12/10/2018

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.

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Master Mode Gods

Immediately one of the things that is confirmed with the launch of Master Mode Gods is that Veteran Mode will be dialled back. While I can see this being frustrating for some Guild-groups currently progressing on certain bosses to essentially have all their hard work undermined (I say knowing full well somebody in my Guild is going to be rather peeved about that) this ultimately makes a lot of sense to me. This way, groups that hadn’t killed past TYTH will be able to make headway at long last and those who had killed everything can get to boast that they didn’t need the nerfs to succeed.

Matt, the guy who popped onto the Stream to discuss this specifically, gave some rather contrasting information regarding the release of this thing. According to him, the main reason Master Gods is a thing is because of Keith. Otherwise, they weren’t planning on Master Mode at all. All of this given information contrasts with three previous tidbits of information:
  • Master Mode Boss fights from Gods were originally announced to be released whenever a new Boss was released. With ESNE and AIVELA we’d have seen Master Mode TYTH and so on and so forth. Matt’s information indicates that the sole reason why Veteran became HardMare with the Sisters onwards is because that’s when they seemingly decided not to release Master Mode in the original schedule. It is highly likely that this entire situation surrounds the changes to Galactic Command for 5.2.
  • Keith was the chap who made the initial announcement of the cancellation of Master Mode, and this announcement made it sound like a very regrettable decision based on feedback regarding Veteran Mode as time went on. From what Matt is saying it sounds like the decision to can Master Mode was made long before Keith was prominent in the players’ eyes.
  • When Master Mode was re-announced BioWare stated that they wouldn’t tone down Veteran Mode. I’m guessing they received enough feedback between then and now to change their viewpoint, but this wouldn’t explain why the first two bosses of Veteran Mode became accidentally easier for a while – especially as this increased ease came about before this announcement. Whatever the reason behind this particular change of tack I for one am very grateful.
We’ll see how Master Mode Gods turns out. I for one have no desire to see it, but as I said previously I’m pleased that the high-end Raiders have something new to focus on when 5.10 launches.

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Masterwork Gear

It’s been almost seven years since SWtOR came out, and only just now are we getting Masterwork crafting in-name. Gotta maintain that MMO street-cred somewhere.

The first time we heard about this gear it sounded like the only way to get it would be to craft it. In actual fact this isn’t the case, but it is apparent that crafting will be the most reliable way to acquire the new gear.

Should you wish to craft this gear earning the Schematics is far easier than I for one envisioned; you just need to purchase them from the Crew Skill vendors and boom you’re done. The materials used to then craft this gear can be earned from Conquest, the new Daily Area, Master Mode Gods, PvP, and Crew Skills themselves. In other words – unless all five of these activities provide something new which is unlikely – it is highly likely that this gear will require the highest tier of material combinations such as Cell Grafts, the PvE Encrypted Memory Cores, the PvP Charged Matter Transubstantiators, and the exclusive Conquest material.

I foresee a lot of Master Mode TYTH farming.

The other way of earning this gear is to, well, earn it.

Another new Currency will be introduced into the game in 5.10 – Masterwork Shards. These can be earned via the new Weekly coming with the Daily Area, granted for completing Conquests, and purchased with Unassembled Components. These can then be turned into the newest Reputation vendor and you’ve got your gear.

The lower tier of gear – the Artifact 252 gear – will have a low chance to drop in CR300 Command Crates and from the new World Boss Weekly mission. The Legendary 258 gear will be restricted solely to the earn-and-craft methods described above.

All in all this new tier of gear follows a similar practice to Galactic Command in principle – that anyone playing any sort of game activity can get the gear – but they’re making it much more of an effort to acquire a full set. I wholeheartedly approve of this. Keeping the purchasable gear to a Reputation vendor is particularly brilliant as it means that nobody can get a full set of 258 in the first week; a minimum of six weeks is required before anyone is likely to be able to purchase the most-expensive items.

There’s an additional layer to all this. Should you desire to purchase all your Masterwork Shards with Unassembled Components you can only do this a set amount of times each day, and you’d be met with a stacking increase of cost each subsequent purchase. It’s presently unclear how this stacking cost works; I’m guessing they’ll have worked in a Legacy system to prevent people from using multiple characters in an attempt to bypass the increased costs, but it is not yet specified if this stacking cost resets each day or each week or even if it resets at all.

Regardless, this bypasses my biggest concern with this new tier; that anyone prolific with Raiding could outgear anyone who exclusively did PvP without an opportunity for any of these PvP-only players to catch up. While it is true they have the initial advantage as they can get easier access to this exclusive Gods material this system means that PvPers can still at least get this gear through PvP.

However, this does all come with a rather… interesting… issue. All crafted 258 gear will be Bind on Equip. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the highest endgame-quality gear be sellable on the GTN, but this will be the first instance of a full set of Set Bonus gear be purchasable outright with Credits. While again this will take a fair amount of time for people to be able to craft a single piece, anyone who is capped at the Credit Limit on even one character will have a lot of fun simply buying their gear outright from an aspiring seller. The in-game market is going to be in a very interesting place following this update…

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Guild Updates

Disappointingly, we won’t be seeing all the changes announced in the Roadmap in this update. Heraldry has been delayed until a later Patch. Happily, everything else will be coming in and with some very exciting aspects!

Guilds will now gain levels and can assign themselves temporary Perks via the Guild Ship. These perks will allow for greater Experience gain or more specialism in Conquest, for example, but I imagine there will also be things like Valour boosts. Essentially, things which enable the Guilds to cater to their core audience but which won’t necessarily be game-breaking advantages.

There will also be a new type of Guild Currency which is earned via Conquest. These will enable the Guild to purchase these new temporary Perks but I hope they find more they can do with them in the future.

Guild Logging will enable Guilds to more accurately track how each member does stuff and could well include a way of recording Conquest scores after the week resets. Really looking forward to this!

The thing I’m most excited for is the PvP Challenge system. This will enable groups of at least two people and guilds to challenge each other to a private PvP match in a map of their choosing, and this even includes GSF. This sounds awesome! I really hope that this system works within the Guild as well as between different Guilds, as the idea of having a Guild Voidstar or Odessen match just… oooh, I need that. I need that. Since the minimum group required for this is two people, an entire match can consist of just four players. That’s a whole new dynamic right there for maps like Civil War and Novare Coast.

This challenge system is mainly for the crudely-named “e-peen” aspect of PvP. There are no rewards to be gained from this as it is an entirely separate queue system. It’s just an opportunity to provide Guilds with the opportunity to hone their skills in a PvP environment and to weigh their measure against that of a rival Guild.

In fact, if this can be entirely within a Guild this would also provide people with the opportunity to practise playing a new or unfamiliar character in a live environment without any risk of repercussions. That sounds like it could be really useful as PvP in general can be a great educator for most types of play but often doesn’t allow for newcomers to experiment easily.

Rishi’s Huttball is looking fairly pitiful in comparison to this.

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Story

We’ve reached the point of Spoiler territory, so if you don’t want to read more about the upcoming events stop reading now.

Spoilerphobes gone?

Okay, let’s get cracking!

I was fairly certain going in that I would cite this to be the aspect of the Stream I was the most enamoured by and, while it’s true that certain aspects of the other parts of this update have stood out to me more than I was anticipating, this has held true.


First things first, how good is this new Loading Screen? The last time we received a Loading Screen mid-Patch cycle it was 2.9 with Galactic Strongholds. Most importantly, this also means we’ll no longer be greeted with Vaylin’s posterior every time the game loads something. Huzzah!

Secondly, as the hints in the Roadmap were getting at, this storyline will indeed be set on the planet Ossus. Keeping in form with the work done on Copero and Nathema, this world looks absolutely gorgeous. If anyone is familiar with Neverwinter Online it's aesthetically somewhat similar to the Well of Dragons. Regrettably I was unable to secure any screenshots from the broadcast, but I will attempt to do so later today.

Third, BioWare are giving people the option to auto-complete all story up to this point. This includes both Knights expansions, all Alliance Alerts, and the entirety of the post-Iokath storyline. While it’s nice that they’re doing this I’m a touch concerned that this might be as broken as skipping Fallen Empire is presently.

The final thing I’ll touch on in this brief summary here is that this planet has a bit of everything. Some of this stuff is far more than I thought would ever be included in a non-Expansion planet and it’s great to see things like Seeker Droid dig sites and even Datacrons returning!

Time for the specifics.

For the first time since Traitor Among the Chiss, returning Companions will be included in this story update for multiple Classes to interact with. However, these specific characters are faction-locked and two (and-a-half) of them won’t appear for Classes beyond their own.

We knew from the Roadmap that Doc, Nadia, and Dark Jaesa would be returning. BioWare have surpassed their own expectations by including Khem Val and Light Jaesa as part of this update as well. Dark Jaesa will be an Alliance Alert away from Ossus but the other four will all be on Ossus. However, Khem Val will only appear if the Inquisitor sided with him at the climax of his Companion storyline.

All Republic players will be given the opportunity to meet with and talk to Doc and Nadia but only the Knight and Consular respectively can get them back as Companions. They’re both there because Doc is the hidden Enclave’s doctor (finally a Healer Companion putting his medicinal training to use in post-4.0-story!) and Nadia is just another inhabitant of the Enclave.

What’s really special about these returning Companions is that for the first time they’re allowing players to initiate a romance with a Class Companion post-vanilla. This also includes the option to romance Light Jaesa for the first time and – most importantly – both Jaesas and Nadia will be now same-gender-romance options. Fantastic news for a lot of people!

When it comes to Ossus and its story, my biggest concern is that they’ll do an “the Alliance decides the victor” story outcome. With both factions on the planet I would absolutely love it if this story finished with both factions’ stories being compatible regardless of what side the Commander was on. We’ve seen far too much flexibility of-late, so it would be nice to have it toned down substantially.

This stream did little to assuage my concerns but as it was spoiler-free they obviously couldn’t have outright said what state either faction would be in after all of it is done.

One of the first things we learned about the Ossus story was that it would be acknowledged if we fought alongside the opposite faction to our originating faction. This acknowledgement comes in the form of being given the opportunity to sabotage our faction’s efforts on Ossus; since there is the option to skip straight to Ossus this can’t be an option dependent on our choice on Iokath so everybody is given this opportunity.

Happily, this also reunites players with everyone’s only favourite SIS Agent, Jonas Balkar, and the cold, calculating, and dismissive NR-O2 from Black Talon. While I’m slightly disappointed there isn’t anyone more familiar from the Intelligence side of the Empire I honestly can’t think of anyone better for this job who is confirmed to still be alive. The former Minister of Intelligence and the only other prominent Imperial I can name, Moff Pyron, are both too important for such a task so it makes sense to order a droid to correspond with the Alliance.

I hope that it isn’t only saboteurs who get to interact with these two characters, but I have a sneaking suspicion this will sadly be the case.

And now, the bit long-term veterans of this blog will have been expecting. It’s time to turn my attention to the character who will at long last be making his grand appearance in-game after over seven years since his introduction in the build-up to the game's release.

ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN
Gnost-Dural.

Oh BioWare. I love you. I really, really love you.

I honestly don’t know how to effectively phrase my enthusiasm that we’re finally going to be seeing the biggest contributor to the in-universe lore in the ‘flesh’. The amount of things he can theoretically impart upon our characters, particularly the Consular… ooooooooh I’m so excited!!!

I am, of course, slightly aggrieved that he isn’t at all likely to be a Companion with this update, but it has been hinted that he might be made one if enough people want it. Please note that if this happens I may no longer be functioning due to happiness overload. 

So, having talked about what story we know about, it’s time - -

Wait, there are other characters you expect me to talk about? But… but Gnost-Dural!


Alright, here we go.

Amusingly enough the most prominent Republic character is also the one who I have the least to say about. The Jedi with the funky cranium tattoo is Tau Idair, security chief within the Enclave. Presumably she’s the de facto ‘main character’ for the Republic on Ossus, but she’s not likely to be the earliest character people will meet. From what we see of her she seems like a decent character. Certainly, her armour looks great – if a little bit garish with its bright blue breastplate.

Tau certainly gets a lot more love in the fashion department than her Imperial equivalent, who just looks like she browses the Cartel Market and purchases the latest available sets. For some reason, she also runs around with the ugly Defiant Technographer’s lightsaber. Eww. This Cartel enthusiast is Darth Malora of the Dark Council. Remember that one mission on Korriban where you had to retrieve a Tukata brain for that mad fool Lord Renning? Well, Malora’s his apprentice who tries to persuade you to sabotage his research.

Insubordination is still the most reliable way of securing power within the Sith Empire, it seems.

I’m ecstatic to finally receive some exposition on the new Dark Council and of course it’s great that Malora represents a Sphere we’ve never interacted with before: Biotic Sciences. She seems to wear her work on her skin, which raises the question of exactly what it is she does…

The final Republic character on the loading screen is General Daeruun, and he serves as a counter to a point I made about one-and-a-half years ago. When the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife returned it brought with it two new species; the Daechyura and the Krex. In my article covering the changes I highlighted both characters we had access to but expressed my opinion that neither looked ‘robust’ enough as models to actually talk in-game. Daeruun is confirmed to have a speaking role, so clearly the Krex model is more robust than I first gave it credit for.

General Daeruun should be the first individual Republic players get to meet as he’s the one who will recruit us to aid the Enclave in the first place. Alongside Darth Malora he’s one character I don’t think will work well as a prospective Companion given his prominent position within his faction, but then we do run around with Mandalore...

The fifth and final character is also the most ‘bog standard’ of the lot. Major Anri of Imperial Special Forces is the closest we’re getting to a simple soldier within the Imperial Army since Pierce and her presence serves as a ‘show don’t tell’ fact about the Sith Empire as it is now. We saw the Empire begin to accept aliens into its ranks following Darth Malgus’s failed New Empire, but the highest ranking such character we met was the Cathar captain Hanthor on Makeb.

Anri, being a Twi’lek, is immediately the highest-ranking non-player alien we’ve yet seen within the Empire across any storyline. I do have to say that I am mildly annoyed that she is a Twi’lek; it would have been nice to see her being a species not really used for a story NPC in the 4.0-era. This is an argument which also stands for humans Tau and Malora, of course, but I feel it’s most relevant to bring it up here. Granted, the list of species the Alliance hasn’t got to interact with at some point is rather limited (even more so now that Kel Dor and Krex are taken) so I acknowledge this isn’t as big a point as I’m making it out to be.

It would be great to get a prominent Miraluka at some point.

All in all, these characters all sound like they’re going to be very interesting and I look forward to meeting all of them. Even if it means Gnost-Dural ends up suffocating due to a sudden and unpreventable incursion on his personal space in the form of a tight hug.

Since we know that not all of these characters will become Companions even temporarily in this update, I bet anything that Daeruun, Gnost-Dural, and Malora will all be too busy barking orders or doing research to actively join us. Tau's prominence on the Loading Screen makes it fairly clear that she's the powerful Jedi veteran mentioned in the roadmap and of course Anri is the only Imperial Commando of the five identifiable characters. I might end up being surprised but I doubt it.

In fact, being the only Sith and a prominent one at that, Malora could end up being the final boss for Republic players. There does need to be a boss fight at the end of it, after all, and it would be a nice way of getting some introduction to a prominent character even on the opposite faction, similar to the final bosses of Korriban Incursion and Assault on Tython. For exactly the same reason, one of the two Jedi would ideally need to be the final boss for the Empire. Either would suffice; Gnost-Dural is the infinitely better-established and he would harbour a lot of research in his archives, while defeating Tau, head of security, would allow access to most of the systems within the Enclave.

Given that she has the biggest artwork on the Loading Screen, I'm guessing that Tau starts as the Companion for Republic players before something happens and she gets incapacitated by an Imperial force spearheaded by Malora, Anri, and "an unidentified Imperial", requiring Republic players to rescue her and subsequently defeat the gloating Sith. I don't believe for a second that a Dark Council member could honestly end up being defeated first in such a story as this. The Empire are the aggressors in all this after all.

We'll find out in December how all this fits together. Regardless of who the chronological final boss is I honestly hope they don't die; I'd much prefer them to just end up a hostage for the future story to deal with. We don't need another Darth Arho!

So, having talked about what story we know about, it’s time to talk about the other main aspect of Ossus; the Daily Area.

Thankfully this is essentially a combination of Makeb and planets like Yavin IV. As mentioned, Ossus has Datacrons and not one but two World Bosses, but thankfully its Dailies are structured much like Yavin as opposed to Makeb and Iokath. There will be approximately ten Daily missions and all of them will be acquirable at any one time. Iokath and Makeb are nuisances since the allocation of Dailies can range from decent to unforgiving. No cycling also means that it will be easy to define an ideal route for Ossus.

There will also be new Reputation faction. Since this storyline does not depend on choices you make it is apparent that unlike Iokath we will only be getting one faction which both factions simply get mirror aspects of. As mentioned this Reputation faction is where you can trade in the Masterwork shards for the new 258 gear, so I can see this zone being very busy.

I'm very much looking forward to everything which Ossus has to offer. 

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The best way I can describe Jedi Under Siege is as a miniature expansion. We’re getting the biggest planet in years with some long-gone and formerly-familiar mechanics resurfacing, a new challenge for Operations group, new gear, new Crafting, new PvP experiences, and some nice Guild changes. From what we’ve been told about so far it seems like it will be the best update not just in the 5.0 Patch Cycle but for quite a few years now!

To give you some indication of how significant Ossus is as a non-expansion planet its closest equivalent for sheer amount of stuff going on is Makeb which will have been released almost five-and-three-quarters years ago by the time 5.10 launches in December. Admittedly the main thing making Makeb the biggest parallel is the fact that both factions have a unique story; Rishi is otherwise the closest planet to Ossus and even then that was back in 2014!

I’m really looking forward to this update. If this small update is in any way indicative of what we could be getting for 6.0 we’re in for one heck of a ride next year.

I cannot wait!

4 comments:

  1. What if... Gnost-Dural ends up being the final boss for Imperials and they kill him? :P

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    1. It all depends on how they do the storylines.

      I can see Gnost-Dural or Tau being thought of as dead by the Imperials and they leave the 'corpse' behind for the Republic to discover. The Republic discover the victim as alive, rescue and patch them up (they do have Doc with them, after all) and defeat Malora before leaving.

      The issue with this take is that ultimately the Republic is the bigger victor. They escape the Empire with no major casualties. The Empire has failed to destroy the Jedi conclusively and they lose their own leader in doing so.

      The Empire needs to win. They need to succeed on Ossus no matter what, and this also includes negating any help the Alliance Commander can provide.

      This is why I fear the stories will be different. The Alliance Commander is so much of an individual that lacking them will do the Republic a major disservice. No matter who the final boss is, the 'main' Republic character will be on their ownsome and be unable to save the victim. Indeed, the Imperial Commander could even decide Gnost-Dural or Tau's fate to be death or capture.

      It's that last sentence. The choice. The final boss of either faction could survive or be killed, but with this outcome they will need to become a nothing character for the faction they came from. This is the only way I can see Malora becoming a Companion down the line for Imperials; she is stripped from grace so is but a standard Sith Lord for them rather than this high-and-mighty Dark Councillor.

      Similarly for the Jedi and particularly Gnost-Dural. Making him a nothing character makes it far easier to bring him back in a minor and non-crucial role.

      TL;DR: I don't believe anyone will die 'outright', but I can see there being options for them to play with the originating faction of the Commander as the deciding factor of the story outcomes.

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    2. That's a lot of words to say "I don't even want to think about that happening". ;)

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    3. Don't say you're surprised by this. ;)

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