SWTOR Onslaught Expansion Review – Galactic War Ignites

SWTOR Onslaught Expansion Review

After having had a huge, prolonged Fibromyalgia crash, I have only recently finished the SWTOR Onslaught expansion. From patch 6.0, the early signs from Jedi Under Siege explode into full space and ground combat with a renewed war between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic. Onslaught is only the first “chapter” in the conflict and brings with it two new, explorable “planets” (though one is actually in a meteor). Although it’s been a good number of months since the expansion launched, here at last is my Onslaught review!

New Onslaught Planets

Since the introduction of Ossus and Dantooine, I hoped that SWTOR would continue their amazing development of new planets. Somehow since Ossus (and arguably even KotFE/KotET) Bioware’s world-building has taken a huge step forward. And Onslaught is no exception, as it brought Onderon and Mek-Sha into the SWTOR galaxy.

Onderon

Info on the Planet Onderon in Onslaught
Onderon was first mentioned by C2-D4, way back when Shadow of Revan launched. His droid-head, hanging from the neck of Wookiee Jakarro often wanted to assert he was “former translater to Her Emminence Queen Lina of Onderon”! But nothing more was said about the planet until Onslaught. In fact, when Onderon was announced and tidbits about 6.0 were teased, I really hoped SWTOR would bring this humourous pair back.


And they did! In fact they went one step further and you can choose to recruit Jakarro and C2-D4 as a companion.

Onderon Scenery

Onderon is a rich planet. The architecture is gorgeous and full of signs of culture and history. Outside the built-up areas, you can wander enermous purple-leaved trees, climb rocky mountains and wander through lush grass.

Culturally, you have Iziz Palace (the centre of power on Onderon), but also “the Untamed” – a tribe that prides itself on physical strength in combat. These were, supposedly, pushed out by those who now govern and inhabit the planet.

Onderon also has several ruins and ancient structures, including an underground tomb. So, for its size, SWTOR have packed a lot into Onderon.

Boo, No Dynamic Weather!

My only disappointment is that they did not re-include the dynamic weather they had integrated into Ossus. I hope they don’t forget that fab update going forward.

As much as I would prefer dynamic day/night as well as weather, simply having changeable weather would be immensely welcomed. This is because it helps immersion – how much you can “lose yourself” in a planet and feel like its a “real” place.

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Mek-Sha

Info on Mek-Sha in SWTOR's Onslaught Expansion
What I love about Mek-Sha is that it is completely different to anywhere else in SWTOR. The last time anything was based on a meteor was the Flashpoint The Foundry, where you first face Revan in combat.

Mek-Sha is an independent system, which used to belong to the Hutts until their slaves rebelled and threw them out. Now they are led by Huttbreaker, who wants to see Mek-Sha become the centre of the Galaxy in defiance of the Empire and Republic’s dominance.

Why I like Mek-Sha

I’m not one for city-planets, but this is so difference, I really like it! Different built-up areas are connected to by walk-way bridges, as well as the usual speeder-taxis.

It is also full of different groups of NPCs: the Brothers (Empire-aligned slavers), Imperials, Republic people, along with many different crime syndicates. There’s even a clan of former Mandalorians here led by a vindictive hunter called “Indigo”.

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SWTOR Onslaught: The Story

The Onslaught Begins - The Story
Now I’ve raved about the planets, let’s talk story. The focus is the perceived advantage or threat of a cutting-edge shipyard on the planet Corellia called the Meridian Complex. The Empire wants to destroy it to gain an edge in the upcoming war and naturally, the Republic needs to keep it.

The Importance of Fuel

It may seem a small thing to focus on: ship fuel. But as a ‘taxation dispute’ triggered the events of The Phantom Menace, so the issue of refuelling matters greatly in Onslaught.

The Empire has enough fuel to send a fleet to Corellia non-stop. While that may seem like a green light to start the invasion, it’s not that simple.

The Republic cannot make that journey, so a couple of stop-offs for refuelling are needed if they are to reinforce Corellia. From Onderon, you begin to determine how many Republic ships reach their destination.

Onslaught Story Order

This story is predominantly about an Imperial attack on a Republic stronghold. So to get the story in chronological order, run the Empire side then the Republic side for each location.

For example, the Republic story on Onderon kicks off at the start of the final story chapter for Imperial characters. Hope this makes sense!

Loyalist or Saboteur?

It’s worthy of note that the Loyalist characters have little/no freedom to change their minds on any issue. I guess this is because to offer that would undermine the definiton of “Loyalist”. However, Saboteurs can determine the scale of destruction they reap on their path.

How many Republic ships reach Corellia and whether the Meridian Complex survives is determined by your choices. I initially thought there were only four variants, but this isn’t the case:

  1. Imperial Loyalist: Fire on Republic ships over Onderon. Sabotage and destroy Republic ships on Mek-Sha. Destroy the Meridian Complex
  2. Imperial Saboteur: Saboteurs have three key decisions that they have actual choice over:
    1. Fire at Republic ships over Onderon – or not.
    2. Sabotage and destroy Republic ships refuelling on Mek-Sha – or allow them escape.
    3. Destroy the Meridian Complex – or not.
  3. Republic Loyalist: Prevent ships being attacked on Onderon. Ensure Republic ships refuel and leave Mek-Sha safely. Preserve the Meridian Complex.
  4. Republic Saboteur:
    1. Allow cannons to down Republic ships over Onderon – or not.
    2. Ensure the Empire can destroy the Republic ships at Mek-Sha – or not.
    3. Permit the Empire to destroy the Meridian Complex – or not.

So, from a base of four possible outcomes, there is the freedom for more than ten variations of choices.

Corellia’s Population

One decision I’ve excluded from the above is actually the first one:

  • Empire: whether to bomb strategic targets only, or also civilian zones
  • Republic: whether to take out Imperial capital ships with the Alliance Fleet, or move to prevent civilian casualties.
It’s unclear whether there will be a longer-term impact from that decision. The mail you receive from your faction changes depending on your choice. I would like to see some results, especially those that spared civilians.

Knock-On Effects?

How much that will affect the story remains to be seen. Some choices may be cancelled by subsequent ones: for example, allowing more Republic ships to leave Onderon can be cancelled out by allowing them to explode on Mek-Sha. But whether there’s much impact, say, from taking out some of those ships on Onderon but allowing the rest to reach Corellia, I don’t know.

Review of the Onslaught Story

Overall I like the premise of this expansion “introduction”. The war, started by the Empire, is not fully underway and so the Sith want to gain the upperhand by reducing the Republic’s capacity for ship-building. Onslaught includes political games on Onderon, the capture of a promiment Sith (Republic-side), criminal negotiations on Mek-Sha and an emboldened Dark Malgus on Corellia. The fact that there are multiple possible routes you can take (Saboteur-side) adds to the richness of choice.

Saboteurs are also fully swamped in the consequences of decisions: disappointment from their original faction, suspicion from Darth Malgus (for the Imperial Saboteur), hearing of ships and lives lost.

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There are also some other interesting additions.

Other Aspects

  1. If you save the Meridian Complex (Republic-side), the current Supreme Chancellor offers Odessen the chance to become a full member of the Republic. This is a choice: you can remain independent or rejoin the Republic. As I roleplay my choices (based on how the character thinks), although I’ve run the pub-side story twice, both remained independent, but for different reasons. I have not yet completed the Imperial Loyalist variant of Onslaught, but based on that model there’s a chance the Empire tries to bring you into the fold if you destroy the Meridian Complex.
  2. The Imperial Saboteur feels more exposed. The Republic saboteur seems to be let off the hook and not blamed for their “failures”. However, Imperial-side, Darth Malgus already appears suspicious that the Alliance Commander could fail after achieving so much. This makes me wonder if the Imperial Saboteur may hit their “complications” and conflicts of interest earlier than the Republic equivalent.
  3. The war isn’t the only storyline left open at the end of Onslaught. Lord Scourge and Kira Carsen start a questline about a plague caused by the original body of Vitiate/Tenebrae.
    Spoiler

    And, Imperial-side you see that Darth Malgus has escaped during “reconstruction” having had a failsafe installed by the Empress/Emperor previously. This failsafe sounds like some sort of explosive device that could be remotely triggered. This confirms the “remotely controlled” theory I formed from Ossus.

    But he awakens before the replacement failsafe is installed

    Where that leads to for the whole Onslaught story, I don’t know. It could work for or against Imperial Saboteurs and Loyalists.

    For Saboteurs, if he turns his rage against the Empire who sought to control him, he could become an Ally. For Loyalists, he could become an adversary. In both cases he may become a worse Enemy than the Emperor/Empress could ever be.

    [collapse]

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Niggles about Onslaught

Some Minor Niggles about Onslaught (they really are minor, though)
A review wouldn’t be a review if it didn’t have both sides covered, would it? My niggles are few. Overall, I felt like the story drew my character in and leaves enough unanswered questions for me to want to know what happens next. So what are my niggles?

1. Onderon / Mek-Sha Stories Were Too Short

Thankfully both these planets have dailies, which gives me a reason to go back. However, I really wanted to spend more time doing story in these locations. No sooner had I arrived on the stunning planet of Onderon than I was called away. The story itself doesn’t feel rushed but this is because they are sort-of single-issue episodes. Now I accept that more story equals more costs: more voice acting, more character/NPC animations, more musical tweaking, more dialogue creation and typing, more translation etc. What I’m not saying is that SWTOR “did it wrong” somehow. They just left me wanting more – by the first couple of hours of gameplay. That’s just too soon in my humble opinion.

2. Oh my Life, my Poor Healer!

Talitha’koum is a Sith Healer for role-playing purposes. I don’t do group content due to health constraints. But I cannot possibly be the only player with Solo-only healers?

Onderon was generally okay, especially as I could select my higher companion influence side-kicks. While this is technically true of Mek-Sha, the final show-down at the ship docks has so many mobs it was really tough getting through.

Healers and the Operation Meridian Flashpoint

And for a story that is so enjoyable, the Corellia Flashpoint for a Sith Healer was really, really not. Sith Sorcerers are mostly channelled-ability healers. Under normal circumstances this is fine. But the first and last bosses were insanely difficult for me. Multiple AoEs to avoid, knockbacks and bomb-droids following you around made it really stressful. I did succeed without defeat. But it became desperate in the first boss, even with Major Anri on Tank mode, who is your only companion for much of Operation Meridian. I was just glad that SWTOR appear to have improved Darth Malgus’ combat ability as I didn’t struggle to keep him alive as I did with Ossus!

3. Where Did My Alacrity Go?

Before I started Onslaught, Talitha’s Alacrity Rating was around the 11% mark. By the end of Mek-Sha, the mission rewards had reduced this to just under 5%. This caused me to have Force Regeneration issues, a vital resource for nearly all abilities – not least, you know, staying alive (ah, ah, ah, ah, Stayin’ Aliiiiiiive).

It took loot drops during Operation Meridian to get me back up to around 7%. Still not enough, but meant I didn’t have quite the same Force depletion crises for the final boss fight.

Consider Ranged Classes Better, Please

Overall, I just think Solo healers have not been considered in the mechanics of boss fights. I haven’t tried a ranged DPS channeller yet but I suspect a similar difficulty when I do. Making life hard for channellers has been a (presumably unintentional) issue since KotFE, but became much worse in KotET boss encounters. I love Talitha but every time new content is released I have to psych myself up to do it, knowing it will be significantly harder. I expect longer fights playing a healer, that’s fine. But barely giving any window for channelled abilities needs looking at.

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TL;DR – Loads to Enjoy in SWTOR Onslaught!

TL;DR There's loads to enjoy in SWTOR Onslaught!
Okay gripes over. Patch 6.0 which brought about SWTOR’s Onslaught expansion, marked a major turn of events. It sparked something players had asked for – a return to Empire vs Republic. But it is not so black-and-white given your Loyalist/Saboteur choices. I love the story-writing and the fact that three different “threads” are left open at the end of the main scenario. The “planets” once again show SWTOR back to creating imaginative and rich worlds (though please Bioware bring in weather on Onderon!). If SWTOR could just make life less stressful when playing healers on their Solo content that would be appreciated!


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