6 wonderful things about the Operative that I’m getting to know again

op1Now that I’ve been back on my Operative in Star Wars: The Old Republic for almost a week, I feel like she’s gone from being this foreign entity to a familiar-yet-newly-wonderful character. It’s helped that I’ve had some assistance from guildies to run a few flashpoints and gear up a bit (in addition to new gear purchased with commodations). So here are six quick things that I’m (once again) appreciating about this class.

1. I love using the blaster rifle in this game, especially because only the Operative and the Commando (I think) pretty much use these. And taking down Jedi with such a weapon feels great. Where’s your fancy lightsabers and force bullying now?

2. I’ve always been a fan of flinging DoTs as a primary means of DPS, as there’s something deeply satisfying about watching your enemy’s health tick down even when you’re not doing something right then. My lethality build revolves on a few of these, and I’ve gotten into the groove such that an elite is no trouble at all.

3. I was initially bummed that I couldn’t switch over to being a sniper, but now? I’m happy that I have the options that the Operative does in the healing department. Being able to sub in as a healer in a group or (especially) heal myself in tricky spots is terrific.

op24. Speaking of heals, some of the only discipline perks that got me interested were those that coupled self-heals with my shield and stim pack. It’s nothing major, but every little bit helps, and I’ve had fights where those extra heals kept me from keeling over.

5. Stealth! Oh, stealth, how I usually ignore you in MMOs but realy like you on the Operative. Not only is it so much fun to stealth-backstab a target or to prowl through a mob-packed area without having to fight everything along the way, but I love being able to instantly drop into stealth during combat and shed all aggro. It’s a great “oh crap!” escape button when things start to go wrong.

6. Finally, I missed the Operative’s/Imperial Agent’s attitude. She feels removed from all of the other classes, even on her own side, because she’s part of a different world. Doing ops and covert missions — even if it’s just part of the mission dialogue flavor — is a refreshingly different side of the Star Wars world. Not everything has to be Sith and Jedi and Wookiee co-pilots.

RPS shows you how not to interview

peterI’m very late to this, but I’ve been stewing over the now-infamous RPS interview of Peter Molyneux and have to say a quick thing or two about it. There seem to be two reactions among both players and other media outlets:

1. Unabashed glee that an unpopular game dev was taken to task for his failings, lies, and pattern of hype. Lots of “He deserved it!” sentiments.

2. Abashed shame that Rock, Paper, Shotgun conducted an interview in such a manner, sympathies or dislike for Molyneux notwithstanding.

I am firmly in the second camp. Listen, we need hard, unflinching questions in interviews. We need journalists committed to rooting out the truth and not lobbing complete softball discussions. But this wasn’t just a keen-eyed reporter going for the next Pulitzer; it was a ticked-off fan getting to flame a dev on the phone and then post it, knowing that it would get a lot of hurrahs because Molyneux is in the doghouse.

It’s so unprofessional that I’m shocked that other outlets have been praising it. The interviewer is completely emotional and antagonistic, a fanboy trying to pick a fight instead of a reporter looking for facts and explanations. It didn’t matter what Molyneux had to say; it was clear from the very first question that this was a witch hunt that could only have one result.

Actually, it could have had two results: Molyneux could have hung up, and he really should have. He was far too polite to do so and too polite not to get into a fight with the interviewer.

This interview could have asked most all of the same hard, fact-seeking questions but done so without an angry, petulant, bullying tone and been so much better for it. RPS should take that interview down, stat.

SWTOR: In trouble after Makeb

makebI never thought that finishing up an expansion would be a cause for consternation instead of celebration, but here I am.

I guess my SWTOR Operative was a lot further along in the Makeb storyline than I realized, because it took but two nights to finish up the planet. Storywise, I have to report that it was decent but not great. I’m sent there as part of a team to secure some powerful substance known as isotope-5, but other than being “powerful” I’m rather fuzzy on how it’s much more than the MacGuffin of the week. Lots of running around, killing things, and doing covert activities to save the planet (which was tearing itself apart) and get rid of both the Hutts and the Republic.

Part of the narrative problem was that it’s rather difficult to really sell the imminent danger of a planet coming apart when it’s been coming apart for well over a year now with no significant change. Sure, you can show tremors from earthquakes (sorry, groundquakes) and a delightfully jagged landscape and lasers shooting down those giant techno-holes that Star Wars excels in creating, but I was having a hard time buying into it.

I thought it did redeem itself in the end with some tough choices and a rather shocking cliffhanger. Let me say that HK-51 was not pleased with my constant decisions to be all light side; I think my affection with him is -555 right now. Gonna have to buy that droid a whole lot of birthday presents.

So why am I freaking out a bit? Because Makeb is done… and I’m only level 52. Well, almost 53, but still. I’m a couple of levels shy of going into the Shadows of Revan expansion, which means that I need to make up this XP deficit somehow. I thought I did all of the quests I saw, but I guess not.

Thus, I’m heading back to Section X for a string of dailies, which I plan to suppliment with some flashpoint runs. As a filthy F2P player, I can only get boss loot from three flashpoints a week, but I don’t really think I’ll be able to do many more than that anyway with my schedule. So we’ll see how this goes, but I anticipate it being a while before I hit 55 and can head to Rishi. Any quick leveling suggestions would be welcome!

LOTRO: Getting to know Gondor

h1Got this helmet the other day — a new model, at least to me. It’s decidedly unusual, and I’m on the fence whether or not I like it. I kind of do and kind of don’t, but I’m trying it out for a while.

h2Going through Gondor in LOTRO thus far has been an educating experience. Of all of the main regions/countries of the Lord of the Rings, it’s the one that I know the least. In the movies, Gondor is primarily two cities — Osgiliath and Minas Tirith — and just that. But the game is providing a lot more context as I make my way from west to east.

For starters, I never pictured Gondor as a coastal nation, but I guess it is and that definitely changes the atmosphere. Kind of Mediterranean. Past the landscape, Gondor has its own architecture (which we have seen in ruins throughout the game): large stone/marble structures with swan and wing motifs. Coming from the rustic log cabins of Rohan, it’s quite a switch. You get the sense that this is the cradle of a much older civilization than much of what we’ve seen of Man lands to date (especially back in Bree-land).

h3The residents haven’t been having an easy go of it as of late. Gondor doesn’t have to just worry about an army pouring out of Mordor, I guess, as it also has a plague of corsairs plus (why not) an army of restless dead assailing it from all sides. And since the population is frozen in fear and non-scripting, it’s up to me to wage a one-woman army and save the day.

I’ve been growing in appreciation of my halberd, and not just because it’s a second ager. It’s got a good animation to it and I definitely feel martial when I’m wielding it.

Battle Bards Episode 45: Rock on!

bardThis week the Bards have invited long-time friend and listener Belghast to join them — and to pick the topic for the show! Bel picked a fun and unusual theme: Rocking out with electric guitars. Do MMOs and rock mix? On this particular episode they do!

Episode 45 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Blue Turns to Greyfrom Tabula Rasa, “Battle on the Big Bridge Reborn” from FFXIV, and “Prologue” from Castlevania SOTN)
  • “Titan Battle Theme” from FFXIV
  • “Alonewolf” from Rusty Hearts
  • “Toko” from Granado Espada
  • “Character Select/Map Load” from Heroes of the Storm
  • “New Conglomerate Main Theme” from PlanetSide 2
  • “Malicia’s Finale” from DDO
  • “Lucid Dreaming” from Aion
  • What track did we like the best?
  • Mail from Akiranon
  • Outro

Listen to episode 45 now!

SWTOR: Operative back in business

hk1A couple of serendipitous events transpired yesterday that prompted me to dig out my SWTOR Operative from long-term storage. A reader made mention of swapping for HK-51 as a companion, which reminded me how I had just acquired the assassin droid on Yeti and never got much play time with him at my side. Then I was talking with a friend who is leading a guild on my server but on the Imperial side. And finally I started thinking about how it’d be nice to jump up to a character who is on the first expansion and is already decked out with good gear, full light side points, affection’d up companions, and whatnot.

Anyway, enough of the why — I logged into Yeti and found myself in a world of confusion.

It’s one thing to log back into a game after a long absence or revisit a low-level toon. But it’s orders of magnitude more bewildering when it’s been a few expansions and you pick back up a high-level character that you used to know inside-out only to realize that it’s a practical stranger to you.

That screenshot right up there? That’s me standing in the midst of an enemy camp who-knows-where spending 20 straight minutes trying to make sense of my hotbar and all of the discipline changes. I think I got straight-up killed eight seconds into my first fight because I had no idea what was going on.

hk2Instead of trying to muddle it out on the fly, I decided that it would be wisest to retreat back to the fleet and regroup in peace. It was there that I realized that one of the reasons I was dying so quickly is that all of my former artifact gear was unequpped — the last time I was on this character, I was a sub, and now that I’m F2P I can’t use it any more. So I ponied up for an artifact unlock as well as (why not) a white-and-pink dye module to shout to the world that I am all that is man.

Well, all that is man who plays a blue-skinned female character.

Properly geared, I turned my attention to my build. My new guild leader pointed me in the direction of a good 3.0 DPS guide for Operatives, and I spent a lot of time pouring over the changes and trying to figure out how all of this was going to work. I decided to try lethality first, just because I’ve always liked DoTs and long-range attacks, but I may switch to Concealment for a simpler setup if I can’t get used to it.

Feeling more sorted out, I returned to Makeb, grabbed a spiffy buff that I guess the devs threw in to help weirdos like me finish up the planet, and headed back into the fray. I did a lot better this time, slowly getting used to the new rotation. I’m still not thrilled how much I have to keep flicking my eyes all over the screen to see how many tactical advantages I have, what cooldowns are up, what DoTs are up on the bad guys, etc. But I was killing better and HK-51 was doing a spectacular job cleaning up behind me.

I even took on a rather involved solo boss fight with a giant isotope-5 droid. It required me to continually run around the room to activate turrets, deactivate laser beams, avoid bombardments, and fight smaller droids. The whole deal took me around ten minutes, but in the end I was victorious.

As a side note, my decision not to plunge the facility — and my teammates — into boiling liquid magma was derided by HK-51. I think my light side nature may rub him the wrong way.

Not for the first time do I wish that SWTOR would let you switch advanced classes. I was digging the gunslinger fight style on my Smuggler and would LOVE to have a sniper rifle as an IA (they look so dang cool). But I guess I’ll have to be content with heals and stealthing instead!