BioWare's Revised Flashpoint Philosophy

Shrine of Silence, coming with 7.3, brings with it a shift in how BW have been delivering flashpoint content in recent years. Ever since the Shadow of Revan prelude, Forged Alliances, every flashpoint released has been a part of the "critical path" of the story. That means that in order to continue or outright conclude a given story, a flashpoint must be done to advance it.

This in turn resulted in flashpoints having much more of a scripted element than they did before. Sure, there was the odd cutscene here and there in the original bunch, and a few thereafter, but the bigger cutscenes were almost always at the end. Starting with 5.0's Crisis on Umbara, solo-story flashpoints had various decent-length cutscenes present at various points throughout the entire thing to convey plot updates.

Well, with 7.3's newest flashpoint, that philosophy is reverting back to how a lot of flashpoints used to be; Shrine of Silence has its own story, completely independent of anything else going on in the Interpreter's Retreat, and it does not need to be completed in order to conclude the rest of the story which is coming with the patch. This seems to be BW's goal going forward for the immediate future, and I am curious to see where it leads.

The biggest question I have to ask is; is this going to be their new philosophy for all flashpoints going forward, or just a select few? 

I certainly wouldn't mind more flashpoints dealing with 'extra' threats, as it makes the story on whichever planet we're visiting larger than just what we're asked to deal with in the moment. A flashpoint being more of an "oh, by the way, while you're here..." thing also feels much more 'old-school' than the more recent method of using them as a story vessel, which in my view is welcome.

But at the same time, I also wouldn't like to see flashpoints be removed from the crit-path entirely. Much in the same way as they can expand a story with 'extra' stuff, they can also be used quite effectively to show off the power of a story-critical character in a way that can be seen again after the solo-experience in an expanded and more dangerous format. The alternative, of course, is the development of more chapter-like environments as seen in 6.2's Echoes of Oblivion, and... yeah, I'll take more flashpoints over those!

That said, with certain characters already being recurring antagonists and some being set up as new recurring antagonists, continuing to add flashpoints as a crucial part of a given storyline will inevitably lead to certain bosses being defeated in group content time and time again. I mean, Republic characters already face a certain Sith Lord as the final boss of three flashpoints!

I guess ultimately my main curiosity about what this means for the immediate future of SWTOR's story is what format Malgus's inevitable break-out will be delivered in. I have always been hopeful that we would see that in flashpoint form (just... maybe with one of the rescuer's inner circle as a boss rather than Malgus again...), and this news doesn't entirely derail my hopes that we will see it as such. I still feel that a flashpoint set on either fleet would be really interesting and fun after almost twelve years of just knowing them as passive hubs, and I really wouldn't like this potential to be squandered by them instead resorting to a solo-only phase.

Unless that was always to be the plan, of course, but then that's a wasted opportunity if ever there was one!

Moving away from a solo-story instance of course brings in extra problems; for players who aren't interested in group content and have neither the skill nor the gear to complete a 'proper' story-mode instance, this will most definitely not be an ideal move even with healing pods and the return of the Jesus Droid in Shrine. It's of course not my place to comment on whether I believe Shrine is particularly complicated, given my exposure to harder content, so I'll say nothing more and move on.

I have to say that all this reminds me of what they've recently been doing for the operations. Issues with flashpoints being a part of the critical story were eventually addressed by the introduction of solo-mode flashpoints, but other than the Temple of Sacrifice instance there is no such workaround available for operations. This was particularly problematic for Dread Fortress and Dread Palace, which were needed to complete the Oricon story in-full.

So, arguably starting with Ravagers and coming back in force with Nature of Progress and R-4 Anomaly, BW just decided to make the operations an 'extra' thing to do on their planets as well rather than an actual conclusion for their storylines. Gods from the Machine kinda went backwards a bit on this point; while it is not required to go in and kill the six gods to conclude the Iokath storyline, completing the operation is the only way to gain full closure for what happens, especially given that just finding TYTH alone was a big deal for all three factions in play.

So we're now potentially entering a time when BW are treating both of their main PvE group-content instances as somewhat separate entities from the ongoing storyline. It's going to be rather difficult to adjust to if it does become a major thing rather than every once in a while, but I can't deny that I am curious to see the results!


My major concern with their new philosophy, regardless of how many flashpoints it is due to apply to, is that they don't end up making these 'extra' flashpoints like the uprisings in terms of how really forgettable they were. Granted, the uprisings themselves don't really make an awful lot of sense, as they were just a bunch of instances created for the sake of giving players some group content in the vein of star fortresses before they got back to focusing on flashpoints with 5.4, so their stories weren't that well-established on the whole.

I suppose that is one major advantage of appending them to something already going on and just expanding it slightly. It doesn't need to make sense in the grand scheme of things; it just has to make sense within the instance itself, and that arguably is why the uprisings feel like they failed. They tried to make sense in the wider picture, but in so doing didn't make an awful lot of sense within the instances themselves, and we also don't really know if they were meant to tie into the Order of Zildrog or not!

I am definitely curious to see what BW does for its future flashpoints. I hope that we will continue to see them be a part of the crit-path, but I can also appreciate that this will be something of a breath of fresh air.

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