25/04/2016

Puzzling

Both of Bioware's most recent releases for SWTOR have contained puzzle elements. In chapter eleven, you had to find the right panels to shoot in order to progress past a forcefield, and this month's Alliance alert is pretty much one big puzzle to solve.

Both prompted similar reactions in me: First I was startled by the unexpected obstacle in my way, then delighted that it was something different from the norm. Then I got a bit annoyed when I couldn't figure out the solution quickly enough. I eventually made it past the forcefield myself, but for the companion mission I ended up looking up a hint online once I'd been stuck for a while.

This got me thinking about puzzles in SWTOR in general. I don't actually recall seeing a whole lot of them in the base game. The first one I remember encountering is during the interlude in the first chapter of the trooper story where you have to deactivate some laser beams in the right order to get to the middle of a room. A fair few datacrons have a puzzle aspect to them as well, but I didn't really bother with them on my first playthrough.

While levelling alts, I remember encountering the heroic mission Shadow Spawn on Dromund Kaas, which requires you to use the runes on a dark altar in the right order, and you figure out the correct order by following the lines of the Sith code. If you don't know them, they are engraved on the runes as well (and show up on their tooltip if you hover over them in your mission item inventory).


On Republic side, Traken-4's Legacy stands out, a former area quest on Balmorra, which requires you to solve a "lights out" puzzle on a three by three grid, which I don't know how to do to this day, but fortunately you can find automated solvers for that kind of thing online.


The operations were the biggest surprise in terms of puzzle aspects, because personally I'd never seen that kind of thing in large group content before. First there were the ancient pylons in Eternity Vault, which feature little combat but require you to figure out the fastest solution to a small puzzle before the fight. Then there was the Fabricator droid in Karagga's Palace, who required several members of your ops group to play Towers of Hanoi. In subsequent operations the "puzzle bosses" were toned down, but an aspect of problem-solving before the fight remained present for a while, from Colonel Vorgath's minefield in Explosive Conflict to Operator's colours in Terror from Beyond and Olok the Shadow's droids in Scum and Villainy. It's only with the Oricon operations that the notion of "puzzle bosses" seemingly came to an end.


In solo and small group content however, Bioware has continued to throw puzzles at us at irregular intervals. The Black Hole featured more than one daily that required a bit of puzzling. The whole Theoretika section of the HK-51 quest line stands out as a particularly memorable example of requiring brains over brawn. The Shroud quest line asked you to solve problems in ways other than fighting as well. Kuat Drive Yards has that ship-building scenario where you get a bonus for figuring out the little logic puzzle and choosing the right components. The Yavin quest line has the mission in the cave where you have to click on the right rune to activate the holocrons. On Ziost there is that short bit where you need to deactivate some panels to be able to run through a pool of water without being electrocuted. And now in KotFE we have the two examples mentioned above.


Do I like these puzzles? I think for the most part I do, but sometimes they've also caused me frustration. I generally like them in group content, because you can pool your resources and figure things out together. (Like when it comes to the aforementioned Traken-4 mission - the first time I ran into it, I was questing with a friend, and while I got annoyed with the puzzle, he enjoyed figuring it out and eventually got it done for both of us.) In ops, the puzzle bosses generally give one or two people the chance to shine with specialised knowledge without requiring everyone to be good at puzzles, though it can be very painful when you end up in a pug where nobody knows how to handle the puzzle aspect.

In what comes as a bit of a surprise to myself, I'm more likely to find puzzles annoying in solo content. It's probably because that's often the content that's focused on progressing the story, and it's annoying to hit a wall there just because you can't figure something out. Also, I'm generally more likely to get annoyed if several puzzles are strung together into one big puzzle, such as on the Theoretika or in the newest Alliance alert mission. I can generally appreciate a single puzzle inserted into a mission at random, though it can still sometimes feel a bit out of place simply because there aren't that many of them in game, so it's always a bit unexpected when instead of shooting things or talking to people, you suddenly find yourself hunting around the environment for the right thing to click or sifting through flavour text for hints. But if several of them show up in a row, it's even more likely that I won't be able to figure something out and will grow tired of the whole thing after a short while.

Do you like puzzles in your MMO experience?

7 comments :

  1. There are also a few puzzle-ish bits in some of the macrobinocular quests - finding things you need to interact with in some way, at least.

    I like puzzles all right, once in a while. I've always been sort of curious about the Theoretika, even though I'm not interested in the HK part, which seems to be the only reason to do it.

    I admit there's sort of a balance for me between how natural the puzzle seems (is it a sensible part of the story/environment, or is it like that corridor in Galaxy Quest), and how hard it is. I'm more tolerant of difficult puzzles the more they seem natural...and more tolerant of random nonsensical puzzles if they're easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought I included the macrobinocular stuff by mentioning the Shroud quest line. :)

      If you've never done the HK-51 storyline, I would recommend it. Just once at least, for the novelty.

      Delete
  2. I like it when they make sense in context of the story, rather than being puzzles arbitrarily inserted to block your progress.

    I really like the idea of the one in the Shroud quest. You use your macrobinoculars to discover the button sequence that the little blue alien used to raise the laser grid blocking your way. It's based on temperature, the longer ago the button was pressed, the colder it is. That one actually makes sense. It's really neat.

    Most of them however, are not like that.


    I loved the Theoretika, it's one of my favourite missions in the game. But I loved it for the spooky atmosphere and change of pace from the normal SWTOR fare, rather than any actual puzzling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, the mood on the Theoretika is great! Sometimes I think of going back there... but then I think of all the digging for parts and I'm like "nope". :P

      Delete
  3. Somehow I missed that line.

    Do you have to do the annoying parts hunt to get to the Theoretika?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, it's very close to the start of the chain, but I know I'd then feel bad about stopping/abandoning the quest. :P

      Delete
  4. I don't mind puzzles at all, but there's times when I want to finish something up quickly and then "Wham!" I'm hit with a puzzle. (Wildstar does that in spades.) At those times, I reacquaint the computer with my coarser language....

    ReplyDelete