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!!!!

Ahem.

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.

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Knights of the Missing Companions

It may come as a surprise that Star Wars: The Old Republic has got an expansion coming out next month.

No, really!  Here’s the trailer for it.  It’s a charming little look at the childhood of one of the primary antagonists.

Okay, maybe not so charming as much as horrifying.  Life’s tough when you wind up a dark-sider.  Then again, with Valkorion as your daddy, maybe there was no other way that could end.

Knights of the Eternal Throne is slated to apparently wrap up the Zakuul storyline in SWTOR, and it’s going to be a lot faster than one might have expected.  Unlike its predecessor, Knights of the Fallen Empire, we aren’t going to get nine chapters, followed by a chapter monthly to fill out the story-we’re getting the nine for this, and that’s it.  And it won’t be monthly-it’s coming at us all at once.  I may have to avoid Internet and zone chat when the release lands, because I imagine folks will have powered through it on day one.

The reason stated for this appears to be a dedication to focusing back on group content, which has languished for the most part since KotFE (and by group content, I mean “flashpoints and operations”).  Details on just what that will entail will apparently start getting tossed our way in 2017.  Despite not being a grouping sort of guy (mainly because operation-scale fights and late-game FPs tend to require a specific set of tactics and the like which requires research which requires time I don’t have a lot of), I’m for this.  I’ve always been a believer in MMOs to have something for everyone, even if that something isn’t my cup of tea.  I was spoiled by Star Wars Galaxies, I expect, which actually did have something for everyone.  Granted, the two are very different games.

One of the things that jumped out at me, though, is the status of the character companions.

It’s been close to a year since KotFE booted everyone’s pre-expansion companions to the curb, and some of them have managed to make their way back to the Outlander’s base-and some have not.  People have believed that the rest of the companions were likely to return in KotET.  But with only nine chapters left, I’m somewhat dubious-particularly in light of the fact that most of them were “romance-able” companions, and the devs have stated that they want to make reunions of that sort memorable, eg. probably not in an Alert.

Let’s take a quick peek at the roster, shall we?

Bounty Hunter:  Oddly, one of the big winners of the returned companion sweepstakes.  Skadge, Blizz, and Gault have all returned, as well as romance-option Torian; two of these were alerts, the other two during storyline.  Mako (also a romance option) remains at large.

Imperial Agent:  This class had a strong showing.  Lokin returned during an alert, while Kaliyo (romance option) returned in the story-as did SCORPIO, although her status has…mutated a bit.  Temple and Vector, romance options both, remain at large.

Jedi Consular:  The Consular hasn’t had great luck.  Qyzen came back during an alert, but Iresso, Nadia, Tharan, and Zenith are all at large-and honestly, I really expected Zenith to show up earlier, given his background on insurrections.  This makes the Consular the big loser in the sweepstakes, with only ONE companion returned.

Jedi Knight:  Saved from having the least returned thanks to the latest Alert that came with the HK Interlude, the Knight saw one of his guys earliest-T7 in the escape from Vaylin and company; he rejoined officially later down the road.  Rusk came back in an Alert very recently, but Doc (romance option), Kira (romance option) and Iresso (romance option) Lord Scourge (and where is he?  You’d think he’d be VERY interested in the events of this storyline…) are still among the missing. (Note:  the original post put up Iresso twice.  Bad me.)

Republic Trooper:  Havoc has managed to find its way back together…mostly.  Jorgan (romance option) returned during the story, and Yuun was the very first Alert every character does.  M1-4X returns in an Alert as well.  Tanno Vik is…well, complicated.  He shows up in the story, but does not rejoin thus far-and in fact, depending on decisions made, may not actually be able to come back.  Elara (romance option) is still at large.

Sith Inquisitor:  The Inquisitor’s crew is still being reconstituted.  Talos came back from an alert, as did Xalek.  Khem Val, Ashara (romance option), and Andronikos (romance option) are still out there, somewhere.  A Khem-copy can be recruited during an Alert, but is not explicitly a “replacement” for Khem.  Given the variable circumstances of Khem’s mind, it’ll be interesting to see how that may be dealt with.

Sith Warrior:  Vette (romance option) returned to the Warrior in story, while Broomark and Pierce come back during an Alert.  Quinn (romance option) is still missing, as is Jaesa (kinda-romance option), with Jaesa representing some of the potential issues that Khem does, and has a couple different ones as well.

Smuggler:  No love for the Smuggler characters in-story, but he did manage to get Bowdarr and Guss back into the fold.  Risha (romance option), Corso (romance option) and Akavi (romance option) all remain at large.

By my count, 20 companions are unaccounted for, and most of them are potentially former paramours of the Outlander.  If you had two per chapter, it still wouldn’t cover all of them.  Exactly four of them are possible alerts, leaving us with sixteen-but again, still looking at multiple companions per story chapter if they were to get back during KotET.  The odds suck.  This means that it’s likely to be well over a year before the last of the companions return to the fold.  And since most of them are characters that the Outlander may have married, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be a sizeable amount of people who are irritated that they’ll have to wait even longer for them to return.

Well, return in-story, anyway.  As mentioned in prior posts, all of a character’s companions can be brought back, in name only, thanks to the terminal in the commander’s quarters on Odessen.  If you can’t live without seeing them again, that’s certainly one route.  Having done the RP thing in my time, and being a believer in the story, though, I’m likely to leave that terminal alone; suffering is good for the character’s soul.

The devs may yet surprise me, though-and we won’t have to wait much longer.  Knights of the Eternal Throne lands December 2, but subscribers from now until November 27 will get in on November 29, three days prior.  Folks who go that route can nab a couple bonuses as subscriber rewards:  the first for being subbed on October 25 nets you a special companion:  Shae Vizla; expect her to be treated similar to Nico Okarr, where you will get a token to bring her in early, but her Alert mission will probably take place between KotFE and KotET.  Being subbed on November 27th will get you a new vehicle-your very own recon walker-and most importantly, it won’t be painted like HK-55!

When the expansion lands, one can expect a pause in Sorshan’s Story as I put my primary characters through the new stuff.  Expect my thoughts as I go along as it happens; I’m not sure if I’ll put in little preludes like I have with the Epic of Anthrandos and Sorshan’s Story-but I’ve had so much fun doing so, that it’d be a shame not to.  I’ll figure it out by the time the fun begins!