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!

Advertisements

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.)

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

Here’s the original character….

Since I’m presently making a push to get a couple more characters through the Eternal Throne expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I thought I’d look at another of my characters over there.  This entry for the List has its origins, somewhat, in the predecessor of SWTOR.  Well, it’s MMORPG predecessor, anyway-Star Wars Galaxies.  During a break I was taking from that game just after the Combat Upgrade, I made a character named Idievak Bialar, who was a much different sort of character than my Ranger on my main server.  That character directly inspired the creation of my Jedi Knight, Idievak, in SWTOR.

It’s true that I have no shame in reusing names sometimes.  I could say that the SWTOR version is an ancestor of the SWG version, but I prefer to think of it this way:  just because they share a same first name means nothing.  How many people in the state you live in are named “John”?  I simply see Idievak as something similar.  It’s easy to get away with things like first names; it’s the last names that are trickier, and I never established one for the Jedi Idievak-so I’m free and clear of having to deal with any ancestry issues.

…And the present day version. He’s a bit more badass….

I knew from the start that I wasn’t going to mess with the Dark Side; this was a true-blue Jedi Knight, strong in the Force and Light Side all the way!  I did hem and haw about what advanced class to use, but eventually went with the Sentinel and the dual lightsabers.  The other big choice I had to look for was the idea of romance; as was indicated early on in the Jedi storyline on Tython, romantic attachments are a no-no, at least as far as a pair of Jedi Masters there were concerned.  This led to a big question mark with an early companion, Kira, who is a romanceable companion for the Knight.  Well, everyone needs one vice, right?  Of course, since Idievak’s gone along the Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne storylines, Kira’s been missing in action along with a large percentage of the former flames of the character classes.  That hasn’t kept Idievak from doing the right thing all through the Zakuul story, where he definitely kept an antagonistic relationship with his unwanted head-guest.  It probably shouldn’t be a surprise what decisions he made at the end of the Eternal Throne, being my third character to complete that arc.

In spite of my insistence that Idievak isn’t actually related to the SWG version, I certainly crafted his appearance to have some similarities-a darker skinned Zabrak, although he lacks facial tatooos.  As an early character, he tended to go back and forth on his outfit until I got some “orange gear” which could slot mods; it wasn’t a bad look, but it really popped once color dyes became available.  A white-and-red dye gave him what I consider his signature look.  Lightsaber blade colors remained blue for a time, but thanks to a hypercrate of gamble-packs I’d picked up (I had so bloody much cartel coins that I HAD to spend them on something!), I acquired some crit-enhanced white/blue crystals, and their look was suitably impressive enough to me to use them-particularly since this character was the one to whom the collection item was bound, so he could replicate heaps of bound crystals for use by him and his companions (well, nowadays, the only thing they’d get out of it is color, but that’s progress for you).

Ultimately, I was extremely happy with the character’s final look, and how he dealt with the class story and succeeding content.  And now that the war is back on between the Republic and the Empire (c’mon, you gotta know which side Idievak chose to support), things are only gong to keep busy for a Jedi in the Eternal Alliance.

The Great Train Robbery

Are you sure this is the sort of thing an Alliance Commander really needs to be doing?

You know, missioning in an MMORPG can be a fairly dull affair.  Go to this location, and do this thing.  Kill the guys trying to kill you.  Get the MacGuffin.  If it’s instanced, it’s always within the bounds of four walls.  If it’s “outdoors”, well, that has its own problems.  So you really have to lean hard on the story to make a mission feel meaningful.  Except…there are ways to make it feel more interesting, and it doesn’t require dumb mechanics like jumping puzzles.  Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery-and give it motion.  Relatively recently, for example, when playing Champions Online, I extolled the virtues of a Queen City mission where you board a moving riverboat.  It’s still got all the constraints you’d expect from a regular mission, but the illusion of movement and activity make it stand out.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, has done this as well; they have at least one Heroic which combines this with one of my least favorite mechanics (the aforementioned jumping game)-but at least it’s a catchy situation hopping from moving air-car to air-car.  But with their latest patch, we’ve got a new Flashpoint:  Crisis on Umbara, which can be done traditionally or in a solo-story mode (and the traditional method-as in, grouped-has its own mechanics and assorted difficulty levels).  The FP continues on a thread taken from the Iokath storyline, where someone in your Alliance is trying to bring it down.  Well, thanks to the work of Theron and Lana, your primary advisers, the traitor has been located on board a train on Umbara, looking to acquire Adegan crystals-last seen when the late Darth Malgus tried to usurp the Sith Empire with his stealth armada.  So before you can say “Snakes on a Train”, you, Theron, and Lana are off to Umbara to snag the traitor before any real damage is done.

I won’t spoil the traitor’s identity here.  It’s not hard to find out on the ‘net, but I’ll sit on it until the next bit of content rolls in that builds on it, because I’m sure that we’re looking at the familiar trope of “Late Arrival Spoiler“.  Until then, though, let’s let the traitor’s name remain hidden.  Suffice it to say, however, that the traitor will be back to plague our heroes, and we get another indicator of just what is truly behind this all.  Besides, it’s not the traitor that interests me today.  Well, it is, but I was talking about the setting.  It’s a freaking moving high-speed train!  Of course, it’s a Star Wars train, so figure it’s not using anything resembling wheels and more along the lines of your average landspeeder.  Not anything resembling tracks on the ground, but hovering vertical rings.  And much like action sequences in most movies with trains as a setting, you will be fighting not just the local Umbarans (who, apparently, don’t like uninvited guests), but also the faction you didn’t choose to support at Iokath, who are a little irritated about the things that happened to either Acina or Malcom, depending on your actions.

By the way, I will take a moment for a minor spoiler here, so that readers do not do what I did.  You will find a point where there are two very large “Champion” level turrets.  Don’t bother trying to engage them; don’t bother trying to go around them.  Pay attention to the hole in the roof well before then instead.  Go that way.  Don’t be like me and try THREE TIMES to find a way to deal with those damned guns and get blown to bits by them.  Yes, I completely embarrassed myself by missing that hole in the roof and went on a futile quest to blow up those guns.  LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

There’s another big trope (well, it SHOULD be, even if I can’t find it) that you can associate with action sequences on trains.  It’s probably not hard to guess at what it might be.  Suffice it to say, it involves the traitor and your response to that, which consumes roughly the latter half of the Flashpoint.

There are a few boss battles on the way, and possibly another that I bypassed completely when I realized I didn’t have to fight it (but see below).  One involves a stealth-assassin and a tech who pops down automated turrets that upgrade fast.  I find that killing the tech first is the best way to maintain sanity in that fight, because those turrets can get out of hand.  Setting your companion to healing is probably a good move if you aren’t already a heal-spec character.  The next one involves a critter-it’s amazing how many large creatures exist on settled planets, right?  The final one involves a rather large battle-droid, who is ringed conveniently by a bunch of highly explosive containers.  Targeting said containers can be a bit tricky, though, since the hit box of the droid is so bloody large that half the time you’ll still wind up targeting it.  Each of these battles have their own special mechanics-I fully recommend using Dulfy’s site for details.

Much like the Flashpoints that led up to the Shadow of Revan expansion, there is a new currency drop available from the bosses (including, incidentally, the one I bypassed.  Oops).  This can be used to gather, among other things, a new armor set, a new mount…and a new Stronghold:  which, as I understand it, is one of Umbara’s trains.  Yes, you’re looking at a mobile Stronghold here.  Nobody’s actually seen it yet, though, because there is a cap on how many of the new currency you can get on a character (and it’s bound, big shock)-and the cost for the Stronghold is ten more than you can gain in a week.  The more cynical part of me wonders if that’s because the devs actually are still finishing the work on it; the more realistic part of me figures that a week is an awfully specific amount of time to estimate being done by, so that’s probably not the reason.  More likely that they didn’t want the content locusts to finish running the FP in less than a week.

I’ve run the mission through with my two “main” characters, my Smuggler and my Agent, and both have their opinions about the events of this FP, spoken and unspoken.  My Agent, in particular, has his own theories, based on his own experiences as Cipher Nine.  It may make for some interesting moments, should the writers of the story arcs choose to include that.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I rather enjoyed running the FP, although I don’t know that I’ll bother trying for the new Stronghold; after all, 1) I still only recently acquired the Tatooine one, 2) SWTOR only recently released the Manaan Stronghold which I haven’t touched-and at this point, may not, 3) I’ d have to run this FP about a dozen times on a single character to unlock it, and even with my willingness to repeat content, that might be pushing it, and finally 4) I don’t have the heaps of credits required to unlock rooms, much less do a full useful decoration of the place.  I’m still in the middle of unlocking Tatooine rooms, never mind outfitting the place appropriately.

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

Waaaay back during the Closed Beta of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I knew that I wanted to be playing a Smuggler.  So, I made a deliberate choice to test with a character that wasn’t one (although obviously, I did do some testing with the Smuggler just to get familiar with the idea).  I decided to go with a class that wouldn’t interest me all that much:  the Republic Trooper.  That was the design origins of the character of Jesken, who I recreated at Launch.  Boy, did I blow that original analysis:  I wound up having the Trooper be my second Republic character to complete his class story.

For the Republic!

The general concept was simple:  what if you had someone who was a True Believer in the ideals of the Republic serving as a soldier?  What if you had someone who had the right personality to be a Jedi, but had not a lick of Force-sensitivity?  What if my Trooper was, in other words, a knight in shining armor?  This became an even bigger deal for me as I went through the early levels of Coruscant, where the character’s commanding officer was far more of a pragmatist and willing to consider collateral damage to be sure of a successful mission.  I managed to hold true to this, with a single exception where he did the selfish thing-and there were consequences.  (I won’t go into detail since it is POSSIBLE that it could spoil a small part of the Trooper story, but I will say that there were no good endings to that situation-and it impacted my play such that the character would not pursue a romance with any of his companions.)

I chose a Cyborg as the character’s species-something near human.  There’s nothing really special about that-really, character species doesn’t count for much except for certain Imperial storylines and special social moves (Cyborgs scan people).  Since he was leveling up during the first/second year of the game, he didn’t have as much possible armors to choose from as my later characters did, so his armor tended to be a constant work-in-progress.  The color matching to chest armor code wasn’t exactly perfect then, either, so sometimes he and his companions had some hilariously mis-matched armor in terms of coloration.  And this was before the special dyes became available.  Over the years, I’ve stabilized him to most of a single set:  the Yavin reputation armor.  It looked like it could take serious damage and serious abuse; the helmet was the piece I chose to pass on, keeping one I’d gotten while leveling.

In keeping with the personality I molded for him, Jesken would choose the Vanguard advanced class, with the Shield discipline.  I made him as tanky as I could-and he would either use Jorgan for damage dealing or Elara for healing (this was, of course, before Knights of the Fallen Empire allowed any companion to be set to any role).  This has made things a little tricky at times going through some missions, particularly as nerfs came to the damage dealing abilities of the class-and the removal of abilities that had any real range to them.  The Vanguard has become a very up-close-and-personal class, virtually melee with a ranged weapon.  But he’s able to survive, and that’s a good thing except missions where he doesn’t get a companion.  Then it’s a little more of a slog.

Jesken turned out to be the kind of guy you could write a recruitment ad around.  He wasn’t as gung-ho as a certain droid companion of his, but he was definitely all about doing the right thing, even if it damaged future strategic goals.  Saving lives was what the job was about more than killing the enemy (even if killing the enemy might save lives in the future-you can’t live with a hypothetical future when there’s a clear and present danger now!).  This would put him in conflict with his superior officers at times, and he would develop a dislike for politicians-although he certainly answered their questions with respect and honesty.

Recently, he found himself considered KIA by the Republic at the beginning of hostilities with the Eternal Empire.  Cue surprises when he showed back up, and able to claim a posthumous promotion to Colonel (props to the KotFE writers for including that detail-and to the developers for adding Colonel to the list of titles he could use-and of course, it’s the one he’s now using), and heading up an alliance to overthrow the Immortal Emperor.  I recently completed the Knights of the Eternal Throne story with this character, and it’s no surprise that he found it easy to tell his companions, “I’m no emperor”.  With the Iokath world being recently introduced, Jesken becomes the only character of mine to have interacted with all of his former companions from the class story, and has returned four of them into the fold.  (And no, he didn’t kill the fifth on Asylum.)  This makes the Trooper the current leader in the Great Companion Recovery, with all five former companions accounted for.

I had a lot of fun playing Jesken, and I enjoyed running him again through the Eternal Empire stories.  Says a lot about a character who was basically a throwaway character during Beta!

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

I confess, there are certain classes/professions in the Star Wars setting that do not appeal to me at all.  The top of that list is the Bounty Hunter.  Blame it on Boba Fett backlash; I always felt that he was overrated-sure, he had the cool armor, but he needed Vader and a heap of Imperials to get Han Solo (and of course, Solo was my favorite character at the time, so that didn’t help), and then he wound up killed by a blind smuggler with a pike and a Sarlacc.  So it drove me somewhat nuts that the Expanded Universe for Star Wars had to find a way to dig him back out of being digested for a thousand years and overcompensate.  When Star Wars Galaxies was a thing, my opinion didn’t improve when a heap of content was thrown into the whole “Jedi vs Bounty Hunter” thing they had going there, at the expense of other professions; that said, I didn’t really have a big issue with them actually, you know, hunting bounties-it was what they did!  If only the Smugglers in that game had been able to smuggle as THAT was what THEY were supposed to do, but that ship is long, long gone.

So, I have some prejudices against Bounty Hunters as a class.  That’s probably why this class was the next-to-last one I did in my work to level up all eight classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  But hell, I’m a completionist sometimes, and so I put together my future Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.

You can run, but you can’t hide. A job’s a job.

Chadam started out simple enough:  I wasn’t going to go out of my way to have him kill and eat kittens Dark-Side, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to be the nice guy.  I wanted him greedy, but with a code:  he did the job, and he got paid.  He would move heaven and earth to make it happen.  Not an evil character, but not exactly a role model.  Smarter than a thug, but not interested in the bigger picture or deep philosophy.  In other words, someone well suited for the fringe and not comfortable in the halls of Imperial power.  (Boy, did that go south on him…)

In appearance, my first goal was to use a different body type.  For those unfamiliar with the game, there are four body types for each gender.  I tend to use body type 2 for my males; fit, athletic, strong guys.  But I wanted Chadam to have a more imposing presence, so I went up a notch-someone who makes you think of a space marine.  As far as species went, well, I was still going for a wide variety among my characters, so I went with a Chiss, a popular Expanded Universe species who recently got canonized with the on-screen debut of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His out fit look varied a lot during my gameplay; for a long while, he used a sort of turban-styled headgear and whatever mission-reward armor he could get.  Eventually, I was able to get a damaged set of Triumverate armor off of GTN (damaged in appearance, not in stats).  Later I picked up the restored version of that armor.  The icing on the cake, though, was the final helmet I used.  At one point, I looted a Sith Warrior helmet that was just too good to ignore.  I thought that a mildly terrifying helmet would suit Chadam just fine for his work, so I finally settled on the look shown on this post.

I went with the Mercenary advanced class, and went with the pyrotech discipline.  Because plasma fires are fun.  The Merc was chosen because I didn’t really want him to be the Boba-lite kind of character (well, I sure blew that one, when you look at the image above).  The dual guns made him an amusing mirror for my Smuggler main, who was took the Gunslinger path.

I actually got to like Chadam as I played him.  Sure, he had no problem shooting and executing people he was hired to off, but he wasn’t big on collateral damage.  He was interested in a fast credit-got along great with Gault-but Mako helped keep him more or less ethically honest.  He had no issues taking advantage of advertising-there are two moments in the game where a bounty hunter can effectively advertise himself to the galaxy at large, and man, he did it.  He came to respect the Mandalorian code, though, and his struggles tended to come in when that ideal came into conflict with his desire for ready cash.  The result of this all meant he was mildly Light-Side in nature-there were a heap of Dark-Side choices that kept him fairly balanced, not the least of which involved the reason why we got a Chancellor Saresh in power in the Galactic Republic.

The character completed the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, but I have yet to run him through the Eternal Throne (just like in my leveling work, the BH is near the bottom of the list).  He knelt before Valkorion not for any desire of power, but because he saw what happened to the last guy who didn’t kneel; in other words, sometimes the best thing you can do is lie to the guy with all the power and hope you get another, better opportunity.  Which, honestly, he sort of did, since Arcann chose that moment to go after his father-but as a result, Valkorion keeps harping on that initial kneel-down, and Chadam only wishes he had an option to say to the dead Emperor, “Hey, you know I was only doing that to buy some time, right?”  I think the worst thing for him in his future isn’t the possibility of taking the Eternal Throne-it’s that he’s going through all this and not getting paid.  (I do seem to recall him having Gault funnel some of that loot from that treasure run into profitable enterprises, though.)

I can safely say that while the Bounty Hunter is still not on my list of favorite character types in the setting, Chadam is still a character I enjoy; sometimes, it’s not about “good” and “evil”; it’s about having credits and not having credits, and the things you will or won’t do to get them.