24/06/2016

Flashpoint Friday: The False Emperor

In this week's installment of Flashpoint Friday we're going to look at the flashpoint that "finished up" the game's story as far as it was released at launch. I'm of course talking about (dun dun dunnn)... False Emperor.

  
General Facts

False Emperor has been in game since launch, serving as the grand finale for the game's non class-specific world storyline, which started with the regular missions on Ilum and continued throughout the flashpoint Battle of Ilum, which I already talked about.

False Emperor was originally designed for levels 48-50 and came with a hardmode at launch in which the last boss dropped a Columi (first raid tier) chest piece, which caused people to farm it like mad back in the day. A solo mode to see the story was added in 4.0. The base version is now tactical (role- and level-neutral), which must really confuse people who end up in there at level 15.

Story (spoilers)

A short reminder of the story so far: While Republic and Empire are fighting over the ice planet Ilum, which provides valuable crystals that can be used for the production of stealth generators, Darth Malgus declares himself the Emperor of a "new" Empire that embraces alien diversity and goes up against both Republic and Empire at once. After stealing one of the stealth ships from his fleet, a strike team boards his cloaked space station to cut off the snake's head.

This is where the flashpoint starts off, with either Cole Cantarus (for Pubs) or General Hesker (for Imps) flying you there. The Emperor's space station is the same one Jedi knight players encounter during their class story, only bigger. After a lot of fairly nondescript fights you have to kill HK-47 again, whom Malgus had apparently rebuilt after that whole thing in the Foundry. He's defending an Anomid scientist called Arkis Wode, who gives you big lip initially but panics as soon as all his guards are taken out. You can show your alignment by either letting him live so he'll turn the station's weapons against Malgus' own fleet, or shooting him in the face, in which case he'll call out a last warning to Malgus before he dies.


Finally, you face down Malgus himself, who quickly activates the station's self-destruct sequence. (Who keeps building self-destructs into everything anyway?) There is no option for reconciliation, even if you kind of agree with his stance on aliens in the Empire at least. Once he's defeated, you take his stuff and flee the station as it's breaking apart at the seams.

Fights

Malgus' space station is filled with lots of droids and some aliens, similar to the trenches of Ilum in Battle of Ilum. Like in that flashpoint, there are a lot of voice-overs going on about the strengths of this "new Empire", even as you go around killing everyone. It's also worth mentioning that while there are still a lot of enemies to fight, there used to be a lot more of them until the flashpoint was "thinned out" somewhat in later patches. The main possible exception to this is the very first pull, which is still huge and has sent many a pugger to their death over the years.

About half the boss fights are nothing to write home about: There's the Trandoshan with the red circle around him, the two droids who become temporarily immune to damage one at a time and the mini-boss that does a spin attack. However, there are also some more interesting encounters:

Bounty hunter Jindo Krey is a bit of a Boba Fett lookalike - that alone would be enough to make him cool, but he also calls on his ship during the fight to shoot you, which you in turn have to repel by using some conveniently located nearby cannons. In its original incarnation, the ship could also move sideways so that you actually had to make sure you used the right one of the three cannons to shoot it down, but apparently this was considered too challenging for puggers...

HK isn't really that interesting except for being HK and liking to brutally knock down people who charge him with a leap, a mechanic that just seems pointlessly cruel.

The Sith Entity bonus boss which consists of three different  targets that periodically vanish and reappear is also moderatlely interesting and used to have a reputation for having an unforgivingly harsh enrage timer on hardmode back in the day.

The undisputed crown jewel of the instance is however the encounter with Darth Malgus, which is a fantastic example of how you can give a fight a cinematic quality while also keeping it engaging for the players. Aside from a massive knockback that you need to avoid by tanking him near the stairs or else you'll go flying down the nearest chasm, Malgus doesn't have that many regular interesting abilities, however he cycles through all the group members (if given enough time) to "fill their minds with doubt" until he forces them to face him alone while the rest of the group is stunned. This isn't that interesting these days, but at launch he hit hard enough that dps players in particular had to kite him during that phase, usually while the rest of their stunned group cheered them on. A couple of times he also tries to cast an insta-wipe mechanic called "Unlimited Power", which absolutely needs to be interrupted (or needed to be... not actually sure how deadly it is these days as I haven't seen it go off in a while).

The memorable finale of the fight however used to be the fact that Malgus became invulnerable once he reached a certain percentage of health and had to be knocked down the aforementioned chasm to be killed, Darth Vader vs. Palapatine style. This required multiple knockbacks to be timed just right, which could be quite challenging for most groups. Nonetheless I was still very sad when this mechanic was removed as part of a round of nerfs. These days Malgus just falls over dead at the end like any other boss, which I still think is sad. That knockback mechanic could have been made more manageable without removing it entirely.


Conclusion

False Emperor was certainly a memorable end to the story of Darth Malgus. Even though it was a shame that he was killed off so early in the game, he at least got a suitably epic send-off initially - plus the fact that you didn't actually see his body left an avenue for a potential future return, though I think it's safe to consider that particular door closed by now.

That said, the flashpoint as a whole wasn't exactly an unmitigated success. The interior of the space station isn't particularly exciting except for the view of the final throne room. People hated how long and filled with trash it was. And from a story point of view it honestly kind of sucked having to kill off Malgus as an Empire player even if you agreed with many of his points. I already mentioned in my Battle of Ilum post that he's basically not a very convincing betrayer in the sense that players might not necessarily disagree with him enough to want to kill him. Plus there's the whole "what is this I don't even" factor if you don't do the planetary quest line and the flashpoints in the right order.

That said, I'm still very fond of False Emperor almost for the Malgus fight alone, because it really is (was) that good. Also, as Calphy pointed out in his post about flashpoint favourites, considering its brief life, Malgus' new Empire was actually very influential in terms of the overall storyline, as the Makeb arc sees the Empire softening its stance on aliens in the aftermath of Ilum, which always struck me as a little odd. Not that I'm complaining really, but I would have thought that the last thing you do after eliminating someone as a betrayer and heretic would be to adopt some of his policies.

8 comments :

  1. Now that you mention it, I do remember actually seeing the ship moving sideways way back when... I guess I just forgot about it in the interim since the fight got progressively quicker to burn through with each increased level.
    Maybe this is in some way what causes the ship to occasionally break and not come back in Hard Modes now that they're relevant again today. Wouldn't surprise me.

    Unlimited Power is still a one-shot mechanic, at least on Hard Mode; when duoing it with that similarly-crazy friend of mine back when 4.0 launched we let it run as a 'test' when we were both at full HP, and we died instantly.
    Not sure about Tactical Mode, but I imagine that it would at best bring people to the brink of death in an attempt to teach them that it's very, very painful.

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    1. Damn, you're quick, I hadn't even finished my post-publishing typo editing yet. :P

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    2. All part of the insanity. :D

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  2. I've a soft spot for this flashpoint, as it was one of the only times I'd healed an instance in SWTOR.

    And that was not by choice, but because my FP random group decided to try to 3-man it (with me summoning Elara Dorne) and I healed while in a DPS commando spec to supplement Elara. We'd lost our healer who dropped right after the first boss, and while we waited for another healer, we just kept on going.

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  3. I too have special feelings towards this particular Flashpoint. Malgus is my favorite villain from SWTOR (with Kephess coming close 2nd) and I enjoyed his appearances in the trailers as well as in the cutscenes during the early story development in the game. In the end of the Flashpoint I was extremely disappointed to see him defeated by a group of 4 lvl ~47-48 nubs.
    Bioware should have left the original ending of the final boss fight...

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    1. Yeah, even though the original version was a very epic fight, killing him off so soon was definitely a waste of a great character.

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  4. I would have followed you to the ends of the Galaxy, my brother... My Captain... My Emperor.

    If you'd put a bleedin' option on the dialogue wheel, you bloody pillock.

    I loved Malgus, and I think this is still my favourite flashpoint. It is the most Star Warsy thing in SWTOR, which sometimes can lack that Star Wars feel. Don't do it much these days, though, because along with The Foundry, I've grown a little weary of it through grinding to get the "Meatbag" achievement.

    Had a nice reunion the other day, though, playing Hard Mode with some guildies. Jindo Krey came as a bit of a shock. I was used to facerolling it, and it seems to have got hard again. He nearly killed us. I was the only one left alive and only had a sliver of health left when he went down. Something had bugged out with the big gun, though. It wouldn't let me click on it after a while. Oh well, it was all good fun.

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    1. I get why they couldn't really give people the option to join Malgus, but then they shouldn't have made him so damn likeable (for a Sith). :P

      Now I'm looking forward to actually running the various hardmode flashpoints again to see how they've changed in difficulty. I haven't done a lot of them since 4.0.

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