Card Games on Chocobos? Triple Triad Arrives!

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Greetings gentleman and ladies! The time has come, and the doors are open to Final Fantasy XIV’s very old Gold Saucer.  A fantastic homage to the mini-game capital of RPGs.  Honestly, its probably the most excited and most fearful for a patch I’ve been in quite a while.  The entire ‘personal housing is just guild housing without needing a guild and that’s all’ thing from a few patches ago had me fuming due to the poor implementation and outlandishly high barriers of entry (Level 50, highest rank with your grand company, and anything from 4-20 million gil depending on limited lot availability).  Not to mention the whole real estate war for limited numbers of spaces.  I’m still saving up.  Wait…  wasn’t I talking about the Gold Saucer?

Yes, the Manderville Gold Saucer.  Owned and controlled by Godbert Manderville himself. A statuesque man that you may know if you’ve done any of the Hildebrad quest chain at level 50 or from a disturbing series of quests at Camp Bronze Lake where you help attend to Godbert at the spa (*shivers*).  The Gold Saucer boasts several mini games, events called GATEs, tons of prizes to earn, chocobo racing and what I looked forward to the most: Triple Triad.

Ah yes, the original card game in the Final Fantasy legacy.  Triple Triad involves placing cards on a 3×3 grid and capturing your opponents cards by placing adjacent cards with higher values.  The game originally appeared in Final Fantasy VIII and was one of the MANY heavily divisive features of the game.  VIII even more than Final Fantasy VII was very much a ‘love it or hate it’ experience.  There’s a LOT of hate for it out there, as noted by Noah ‘Spoony’ Antwiler’s scathing series of video reviews but there is also a ton of love for it too.  I particularly enjoyed a good deal of the story and how much of the truth of the events being implied rather than directly stated. For instance, Squall & Rinoa’s romance ultimately being the culmination of the lost chance at love between Laguna – heavily implied to be Squall’s father – and Julia – Rinoa’s mother. Uh…  I suppose spoilers for the 16 year old game?  Wait. SIXTEEN?  Yea. 1999.  That’s right.  FF8 is old enough to drive.  Mind blown.

Triple Triad was however is where it got frustrating.  At the beginning of the game, Triple Triad is a fun side activity to collect cards and have fun playing.  However, as the game goes on more and more rules are added to Triple Triad turning it from fun side activity into a nightmarish mess that will more than likely cost you every card in your deck.  Oh yes, did I forget to mention that winner takes one or more cards from the loser?  Meaning a bad streak of luck can leave you without your most powerful cards with only a chance that you can maybe someday win them back from whomever you lost them to, cause hey, there’s only one of some of these cards IN THE WORLD.

So where am I going with all of this?  Well, with the talk of losing cards to opponents, poor implementation of other promised features, and a heaping mess of confusing rules…  can you blame me for being nervous about Triple Triad at the Gold Saucer?  I mean, am I going to lose every card to some random person who has already grinded out the best cards in the game?  Thankfully, I can say: NO.  In fact, Triple Triad’s implementation is actually one of the most casual friendly, easy to get into, and enjoyably minimal risk side games I’ve seen in something bearing the Final Fantasy name.

First of all, you can’t lose your cards. At all. Once you’ve unlocked a card, it is yours.  So how do you get more cards?  Well, there are lots of ways.  The first way you’ll encounter is to defeat NPCs at Triple Triad.  Each NPC that you can challenge at the Gold Saucer will have 1 or 2 cards you can win off of them.  There’s also a ton of NPCs out and about in the world that have cards you can win off of.  The cards aren’t a 100% drop and really it’s all RNG.  My first card took about 10 wins, the second came 2 wins after.  There’s also a chance for cards to drop from dungeons and trials and this is where I was really happy with how this was done.  The cards are personal loot.  That means there is no rolling on cards, no ninja-ing cards, no arguing about cards – just a chance that when the boss dies you and anyone who participated have a chance to get a card placed in your inventory.  Oh geeze, thank you.  I mean, yea.  It’s not a guaranteed drop that everyone rolls on and I’ve seen some people complain about that, but this is so much less stressful.

But Vry, I hear you ask, I heard you can only have 1 of each card unlocked. Wouldn’t that mean people would eventually not need to roll so everyone would get a card?  No! I shout and bop you on the head.  Because the final way to get new cards is to “sell” your duplicates at the Gold Saucer for points (Points being the universal currency of the Gold Saucer) so you can buy other cards you don’t have or trade in dupes to save up for that snazzy Setzer outfit (Btw, thank you FFXIV developers for all the awesome shout out love you give FFVI in this game.  6 is still my all time favorite and I eat up stuff like Ultros & Chupon appearing.) So yea, you pretty much ALWAYS have an excuse to want to roll on cards.  Hence why personal loot is less problematic in my opinion.

What about the confusing rules?  Yea. Some of those squeaked in.  Things like ‘Same’ where if 2 or more sides of a card match the numbers on the adjacent cards’ sides, all of them are flipped and captured.   That’s actually one of the more simple variations.  Still, the game at least will tell you what the rules are and a brief explanation beyond the name when you challenge someone.  The worst rules from FFVIII were the ones that dictated which cards the winner got.  Like you keep all the cards you flipped so even if you win, you still might lose a rare card or you just win your opponents entire hand of cards.  But since you can’t take an opponents card, these rules don’t exist.  The others, while annoying, are just about trial and error until you get the hang of them and learn to keep an eye out for your opponent trying to lure you into a trap.

So without winning cards, what do you win?  Well, you win gold saucer points.  Also a chance for a card to drop.  You also win half as many points if you draw, and a paltry sum even if you lose.  This seems to be some consolidation for the fact that you have to pay points to play.  There’s an ‘ante’ of sorts.  If you lose you’ll get a portion of that ante back, but not the whole thing.  My limited observation is about 75-80% of the ante is what you get on a loss.

There’s also a nice system in place so you can’t just screw newcomers with overpowered decks.  You are limited to how many high level cards you can place in your deck based on the total number of cards you have unlocked.  Like at less than 30, you can only use one card of two-star rank or higher, and the rest must be 1-star rank cards.  Between 30 and 59, you can use as many one or two-star rank cards, but only one of three-star rank and finally if you have over 60 of the total 80 cards unlocked, you can have as many 1,2 or 3 star cards as you want but only one card of 4 or 5 star rank.   So you can’t just make an ultimate I-Win deck out of all 5 star cards.

So is Triple Triad a success? Well, time will tell.  The first tournament doesn’t begin until next week, and it’s only been around for a day but thus far I love it.  I love that I don’t have to live in fear of losing my rare cards, so all I have to do is play and have fun with it.  I played several dozen matches last night while watching YouTube videos (Shameless plug: Yes my YouTube channel is still up and running with more still coming in the render queue! Subscribe now!) and it was completely and unabashedly enjoyable.  I highly recommend trying it out as a downtime activity while your chilling on your computer or waiting for the DPS queue to pop.

Finally, there’s already an awesome site up and running called A Realm Reborn: Triple Triad that has all the cards listed and where you can find them as well as a breakdown of the rules with a quick tutorial on how to play.  You can find that site here.

FF14: Wrecking the Relic

So, Vrykerion (the character, not me.  I’m the Vrykerion that controls that Vrykerion. Got it?) has finally gotten his first relic weapon in Final Fantasy XIV.  The Gae Bolg and ultimately the Gae Bolg Zenith is now in my possession and I finally have a spear that goes with my wicked looking dragoon drachen mail outfit. I’d like to say that it was quite the accomplishment if it wasn’t for the fact that every step along the path was full of face faults, walking into doors, and the occasional “OH GOD NO!”

For those who don’t play Final Fantasy XIV, at level 50 each class can begin a quest chain to unlock an upgradable weapon unique to your job.  Dragoons for instance get Gae Bolg which matches their outfits general aesthetic.  The quest chain is a mix of random tasks totaling up to some twelve (okay it’s actually 10) labors that you must perform to resurrect a long lost weapon back to its true power.  Some of these tasks involve attacking beast men strongholds to find items or kill a certain number of various monsters.  The first big stumbling block is really creating a base weapon for the relic and then attaching two specific materia to it.  Materia are kind of like enchantments that occupy slots in weapons.  They are really complicated and I haven’t the slightest clue how their various limits work (Like if you have two +10 crit materia in it, but it has a hidden limit of 12 crit or something, your second materia will only give you +2 instead of the full +10…  I think?)  But that means finding a crafter with max level to craft and meld the materia, or level it yourself, or just do what I did and shell out several hundred thousand gil for one with the materia already attached.

The real thing that was just a slog for me to do was the trials and dungeons.  To complete your weapon, you need to do one max level dungeon, and five trials (trials being essentially one room, one boss mini-dungeons) including three hard mode versions of the earlier primal fights and two fights that are unique to the quest chain – the Chimera and the Hydra.  This is my personal hell.  I don’t know how many of my readers have done max level content in Final Fantasy XIV but it was very much a pan to the face, no joking around, do the dance or die kind of experience.  Lag will kill you.  Not knowing exactly where to stand can kill you.  Standing in bad will naturally kill you but sometimes the ‘bad’ is 90% of the area and you only have seconds to GTFO.  Oh, I died.  I died A LOT.  And I studied the mechanics.  Not one fight did I go into blind.  But damn is it another thing to actually see these fights up close versus reading a strat.  I am so glad I’m doing this at the end of 2.0’s lifespan and just before an expansion dropped.  If it weren’t the copious amounts of people overgeared for this stuff I don’t think I’d ever finish.

Again, it’s not that I’m bad.  Far from it.  There’s just a lot of crap going on everywhere, and if you aren’t quick or have a bit of lag, it can kill you quick.  But I was usually dead from either insta-kills or because we were strained from a healer death and took too much unavoidable area damage.  I did the dance, and still would die.  Granted, sometimes I was dumb.  I got smacked by the Primal Titan and went flying off the platform and spent the last third of the fight at the bottom of a hole (still not bad compared to the bard to ended up there in the first minute every single attempt to make many of us wonder if it were intentional).

The whole thing was kind of an eye opener for how the end game of FF14 works.  As far as I know there is some ‘easier’ content, namely the Crystal Tower raids.  But damn if I am not in a rush to try Titan (Extreme) or even Leviathan (Hard) for a bit.  I got my Gae Bolg.  I’m happy with that.  With the expansion dropping in only a few months, I think the rest of my time will be more so spent working on quests.  The main scenario, the Hildebrad and Moogle Delivery quests – fun stuff.  Also leveling all my other classes and jobs up.  Then there’s triple triad coming…  oooooo…

I guess really I should say that while it was a good crash course in the difficulty to expect (WoW Raid expectations: know the fights roughly, try hard, do the dance.  Also that people are really nice in this game and as long as you are trying to darnedest and not just blatantly dying on purpose, they seem willing to work with ya.) but I’m also grateful that I’m sitting at end game with a wide spread of alternate stuff to do.  Maybe not necessarily progression based, but fun nonetheless.  Now if you excuse me, Gae Bolg and I have to get us a cactuar mini-pet! *runs off to adventure!*

A Farewell to WoW Insider

So, apparently WoW Insider is no longer a thing. Shut down by AOL along with Massively and several other gaming blog sites.  While this blog has long since stopped being exclusively a World of Warcraft blog, WoW Insider was still a daily visit for me to keep up on the going on’s and the various fun in the form of articles like The Queue or the Tin Foil Hat editions that reveled in speculation about the game’s lore.  It was also where this blog’s predecessor OddCraft got its first big break, being shared along with other bloggers in a series of posts about the various other blogs in the community.  Now it never got me a boost to internet stardom, but it was pretty much the largest exposure I had ever gotten as a blogger at that point.  I’ll never forget that kindness.  To this day I still occasionally got hits from WoW Insider for the WoW Ironman Challenge.  So the legacy lived on far longer than my old blog did.

So this post is for all of the great people who worked at WoW Insider.  It was a great ride.  Thanks for years of enjoyable reading.

EDIT: Apparently, I spoke a bit too soon! Lots of the great folks who staffed WoW Insider have launched a new website called Blizzard Watch.  It’s supported by Patreon too, so if you wanna show your love there’s a way. I wish them all the best in this new site!

X-ing out Final Fantasy X

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So continuing my long trod down games that are really well known and extremely divisive that I somehow never played for one reason or another, I picked up a copy of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD ReMix (World Championship Turbo Xtreme Deluxe Gold Edition et cetera et cetera) and decided to give it  whirl along with my lovely girlfriend who was quite fond of the games back in the day (She stands firm that X-2 is one of her all time favs).

I’ll be honest, I know exactly why I never played this game back in the day. His name starts with T and ends with -idus.  I only played through the intro back when the game first came out and oh god, I wanted to hurt this whiny little brat of a protagonist so much.  So much!  In duplicate!  From the get go he just feels like the kind of guy you want to punch. He whines about his situation, he blames other people for everything, and he completely ignores anything anyone tells him about the local cultures like an American tourist.  In fact, with his faux tan and bleach blonde hair (yes, that’s bleached.  He’s shown in flashbacks as having brown hair) I’m almost tempted to say that he’s a stereotype of an annoying Californian.  The kind of jerk who lives in the lap of luxury, thinks everyone needs to eat raw foods only and if people would only like talk or something than peace is like totally easily, shaaa.

Sorry, I hate Tidus with a passion.  Which is kind of sad because it initially barred me from what is honestly a fairly well polished game. The combat system is active, fun, and extremely strategy based where most enemies can be defeated easily if you counter with their weakness and turn into a grueling slog otherwise. The game quickly becomes about learning what abilities to use when and – in a unique twist on traditional Final Fantasy combat – you swap out members mid battle as you see fit to meet the challenges.  The world setting is really interesting and has a great set up and backstory for it. The world is bright and…  kind of linear.

Actually, speaking of linear.  You know what Final Fantasy X really reminds me of?  Final Fantasy XIII.  Same long, straight shot corridors,  an alternate leveling system, cast of characters with internal and external conflict, really confusing plot without a ton of research, etc etc.  Except one is an award winning game that is considered to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and the other is pretty much universally despised.  Which is interesting to me.  Maybe it’s because of the lack of squicky love story?  I dunno.  But really now that I’ve played both, Final Fantasy XIII is clearly an attempt to harken back to FFX’s style of play in terms of design. Yet everyone hates that one.  Maybe it’s because in the interim we’ve been introduced to the Elder Scrolls III & IV, Fallout 3, the Fable series, and a bunch of other open world RPGs.  That may be it.  Either way, it was an interesting comparison at least.

Most of my complaints about the game are things that have been lobbed at it ever since it first came out.  I know that.  But since I’ve been talking about every other Final Fantasy game I’ve been playing I said maybe I’ll just chime in with a bit.  Because while I may have my problems with the game, there isn’t anything here that ruins it for me.  I still am enjoying the game as I push toward the end, trying to get SOME of my celestial weapons (No, I’m not going to bother with the 200 lightning jumps. Sorry Lulu. You are plenty destructive without an Onion Knight plush.) And while I do still find Tidus to be annoying little lump of genetic discharge, his dialogue and scenes – along with his comrade in dumb, Wakka – are still enjoyable to simply point and laugh at.  If I’m not enjoying for what it is, I tend to enjoy it for what quality riff material it delivers.

(Still not happy about the Macarena joke though.  That crap was dated when this game was brand new.)

But how about the HD Remix?  What does it add?  Do the visuals hold up?  Well, the one perk to this being a HD Remix of the original is that they actually took the time to go back and remodel the main characters with high def textures, so they look great.  The problem really comes in when they are talking to a non-main character and you can blatantly tell which has had work done.  They also didn’t really bother to update any of the animations, so even the beautiful people have rigid mouth movements that flap around like an anime nut cracker.  I will say that the pre-rendered stuff looks gorgeous at any resolution, as to be expected from Square-Enix, as do the environments.  So what about the Remix part?  Well, sadly, most of what was added was from the International release which means stuff we probably already had.  The expert sphere grid is available that starts off the characters in the center of the grid, allowing them to go in whatever direction they want but also has less spheres meaning less stat growth.  It also includes the short movie, Eternal Calm, that bridges X and X-2, Last Mission which takes place after X-2 and a short audio drama dubbed in english (which is amazing because we hardly EVER get the audio dramas on this side of the pond) that details Yuna and Tidus’ break up post X-2, Auron’s secret daughter, and the impending war across Spira.  Yea, looooot of people not happy about the audio drama.  But hey, it’s narrated by Tidus.  Listen to his story.  Before I break his jaw for mentioning that it is his story again.

Is it worth it? Sure. If you can find a good deal on it.  I dunno if I’d spend $50 on it.  I used a gift card. But $20-30?  Sure. It’s two fun games.  Though you might wanna wait. I hear they’re re-doing it AGAIN for the PS4.  /eyeroll

Class Storyline Review: Bounty Hunter – Chapter Three

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Bounty Hunter storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

<— Chapter Two || BOUNTY HUNTER ||

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So picking up from last time, the Hunter had just been declared the number one most wanted target in all of the Republic for repeated acts of destruction and terrorism, MOST of which I did not do.  In the wake of the pretty much losing every possible outlet for work, a call comes in from one Darth Tormen, a big wig Sith that further solidifies my theory that Sith don’t know how to finish writing their scary words.  He invites you to his ship, and this is IMMEDIATELY following the whole ‘The Sith Empire disavows ever working with you” and essentially burns all the bridges with you.  Since Sith normally don’t like to leave loose ends, it pays to come prepared. Unfortunately, they are also prepared and you get the lovely choice of going in blind, or fighting your way to Tormen’s office.  It’s almost worth it to fight simply so you can see a mildly annoyed Tormen that you broke his toys.

The Darth has an offer for you when you see him.  He wants to hire you – the Republic’s Most Wanted – to help him take out choice targets that might impede his attempt to overthrow and conquer Corellia for the Sith Empire.  Your payment for this job is not only a healthy heap of credits but also a chance to strike at the man who was turned you into the least employable bounty hunter in the galaxy: The Supreme Chancellor.  Hot doggie, it’s time to hunt!

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Belsavis

Our target on Belsavis is a smuggler turned patriot named Zale Barrows.  Zale has been ‘escorting’ Republic forces and prisoners around the galaxy and getting them past any sort of blockade or attacking force.  You can see why Tormen might want him gone. His most recent job has been acting as a ferryman to the prison on Belsavis.  You think finding a smuggler would be hard enough, but because life is anything but easy for you at the moment, you are repeatedly “assisted” by a Houk named Skadge.  Skadge is…  unpleasant.  He’s the dark side companion that the Sith WISH they had.  You first meet him beating the hell out of Zale’s girlfriend for information and not like in the ‘Ve have vays of making you talk’ kind of way.  Like the bone cracking, internal bleeding, kind of way.  The whole bit is completely uncomfortable to even watch and while I love the story of these games, I won’t deny spacebarring through this scene the second time I got to it.

Even with what little info Zale’s love interest has (turns out she doesn’t know much but that might be because she likely has a concussion and brain damage after Skadge interrogated her), the massive Houk still isn’t done making your job harder.  You and Skadge finally corner Zale, but while you are cutting the power to open the doors he sneaks off.  Skadge in his frustration destroys Zale’s droid.  You know, the ONLY frigging lead to where Barrows was headed.  So now you get to drag a heap of droid parts around trying to find someone to fix it and giving your bounty a huge lead to get off world.  Ultimately, you get the location of Zale’s destination and catch up to him in the Deep Tombs.  There he actually gives you an offer: help him stop the Imperials from freeing prisoners and he’ll come with you, or take him by force and help the Imperials.  Really, it comes down to how much of an Imperial loyalist you are.  Yes, they are your current employers but freeing these prisoners isn’t your job. Capturing Zale is however.  So really it’s your choice how to handle it.

However you choose to, the matter of what to do with Skadge is still in the air.  Except it’s not.  Skadge is on your ship and is on your crew now.  Because he says so.  No, really. He doesn’t give you a choice in this matter.  It’s not even the game not giving you a choice.  It does.  You can tell him no, but he’ll just say tough noogies and join your ship.  Which REAAAAALLY makes me uncomfortable having him wandering around the place where I sleep.

Voss

The next target on our hit list is a Republic general stationed on Voss.  Essentially, our goal is primarily to discredit her and then take her down.  I’m not sure about the necessity of the whole discrediting thing. Maybe they just don’t want her to be a martyr because she quite clearly has a goal in mind and the Voss do support it to the point of breaking their neutrality to impede your efforts to find her.  This planet more or less follows the ‘Chase someone across the world with lots of near misses’ archetype of the bounty hunter storyline.  You chase her to the Shrine of Healing, then to the Gormak death arena, and finally to the Nightmare Lands.  That’s where you find out the whole dark secret that she’s been trying to reveal: the Voss and the Gormak used to be the same species! But the Sith and Republic drove them apart and caused them to take separate paths of evolution ages ago.

The revelation is kind of a ‘yea duh’ moment for anyone who has played through Voss but for me this was my first time going through and this is one of only a couple class storylines that go into detail about Voss’ history, so it was kind of a cool reveal that does explain why both Gormak and Voss were making your life hell trying to get the general.  Speaking of the general, she agrees to come with you if you let the Gormak with the truth go and spread this knowledge.  Or you can kill them all and take her in by force.  But why?  Is there really any reason this info shouldn’t get out?  I mean, I know in another storyline the Sith actually want this information to become public knowledge because it paints the Jedi in a bad light, so it’s not like it is a big secret that the Sith want to keep a lid on.  I dunno why you would take that option other than some quick dark side points and maybe a bit of XP?

The actual interesting part is the ambassador that has been assisting you this entire time.  He keeps trying to appease the Voss in the wake of your actions.  So the more disruptive you are, the harder his life becomes and I kid you not you can actually drive the man to commit suicide at the end of the storyline.  It’s not on camera or anything but it makes it pretty darn clear what’s going on.  I just find that to be the far more interesting choice and consequence on this planet than how to handle the general.  You can actually make or break a man’s career to the point of him just ending it all.  Which is kind of uh… wow.

Interlude – Reclaiming the Tyrant

Darth Tormen’s ship is under attack! Fight to the bridge and help reclaim it.  That’s it.  Seriously. Nothing else happens.  I have no idea if there is a quota for interludes on these story missions or the experience budget needed some padding but this entire sequence does NOTHING to advance the story and Tormen actually shows up at the end and quite clearly could have reclaimed the ship on his own.  So I really have no idea what this bit is for.  Maybe we just needed another run around a ship?

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Corellia

Alright, all the distractions are out of the way.  The board is clear for Tormen’s big move on Corellia.  Job done right?  Well, sort of.  You still have one task ahead of you: Help Tormen seal the deal on Corellia.  Are you kidding me?  Help conquer a planet?  What kind of bounty does that pull?  Cause I will tell you there better be one heck of a pay day at the end of this.  What do you mean my pay is “Jun Seros?”  What the heck is…  Oh.  OH.  Jun Seros is Mister High-And-Mighty-Jedi that has been giving me lip and is responsible for all those attacks on my person and convincing the Supreme Chancellor to ruin my career!  Oh this is gonna be good.  You got a deal, Darth.

So to help with the ‘transition’ of Corellia, Tormen wants you to hunt down some of the more prominent figures of the planet’s political and economic spheres who are involved with the resistance and bring them ALIVE to the Darth so he can show the people their leaders swearing allegiance to the Empire.  There are three targets you have to capture: a corporate big wig who offers you a deal that turns into a trap, a Selonian (think ferret people) that you blackmail into coming by threatening their small breeding caste, and finally the former commander of Corellia Security (which I guess is the police force?)  Once you deliver them to Tormen, he reveals the location of Jun Seros.  Not only that but he informs you that the actions of the Empire on Corellia have drawn the Supreme Chancellor out of hiding on Coruscant and is now in orbit around the planet on his private ship. Now is when things get FUN.

The fight to get the Jun isn’t anything special.  You break into a Jedi fortress and find him chatting up with a bunch of his allies.  Jun is fully convinced that victory is guaranteed and that the Republic has this one in the bag, hence him inviting the Supreme Chancellor to help finish it and secure Corellia for the Republic.  He is delightfully smug and sees you as less then a threat to his grand design.  That’s when you kick his ass.  You kick it good and when you’re done, you can one up the whole thing by telling Jun before he dies that his “victory” has only brought ruin because all it did was leave the Supreme Chancellor out in the open and you’re gunning for him next.  Oh yes, Jedi Seros.  You’ve just activated my trap card.  The look on his face as he dies is great too.  Considering this putz has made your life hell for the last two chapters, it was fun to rub it in his face that all his ‘plans’ and ‘schemes’ were all used against him in the end.  Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it is very cold in an air conditioned Jedi conclave…  Yesssss.

Grand Finale

This is it.  A showdown with the man who turned you from the most famous bounty hunter to the most infamous in the galaxy.  The most wanted criminal in the Republic for simply doing what you were paid to.  But before you get your revenge, you’ve got to get on that ship.  The ruse is to steal a Republic ship and fly it toward the Supreme Chancellor’s broadcasting emergency codes and being chased by Imperial ships making it look like your under fire and need sanctuary.  Of course, the Imperial ships will be actually shooting at you.  All they’ve been told by Tormen is that a Republic VIP is on that ship and to take it down.  Got to make it look convincing.  Right?  And should I actually die, you need not pay up either.  Nice play, Darth.  The whole trick does successfully work and you get on the Chancellor’s big fancy ship and starting shooting your way through the place.

Now you want to make sure that there’s no way for anyone to escape. That would ruin a perfectly good hunt. So you destroy the other ships in the hangar, the escape pods, and pretty much anything else that they could use to get off the ship.  The next big challenge you face is the Chancellor’s elite guards – which was a complete nightmare on my powertech and a complete breeze on my merc.  I think the big difference is a) gear and more importantly b) crowd control.  My merc could knock out one of the two guards and deal with them one and one and my tech had to deal with them both.  Either way when they die it is just you and the Supreme Fancy Pants.  Shockingly, he is extremely apologetic.  He blindly trusted Jun Seros without looking into the matter and realizes now that he was played for a fool with Jun’s machinations of revenge against you for you just doing what bounty hunters do.  He clears your criminal record, and explains that no matter the outcome of this meeting that he will be forced to resign from just the scandal of abusing his powers or just driven from office for removing your wrongfully given most wanted status. Still, he offers you the choice: You can kill him (Dark side), freeze him in carbonite and haul him back to Tormen as a trophy (neutral) or take his offer to do something ‘good’ with this opportunity and go back to the ship and kill Tormen and remove a complete jerk from the galaxy (Light side).

I really like this choice because it offers you a wide variety of choices that each have their own unique effects.  If you have no love for the Empire and no care for Tormen (He doesn’t spend much effort making himself likable. Heck he force choked Mako when I first met him.) then you can take the offer to off your employer and make the galaxy a bit happier.  If you’re still really sore about the whole being framed and having your entire career flushed down the toilet because of a sore Jedi and a gullible leader, then kill him.  Or if you just want to do the job, get paid, and get the heck out then there’s always the freezing option that grants no dark or light points for all the gray alignment folks out there.  It’s worth noting that this is really one of the few ‘gray alignment’ friendly endings to a class story I’ve seen where a neutral option is flat out offered alongside the typical light/dark ones.  Also for you troopers and Jedi who were wondering why Saresh shows up at the end of Chapter 3 as the new Supreme Chancellor – this is your answer.  The Bounty Hunter offs the old one out of office in some fashion.  (If you thought the Horde being the only ones who saw the end of the Worgen storyline is bad, imagining having to wait till max level on the opposite faction to find out what happened to your faction’s leader.  Heh.)

When you eventually get back to Tormen, you will either try to kill him as a true final boss on the level of most of the other storylines or you will just accept your payment and get one last job offer to become a permanent retainer of the Sith Empire.  You can shoot down the offer saying you want to remain a free agent that can be hired by anyone, or you can sign on and become an official asset of the Empire’s galactic conquest.  I really don’t understand that last option unless you are really hard up for a steady paycheck.  It’s really your choice, but in the wake of the recent Shadow of Revan class quest, I’ll just say that it might have more impact than I previously thought.  I always choose to stay neutral though.  That’s how a bounty hunter rolls, yo.

My Thoughts

Chapter Three of the Bounty Hunter storyline really feels a lot like the Chicago Way of storylines: They bring a knife, you bring a gun, they send of ours to the hospital, we send one of theirs to the morgue.  It’s revenge plain and simple, unlike the chapter one story that was more like vengeance or revenge for a fallen ally.  While the whole thing kicks off with your friends getting killed, it never feels like your doing this FOR them like you did for Braden and Jory back in the first chapter.  They were killed to get to you.  They try to take everything they can from you.  You are the target.  It’s almost immediately followed by a Faustian pact from Tormen to get back at those who are after you.  In fact for a while I was kind of thinking that Tormen had arranged the whole thing with Seros, but that would severely lessen the ‘fallen’ Jedi aspect of Jun Seros who just spent all of chapter two and three trying to get his revenge on you for killing his former padawan in chapter one.  Which again is something that REALLY could have been explored more.  Definitely more so than a side mission to save Tormen’s fricking ship.

The third chapter is by no means bad.  Like most of the Bounty Hunter story, it’s simple but solid.  It does have some points that could have been polished more to really make the story shine.  Like I said, Tormen having some twisted machination behind all this or exploring Jun Seros succumbing to a desire for revenge despite being the Jedi adviser to the highest office in the Republic are things that would have really stood out in the story but little if any is done with the ideas.  I will however compliment the idea that just because you’ve ended up with this deal with the dark side to get to the Supreme Chancellor, it doesn’t mean you have to like it.  After all, the bounty hunter ISN’T an Imperial.  No Space British accent. So you are always given the opportunity to not blindly do the loyal Imperial thing.  You can help Zale kill the Imperials to get him to come along nicely.  After all, he’s your target and helping the Imps is of no concern of yours.  What do you care about some Imperial ambassador’s reputation?  You have one objective to do and that’s all that matters.  You can quite honestly stick it to the Empire to further your own agenda of doing jobs for the Empire.  In that way, there’s something really enjoyable about this chapter.

Looking Back

So I started out this class saying how I viewed it as the strongest at the beginning and then weaker as it went on.  I don’t know if I can actually agree with that initial assessment.  It could have been ignorance of how all the other class stories went and how BAD they could be (*cough*Trooper Chapter Two*cough*) but I really think I sold the later chapters of the Bounty Hunter short. Especially after coming back, playing through them again and acting not with some agenda of neutrality but allowing the story to influence my choices, and I enjoyed it a lot more.  Now I won’t say there weren’t plenty of missed opportunities but the story as a whole is a simple and more importantly complete narrative.  There is no compartmentalization of the narrative.  Chapter one flows into chapter two and then into three fairly naturally.

Another thing the story does really well that I haven’t spoken of up to this point is the questioning the moral gray area that bounty hunting serves as a profession in the galaxy.  Periodically, Mako the Moral Compass stops to ponder if all the people who have died up to this point have died BECAUSE of you.  It’s an interesting question.  Your a bounty hunter, if someone offers a bounty wanted dead are they responsible for the death or are you because you pulled the trigger?  The question is actually core to the story itself because Jun Seros is motivated entirely by the fact that you killed a Jedi at the end of the first chapter as part of the Great Hunt.  That Jedi had a bounty on him from someone (you never do find out who, just like the rest of the Great Hunt targets) and you collected it by killing him.  You killed him.  Does that make you responsible?  Seros thinks so.  Mako wonders if you are responsible for the deaths of the other Grand Champions because they wouldn’t have been targets if not for being involved with you and yours.  There is a certain dubious morality that comes into play as someone who gets paid to kidnap or kill people and I think the story really does a good job of exploring those themes without bogging it down.  They pop up here and there and make you think about it from time to time.

There’s also the question of honor versus profit.  Introduced toward the end of the first chapter is the idea of honor that the Mandolorians subscribe to.  That there’s is a sort of ritual to the hunt, some kind of noble code of the warrior, and a level of respect for one’s target.  This becomes much more prominent in the second chapter where you offered the chance to become a Mandolorian as well as the Mando death war game across Taris and the noble hunter warrior on Hoth.  This is offset by the chance to a product endorsement deal between them on Quesh, which of course was a trap, but it’s an interesting comparison.  In fact, if you choose to eagerly take the offer of becoming a spokesperson, the only person who gives you negative affection is the newly joined Mando, Torian.  Beyond that the whole thing gets explored quite often on a smaller scale of things like: give them a fighting chance or just kill them and take the money or even betraying your employers for a bribe which is shown in quite the dishonorable light back on Tatooine.  It’s probably one of the most underlying themes of the entire story and it’s interesting to explore in your play-through of where you personally fall on that spectrum.

So in the end, is the bounty hunter a good story?  Yes.  It could be improved but it could also be much worse.  It has interesting themes but simple and sometimes uninspired content that is used to explore those themes.  It can feel repetitive a lot for some I imagine, after all you’re just plucking up a bounty on each planet.  The real interest is explored more in the ideas that are presented than in the actual missions, which I can see being a turn off for many.  Still, for a story about a bounty hunter it could have been MUCH worse.  I mean, it could have just been ‘get bounty.  go get another bounty. do it again.’ with no over arcing connection or driving goals of vengeance or revenge.  Plus the class is really fun to play mechanically.  Especially with the Shadow of Revan discipline revamp. Powertech is super fun again!

<— Chapter Two || BOUNTY HUNTER ||

Class Storyline Reviews: Bounty Hunter – Chapter Two

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Bounty Hunter storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

<— Chapter One || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Three —>

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Welcome back from your vacation Mister or Miss Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.  Ready for a REAL job?  Well, that’s what Chapter Two brings you.  Fame, fortune, and work. Legitimate, actual, bounty hunting.  Some of the hardest bounties in the galaxy!  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have to meet Mandalore first.  Mandalore, as his name might suggest, is a Mandalorian.  In fact, he’s the leader of the Mandos. Like, all of them.  He has invited you to his personal starship (what, you need a guild to have a starship? HA! Don’t you wish you were Mandalore?) Where he gives you a task – not a job sadly – to go to Dromund Kaas and take down a giant beastie living in a cave there.  The cave in question is surrounded with Mandalorians who are trying and failing to kill this beast.  Which is weird, cause it’s just a gold mob.  You also meet a lad named Torian Cadera who I’m sure will be unimportant forever hence why I’m calling specific attention to him.  Anyway, you kill the beast and head back to Mandalore (Yes, you fly all the way back to Dromund Kaas to kill one thing and then fly all the way back to the Outer Rim.  Now I’m GLAD space travel is just pushing a button) to be told that congrats! You are a Mandalorian now!  That’s all it takes apparently?

Now whether you take Mandalore’s offer to become a Mandalorian is completely up to you.  You take the honor, or you can say ‘screw honor, I want money’ and forsake the noble warrior lifestyle for a shrewd cash grabbing merc way of life.  If you choose the latter, you enrage Mandalore who was hoping to make you take his place on the…  council…  thing of former Grand Champs…  I think?  It’s not terrible clear.  You’re not becoming the new Mandalore that’s for sure.  He’s going off to work for the Empire doing something.  You never find out what.  However, regardless of your choice you meet up with Grand Champs Bloodworthy, Jewla Nightbringer and yes, The Defenestrator (Cue the squeeing) who welcome you – and laugh at Mandalore if you shoot him down – to the club and offer you the Black List. The Black List is a premier listing of bounties that are exclusive to winners of the Great Hunt.  They are the toughest and more importantly best paying bounties in the galaxy.  This is the big leagues.  Your first job is actually an oldie but a goodie.  A bounty so hard to deal with that a betting pool has been establish for anyone who tries their hand at it.  Whoever finally brings in the target gets the whole pot.  You pay up your ante and get the info.  Looks like we’re headed to…

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Taris

Oh joy.  Okay, I don’t like Taris. At all. In any incarnation.  It’s a winding confusing mess of a world infected with rakghouls who by defeat cut through armor like butter which means lots of downtime healing.  But that actually works to the advantage of this mission, because we’re about to be reenacting a bunch of action movies from the 80s and hunting down a guerrilla warrior in the Jungle.  His name is Jincoln Cadera, and yes he is the father of that completely-unimportant-for-reals Torian Cadera, who has also shown up on Taris.

The majority of Taris plays out with you and Torian working together to take down Jincoln who has challenged you to a Mandalorian death game.  Which is a lot like capture the flag but with sniper rifles and pits lined with sharpened sticks that impale you.  So what I’m saying is that it’s not really so much like capture the flag but more like capture the flag at summer camp.  Torian helps you flush out his father, who then leaves his kid to die and you can either do the same (in fact, Torian insists that you do) or help Torian and loose the trail.  Either way it doesn’t make much in the way of a difference because Jincoln actually contacts you next for a formal declaration of the rules.  You need to find all of the ‘trophies’ that Jincoln has hidden in the jungle and then find his hiding spot to even earn the chance at a duel to the death.  You know, this is why I snubbed the Mandalorian invite on my second playthrough.  Honor bound war game grab ass bull.  Look, all you need is two guns and we’ll play ‘whose the better killer’.  I’ll even let you have the tea cup this time.

So you run around the jungle picking up little doodads like a sword, or a hat, or some such, and all the while Jincoln is taking shots at you from who knows where.  Torian is working on finding the hideout so you don’t have to worry about that step.  Once you got the four doodads, you meet with Torian who finally gets his revenge on Jincoln ruining the family name and you get paid!  Oh, you got to beat Jincoln first I suppose and if you don’t relish that after all the annoying loops he just sent you through, well then I don’t know what’s wrong with you!  After all is said and done with Jincoln and your ready to collect your sweet sweet credits from Bloodworthy, you find that Torian is waiting for you.  Seems like the kid wants to sign on  with you and see the galaxy.  Well, uh, sure? I guess, kid.  Guess you WERE important after all, huh?

I suppose I should say a few words about Torian Cadera.  He’s… uh… male.  He has hair.  Some tattoos I suppose.  Okay, I find Torian to be the most boring character you get as part of the Bounty Hunter storyline.  Pretty much everyone else has some weird personality quirk – even Gault for all his slime HAS a personality.  Torian is just…  well…  I’d say he’s a Mandalorian but he doesn’t even fit with any of the other Mandos you meet in this or any other class’ stories.  Even odder is that he’s the romanceable companion for female bounty hunters, and apparently he has quite the following.  I don’t know, I’m not a woman.  I’m barely even a human.  I’m a fricking hat.  What do I know about this guy’s appeal?  But I find him to be absolutely boring.  He’s like Corso if you take away all the annoying country boy junk.  A nice, boring, male human.  Welcome to the ship!

Quesh

Your next mission is actually a short diversion to the planet Quesh.  Seems that an adrenal company would like the Grand Champion of the Great Hunt to be the spokes-model for their newest line of combat adrenals.  This is actually my favorite mission on Quesh, because unlike almost every class mission on that planet, this one requires you to fight ZERO enemies to reach the door.  You just land and ride up on to the factory which is just a stone’s throw past the Imperial starter town.  However, when you actually show up for the meeting things don’t seem to go the way you expect.  No contract or credits are waiting for you. Just a team of Rebuplic SIS and if you let her live at the end of chapter one – a very angry apprentice. (Told you it was worth it to let her go.)  They are here under the orders of some big wig Jedi who is the right hand, top adviser to the Supreme Chancellor to bring you in for crimes against the Republic.  You can try to explain how the concept of a bounty hunter works to them – you know, you were hired to do a job by someone.  You’re the tool, not the user? Yea, none of this is getting through.  So you are stuck with surrendering (which you can’t actually, it’s not even an option in the game.  Just in a narrative sense.) and taking out your pursuers and getting a second chance to kill that padawan.  I did this time.  You get one freebie.  After that, I’m not mister nice bounty hunter.  Luckily, it has been dealt with and we can go back to getting paid now.

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Hoth

There’s another biggie on the Black List that’s been there forever and is just begging to be collected upon.  The Chiss Ascendency placed a bounty on a Trandoshan hunter/big shot pirate with the White Maw that has been terrorizing Chiss starship routes for years.  They want him brought in and alive to pay for crimes against the Ascendency.  Your only lead at the get go is a prisoner at the base – a small little jawa troublemaker named Blizz.  Blizz was an accomplice to the White Maw who used to tinker and make gadgets for the pirates until they kicked him out for some reason (too cute?).  Blizz gives you a lead on the Trandoshan and you actually find him.  Like right away, but he doesn’t want to mess with you because you’re not worth his time.  He just sicks his goons on you and walks off.  Call me Dangerfield because I still can’t get any respect here.  Blizz however has another idea to help you out.  You need to become worthy by taking down some of the biggest lieutenants in the White Maw.

So you start your Jagga-Point collecting spree across Hoth with Blizz’s tinkering helping you along the way.  Blizz builds a shield nullifier to help defeat a cyborg, boosts some heat shields to help dismantle a smelting operation in a volcano, and finally a freaky force sensitive alien that runs the White Maw’s day to day operations.  Once you’ve wiped out all of these goons, you can finally have your duel with the Trandoshan in his base.  The lizard does request that you kill him and give him an honorable death at hands of a superior hunter or you can deny him his wish and freeze him like the bounty contract stipulates.  Unlock a lot of contracts where you get a light/dark choice like this, the Chiss WILL be quite upset that you killed him and didn’t follow the conditions of the contract.  I actually want to say they stiff you on the payment too but I can’t confirm that.

However, you do get a chance to bring little Blizz with you.  In fact, if you have Mako with you she’ll practically beg to save the little guy from jail or whatever worse fate awaits him.  You agree and bargain to get him released into your custody.  If Torian feels like a blank slate, Blizz is all personality.  The wacky genius inventor who wants nothing more than to be “Boss'” (read: Your) best friend.  He talks fast, he’s constantly inventing weird little things, and he just always seems so happy to be around.  All that despite you never seeing his face.  He’s a Jawa, he looks like the rest of the Jawas (okay, he’s got fur around the edges of his coat.) But you would never mistake him for one once he starts talking.  I agree with the Bioware developers on this: I want a Blizz plushie.

Finale

After taking down two of the biggest bounties on the Blacklist in a row, your fellow grand champions would like to throw a party for you at the casino on Nar Shadaa! However, you arrive at the Casino to the sound of gunfire.  It seems the SIS are not done with you yet and have shown up ahead of the time with another Jedi – possibly by tapping your comm lines – and they’ve killed Bloodworthy, the Defenestrator and Jewla Nightbringer!  All three of them are gunned down and gone. Permanently.  Those bastards!

After killing the Jedi and the SIS, that top dog Jedi from Quesh appears via holo again to threaten you and to spout on and on about how you won’t get away with this.  This is all your fault for not surrendering. Blah blah blah. And he concludes by showing you a message being broadcast across the Republic from the Supreme Chancellor:  You are now the most wanted person in the entirety of the galaxy.  It’s no bluff either.  The team back on the ship confirms it all. The Empire is burning all bridges with you and disavowing having ever done business with you claiming that you are a rogue acting on your own.  The entire Republic is gunning for you.  Oh and you can bet that being Most Wanted to about to lure out all sorts of scum that would try to collect your head for money.  Glad I killed Tarro Blood. The only real hope is to go underground and lay low.  That is until you get a message from someone named Darth Tormen demanding you appear before him.  Hey, it MIGHT be good news? Bring the guns just in case.

My Thoughts

Chapter Two of the Bounty Hunter honestly is one of those things I have two minds about.  Namely because it was the first one I played through and now the most recent.  The first time I played it was the first time I actual ‘got’ the bounty hunter.  The idea of the hunt, and of Mandalorian honor and all that didn’t click until this point for me.  But I was also playing a straight laced ‘do the job’ bounty hunter, so the whole thing with the Republic came off as a pointless “Hey, I’m just doing my job” and nothing else.  So the entire story of the SIS coming after you and the Jedi wanting revenge wasn’t really something I even cared much about.   However, after revisiting the story I can see what it is.  This is the turning point.  You are being attacked, your friends are being attacked to remove any chance of supporting you, and you are being left with nothing to turn to.

Chapter Two takes on small bit of Chapter One that you probably didn’t think twice about at the time and turned it back on you.  It continually pushes you to the ropes and leaves you with nothing at the end.  It’s pretty much the perfect set up for a revenge story, which is pretty much what Chapter Three ends up being.  You’ve seen movies like this, we all have, about people set up to take a fall, pushed to the edge, and forced to take things into their own hands to set things right.  It’s that. Only you weren’t set up.  You did kill the guy. Just as a bounty.  The point is that the chapter does a really good job as a middle bit that builds on the first chapter and uses the established story to subvert and set up the conflict of the third part.

The concept of the Black List isn’t exactly ground breaking but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a hook, nothing more.  But it does a good job of not negating your efforts in the first chapter.  Take the Jedi Knight, or Trooper and there’s is very little connecting the first chapter to the rest of the story.  The first chapters seems to sit on little islands with their own self contained ideas.  But here?  You are doing Black List jobs BECAUSE you won the Great Hunt. You are chatting with and hanging out with former grand champions (that were conveniently set up all the way back in Mako’s first few lines of dialogue in the prologue as being BIG DEALS).  This chapter feels like it is the result of chapter one.  Which is a nice feeling.  We’ll get more of that when I eventually get around talking about the Imperial Agent.

The big thing I would have to say in this chapter is how much are you willing to bend your character?  Are you going to be the same person you were before?  My first character was a neutral but leaning toward light side bounty hunter who always did his job and never back-stabbed anyone.  The idea of taking revenge on the Republic was silly because it didn’t mesh with my character. I didn’t let the events of the story change my concept.  The second time, I ran with it.  If the Republic was gonna declare war on me, I’d declare war on the Republic.  Because of that, I will say that Chapter Two and Three became WAY more enjoyable to play through.  Just something to keep in mind from someone who has done it both ways.  This also applies to just role playing in general I think: Let the story change you just as much as you change the story.

<— Chapter One || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Three —>

Class Storyline Reviews: Bounty Hunter – Chapter One

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Bounty Hunter storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

<— Prologue || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Two —>

bountyhunter_chap1_1There’s nothing like the thrill of the hunt, the rush of competition and utter carnage that awaits a competitor in the Great Hunt.  A handful of bounty hunters after the biggest prize in their profession, and not only do you have to take out your appointed bounty but also take out the other bounty hunter you’re competing with?  This is going to be fun.  Luckily, I got my best gal Mako working the intel angle, my freak called Treek packing a double barreled blaster, and a ship droid that…  apparently likes repainting my ship over and over.  Sigh…  Well, Miss Crysta Marko the Space Texan, where am I going first?

Balmorra

So our first target is some big wig admiral working on the seige of Balmorra.  Which right from the get go just goes to show you how different this is from any of the other Imperial class stories: Your first target in the Great Hunt is an Imperial Admiral.  Wow.  If that doesn’t tell you that the Bounty Hunter is on the outside of the Imperial power structure, I don’t know what will.   Unfortunately, said Admiral is a bit of a recluse.  He stays on his ship above Balmorra and never leaves the damn thing, and there is no chance of sneaking aboard something like that and not turning it into a suicide mission.  The next best thing is to lure him out.  Mako has a lead on an officer on the ground that works intelligence for another officer that works under the admiral and is looking to take over his superiors position by impressing the admiral.  Sort of.  See this is the Empire, where impress means “remove the competition” and thus is hiring for someone to discreetly sabotage his boss’ work on Balmorra and to make him look better by comparison.  I can’t POSSIBLY see how this could backfire, but what the hell it’s the best shot at dragging the admiral out of hiding.

The “accidents” you have to pull off are all pretty simple.  Help a slicer install a virus into the droid factory and then eliminate her as a loose end.  Stir the colocoids out of their subjugated state and into a full blown frenzy by killing their queen.  Finally, you steal a tracking device from a Republic ship being used to ambush and prove the link that the Republic is involved on Balmorra and stick on a garbage ship.  Each time reporting back to a gleefully scheming officer who stands in delight with his “pet” Cathar who I will refer to as Murglegurgle because honestly that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I see her jumble puzzle of a name.

After handling the accidents, the superior officer is so totally canned and you talk to the officer and convince him that the best way to show off to the admiral is to meet him in person so the duped officer calls the admiral to arrange for a meeting. Naturally, you and for some reason Murglegurgle are invited as well.  When you show up for the meet – and here’s a shocker – the Admiral is MAD at the officer because these flubs should have never happened if he was doing his job as intelligence. Ha! Don’t care. Time to take out an admiral.  But wait! There’s a surprise twist: Murglegurgle is your rival bounty hunter for the hunt! I am so shocked! Only not!  Because she clearly had alternative intent all through the planet chain.  She was always listening in.  The camera always included her in the background watching the conversations.  Still it was a pretty good build up for the twist and other than the camera angles hinting something was up, she never came close to tipping her hand in the whole thing.  Which was impressively done.  So with Murglegurgle dead, and the Admiral bagged it’s off to the next hunt.  Oh I suppose you can kill the wormy officer if you want. Don’t know why you would.  His dumb ass just helped you move on in the Hunt.

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Nar Shadaa

The next target is a former assassin turned security expert calling himself the Eidolon. Crysta is kind enough to point you to a contact named Gele’ren, a twilek who wants the Eidolon gone on behalf of the Hutt Cartels and who happens to work with Anuli, an old friend of Mako’s (Boooyfriend? COMMENCE TEASING!) and would like to see the Eidolon taken down to improve his stature with the Cartel and maybe become a boss himself.  I’m not entirely sure how the Cartel hierarchy works here. Sometimes they work like a gang, sometimes they’re more of a company, and sometimes it’s just “We all work for hutts.”  I have no clue.  The plan however is to once again force the ever elusive target to come to you instead of finding them.  What better way to accomplish this than by completely ruining  the Eidolon’s business ventures.

The first job is to blow up an entire warehouse of weapons for the Republic worth billions of credits. Really, that’s it.  We’re just gonna blow up a warehouse.  You have to admit there’s a sort of dangeresque mentality to this whole thing that makes me laugh.  No, we don’t sneak around.  No, we don’t blackmail.  We blow things up.  It’s brilliantly simplistic methodology and I would expect nothing else from the Bounty Hunter.

The next bit is some non-hutt concerning business with a certain rival in a certain Great Hunt.  Anuli actually helps pin down some strange order going towards one off beat warehouse here on Nar Shadaa.  Mako thinks this is probably where you’ll find your rival for this planet.  It turns out your rival is a team of ugnaughts who pilot a droid together.  Kind of like a weird Power Rangers set up only the robot doesn’t break apart into seperate smaller robots…. I think.  Apparently, they made it into the Great Hunt by having their droid malfunction and blow up killing everyone else in the melee.  This tells us two things: 1) These are some very lucky pigmen and 2) there was more than one melee, cause that sure as heck did not happen at the end of the prologue.  I would remember that.  So is the melee a standard part of the Hunt?  Because they made it sound like it was a necessity due to the number of entrants from the Hutts or other crime lords. So where there other melees on other planets to help trim things down?  No clue.  This is probably the only time we ever hear about another melee beside the one you participate in.

From here on out, it’s back to business nabbing the Eidolon.  In classic fashion, this quickly becomes an eye for an eye beat down.  You post all his secret dealings across the holo for all to see thanks to a security expert named Zee, and the Eidolon smacks back with going after Gele’ren and Anuli.  This actually seems to hit little Mako way more than any of the possible reactions your bounty hunter has.  She has a moment of utter hopelessness in the face of the fact that yes, even bounty hunters must face the repercussion of their choices and actions.  This is actually where we get introduced to a reoccurring question that gets posed in the bounty hunter storyline: are you responsible?  You were hired to take down the Eidolon.  Without your pursuit Gele’ren and Anuli wouldn’t be involved.  So is it your fault they died?  Are you responsible for those who get harmed or are you simple a tool of your employer and they should be blamed?  This question is actually central to the entire bounty hunter storyline as you’ll see in Chapters 2 and 3.

Finally, you’ll have a chance to take in the Eidolon.  Just before you get to your showdown you’ll be contacting by a representative from the Hutt Cartel who notifies you that they will give an extra reward for delivering an alive and detained Eidolon to them.  It won’t interfere with the hunt and you’ll still get credit for the bounty.  It’s just an extra bonus because oh do they want to make this scumbag suffer and hey, so might you.  So there’s your chance.  The option comes full circle when you finally do take down the Eidolon and facing the possible result of endless sufferring at the hands of the Hutts, he begs you from one warrior to another to give him an honorable death.  While not as prominent or frequent as the idea of responsibility, is the choice between profit and honor.  This becomes a bigger deal when the Mandolorians get more involved in the story later on and you will often get the choice to fulfill a bounty or give them an honorable death by combat or some such.  This is actually a weird inversion of the ‘take them alive’ light side or ‘kill them’ dark side choices in the game.  Killing them honorably usually results in light side points with the bounty hunter, where as straight up murder will result in ‘dark side’.  It’s a weird moral gray area to dance in, but that seems somewhat fitting for the hunter.

Interlude

Your hunt gets interrupted by the Huntmaster’s assisstant – Lek – who calls you back to Dromund Kaas.  Instantly this puts Mako on edge as the Huntmaster and his team are not supposed to contact anyone directly while the hunt is on. However, it turns out that they have a rather unique situation on their hands and that the entire target list for the Great Hunt has been stolen and is set to be auctioned off on Hutta.  This is naturally bad because of its effects on the Great Hunt.  Finding out you’re on the target list is pretty much a big “go underground. Leave galaxy now.” flag and it will screw up everything. You are being tasked by the Huntmaster himself to go and retrieve it and “take care of” any potential threat to the hunt: the slicer who stole it, anyone who might try to buy it or is aware of it, or just anyone who showed up to the auction really.  Most importantly is to try to find out who leaked this intel.

The mission itself is just a short hop back to Hutta to kill a ton of people.  But it has some nice moments like seeing Nem’ro’s secretary who handled your payments in the prologue again.  The real point of this whole thing is revealed in the big twist of who leaked the list to the sliver: a mandolorian.  The Mando did manage to hide his identity through voice filters and hiding his face, but there was one big clue.  The mando wanted to make sure that Tarro Blood’s targets were left off the list.  Well, that’s an interesting turn.  Who could benefit from that?  While your gut says Tarro himself and yes, that is true, the gambling scene surrounding the Hunt has put just enough incentive in exterior hands to move the indicator into ‘reasonable doubt’ in the eyes of Lek and the Huntmaster. Bah!

bountyhunter_chap1_3Tatooine

Your next target is on Tatooine and no sooner than you arrive than you get a ring from Crysta the Space Texan letting you know her pre-recorded briefing for this target is null and void.  Looks like the target caught wind of being a target and decided to high tail it but was shot down by your opponent in the hunt for this world sending the target – a Devoronian named Tyresius Lokai – plummeting into the desert. The good news is because of that, he’s probably still on the planet and is probably looking for a new way off.  So your first visit is to the spaceport traffic droid who tells you that no “Tyresius Lokai” exists in the records, but another Deveronian is about to depart.  Deveronians are apparently quite uncommon according to my MakoWiki, so the chance of there being two both trying to get off the planet at the same time is a bit fishy.  Treek! Fetch my investigation hat!

Of course the guy who claims not to be and to never have heard of Tyresius Lokai is in fact Tyresius Lokai.  He runs off leaving you to deal with his goons who happily divulge after being smacked around that your opponent in the Great Hunt – a Rodian named Veeboo – is in a cantina and may have info on where the ship crashed and where Lokai might head.  Veeboo is a fricking worm who took a huge pay out from Lokai to let him go.  After prying out that Lokai was going to see the “Lady of Pain” about a new ship (this is a really weird place for a Planescape reference honestly.) After the tip, I just blasted Veeboo.  Seriously, what is with all these wimpy rivals?

You find the Lady of Pain in the middle of talks with Lokai.  You offer her anything for Lokai instead and she asks for entertainment.  Apparently she needs a champion for her gladiatorial blood sport match this afternoon and you volunteer.  Lokai gets hauled off in chains and all you have to do is take care of one lousy gold mob and everything is in the bag.  Sort of.  Seems like Tyresius slipped away using a grenade in a false horn and took off into the Dune Sea with a speeder and a ship part. So now you have to chase him again! GAH! This guy is SO dead when I find him.

So into the desert you go, and actually not that far really.  The ship apparently crashed a hop, skip and jump north of an Imperial Outpost and right behind a sand people camp.  Tyresius on the other hand is one not to give up without some resistance (considering that’s all he’s done this entire time, this should not come as a shock) and he’ll send a couple of waves of disposable droids at you.  When you finally catch up with him, he has one final offer: Kill him.  Well, not HIM him, but a genetically identical duplicate of him that he just keeps around for uh… “emergencies.”  This is yet another one of those completely railroad-y decisions in the game that gives you no choice but to agree with the deal.  I do suspect that probably at some point in development you could refuse and just kill Lokai, but hey dems de breaks and here’s a new companion. Deal with it.  Of course, our new friend can’t go around calling himself “Tyresius Lokai, man who died in the great hunt” so he takes a brand new name: Gault Rennow.  He’s our DPS long range sniper companion.  I want to throw him out the air lock but can’t.

It’s not like Gault is a bad character at all.  He’s a snarky, selfish, con artist and self-titled businessman that is always looking for the quick and easy credit. His conversations are usually pretty funny. Funnier than most of our companions at least. No, really what has always irked me about Gault has been two-fold: first is the completely forced way he joins your crew.  The game just ignores the myriad of reasons this is a BAD IDEA and just shoves him into your hands and walks off like giving a love note to s-sempai.  Second is the fact that the guy is just a complete weasel.  His introduction is all about paying off people, getting others to do his dirty work, and squirming out of every situation.  He just comes off as slimy as a overly greased comb-over on a used car dealer. It just always put me off.  No matter how snarky or sassy his commentary gets, I just feel dirty when I work with Gault.

Alderaan

Alderaan, also known as dead planet walking, is either the most frustrating or most enjoyable RP experience in the entire first chapter of the Bounty Hunter storyline. Namely because you spend the entire planet trying to hobnob with noble elites who think your petty blue collar work beneath them.  At the center of this whole thing is House Girard who has the intel you need to locate your bounty of the day: The Durasteel Duke.  Named such because he is supposedly nigh unkillable with nerves of… well…  durasteel I would assume.  So to get the intel you need, you get to play errand monkey for a bunch of stuck ups in fancy duds that seem to enjoy bickering with each other.  Lots of in-fighting in this House it seems.

Most of the jobs you have to do can either go down in one of two fashions: You behave, or you don’t.  You can either put up with the self righteous jerk or you can break his nose and force him to take the package even though your employer was supposed to deliver it in person.  You can help the old curator of the museum find the fake relic that has the clue while covering him from oncoming fire or you can just smash all the priceless ancient jugs until you find the right one and get the heck out of Alde (You know, instead of Dodge.  Cause it’s House Alde.  Oh whatever.)

Things get interesting once you try to hunt down the duke at House Rist.  There’s a bunch of awesome booby traps to dodge and avoid.  The whole thing kind of turns into Indiana Jones for one area.  This is the kind of thing I wish they did more of in this game instead of just combat, combat, more combat.  Have puzzles! Put a maze in there!  I mean, they eventually added some more of this with Rise of the Hutt Cartel bu seriously, it works really well and I find it to be such an enjoyable break.  However, all is for not because you apparently JUST missed the Duke and found out that Rist already killed your rival for the planet for you. Yay? That’s not all though.  Impressed with your skill, the assassins of House Rist make you an offer: Kill House Girard.  All of them.  They promise you a fat paycheck to finishing their contract for them.  My first playthough I didn’t take the money because I wanted to stay loyal to my employer.  On a second time, I realized that these were professional hitmen and women with a contract to kill them anyway.  They were gonna die no matter what. Might as well get paid. Plus you get a title for doing the deed! You get to be “Homewrecker”.

So you finally get to the Duke at House Organa’s pad only to find out that the Duke has actually been dead for like weeks.  Natural causes, or some accident, or some other way that did not involve my blaster.  Apparently the Duke’s sister has been running around as him in a holodisguise to ensure that his diplomatic work finishes before they announce the death.  But hell, she doesn’t wanna deal with the likes of a bounty hunter that chased her across 3 noble houses and half the planet.  She just gives you the duke’s body to turn in and begs you to just leave her alone.  Which I always do.  Hey, why waste ammo?

The planet wraps up with a return to House Girard where the patriarch of the house that was signing your check has died to natural causes (Lots of that going around).  You still get paid, but you were also made his legal representative way back at the beginning to deliver that first package to Count Butthead.  So it falls to you to decide who is the successor to be the head of the house.  There’s actually three ways this can go:  1) Side with the son. You’ll get the Knight of Alderaan title if you are male and the Baroness title if you are female.  2) Side with the daughter.  No titles but you get light side points.  3) If you agreed to take on Rist’s contract, kill them all and get the Homewrecker title.  The Homewrecker option ONLY appears if you agreed to Rist’s offer earlier though.  Now with that settled, it’s time to go toe to toe to the finals of the Great Hunt.

bountyhunter_chap1_4

Finale

The finale for chapter one is actually told in two parts.  The first of which has you travel back to Nar Shadaa to meet with a former champion of the Great Hunt – a mandolorian who just happens to be the teacher of Tarro Blood and his lackies.  It turns out that Tarro has one last sneaky little trick up his sleeve and the former champion wants to warn you about it to help preserve the honor and integrity of the Great Hunt.  Naturally, as is almost always the case with these things he can only tell you about it in person. No unsecured communications.  Even though you have an expert hacker with a computer in her brain that should be able to get us a clean line.  Whatever.

When you show up to the meet you find that Tarro’s lackies did follow you there.  Shock!  If only we could have avoided this by not meeting in person at one place where our enemies could get us both.  You get the option of either slaughtering all of Tarro’s goons or having an honorable duel to the death.  Either way though and the former champ still takes a shot and dies.  But if you chose the honorable duel, you did get some kind final words about you are the true ideal of what the Great Hunt and Mandolorians should inspire to be.   Not so kind words if you just blow them all to hell.  But you do get revenge.  Sweet vengeance on rye toast.  With a side of OJ.  AND PAIN!  *cough*  Moving on.

The actual conclusion comes in the form of one last bounty, and boy is it a doozy:  Get on board a Republic military dreadnaught, disable its hyperspace stabilizers so it gets shredded in the jump,  kill a Jedi master, and then set a timer to throw the whole ship into hyperspace to destroy it.  Oh, and also get off the bloody thing before it goes and defeat your rival. Very important.  Naturally, nothing is simple.  Your attempt to ‘sneak’ on board is immediately met with a troop of soldiers who already caught your rival – one Tarro Blood – who happily informed them that you would also be arriving soon in hopes to save his own skin.  He’s locked in the brig now.  You on the other hand get to fight your way through a now completely on alert ship.  By the Force, Tarro Blood is so slimy that I’m shocked all the fangirls who squee over $%#*stains like Draco Malfoy aren’t created fan shrine websites to his Bieber looking ass.  Those are still a thing right? Fan shrine sites?  Or did they just all die when Geocities went offline? God I’m old.

While rigging the ship to blow, you do stumble upon the brig and Mr. Blood sitting in a cell.  To twist a quote a certain moment in a certain game – This is the part where you kill him.  (This is that part.) And joy of joys, you actually get a choice in your method of dealing with this anthropomorphized mosquito. You can either leave him in the ship to be ripped apart when the hyperspace jump goes off, or you can be the honorable man and let him out to have a proper duel to the death or you can be just as much of a prick by agreeing to the duel, letting him out and then shoot him dead before he has a chance to grab his gear.  Surprisingly, Mako is very much on board with the leaving him here to be shredded idea.  I on the other hand went with the duel on my Powertech and the shooting him before grabbed his gear bit.  If this toad was gonna die, I wanted to be the one to pull the trigger.

Now that Blood has been dealt with – and OH! WAS IT SATISFYING – we can finally go after the actual target.  The Jedi is hanging out on the bridge with his padawan when you arrive.  He tries to force you to surrender, leading to probably one of the most screencapped moments of the game:

JEDI: *waves hand for Jedi Mind Trick* You will lower your weapon and surrender.
BOUNTY HUNTER: *mock waving hand* You will realize what a complete idiot you are.

The master realizes he doesn’t have much alternative to fight and then realizes he doesn’t have much choice to lose. Badly.  It’s important to note that this is the first Jedi Master you have to take on for the Great Hunt, and possibly your first Jedi opponent ever (Suppose it depends on what you do on the planetary storylines). So a victory is impressive.  You of course are also free to either let his apprentice go or to kill her as well.  But between you and me – let her go.  Trust me.  It’ll make sense in Chapter Two.  Makes for a MUCH better story in my opinion. Anyway, with the bounty dead and handled, it’s time to set the ship to blow and get the heck out.

The whole thing ends back on Dromund Kaas where you are given a triumphant award ceremony proclaiming you to be the grand champion of the Great Hunt!  Wealth, fame, and employment await! (So like the opposite of college nowadays.)  The ceremony ends with a notification that you have been called to meet with Mandalore.  THE Mandalore.  Like the big head honcho of the entire Mandalorian people.  He’s got a special task for you it seems.  But that can wait, for now its time to celebrate!

My Thoughts

Originally, I had long held that the Bounty Hunter storyline starts strong and then dwindles toward chapter three but after replaying the storyline I may have been somewhat blinded by it being the first storyline I played.  It’s still great. Don’t get me wrong.  There’s a lot of fun, and has a solid tale of personal glory mixed with revenge.  Tarro Blood is a scum bag villain that revels whose presence is felt almost constantly as he continuously attempts to sabotage your chance at victory. The final showdown with Blood, no matter which way you choose to end it, feels so satisfying and enjoyable.  More than just about any other ‘rival’ you have in other storylines.  The Great Hunt is a wonderful framing device for the story that always ensures you have something to work towards on each planet.

I was however slightly disappointed that each planet only had one bounty.  I was hoping that each world would be like Hutta where you are constantly chasing different people.  However, that was my first time playing the story.  After chapter two it sank in exactly what the hunt was about.  It’s about HUNTING. Setting traps, luring out the prey, and tracking across every environment possible. Going back and looking at the Great Hunt that way was a much more rewarding experience…  sometimes.  Other times, like on Tatooine, you just want it to be over and it starts to really drag chasing Tyresius only to have him slip away every single time.  Especially since after all that, you are forced to bring him along.

The storyline wasn’t flawless by any means either.  The weakest bit by far was the idea of the rival bounty hunter that you were supposed to square off against.  Let’s count how that goes down: One playing in the shadows till the very end (Good!), one trying to rebuild their winning megazord and die unprepared (Meh.), one got paid off and dropped out (Wha?), and one is dead by the time you get to the planet (You’ve gotta be kidding me…).  So after the first planet, the rival aspect is pretty much pointless until the showdown with Tarro.  This could have been something that really elevated the whole experience.  Not only having to hunt down a bounty but also have to stay a step ahead of the competition.  Maybe Tatooine would be a little less tedious had it been a three way race between you, Tyresius trying to escape, and your rival trying to catch Tyresius.  Maybe the arena battle for the Lady of Pain would be against your rival who has been working his own connections to get Lokai.  It just seems like wasted potential.

Same thing with the leaked list in the interlude.  All it ultimately ends up doing is adding another thing on the list of Tarro Blood’s offenses.  Like was it supposed to be some shock that Blood was cheating? The whole story started with him cheating!  It doesn’t even get him a single demerit with the Huntmaster or his crew. So what was the point?  I mean, it could have been a big turn for the character.  He gets kicked out of the Hunt, and then goes on a mission of revenge and starts killing your rivals and even the Durasteel Duke in an attempt to sabotage you since you were directly responsible for his expulsion and ruining his shot.  That would have been something!

For all its missed opportunities, the bounty hunter storyline is still one of my favorite first chapters.  It establishes you as someone who is only on the Imperial side by contract and have very little interest in the power plays of the Sith or the clandestine cloak and dagger plays of Imperial Intelligence.  In fact, you actually go directly against them at times.  Much like the smuggler, the hunter doesn’t feel like he’s part of his faction but simply works within it.  So why the Empire and not the Republic for the Hunter?  Well, we’ll get into that when Chapter Two rolls around.

<— Prologue || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Two —>

My 5e D&D Injury System

So a while back I made a post detailing my “Injury System” for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.  It was roughly modeled after the Dragon Age: Origins injuries but without all the unruly book keeping that came with the ups and downs of temporarily changing ability scores.   Well, now a new edition of the game is upon us and I figured why the heck not update that old chart for the newest edition of the game.  It’s something to work with right?  While the new Dungeon Master’s Guide DOES have an Injury chart, it feels a bit severe and well – permanent – than some of my injuries. My injuries are things you see happening to inconvenience someone that they would sustain in a fight.  The official table in the book is like…  OH BAHAMUT YOU ARE #$%&ED UP!  I mean, losing body parts? Yeuch!  So here’s MY chart:

Roll 1d6
Roll Result Normal Effect Complicated Effect
1 Injured Arm Disadvantage on Strength Checks & Saves Disadvantage on Strength checks & saves. Disadvantage on Melee & Ranged attack rolls.
2 Injured Leg Disadvantage on Dexterity Checks & Saves. Speed reduced by 5 feet. Disadvantage on Dexterity check & saves. Speed reduced by 15 feet.
3 Cracked Skull Disadvantage on Wisdom and Intelligence Checks & Saves Disadvantage on Wisdom and Intelligence rolls. Including spell attack rolls. Can’t use spells that use concentration.
4 Cracked Rib Disadvantage on Constitution Checks & Saves.  Disadvantage on Constitution rolls. Vulnerable to Piercing, Slashing, and Bludgeoning damage.
5 Stomach Wound No CON modifier when you roll hit dice. No CON modifier when you roll hit dice. Hit dice roll is halved (round down.)
6 No Injury Sustained

As before, falling unconscious will result in one injury from the normal effect column (unless they roll a 6.) This injury can be treated in a town or city (DM Tip: feel free to charge a physician’s fee, or have a doctor ask a favor for treatment. Great story hook!) or by a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check in the field and outside of combat.  However, if the players opt for the Wisdom (Medicine) check, a failure will result in the injury becoming complicated, and become the corresponded complicated effect.  A complicated injury MUST be treated in a town or city.

There’s also an alternate rule with these that I came up with after playing some test games of 5th edition and found that especially at low level things can be particularly deadly for players.   I’m sure that’s great for a lot of DMs and Players out there.  Lethal, deadly, and  risky – Yay.  Yea, that’s how a dungeon crawl SHOULD be.  But for me?  I prefer a good story.  So do my players.  So having characters drop like flies isn’t exactly a great feature for me and mine.  So I also added this:

Alternate Death Rules:  In the event that a character dies (by failing 3 death saves or taking lethal damage) they can try to be resuscitated after combat is over.  By making a Wisdom (Medicine) check with a DC 20, they can be brought back from the brink but automatically sustain 2 complicated injuries.  Roll against the injury chart above with 2d6 instead of 1.  The PC will sustain both injuries.  If one of the dice is a 6, reroll it until you get a 1-5.  If BOTH dice end up being rolled as 6s, then the PC has complications during the resuscitation and dies permanently.

Naturally you can play around with these making them worse or easier by switching around the DCs. Like a DC 10 to treat an injury and a DC 15 to resuscitate using those alternate dying rules. Or crank them up with you wanna get edgy with it.

SWTOR: Visiting Rishi

So despite being in the “early access” crowd for Shadow of Revan, I actually didn’t really bother with it until just last night.  Partly because I was working towards getting my first class in Final Fantasy XIV to 50 and really enjoying it, and partly because well as expansions and large patches in MMOs are wont to do: Break.  So I figured a week isn’t a big deal and I’ll wait till they patch some things up and then try it out.  Glad I did too. Really dodged a bullet with that whole training cost bit, huh?  Am I right folks?  Why are you all looking at me like you want to hurt me?

I’ve already weighed in on my take on disciplines so I won’t retread the same ground here, but there were some other new surprises waiting for me when I logged in.  For instance, I can now use my formerly ‘human only’ white eyes on my cyborgs.  Apparently they really loosened up on things like that.  Hairstyles too I noticed.  I’ll admit, I actually sprung for the pompadour for one of my smugglers.  He is a space pirate after all, and what’s a space pirate without a fancy hairdo?  Am I right, anime?  I also found out that basic commendations rain from the frickin’ sky now.  I suppose that makes sense since they changed basic commendations function to cover both classic & planetary commendations now too.  Not only do you get three of the things per mission or daily on Rishi, but you also get three crates of them with 99 each for completing the Prelude mission that has you go solo through the Forged Alliances flashpoints.  That’s 297.  With that and the other conversions from the patch, my Jedi Guardian had hit the 1000 cap within 30 minutes of visiting Rishi – AND I ONLY OPENED TWO CRATES.  Talk about wanting to make sure you are geared and ready.

So with all that out of the way, what exactly were my first impressions of Rishi?  Well, it can mostly be summed up in a single sentence: “Where the heck am I?”  True to the spirit of a place called ‘Smuggler’s Cove’ the layout of the first location you visit in Rishi is a confusing mish mash of boarded up walkways, run down buildings, and a seedy underbelly (and I mean that literally.  The only grass is lower ground level area that’s underneath the walkways.) The introductory missions are not much better in terms of clarity.  Talk to certain people who are somewhere in the city.  Talk to one of these town crier droids, but you have to find a way to stop them from walking around.  No details on how. Just find a way.  (The answer for those who are confused is to find the interactable broken lamp posts and shock the hell out of the droid when it patrols near and then talk to it.)  I stopped for the evening when I finally found those who were responsible for convincing everyone in this pirate town that I was a cannibal murderer who paints the hulls of my ship with the blood of my victims (Okay, yes. My Defender IS red, but that’s not why. I’m a Jedi for Obi-Wan’s sake.  Also, haven’t I heard this somewhere before?)

I will hand it to this expansion.  Rishi definitely feels like a different world than what we’re used to.  Especially since it’s unclear if it’s even in the same galaxy.  During the Sith Warrior opening, Quinn mentions (WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE, QUINN?) that Rishi is named after or in or something to do with the Rishi Maze – a neighboring galaxy.  Wait.  Now I’m confused.  Is this a galaxy less far, far away or more far, far away?  The last time I heard about anything from outside the galaxy, we met the Yuuzhan Vong. Sooooo… should I be worried?  Actually, Wookieepedia defines the Rishi Maze as “dwarf satellite galaxy” to the galaxy.   Well…  that just clears everything up doesn’t it?  Yeesh, maze is right. Everything about this place is confusing.

Still, the start of Rishi is definitely enough of a curiosity to keep me wandering around ‘oo-ing’ & ‘aah-ing’ at everything and ignoring quests for a good half hour.  Probably more if I didn’t feel like I should PROBABLY get some sleep at some point.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this expansion goes!  Also, there is a pirate outfit.  Like a honest to goodness space pirate outfit. I’m not saying I’m going to look for Treasure Planet.  But I’m not not saying that.

SWTOR Disciplines: Dumbing Down or Dumbing Equal?

swtor-lightning-discipline-path-2

So those of us who pre-ordered the new digital expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic – Shadow of Revan – were finally given the keys into early access.  I personally haven’t dove into it yet.  Oh I will, and there’s a spot on the Story Summaries all set for it.  But I prefer to play games when I enjoy playing them.  After all, I don’t get paid to do write this stuff.  (As cool as that would be.  This actually costs me money to do.  I chock it up to hobby fees. Like glue for model kits or something.) I did however log in to check out the new gear sets, the currency conversions, and of course the new skill system dubbed “disciplines.”

Disciplines are kind of…  well, they’re sort of…  okay, it’s a pretty straightforward take away from World of Warcraft’s skill/talent revamp from Cataclysm.  The majority of your chosen specialization’s passive and active abilities are granted to you along a per-determined track as you level and occasionally grants you points to add bonus talents that are shared for your entire advanced class that give extra benefits that are more universally useful. Unlike WoW’s revamped system, the order that you gain these passives and active abilities is not stashed away on a website, but plainly laid out in the discipline interface.

Of course the main complaint with this whole thing is that it is simply dumbing down the system and removing player choice.  To which I can only respond with: Were we playing the same game?  Beyond the usual argument that everyone essentially took the same talents based on min/maxing forum recommendations, there just wasn’t enough talents to give you any choice to begin with!  I’m serious.  In the old talent trees, you had to put 5 points in a tier to get to the next one, yes?  Well, 80% of the tiers only consisted of 5 points worth of talents.  So you HAD to take all of them to keep going up that tree.  The only times I usually found any choice was the occasional tier that had a choice of 2 points into a PvE talent or 2 points into more of a PvP talent, in which case you choose based on your preferred content.

So how is the system being dumbed down at all?  I suppose the loss of being able to hybrid-ize and go half and half down two trees is going away, but we knew that.  Hell, we knew that was part of the intent of this new system.  But beyond losing hybrid specs, all you’re losing is having to manually put those 5 points into the only 5 slots – in other words: busywork.  Which for someone like me who field respec-ed a bunch, busy work is something I can do without. In fact I’d prefer discipline paths and the talent points to be on separate resets so I wouldn’t have to re-do the talents every time I switched from DPS to Healer.

I’d argue that this system DOESN’T dumb down the game.  It is equally as dumb as it was before.  Or as smart as it was?  You know what I mean.  Nothing has really changed, beyond you not clicking as much in the menus.  Hybrids are a bane of any company who strives for a sense of “balance” (Futile as that seems to be in MMOs, or at least in the perception of the fan base of MMOs) so seeing them getting kicked to the curb is no shock.  I think people are just over-reacting to change mostly.  Choice was an illusion before, and now we just get it straight. Fine by me.

That’s my 2 credits on the whole mess at least.

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