Today I got to participate in my first operation in The Old Republic. Even though I initially had my reservations about whether I wanted to raid at all, I was completely stoked about getting to join the action tonight. Previously the days and times set aside for organised guild activities always happened to be times that I couldn't make, and the more often I found myself unable to raid the more I wanted to. Funny how "playing hard to get" works even for computer games.
I was really grateful when the guild leader finally picked a date and time that I could make (probably not purely for my benefit, but I still appreciated it) and became quite excited as the evening approached. Me? Excited to raid? You'd think that after four years of doing it every week it would be impossible for me to get this excited about this kind of thing, even if it happened to take place in a different game. Raiding is raiding, right?
Even funnier, I actually began to feel a little nervous as the starting time drew closer, inspecting the remaining blue mods in my custom gear with a critical eye and mentally chiding myself for not having tried harder to upgrade them before. And our Sage healer had already done, what, four raids at least? Sooo much more experience than me, and my AoE heals suck, and oh god, I hope I won't be dragging us down... it was completely ridiculous! Fortunately I needn't have worried.
I thought that the intro to the Eternity Vault was one of the coolest starts to a raid I've ever seen, and I was kind of surprised to find out that it was located on Belsavis, as I hadn't actually looked into the details of the whole thing before. I made sure to make it over to the spot on the snow where others were already assembling, worried that I was late and holding people back, but fortunately about half the raid only arrived shortly afterwards, with our raid leader showing people the way (as I wasn't the only one for whom it was the first time). Incidentally, despite of the newness of the content the whole experience had a certain sense of homecoming to it for me, as said raid leader also used to be the leader of my WoW guild when I first joined nearly five years ago. Listening to him explain fights again was just like old times!
I didn't really get what the "trash" leading up to the first boss was all about, as I assumed that the turrets were being tanked but I still got shot a lot and was then told to move, which sounded like I was being targeted due to proximity? I'll probably look it up at some point, but right now I'm too lazy.
The first boss was a very straightforward fight with a little "run from the marks on the ground" phase and a brief "everyone hide behind the pillar" phase, which we one-shot easily. It really made me wonder how I could have so much fun with something so simple, obvious factors like newness and good company aside, and after brief contemplation I came to the conclusion that it was due to my character's limitations. If I had to heal the same encounter with my priest from WoW, it would be a total snoozefest simply because after three expansions of power creep I would only have to hit three spells that are just right for the fight and the raid would almost heal itself. Compare that to my combat medic who has a grand total of six healing spells, three of them have a cooldown, and only one of them is a (very piddly) AoE, and suddenly even simple mechanics such as keeping people alive while on the move or multiple characters taking damage at once become surprisingly engaging again.
I won a glove token from this boss, and thought that the way the loot system basically rolls for you automatically is pretty interesting. This seems very pug friendly to me as it makes it impossible to argue or ninja, however I can see it becoming annoying once you get to a point where people might not need every drop anymore, if the system keeps assigning them loot over someone who could actually use the item. I assume this will still receive some fine-tuning.
After this boss there was some trash to kill, which wasn't really particularly challenging or interesting in any way. I suppose that's a fair approach to trash (after all, people tend to complain if it's too hard compared to the boss or takes up too much time), but I do think they could have made these packs a little more interesting. Our raid leader actually described some of the mobs as "nothing but massive bags of hitpoints". Fortunately people were chatty and it felt like we were killing things reasonably quickly.
"How do you kick a droid in the nuts anyway?"
"Well, droids have a lot of nuts and bolts."
"That was terrible!"
I really liked the scenery too. Even with only eight people in the operation, everything felt massive and epic. Sometimes size does matter. It's telling that they give you a speeder ride for the run back after a wipe, and it still takes ages to make it back to the final boss.
I also liked the varied environments. It felt slightly weird to go from frozen technology to a lava-filled cave to a lush bit of jungle to what looked like a laboratory, but the planet's lore does support these kinds of zone shifts so it's all good.
The second boss felt slightly harder than the first one, though not by much. We wiped once, mostly because people seemed to get a bit distracted by the adds and forgot to move off the dissolving platform in time. On our second try we either got extremely lucky with the RNG or the boss bugged a little, because it took him ages to move, which gave our raid a lot more time than usual to go all out at dpsing him.
The next encounter wasn't a boss per se, but a little event that involved fiddling with some pylons while waves of adds attacked. I was tasked with handling one of the pylons at the start and was a bit scared when I first looked at it, but in the end it turned out that all I had to do was focus on a console on the ground and click it over and over again every time it lit up, which eventually led to the "puzzle" solving itself. It did feel a bit weird to just use that console a few times, throw a couple of heals around and then be done already. Our scoundrel, who was managing the other pylon, managed to "break" it so that when the encounter completed the symbols on his side still weren't lined up correctly. We joked that he had just sliced it and cheated, typical smuggler.
The fourth "boss" was again not an actual boss but an encounter, and a rather strange one at that. Everyone just got to pick one of eight mobs and had to kill it on their own, without interfering with anyone else's mobs in any way. Think Leotheras the Blind in SSC back in the day, only without an actual boss encounter, just that mechanic. Unlike Liore's guild, we gave the two mobs with the lowest hitpoints to the healers, and I think I'd struggle to kill anything with more health in time. Not that my mob ever really threatened me, healer dps is just incredibly slow. Since we had three tanks (as that was who had signed up, sometimes you have to work with what you've got), one of them had to take a mob intended for a damage dealer, but as it turned out our Shadow tank did insane dps anyway.
In some ways this encounter was weird and didn't really feel like a boss fight, but in other ways I liked it. People complain about not being able to measure their dps without damage metres... go do this encounter and see how you do. If the mobs reset because you're too slow, you need to work on your performance, if not - peachy. It was pretty interesting to see who killed their mobs first, and that our Shadow tank actually finished before our newest and somewhat undergeared dpser. It kind of makes you competitive. And what better motivation to work on your dps than everyone who already finished standing there and cheering you on (to please, please finish in time)?
We actually had to retry the encounter several times, even though our damage was more than sufficient. Only the first time did we truly fail because there wasn't enough dps, but that was because we had put one of our Guardian tanks on a dps mob, and he ran out of time with the mob having a sliver of health left. At least there's no dying when you "wipe" here, it just resets. After that we put the Shadow on damage duty, but we ran into a problem as someone had got the debuff you get for helping someone else and now couldn't damage his own mob either. Another time our dps Commando disconnected briefly mid-fight and again that was just enough to mess things up. We got there in the end though.
The last boss was the only one we didn't beat, as he felt like a significant step up from the previous four encounters, but that's fine by me. The last boss should feel more epic than the rest, and this way people still get to gear up from the first four encounters while working on him. He's still not too bad really, but there is a lot more going on, people get many chances to fall to their deaths, and timing matters. On our best attempt for example the raid pushed him to the point where he destroys the second platform just as he was whirling me through the air, so I got deposited on empty air afterwards and went splat. Oops.
I was quite impressed with the overall design of this encounter though, as I think it manages to inspire awe by utilising all three dimensions without being an annoying 3D movement fight (in my opinion anyway). I don't recommend looking down a lot though if you have vertigo - I don't and it still made me a bit dizzy at times as we jumped down across the floating platforms.
I'm definitely looking forward to my next visit to the Vault. What are other people's experiences with SWTOR operations so far?