Flashpoints are Star Wars: The Old Republic’s version of instanced dungeons you might find in other MMO games – with a twist. Flashpoints, like just about everything else in Star Wars: The Old Republic, reflect BioWare’s story-focused approach to the game as a whole, offering players a cinematic group-centric experience loaded with storyline. Well, most of the time anyway.
The starter Flashpoints, The Esseles (Republic) and the Black Talon (Imperial) strongly focus on story in the way BioWare has described, but the developer has added new Flashpoints to the game that are more akin to your typical dungeon run. These additional Flashpoints were mentioned during the main Star Wars: The Old Republic panel at this year’s New York Comic-Con as a way of giving a choice to players who are more interested in a straightforward experience focused on gameplay or puzzles. The additional Flashpoints, story focused and otherwise (a total of 15!), will allow players to basically level up via Flashpoints at any juncture in the game if they so choose. Everyone loves variety, right?
During our time in the beta event, we got a chance to play through two Flashpoints on the Republic side, the aforementioned Esseles Flashpoint and the new Hammer Flashpoint. The Esseles, like the Black Talon, is heavily story driven and set up for up to four players to run through. There are two ways to get to Coruscant once you complete your Origin World (levels 1-10 or so): take a basic shuttle straight from Carrick Station in the Republic fleet, or take the Esseles, which once completed will drop you off on Coruscant to continue your journey.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Flashpoints offer their own set of loot drops and Commendations (tokens) that can be used at specific vendors in exchange for gear. Naturally, I opted to take the Esseles to Coruscant. Upon boarding the Esseles, we soon discovered that a Republic ambassador has stowed away on board and a nasty Imperial Moff would love to have her. Of course, he begins an assault on the Esseles, and when confronted via holocom, offers us the choice of turning her over in exchange for our lives. As upstanding members of the Republic (outside of perhaps our Smuggler) we refused. This put us in a bit of a pickle as Imperial forces began storming the ship and it was up to the four of us to repel the attack and protect the Ambassador. The rest of the Flashpoint plays out in a typical, albeit much more cinematic dungeon crawl, with the requisite boss fights and the like. Where the Esseles sets itself apart from your typical dungeon run is in the choices players will have to make during the encounter. I’m not going to spoil these scenarios for you, but you’ll have to make some very real choices throughout the course of the Flashpoint, and you’ll have to make them as a group. The results of your choices can significantly impact the way the rest of the Flashpoint plays out, including who you fight.
After making your way through most of Coruscant, you’ll have the opportunity to play through the Hammer Flashpoint, which we’ll talk about briefly today. The Hammer is one of the new Flashpoints that appears to be more focused on gameplay and puzzles than the cinematic flair present in the previously revealed Black Talon and Esseles. Some bits of group dialogue precede the actual Flashpoint, but once you arrive, it plays more like a typical dungeon run. However, what really stood out about the Hammer was the way Crew Skills were used throughout the experience. Players proficient enough in certain Crew Skills could, for example, re-activate a mining drill in order to break through a wall, circumventing a good deal of the Flashpoint’s trash mobs and allowing the group to beeline for the first boss. Later on, an elevator could be sliced, though no one in the group had high enough Slicing to figure out what that would have entailed.
One more thing to note is that the boss fights in the Hammer were much more challenging than the Esseles, with each fight requiring some decent pre-planning and additional awareness. This is especially true for the final boss fight, which appears deceptively simple at first, but quickly gets hairy. I don’t want to spoil the mechanics for you, but suffice it to say you are very likely to wipe the first time on this fight unless someone in the group knows the fight already and can warn you of the dangers.
I’m honestly a little disappointed that each and every Flashpoint isn’t as cool as the Esseles, but when considering the fact some people are going to want to run this type of content over and over, it’s probably better BioWare opted to create some content that is a bit friendlier for that sort of thing. As enjoyable as the conversations are, I don’t know that I’d want to go through them a bunch of times if I’d already exhausted all of the possible outcomes. With 15 Flashpoints set for launch, it looks like BioWare’s got something in store for just about everyone.
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