SWTOR: Thoughts on Fallen Empire’s new features


In a livestream earlier this week, BioWare finally got around to talking about specific features in Knights of the Fallen Empire. Because I guess you can only stall so long. I mean, we’re just weeks out from the expansion and the studio’s been dragging its feet on some of these expansions since early summer.

So here’s a list of some of the points mentioned and my thoughts on them.

Creating a new level 60: If I ever did an alt, I wouldn’t want to jump all of the way to 60 and bypass the personal story — that feels so incredibly wrong. That said, the setup here looks solid. Feels a bit of a cheat that they’d be giving level 500 crew skills out like candy. BioWare will be charging for this (of course) so it won’t be the default option for the entire playerbase.

Legendary status: Beat all of the personal storylines, get a fancy icon next to your name. It’s silly but a literal status symbol can be a powerful thing, especially for those who value their epeen above all else.

Cartel market companions: Buy companions from other class stories? Or a grab-bag of new, non-story ones? Either way, it’s interesting. Might even be tempting, although I’m pretty attached to the companions I have (plus, only being able to have one out at a time puts a damper on wanting to collect them all).

Share keybind: It’s small but this feature should really be standard in all MMOs. I hate creating alts and then having to redo all of the keybinds and settings.

Temporary ability bars: A good idea for situational skills. I hardly use my heroic moments because they’re not that convenient to access.

Crafting/gathering: I don’t do a lot of either, so these changes aren’t of much interest to me. It is intriguing that you’ll be able to gather any resource no matter what your skill level (although your level determines how much you get).

Legacy datacrons: Now they’ll be made retroactive, which is a good start. Next would be to make acquiring them much less painful. Next after that would be to eliminate them altogether. I am not the biggest fan of datacrons in SWTOR.

Leveling and level-scaling: The new leveling process is as I predicted — the class and planet storylines will be the main focus, with side missions made obsolete/optional. It won’t be as fast as 12x, but that’s OK; I think it’ll still feel a lot better paced.

As for level-scaling to planets, I’m all in favor of it. Worked out well in Guild Wars 2, and even if you level is lowered, you still have better gear and skills at your disposal.

Fallen Empire chapter interface: This looks a LOT like Guild Wars 2’s living story interface, in that you can hop into different chapters of the ongoing saga. And that I really like. I hope there will be a lot of replayability here, because I have a suspicion that players are going to need it once they blaze through the first 13 or so chapters and have to wait for 2016.

Companions: Bye-bye annoying companion gear, hello cosmetics! Affection is being transformed into influence, which will reportedly affect how well that companion functions in combat. So maxing out influence will be much more important than before.

SWTOR: Blitzing to 60


Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down in a shower of sparks and non-canonical narrative!

I am making myself breathless how fast I’ve been whipping through SWTOR over the past week. Maybe it’s that thing where the first time through content feels like it’s so long because it’s unfamiliar and you’re smelling the roses, whereas subsequent journeys can be a lot quicker. But I also have to factor in my laser focus on getting my Smuggler ready for Knights of the Fallen Empire. The pressure is real. The red hair dye is not.

Thus I rocketed through Rishi and the six solo flashpoints that make up a bulk of Shadow of Revan so quickly that the story became secondary. Oh, I slowed down whenever I got a chance to put Lana in her place:


I’m not normally this rude, but SWTOR is making me team up with an ex-girlfriend who dumped me. On another character BUT STILL. Lana is getting no slack from me this time around — and no flirt options either.

I hit level 60 pretty effortlessly before wrapping up Rishi. The 12x boost lasted until level 55 and XP pots after that helped nudge me across the level finish line. Now my build is cemented and is being bolstered by all of the yummy quest reward gear that’s getting me up to par.


As I said the other night in guild chat, I love my tauntaun. Not only is it blissfully quiet compared to those grating speeder noises, but it’s portable one-time housing!


With Rishi done, I merely have Yavin and Ziost to go. Yavin will be nice to upgear and get Guss a new costume, for sure. Past that, my checklist involves maxing out companion affection and perhaps going through some of the optional high-level planets that I hop-scotched when the expansions became available.

Or perhaps an alt. Because I have a sickness.

SWTOR: Down and out on Makeb


It’s hard to tell exactly, but my Smuggler’s voice has changed a bit from the end of the personal storyline and the Rise of the Hutt Cartel. I guess you wouldn’t have noticed if you were playing one all along, but going rapidly through the storyline there’s that jump of a year or so. I guess they got back the same voice actress, but now my Smuggler sounds a little less chirpy and a little deeper than before.


Continuing with my power tour of the galaxy, I blew through Makeb in three or four sessions. That was gratifying, as it’s not my favorite of planets. Pretty sometimes, but chalk up “earthquake zones” alongside jungles and canyons as navigationally aggravating areas that I’d rather avoid.

I actually started running into problems on Makeb in terms of my power level. Doing the 12x leveling thing really hurts your gear acquisition, and I’m saving up my commendations for level 60 gear. So I had to struggle with being underpowered throughout a good chunk of Makeb, meaning that I often got in over my head in fights and died far more than I had before. But I held out, because I knew that sweet, sweet gear upgrade was coming, and sure enough, I started to make progress in this regard.


See? Pretty. Don’t even want to know where the sadistic datacron developer hid all of them.

The story was solid — not so much a “rise” of the Hutt Cartel as a “blip” of the Hutt Cartel. Was nice to hear a Hutt actually talk in Basic for once, and I enjoyed seeing the Republic side of things. More about securing a giant ship and evacuating the planet than stopping the planetary collapse (although if the Imperials stopped Makeb from being destroyed, couldn’t the population go back?).

Progress-wise, my character hit level 56 and I spent some of my hard-earned credits on a tauntaun mount. Do not regret that purchase at all, it’s a magnificent beast. It might die before it reaches the first marker, however.

So now I’m into the prologue flashpoints for Shadow of Revan with the now-famous droid that could conquer the Empire single-handed. Feels good to be on track for the upcoming expansion launch, although I do have a lot of work to do with leveling up companion affection. Guss was quite upset that I took a few dark side choices as of late.

Great moments in gaming buffoonery


We all have those “d’oh!” moments in gaming where we make a stupid and immediately regrettable decision. I seem to bump into these quite often.

For example, a week or so ago in SWTOR I was on Voss, merrily questing along when I saw a clickable lore object. Now, I’m not one to collect codex entries, but it wasn’t out of my way, so why not? And I clicked it without a second thought.

Well, that wasn’t a lore object; it was a world boss summon stone. Cue Syp flailing about in panic as an unstoppable bad guy descended to beat the living stuffing out of him. Even better, this happened just as a small group of players passed by, so they saw my humiliation and warned my corpse that it’s not a good idea to summon world bosses solo. Thanks.

Or take last night, as I was fighting my way into a fortress on Makeb. I made it all of the way to the boss and died, so I resurrected and prepared to regroup. I went to click on my character’s buff ability, but not paying full attention, I accidentally selected a port back to my starship. You could hear my “NOOOOOOOOO!” across the galaxy.

Cue Syp running back through the orbital station, taking the shuttle down to the surface, more running, a flight path, more running, more fighting back through the fortress, and my guild laughing at my pain.

Last night again, I logged into WildStar and was questing in the opening bits of Whitevale. My wife called me away from the computer for a few minutes, so I got to a safe spot and walked away.

Unbeknownst to me but knownst to my character, I had accidentally hit the auto-run key, so my character began an unpiloted solo adventure through the zone of Whitevale. I came back to find her incredibly far away from my starting point, somehow miraculously alive but in a dangerous spot. And since I hadn’t bound to a transmat terminal yet, I had to run all of the way back. Really, my gaming session last night was all about pointless re-running

This is your hero, MMOs. This is the person you’ve chosen to save your worlds.

SWTOR: The end of a Smuggler’s journey… and the beginning of another

Compared to how slowly I advanced through the Bounty Hunter’s story (even on the 12x path), I positively blitzed through the remainder of my Smuggler’s storyline in less than a week. I rocketed from my mid-30s to level 53, cruising from Alderaan all the way through Corellia. Every night it seemed that I was able to tuck away another planet, fueling my enthusiasm to do the same the next evening. Suddenly, dusting off my Smuggler and getting her ready for Fallen Empire went from a long-shot to something that could be easily done within a couple of weeks.

All in all, the Smuggler storyline was an enjoyable if somewhat uneven journey. The best part, no question, was the inclusion of snark and witty rejoinders. Even in the face of certain death, my character was cracking wise and undercutting the sinister threats she faced. There was a pretty big twist in the third chapter that was as shocking as it was puzzling. It helped to peak my interest for the final stretch, however.

On the other hand, it felt a little forced that the Smuggler became a “privateer” just so that BioWare could more or less make her fight for the Republic instead of being an actual smuggler. I was also a little disappointed that I didn’t get a healing companion (other than paying for Treek) until way late in the game. As I said before, Guss is my definitely favorite companion of the bunch, but the rest are pretty forgettable — especially Corso Riggs. No, I’ll never get tired of putting Corso down. Space hay seed.

So now I’ve got the two expansions to go through, a task that I’ve only done once and that was very gradual. I have no idea how long it’ll take, but I do know that I need to gear up and stockpile some commendations for Yavin.

I’m still mulling over saving up for a tauntaun mount. I’d love to get one, but they’re pretty expensive and/or time-intensive — and one of my awesome guildies gave me a pink speeder bike that’s rad. Totes rad.

I did spend some cash on the GTN last night to buy a battle-worn engineer’s outfit which I dyed blue and white. I love armor that has wear and tear to it — I think it harkens back to childhood toys with “battle damage.” Sometimes you want to go the opposite route of pristine and shiny, y’know?

SWTOR: Jedi doctors and buttocks medicine


One of the things I was fearful of when I switched back to my Smuggler in SWTOR is that I would be missing out on all of the great companions that the Bounty Hunter had. In comparison, so far with my Smuggler I had the abominable Corso Riggs and two non-English-speaking aliens (a growly Wookiee and a chittering Ewok).

Since my return earlier this week, I’ve powered through the end of Chapter 2 and picked up a trio of new companions, each of them interesting. However, my new favorite is Guss Tuno, the Mon Calamari failed Jedi-turned-medic. Admiral Ackbar is a long Star Wars favorite of mine, and if I could play a Mon Calamari in SWTOR, I would. Having one as a quirky weird friend is the second best thing. He’s already cracked me up more than a few times, and I’m now running with him exclusively.

I’m gradually getting my footing back with my Smuggler, too. I already had a really great rotation set up with her, a Dirty Fighting spec that’s quite similar to what I run with my Operative. Fighting is a lot more enjoyable as a result compared to my many different specs on the BH, and that makes a big difference.

I only had slicing going on as a crew skill, so I’ve been leveling that up. Eventually I’ll invest in one of the skills that pays out crew affection rewards, because I’d love to get through the companion stories at some point.

Money was a huge problem when I went back to my Smuggler. I only had 1,000 credits to my name, barely enough to fly my ship to the planet I needed for quests. But quest and fight long enough, and you’re going to make money, especially when it’s supplemented by slicing. I also cashed in some of my cartel coins for the new crates that I sold on the GTA, infusing my bank account with enough credits to pick up that spaceship teleport skill I wanted and a new outfit to boot. My long-term goal is to save up for a tauntaun mount, as I’ve never had one in SWTOR and would love to snag it.

As I said, I’ve completed chapter 2 and am jetting up through the planets and levels. I think I’m 42 right now, with three planets left to go in my personal storyline: Belsavis, Voss, and Corellia. Then it’s off to the expansions and a possible photo finish to see if I’ll make it before KotFE comes out. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it, but it’d be cool.

A SWTOR picture book

Good morning class! Are we ready for another exciting Star Wars: The Old Republic picture book? Now sit down, criss-cross-applesauce, and raise your hand if you have to go to the bathroom. Nobody? Good.


Children, this is the face of the grim specter of death. Look at it. Look at that grimace set in the face of the man you just killed. Marvel at how rigor mortis has enabled his corpse to balance precariously on that metal protruberance.


When developers get lazy, they borrow liberally from other scifi properties. Here, Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver is repurposed as some sort of cannon.


Just a reminder that Halloween is coming up soon, boys and girls!


Now children, what do you want to be when you grow up? How about a soldier on a spaceship that gets magic-choked to death by his superior for something that’s not your fault?


None of us will be sleeping tonight, Mako. None of us.


Think this school is dull, kids? It’s nothing compared to Jedi school, where you’ll spend 50% of your time recovering from lightsaber burns and 50% of your time “meditating” while Darth Vader and the Sith rise to power all around you.


Don’t listen to the stuffy Jedi master, children! Cultivate that arrogance and sarcastic snipping. It’s the only way you’ll get ahead in business and the military complex structure.