[SWTOR] Winding up the plague, and in which Bioware starts to build a ‘raid style’

worldpvp_rakghoul

(We were going to kill world bosses but …. got distracted.)

So today the rakghoul event in SWTOR comes to an end, unless Bioware are planning on surprising the playerbase with a new phase (I’m not expecting this to happen and it would probably be better to let things settle back to normal for awhile.) Hope everyone handed in their rakghoul DNA for pets/ crystals/ etc since the vendor will be going away.

I wound up last night joining a PUG to kill the event world bosses, since it was the only part of the event that I hadn’t yet taken part in. After some faffing around, we were able to go kill one of the new bosses, checked another that wasn’t yet respawned, and then headed to the PvP area on Tatooine to collect the third one. As you can see in the screenshot above, that last part didn’t entirely go to plan.

We pulled the boss, some republic dudes showed up and a wipe followed. Then we came back and messed up their boss attempt. This back and forth continued awhile, with more people showing up to join each side, and then we all just decided to get on with smacking each other around and let the boss get on with its own bimbling around in peace. Or in other words, my PUG killed one of the world bosses and then got involved in some world PvP, which was a very clear design goal of Bioware sticking one of the bosses in the PvP area. So well played to Bioware on those grounds, it was fun – bit pointless, but I can manage a bit of pointless world PvP from time to time and it was nice to hang out with some of the other level 50s on the server who I don’t interact with all that much. This is how endgame communities form, as people start to recognise each others’ names.

As an aside, one of the nice things about being part of an active community/ guild is that people will contact you when there is something going on in game, in case you might want to join in. So when the PUG group was getting together, I was able to pass the message on to my guild because I knew some of them might want to come have a crack at the world bosses also. Without that network, you’re very reliant on what you personally see and hear and so getting involved is a bit more down to luck.

As far as tactics go on the world bosses, the first one (giant rakghoul) seemed very straightforwards tank and spank. The PvP zone boss was harder, but our PUG was getting the hang of having all the melee group up for heals when we were so rudely interrupted. We would have gotten him if we’d had a clear try.

Puzzle bosses, and the Bioware take on heroics/ raids

One of the other things I did this week was take on the 4 man heroic quest that is associated with the new daily zone. Short form: There are a bunch of daily quests that you can do solo, and when you have done them all, a 4 man heroic quest opens up which is also a daily. There is also a weekly quest to complete all of the dailies including the 4 man which you can get once per week.

Although I have seen people looking for groups for the 4 man while doing the dailies, it doesn’t seem as popular as you might expect. Having now run it with a guild group, I have a slightly better idea as to why this might be. It’s quite challenging for a group that isn’t co-ordinated. Or in other words, the difficulty was great for our guild group which is mostly geared from normal raiding and is fairly together about CC and using markings to indicate kill order. It was fun, and we had to pay attention and think a bit about marking and which CC abilities were in the group. We ran it with an unspecced tank and healer (ie. both tank and healer were dps specced/ geared) which also made it tougher in some ways, although gave us more dps also.

There are several groups of mobs, each of which contain up to 4 elite mobs. CC helps a lot. Then there is an encounter which involves incoming waves of increasingly harder mobs where dps and CC need to be on their toes. And the final encounter on the empire quest … is a puzzle. It’s not an especially hard puzzle, and involves twisting pipes so as to make a connecting pipeline. It was a fun change of pace after the previous frenetic encounter, and I think much fun was had by all.

lonomonkey discusses SWTOR raiding in more detail and concludes that this type of originality is something that is increasingly marking out Bioware boss encounters. I think I agree with him, although SWTOR raiding has a lot in common with WoW, the encounters are different enough in style to make it more fun in many ways. The comments on that post also raise interesting points because dps have a slightly different focus in SWTOR fights because you don’t always expect the tank to be able to grab all of the mobs. The tank needs to get and hold the elites, but the dps initially focus on getting the lower health mobs down first. So the initial stages of a fight tend to involve everyone busily doing their separate thing, rather than waiting for the tank to get things under control. Although obviously if dps can co-ordinate kill order, adds go down very fast indeed, which makes a big difference.

I’m intrigued to see what else Bioware come up with, because I’m enjoying this aspect of the game really quite a lot. Also it doesn’t hurt that my dps (Vigilance Juggernaut) has gone up a lot this patch, not least because you can now need/greed on raid loot so I got geared quite fast after a long previous unlucky loot spell.

apprentice

This is a picture of Spinks with her apprentice. I’m the one in the classically sithy black robes. One of the other things I’ve done this patch is put more effort into finishing off my companions’ stories by building more rep with them. As a light side Sith, I’ve been quite impressed by how wise Spinks is sounding in conversations these days. I was actually building up my apprentice’s confidence quite competently. But not in a way that excludes being violently destructive, obviously Smile

I even got her a decent set of gear with my spare raid tokens. Hope she appreciates this and doesn’t try to betray me, at least not yet.

[SWTOR] What exactly is an evil society like? And the pure joys of barrel kicking!

quesh1

(Quesh is not the prettiest of planets, but Bioware artists really do shine with these surreal industrialised settings.)

One of the joys of playing through SWTOR as a Sith is that you get some solid insights into how a fantasy society that is run by evil wizards who can murderise high ranking military officers at a whim might operate. It is a tall order to make this plausible in a way that doesn’t have players screaming, “Why exactly has there not yet been a military coup?” In fact, why would any semi-sane sith (let’s assume these exist) kill a competent military officer just because they were in a snit anyway? And the perennial question with Sith is why any of them bother taking apprentices, when it’s inevitable that said apprentice will one day try to kill or betray you.

Bioware has shown in the Dragon Age and ME games that they’re adept at designing plausible yet alien fantasy societies. The dwarven society in Orgrimmar Orzammar (thanks Risandre) was a delight, as was the strange world of the Qun in DA2, and even the Dalish elves had an alien yet believable polish. And they’ve done it again with the Empire in SWTOR.

As my warrior’s story progresses, I have been involved in  conflicts which saw military units caught up in the middle of political spats between backstabbing Sith Lords and seen how the commanders respond. There’s a variety of responses from “Argh, you sith and your infighting again!!! (Dies)” to “I expected no different, and it is an honour to die in the service of the empire.” Also I get a sense of the brown nosing that officers show to Sith when they want favours done, which tends to make them (officers) as a class seem quite spineless if you’re a) not used to it and b) don’t realise that they’re not actually like that all the time.

Another nice touch is the difference between the officer class and front line soldiers. Officers tend to have posher accents, and be far more polite. With practice, you’ll be able to tell exactly what type of military NPC you’re speaking to just by listening to the voice acting, even if they don’t explicitly tell you. I’ve been more aware of this since having Lieutenant Pierce as a companion, since he actually likes it when you are uppity to officers, but understanding of front line troops. In other words, the NPC companion is quite class conscious, so I tend to be also when he’s with me.

Another theme that comes through is how having a Sith Lord as a mentor/ employer can do great things for a military career. There’s a risk of being casually force-choked, or thrown away in a spat of Sith infighting, but the rewards for an ambitious officer (like Quinn) can also be very good. In a recent cut scene, he noted that he had been recommended for a promotion, but would need my approval for it to go through. It’s these little touches that show the thought that has gone into the background.

And as for the apprentices, it becomes clear that having a strong, competent apprentice who can get things done will vastly improve the reach, and maybe even the reputation of an ambitious Dark Lord. And equally clear that they tend to have at least two apprentices each, so that they can keep them occupied by being at each others throats. Also, woe betide the apprentice who seems to be getting a bit too powerful, too full of themselves, or too difficult to control – a smart Sith Lord will shoot first. I’ve enjoyed being able to see through the storylines how different Sith Lords might handle their apprentices, from my character’s master to Darth Gravis on Taris who seems extraordinarily laid back yet still manages to set you in competition with his apprentice without even breaking a sweat.

Barrels, and how to destroy them

Apparently Diablo 2 is 15 years old this week. Which seems like an appropriate time to celebrate one of the ground breaking game mechanics that made the game such a great success. Destroyable barrels.

Who has not played D2 and felt the sheer joy of kicking barrels, watching them explode impressively, and seeing if they contain any interesting loot/ monsters. This never got old for me.

barrel

And maybe this is why it makes me so happy to have explody barrel things in SWTOR also. This screenshot shows how they are presented in the game, if you see those 4 red arrows around an object, that means it can explode.

What took me awhile to realise is that even if your character has negligible ranged attacks, you can still explode the barrel from range. You mouse over it until the hand icon turns solid gold, then right click. BOOM. And any mobs close by get thrown onto their backs and take some damage.

It’s the simple things. Next post I’ll talk about more useful hints and tips, and potions/ heal potions/ buff potions in specifics.