It pays to prepare for the launch of a new expansion.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when there were still 200+ nearly empty servers for Star Wars: the Old Republic, BioWare introduced guild banks, and a rumor began circulating that they would soon introduce guild capital ships. Of course, being a responsible guildmaster, I took the lead on that and began soliciting cash donations. We soon had several million credits squirreled away for that surely-just-around-the-corner event.
That was over 2 years ago, with Patch 1.2. That guild, despite some ups and downs, is still around. We've had over 2 years to save up for the guild capital ship. Unfortunately, with great age comes inactivity and a degree of stagnation, and in 2 years we came nowhere even close to saving up enough for Patch 2.9: Galactic Strongholds.
My own personal savings were also somewhat lacking. I've never had a massive amount of money because a) I don't get to spend as much time playing as I would like, and b) I usually spend any money I make as soon as I get it. But I knew that the new strongholds system would be a big credit sink, so I made a concerted effort to build up a nest egg. I figured a cool million would be plenty.
Well, it was a good start, I guess.
I started out with the sky palace on Nar Shaddaa. Each personal stronghold has 9 unlockable rooms, and the Early Access subscriber reward is a free floating condo on Nar Shaddaa with 5 out of the 9 rooms already unlocked. Pick up the quest from the hologram guy in the revamped area on fleet and you will receive a quest to buy and visit your stronghold. The reward is a package of placeable items to scatter around your new pad as you see fit.
5 unlocked rooms sounds like a pretty good deal. But beyond that, the Nar Shaddaa sky palace is bloody expensive. That cool million creds I had saved up was enough to open up a couple of the additional rooms, maybe even a third, but I wanted to buy more than one stronghold, so I left the other rooms sealed off for the time being. The two hallways off the big room at the bottom, leading down to the lower level, are 250,000 credits each. I would have blown half my bankroll on those two rooms. The Antechamber was even more expensive.
The Nar Shaddaa sky palace is faction-neutral, so Republic and Imperial characters can share the space without restriction. It's a big, roomy stronghold and easily the most opulent of the four available. The owner spawns in on a landing platform with a parked speeder, serving as an exit from the private instance.
After a bit of exploring, I headed back to Imperial Fleet and bought the Dromund Kaas apartment, which cost 5000 credits. I actually like that one way more than the Nar Shaddaa sky palace, even with the gloomy weather. I unlocked 8 out of the 9 rooms there, and furnished most of them. I ran a bunch of alts through the introductory quest, so I had more than enough steel couches and shelves and whatnot to fill the place out.
The Coruscant apartment is identical to the Dromund Kaas apartment in terms of layout, but the weather is nicer and the color scheme is different. These two strongholds are faction-specific - they can only be visited by members of the same faction when you open them to the public through the Strongholds window. You can, however, send your Imperial character to visit the Republic-only stronghold (and vice-versa) by "smuggling" them for a small fee. It cost my Smuggler 250 credits to visit my Imperial stronghold on Dromund Kaas.
Each unlockable room, as well as the base stronghold, comes with a big assortment of decoration hooks. These hooks can usually be resized to meet specific needs - a big banner-sized wall hook can be converted into 8 small hooks for the gallery of small picture frames you end up with, or into one medium hook plus 4 smalls, or 2 mediums. Large floor hooks can be divided up into even more subdivisions.
Each stronghold has a limited number of slots for NPCs. And these slots are shared by companions, mini-pets and the vendors you get from the stronghold quests (three droid vendors for bartering crafted items, and a human selling more couches and light fixtures and whatnot for credits). I ended up filling all the NPC slots in the Dromund Kaas apartment on my first character, because he has a large collection of mini-pets. When I ran through with my first alt, I ended up returning those mini-pets to "storage" to make room for all the Agent companions.
There is one quest for the purchase of a stronghold, and once you complete it and begin decorating, you receive a few additional mails with housing items attached. Fortunately, the original quest rewards you with a placeable mailbox. I put mine in the spawn-in room for ease of access. That first bundle also comes with one of the new Legacy storage containers, which can be placed in any small green floor spot. This container is accessible by all characters on that legacy, and crafting materials placed inside it are usable the same as when they are stored in personal storage vaults. You only get one vault bay by default, but additional Legacy storage bays can be purchased through the Cartel market (750 Cartel Coins), or with credits (350,000 Credits).
Sadly, the Legacy storage containers only exist within the strongholds. Currently there is no option to add one to your starship, and there are none of the new yellow-flag vaults on fleet. However, since you get one for every character that completes the intro quest, you can donate one to your guild for the guild stronghold or flagship, and still have plenty left over for your own strongholds.
I would have gone on and purchased the Tatooine stronghold, but the purchase price alone is 2.5 million credits - more than double what I started with. Unlocks for the Tatooine stronghold are proportionally costly. Fortunately, a guildie who's been a member about as long as I have was able to afford one, and gave me a tour of his digs.
The Tatooine stronghold is a much different layout than any of the other apartments - a number of the unlockable rooms are open pits connected by tunnels, and there's a big starship landing bay in one of 'em. The view from the balcony is pretty sweet.
Beyond the initial bundles of decorations you get from the intro quest, there are a few ways to get more stuff for your strongholds. Some can be purchased from the vendors in the Cartel Bazaar area on fleet, and others can be purchased from droid vendors on fleet or placed in the stronghold. The droid vendors sell their stuff for crafted barter items, which require a certain degree of cross-skill co-operation. The Universal kits require items made by three different kinds of crafting - one crew skill might be able to make two of these items, but the third will likely have to be made by another character. The barter kits and the components used to make them can be sold on the GTN, and the market for these items (and the rare materials required to make them) is quite strong at the moment.
You can also buy decorations from the GTN, and the market is currently quite strong for these as well. Rare and in-demand items are fetching absurdly high prices, which is to be expected.
I ended up buying a bunch of things from the Cartel Market - a GTN kiosk, a personal storage vault and a handful of other things to lend some personality to the stronghold.
You also earn housing decorations through achievements. Completing story-mode flashpoints and operations earns small picture frames, but completing Hard mode and Nightmare mode flashpoints and ops earns larger image panels which occupy the medium-sized wall hooks.
My Imperial guild was, of course, unable to afford the guild flagship, and we'll be a while yet before we wrangle up the funds. Especially if our guildmaster keeps blowing those funds on the guild stronghold. The guild stronghold costs only 50,000 credits and is identical to the Dromund Kaas apartment. Our leader, wanting to give the guild something on launch day, went ahead and bought the stronghold, and we began soliciting donations for the flagship. Rather embarrassing for a guild as old as ours, but I'm sure we're not alone.
The Republic guild to which I belong, however, had managed to save up the 50 million credits for the flagship and bought one right away. This gives the guild access to the new Conquest objectives. The guildmaster, still learning the system because it had only been in the game for a few hours by then, was figuring out where to park the flagship and which planet to conquer (or liberate, I suppose, since this is the Republic guild), when we had one member quit the guild because he wanted to join a guild that was "more Conquest-focused." So I guess that's a thing now.
At this stage, Galactic Strongholds is basically one giant cash sink. Few of the stronghold decorations actually do anything - aside from the storage chests, GTN terminals, mailbox, placeable resource nodes and NPC vendors. The only real interaction possible with most of the decorations is the ability to place and position them - they're mostly not clickable. It's neat to see your entire speeder collection all in one big room, but those speeders are static sprites that you can walk through. Even the really expensive stuff, the items that go for millions and millions of credits on the GTN, are nothing more than eye candy. Pretty cool for roleplaying, but adding little of any real value to the rest of the game.
That's not to say it isn't fun in its own right. It's the Sims in Space - a true EA title if ever there was one. I've spent a shameful number of hours moving furniture around in my Sim houses, too, and I never have to watch my Sith Juggernaut take a pixelated dump or cause a house fire trying to cook mac and cheese. And while it may not add anything to the combat side of the game, it serves as a good "trophy case," where a player can show off his accomplishments by displaying super-rare mounts, creating opulent displays of personal wealth and hosting a gallery of Flashpoint and Operation accomplishments. It adds to the spirit of the game, if not to the mechanics of it.
Subscriber Early Access to Galactic Strongholds runs until September 15, followed by Preferred Early Access until October 13, at which point it will open up to the F2P crowd. If you're a non-subscriber, start saving up your credits now. You're gonna need a lot of 'em.