Flashpoints are the 4-player instances in SWTOR and although they slot into the story line inbetween planets, they also stand alone as bonus chapters within the story arc. They are optional and both the XP and gear upgrades available have equivalents in the world so that you won’t miss out on the rewards if you choose to skip them. However, flashpoints in Star Wars are some of the best crafted stories; they are events that play out like a short interactive film and I would highly recommend making the effort to find other players to experience them with.
The second Flash Point you’ll see in the game is Hammer Station – a flash point for both factions, but with different plot lines. The eponymous Hammer Station is a mobile battle station built by the Republic but mothballed and decommissioned as being too “indiscriminately destructive”. It was then ‘lost’ to the Advosze Hegemony who are using it to subdue their regional opponents by blasting them back to the bedrock.
If you are on the Republic side the mission is simple – destroy the station and find out how it was taken, if possible, to avoid it happening again. On the Empire side it is equally simple, capture the station and see if there is any way to turn the Republic’s carelessness in losing the station into a PR victory. This flashpoint is recommended for 4 players rather than the 2 in The Black Talon and has three bosses and a fair amount of trash mobs. It is fairly linear and continues easing newer players into flashpoints. Hammer Station introduces the troika of Tank, Healer and DPS that are so crucial in later gameplay.
Minimal flash. There were no bright lights or repetitive glare or flash in either instance.
The camera movement is identical to the rest of the game; player controlled by default but can be fixed in the preference settings.
Text size & HUD
The User Interface is the same inside flashpoints as it is outside them. Grouping with other players does add a party frame which can be converted to an operations frame in the preferences. I would recommend doing so as the operation frame is moveable and resizeable where the party frame is fixed. Note that in this flashpoint there are four, not two players in total so instead of seeing one party member you will see three and the standard party frame can fill up your screen very quickly if it is on the smaller side.
I did not notice any colour blind issues. All use of colour is supplemented by text, such as phase indicators that are either red, blue or green depending on your eligibility. The holo bridge towards the end of the flashpoint is blue for 15 seconds then goes to red when its fading for ten seconds and then disappears.
Subtitles & Closed captioning
Like the rest of the game, subtitles can be enabled through the preferences, but there are no closed captions. The subtitles are on the small side, but playing with multiple friends has the advantage that they can fill you in on the story if required. Even if you do miss the storyline totally the flashpoint still stands up well and is still very fun.
Reliance on auditory cues
There is little reliance on audio cues. For the most part, audio cues are accompanied by visual cues and as long as you can pick up on one of these, game play is easy, accessible and fun.
Reaction times required are a little more quick than they have been thus far, keeping in line with slowly ramping up the difficulty. In addition to the mechanic of having to trigger abilities in order – which the player should be somewhat used to by now – you will have to get used to having to move and fight at the same time. For example in the first boss fight (DN-314 Tunneler) a number of smaller enemies (adds) are called and the player will need to physically avoid them as they blow up if they can get close to you.
The level of precision will remain roughly the same as the equivalent areas before entering the flashpoint. It may be beneficial if you can speed up your casting and movement, but the precision required will not change.
Pause and save options
It is an MMO, so there is no pause or save options. Your game saves automatically as you go along and if you want to pause, find a safe spot to stand. If you wish to leave the flashpoint at any time you can and if you want to restart the flashpoint you can as well.
SWTOR, despite its incredible number of buttons, can be played with one hand. Hammer Station does not present any particular difficulties if playing with one hand, whether you are setup to use mouse only, keyboard only or a different USB device. The only possible exception is if you are using two USB devices and switching between them. As flashpoints move quickly because other players tend to move quickly, it can become tricky to loot fast enough if you are switching to the mouse to loot and then moving back to the keyboard/keypad for movement and combat.
Reading, language and vocabulary
The story is one of the key elements and told mostly via dialogue. Again, the advantage of playing with friends is that if you have any difficulty, they can help you out. I grabbed two paragraphs from opening dialogue and both scored around 80 again on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale (easily understood by an average 12-year-old student).
Memory, Focus, Organization & Planning
Flashpoints require very little organization because they follow a well-mapped linear path. However, they are played with others in a single setting and concentrating for 1-2 hours in this case, can be taxing. Hammer Station does present a particular problem as, unusually, it has only one phase point. If the whole groups dies (for example on the last boss) you will need to run through the entire flashpoint again to get back to the point you were at. The enemies do not respawn so you won’t have to fight your way through, but at best it will take several minutes – and that is assuming no-one gets lost.
Math and computations
There is very little reliance on math. You can keep an eye on statistics through fly text, but there is no need. Gear upgrades have to be compared with your current gear, but the comparisons are small numbers and accompanied by colour coding help; red for a downgrade and green for an upgrade.
Social Interaction (Other players)
Hammer Station is designed to be the first full size flashpoint that you run and introduces multiple elements that will be vital later in game – the most important of which is playing as a tank/healer/dps/dps group – inherently a social activity. That said, if you do your research beforehand there is very little need to interact with the others in your party if you prefer not to.
If you prefer soloing, you can still experience the content, but as you would have to solo it at a higher level, you would miss out on the XP and the gear.
Hammer Station is the first true flashpoint you complete in Star Wars: The Old Republic. It has a full-party with four players, no dialogue options and it introduces crowd control as well as profession exclusive aspects. Flashpoints are some of the best parts of Star Wars: The Old Republic and Hammer Station is an important one to run as it is the first full scale action you will see. It is well designed, reasonably scaled and give players the opportunity to become part of a team and experience a whole different style of gaming from the initial soloing and duoing.