At last week’s Fan Site Summit, we were lucky enough to get our hands on some of the game’s flashpoints. One of the new Flashpoints we spent time with is Hammer Station, associated with the quest named “Bring down the Hammer.” In this level 16-18 Flashpoint, players of both factions find themselves inside a fully operational battle station that could be a key to winning the coming war. For the story behind this Flashpoint, boss strategies and our impressions overall, follow the jump.
Caution: This article contains spoilers. If that offends you, do not continue.
The Hammer, as Satele Shan explains, is a Republic mobile battle station capable of destroying entire star systems. The station uses asteroids as weapons, flinging them toward targets at incredible speed. The project was scrapped by the Republic due to its “indiscriminately destructive” nature and ordered decommissioned. Since then, the station found itself under new ownership by the Advosze Hegemony. According to Satele, details on how it was captured are unknown. The important point is that Satele wants it destroyed.
The Empire, on the other hand, would like to capture Hammer Station for use in the coming war, and Imperial players will be given this task. The Empire sees it as a potential catalyst for victory and will not stop until they secure the station for their use. Inside, players of both factions will discover a crucial story development affecting their alignment points. What that development is, we will leave for players to discover themselves.
Hammer Station has three bosses and plenty of trash players will have to dispatch in between. There are options for groups with the proper Crew Skills to avoid a good portion of the trash by unlocking alternate paths and shortcuts, but in the end, players will still have to fight the bosses.
The first boss is a mining droid named DN-314 Tunneler. The fight is primarily a tank and spank with one exception. The boss will call small demolition drones throughout the fight that explode if the party does not take them down in time. The group must destroy the drones before they explode, otherwise they will take massive AoE damage. Players can avoid them altogether, but near the end of the fight, they begin to roam the boss’s area at a dramatic pace and volume, making this strategy hazardous – clearly not the most efficient way of surviving the battle.
Later in the flashpoint, players will happen upon a second boss encounter. This encounter comprises a group of three enemies. There is a trick to the encounter that players will likely not notice until they wipe; however, it is definitely a mechanic that MMORPG veterans will find familiar. The leader will periodically guard one of his two compatriots. During this time, a blue glow will appear over the one he chooses and they will take significantly less damage than they would otherwise. It is best for the group to constantly change their target to the enemy the main boss is not guarding. If performed correctly, all three should go down at roughly the same time.
There are some additional abilities these enemies employ that players need to acknowledge during the fight. Two of the individual enemies, Torch and Sawbones, have different respective mechanics. In the case of Sawbones, he uses a single target heal throughout the fight, which comes as no surprise considering the Smuggler advanced class he is named after. Torch on the other hand is a droid unable to move from his starting position yet capable of grappling players to him -- primarily the main tank/or whoever has agro on him -- and using a high damage flamethrower cone ability. It is best to run in the opposite direction as soon as he grapples the player, as he will use his flamethrower immediately following this grapple. It is also important for those party members not grappled to stay out of the range of his flamethrower attack. Torch’s flamethrower is the single most damaging ability during this fight, so players who can avoid it should do so, as the group will have a far easier time with the encounter overall. AoE abilities are rather useful here, as Sawbones and Torch are both unable to move from their starting points unless line of sighted. As for the main boss himself, he is mechanically simplistic – essentially a ‘tank and spank’ with rather low damage output.
The third and final boss is a much more difficult encounter than the first two. Named Battlelord Kreshawn (not to be confused with Kreayshawn), the boss has three main abilities to be wary of. The first of which is a cone AoE that players must avoid coming into contact with. The best place to tank this boss is directly behind his starting location, allowing the tank to eliminate the threat of cone damage reaching the party. For the tank, walking directly through him instead of around is the best way to go about positioning the boss, due to a knockback ability he also possesses. The player targeted by the cone should line of sight the boss in order to avoid a massive amount of damage. If the tank takes this attack directly, one of the DPS party members should offer some back up healing if possible. The boss also throws proximity grenades/mines that explode when approached. He tends to throw them near or directly under players, so quick action or constant movement is necessary. It is possible to die instantly if there are a lot of grenades/mines on the ground, as the subsequent explosions can throw players into the grenades/mines multiple times. Due to this, going into cover as a Smuggler or Imperial Agent is not advisable. Healers also have to contend with the constant movement this mechanic requires.
Luckily, most of the boss’s damage comes from the cone ability, which is avoidable, and he is unable to throw any new grenades/mines during the cast duration. The final thing players should note is that during the fight, the boss will call in reinforcements -- typically two sets of two approaching from the respective sides. It is important for the tank to pick up the adds as they approach and for the group to kill them as quickly as possible. As previously mentioned, the boss will periodically knock players back. This ability can end with effected players receiving the brunt of the super weapon’s power to the face, due to its close proximity to the encounter. If the group addresses these mechanics with caution, players can complete the fight with ease.
Hammer Station is a very familiar instance design wrapped in an interesting story. The bosses present a fair amount of challenge for a level 16 group and feature a wide variety of mechanics that carry over into the Flashpoints players will face later in their character’s progression. Hammer Station serves as the first real, non-transition Flashpoint, and effectively familiarizes players with mechanics crucial to the elder-game. It performs its job in that regard – serving as a player’s training wheels and offering quality entertainment as well.
The only complaint is the station’s size. This normally is not a problem in modern MMORPGs, as wiping usually entails running back in and talking to an NPC to quickly transport to the last encounter. In Hammer Station’s case, this does not occur. After wiping, players will have to load the Flashpoint launch environment, then phase in/load the Flashpoint itself, and finally walk/sprint to the last encounter. After timing this journey, we found that it took a little over four minutes to return to the final boss. This does not include the time spent waiting for players who will undoubtedly get lost along the way, as the next hallway in the Flashpoint looks identical to the last. One thing to remember is that we were unable to use the alternate paths available in Hammer Station to determine if they make an impact on the distance/time one has to travel. However, players should still be aware of it, as not all groups will have the appropriate Crew Skill and level to access them. This fact hampers an otherwise well-made introduction to serious boss mechanics and a generally fun Flashpoint.