Reckoning on Tzenkethi

The next Season publish for Star Trek Online is coming in just a couple of weeks (less than that, technically), and it seems that there’s a fair amount coming along with it.  Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

The Season-entitled “Reckoning”-features the coming of a species referred to but never seen in Trek before:  the Tzenkethi.  They were mentioned as a major factor in the previous episode, and now they’ll take center stage with new ships to fight (and, undoubtedly, new lockbox bait) and new aliens to actually confront on the ground.  Their look is interesting, to say the least.

We're coming for you!  Leave US out of your alliance, will you?

We’re coming for you! Leave US out of your alliance, will you?

Of course, out in forum land, there are a faction of folks who insist that they should’ve looked like they were described in the Trek novels, which have had the Tzenkethi as a part of an opposing alliance called the Tython Pact.  What some of these people are forgetting is that the novels aren’t canon-despite the fact that STO has taken choice bits from it (such as the existence of Mackenzie Calhoun and the Vesta class starship).  The developers chose to go with an appearance that seems to have been put forward by the creator of the episode where they were mentioned in Star Trek.  One possibility the devs apparently tossed around was making them a “femme fatale” species.  I’m sort of glad they didn’t; we already had something that loosely had that appearance (in the form of Iconians), and for that matter, the Orions pretty much fill that space.  (Yes, I know there are male Orions; let’s see how the gender breakdown between male and female goes with KDF Orion captains….)

The ships are pretty…hefty?  One person out there said it was like it took Trek design and had a baby with an EVE Online battlecruiser.  They’re not wrong, at least on a couple of the ships.  I’m hearing that the ships will be “difficult to fight at first”, but will get easier when you learn how to deal with them.  Let’s hope that it doesn’t involve insane amounts of health, like the Vaadwaur.  I’m for interesting, but not “let’s see how much damage we can soak with THIS species!”

Separated at birth?

Separated at birth?

It should be obvious that all this work on a species means we’re seeing some content featuring them.  Reckoning will feature a new Episode in the current arc-and it’s a safe bet that remainder of the arc will involve the Tzenkethi as well.  We’re getting a new Reputation-well, no big shock there.  The method of improving the rep is coming in a new Battlezone, which is always fun to play around in-well, at least as long as other players are around.  (I’ve noticed that Battlezones get rougher when everyone has moved on to the new shiny.)

It’s also worth a mention that it’ll be the seven year anniversary for Star Trek Online in just under a month.  I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing another episode rolling around for it, but traditionally, one can expect Q to show up and have interesting prizes and activities rolling around, so stay tuned for my thoughts on that as information begins to come our way.

AoY: Future’s End

Come With Me If You Want To Live.

Come With Me If You Want To Live.

Personal Log, Stardate 94632.1

The job’s done.  The Temporal Cold War-as far as I can see-is over.  The reason I was brought to the 25th century has finally come to pass.

It wasn’t without bumps.  The Orca was lost over New Khitomer in the 29th century-but it seems that this is one of those “destined” things:  Captain Walker knew that the Orca was going to be gone at some point, although the circumstances were different than he remembered, thanks to the Temporal Liberation Front.  My crew-all of whom survived the loss of Orca, thanks to the reactivated systems at New Khitomer-were billeted for a week before the delivery of a Chronos-class “dreadnought cruiser”-and it’s like no Starfleet ship I’ve ever seen.  Not as tough as the Orca, but it’s faster, more maneuverable, and is loaded with exotic systems that I’m still working out how they work.  Good thing the interfaces are similar to those in 2410.

It was all just in time.  We finally confronted the Envoy, his Na’kuhl allies, the Vorgons, the Krenim, the-well, damn, there were a lot of them.  And we still had to go to the future one more time to fight in a battle that the history books will never speak of.

I’m not sorry about that.  It was the most insane battle I’ve ever been a part of.  Ships that were destroyed before my eyes return as reinforcements.  I’m certain that we all died several times in the fight, only to inexplicably be back in the thick of it-timelines crossing and weaving, and I can’t imagine we found our way through it.  But we did.  And now it’s finally over.

The new ship-the U.S.S. Connor-remains in our possession.  While it has all sorts of temporal paradoxes attached, it seems that the Starfleet Corps of Engineers’ best can’t figure them out.  Best guess?  My crew and I got the speed learning on ship operation like I had when I jumped from the 23rd to the 25th century.  That makes my people the only ones who can operate the Connor.  I guess that’s their way of ensuring that the timeline isn’t disrupted.  It disappointed Admiral Quinn, but Agent Crey reminded him that it’s too dangerous to know too much about the future.

I could’ve told him that.  But again, my true identity remains secret.  My origins in the 23rd remain known only to my crew, and to temporal agents like me.

At least now, I think, I won’t have to worry about crazy time things anymore.

End Log.

A job well done.

A job well done.

And that’s a wrap!

With this post, I’ve officially completed the story arcs in Star Trek Online with my Agent of Yesterday character, Rick Masters.  It was a hell of a ride and took longer than expected (because of both the new expansion from Star Wars: The Old Republic and the slog of the Delta Rising missions), but I finally got Rick to his end point.

The Future Proof arc, contrary to my expectations, did not have any specific references to my character’s nature as a 23rd century native.  I was a bit irritated by that, but hardly a surprise at this point.  Devs fell down on the job on that one, I feel.  Aside from that, it was fun to tie up the last of the loose ends from the Yesterday’s War story arc, not to mention the big story arc of the Agents of Yesterday character.

I was reminded how much I hate the time traveling starship opponents; between having my direction and position mucked around with, in combination with engine killing anomaly attacks, and I found myself blowing up far too often in the last mission.  Then again, I was hardly alone there.  I’d swear that the NPC ships that had been having warp core breaches came back later-and would give me the same desperate message about their warp core going on them.  This is why you don’t muck around with time travel (aka “TIME IS NOT A TOY!”).

As the post notes above, I finally pulled the switch on starships; being a closet RP guy at heart, I held off on using a temporal ship (saving stipend comes in handy!) until an appropriate moment-and that moment almost had to be this arc, when temporal stuff was all over the place.  The “Temporal Dreadnought Cruiser” was the choice for an Engineering captain who was making use of Engineering boffs; it’s a lot more fragile than the Galaxy retrofit I was using, but it adds a hangar with appropriately temporal fighters, and is a lot more maneuverable, which is a joy after flying the “turns like a pregnant yak” ability of the Galaxy.  As far as the name goes…well, I wanted to go with a time travel theme, but the obvious ones were taken.  It shouldn’t be hard to figure out the derivation of the U.S.S. Connor.  (For the icing on the cake, I should really break out that veteran android officer….)

I expect that this will be the last post for a while for Captain Masters, as we’ve barely had a new episodic arc begin in STO, and I’d prefer to do his posts as he completes arcs, not missions.  I may or may not decide in the near future to do something like this for a different faction:  Klingons, probably, although Romulans are a possibility.  For now, though, Rick Masters can rest assured that he is finally done with temporal shenanigans, and can get on the business of just being an explorer again!

Aw, dammit....

Aw, dammit….

AoY: Apocalypse

aoy-046

It’s a pity that so many of these brave sentients are about to die….

Personal Log, Stardate 94614.09

It’s over.  At last.

It took a couple of minor miracles, as well as temporal shenanigans that I wish I could ask Agent Daniels about-where the HELL has he been?-but the war against the Iconians is over.

The cost?  Most of Starfleet, the KDF, and the Romulan Republic’s fleet.  Do they have an official designation yet?  I’ve never asked.  Lives on so many worlds-including the only known living Preservers we’d found during that mess with the Breen.  The Klingon Emperor is dead.  Empress Sela-hell, she’s probably escaped custody again, just like she’s done more times than I can remember now.  Not to mention, apparently, an entire species thanks to meddling with temporal weaponry.

What the hell was I thinking?  I’m a damned temporal agent!  I knew-I KNEW!-the dangers of messing with the timeline.  I’m a result of people messing with the timeline.  They plucked me out of my proper time and place-admittedly out of certain death-and put me here in a future I couldn’t have imagined on my best day.  Arguably, it worked out-I’ve done so much since coming to this century.  But trying to use a temporal weapon against the Iconians was wrong both ethically and tactically.  And in the end, it came down to a predestination paradox which both effectively started the war and ended it.

The war is over.  And for the first time in my time in this century, it doesn’t look like major hostilities between the galactic powers are about to break out again.  In other words, we may have finally arrived at an area of peace.  The Dominion’s behaving; the Klingons are staying quiet-probably because most of their fleet is in rebuilding, like the rest of us-the Tal Shiar faction of the Romulans has had their teeth removed with the Iconians; the Undine are staying put in fluidic space and the Borg threat has dropped dramatically.  There’s talk about finally returning to what Starfleet was originally all about:  exploring space.

The Orca is undergoing significant repairs from its time at war, and my hope is that we’ll be one of the ones heading out to deep space, whether it’s beyond our current borders, in the Delta Quadrant, or even the Gamma Quadrant if we can keep the Dominion from throwing a fit if we go on the other side of the Bajoran Wormhole.  I’ll take anything that doesn’t involve massive fleet battles.

I think a whole bunch of Starfleet captains would agree with me there.

End Log.

This is the kind of thing the Temporal Prime Directive is supposed to prevent.

This is the kind of thing the Temporal Prime Directive is supposed to prevent.

The New Year’s here, and what better way to begin than to complete the Iconian War arc in Star Trek Online with my Agent of Yesterday?

Sadly, with all the temporal craziness going on, you would think that there would be some references by the local temporal agent Phillip Crey about the ramifications, particularly since the player character in this case is a 23rd century refugee.  Nope.  The usual silence concerning the character’s origins continues, with only one reference to it made in the entire storyline thus far post-23rd century.  And that was with a mission that was released at the same time as the expansion.  Seriously, would it have killed the devs to add a branch of dialogue for this?  They had no problem with retrofitting missions with dialogue acknowledging Romulans, and there’s clearly a flag that recognizes the origins of the character since the aforementioned one mission did so.  It’s not even adding dialogue for every mission-just ones that made sense for it to do so.

Okay, that was a minor rant.  I’m better now.

Going over the missions again in this arc, I’m a little more forgiving about the whole “Sela’s captured!  Sela’s free!” thing.  When the missions first came out, I complained that there was no reference to her having gotten out of a Romulan Republic prison in the two mission interim between her capture and her popping up again in this arc; but either a comment was added or I missed it the first time when Admiral Quinn comms you about “Hey, Sela escaped and is around your location”.  (“Gee, Admiral, funny you should mention.  Could you have told me this fifteen minutes earlier, before I fought off her overly armed freighter and captured her again?”)

I didn’t bother with going crazy with the Iconian reputation on this one-I probably could have, since I have spare boxes of “choose a mark type” in my inventory, but I knew that the odds of me getting to top tier before I finished the War was slim to none.  It would feel odd getting messages about Sela and her attempt to recruit help against the Iconians when I’d already finished the War.  It worked before, because, well, there was a month between episodes-plenty of time to rank up.  Not so much here-even if I’d gotten the marks through the queued group content.  There’s still the fact that the most advantageous and cost effective method of improving reputation is through dailies, and that means even with sponsorship tokens, it would take weeks to finish.

Now, I’m getting ready to hit the last complete arc in STO, and I have higher hopes that there will be some acknowledgement of origin going on, particularly since the back end of the arc came out with the whole “Agents of Yesterday” expansion, so it’s not like the developers didn’t know the temporal agents would be coming here.  I’ve got a big change in store for the character as well, that I’ve been sitting on for quite some time, just waiting for the right moment to spring.  That time is almost here!

AoY: Jingle Bells

Fear the power of HOT CARAMEL!

Fear the power of HOT CARAMEL!

Personal Log, Stardate 94584.77

About fifty years ago-that’s a ballpark number, I can’t be bothered to look it up right now-the U.S.S. Enterprise, the 1701-D model, began its maiden voyage, and ran into a being that called itself “Q”.  And things haven’t been the same since.

Q isn’t the only “omnipotent” being that Starfleet’s encountered.  I can point to a couple others that seemed like they had roughly the same power level.  Trelane.  The Metrons.  The Organians.  The big difference is that Q likes to meddle a lot more, and has a sense of humor.  And there’s more than one Q, all of which are called Q.

And he’s decided to throw a winter party-and invited just about everyone in the galaxy along.

That’s how I found myself in a strange winter wonderland, like something you’d read about in fairy tales.  Except the snowmen have been assimilated by the Borg, gingerbread people are being attacked by gigantic snowmen and defended by what I can only describe as a living snow-cone, and Klingons line up to test their honor against fish made of some kind of gummy substance.  Oh, and phasers don’t help at all against these things-instead, they’re harmed by snowballs.

Snowballs.  Or gummy drops.  Or in my case, a hot caramel blaster.  That one at least made sense to me-hot melts ice, right?

As crazy as it is, though, and as oddly dangerous as it sounds, Q doesn’t seem to mean any harm in all of this.  I’ve been frozen solid, which should have killed me, but I thaw out and ready to fight the assimilated snowmen again.  After the first few times, I found myself actually enjoying myself.  It’s crazier than any holodeck simulation, and I shrug and go along with it.

Let the galaxy wait just a while.  The dangers ahead will still be there.  But for a brief bit of time, I can stop being a temporal agent, stop being on the front lines of just about every major problem the galaxy wants to throw at em.  For a brief bit of time, I can just punch a gummy-fish and turn into a snowman myself and shoot caramel at snowmen.  Just for a brief bit of time, I can put it all behind me-and just live for the moment.

End Log.

When Snow-Cones Attack!

When Snow-Cones Attack!

The holiday season tends to reduce my blog posting considerably-this may have been noticed already-but I didn’t want to close out the year with the Delta Quadrant, when the winter event in Star Trek Online was rolling.  It had been a couple of years since the last time I bothered doing anything with it, and I felt with Delta Rising in the rear view mirror, I could pause and go for some amusement.

And amusement was there.  The skating race-both versions-are still there, as well as the invasion of the Borg-ified snowmen, and the animation of all the snowmen in the region to attack everyone.  The instance to defend the gingerbread men was also still there.  What I hadn’t done before was non-instanced gingerbread village defense, which includes animating a giant snow-cone, and new this year was Klingon Ice Fishing.  (This may or may not be legitimate; Q is known for an odd sense of humor.)

I had lots of holiday tokens left over from the past, so I was able to equip Rick with a hot-caramel blaster, as I wanted something different than what I’d equipped on other past characters.  I didn’t bother getting any of the winter gear for him-who knows how much play he’ll get once I’ve completed his journey?-although if he gets enough ornaments on his own, I may spring for something.  As usual, I’m not even bothering attempting to go for the Breen starship; my time availability wasn’t enough in the past, and it’s even less available now.

Merry Christmas to All (or holiday of your preference), and have a Happy New Year!

AoY: The Back End of Delta

No, we don't look like alien spies at all. We are perfectly normal Vaadwaur. Go about your business.

No, we don’t look like alien spies at all. We are perfectly normal Vaadwaur. Go about your business.

Personal Log, Stardate 94564.74

I’d like to say that all’s well that ends well in the Delta Quadrant, but that would be exaggerating a bit.

The good news first.  The Vaadwaur’s big push for dominance in the Delta Quadrant has been stopped.  A threat to Starfleet has had its origins exposed and their plot to use the Vaadwaur has been stopped as well.  Many of the species in the Delta Quadrant-well, at least in the little bit of the Quadrant that we’ve been exploring-have at least learned to talk to each other, if not cooperate long-term.  How long that will last is anybody’s guess, but for a moment, they all came together to stop an existential threat.  And as a bonus, we managed to capture a rogue head of government who we’d lost track of during the Reman Rebellion.

The bad news.  The alliance between those aforementioned races remains shaky, the new leader of the Vaadwaur is still not exactly a model of civilization, the Kobali are still keeping secrets that are being exposed at inconvenient times, and the big mover and shaker behind just about everything that we’ve had to deal with involving the Vaadwaur can be laid at the feet of the Iconians.  I guess stopping the Vaadwaur counts as “getting in their way again”.  I have a bad feeling that we may have kicked over the hornets’ nest on this one.  Then again, let’s face it-they’re doing bad things against us.  There was always going to be a confrontation in the offing.

No contact recently from Daniels.  I hope that’s not a bad sign from a temporal point of view.

End Log.

The Admiral gives out assignments. Guess who has to lead the fleet into battle?

The Admiral gives out assignments. Guess who has to lead the fleet into battle?

It took a while, particularly in light of other stuff happening, but it looks like that I’ve finally gotten through the horrible slog that is the Delta Rising expansion with my Agents of Yesterday character in Star Trek Online.  Cripes, what a horror!

It’s not the missions are a pain or anything.  They’re pretty good (although there’s an annoying graphic bug that doesn’t clear out the grapple-gun and its cables after you’re done using them, which is really distracting), but the Vaadwaur are just sacks of health in large numbers.  It’s mitigated somewhat in some cases by the fact that in later missions, you have outside assistance to fight them, but it’s still a pain in the posterior.  My ship’s tough enough to take the hits, and I’ve managed to dodge some of the worst of the artillery fire that gets used, but a dozen transphasic mines all at once is asking a lot for a ship to handle.

Add to that the fact that roughly half of the episodes are thinly disguised patrol missions, most of which have Vaadwaur, and you can see why the Delta Rising expansion is longer and uglier than any other arc in the game.  I’ll admit, however, that I also stalled a bit during a recent Crystalline Catastrophe event; with the coming of the new K-13 fleet holding, I felt I should buff up some of my supply of fleet marks and Dilithium.  Things would probably go faster if I’d get one of my lesser used characters with lots of open duty officer slots over to the fleet starbase and just do lots of random purchases of common duty officers to feed into the projects.  I should do something about that sometime.

I’m approaching the big conclusion to the game’s primary arc now; the Iconians are waiting, and beyond them, the Temporal Cold War goes hot.  It’s the home stretch for the Agent of Yesterday, but it won’t be easy!

The Role of Duct Tape in Space

Last month, EVE Online went free to play.  Well, honestly, it’s more like it went into a Freemium model-on the one hand, you have the Omega Clones, which are basically the folks who have been playing EVE prior to the change-some with subscription fees, some with the use of PLEX pilot licenses, which are basically 1 month subs that can be purchased as an in-game item and sold on the market for usually heaps of ISK, the in-game currency.  The other hand holds the Alpha Clones, who have a number of substantial limitations on them-but the counterbalance is that they don’t have to pay a dime.

In many ways, not so different than Star Wars: The Old Republic.

But of course, EVE is a much different game than SWTOR.  Folks unfamiliar with the game might be surprised to learn that your avatar isn’t so much the body you craft when you create the character, but rather, the ship that character flies.  There is only one server (unless you’re in China, where you have a separate one), which means your character will never escape the reputation he builds-probably.  And despite the fact that all star systems have a security rating that impacts the ability to get away with murder, other players can and will blow your ship up if they can get away with it.  In a very real way, EVE is about knowing who to trust.

And about following the old maxim there, “Never fly what you can’t afford to lose”.  Which really should be rewritten to say “Never fly what you can’t afford to easily replace”.

Despite this, the game’s been popular enough to last for longer than I’ve been playing MMOs.  And with the new Alpha Clone release, I decided to reopen an old account I’d quietly created during a fit of insanity when the devs at CCP had a two for one account sale sort of thing.  I killed the existing characters there-I hadn’t really done much with them, and they didn’t even have enough ISK to bother preserving-and made a brand spanking new one.  While I could’ve gone back to my primary account, I didn’t really want to revisit the old characters as they would be shells of what they could fly, due to the Alpha restrictions.

You talkin' 'bout me?

You talkin’ ’bout me?

I chose to mess with a new faction.  The characters on my old account had been Gallente, and I felt that I’d done that to death during my previous sting in New Eden, the setting of the game.  Instead, I decided to go with the Minmatar.  The reputation of this faction is basically “ships put together with duct tape and scrap metal”, and my sense of humor demanded that I go that route.

So, let’s talk about restrictions.  Firstly, an Alpha is limited to-with two notable exceptions-ships of their own faction.  So my character is limited to flying Minmatar ships; he can’t even train the skills to learn to fly a Gallente ship, or a pirate faction ship.  The exceptions are the ORE Venture (which is a frigate-level dedicated mining ship) and the Gnosis battlecruiser, which was apparently given out to all active players at the 10th anniversary of the game; I’m not entirely sure if it was one to an account, or one to each character on the account, but based on what I’d seen during my previous run, I’m guessing the former.  As you may guess from this comment, I wasn’t active at the anniversary, so no Gnosis for me.  That said, I’d probably never fly it; one-of-a-kind in a game like EVE is just asking for heartbreak.

Speaking of training skills, many skills are either limited to how far you can train, or to being trainable at all.  At this time, the highest class of ship that can be trained for is the cruisers, which is basically two steps up from the frigates.  (Destroyers are the tier between.)  No battlecruisers, battleships, or capital ships for Alphas.  Alphas may also fly the lowest class of industrial ship, so they can at least haul modest amount (like say, a couple frigates) from one system to another.  The higher tiers of mining vessel are not available-and that’s to the relief of a lot of pilots, who already have issues with bot-controlled mining fleets.  The skill limits also include the upper reaches of specialization skills, so Alphas are not likely to be the biggest crafters, nor the best explorers, nor the best trade lords.

All of that said, it is possible to live in the margins.  You may not be the best explorer, but you can still explore sites and find modest riches there.  You may not be the best miner, but you can still get at asteroids and refine out minerals to use or sell.  You may not rule a mercantile empire, but you can still trade on the margins and make a modest profit.  And while you may not fly the ships that dwarf cities, you can still make a difference in a fight-either in corporations and alliances in their wars, or simply running missions for Agents in stations.

In simpler terms, an Alpha Clone state allows you to experience the breadth of EVE, but not necessarily the depth.  You have the capability of doing a lot of things, but not become a master of any of those things.

The other little limitation is training time.  Skills are not learned by doing, as it was in the pre-NGE days of Star Wars Galaxies, nor are they granted by leveling experience points.  Rather, they are learned by time.  You start out with a fairly good amount of skills-enough to allow you to do the basics and not embarrass yourself first thing out-and you either improve skills by training a new level of skill, in which there are five per skill, although the Alpha limits may reduce just how far you can train, even as far as only the first level of that skill; or you gain new skills by purchasing/acquiring a skill book which can allow you to start training that skill.  Again, Alpha limits apply-many skills just aren’t going to be allowable.  The big limit is the actual time taken.  While Omega Clones can train “twice as fast”, the reality is that the Omegas aren’t training any faster or slower than they’d been-it’s the Alphas who are training at half-speed.  (Use of the Neocom app on my phone helped confirm this.)  That’d probably be a bigger deal if Alphas could train more skills that require months to get to.

There’s also a hint that the training queue has changed, too.  Back in the day, you could only put skills in the training queue that started within 24 hours, but stuff I’ve seen seems to imply that this limit has been altered for Omegas; I haven’t read up carefully on that, so I’m not sure where things stand there, but for Alphas, it’s pretty much as I remembered, so it didn’t bother me.

That’s the big picture.  Now I’m focusing in on the smaller one.  I haven’t had the time to do whole heaps in EVE-the Knights of the Eternal Throne in SWTOR has occupied me a bit, and I still need to get to finishing the Delta Rising arc in Star Trek Online.  But I’ve managed to find some time to run the introductory Agent missions for industry, military, mining, production, and exploration.  Those missions are well worth doing, simply for the money and the free equipment-including a number of frigates and a couple of industrials-and a destroyer at the tail end of the advanced military.  I’ve managed to fit out a Thrasher destroyer, although I’m still working on a build for it-it’s not an ideal fit-and managed to scrape enough together to pick up a mobile tractor unit, which makes salvaging the ships I blow up in missions a lot easier.  Travel time’s a pain-although it’s mitigated a lot by use of micro-warp drives, which apparently can now be used in mission areas; back in the day, I had to fall back on afterburners.  Afterburners still have a place in EVE, since the MWDs tend to increase your targeting signature dramatically-and if you’re a small ship that expects to survive based on size and speed, you do NOT want to be easier to target!

Cruisers are a way off for me-I think I’ll want to get my standings high enough to start doing the level 2 missions first, which will hopefully allow a bit more earnings.  That is, if my ship can handle the abuse.  The level 4 missions are out of reach for Alphas, I think-those require use of battleships or really, REALLY well-fit cruisers or battlecruisers.  But I’m hopeful that I can at least get to the point where farming level 2’s are feasible.  The best part of being an Alpha is that you don’t need billions to do what you want to do.  If you’re happy flying smaller ships, it’s not hard to earn enough to make sure you can afford to lose those ships on a regular basis.  And, after all, that’s the name of the game.

This looks like a nice place.  Shame I'm gonna blow it up.

This looks like a nice place. Shame I’m gonna blow it up.

A Night of Eternal Thrones

It began a year ago with Knights of the Fallen Empire in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The conclusion of that story is here, with the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.  I figure I’ll put up my thoughts on the expansion as a whole instead of doing it piecemeal, chapter by chapter.  But before I get to the spoilery stuff (watch for Vaylin below, she’ll tell you when the spoilers start), let’s take a look at some of the things that came along with it that requires no spoilage.

First up:  those folks who worked on the Light Vs. Dark event get their spoils now.  For my part, that included a speeder, some armor, a pet, and Master Ranos, the winning contender of Light Vs Dark, a Jedi companion who is considered a bit of a maverick among the Order.  (Or at least, she was when the Order was intact before Zakuul.)  As with Nico Okarr, players can use a device to get a hold of her before the Fallen Empire storyline.  Also worth noting is that the subscriber rewards for the last couple months have also come in:  a recon walker, and Shae Vizla, the Mandalorian; and just like Nico and Ranos, you’ll get a device with her.  Worth noting:  unlike Nico, Ranos can be fully customized with gear, like a regular companion, not like the ones gained via KotFE.  Shae, on the other hand, can not (although a bug is allowing it for now, but it won’t last).  Shae does get a few appearance options, hailing back to her “classic” look from the days of Shadow of Revan.  Or maybe from the trailers for the game prior to release-I haven’t really done a hard compare.

There are also game changes.  The classes took a revamp-I’ll probably go into this later on, but at least on my Smuggler, I’m irritated to lose my single melee attack, as well as my Dirty Kick (which have been set to Scoundrels Only).  The weak stun replacement doesn’t replace what was lost in any way, shape, or form.  That said, it didn’t really slow me down.  Other classes have undergone similar mutations.  The level cap raised, and at least this time we didn’t lose abilities (beyond the revamp, of course) that we already had.  Of course, since I’ve only really messed with my Smuggler so far, I could well be wrong on this.  And the specialization trees have again mutated, causing a reset of points.

Sometimes, I find this sort of thing really causes me headaches.

Another interesting update involves the advanced classes no longer being held off until level 10 (or the end of the starter worlds, whichever comes first), but rather, you start in those classes immediately.  I’ll possibly have more to comment on such if I run a full campaign again like I did with Sorshan and Anthrandos.  (And it will probably happen at some point.  My altoholism is well known to readers of this blog by now, I’d think.)

Commendations-er, make that “data crystals”-have also gone away, being cashed out for credits.  The big thing with gear purchases are now mods, as I understand it.  Again, I haven’t really noticed that much-I really should do a full leveling experience again to see how that impacts leveling.  Most of the rewards through KotET were inferior to what I’d managed to accumulate up to now.  All that grinding paid off!  That said:  better gear is available via a new level 70+ concept called Galactic Command.  Simply put, if you take out gold elites, or do any number of things like run dailies specified by the window, or flashpoints, or operations, or any of that-you gain Command Experience, which eventually gets you Command Crates, which have (presumably) raid level gear in them.  If you’re lucky, you should get at least a few from finishing KotET.  You get more of this experience from doing the group content, with the biggest batches coming from Operations.  Good thing I was never big on the raid-or-die philosophy; that means I don’t really need the uber gear.

If you’re looking for your old companions…keep waiting.  None of them are making a reappearance.  There are a couple new ones, but half of them is the aforementioned Dark Vs Light reward.

Okay-that’s the commentary on the game updates.  Ahead lies spoilers (although I’ll try to be light on them) for the grand finale of the current SWTOR storyline-after the break!

"I said NO PICTURES!!!!"

“I said NO PICTURES!!!!”

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SS: The Ending Was The Beginning

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“I am exhausted.  The events of the last day have been…wearing, I should say.  Our conflict against the Eternal Empire has reached a tipping point, but I’m not sure where things stand.

Arcann is defeated, but free.  I’ve been betrayed twice-neither time was really a surprise.  I’m Sith-at this point, I expect betrayal.  At the moment, there are few whose loyalties I consider solid, two of whom I’ve known for a long time, and one who I’ve met only recently.  All others?  More dubious.  I should start making plans to deal with betrayals as they happen, but I want to believe otherwise.  I think that is why I feel each one keenly.  The journey has been a strange one.  I’ve aligned with Republic officers, Jedi, Sith, Imperial officers, smugglers and bounty hunters.  I’ve gained the trust of many on both sides of the fence, and even some from Zakuul have begun to follow me.  Once, I felt that I could best rip out the rot in the Empire by ruling it.  But now, it seems that destiny has something greater in mind:  the Eternal Throne of Zakuul, from which I can rule the Eternal Empire, the Sith Empire, and the Galactic Republic.

It’s a breathtaking thought.  I can tear out the rot from the Empire, the corruption of the Republic, and the threat of Zakuul, in one fell stroke.

It won’t be that simple.  I know this.  But from the Throne, I can at least make a start.  From the Throne, I can at least try to change the galaxy for the better.  And the irony is, I will be cheered on by the Jedi, the Sith, the Republic, the Empire-even by Zakuul itself, for I cannot imagine it will thrive with Vaylin’s influence-or her ally.  Enemies become allies-but for how long?  The Empire and the Republic will react when the time comes for me to declare victory.  And it may be that my Alliance is held together by only the thin thread of the outside threat.

And there remains one factor I cannot account for, one factor that I fear.  Valkorion still exists, and remains tied to me in some way.  The time will come when he will attempt to destroy me as Zash once tried, and his power is vast.  I will only be able to resist him by using the Force as he boasted his Knights did:  knowing that it is more than just Light and Dark.  Even if it takes my death, I will not let Valkorion win.

The Force shall free me.”

-from Sorshan’s Story

And done!

I’ve wrapped up the Knights of the Fallen Empire arc in Star Wars: The Old Republic, in time for the very-soon-to-be-released Knights of the Eternal Throne.

Sorshan managed to get through the game with making only a single Dark Side choice, which happened during the KotFE back half-and it wasn’t exactly a significant one, honestly (hell, I can’t even recall the details now, only the selection), so between her and Anthrandos, I think I contributed reasonably well to the Light vs Dark event (Light still seems to be winning).  Her final choice which wasn’t a Light/Dark one was, of course, how to deal with Arcann and his rescuer; despite her talk about betrayal, she ultimately did let them go without a kill attempt.  Arcann’s nothing without his power-base, and that’s gone now.  (This may or may not prove to be an error-we’ll see!)

My run through the Jedi Knight and Sith Inquisitor storylines have been pretty fun, going through it all with these blog posts in mind, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I choose to do this sort of thing again with some of the other classes.  I’m an avowed altoholic, after all-I’m bound to do another run through at some point.  But for now, I’ve got holidays coming up, and if I have time before the expansion hits, I need to wrap up a few more characters in the list who still haven’t finished KotFE and are hanging on the last chapter or two.

Plus, of course, I still have my STO captain to get through.  I wanted to push through Sorshan’s story first, with the expansion literally a week away (if you’ve been subbed for the early access, anyway).  Plus, I’ve got a couple other irons in the fire that are beginning to call for attention; I expect to make comments about them both before the end of the year.

SS: On The Run

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“Five years.

You don’t really think about everything that can change in five years until you have spent those years effectively in stasis. You don’t think of it as a period of time where the galaxy can change so completely. But it has.

The good news: I finally killed the Sith Emperor, in a manner of speaking. He took a body again and I killed him. The bad news? He was incarnate in the form of an emperor of a neighboring area of space, hailed as the Immortal Emperor of the Eternal Empire of Zakuul. The worse news? His physical death seems to have bound his spirit to mine-so now I have a passenger in my mind who keeps offering me power, but whose plans are highly suspect.

Oh, and the last bit of news. His son stuffed me into a carbonite slab and went on a conquering spree where he more or less took over the Empire and the Republic.

Up to now, my allies have been few. Lana Beniko rescued me from my imprisonment and saved my life. Koth Vortena is the captain of my flagship (he doesn’t really agree with the “my flagship” part, but I don’t make an issue of it). And Senya Tirall is…well, she’s complicated. Plus, a droid that worked for Cipher Nine of the old Imperial Intelligence, and a droid that had associated with the Jedi Battlemaster who had supposedly killed the Sith Emperor (and is thus, in a way, responsible for everything that has happened since). There was also an HK unit, but…well, there isn’t now, although the shell may be salvageable.

I have spent weeks running from Zakuul since my freedom. I’ve attempted to learn more about this warship we found and how it can fight the Eternal Fleet. Only now, on a world which we hope a force can be forged to defeat Zakuul, have I had time to process everything that has happened.

Darth Marr is gone. It says something when the one Sith I was beginning to trust gets killed in a stand against the Emperor. I shouldn’t mock him; I, too, was defiant to the end. But his son, Arcann, saved me-so I could do his dirty work, allowing him to bring us to the place we stand now. Khem, Ashara, Andronikos-missing. Thanks to this alliance I seem to have taken control of, I’ve at least recovered my ship-and reconnected with Xalek and Talos. Other allies are forthcoming, I am told.

So now I control a Rebel Alliance composed of both Imperial and Republic forces-both willing to follow a former Dark Council member (the Council is, for all intents and purposes, gone, the Empire controlled by a self-proclaimed Empress) to war to free their worlds from the Eternal Empire. It seems not so long ago where I was a singificant factor in a similar alliance, against Revan-but now, I am in command. That Republic forces are willing to follow me-that speaks to their fear.

I am done running. From here on out, I will take the offensive. I will not rest until Zakuul is defeated. Only then can I hope to retake the Sith Empire and realize my dreams.

But even in all of this, I can see a chance. I may have been dreaming too small.”

-from Sorshan’s Story

Halfway through the Knights of the Fallen Empire for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I’ve been cruising along with Sorshan to the end of the line!

What can I say that hasn’t already been said?  Fortunately, this particular Inquisitor won’t have the problems my other one did with Koth-quite the opposite, in fact.  There are benefits to doing only Light Side choices.

Obviously, I picked back up Talos and Xalek, as Inquisitor companions, and I also took a little time to pick up HK-55 again and Nico (who I’d used early on in Sorshan’s career, and it made sense to bring him back on board).  That’s about as far as I plan to go with her Alert companions; I’m challenging myself to wrap up Sorshan’s Story before Thanksgiving, and I plan to succeed!  That’ll put me in the right position to set her aside to begin Knights of the Eternal Throne after the Turkey Weekend.

Almost at the finish line-which may or may not include the HK solo mission; I don’t really need to do that to wrap things up in my mind, and if I pick Sorshan and Anthrandos back up afterward, I can always do it at that point.

Depending on the length of the KotET chapters, I may or may not put up individual posts for each.  A lot will depend on the length of the chapters.  I’m also still undecided as to if I’ll be looking at it from a particular character’s point of view, such as I’ve done with the Epic of Anthrandos and Sorshan’s Story, or if I’ll just stick with the facts.  I’m leaning towards the latter, though, because while I have no qualms about being semi-spoilery with the KotFE stuff, as it’s been out for a year now, the KotET stuff will be brand spanking new, and I’d hate to spoil things for people who haven’t done it yet-at least not right off the bat.  (By the time I pick up with Anthrandos/Sorshan again, though, all bets are off.)

SS: Learning to Fear Again

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“I have never in my life, not even in my darkest days as a slave, felt so powerless.  So weak.

I was a fool.  I thought I could overcome the power of the former Emperor, Vitiate.  I had done so with every other Sith I’ve fought-from Zash to Thanaton to Arkous.  I felt that if I could find a way to take his throne, I could find a way for the Empire to change.  Vitiate doesn’t even want the Empire anymore-he said that it had “failed”.  All he wants is to kill…everything.

And on Ziost, he did.

I can’t imagine what it was like on the surface.  I saw the wave of devastation sweep over the entire planet from orbit.  I felt the passing of so many lives all at once through the Force.  And when I returned to the planet after the…event…I saw what was left behind.  Silence.  I’ve never experienced such silence.  I’m told there may still be some monolith creatures there, but I have not seen them.  I couldn’t bear to go looking.

Another betrayal, too-but not by a fellow Sith, but a positioned agent of the Republic right under Minister Beniko’s nose.  She wanted to kill him immediately.  I let him go.  I’m still not sure why.  Maybe because, in the face of Vitiate’s threat, one man’s life meant little.  He wrote to me afterward, saying he was going to free as many slaves as he could on Ziost.  I find myself oddly hoping that he got off planet before the event.  But I doubt it.  I doubt it.

And for the first time, I looked upon a Jedi with pity.  The Sixth Line leader was broken before me, having been cleansed of the influence of Vitiate, but broken.  Lana wanted to user he as an experiment; Theron-and damn him for starting this entire mess-wanted to take her to Tython to heal.  I let them go.  Again, one life weighed against all of this?  And I do not believe we would learn anything of value in the process; Vitiate’s power is of the Dark Side, and I have felt nothing like it in my life.

And Vitiate has become…interested in me.  “Life is more interesting with you in it,” he said.  He’s saving me for last.  He wanted me to know that.  He wanted me to be filled with terror at the thought.  It worked-I am terrified.  Terrified that he’ll succeed.  Terrified that I will fail.

But a Sith draws power from fear.  I was afraid so many times in my life, from my days as a slave to this day.  I am afraid.  But I will take strength from it.  I embrace it.

A Sith kills what she fears.”

-from Sorshan’s Story

It shouldn’t be a shock that I knocked Ziost down so quickly after Yavin in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The missions are not long or complicated, and it was really just a prelude to what was coming next (although the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion sure wasn’t what was expected).  It’s a last hurrah for fighting beside the Inquisitor companions, at least until Chapter Nine of the expansion, where some of them can be brought back.  (Of course, none of them are storyline companions; Talos and Xalek return via Alerts, while the other three are missing-although you can get a replacement Dashade….)  I ended the way the character began-with Khem Val at her side.  No disapprovals from Light Side choices here:  Khem’s probably figured that the character isn’t going to change after all this time.  (I know, the real reason is that the devs didn’t program it in.)

I indulged myself on this run through one Ziost, though, doing all the side missions I could find, pre-extinction event.  I netted 20 of the local currency, which combined with all the rest I’ve gained over time will allow me to purchase that mount available at that world’s vendor-it’s just a question of which character will get it.  Still considering.  I might wait until I roll a new character (because if there’s one thing one can be sure of as an altoholic, it’s that there will always be another alt).

That’s going to have to wait, though.  Coming up is the grand finale of my Light vs. Dark run-the expansion missions.  I believe I should be able to wrap things up in time for the release of Knights of the Eternal Throne, which will allow me to concentrate on all of my primary characters again.  Nothing like perfect timing, right?