: Volume 4 [Jedi Under Siege and Nathema Conspiracy Spoilers]

These pictures being in ascending-height order is completely unintentional.
Well, 5.10 has come at last and with it the final four reunion moments in 2018. With this patch we had the first companions since Raina Temple whose appearance requires completion of more than just Yuun's Alliance Alert, certain chapters of Fallen EmpireEternal Throne in its entirety, or the Iokath storyline.

All Republic players get to interact with Archiban "Doc" Kimble and Nadia Grell on Ossus, but only their respective former allies get to reclaim them as companions in a subsequent Alliance Alert. The Imperials aren't afforded such luxuries for Jaesa Willsaam and Khem Val, but that's due to some very specific "what-if" moments that would always have been exceptionally problematic to deal with for these companions should they have been made available to all.

In this post I will not be referring to any particular outcomes from either perspective of the 5.10 story. However, I will be making passing reference to what the Imperial characters are doing when they come across their respective companions. There are, however, far more overt spoilers for The  Nathema Conspiracy since there's a certain outcome which needs to be touched upon. 


That State of the Galaxy Report: Dark Councillors, Supreme Chancellors, and Hutts galore!

A couple of days ago, BioWare posted a 'State of the Galaxy' article setting the scene for Jedi Under Siege. Under the guise of a report by Lana Beniko (who else?) this article establishes where both of the main factions are at in terms of leadership in good detail, but also includes various tidbits that, while not crucial at this moment in time, are still good to know about at this stage.

So what is there that's of potential interest? Or, rather, what can I find to prattle on about this time around?


5.0: Another Year Later

So here we are. The 5.0 patch cycle has now started its third and hopefully final year of life. This is the only expansion in SWtOR's nigh-seven-year history to have completed two full years, and it's certainly been an interesting ride.

As some of you may recall exactly one year ago I published an article looking over 5.0's then-present history. As I described, the first year of 5.0 resulted in nearly every single game activity or function receiving something new. Has the second year managed to accomplish a similar feat or does it feel severely lacking in comparison?

Let's find out!


Character Differentiation

The one thing which has stuck with me across the years as I play SWtOR is that appearance is the one of the most important things when it comes to playing a character. I may like how a character looks in the creator, but if something is off when the character is 'born' and in the open world then I'm going to change that ASAP. 

Not even long-term characters of mine are safe from this. Several of the characters who still exist to this day have gone through various changes, sometimes even including species, for differing reasons. Sometimes it's just because a new hairstyle has come out that I want to try. Other times it's because I realised that my characters need to be more diverse than they were at a previous point.

For example, there was one time when I had six Human characters and only two aliens - a Twi'lek and a Sith Pureblood. Of those specific eight characters, only three are in-use to this day and two of these have become a Mirialan and a Chiss. 

I've recently taken this into overdrive, a recurring trend with some things these days it seems, to the extent that it is not just outfits which differentiates my characters: None of them use the same primary-Companion, mount, or even colour crystal(s) as another. Variety in species is still something of a sore point, but I'll go into that in more detail further on in the post.

This is a post which I tried to write last year before giving up the ghost without having really started. It's time to remedy this and bore you lucky, lucky people to death once again.

And hey, it is Picture-Posting Month. I might not hit my fifty images but I might as well get some mileage out of it.


Old-School Galactic Traversing: An Extreme Response to Increased Convenience

Games such as SWtOR really like to push convenience to an almost luxurious degree. In some regards it's useful, such as 4.0's unlocking all speeder points to a planet, and other times it's downright annoying. For example, I simply can't count how many times my Guild has formed up an Ops group for an Operation that launches from the Gav Daragon and somebody - who knows full well how to get to the Gav - has simply requested a Summon. 

This increased convenience has also removed a part of the charm from certain systems of the game. The biggest sore point for some is the fact that the 'rite-of-passage' nature of finding Datacrons on newer characters has been severely lessened, particularly for veteran players, due to the stat-granting ones all now being Legacy-wide. I myself feel they should introduce some small incentive for people to do them again on additional characters, but I sincerely doubt we'll ever see such things implemented.

The other day I was asked to transport a guildie to Iokath so she could farm the Grade 10 Archaeology materials there, since  she had yet to start the associated story on that character, and she commented that it had been a long time since she had manually boarded somebody else's ship.

This comment resonated with me as it touched ever-so-briefly on something which I have been taking some small issue with over the past couple of months. Outside of some very specific circumstances travelling around the galaxy is now incredibly simplistic. Sure, we've had the Daily Transport terminals and various Legacy Perks for instantly hopping to certain places for several years but now we can just instantly hop to every planet or be parked directly outside a Heroic mission just with a couple of clicks.

This is all well and good, but it pretty much negates one of the biggest joys of being inside of the Star Wars universe; owning our very own starship. With the exception of the levelling story and starting some questlines, the ship is almost entirely superfluous nowadays. Not even the combat-modifiable Training Dummy is unique to the ship anymore, courtesy of the Rishi Stronghold including one.

Indeed, it's got to the point where you don't even need a ship to travel to the majority of places in the in-game galaxy since the Heroic transportation items work whether you own one or not. This particular instance has resulted in another one of my guildies not having a ship on the majority of his former Dark vs. Light characters which he had levelled using Heroics alone the moment he could get off the starting planets. This is something of a nuisance since when we're doing something as a Guild he nearly-always chooses to wait for a Guild-ship Summons and that just doesn't work when he's using one of these shipless characters.

I will see him get a ship for all of these characters before the game is done.

I myself had been more-or-less completely ignoring the ships, save for the rare combat-parse, for the longest time until something happened in August. The Manaan Stronghold broke. My Guardian had been calling it her home and for an entire month she found herself without access to her cargo bays on the top floor. 

I could have done a couple of things here. I could have simply taken her to Tatooine or Rishi, my faction-neutral Strongholds, or I could have simply placed copies of the bays on the lower floors of Manaan thus ensuring that she could still have used it. However, since neither Stronghold really had 'her' personal flair, I chose to do something else entirely: use her starship. 

So for a month she called her ship her home, using it to travel around the galaxy 'properly' rather than simply teleporting using the galaxy map. I absolutely loved it. It reminded me very much of the early days of SWtOR when doing this sort of thing was the only option. Convenience be damned, I still love actually seeing the approach to every planet rather than just a loading screen. 

Since this time I've taken things massively to the extreme. While my characters still live in their Strongholds while being logged off the amount of 'convenient' things they do is extremely limited. I now take them down to the planet itself to board their starship in the 'proper' way when I take them out and about and whenever I'm on a planet the only automatic travel options I try to take are the speeder points. Otherwise it's travelling on-foot or by mount the entire time.

I think my recent re-indulgence in Skyrim is fairly responsible for this.

That's not to say that I've been entirely immune from speeding things up. Mainly this occurs when an Ops group I'm a part of is moving from one planet to another to complete stuff quickly, but there are some times when I'm on a planet like Iokath or Hoth that I just don't want to run through a landscape of mobs to get to the nearest available speeder point. I also can't avoid using the personal Stronghold panel to get to Tatooine since the Stronghold terminal on Tatooine itself is (logically...?) placed in a location where you can't travel to anywhere from.

More than anything, this approach is incredibly relaxing. It's exactly the same reason why I love the GSI missions, since I can take as much time as I want and need to do various activities while also drinking in the in-game scenery while travelling between various Dailies and Heroics. There are some in-game days when there's nothing better than just spending an hour or so doing quests in a relaxed manner.


As much as it may seem, I don't have too much of an issue with increased convenience. I do feel that there is such a thing as too much convenience, but this is very much a personal take on the situation at hand. I know a lot of people absolutely love being able to hop around the galaxy at a moment's notice, but for me it's resulted in a very noticeable dearth in charm as time has gone on. 

Maybe I'm more of a role-player at heart than I realise. 


Looking to the Future: The Role of the Alliance and the Stability of Leadership [Potential Spoilers]

The information given to us surrounding 5.10 provides a great amount of food for thought, even from what little we actually have. The basic summary of all we know for sure is that the player gets to travel to Ossus to help their original faction and that this is most likely the final instalment of story we'll be getting in 5.0.

From here there are two major questions which this brief summary raise:
  1. How exactly does the Alliance as a whole feature in all of this?
  2. Will this story update attempt to remedy the determinant leadership situation we've seen since 5.2?
Both of these are important not just for 5.10 but for any subsequent story as a whole. It is logical to assume that Ossus is essentially a 'teaser' for 6.0 in its entirety: the story should follow an identical structure to the form that the one on Ossus takes. As such, it ideally needs to establish the Alliance and both the Empire and Republic in a 'concrete' form to give as strong an impression about how 6.0 will start as possible.

While this is mostly conjecture, it is worth noting that this post will contain definite spoilers, particularly in the second section. If anyone reading this has yet to do the Iokath story or wants to avoid learning any names for 5.10 I would advise only reading the first section.


The 5.10 Stream: Thoughts and Hype Trains [Some spoilers]

Yesterday evening, Eric and the rest of the team ran a stream divulging more direct information about the Jedi Under Siege update coming to us later in the year.

In case you need a recap if you haven’t been following this elsewhere this update will include a new storyline and Daily Area, Guild updates, a new tier of endgame gear, and Master Mode Gods from the Machine.

Bear in mind that in this overview I will be going into a fair amount of depth about everything they covered and in the same order, so if you don’t want to read information about the new story update you’d need to stop reading everything after the Guild updates.


The Road to Somewhere [September 2018 Edition]

So another surprise Roadmap has come and with it comes some interesting stuff to analyse.

We've known about 5.9.3 for some time courtesy of an interview done by Bad Feeling Podcast with Eric Musco and two PvP Developers, David Demaree and Brett Hoffman, and the section of the Roadmap dedicated to it is understandably short and sweet; all that's coming in this update is the new Huttball Arena on Vandin.

The subsequent big Patch, 5.10, has got a lot more stuff included, however.


Fourth-Year Anniversary Giveaway Results!

Well, the 23rd of August has come and with it comes the end of the giveaway. Thank you very much to the various people who entered! I'm very happy with the turnout, and I'm very pleased to say that everybody who entered got something that they wanted! Without further ado, the prizes go to:

Arrangement: Luxury Spa: Shintar!


Koensayr Monocycle: Phil!


Overlord's Command Throne: Unknown!


Revan Reborn's Armour: Νικος Μαρινος!


Revered Master's Robes: Shintar!


Sensuous Dress: Pineapple!


Shae Vizla's Armour: Pineapple!


Temple Guardian's Armour: Brallig!


A huge congratulations to the above six people. Phil and Unknown, I'll need you to notify me of your characters' names so you can get your prizes; if you don't feel comfortable putting them in a comment on this post you can e-mail them to me at galacticantics@gmail.com or via Twitter. Whatever you prefer is fine by me.

Thank you all once again for sticking with this blog for the past four years. It's been a good ride thus far, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future.



Milestone: 4-Year Anniversary!

So this rustbucket of a blog has survived its fourth year, undoubtedly the roughest of the lot so far. It can't have escaped anyone's attention that I haven't been posting at all frequently over the past 365 days, but regardless, the fourth year is in the can.

Much like the last two years, this heralds a look back over the past twelve months' worth of posts, seeing which the most popular were and allowing me to provide a commentary of them. This will purely be looking over the posts made after the Third Year Anniversary post, and I feel the need to make this distinction because otherwise the Curing Bergola Post would top the list in two ways; firstly, for still being the most-read post on the blog, and secondly for managing to acquire 700 views over the past twelve months - more than twice that of the most popular post written between the previous August 9th and this one.

Not that that last detail is particularly impressive; this is only the thirtieth post in all that time. Still, it's nice to know when my peak-blogging was.


The Six-Hundredth-and-Third Day

As mentioned back in May 5.0 was set to cross the threshold of longest-lasting expansion in SWtOR's six-and-a-half-year history on the 24th of July, and today is that day. We still have no exact idea when 6.0 is going to hit, but it is heavily implied to be out sometime next year meaning that it will have lasted well over two years in its entirety.

Certainly time for me to start preparing to write '5.0: One Year Later': One Year Later at any rate. I've got four months, that seems like the right amount of time for an article to get written on this rustbucket of a blog.

Indeed, compared to last year 2018 is currently proving a very slow year for SWtOR. We are getting more Companions back over the course of the next few months and of course we'll be getting some PvP updates and another new Stronghold on the 7th of August, but things are trickling at a far slower pace than several members of the community like.

Granted, this is mainly because a lot of the 5.0 content was built on pre-existing story ideas that were supposed to be seen in the unreleased full Knights expansion(s), so it's logical that once this was done fresher content would take a lot longer to produce with no pieces left to pick up. While this does of course buy them time to work on 6.0, which is a good thing in my eyes, the uncertainty is still sadly quite unnerving.

It doesn't help matters that when 5.9.2 was launched on the PTS new Achievements for Gods from the Machine Master Mode were included within. Yes, sure, these could just be remnants of an old closed-PTS Patch that bled through to the public PTS - similar to the Master Mode Trophies which can be found for each Boss in the list of Decorations on Live - but it's still worth highlighting that it's possible that we'll yet see Gods get a final update before 5.0 is done.

EDIT: It is worth noting that with the latest PTS build these Achievements have vanished, confirming only that they were there in error.

Regardless of what the rest of 5.0 brings, it's certainly been an interesting expansion. I'm especially curious to see how certain things develop from one expansion to the next, notably Galactic Command and all gear being the same across PvE and PvP. We of course don't know how many things will be identical and how many things will be radically different, but one thing's for sure; 5.0 has surely taught everyone some interesting lessons over the past 603 days.

Here's to the next 246 or 323 or however many days this particular expansion will last.


Returning to Tamriel (or Skyrim: Five Years Later)

As mentioned before, 5.0 will become the longest-running expansion of SWtOR's history on the 24th of July. Thus, it's little surprise that a lot of people in my Guild, both veteran and relative newcomer, are starting to feel a little... burned out. Indeed, a fair few people have begun talking of finding other games to play together - not to replace SWtOR, but just to do alongside to help alleviate the boredom.

It isn't just people within my Guild who I've been around while other games are being talked about. On the final day of my first year at my new University while myself and several others were eating in the canteen before a Biology exam, talk turned to games; one chap was very much looking forward to getting home that evening as Jurassic World Evolution was to be released this very same day.

Of the four or so games that were discussed was the fifth and probably most well-known game from the Elder Scrolls series. Skyrim has crossed a lot of people's radars for some reason or another, myself included, to the extent that they've only just now announced Elder Scrolls VI seven years after Skyrim's release!

Anyway. It was about a week after this discussion that I decided that I should give Skyrim another run - it had been approximately five years since I had last touched it, after all.

So, if you'll permit me to indulge myself, this is a recording of my most recent dive into the land of Skyrim.


More Details on PvP Changes for Patch 5.9.2

Last month's surprise Roadmap revealed that July would be all about the PvP, to the extent that even the newest Stronghold is being designed with this in mind.

With the upcoming June release of the PTS looming ever closer (although it's yet unknown when it will be active), Eric has been posting some more details about changes. So far the announced changes are specific updates to different Warzones (and a smaller update on the matter here), to reduce the average time of completion and punish environment-hackers, and improve on matchmaking.

There will probably be more changes being announced over the coming weeks, but until then there's a good amount of stuff for people such as myself to get their teeth into.


On the Road to Somewhere (Summer 2018 Edition)

The last few Roadmaps we've received for SWtOR have been built up over a few weeks - sometimes even a couple of months - before they're released and people can discuss their expectations and other feelings.

The most recent Roadmap, released today, received no such build-up. It was just released without any pre-announcements whatsoever, just 'boom' there it was.

So with this pleasant surprise, what have we learned?


Wiping the Slate Clean (More Nathema Conspiracy Spoilers)

With The Nathema Conspiracy beginning to tie our characters to either the Republic or the Empire for a more substantial alliance than that on Iokath, there are a fair amount of potential scenarios we could be seeing as a direct result of our choices since last April.

As of Iokath, Acina or Malcom could be deceased and the decision made here decides who the leader of either faction is. Vowrawn steps into the breach left by a dead Acina while Malcom's demise leads to the infuriatingly faceless and voiceless Supreme Chancellor Jebevel Madon stepping down and allowing Galena Rans to succeed him.

The Nathema Conspiracy adds to this by setting up the eventual option for the facilitator of either of the changed outcomes to actually join the faction they potentially screwed over back on Iokath. Alternatively, of course, they could just continue on with their previous alliance and thus avoid any awkward outcomes.

This is a fair amount of variety that we could be seeing going forward, and this isn't even going into what else could be factoring into the factions' strength. This is something which BioWare have attempted to address with Nathema by reintroducing or introducing people who are or used to be important politically and killing them off for certain Classes. Given who some of these individuals are and how difficult it would be to align them with both the political status we've been given throughout KotFE and KotET and how they could severely impact a future balance, it's relatively safe to assume that all of these characters have been given a final farewell.

However, that doesn't mean that there still aren't questions and observations that need to be addressed. Be aware that every significant character a Class will face during the Nathema story will be mentioned here, so if you don't want to know who you'll face before you do, I advise you to stop reading here.


2018 Companion Returns: Volume 3 [Nathema Conspiracy Spoilers]

Yesterday, we were treated to a grand total of four Companion reunions. Smugglers and Hunters got to reunite with Akaavi and Mako respectively whilst also being introduced to the other for the first time, Consulars got to meet only their second returned Companion since Qyzen, Felix Iresso, and with the conclusion of the Traitor arc we also get to see Theron Shan 'up close and personal' once again.

Unlike the previous two entries in this series, I don't have any outstanding reunion scenes or - thankfully - any "no skipping" lectures this time around. This one is just purely focusing on the three missions for each of the Companions.


For the List of Buckets

So on Monday my guild did something insane; they listened to one of my ideas. We had sixteen people and had just tried (and failed) to locate an alive version of the Revanite Command Walker following a Temple of Sacrifice run and were after something else to do. I jokingly suggested 10-stack Dreadtooth.

It's in situations like this that I now plan to have one of the Cat's quotes from Red Dwarf on immediate standby: "You're going to go with one of my plans? Are you nuts? What happens if we all get killed? I'll never hear the last of it!"

Red Dwarf has so many quotes which suit a good number of our guild's extravaganzas.

Long-story short, we did eventually kill it on the third attempt, resulting in me completing the Big Game Hunter Achievement at long last; this was the Achievement which has formed the main spine of a sort-of "bucket list" of Achievements or stuff to do before SWtOR ends. With this having been accomplished, it's time to start focusing my attention to other Achievements on this list.

There's just one small problem; this list never actually existed as a proper list. It always just rested on my desire to complete Big Game Hunter and, until last year, I Am Death Incarnate.

With these two big Achievements now out of the way, it's time to actually create a proper official bucket list. Some of the items included are Achievements, while others are more random bits-and-bobs that I've had on my mind for a while without being 'official' Achievements.


2018 Companion Reunions, Volume 2

5.8 brought back two Class Companions, so it's time to continue with the Reunions series I started in January.

Once again, I won't just be covering the newly-returned Companions; there's a new Alliance Alert for Arcann to look over and my Juggernaut recently completed the story up to and including the Iokath story, so there are the Companions she's re-encountered along the way as well.


The Road to Somewhere: Spring 2018 Edition

So the most recent Roadmap has been posted by Keith, pertaining to Game Updates 5.8 and 5.9. As per usual, it's now the time for the blogging community to pick the most recent news apart and see what's interesting, unexpected, or potentially worrisome.

Let's get started!


2018 Companion Reunions, Volume 1

So yesterday, as most of you should be aware by now, we were graced with the first returning Companions of 2018; Risha and Corso for the Smuggler, and Andronikos for the Sith Inquisitor.

Since all of these Companions required the completion of Chapter IX of Eternal Throne, this meant that I decided to spend my limited free time this weekend taking my own Sith Sorcerer, Vahnora, through the remaining Chapters she had yet to do. There's a further tale to this than meets the eye, so I hope you're ready for yet more boring text before we get to the interesting bit about the reunions.


That Small Insight into SWtOR's 2018

Although the official early-2018 Roadmap is not due out for "a few more weeks", yesterday Eric posted a small tidbit about what we'll be expecting to see in 2018, starting with an official list of things which GU 5.7 will be bringing to us on the 23rd of January.

The fourth boss of Gods, the matriarch of mayhem SCYVA will be released probably a month or so earlier than people were anticipating considering that it took about three-and-a-half months to coax the previous boss, NAHUT, out of the shadows. Just one more boss to go after her and then we're looking at Master Mode territory and anything which could come with that.

More interesting, however, is the fact that with this update we'll be seeing more Companions returning with 5.7, with the added twist that all three will be Class-specific. Risha and Corso will be returning as a double-team for the Smuggler while Inquisitors get to reunite with their beloved pirate Andronikos.

Part of me is slightly disappointed that they're only Class-specific as I was hoping that Andronikos would make a good addition to a Smuggler or Hunter crew, but at the same time I won't deny that this is ultimately a better route than trying to find a way to shoehorn in too many characters under one roof, an act which is becoming increasingly harder to do now that the Eternal Empire is no longer the galaxy-uniting threat it used to be.

More than this, though, it also negates an issue which is currently affecting every single returned Companion; that there are just some Classes that they will never suit. Sure, Andronikos works with a Smuggler, Hunter, and maybe an Agent or Warrior, but this is realistically where the line stops for him. Meanwhile Risha would only really suit a Hunter but would more than likely find life with Blizz and eventually Mako a nightmare. Finally, Corso would avoid any Imperials on principle and would probably find the Trooper and Knight too inflexible, especially if Jorgan and Rusk are around for either character.

One thing which I am interested to see is how a potential refusal will work. I imagine that there will be a way for people who dislike any of these characters to refuse them back into their crew, which is simple enough for Andronikos but leaves Corso and Risha in an interesting place since there is some potential flexibility here; you should of course be able to accept or refuse both as a pair, but it might also be possible to only accept one. As somebody who has come to absolutely dislike Corso (despite -or because of - my Smuggler main Cal being in a romance with him), even I don't know what I'd do if presented with the option to kick him out and keep Risha alone.

Still, this bodes well for the future of returning Companions, or at least those which will be designated as Class-specific. Not only will their return be more personally-tailored to their original Class character but it will also allow for the most problematic characters to have as smooth a return as possible. I'm of course referring to Jaesa Willsaam, Khem Val, and to a lesser extent Lord Scourge. In the former two cases, giving them to all characters would result in them 'canonising' their fate in one way or another, which wouldn't be an easy situation for some Players to find themselves in.

However, it is worth noting that even though this means that people who chose to keep Jaesa or Khem as a certain way will hopefully now undoubtedly see their choices reflected in their return, the 'canonising' effect may very well still be in place for an Instant 60/65 Character. Since Khem and Jaesa are both tied to Imperial Classes and particularly an Instant 65 Imperial is treated as having made all the Dark choices 'in-canon' these particular characters will probably be designated whichever of the alternate fates is the darker. While with Jaesa that's fairly easy to work out, it's going to be interesting to see which version of Khem gets designated...

While nowhere near as intricate, the reason why I listed Scourge as being fairly problematic alongside these two is because of his connection to the Emperor and the Knight. He's too ingrained as a bridge between the two to really translate across comfortably to any other Class, especially thanks to his prophecy of seeing the Knight as the Emperor's killer; how would that be explained away? On the other hand, I would be really interested in seeing what the reaction of an Imperial character will be to the former Wrath, and particularly that of his immediate replacement, so I would still be slightly aggrieved to see him only become Class-specific even if ultimately it makes most sense.


I'm very interested in seeing where we go in 2018 beyond this. We've known for some time that there would be a third Flashpoint, the remnants of the Operation, and more returning Companions, and now we're starting to be on the final stretch before we see how everything they've already announced will be playing out.

It's interesting to see that returning Companions have been given a varied treatment across the past twelve months alone; 5.2 brought Elara and Quinn back as very minor characters in a Story update intended only to personalise the faction choice, Raina Temple back in a more involved way as the default Companion in a new Flashpoint, and now we'll be getting Companions back in what are presumably simple conversation-only Alliance Alerts again. 

As long as this time the Alerts are fully voiced, I don't mind them being handled in this way from now on, although I wouldn't mind the odd few cropping up in a more significant capacity in the future.

2018 realistically can't do all that much for 5.0, especially since so much happened during 2017. Hopefully we'll get the first hints about a shiny new Expansion within the next few months so that this entire pattern can begin anew within the year.