Friday, 9 December 2016

Spoiler-free Eternal Throne impressions

SWTOR's latest expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, is out for one week, so it's about time for a first impression post. I'm staying clear of any story spoilers to make it safe to read for anyone who hasn't played through the Eternal Throne yet, and I'll talk about all aspects of the expansion (including unconventional ones). So here's what I think about, in this order: leveling, the mount bug, crafting, Master Ranos, the galactic command system, Bowdaar's growth, uprisings, facial expressions, veteran mode and, last but not least, the story.

It's surprisingly fast to level from level 65 to 70; the fastest of any expansion in any MMO I've played so far. I've leveled four characters to 70 without much effort; it took 2-3 hours at most per character. I didn't take them all through the story, because most don't want to lose their companions, and I don't want to get burned out. I know a lot of people like to farm Bestia for XP, but I've enjoyed the change of scenery of heroic missions instead. It's fast, convenient, and you earn a decent amount of money this way (about one million credits per toon). I've earned a ton of command crates for my guardian who is still working on her alliance base (they should give me some companion gifts when I open them, too) and I finally got that Galactic Hero title for completing all heroics in the game.

One of those things people will probably be talking about for a while is 5.0's mount bug. This is definitely the weirdest bug I've seen so far in SWTOR. When standing still on an tauntaun, orobird or raptor (or any bipedal life mount), your character is beheaded. Your head grows out of your left arm pit, while your arm sticks out of your back with hugely stretched our fingers. As I said, weirdest bug ever.

There are some significant changes regarding crafting. Tier 10 has been added, and you get schematics for high tier crafted gear through the galactic command system rather than through reverse engineering raid drops. My guild used to distribute gear to those who needed rather than for crafting and I never liked grinding operations just for reverse engineering loot - as a result, I rarely got any useful schematic at all, even though I have all crafts maxed out and have defeated almost every boss on nightmare mode. In the new system, I will probably end up with more useful crafting schematics,  which is nice, although there obviously is some RNG involved.

The best crafted gear that you get through reverse engineering crafting trainer gear (so without the higher quality galactic command schematics) is 228. That's pretty decent to start out with, so I'm definitely crafting 228 ear pieces, implants and relics for all my toons.

Gathering is a bit annoying, though. The new tiers are only found on Zakuul and Darvannis, and competition is high. You can't complete the last 20 ranks of your craft there; you'll have to do those with missions or by scanning mobs in uprisings (for the crafts that can). I'm missing an exploreable planet with this expansion. Sure, you can scout Iokath and Nathema during the story, but it's instanced and you can't return later (unless you're replaying the story). I'd have loved a new daily area with the Eternal Throne.

If you want to farm materials, Xam Xam has some useful tips in PSA mat farming in 5.0

Not strictly speaking Eternal Throne content, but with KOTET Dark versus Light eternal achievers finally got the boon for all their hard work: the promised DvL companion. As the light side won (yay!), it was jedi master Ranos.

I ended up really liking Master Ranos' personality, which fits my sage very well. Ranos didn't fit in with the jedi order, but followed her own moral path to help people all around the galaxy. I never expected much content for a companion only a part of the population has access to, but I was a bit disappointed by her "recruitment mission" nevertheless: you basically talk to her at the Alliance base, and that's it. In most cases I won't mind just using the holo instead. There is an exception, though: for jedi it's worthwhile to meet in person when recruiting, because you can ask her if she knows something about your missing padawan.

I gave the galactic command system the benefit of the doubt in my RNG in Knights of the Eternal Throne article, but I was wrong. I'm astonished at the amount of grind involved. Shintar writes in her weekly galactic command diary (yes, this is a thing), that "every little (red. GXP) counts when early estimates suggest that it might take a whole year to reach Command rank 300, even for a pretty active player." I honestly had no idea that a loot system could impact the way I feel about an MMO so much, but to me, as a progression raider, the system is so un fun. I won't go into much detail here, because what I have to say would take a whole blog post and I don't want to be too negative here. I will write about it in the future, but for now, I will redirect you to Going Commando's and Galactic Antics' opinions.

Something I noticed that made me giggle: Bowdaar is almost twice his usual size in The Eternal Throne! I'm pretty sure it's a mistake, but it does make one wonder what the Alliance feeds him.

I've only done a couple of uprisings so far (3 out of 5). The ones I did were fun, but super easy, even on veteran mode. I was healing, but for most encounters I was just DPSing with an occasional heal as long as people weren't standing in stupid. And that was veteran mode with a pug! I'm pretty disappointed by this; hopefully master mode, which will be added later, will provide more challenge. I liked the mechanics, though: the continuing huge waves of adds and the special skills you can pickup are a lot of fun. You certainly notice that the developers tried to go for something different.

Another thing that reportedly has improved with Knights of the Eternal Throne are facial expressions. I found that this mostly was the case for "new style" NPCs, such as Lana, Theron and Valkorion. These characters have much more skin detail and their expressions are done very well in general, much more subtle than before. However, player characters are still "old style" and make the familiar stereotypical exaggerated faces as seen above. I don't mind this, though: it's pretty funny.

The thing I enjoyed most about this expansion is without question its veteran mode for the Knights of the Eternal Throne story. I can't exaggerate when I say it's tough. And when I say tough, I mean tough. I've seen people talk on Twitter talk about how bored they are with the difficulty of the game: "I'm going to do veteran mode!", then report back within the hour with "this is impossible, I'm out - lol". When I played through it on sage, I didn't even know whether it was possible on that class, which made the experience quite thrilling. (Spoiler: it is. I managed to finish all chapters on veteran mode.) Sage has few defensive abilities and is very vulnerable due to its paper armour, because stuff hits hard. On the plus side you have crowd control - but that won't help you in every fight. Conrad played through veteran mode on his guardian and it was stunning to see that we were struggling on different fights. In chapter two (the hardest of them all) I was stuck on a mini boss halfway for three hours and almost gave up, while Conrad's guardian did that part without any problems. Then my sage beat the last boss of the chapter in three attempts, while Conrad was stuck on that one for ages.

Veteran mode is great for players that like to put their skills to the test. You need to know the ins and outs of your class, you need to be familiar with multiple specs and utilities and you need to be creative with strategies. You will fail over and over again until you find the right one to go with. If you make it, though, you have something to be truly proud of!

Finally, the story. This is the hardest topic to talk about without giving things away, but I will try my best! First off, I enjoyed the story a lot. It is much shorter than Knights of the Fallen Empire, but it was more focused and the chapters flowed really well. Iokath was more beautiful and lush than I imagined, and playing through that part of the story gave a real KOTOR vibe. Nathema was brighter than I imagined. The gameplay was definitely more varied than in KOTFE, with fun 'session play' like bits and dynamic surroundings. I just wished you could move temporary skills around - mine had really awkward keybinds, so I basically had to click them (not fun on veteran mode). Overall, the story gave closure with regards to main characters in a satisfying way. Without giving away too much, I'd say I liked how Senya and Vaylin were handled. Chapter 2 was the hardest gameplay wise and chapter 9 - the last one - the most epic. I'm not sure if I could name a favourite.

What are the highlights of Knights of the Eternal Throne for you?

Warning: this article was spoiler free, but we can talk spoilers in the comments. Thread with care if you haven't played through the expansion yet.


  1. Gathering the new mats through bioanalysis and scavenging isn't so bad if you do group content. Since all the flashpoints and operations have been bumped up to 70, any dead mobs in them disassemble into grade 10 mats. Archeology is a bit screwed as usual though.

    I would say something about Master Ranos but her recruitment mission has been bugged for (most?) people who hit Legendary tier. Can't wait for them to fix that... :-/ (Feels ironic that we now kinda got punished with this delay for putting the most work into the DvL event.)

    I didn't know about Bowdaar's growth, that's too funny! :D

    Did you know that you can change the key bindings for your temporary skill bar? It's in the quickbar keybind options somewhere. I instantly bound the first one the moment 4.0 came out cause I always need it for Huttball.

    1. I know you can change the keybinds, but it's something I find tedious, so usually I'm like "I'll suffer through this, hopefully it's not too long...". It just occurs to me that I could save them separately, for instance per chapter (where applicable). It would probably be worth doing that, so I only need to do it once, so I can just load it on the next character.

      What's that about Master Ranos? Is there a story I'm missing because she is bugged for me? (Please don't tell me what's in it, but I wouldn't mind knowing whether there is something.) That would be great, because I really feel they did her injustice in the form I encountered her.

      I've particularly liked Darvannis for materials, since it has all in the same region. I figured I would want to do it on veteran mode at some point (since it looks bad to have them for KOTET but not for KOTFE), so I replayed the chapter on guardian.

    2. Well, Ranos is supposed to have an Alliance alert. I could only summon her with the token from the mail since the alert mission didn't show up. I think today's patch is supposed to fix it. I didn't think you said that you did the last tier of the DvL event? Since it only seemed to affect people who completed that.

    3. Yeah, I didn't complete the last DvL tier and I did get the alliance alert, so what I saw was what I was supposed to see then.


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