05/08/2016

Flashpoint Friday: Lost Island

It seems strange to be covering this flashpoint so close to the end of this series (only two flashpoints left to cover after this one), especially since it was an early reader request. I think I tripped myself up by wanting to do things in order and starting with Kaon Under Siege, which turned into a mega-post that made me yearn for something shorter and simpler to write about for the next installment... and then one thing just led to another. However, I was bound to get there eventually: It's time to talk about Lost Island.


General Facts

Lost Island was the second flashpoint added to the game after its release, as part of patch 1.2 - called "Legacy" - which was released in April 2012 and also saw the introduction of the legacy system and the group finder, as well as adding a new raid (Explosive Conflict) and a new warzone (Novare Coast). It's crazy to think that even then people were leaving the game in droves, complaining that there was nothing to do.

Lost Island finishes up Outbreak in the Tion Hegemony/Trouble in the Tion Hegemony, the rakghoul story arc that started with patch 1.1's Kaon Under Siege. A new plague of sentient rakghouls has emerged to threaten the galaxy, and by the end of Kaon you have traced it back to a rogue scientist called Dr Lorrick who secretly operates from Ord Mantell. It's time to pay him a visit and get to the root of the problem.

Interestingly, Lost Island has received only limited love in 4.0. Its hardmode has been retuned for levels 50-65, but its story mode remains an old-fashioned level 50 flashpoint that can't be accessed through the group finder, and there also isn't a solo mode.

Fights

Lost Island has achieved somewhat legendary status among players for having been stupidly hard on release, at least on hardmode (though story mode was quite challenging for your average pug as well). I know people that, to this day, will proudly talk about things like having gotten the first Lost Island HM clear on their server (not that this is something that anyone would be able to prove). In my own post about my first run, I mentioned how another group of guildies hadn't even been able to make it past the first boss, and how we also wiped a lot during our own run (though we did complete the instance). At the end I felt the urge to take a screenshot as if we'd defeated an operations boss. I also have a video of a run we did about two months later (unlisted because it's neither very well edited nor interesting, being one of my first attempts at video editing) that shows us still needing no less than six attempts to get past the first boss.


Bioware made no secret out of Lost Island intentionally being harder than any other flashpoints available at the time, rather the opposite. As I mentioned, this was the patch that also introduced the group finder, and in this first incarnation, there were two "tiers" of hardmode flashpoints: the first one consisting of everything else released until then, and the second one consisting of Lost Island alone. It also dropped better gear, with the last boss dropping the coveted Rakata chest piece, which you could otherwise only get from hardmode Soa. It was a concept that was later abandoned without much fuss or any kind of explanation, and since the first year was a tumultuous time for the game in general it's hard to say what prompted the change in direction. All I know is that to this day, whenever I see people complain about content being too easy, they like to wistfully refer to old-school Lost Island as an example of how things should be.

What is is that made Lost Island so hard? Well, the trash was actually not as bad as in Kaon (nothing could top those Infected Mercenaries and Screamers) but it could still throw people for a loop with mechanics like AoE pulls, knockbacks, mobs unexpectedly bursting out of the walls, groups requiring a specific kill order, or extremely powerful healers refusing to let any enemy die. I remember a pull close to the end that used to contain two strong medics (one of which was later removed) who could both make themselves immune to interrupts and would cross-heal the whole trash pack until kingdom come if you didn't use crowd control or focused stuns to burn them down quickly.

The first boss, a sentinel droid, is the one I actually always found the hardest personally, probably because of how many wipes I had on him over the years. There was the Incinerate on the tank that needed to be interrupted or dispelled or it would kill the tank in seconds, that other ability whose name I forget that was also useful to interrupt but not as essential, domes of lightning spawning on group members, adds, fire coming out of the ground, and so on and so forth. Basically, the boss has a lot going on that can potentially kill you, and in those early days his damage output was very high. Most of his abilities remain to this day, however they've been toned down a lot so that none of them hurt nearly as much.


The second boss, the monstrous Project Sav-Rak, is a particular piece of fun with pugs to this day, because he has mechanics that aren't easily nerfed, apart from the dot that deals damage and keeps the healer busy. Otherwise his two key mechanics are that he will jump on top of a pipe and just keep attacking you from afar, until you can force him back down via some co-ordinated button pushing from most group members, and that every so often he will do massive knockback that will send you to your doom in the surrounding lava if you don't stand in the right place. This is fun in so far as pretty much every time you do this in a pug, even if you explain the mechanics beforehand, someone will fall to their death the first time the boss does his knockback and then go: "Oh. I didn't expect it to be like that." It would be sad if it wasn't also funny.

Oh yeah, and there are also two mini bosses which aren't too challenging in terms of mechanics but who both hit like trucks. Even when running this with my guildies last week, I was the last woman standing when Transgenic Sample Seven finally died.


The bonus boss is actually the easiest fight in the entire instance, merely requiring you to not stop moving whenever he smashes the floor and to not cross paths with other people while doing so, but even that can be challenging for some.

Finally we have Doctor Lorrick himself, whom I generally don't recall ever being as challenging as what came before, but who still offers a nice and pretty cinematic fight, throwing poison vials and explosives at you and jumping around the room until he finally succumbs to the virus himself and turns into a seemingly mindlessly roaring rakghoul monstrosity of his own.

Story (spoilers)

You travel to Ord Mantell to locate Doctor Lorrick's secret base, which is once again at least partially situated inside a volcano, demonstrating that the planet has a problem with attracting people who like to build stereotypical super-villain lairs.

As you make your way past innocent wildlife outside and then some guard droids, you encounter the first log entries from Lorrick's assistants (you need to access them all to unlock the bonus boss), who describe him as someone heroically looking for a cure for the rakghoul virus... until it becomes apparent that actually he is doing no such thing but rather refining it for weaponised use. You learn that his assistants tried to stop him once they found out, but the fact that you keep encountering increasingly monstrous and intelligent mutant rakghouls doesn't make the situation look good.


Eventually you find Lorrick in his lab, where he holds a speech about how his modified rakghoul virus is in fact a perfect evolution of humanity and even offers to turn you into a rakghoul too. All his heroic assistants have fallen prey to his machinations, and like a true mad scientist he's even injected himself with the virus, eventually turning into another fearsome monster that you can only put down.

Conclusion

Like Kaon Under Siege, Lost Island is one of Bioware's early masterpieces, combining an atmospheric environment, an interesting story and fun game mechanics into a perfect blend. This is definitely still true today, even after its overall difficulty has been nerfed. Whether that initial high difficulty was even a good idea or not is debatable, but I think it's unlikely that we'll ever see its like again, and as the number of day one veterans still playing the game continues to decline, there'll also be fewer and fewer who will even remember what it was like.

I'm somewhat mystified why Bioware has largely ignored Lost Island during its 4.0 flashpoint revamp. I can sort of see several of the fights being hard to tune for a solo mode, especially considering the Jesus droid's limited AI (you just know Project Sav-Rak would knock him into the lava every time), but I don't really understand what prevented the old story mode from being turned into a tactical.

2 comments :

  1. I really like how it makes us go back to Ord Mantell. Unlike a lot of Flashpoints which have specialised build-up locations (Ilum and CZ-198) or otherwise inaccessible areas (Zadd, Rakata Prime, Kaon), we're back on a starter planet which we already have a connection to.

    It's a shame that there aren't any other opportunities to return to an entirely new area of a previously-visitable planet outside of this and Darvannis (curiously, both have one instance and one proper planet variation each), as it really helps to expand the in-game galaxy.

    Not much to say which hasn't already been said in this post. :P

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    1. I also like it when they reuse locations we already know, even if it can cause people to accuse Bioware of recyling too much. Then again, the galaxy is a big place and I'm also happy to visit new planets. The only thing I can do without is more generic ship interiors and space stations; we've had quite enough of those in my opinion.

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