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.

5 most immersive MMOs I’ve played to date


Game immersion is perhaps one of the most subjective and indefinable qualities when it comes to MMOs. We know in our gut when we feel more drawn into one virtual world over another, yet it might be difficult if not impossible to explain why.

So instead of fiddling around with definitions, today I want to share five MMOs out of my entire resume that were the most immersive that I’ve played — and why.

Fallen Earth

There’s no doubt that Fallen Earth is a messy title that’s perhaps a little too rough around the edges. It never broke into the big time, that’s for sure. But even so, I was so in love with this game and its breathtaking ambition to create a living, breathing post-apocalyptic world. From the black humor to the mounts that stayed put where you left them to the weird factions and the vivid sunsets over the desert, I always felt drawn into this title like no other. Plus, crafting everything you end up using made those items feel more precious.

Lord of the Rings Online

One of the reasons that I stuck with LOTRO for so long was that, unlike so many other MMOs, it felt like a cohesive world that played by a predefined set of rules instead of ones that the devs made up on the fly. I’d argue that having to fit under the umbrella of a rich IP actually helped to create a world that felt “real,” so to speak. So many times I would lose myself in traversing the lands where it wasn’t just endless packs of mobs, but civilization clashing with the wild and with evil. And I can’t discount that incredible music for drawing me in as well!

The Secret World

TSW’s brilliance is not just in its storytelling (which is magnificent) but in its meticulously crafted world that bleeds over into ours. In fact, the myriad of ways that the developers blurred the line between game and reality broke down that fictional barrier in part and allowed me to believe (or at least pretend very hard) that I was actually part of what was going on on the other side of the screen.

World of Warcraft

Maybe we’re all like this with MMOs that we’ve spent so much time in, but my previous passion for World of Warcraft and the countless hours that I poured into it took my understanding of Azeroth beyond a mere game and into a much more personal space. The little details — the sounds, the animations, the locations, the music — swirled together to form a world that was vividly immersive for years. I miss feeling that way about it, I won’t lie.

Anarchy Online

I’ll probably chalk Anarchy Online’s immersive abilities up to it being one of the first MMOs that I played, even though I felt pretty lost in it at the time. It’s “alien” nature set it apart from fantasy CRPGs and made it feel other, different, and alluring. At no point was I looking beyond the immediate details of the world to number crunch or break down mechanics, which is a sign that I was pretty content just being instead of mastering.

So those are my five. What are yours?

WildStar: Locked and Reloaded

WildStar: Reloaded is here, and as to be expected, it’s a mixture of giddy highs and crushing lows.

Most of the lows are on the technical side of things: a crushing queue that sometimes reached into the hour-and-a-half range, server lag, and so many day-one maintenance patches and associated downtimes that playing was more of an occasional nicety than anything else. I expect most of these issues to be worked out soon, but it didn’t make for the best F2P opening I’ve ever seen.

In fact, at times even when I was in the game, it was virtually unplayable. That’s the thing about action combat — any lag pretty much shoots the experience in both feet. Two or three seconds of delay between hitting any key and seeing a result was unacceptable. I was not the only one I saw who got out of the game last night to wait and see when Carbine would iron all of this out.

On the upside, the excitement over WildStar is positively electric, both in the game and outside of it. It’s kind of a weird mixture of launch, expansion, and Christmas. The second I logged in, I rushed to check all of the loyalty goodies that I’d accumulated. While for some reason I have yet to be awarded the subscriber pet and housing item, my cosmic rewards shot into the fifth tier and spat out a ton of items and unlocks.


That Northern Lights dye is spectacular. And I’m not complaining about the mounts, costume pieces, and pets either.

Every long-term player was suffering from inventory bloating, myself included. Due to all of the rune changes and whatnot, Carbine mailed us SO MUCH STUFF that went on top of any cosmic rewards. Sorting all of that out took some time.

I poked around the new challenge interface as well. Instead of tying a set of randomized rewards to individual challenges, now you have a challenge reward track that lets you choose one of three goodies at certain intervals. It’s cool… I guess. I am saddened that my Thayd run will no longer spit out a string of decor boxes or that certain challenges I had been working on for pet rewards are no longer there. I really wanted that squirg pet, darn it!


In a spate of questing, I did start to accumulate omnibits — one here and there, including one from a challenge. It’s going to be slow going building up a bank account of those to spend on the store, but at least it’s an option. There’s one lawman outfit that I really want to get at some point.


Apart from that, I put together a couple of outfits from the sets that I was given (a cannibal one and a formal one — seen above). I jetted off to my housing plot and suffered agoraphobic shock at how much empty space there is now that the plot’s been quadrupled in size.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that. I can imagine that many intricately designed housing plots were ruined with this. For me, I’m struggling to think how I’m going to fill up all of this space. Eventually we’re supposed to get more housing plugs, but they’re not in yet. I just wish that my house wasn’t so far away from the teleportation pad.

Speaking of the house, the patch allowed me to buy an opposite faction pad, so I got the Cassian cozy house. I like it so much more than the Exile one, if that it contains straight angles, a floor grid, and enough space to make a second floor easy. Lots to do there, and I am mulling over options as to how I want to design the interior before moving in all of my stuff.

It’s a heady feeling to have so much to do and a largely improved game in which to do it. I still have to go through the Alpha Sanctum and start on crafting, so those are on the table for some time this week.

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.

Living in an internet-free household

No_WifiIt was not the best weekend in the Syp household. After taking the kids to a bounce house place on Saturday morning, I came home, did some chores, and settled in for a little gaming. At 3:00 p.m. our internet went out, the third time in the past month (fourth if you factor in a power outage last weekend). And it didn’t come back up, even after troubleshooting over the phone and endlessly resetting the modem. The best they could do was to send someone out Monday afternoon, they said.

Well that just put a damper on the past two days.

I know, I know, first world problems and all that, but when the internet goes out, it really changes up your schedule and creates some significant headaches. I had some games I needed to play for columns, I had pieces to write, and I really wanted to attend the pre-F2P launch party that was going on on my WildStar server on Sunday night.

Today I feel frazzled because of this outage, knocked out of my established routine. I had to wait until going to work to write this, and I’m trying to plan my day around a five-hour window that the internet guy is supposed to show up. There’s a podcast to do later, not to mention a three-gig WildStar patch to download.

That’s not to say that I was sitting in a corner, rocking myself while keening out loud because I felt completely lost without my precious internet. I always have things to do and that need to be done, and I’ll never begrudge spending a little more time with my family. We all unwrapped a DVD we’d been saving, Plans: Fire & Rescue, and my kids absolutely loved it. After everyone went to bed, I chewed through a novel and then caught up on my sleep.

I’m all for taking breaks from the constant online connectivity, I just would rather do it as part of a plan than my crappy modem deciding to take a sabbatical in the middle of a weekend.

On the plus side, I did get some time in with Devilian’s alpha and should be back up for WildStar’s Reloaded patch tomorrow, so I’m not going to spend any more time whining about it. So I’m sorry there isn’t any exciting gaming tale to share today!

Retro Gaming: Star Trek Judgment Rites part 8


(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Trek Judgment Rites. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Episode 8: …Yet There Is Method In It

As we reach the final mission of the game, we’re also in the presence of the first two-parter of these adventure games. Episode 8 transitions right off from the previous one, as Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, and Klarr the Klingon jump through a portal to meet the test-loving Brassicans that have been putting the crew through the ringer for a good part of this game.

My favorite part is when Klarr knocks out his grumpy aide for trying to commit mutiny. Seriously, I usually hate Klingons, but I am warming up to this one.


Kirk and company appear on a bunch of Tetris blocks floating in space, whereupon they meet the Brassicans. Which… look like a cube with a Furby face on the side of them. To be fair, this game did come out before the weird Furby craze, but it’s an unfortunate comparison.

Naturally, the Brassicans want to conduct even more tests. This is so not why Kirk signed up for Starfleet. Green-skinned women, yes. An alcoholic engineer, for sure. Plenty of fist fights, definitely. But tests? C’mon.


So the idea behind this mission is that the Brassicans pose a question to the group, each of whom have an answer to it. The player has to pick the best person for the answer, at which point that person disappears and the questioning continues. It’s not really that gripping.

The riddles get downright silly when Spock, Klarr, and Kirk start debating the merits of “pig + X = cow.” I kid you not, the three of them bicker about this automatically for about four minutes.


Riddles passed — wasn’t that a gas? — everyone arrives on the Brassican home planet. These guys look even goofier than when their faces were on geometric objects. Anyway, the Brassicans say that all of the tests were necessary because they’re extreme isolationists fearful of reestablishing contact with the galaxy.

One last test is given, as both Kirk and Klarr are given discs with supposed information about each other’s territory. Klarr agrees to smash both of the discs and the Brassicans are impressed. Yahoo.


And with that short mission, Judgment Rites comes to a close.

Yes, there are some flaws with this game. Some missions are too long and devilishly difficult, and I couldn’t stand the limited and grating music after a while. But overall this is not just an improvement over 25th Anniversary, but a candidate for one of the best Star Trek games ever made and a darn solid adventure game in every sense of the term.

There’s just so much detail given to examining environments, talking to (and using) your crew, and making dialogue and action choices that can radically change how you go through a mission. It’s definitely got some replay value, especially with every mission being scored. Finally, I really loved hearing the old cast come together for their final full group performance.

Judgment Rites still holds up admirably even over two decades later. Highly recommended.