Hyperspace Beacon: First impressions of SWTOR’s Chiss flashpoint

    
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Yesterday, Star Wars: The Old Republic launched update 5.6, which gave us many new quality-of-life changes to the game as well as our first trip into the Chiss Ascendency via the “A traitor among us” storyline. I am in love with many of the additions like the legacy credit storage and the activities window. But I think the casual player would be most interested in the story on Copero. It’s also the part that I’m most unopinionated about. It’s all right and a good addition to the game, but it’s also just kind of average. It’s better than bad – but it’s not excellent BioWare storytelling.

Let’s take a few moments to talk about SWTOR Update 5.6 and all the things in it, then dive into why I think the Copero flashpoint could have used a little bit more polish.

Activities, legacy credits, Master’s Datacron, and new hair-dos

Group activities have been BioWare’s focus for this year. They have been steadily increasing the number of bosses in the Iokath operation. Each major content update since 5.0 has included additional group activities. Gear rating has become a more visible thing to track. And now we have the activities window, which is an improvement over the previous group-finder window.

The activities window includes all repeatable content (save for story chapters) from heroics to dailies and flashpoints to operations. They are divided into tabs at the top of the window into group, PvP, and solo. There is a lockouts tab, too, but that’s largely unchanged from the previous interface. The biggest addition to this interface is the “Role-In-Need” rewards. For instance, right now, the veteran uprisings are in need of more tanks to queue, so they have offered tanks 6,397 more credits and 577 more command points than the standard reward for completing the mission. I’m on board with that as long as it encourages people who can actually play that role. I do have a tiny fear that it will encourage people to switch specs for a role they really don’t know how to play at all.

The legacy credits bank is a quality-of-life addition that should have been introduced when we received the legacy banks, or better yet, when the legacy system was introduced almost six years ago. It does exactly what you’d expect it to do. It gives you an area in your legacy bank to store credits. And these credits can be seen, added to, or withdrawn by any of your characters on that legacy. It’s not cross-server, but it is cross-faction.

Update 5.6 also introduced the Master’s Datacron. This item is what everyone thought the character boost was going to be when it was introduced in 4.0. The Master’s Datacron will simply raise the level of any character to level 70. It doesn’t reset or get rid of quests like the character boost did. It simply raises you to 70. If the character does not have the ship yet, it will grant it the player ship. It will also give characters tier 1 gear so that players don’t have to wait to start endgame activities.

Before getting into Copero, let’s talk hair. I’m not a super fan of Theron Shan’s new do, but if you are, you can get it on your character — male or female. Women also have five more hairstyles and men of one more other than the Theron hawk, assuming that the species you’re playing has hair — Zabraks excluded. Humans also have new eye colors and cosmetics. The eyes give you a Sith look without the corruption, similar to Lana Beniko.

Four of the hairsyles for women are interesting because they kind of feed off each other. They all have a ’40s-style curl in the bangs, but in the back, there is a choice of a short cut, a bun, down, and down in giant curls. Of course, you have to be a fan of that style in the first place, but it does make for an interesting set. If you like to have your character put her hair up and down or in different configurations, this would be a good style to roleplay that.

Let’s talk spoiler-free about Copero

If you have not caught up with the current storyline, there is a traitor who has twice tried to kill you and working with another group to try to take down the Eternal Alliance. If you’ve played Crisis on Umbara, then you know who the traitor is, but for those who haven’t, I’m not going to reveal his or her identity right now. The only thing you really have to know is that he or she was a major part of your group and appears to be actively working against you now.

Let’s start with the good of the flashpoint. As far as the story is concerned, the motivation makes sense. Get ready to learn why the Chiss Ascendancy and the Sith Empire were allies and the Empire didn’t conquer the Ascendancy as it did every other galactic nation it encountered. I found that tidbit of information far more interesting than the reveal at the end of the flashpoint.

I think where this flashpoint suffered was in the dungeon design. Taking a look at the screenshots of the planet, you’d think it’s beautiful, and it is. But would you believe that it’s also one very tight corridor? BioWare even went for far as to put up invisible walls to prevent you from stepping off the path. It’s also a giant murder simulator. There are small puzzles, but those seem to be fabricated and not really a way to further the story.

The bosses and especially the bonus boss aren’t a straight tank-and-spank. I only had time to play them solo a couple of times, but during that time, I felt they had enough challenge to make the flashpoint more than a slaughterfest. I found ways to cheese the trash between the bosses so the subsequent runs were a lot faster than the initial run.

Overall, I would give Update 5.6 positive marks, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to hold interest for too long. I know that I might only run the flashpoint one or two more times just to get my Chiss character through the story, but other than that, I’d say come back only if you like Chiss. Otherwise, you can wait until this story is complete to binge it all in a couple of hours.

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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mysecretid

I played the solo version of the Flashpoint yesterday with my Smuggler/Gunslinger main.

My advice? Unless you’re playing a tank class, switch the companion NPC you’re given to healer mode immediately, and prepare for the onslaught.

The Flashpoint isn’t really tuned for solo play for non-tanks, no matter what they claim — largely because the aggro and targeting radii on the enemies seem extreme for an MMORPG.

Right out of the gate, enemies will see you and attack you from remarkable distances — meaning that multiple groups of enemies will come running to join the first group of enemies you engage — or, often, simply hang back and shoot from extreme range.

This may sound exciting, but it becomes absurd pretty quickly, especially since fighting NPCs in SWTOR is akin to what my buddy and I jokingly call “chopping wood’ — meaning that it seems to take longer to down enemies in SWTOR compared to other major MMORPGs, even the “minion” types.

Great gear, dps. and build? Sure. You’ll still be “chopping wood” in most cases. It seems to be part of the general game design.

So, be prepared to be swarmed, at least until you get a sense of how well (and how far) the enemies can sense your presence, and you can start working around that.

The elite bosses seem to have their damage-dealing turned down significantly in solo, but they are still huge bags of hit points which take forever to down. Chopping wood? More like chopping down the entire forest.

So, be prepared to spend a LONG time on the solo version of this Flashpoint if you’re running one of the less-obvious, non-steamroller classes, like my Gunslinger.

I seriously don’t know that I’ll ever run this one solo again. myself. It took so frickin’ long to finish.

Story-wise, I found it better, but not great.

You can intuit what’s actually going on with the (ahem) traitor plot from a mile away by mission’s end … if you didn’t already suspect it before now.

Personally, I don’t mind that I can already figure out what’s coming — I just fervently hope that they don’t take too long to get there and to get it done.

I am over Zakuul. Seriously over it.

Too long spent on too many plot threads, too many of which didn’t actually go anywhere satisfying, if they were resolved at all.

As I’ve said elsewhere, if my character had any actual, affective choice in the Zakuul storyline , I would’ve plonked Senya’s toned bum on the Zakuulan throne a while ago and said, “All hail Empress Senya, Last of the Sane People in the Zakuulan Royal Family! Call me if you need anything.” and gotten out of Wild Space a while ago. My character is not Zakuulan; now that the local crisis is over, I don’t belong there

So the story gets a pass from me, I suppose, but only barely.

While I don’t have any particular problem with my endgame character running a small third faction of his own with the Alliance, in theory, not much has been done with that faction to make it interesting or appealing.

Structurally, I seem to be carrying out the mission mandates of NPCs like Lana Beniko et al, no matter how much they may call me Commander, and talk about how awesome I’m supposed to be.

I never seem to have much say (or even an illusion of choice) regarding what happens. The plots remain pretty obviously railroad-y. This is not really Bioware any more, in case you missed that, kids. :-) The illusion of choice and influence within the plot hasn’t been seen much lately.

The upsides?

There are some really nice environments in here, and they do feel more “Star Wars-y” to me as well.

We also seem to be getting away from the “shooting in corridors” repetition that a lot of the Zakuul stuff locked us into — but the structure still follows the fight/cutscene of exposition/fight rinse-repeat formula.

I like cutscenes in my games , but they still don’t seem to be used for much here beyond explaining plot details. I prefer it when they’re used for interesting or surprising bits worthy of note.

So overall, it’s okay, but I do wish it were better.

That said, I realize that the developers may well be limited in what they can do in SWTOR, based on budget, staff, and time restrictions as set by the Nine Circles of EA Management.

Just because EA has boatloads of money doesn’t mean that the SWTOR devs are getting any of that to hire needed staff, or to make the content they’d actually like to make.

Like Larry, I continue to wish SWTOR were a better game, but unlike Larry, I have serious doubts that it ever will ever be better again before the license is dropped or expires.

My opinions anyway. Thanks to anyone who actually bothered to read this far!

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Alex Malone

Chiss flashpoint…..sounds like some dodgy euphemism for premature man juice

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Witches

Imagine you are watching a Superman sequel and Lois now has a purple mohawk and an eye patch, would you expect some sort of explanation for the new looks? I would!

If you miss a cutscene for some reason you can’t run the FP again to see it, the story can only be played once.

Usually story mode flashpoints have the nearly omnipotent GSIsus, this one doesn’t so a lot of people find it too challenging, last i checked this wasn’t considered a bug, that’s a big design flaw if it is intended.

The people coding don’t really know how some of the game systems work, new bugs were introduced to many different parts of the game, new missions overwrote older missions, that can be done for no reward until they are fixed, cash shop bought yellow eyes are now green, they applied changes to the eyes or ceratin species, without realizing other species used the same textures, resulting in some pretty bizarre stuff.

They added Theron’s divisive new hairdo to the game, but his highly requested original hairdo is still not available for players, all new hairdos are not available in black because the person doesn’t know how to use masks and channels, so black is greenish grey.

The DvL counter was hilariously moved to the galaxy map, meaning people that are 70 and don’t have a ship can’t check it, since you need a ship to access the galaxy map.

The colour channels in some armour were altered, so some people logged out wearing a white armour with gold trimming and logged back in to a brand new gold armour with white trimming.

First rule of exploits is, you don’t talk about exploits.

Many bugs from the previous patch are yet to be ackowledged let alone fixed.

The game seems to be entering clownshoes mode, in 6 years this is the second worst patch i can remember.

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johnwillo

Is “cheese the trash” a common expression that I have somehow missed? It sounds like MMO slang from the 1930’s. That would just be the bee’s knees. 23 skiddoo.

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Jadefox

Best thing from this patch…
Legacy Bank.

As for the FP. I thought the music and cut scenes had a real star wars feel to them.

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Zora

Was pleasantly surprised overall, in no small part at the very unusual the amount of well themed, varied and tasteful decorations that are coming with the patch, most of which you can get through the flashpoint.

Being a chiss suprematist I am biased but overall the patch was veeeery enjoyable, even despite the mandatory force-someone because heavens forbid we are allowed to forget about -that- even for a moment, heh…

The only letdown was probably the final reveal, I was somehow in the belief they were using this plot to move forward and away from the entire

Spoiler
zakuulan gods
storyline, not straight back in… we’ll see I suppose.

In how many more months?

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ensignedwards

Wait, I did Copero yesterday, and I didn’t see anything that explained their alliance with the Sith. Was a big disappointment because I was hoping to finally learn that. Did I miss something?

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TheDonDude

I’ve only vaguely been paying attention to SWTOR lately but I do have one mostly-non-spoilery question: do the traitor’s past actions still make sense with the revelation that he or she is working against you?

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ensignedwards

Yes. They only decided to turn traitor recently, so in the past they were genuinely working to aid you.