Hyperspace Beacon: Analyzing SWTOR’s Uprising group content

    
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Star Wars: The Old Republic dropped a treat this week by allowing fansites to tour Knights of the Eternal Throne. Although we can now see the first chapter of KOTET on YouTube, that’s not the story that I want to learn about now. Don’t get me wrong; the story of KOTET is very important to me, and I really want meaningful and impactful choices. But seeing someone else play through the chapters at this point is only going to set me up for spoilers and disappointment, especially since there is only one story for every player and every character.

Group content is far more important at this stage because it’s part of what makes the game feel bigger, and it’s been a weak point for BioWare for the last year. So let’s take a look at some of the fansites that released playthrough videos of both the story mode and veteran modes of the Crimson Fang Uprising: SWTOR Central and Kid Lee. They don’t offer much commentary on what was happening during the gameplay. They did mention if things were more or less difficult but offered little in the area of why or how certain things worked. I don’t fault them for that; it’s difficult to make commentary while fighting for your character’s life. Today, I will dive deeper into the Uprisings and the things we can glean from the video playthroughs.


Location, location, location

At first, it was difficult to tell where the group was in this particular uprising because it looked like generic space station number 645,547, but then a very specific part of the videos pointed to one of my favorite locations in the whole game: Port Nowhere. Toward the latter half of the instance, the group stumbles on a Crimson Fang gangster fighting another patron over what looks to be a card game, and I knew exactly where they were. And when I stopped the video to take a look above SWTOR Central’s minimap, Port Nowhere was confirmed.

In the second chapter of the Smuggler story, you meet your friend Darmas in a space station that’s mostly off the grid. It moves around the galaxy so that it cannot be pinned down at any one point. It’s a haven for those who make a living dealing under the table. Although you can go back to the station as a smuggler, it’s closed off by a red instance door, which was highly disappointing to me. However, I am glad that we get to revisit this location, even if it is only for a 15-minutes group instance.

Trash mechanics

A couple of the group members mentioned that there were a lot of trash mobs. At the very beginning of the instance, and throughout everything including the boss fights, there appeared to be a lot of trash mobs. Thanks to the armor that the group was wearing, these mobs could be taken down in one or two hits for the most part, which tells me that those classes with good AoE attacks will perform the best in these instances.

When switching to veteran mode, you’d think that maybe there would be a change in the mob’s health or perhaps more mobs overall. Strangely, there isn’t a difference. I will get more into the actual differences when I talk about the bosses, but I do want to mention that the design strategy behind uprisings in general when compared to previous group content like flashpoints. BioWare believes that throwing more mobs at a situation will make it more challenging. And I guess that adding more things to fight does make it more difficult if you’re actually taking fire, but in a world of heavy AoE damage and healing, more mobs just mean reduced frame rates.

Power-ups

Periodically, the group ran into a box that was clickable that when activated gave that group member an extra ability. In the video, we saw a rocket launcher and a giant grenade. The rocket launcher was clearly a single-target ability whereas the grenade allowed you to drop a reticle of damage on the ground.

Although the temporary ability bar isn’t new — we saw it in Knights of the Fallen Empire — it’s good to see this mechanic continued. However, I do wonder whether we will see these abilities available when the nightmare versions of uprisings release. I would hope not because it feels a tiny bit like cheating. I believe nightmare mode should be based on pure player skill and preparation.

Boss mechanics

The third boss in the uprising was actually the least interesting to me because it appeared to be a kitchen-sink boss in the sense that BioWare tossed a bunch of mechanics together and said, “Dodge this.” However, the first and second bosses displayed some interesting nuances and some melding of mechanics that we have seen before.

The first boss did the all-too-common jump out of the fray and send in the adds. However, the way players bring him back is interesting. In the middle of fighting the adds, a cannoneer appears out of one of the doors. When he is killed, a panel unlocks and you’re able to open up flames around the boss which eventually causes him to jump down. At that point, it’s mostly tank-and-spank and stay-out-of-stupid.

The second boss uses another mechanic that we’ve seen before. A pair of droids will shield-switch. One boss starts with the shield, then periodically, they will switch. I had hoped that the shield would be reflective, directing your attack back at you, but it’s not. It’s just a simple shield.

Boss difficulty comparison

The mechanics of the bosses aren’t different from those of some of the previous small-group bosses, but that doesn’t make them any less fun. Still, the challenge is supposed to come in veteran mode, and it appears to be a little bit disappointing in that department. When the group switched to veteran mode, the mobs appeared to drop just as fast as they did during story mode.

And it was confirmed by the first boss that they all had just about the same amount of health. In the story mode video, you can hear SWTOR Central comment on the bosses health being about 2 million. Then in the veteran mode video, it’s just about the same number. It can be extrapolated that the biggest difference in story mode vs. veteran mode is the strength of the mobs’ hits, which appeared to be about double based on the amount of health was lost in the AoE boss attacks.

Those are my observations. I turn it over to you now. I’ve embedded the videos here to get your thoughts. They aren’t too long, and you do get to see two different points of view. I’m interested in seeing what you have to say in the comments.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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