New story content, new endgame content, an entire new species to play, a major technical overhaul of some elements, and last but not least, more free-to-play content: that is the summary of SWTOR’s latest expansion, Onslaught. Onslaught is one of the biggest expansions that have been released in a while, in terms of the amount of content it provides. After months of anticipation, it seems like the expectations of the players have been met.
The War Comes To Onderon
Story-wise, the expansion continues the return to the Republic-Empire conflict. Onslaught brings two new planets into the story: Onderon and Mek-Sha. Mek-Sha is a mined-out asteroid now serving as a smuggling and trading point, in short, “a den of scum and villainy”. Onderon is well-known from its appearance in KOTOR 2. It furthermore got an extensive story arc in The Clone Wars series, where it was introduced as the home planet of Saw Gerrera. The creators have been drawing heavily from the aesthetics of the Clone Wars, with sprinkling in some of the KOTOR lore.
The story content of Onslaught culminates with a flashpoint on Corellia. The expansion also features a new operation, set on Onderon’s moon, Dxun. The operation is a highly welcome release for all fans of hardcore PvE content, who haven’t had a new operation in a while.
Another big release is a new playable species, first after four years that have passed since the addition of Togrutas. When it was announced that the new race are going to be the Nautolans, I was not the only one worried that we were going to get a bunch of nearly uncustomizable squids with one or two skin tones and one (black) eyecolour. That turned out to be a baseless fear. The Nautolans may have nearly the broadest range of customizations out of all the non-human races. Their skin colours are mostly in shades of blue and green, but venture even into less common yellows, as do their eyes, which was a pleasant surprise. Aside from that, they can sport various “hairstyles” (tentacle-styles) which make up for narrower range of head shapes. Various patterns and jewelry are also available – the jewelry including “pirate” eyepatches. Personally, I think this was the prime example of how character customization options should be done and the creators deserve ten points out of ten for the Nautolan options. A lot of the ideas used for the Nautolans could be introduced to other species such as (but not limited to) twi’leks or togrutas; I am sure many would appreciate it.
Items, Inventory, Leveling and Fleet Orientation
Onslaught did not bring only more story content and a new race. It also did a major overhaul of some technical elements of the game.
First of them has to do with leveling. The level cap has been raised to 75. That brings with it another change to the endgame gearing system: after reaching the maximum level, you start receiving Renown experience and Renown crates (similar to previous Command levels and Command crates). The difference is that your Renown level does not rise, but always remains the same; whenever you reach enough experience for the level, you get a crate. The quality of the items dropped from the crate does therefore not depend on your Renown level (as such a thing does not exist), but – and this is perhaps the most significant change introduced with Onslaught – it is directly derived from the average rating of the items you are currently wearing. (Same thing goes for drops from enemies.) Items in your inventory that have better rating than ones you are currently wearing can be easily identified by a green arrow that appears on their icon. That can help you always have up-to-date gear, and thus make sure you always get the same or better items than you currently own.
Some of the game’s visual elements underwent minor changes. Most of them (as it goes) may cause some confusion at first sight, and only time will tell whether the change was ultimately for better or worse. Vendor icons look perhaps a little more… retro? Some of the armour and equipment colours have changed, and most remarkably, you can now see individually coloured squares representing an item’s mods at a glance. This is one of the things that is very helpful on the one hand, but on the other hand it proves to be rather disorienting before you get used to it.
Other changes are more straightforwardly useful. For instance the Fleet is now slightly easier to navigate thanks to unified colouring for each section and helpful signs that display where you are on mouse-over. It also has all the cargo lockers in every part of the fleet, including legacy storage, which is something some of us have been waiting for for seven years.
Another nice feature is a shared storage for crafting materials (for the whole legacy), which can be transferred there from your inventory with one click. Goodbye clogged inventories and cargo holds, and I am sure not only crafters are going to appreciate this innovation. The crafting storage, as well as several other functions are now accessible via icons on the left of the inventory tab.
Free Content And Purchasable HK-55
The last thing I would like to mention is that as of now, free-to-play players have free access not only to the base game, but also to the first two expansion storylines (Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan). Free to play level cap has been also raised to 60.
One of the best gifts is the option to purchase the HK-55 droid recruitment mission from the Cartel Market. This has once been a time-limited subscriber reward, and players who had missed its release (for whatever reasons) have been wishing for the chance to get it. Now they do, and I think it’s more than fair. The purchase still costs 3800 Cartel Coins, but it unlocks the recruitment mission for all your characters (once they get past Chapter 8 in Knights of the Fallen Empire). This was the right move from Bioware, because locking a story content from part of the player base without the chance to get it is something that should have never happened.
Overall, I think Onslaught shows that SWTOR creators are still very much alive and trying to steer the game in the right direction. I can only say that I wish for more such expansions like Onslaught, with new playable species, new content, and generally improvement to the existing game (like things that should have always existed, be it the cargo lockers on fleet, the crafting inventory, or all story content available to access for everyone).