Band together with your most trusted allies to undertake some of the most dangerous missions in the galaxy! Flashpoints are action-packed, story-driven adventures that test a group of players to their limits, putting them up against difficult foes in volatile situations. You and your group need your wits, your skills, and all your resources to emerge victorious. Every Flashpoint begins with an exciting story and contains difficult decisions – choose carefully, because your group’s choices have a meaningful impact on the challenges you’ll face, the enemies you’ll fight, and the outcome of the story! All the danger is certainly worthwhile; the rewards from Flashpoints are some of the most powerful you’ll find.
That’s description we’re given for flashpoints on the official SWTOR website – so basically think of them any kind of group content you’ve done before, mostly like dungeons/instances. I was lucky enough to get through a random selection to play one hour of a flashpoint during Comic Con – an opportunity I’m very grateful to Bioware for. And I was allowed to take a +1, so Spinks could at least come watch with me.
Now, it wasn’t so easy to find our way in. The guy at the front told us to go to the back, where the door was locked. Being enterprising (and this is before we were in-game) we managed to sneak into the back door and find where the queue was for the flashpoint, at which point my ID was checked and we stood for only around 5m before we went in to play. I’d been assigned the Empire flashpoint Black Talon (first one for Empire players) and each of four computers had a class set up on it ready for action (there were 2 sets of Empire players and 2 sets of Republic ones, so 16 of us in total). The seat I ended up on was that of the Bounty Hunter ‘stupidname’ (ok, the name was something that reminded me of Hashish, so Hash-hash or something! It made me laugh anyway). I was sitting between two guys who OBVIOUSLY were obsessed fans, and another girl rounded out the group at the end. Amusingly, and not-at-all-insultingly, I think both female players were ‘helped’ by the male ones, and also by the staff when we had to reset the instance..
So, I got to play a Bounty Hunter for an hour, even though I very very rarely play ranged classes. It’s ok though, there weren’t many skills to learn, but I got around 30s to check them out before we set off. I had a normal shot, a multi-shot, a ‘death from above’ where I hovered and shot lots, a melee hit (rocket punch) and a brief stun, also a shot that worked only on stunned mobs. In addition a self-heal for use out of combat which I ended up using a lot. In this set-up I should also mention I felt fairly overwhelmed and quite a bit intimidated by the assumption I’d know a lot about the game and not need any time to get going. Dropping in at level 9 isn’t so bad, not unless everyone around you wants to go as fast as possible to voraciously see as much content as possible within the time. But being fairly resilient, I cracked on and at some points was actually running ahead of my group!
So, first let’s mention the look of the game. Much nicer than I imagined. Yes, the chars are more on the cartoony style than the photorealistic one, but with odd races and strange colour combinations, I actually preferred this. Animations were smooth and looked natural, both for simple things like running and also for fast-paced combat. Of course our group voted to kill the Captain not to take him hostage (one of the first decisions in the flashpoint and not a super spoiler I hope, since it’s been out there for a while). But after that it was pretty much all combat and exploration. Ressing one another was apparently possible, I’ve read a few write-ups of the flashpoint, but no-one told our group that so we did many death runs until we got a sense of working together as a group – the deaths were all dumb and much less likely to occur in release when you’re either playing with friends or have time to stop and discuss what’s working and what isn’t.
The dialogue wheel was as expected, though Spinks & I later commented on what it would be like to play with people who read slowly, or super fast, or were non-native English speakers. All responses have to be clicked before the game determines which to use. It’s the same when interacting with lifts, everyone has to select the floor they want to go to. Was fine when there was time pressure and everyone was super-keen, but I can imagine it’ll have a few disadvantages also. We were mostly upset that my fab sarcastic responses weren’t often the winning ones, so I only got to hear my char speak a few times. The voices I heard were all really well acted – but my sound had been mostly turned off for some reason, still meant we could check out all the subtitles and Spinks had some idea what was going on in the flashpoint.
And so we ran around a spaceship and killed lots of stuff, some humanoid, some not. I found some explosives to blow up, I rolled need instead of greed because I’d not seen the looting system before, etc etc. I quite liked the pillars of light denoting loot on bodies – hard to miss them. And it all played very much like every other MMO in terms of button-pressing, running around et al. I liked the speed of combat and how it felt very dynamic, though I found ground targetting my ‘death from above’ skill was a bit of a pain, and by the time my manual dexterity had managed it, the group often didn’t need my dps anymore. I did a LOT of damage and frequently pulled aggro, I loved shooting while running though, even if it meant I did some amusingly accidental pulls (hey, I was ranged dps, that’s like part of the job description). We got to fight some mini-bosses that were tough and required a little more coordination, or thoughtful fighting at least. And we got to see the objectives update organically within our ‘quest’ and give us new side tasks to do (like killing x number of enemy soldiers). It’s not too hard to see Mythic’s influence and knowledge of public quests there, but it feels a lot more organic – at least within a flashpoint where you’re already there as a group and doing these things automatically.
So, why didn’t I rush home and pre-order SWTOR? Well, I’m still not sure it’s for me. It’s fun, that’s for sure, and I do trust Bioware to give us a really good product suitable for months of use with multiple alts all not having the same stories.. but, it didn’t grab me. I don’t know if it’s just the setting, or just being dropped in and I’ll definitely give it a play when it’s released – but it didn’t grab me as a ‘must play’. Still, even having said that, if you’re interested in the game, I don’t have anything bad to say about it – so that should come as a welcome relief!