Grumpy Gamer: Tauntauns of Industry
It would be perfectly natural for regular readers to assume that I hate Ewoks. They're cute and cuddly and were clearly designed to appeal to children, and their contributions to the Battle of Endor make very little sense. If stormtrooper helmets can't protect against fist-sized rocks dropped (not hurled - dropped) by child-sized primitives, and super-hi-tech AT-ST walkers can be tripped and crushed by logs and crude vines, how does the Galactic Empire manage to subjugate entire planetary systems?
But, at the risk of losing my "grumpy" cred, I don't hate Ewoks. I actually kinda like the little buggers. Sure they are "cutesy" but they symbolize the pluck and temerity of the Rebel Alliance, fighting against a tyrannical super-power with whatever crude tools are at hand. They overcome terrifying obstacles despite glaring disadvantages. They are anarchic and stubborn and fearless, and they wear leather hoods instead of pants. And they decorate their stuff with skulls and vertebrae, like proper primitive badasses.
When it was first announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic was adding an Ewok companion to the game with Patch 2.3: Titans of Industry, again it would make sense for regular readers to assume that I would find something objectionable about it. Ewoks have almost no presence in the galaxy at large until they are encountered during the Battle of Endor, let alone 4,000 years before that era. They got retconned into the rest of the Expanded Universe galaxy only through ham-fisted shoehorning - for example, the phrase "a Rodian in Ewok's clothing" being a metaphor for a person with sinister ulterior motives. The two made-for-TV Ewok movies were less than stellar, and the Ewoks cartoon series, while slightly more watchable than the Droids cartoon series, somehow managed to make the species even more of a kids-only property. Basically, pretty much all Ewoks outside of Return of the Jedi are a sad joke.
But I was totally looking forward to having an Ewok companion for my Sith Juggernaut, Ogregunk. I didn't even care what type of companion Treek was, I wanted an Ewok on the Fury. And the more I read about Treek, the more I was looking forward to adding her to my crew. I saved up my credits for a few weeks and made sure my legacy level was up to snuff. And, shocking as it may seem, I'm glad I did.
Treek is awesome, easily the most adaptable companion in the game to date. Treek has a healing and a tanking stance, and delivers decent DPS in either. She can heal a bit even while in her tank stance. Tiny tanks are hilarious - I pull out Blizz on my Powertech from time to time despite being tank-spec and geared, just because he's awesome. Tiny tanks who huck beehives and use a bolo to heal their pals are 100% pure win in my book.
Not only is she freakin' adorable and way handy in combat, but she comes with an awesome backstory. She is a thuggish mercenary contractor with a bloodlust for the opposite faction. The droid NPC on fleet tells you of her great victories on Balmorra, Taris and Corellia, among other places, and plays her up as a supreme badass. The Imperial version achieves a perfect score on the "Mekhis Aggression Index," which apparently indicates that she is quite... aggressive. When she makes her entrance, she barges her way through the crowd, punching one guy square in the nuts (regardless of whether you are playing Republic or Imperial) and makes her introduction. She tells you she can't wait to start killing the enemies and looting their corpses, and she swears you in as her new Chief.
Treek is very expensive to add to your team. If you buy her contract with credits, it's 1 million upfront. If you buy her from the Cartel Market, it's 2100 Cartel Coins, which ain't chump change. And that's for just one character. If you want her for your alts as well, that's a separate cost of 700 Cartel Coins to add her to your Collections (but then all your alts on that legacy get her on their crew for free). And when you get her, you need to gear her up - the custom gear she comes with has all level 10 mods, so if you get her as a level 55 character, that's gonna be costly.
But she's totally worth it. She's adorable and kicks ass, nearly everything one might want in a companion. If you pick her up early on in your career, you may never need another one of your companions for anything else.
The other awesome thing about the Titans of Industry patch is the new Tauntaun mounts. By that I mean the mounts themselves - the methods of acquiring one, not so much. Rolling across Hoth on the back of a Tauntaun is a quintessential Star Wars experience that every player should have, but if you want to have that experience, be prepared to pay through the nose for it. You will be investing either millions of credits to buy one outright, or a significant chunk of time farming the nests and relying on the charity of a heartless RNG. You will also be subjecting yourself to the abuse of a number of frustrated players who are looking for the same thing, and who entertain themselves between nest respawns by trolling one another relentlessly. Some of them will boast about finding three Domesticated Tauntaun Data modules in one nest, others will complain that they have dropped 20 lures in a row and gotten nothing.
And if you want to truly experience frustration, try doing the new Czerka dailies on the new moon, CZ-198, in the Unknown Regions, during peak hours. The new facility suffers from the exact same lack of foresight that caused some of the Black Hole or Section X dailies to be an exercise in patience: too few quest resources shared by too many players. Some players have no problem sidling up and taking the kolto tanks or weapons crates or other quest item you are fighting next to, or even jetting ahead with a timely rocket boost to get to one before you do. You can't really blame the players for behaving like selfish, over-competitive meat-heads - we just want to get the colorless quests done quickly. The fault lies with designers who fail to predict that competition for sparse quest resources results in shabby player behavior, even after seeing how players handled the Black Hole weapons crates and Section X prisoners. That sort of thing should be instanced.
All in all, launch day of Patch 2.3 was bloody expensive. I had saved up over 3 million credits, and ended up spending nearly all of them. I don't care much about the Czerka stuff, which apparently is the main focus of the update, but with my new Tauntaun and Ewok buddies, the game feels a whole lot more like Star Wars. Cynicism shall resume next week at its normally scheduled time.