Well, it’s been a couple of days since Star Wars: The Old Republic unleashed its latest big expansion-Galactic Strongholds, the latest thing in player housing. So, time for my own impressions.
Purchasing the Strongholds are pretty easy-as long as you’re at the Fleet of your respective faction. The area to go to is the Crew Skills area, which has been reshuffled a little to now include the various Stronghold related vendors. One of the first things you’ll see there is a new hologram with an appropriately attired salesman pitching the strongholds. The Imperial one is a really nice touch-he goes all into how powerful you are and how a powerful individual like yourself deserves a holding at least as mighty (or words to that effect). Clearly, the guy knows his Sith. Interacting with the hologram also has the benefit of giving you a mission to purchase and visit a stronghold.
Prices vary; the base unlock for a capital world stronghold is 5,000 credits. That’s a good deal, right? It opens a main room and a couple other rooms. More rooms can unlock for more credits…in some of those cases, a LOT more credits. Going back to the base unlocks, though: while the capital world unlocks are reasonable, there are unlocks for a stronghold at Nar Shadda and Tatooine-and their base unlocks are far, far pricier. These are seemingly meant to be luxury items. Fortunately, because of subscriber benefits over the last several months, a significant number of people have access to Nar Shadda with some free rooms-some with three extra, some with five, depending on if you were subscribed during certain points in time.
It will not be shocking that you wind up with a pretty bare stronghold. The good news is, you start getting reward items for completing that mission I mentioned, which includes some basic decorations. One of them should be a mailbox item: I HIGHLY recommend that be the very first thing you place down, because you can expect mail to start showing up with some more interesting decorations, and you may want to use them right away.
With all that space to work with, you’ll probably start wanting to slap things in there right away. You have some basic decorations available from the mission you finished, and you may have other things to place by virtue of having played the game. Maybe you got some vehicles from the Cartel Market; maybe you beat some Flashpoint bosses. Maybe you maxed out one of the in-game Reputations. You probably have some pets. You certainly have at least one companion. These are examples of things you can place around. The pic above shows an example-you can’t see the mailbox well, but you should see a few of the vehicles my characters have come up with.
Which brings up another aspect. These strongholds are not individualized. These are shared with your other characters. This means your other characters may ALSO have pets or vehicles or done things or the like that they can place into the stronghold. Not bad, eh?
There’s downsides, of course. There always are. So let’s look at a few. First, there’s the nature of the decoration scheme itself. The walls, floors, and ceilings are littered with “hooks” where you can place items-basically various squares and rectangles. And of course, you have large, medium, small, oblong, what have you. But…they can be swapped off. If you see a large area, you can change the layout to multiple medium or even more small areas. After all, why use a large square when you can use the same area to hold several items? It’s not quite as freeform as that of another game I can mention, but it’s a damned sight more impressive than others. There is still some ability to mess around, though; within that square, you can control where exactly in that square the item is placed, and you can control its rotation on the Z-axis (which is to say, turn it left or right).
Another downside is how they deal with companions. My impression in all the pre-expansion hype was that you could use your companions almost as “armor racks” to show off gear. At the very least, you could have situations where you’ve got Vette and Risha catching up on old times, for example, by simply placing them in a room. But…the reality has flaws. If the companion isn’t one of your current character’s, or is currently in use by your current character, they show up as a hologram. I could understand that if it was just for your current companion, because hey-your companion is presently with you! But this is a step beyond that. (And of course, the holograms don’t have the gear or even the character customization attached.) Additionally, there is a limit in how many companions and pets (which tend to be animated in their setting) you can place. There are server performance issues involved, but the devs have said they may raise the limits depending on how actual performance in the live environment goes. That said, I don’t expect to get anywhere close to that limit. And I suspect the companion issue involves the design of the system: either they’re holograms because the original companions only load with the character you’re playing, or because the companions’ equipment would be more load on the server.
Another downside is cost. It’s expensive to unlock rooms, but what is probably not understood fully until now is that it’ll cost quite a bit to outfit the stronghold. A lot of items will rely on crafting certain fabrication kits-and even the lowest level of them require some rare items, from collection skills that don’t necessarily go with your chosen craft skill. This may be easier for folks with a lot of alts, but if you don’t, the only hope is through the auction house-and right now, things are damned expensive. Supply and demand in action-eventually, there will be a glut, and perhaps prices will drop on the more common items. On the other hand, if you’re looking for stuff out of the cartel packs-you knew that stuff had to be in the gamble packs, didn’t you?-or if you want to put a starship on your balcony, expect to pay out credits that make unlocking rooms look like candy. And since we’re in early days, some of the things in the gamble packs will probably not be showing up in large numbers until we’re much further along. Of course, you could always purchase a gamble pack, but by definition, it’ll be a gamble.
All in all, though, it looks like the strongholds are a success in doing what they set out to be. It gives people something to spend credits on-I mean, not everyone is as relatively broke as I am!-and they look impressive. At some point, I hope to take a peek at some other strongholds that other people have put together; if you manage to have enough stuff in it, you can make it public for other people to ooo and aah at. And I’m always happy to see what people can pull off, even given limitations of a system. Maybe sometime I’ll even visit yours.