Anniversary Companions

Well, it’s been an entertaining week with the MMOs I play.  Both Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online had significant publishes this week.

Let me look at SWTOR first.  One of the big deals with that publish is the release of a new raid boss.  (Okay, “Operations boss”.)  Since I don’t really do those, I can’t really speak for that sort of thing.  There’s a number of warzone patches, which I don’t really do much of unless I feel I have to.  I keep promising myself that I’ll at least run a bunch with my Smuggler and Agent mains, just so I can wrap up getting all the companions possible for those characters, but I never do.  I’m glad I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution on that one, because it’d clearly have been busted by now.  There’s double xp rolling, which isn’t really a big deal for me, running until the end of the month.  This also applies to Command XP, though, so if you’re going for the upgraded gear stuff by getting those Command boxes, this would be a good time to start running dailies and the like.

The “Unhappy” part involves an old “friend”….

Oh, and there’s some returning companions.  There’s a couple of caveats, of course.  Firstly, these are literally returning companions:  if you didn’t have Risha, Corso, or Andronikos in your roster before, you aren’t getting them now.  There’s talk on the forums about making them available the same way you can get any companion who hasn’t returned back via the Odessen terminal in your quarters, but that isn’t the case at the moment.  Secondly, you have to have completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion.  At that point, if you happen to be a Smuggler or Inquisitor, you’ll get a new Alliance Alert which results in the return of said companions.

The good news is that, unlike most Alerts, this is fully voiced-you don’t have that KotR interface that most Alliance Alerts do.  But…honestly, there isn’t much to these.  There’s moments if one of the companions were a romance during the original story, but for the most part, it’s “Oh, here they are!”  I get the impression that these missions were along the lines of “let’s just get this done so bloggers stop complaining about the rate of returns”.  That said, I imagine actual missions on the scale of other returnees would have meant we’d have gotten one companion back this publish-if at all.  At this point, being a couple years out from the loss of the companions in the first place, I’m all for this for companions who aren’t likely to be pushing forward the continuing story in the game-and the number of those prospects are awfully short.  I could see Lord Scourge as a big deal, for example, but Vector Hyllis, not so much.  If I were to make a guess, I’d say that we’ll see Alliance Alerts for non-Jedi, non-Sith, non-Mandalorian characters, while Jedi/Sith/Mandalorian ones will be incorporated into the ongoing story somehow.  (Given that I can only think of one outstanding Mandalorian, I’d be willing to bet that she could wind up as just an Alert, but Mandalorians are big deals, given the Eternal Alliance’s reliance on them.)

Still, this does at least bring the Smuggler-who I’d derided for so long as not getting any of their people back-generally in line with most of the other classes.  I note that all of his returnees, however, came from Alerts.  Just an observation.  In fact, there’s only one outstanding Smuggler companion now.  The Inquisitor companion brings that number to two outstanding.  Still the big loser:  the Jedi Consular, with a whopping one Companion still around.  If that class doesn’t have at least a couple coming up in the next wave of returnees, they’d be justified in going to Bioware and giving in to the Dark Side!!!!


Anyway, the companion thing for Smugglers and Inquisitors takes maybe 10 minutes if you don’t spacebar through conversations, at best.  No excuse for qualified characters to get their people back-and with a lot less hassle then most.

Two stations, a horde of starships, unexpected allies and enemies…just another day in Starfleet.

On to the second one:  Star Trek Online, which hits its eighth year anniversary.  The last week and a half has been spent giving stuff away, some of which was more impressive than others.  (And believe me, some of them were really unimpressive.)  We do have the usual festivities:  Omega particle hunting, a new anniversary ship (a Bajoran ship, interestingly enough-more on how that ties in momentarily), the Q-in-the-Box at the Academies, which includes a new type of anniversary popper device; at some point, I’m gonna grab four random poppers, equip them all, and run around Spacedock in a frenzy.  Well, maybe not.  Eight years is nothing to sneeze at, anyway:  no single Star Trek series has gone on so long, although you’d have a good argument that a series delivers at least as much entertainment.  It’s also remarkable for being a long runner in a genre that has seen many others pass away.  MMORPGs that make it this far have demonstrated serious staying power.  I don’t know if it’s the setting, the lockboxes, or what, because I wouldn’t have predicted this long a run when the game came out-hell, there were times when I thought things were as good as dead-but STO is still with us, and by all appearances, will be with us for at least another year or more.

Also of note:  a new Feature episode, with appearances from Captain Kurn, General Martok, Geordi La Forge, and…well, let’s just call it a surprise appearance, shall we?  I wouldn’t spoil things.  The Tzenkethi are upping their game, about to go after multiple worlds to with protomatter torpedoes, and your crew is called upon to stop them.  The good news is, you do get help.  The bad news is, one of those worlds is Bajor.  (My conscience is clear in noting that; the presence of an anniversary ship tied to Bajor with the notes about it talking about its use in the defense of Bajor has already spilled those beans.)  The attack on Bajor seems to be a catalyst, however, because just when you think you’ve gotten the Tzenkethi under control…all Hell breaks loose.  Expect a battle royale in space with multiple factions getting involved, a return of an old adversary (sort of), and ramifications that are guaranteed to lead to the theoretical expansion this year (as far as I’m concerned, it remains theoretical until we get more than a segment of a trailer video).  I’ll admit to being impressed with the episode; it did a great job in ramping up the threats.  You’d think a worldkilling fleet would be the climax of an episode, but they’re just the appetizer.  Every time a battle ends, something kicks up the stakes another notch.  Klingons in particular should be overjoyed by this episode.

Starting up year nine in STO promises to be exciting.  I better get cracking on Dathiro, because I have a feeling that I’m going to be very busy later this year.


Thirteen Years In

Another year has come and gone with my MMO gaming-and my MMO blogging!  And as is traditional for me, it’s time to look back at 2017 and the games I spent my time on-and perhaps take a peek into what is planned for the future.

Moving towards its first major story content update.


I’d closed out ’16 with the beginnings of putting my characters through the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and 2017 continued that work.  I was aided a great deal in the fact that most of the publishes last year focused on class balance, raids, and the other sorts of stuff that I tend to have little interest in.  We did get a couple new strongholds, but I haven’t gone out of my way to get access to them-I’m still way under-decorated with a couple I have now!  Thanks to the lack of newer story content, though, I did manage to get all eight of my “class representatives” to finish the KotET expansion-and a couple have gone beyond that.

When I say “beyond that”, it’s because there were at least a few bits of story that sprinkled through the year.  Nothing to the scale of previous years, but hey, it’s an MMORPG; that means devs have to deal with other aspects of the game such as those little details I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Still, we got a renewed flareup of the Sith-Republic War on the world of Iokath, treason against the Eternal Alliance on Umbara (and I still love that mission, even though I haven’t done it much), and a game of “catch the traitor” on the Chiss world of Copero.  Two of those missions features the return of three companions as well-although you can only get two of them, since that involves a decision as to who your Alliance will support on Iokath.  (Alas, I still regret that there wasn’t a choice of “how about I just conquer both of you?  I mean, Valkorion had no problem doing it….”)  It’s still slow going for folks waiting for the return of companions-pity the Jedi Consular!  It’d be nice to think that 2018 will finish the job-and as of this posting, three more are scheduled to return on the 23rd, two of which will make the Smuggler VERY happy, and some will be pleased by the return of an Inquisitor’s as well.  Maybe we’ll see the rest this year after all….  Due to my significant number of characters who had to get through content, I only did the Iokath and beyond missions with my two “primary” main characters.  My Trooper and Sith Warrior got to get a jump on Iokath, though, since it was their companions being offered as returns.  (For folks carrying a grudge against the Imperial one, it is possible to kill him.  I let him live, though-and I still have him using a bunch of cybernetic limbs to show that all is “forgiven”.  Heh heh….)

There was a short bit of entertaining activity with the United Forces update, which consolidated the servers dramatically, and included a bit of “encouraged grouping” in order to get the companion who didn’t win the Dark vs Light event in ’16.  I’d always suspected Darth Hexid would show up sooner or later.

What’s next for SWTOR for me this coming year?  Well, since I wrapped up the last of my original eight through the expansion, I think it’s time for me to bring the stories of the Jedi Anthrandos and the Inquisitor Sorshan to a conclusion-both of these characters were chronicled heavily in 2016, but left hanging since I wanted to get my other characters through the then-new expansion.  I’ve caught up, so expect somewhere between two to four posts featuring the conclusion of their saga.  I don’t plan to put either of those characters through the post-expansion content, as it’s already hard enough for me to push through the eight.  Speaking of those eight, I will probably also put them through the post-expansion content to get them all caught up; who knows what lies ahead for the game in 2018, after all?

The transition from wartime to peacetime begins.

There is no content but what we make for ourselves-okay, that’s a minor exaggeration.

Star Trek Online actually got a decent chunk of my time in 2017.  I chronicled the adventures of two major characters through the year.  The first month concluded the adventure of temporal agent Rick Masters, Agent of Yesterday.  Then, starting in September, I began to chronicle the Orion pirate-at-heart Dathiro, giving a look at the Klingon side of life, as well as exploring the usefulness of the Foundry missions out there.  In between all that, we got a couple of new missions.

Those missions featured the Lukari, encountered during the Future Proof series, and expanded upon their story-which also brought in the Tzenkethi on their mysterious sterilization crusade.  We reunited the Lukari with their cousins, so to speak, and discovered that the Tzenkethi might have a point with their campaign.  We got a new fleet holding-well, I sort of threw in the towel with that one.  Fleet holdings are a game for the larger fleets, and I’m not involved with any larger fleets to mess with it.  We also got a couple of missions more or less independent of that storyline-like recapturing Sela (AGAIN!) after some fallout from the Temporal Ambassador mission way back, and a return to the Nexus (of Star Trek: Generations fame) with the coming of a being who I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of.  Oh-and we also get the return of a Klingon warrior long thought dead, which could make the political situation on Qo’noS very, very interesting indeed.

What does the future hold for my work in STO?  I expect to get Dathiro at least to level 50, and I’m very likely to try to push him to level 60-again, solely through non-episodic content, so expect more Foundry commentary, as well as comments on the PvE queues at that point.  Dathiro might get a bit derailed, though, because we got hints in the back half of ’17 that the Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant will be returning in a big way; I won’t say the word expansion, but-oh, wait, I just did, didn’t I?  I expect big things out of 2018, and I expect some good stuff to come down.  I won’t be surprised if we get yet another sub-faction related to this (I’m so cynical), and perhaps a new region of space to actually explore.  (Take what you can get, exploration fans; I’m still dubious we’ll ever see new “exploration content” like in the old days, much less better than the old days….)

There had to be a loser here somewhere.

Willforge’s Big Year

Unlike last year, Champions Online got a lot of love from me.  I’d noted that I hadn’t put any real time into that game in ’16, and I resolved to run a character through that game up to max level, and I chose to do it with the character Willforge.  Chronicling his adventure through the various content in the game was a blast, and while nothing really new came out for a solo sort of guy, it had been a long enough time since I did anything at all in the game that stuff felt at least a little fresh.  And best of all, since it isn’t as linear as STO or SWTOR (which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s still a heap better), I was able to pick and choose a bit as to how I leveled the character.  The game did get some new content in, but it seemed to tend to the group oriented, and because I keep floating from game to game, it’s not really that simple for me to get that involved with them.  I do expect at some point in 2018 to return to CO and run a new character-I have a couple of concepts I’ve been kicking around-but with Dathiro’s story rolling in STO, along with its expected content, finishing Sorshan and Anthrandos in SWTOR, and whatever rolls up in that game, well…we’ll see what happens..

Returning for a new engagement....

Didn’t see a lot of activity, but….

EVE Online, despite its transition to a freemium model, didn’t get all that much time from me.  I did get my character up to the point where he could fly a cruiser, but he’s still training up skills to actually survive flying one; and of course, gaining income enough to afford to fly one.  And that was before the big update that opened up battlecruisers and battleships to the character.  I’ve recently done some minor dabbling in it again, mostly consisting of resuming training skills, flying the occasional set of level 1 missions (and just recently upgraded to level 2s!), and messing with ammunition blueprints to reduce dependency on outside arms dealers.  Currently, I’m flying a destroyer, which is handy to deal with frigate sized opposition.  If I get to the point of purchasing and flying a cruiser, I may well start in on those level 2 missions.  No hurry, though-it’s not like I don’t have enough going on elsewhere, right?

That wraps up my look back on 2017!  Thirteen years, right?  Who would’ve thought I’d have been doing this that long?  I don’t have any great plans to continue writing up fiction for my assorted games-although one never knows; maybe I’ll do a serialized sort of thing on WordPress and link to it.  I also keep kicking around reviving the “Images of the Ranger” site, since I still have heaps of screenshots and heaps of related images (and that site still has heaps of upload space); I’d been considering doing a series there on player housing, and I think it might work better on that site than on this primary site.  So stay tuned-anything can happen.  Hopefully I can make 2018’s gaming as enjoyable as 2017’s!

EoA: The Epic Continues

“It feels like such a long time since Arcann was defeated above Odessen.  Certainly his sister has done her best to make it feel as such.

SCORPIO’s betrayal was deeper than any of us realized.  It was not enough to simply reveal our hidden base to the Eternal Empire.  It was not enough to try to kill us on Arcann’s flagship.  I had thought at the time that she would rule the Eternal Empire through the fleet, captained by the GEMINI droids.  But I think it surprised everyone when she simply turned the throne over…to High Justice Vaylin.

Arcann was at least sane.  Vaylin…I fear she is not.  She has lashed out at every world she could, asserting her control.  I suspect the only thing that reins her in is the influence of SCORPIO-and I must admit to myself that I don’t see what SCORPIO’s motives are anymore.

Despite this, Odessen stands.  Our Alliance stands.  Theron has been our ambassador and intelligence agent, gathering information on the Eternal Fleet’s activity and recruiting soldiers to the cause.  Lana remains my good right hand-I never thought I would say this about a Sith.  This war has changed us all in ways we may not be able to recognize.  I’ve gained other allies, from all walks of life, with one thing in common:  a desire to see the fall of the Eternal Empire.

Now, Vaylin has made her most overt move yet.  A full invasion fleet was reported heading toward the world of Voss.  Theron is on his way there to evaluate the situation while we ready our own fleet.  Our fleet seems small in comparison with the Eternal Fleet, even with the Gravestone on our side.  Koth assures me that the Gravestone is ready, that his crew is ready.  I’m glad.  We will need all the help we can get.

We must find a way to limit the damage to Voss.  But…I can’t imagine why Vaylin would attack Voss, of all worlds.  There’s something going on that I’m still not seeing.

It does not matter.  What matters is that millions are in danger.  And it is my duty, both as the Commander of the Alliance and as a Jedi, to save them.”

-from the Epic of Anthrandos

It’s been over a year-close to eighteen months, actually-since I closed out the Epic of Anthrandos in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I did say I’d likely come back to it when I’d finished the Eternal Throne expansion.  That time has finally come.  And since it’s been over a year since the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion landed, I’m more or less ignoring the prospect of spoilers.  (That said:  I don’t plan to go beyond the big finish of the expansion, so no worries about me spilling beans on the Alliance Traitor that shows up afterward.)

Prior to beginning the KotET stuff, I took care of a couple of other outstanding details.  I made sure I’d gotten all the available Jedi companions (welcome back, Fidelton Rusk!) and the available companions I’d gained from other sources (Ranos, Okarr, and Vizla-Hexid isn’t available at this point for the character).  And of course, I discovered I still hadn’t done the HK interlude, so I picked up a companion there as well.

I’m not expecting more than two additional posts on Anthrandos; this opening post, plus one that’ll take place at some point in the middle of the expansion, and the big close out.  Should be amusing learning to use the character again.  There’s enough differences between the assorted advanced classes and even the builds that it’s not like playing my primary Jedi Knight.  Looking forward to wrapping things up on these characters, because they’ve deserved resolution for far too long.

Closing out ’17

Just a smallish post today-getting ready for the holiday season tends to eat into the gaming time.  Still, I’ve managed to put a bit of time in anyway.

Dathiro in Star Trek Online is proceeding quite nicely; I’ve gotten him to where I’m almost ready to do the next big post with him, although-again-time has more or less guaranteed that it won’t go up before the New Year.  I’ve done a couple of Foundry missions and have a third lined up, but I’ve also been doing a bit of the Winter Event to see if I can manage to get enough of the vouchers this year to get the Winter ship.  It seems doable, even with the time I’ll be away from the keyboard, but we’ll see how things finally shake out.  I’ll have some thoughts on leveling and the specific Foundry missions I’ve been doing next time (unless something big happens in the MMO-sphere that gets my attention).

I’ve also put some time into my Star Wars: The Old Republic Bounty Hunter, since he’s the last of my original eight main guys who needs to finish the Eternal Throne content.  He’s recently hit his max level and is about to attend the big party (and accompanying party-crashing) on Zakuul.  I’d hoped to have that all wrapped before the end of the year, but that’s so not going to happen.  SWTOR’s winter event/anniversary is also happening, but there isn’t much new to grab; a new flair for your portrait for free, another you can earn with the snowball game (I think), and most amusingly, a commemorative statue of Valkorion for your stronghold-because after all the time you had to spend with him lurking in your mind, you just can’t quit him.  (Honestly, that’s the sort of thing that should be clickable so you can throw rotten fruit at it.  Missed opportunity here, Bioware!)

It’s probably also worth noting that I’ve started doing short log-ins with my EVE character, mostly to start training up some skills so he can start looking at cruisers and higher; since the big patch came down with the changes in character limits, I’ve thought about putting a bit more time into EVE, but for now, it’s just limited to “swap skill training”.

So that’s where things are at the moment-aside from me wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (I know, I’m practically closing the barn door here), or the holiday of your choice!  See you in ’18!

The Cast List: Introducing Lasken of Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’ve detailed out six of my primary eight characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the seventh, as a part of the blog logo, has a blurb on a page dedicated to those characters.  So it’s time, at last, to detail the final member of this bunch in the Cast List:  Lasken, the Jedi Consular and Sage.  And his story is an interesting one.

In happier times

Lasken was pretty much the last of the eight that I pushed through the class stories; the Consular didn’t really “grab” me as a concept.  That said, I had an idea that I wanted to mess with that I thought could make him a bit more interesting to me.  I’d had a Sith character who leaned more Light Side than Dark Side of the Force; so I thought it would be interesting to go the other way with Lasken-have him decide at some point in the Consular storyline to shift to the Dark Side.  In short, to play out the Fall of a Jedi.  All I needed was an inciting incident-maybe something like what happened to the planet Uphrades in the Jedi Knight story.

Unfortunately, nothing really seemed to jump out at me during the Consular storyline.  I kept going, and going, and going, and kept building up that stock of Light Side points.  In the end, I found I had maxed out my Light Side numbers.  I felt sort of stupid.  I’d even picked up a dark robes outfit for the character that I thought worked great (although I’m continually irritated by the clipping of the hood into the head-but I did find a solution to that…).

Clearly, I needed to take less passive steps.  So I decided to use the character’s status as a springboard for a classic fatal flaw:  hubris.  Overwhelming pride.  Arrogance.  As I ran him through Makeb, I started having him take the impatient path, irritation with his allies, and contempt for his enemies.  Oricon allowed me to have him subtly influenced by the Dark Side’s presence.  Things REALLY kicked off with the Shadow of Revan stuff, though-Lana Beniko’s influence as a rational Sith (but still Dark Side!), along with his exposure to a similarly minded one in Darth Marr, allowed me to more easily choose some of those Dark Side choices.  The final straw for the character to go full on Dark Side was being frozen in carbonite for years by the Eternal Empire.  After that, I had him jump right off the slippery slope (the revelation did hit after saving the Spire on Zakuul from being melted down, so he actually managed to keep Koth in his crew).

Thing is, though:  all those choices were drops in the bucket.  In order for him to actually BE Dark Side in the game, he has to have Dark Side points exceeding the Light Side points.  And since he doesn’t have the Diplomacy crew skill, that’s a long, long, long ways away.  But in my mind, he’s already gone-I mean, Anakin Skywalker didn’t have to work too hard to drop his points down the cellar (although I suppose slaughtering younglings netted a heap of DS points…).

Lasken the Fallen

Lasken’s appearance was set fairly early.  I chose to make him a Miraluka, a species that tends to see via the Force and not their eyes-mainly because they didn’t have them.  I went after hooded robes early, because that worked well with his appearance.  Somewhere around Chapter Two of the Consular story, though, I grabbed the Diabolist robes, which gave him a darker air-and foreshadowing his fall.  Eventually, though I got really sick of the clipping of the skull through the robes, so I picked up a helmet.  I went through a number of them; some would remove the hood entirely, and some worked within the robe.  Eventually-around the time he went full on Dark-I started using a Dramatic Extrovert helmet, which worked better than another one I’d tried (the Eradicator’s Mask).  I justified his use of it by the simple conceit that he can no longer stand to look at his own reflection in the mirror anymore.  His lightsaber has varied in color; in happier times it was blue, but then it went Sithy-red.  He’s using a purplish one now, though, thanks to a chance cube he got in a Command Crate.

This personal arc for the character influenced another side of his story.  His slow decline might have begun when he started romancing his companion, Nadia (Jedi, remember, aren’t supposed to have attachments).  Unlike most of my characters, though, who basically did the “one true love” thing, Lasken latched onto another after his carbon freeze:  Lana Beniko, who really hasn’t been what I’d call a good influence on him.  I’m hoping for a suitably dramatic return for Nadia someday where confrontations will be had.  At that point, we’ll see just how dark Lasken’s become, in the form of a choice between Lana and Nadia.  (If such a choice even happens-Nadia may take one look and go “Oh, hell no” with this.)

Lasken, naturally, did not kneel before Valkorion-and in the end, he chose to take the throne for himself.  The story of his arrogance and hubris have led him inexorably to the conclusion that if the galaxy is to be at peace, it must be imposed-by him.  In his heart, he has already decided to conquer the Republic and the Empire-because the rulers of both have proven to be hopelessly inept at the task.  Perhaps he will be a benevolent despot.  And perhaps not.  I haven’t run him through the post-Knights of the Eternal Throne content as of yet, so he has yet to choose a side to support on Iokath-and unfortunately, there is no choice to say “a plague on both your houses”.  I may flip a coin.

While I wasn’t able to get Lasken down in Dark Side points as far as I’d like-or technically Dark Side at all-I’m happy with where I’ve taken his story.  He’s fallen in all but game mechanics.  A terrifying end to his story…for now!

Return of the Chiss

An enemy at the feet of a former Imperial Agent. I wonder how this one’s going to end….

Usually, the Sith Empire tends to conquer or destroy worlds that aren’t under their control in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But one species and government apparently chose, early on, to work with the Empire:  the Chiss Ascendancy.  The Chiss, for those not in the know, are the blue skinned/red eyed humanoid aliens, whose best representative is Grand Admiral Thrawn, the creation of Timothy Zahn, and recently “canon-ized” by the show Star Wars: Rebels.  They’d mostly been operating around Hoth, but kept a low profile (minus any players who made their characters Chiss).  But now they’re back in a big way in the new Flashpoint “Traitor Among the Chiss”.

Things are still hopping at Alliance HQ, after the Alliance Traitor burned our heroes.  (I’m still keeping the traitor’s identity under wraps for now; one day I’ll put up a statue of limitations on spoilers on this blog….)  Fortunately, the Alliance has gotten a lead as to where the traitor is now:  the Chiss world of Copero.  The Chiss tend to be a little iffy about outsiders, but fortunately, one of them is willing to look the other way in return for making sure you take care of the Chiss who helped the traitor.  The traitor’s got plans, too-there’s a reason that this shadowy individual has come to Copero, and it’s not good news for the Republic.  Yet there are subtle indications that perhaps things are not as cut and dried as one might suspect.

If there’s one thing I want to stress for people who haven’t done this yet:  be sure to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  A certain blogger who will remain nameless but is typing this post failed to do so:  when the mission objective says to do the Solo Flashpoint, don’t chose the logically named Story Flashpoint!  It must be Solo!!  Otherwise, you go through the bloody thing twice before realizing that you’ve really screwed up and have to do it a third time on the proper version!  Hint:  if you don’t get a cutscene when you first enter the Flashpoint, you’ve done the wrong one to continue the storyline.  On the bright side, said blogger did manage to net a fair chunk of Copero-inspired decorations for his strongholds.  I’m gleefully putting the fountains of water on my Tatooine stronghold.  I just adore taunting the binary suns.

As one may guess from the pic above, I decided to forgo my usual order of having my Smuggler do the new content first in favor of my Imperial Agent.  After all, he’s got history with the characters, including the return of the now-Lieutenant, Raina Temple.  I HIGHLY recommend using her in a healing role through the Flashpoint, because the bosses are huge sacks of health dealing out a fair chunk of damage (but see below).  The first boss seems like Makeb surplus, reminding me of the dino-droids there; I was tempted to see if it dropped Isotope-5.  Nothing fancy there, and if your healing is up to snuff, it’s probably better to ignore most of the adds and just blow the droid to bits.  (I do recommend killing off the non-Tank Droids, though, just to reduce the DPS incoming a bit.)

The second is a three dimensional sort of fight, where the Chiss agent will fight you on ground levels and second levels.  I especially liked the snipers on the second level taking shots-that’s smart tactics.  Didn’t save them, but smart.  You can run up ramps to get to the second level, or use a grapple at target points to jump up there; I’m guessing Jedi and Sith might not need the grapples, but as I haven’t run it through with them, can’t say for sure (there’s wouldn’t be any mechanical differences, anyway).  I did run into one irritating bug when the enemy returned to the ground, and something didn’t sync right between the server and my computer, because I was getting the “too far to reach” message when I tried to stab her…and I was standing right next to her!  Thank heavens for ranged weapons.

The final boss is a Force-user, and can be a pain due to an ability which drops him into stealth, but still able to hit you (technically, it’s “snowblindness”, but really…).  He’s also got an absorption field that cuts your damage down until it wears off.  This makes the guy more durable than he might appear, but again, as long as you have your companion healing, you should be able to make it through.

While the bosses are huge sacks of health, my viewpoint may have been colored by two facts.  One, because certain bloggers DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS, I was running through the FP in Story Mode my first couple of times, which might have impacted the numbers-and my perception thereof-just a bit.  And two, my Smuggler-who I also ran through the FP-had a far easier time of things, possibly because his weaponry was using 230-rated weapons/gear, while my Agent has a bit of a mishmash.  I really should go to the Fleet and go to that vendor that sells gear for Command Tokens, because I’ve been accumulating those tokens via various means, and it’s silly to sit on the currency not to spend it-especially given Bioware’s fetish for flushing a currency down the toilet for new currency, with lousy conversion rates.

There are other bits that kind of fell a bit flat for me.  There’s a trio of “tests” to continue on the Flashpoint, but they’re…unimpressive.  The first is a “feed the monster” sort of thing, which is not hard to figure out-you’re flat out told you should get it to trust you.  The second is a “test of logic”, but there really wasn’t any logic I could see other than “don’t open those doors”.  The last involved a “test of strategy”, in avoiding lasers similar to what you may have seen on Iokath; there’s a way to turn them off, but again, if you have a healing companion rolling, you can really ignore them and just run through them (beware a couple droids that can stun you-but it’s still not enough to cause real harm).  If you’re going to have these “tests”, you need to put them somewhere in the middle of all of these:  not incredibly obvious (hello fruit!), actually use logic (hello “which door do I open”, and actually have some strategy (hello lasers that can’t actually kill me fast enough so I can run through).  Of course, it’s possible that our Chiss friends have less advantages than our Heroes, with all that good gear and healing companions and the like; they’d get through the first two tests, but the lasers might cook them.

There are, of course, achievements in the missions (and completing a few of them will unlock a Copero advertising poster for your strongholds-you have to actually go into your Achievements and look for it under “Flashpoints”), and I understand there’s a couple of bonus achievements that aren’t obvious-and are substantially more difficult to achieve.  Mileage, of course, varies depending on builds and gear.

While there’s a couple other things that landed with the new publish, most of which I don’t really get involved with (New Galactic Starfighter map!  New Operations Boss!), and there’s been a revamp to the group finder that I haven’t looked at yet.  Plus some class changes, which I try very hard not to read much into so that my blood pressure remains at a healthy state.  The biggest addition (for me, at least) is the arrival of Darth Hexid for the folks who did the three PvP Warzones or three random Group Finder Flashpoints.  I’m not sure what I was expecting in personality; I guess I was using the example of Master Ranos from the Dark vs. Light event, where we had a very uncommon Jedi-someone who’d probably be a roguish sort of Jedi in happier times.  So maybe I thought this Sith would be less…Sithy.  Oh, no-this was better:  she’s Sith through and through, and is self-centered to the core-although she recognizes that you’re definitely a star to hitch her legend to.  Chatting with her in the Alliance Base is definitely amusing.  One key detail:  unlike Master Ranos, Hexid will not become available for standard recruitment until you finish the Eternal Throne expansion.  Fortunately-also like Ranos-you get a holocom item to bring her into your crew the moment you get access to a mailbox.  And, of course, much like pretty much all companions other than the core group, don’t expect more story out of her.  The companions are pretty much appearance-based gear outside of core companions (which I take to mean “class companions for your particular class, and the important characters to the storyline post-Ziost”).

Final note:  since Star Trek Online’s Foundry is still curled up and sobbing (okay, technically it’s just down, but leave me my metaphors!), I’ve been working a bit more on one of my outstanding SWTOR characters to get through the Eternal Throne expansion, and should finish this week; I expect to have a Cast List post of him later this week, too.  That’ll leave me with one more primary character to run through, plus the two Dark vs. Light characters I’d run through (because they deserve to see this through to the end).  Once they’re all done, I can start considering a new run with a new character whose adventure will be posted here-the only givens here is that it won’t repeat the Inquisitor or Jedi Knight stories, because that’d be boring and repetitive for this blog.  Random determination will be a factor!  But I don’t expect that before the new year.  And heck, maybe the Foundry will get off its butt and go Live again.  And then there’s the Winter Event in STO-land….

The Cast List: Introducing Alcaran of Star Wars: The Old Republic

It occurred to me that I’d missed a pair of fairly important characters for the Cast List in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’d assumed that my Smuggler was covered in one of my earliest posts on the blog (well, earliest after the WordPress move), but the banner didn’t include him at the time.  I added a menu page under my “about this blog” section to more fully describe the characters in the banner, which includes the smuggler (not in the same detail as what one sees in these posts, granted, but good enough).  However, this does not cover my other missing link, my Imperial Agent, Alcaran.

Once a Cipher, now a cipher.

Alcaran started life on an RP server, where an old guildmate from the Star Wars Galaxies days was hoping to put something together.  The character’s name started as Alcarin there, and I’d even written up some fiction for him (the semi-open RP going on at that guild’s site is long gone, though, along with that guild’s site, and likely the guild itself).  Eventually, I chose to relocate him to the server where my other characters were.  To my amazement, someone had already taken the Alcarin name there (proof positive that there are no original ideas), so I changed the “I” to an “A”, and that was that.

Alcaran, in a way, came out of a conversation I’d had many times with my old SWG guild:  is being a member of an Evil Empire something that automatically means you are evil yourself?  I’d long argued that the rank and file of the Empire-Sith or Galactic-were not evil, and in some cases not necessarily bad-at least, not until you climbed up the ranks and started having to really do some of the nasty things that involve exterminations and genocides.  Going after pirates or stopping really bad guys is a good thing, after all.  Where does the line exist?  At what point is the Moral Event Horizon crossed?  The Imperial Agent class seemed custom made for me to put my thoughts into action.  As the Keeper of Imperial Intelligence put it, the character was a garbage man, cleaning up the messes and doing the work nobody else wanted to do…or, as it turns out, could do.  Despite this, I was definitely going hard with the Light-side choices.  Of course, since protecting the Empire involved dirty work, he also did a number of Dark choices, too.  So like my Sith Warrior, he never maxed out his Light meter, but never devolved into a monster.

As one of my old guildmates pointed out to me during those aforementioned conversations, though, could a good man remain an Imperial after he’s exposed to the darker and more evil side of the Empire?  As the Agent storyline closed up, I had the opportunity for the character to cut himself loose from the Empire-or rather, from the Sith who ruled it.  Alcaran had no problem cutting his ties, and serving the people of the Empire as he saw fit, and put the command structure of the Empire behind him.  Well, at least until Makeb effectively trashed that ending-guess the writers didn’t want to have to deal with the ramifications of the IA storyline.  Even then, however, Alcaran remained independent, although he did at least respect Darth Marr for not being the psychopathic Sith he was used to dealing with (a feeling he also had with Lana Beniko, later; he had no issue with her taking over Sith Intelligence, even though he refused to join it).  Then along came the Eternal Empire….  He wouldn’t kneel before Valkorion, resisted his “destiny” with all his might, but he got shoved out of the shadows he preferred to work in and into the light as the Outlander; now he commands the Eternal Alliance.  Clearly, his career path has been derailed quite a bit from what he’d envisioned in his early days in Imperial Intelligence.  He’d had a number of romantic liaisons, but none since he got involved with Ensign Temple, who remains missing after his carbonite break (but if one has been paying attention to the upcoming roadmap, one will realize that the MIA status will be shortly revoked!).

The more formal looking Alcaran

Alcaran’s had a number of appearances in his outfits as the game has gone on.  For a while, he got a tan longcoat, but eventually I got a black one that fit him better.  I also made ruthless use of the Appearance Tabs once they came out to give him a “formal” white Imperial uniform; additionally, I took advantage of my status as a Collector’s Edition owner and purchased a full set of Imperial Trooper armor for those occasions when he had to go on the front lines and fight it out-which, as it turns out, I almost never wind up breaking out.  Maybe if I did more group content with him….

The constant dance between light and dark exists with Alcaran, and his story has been a big reason why I consider him my primary Imperial character; when new content comes out for SWTOR, he’s usually the second character through it, and the first Imperial.  He may be a lot more public than he wants to be these days, but he’s still a super-spy who understands that who you appear to be may not be who you are.  (And as such, he’s the one character in my roster who is fully aware that recent betrayals may not necessarily be what they appear to be; he’s been in that role himself….)

After the Merge

Well, the server merges have completed in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  And things shook out pretty well, on my front.  Only one character name had to be renamed, and it was one of my minor characters that I’d thrown together at one point.  My “primary” eight, plus Sorshan and Anthrandos, all made it through the other side intact.  Just as importantly, the guild names came through intact as well, so all is well with the world.

So, my first order of business was to ensure that I was able to get the Darth Hexid companion-well, to be more accurate, qualify for it.  The companion won’t be awarded until near the end of the month.  But there is a pair of achievements that key to it; either one will qualify a player for the companion (and a pet, if I recall, but that’s no big deal for me).  Both rely on grouped content:  either 3 Flashpoints via group finder, or 3 PvP warzones.  Not a combination of both, so if you do two of one and one of the other, it won’t work.  Oddly, for me, the warzones were the easiest to do.  Heck, I might even log into my Republic and Imperial mains to get the PvP locked companions while there’s still demand in PvP.

I’m kicking around rolling a new character in SWTOR to help fill out the time while I wait for things like the Foundry in Star Trek Online to come back up.  It’ll probably include a random element again, but I am purposefully excluding a few options in my head-no Knight or Inquisitor, no Mirialan or Rattataki.  Mainly because they’d been covered by my Dark Vs. Light characters.  I’m also likely to choose advanced classes based upon what my mains don’t have-why repeat when I don’t have to.  Heck, I could conceivably make a healing based character, which I haven’t done much of.  (I’ve never had that mindset, but I’m willing to try anything once, right?)

One thing I’ve also discovered with the server merges is that with so many new people (relatively speaking), finding a name for a new character is a lot rougher than it used to be.  Fortunately, somewhere along the line, the devs put in the ability to include a space in the character name, so if you aren’t heart-set on using your Legacy name as the character surname, you can make a full name your character name, like “Darth Vader”.  I’m dead certain the devs would’ve blocked that particular name…right?  Anyway, it’s just one of those little things that I should have realized but didn’t connect the dots on until after the merge.

With the merge complete, I will probably at some point continue the SWTOR version of “The Cast List”, to sprinkle in with the other games’ lists in between activity for Dathiro in STO.  On with the show!

The Unifying Force?

Merge Ahead

The devs at Star Wars: The Old Republic recently put up their roadmap for the next few months, and…well.  This can’t be good.

The biggest news coming out of it involve server merges.  It’s not a new thing-it’s happened at least twice before with this game (I freely admit there may have been another I missed at some point).  We’re now going from seventeen servers down to five:  two American, one European (English), one European (German), and one European (French).  They can put up a nice face on this all they want, but the simple reality of it is this:  you don’t see server merges of this nature unless the subscriber base has dwindled severely.  And that bodes ill for SWTOR entirely.  You can dress up the reasons for merges up in pretty language (More competitive PvP!  More people to group with for raids!), but in the end, the simple fact is that the developers feel that the seventeen servers don’t have the population to support their current “group focus”.  How much of this is a result of having focused too much on the last two expansions is an open question (I’m not convinced that a “raid or die” philosophy would’ve done much better).

With the merges comes the usual potential drama with names.  Legacy Names will not be impacted, and guild names will potentially have a former server slapped on it (so you could well end up as the “501st Fist – Jedi Covenant” because another guild on another server had the same name.  If one of those guilds should go belly up at some point, the suffix will be removed.  Of course, god forbid that the devs offer free rename tokens to the guild leaders to rename the guild to something that doesn’t have a server suffix on it.  Character names are, of course, an entirely different issue, with priority going to subscribers, then “highly played” characters.  I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people who are going to discover that their characters aren’t going to be what they last saw them as.  Characters who have been inactive for an extended period and not beyond 10th level will also be flagged for renaming prior to the big move.  So, good times.

(I’ll be putting any Cast List entries in my queue for SWTOR on hold until the merges hit; no sense in posting names that may be obsolete when the merges hit in early November.)

It’s not all doom and gloom here.  A new Flashpoint is set to land which continues the storyline with the Alliance Traitor, and offers the return of another lost companion, scheduled for late November.  Another step in raid progression is in the works, but they won’t be hitting until early 2018.  There is a lot of class “balancing” going on; whether or not that’s a good thing depends a lot on what classes you play, and I’ll leave it to other more analytical sites to go into that sort of detail (I always recommend Dulfy for this sort of thing).  There’s an anniversary celebration slated for December (let’s hope it’s not the last one).  There are updates being planned even for the Galactic Starfighter stuff, centering on Iokath (which I imagine would be a pretty fun map to fly on).  A minor but welcome thing is a new vendor at Fleet that will allow you to purchase customizations for opposite-faction companions (so Republic characters can change Vette’s coloration, and Imperials can slap on new T7 designs).  And there are some rewards for encouraging grouped behavior on deck, which can earn you the Darth Hexid companion.  If that names sounds familiar, it should:  Hexid was one of the two possible companions that were offered during the Light vs. Dark event, which Hexid lost (I guess folks liked the light-sided Chiss Jedi better).  I always suspected that Hexid would make an appearance sooner or later, but I figured it would be a gamble pack thing.  Instead, you need to play content under the Group Finder (PvE or PvP); I believe the target number is three of either of these (I don’t think it triggers from any combination; it’s gotta be three of one or the other).  Finally, there will be double rewards (xp, command xp, etc) for about two weeks after the merges go in.

November is shaping up to be a big month for SWTOR.  Whether or not this is a good thing is the big question.

The Cast List: Introducing Astirth of Star Wars: The Old Republic

Since I’ve recently finished running this fellow through to the end of the line, it’s time to look at my Sith Warrior representative in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Once the Emperor’s, once the Empire’s, now he is simply Wrath.

This character was designed with purpose in mind.  I had two big ideas to show how I was going to play this character, Astirth.  The first was inspired by a quote from a playing card in the long running card game “Magic the Gathering”.  The Black Knight’s quote:  “Battle doesn’t need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose.  You don’t ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don’t ask why I fight.”  That was a quote that just screams Sith to me.  But the other side was that I didn’t want him to just be a kill-machine.  I decided that this character is the road not taken; a character who could have been a Jedi if he was willing to surrender himself to its serenity, willing to quiet his emotions for the greater good.  But he loves the battle (see aforementioned quote), has no desire to cut off his emotions, and is just as happy to cut loose with every weapon at his disposal.  What I came up with was a character who can be cold blooded in slaughtering his enemies, but capable of showing mercy to the helpless (or if you look at it less charitably, to those who aren’t strong enough to actually give him a challenge).

Unsurprisingly, this attitude has given him a light-sided nature, but with heaps of dark-side choices that ensured he’d never max out the light-side meter.  He didn’t choose the needlessly sadistic options, but had no problem executing a fallen opponent.  A worthy fight would allow him to spare a life if the foe asked for quarter, but for the most part, if you took arms up against Astirth, he’d wind up delivering what was deserved-a swift death.  Thanks to the assorted betrayals he’s been delivered, particularly from a certain Emperor, it’s probably not shocking that he more or less spat in Valkorion’s face when offered a chance to join the Eternal Empire; he had nothing but contempt for the Emperor’s spirit, and although he spared Arcann in the end (see:  worthy foe, plus he’s useful…), he had no problem taking the throne for his own.  On the romantic side, it’s not shocking that he romanced Vette; her shock collar was off roughly ten minutes after arriving at the Imperial Fleet off Korriban, and he came to appreciate her ready wit.  Probably impacted some of his early decisions and helped the light-side part of his nature grow.

It took me a long, long time to settle on a final look for the character.  Nothing wrong with the looted stuff, but I kept experimenting with the appearance until the cartel crates brought along the Remulus Dreypa set, which looked to me to be perfect for the character.  He’s no armored behemoth (he went with the Marauder spec), and this look felt both fashionable and deadly.  I had gone with the standard red lightsaber crystals for the longest time, but I eventually had a black-core red crystal fall into my hands, and figured, “why not?”  I used a pair of curved hilts until Knights of the Fallen Empire, when I swapped one for the attuned saber crafted on Odessen.

All told, I’ve always been pretty happy with Astirth as a character.  Quick to avenge, quick to defend, eagerly seeking to test himself in battle against his enemies, and willing to reward his friends lavishly.  He doesn’t take betrayal well, though; folks who have done the Sith Warrior storyline will understand that I was regretful that I couldn’t kill a certain traitor at one point, but I made up for it by replacing his armor with cybernetic parts.  I like to think Astirth hacked off a number of parts with a lightsaber.  Like I said:  quick to avenge….  That said:  since the post-Eternal Throne storyline included the return of that character, I chose to let Astirth bring the character back into the fold; it’d been five years plus the length of the storyline, plus the time between the beginning of the storyline and the end of the Sith Warrior Chapter Three, which includes the entirety of Shadow of Revan and Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  The character had paid the price and had effectively repaid Astirth with excellent service; and, well, Astirth may hate betrayal, but is fond of loyalty.  I haven’t taken Astirth through the most recent mission, though, which reveals the Alliance Traitor, so when I eventually put him through it, we’ll see how things shake out.

Only two more of my “main” characters to go through the KotET story, plus the two “Dark vs. Light” characters!  And one of them will be getting their own Cast List posts likely at that time; it’s such a convenient time to take care of these things….  (The other is Chadam, who’s already had his turn here.)