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Will Galactic Strongholds Be Your Star Wars Home?

Jean Prior Posted:
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A question they didn't answer was raised by the blog when discussing how to unlock decorations.  While it's gratifying to see that decorations are automatically unlocked Legacy-wide, I arched my brow at the mention of an unlock count.  If you want to place four copies of the same chair in your Stronghold, you have to unlock it four times.  Depending on what the costs are for that, whether it's in-game credits or cartel coins (or I suspect both, since all the other items mentioned so far has been both), that's going to potentially be a big money sink for the game either way.  One of the things that surprised me is that there is no upkeep or rent to a Stronghold.  Once you bought it, it's yours unless you deactivate it.  You can reactivate it with no penalty if you bought it with cartel coins, but a nominal credit fee if you originally unlocked it with credits. 

The devs then went on to make the Twitch chat go completely bananas when they casually demonstrated the test character sitting on one of the placed couches.  However, some time later in the chat, Musco took pity on everyone and made a point of noting that it wasn't the character right-clicking on the couch and sitting like players can do in their personal ships on a select few chairs, but it was an emote like /chair.  Still, it's a huge concession to the roleplaying community, who have clamored for such a thing for the past two and a half years.  The team continued to demonstrate some of the hooks and noted you can place your companion characters in various places in the Stronghold, but when you logged in with a different character, the previous alt's companions would appear via holo.  Sadly, there didn't seem to be any interactivity with these placed companions, no AI behind them or cutscenes where they could do things like where you can see Corso chasing Bowdaar through the Smuggler's ship in the background during a conversation with Risha.  It felt a bit like playing Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask when you played the Elegy of Emptiness on your ocarina and created a statue of Link that you can move around to open switches and such. 

Another important point for the system here is the fact that there are chat channels associated with the expansion, but the chat for each Stronghold is tied to the planetary chat for where the Stronghold is, not Fleet chat.  When I mentioned this in my guild's TeamSpeak, they didn't feel this was the right decision.  Logically, a local chat makes sense in terms of theme and immersion, but they believed that more people would still be on Fleet and thus the interaction with other players would be minimal.  Perhaps once the housing fans and the roleplayers get a hold of this, it will change the percentage of players on the planetary channels, but my veteran crew of SWTOR fans were skeptical.

During that initial livestream, the team demonstrated just how flexible the hook system was and how deep the decoration system was, but the overall impression I had was a general lack of interactivity despite the complexity of the overall Stronghold.  To make an analogy, it felt like a warplane museum rather than a working airport.  While there are achievements and a Prestige score assigned based on how much stuff you place and your ranking theoretically would be like a hoarders' leaderboard, it often felt like a grand trophy room.  Sure, it's really cool that you can show your friends that you have a copy of the Ancient Hypergate from downing that particular boss, but other than the roleplayers, I don't see a huge amount of the rest of the playerbase spending a great deal of time with it unless there's some really sweet interactions that can happen with things like Legacy Storage or having certain terminals present that we haven't been apprised of yet.  Since we can't dye/paint any of the furniture decorations or apply a paint scheme to the walls themselves, that detracts from some of the flexibility that players are used to for years from other games.  For example, since 2007 when their game added housing, LotRO lets players apply paint modules to the interiors of their houses, although the actual furniture items were unpaintable.  While their racial areas had specific intended looks and color schemes, Turbine made the decision to allow players to mix and match paint schemes regardless of which race it belonged to. 

The simple fact here is that the biggest selling points to this new addition to the game are that it's Star Wars housing (tm) and that you can use them cross-factionally.  Beyond that, people are going to make the inevitable comparisons to other games that do housing more flexibly, regardless of whether it's a proper apples/apples comparison (i.e. WildStar or EverQuest II) or if it's an apples/oranges comparison (Landmark or ArcheAge).  That's a particular argument that Star Wars: the Old Republic is never destined to win, because they're not a housing-based game; it's just a secondary system that doesn't drive the game's story or actual gameplay forward.  At worst, the usual detractors of the game will just look at it and call it a money sink and be done with it because they can get better functionality elsewhere.

We'll all find out more information at each subsequent Twitch stream that details more features of the overall expansion.  I'm personally more interested in seeing exactly how the Prestige system works and guild ships and guild headquarters and how Conquests will be done, because I'm still looking for something that will, if you'll excuse the pun, hook me.  So far, we know of absolutely no PVP components to this adventure, but I sure hope some folks might consider organizing some dueling or PVP contests in their Strongholds, since they are cross-factionally available to visit.  That might make it worth the price of admission.  I'll bring some popcorn.

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Jean Prior