Some planets have rings of ice and meteorites. Some, like Coruscant, have rings of satellites and space stations. Kuat has rings of starship manufacturing facilities, the largest starship manufacturing facilities in the galaxy. Sorry, Corellian Engineering Corporation; the Kuati Drive Yards beat you by several thousand miles.
In the early days of interstellar travel, before the Republic was officially formed and the Jedi had any real impact on the galaxy at large, the wealthy families of Kuat gathered their resources to create a manufacturing facility that could house personnel, and instead of having to ever launch a ship from the surface of the planet, this facility could create and launch the ships from space. These wealthy families were known as the Ten. Although the surface of the planet is habitable, it was really only used to support the Drive Yards. Wookieepedia quotes a Clone Wars a military analyst named Dasken Hobiv: "Unlike other worlds, holding Kuat's ground is largely meaningless. It's holding the shipyards that matters."
Before the Sith Empire's invasion, Kuat happily manufactured ships for the Republic and other privateers. If you played a Bounty Hunter, then you eventually own one of these privateer starships, the D5-Mantis Patrol Craft.
After its ultimate defeat on Corellia, the Sith Empire changes its focus from the CEC to the KDY. Led by Admiral Zasha Ranken and Sith Lord Krovos, the assault on KDY utilizes both ground troops and naval fighter squadrons. And when Update 2.6 launches, players will be able to participate in both.
If you have been playing Galactic Starfighter on the Imperial side, then you've heard Admiral Ranken's voice: "Keywords are 'swift' and 'absolute.'" During the Sacking of Coruscant, she was Grand Moff Kilran's right hand. She specifically enjoyed destroying civilian buildings and facilities. She's not a nice lady, and her military actions are direct and cruel. She calls the Kuati Drive Yards "the beating heart of the Republic Navy," and just like the sadist she is, she says it's "a heart we're about to pierce" -- a statement that tells me that she intends not to capture the facility for the Empire but rather to obliterate it.
As I mentioned previously, the surface of Kuat mostly served as a resource for the Drive Yards. This includes the mining facilities. We have seen similar mining stations on Makeb in the first expansion Rise of the Hutt Cartel. In fact, the scenery was so similar to Makeb that when I first saw the Starfighter map on Test Center, I thought it was Makeb just mistakenly labeled until I looked up to see the telltale rings of the Drive Yards in the sky.
From an Imperial perspective, the air strike on the mining facility is to cut off resources to the Republic-controlled Drive Yards. If the Empire cannot take the Drive Yards themselves, then cutting off the resources from the mining facility will greatly slow down manufacturing of Republic battlecruisers.
The ground assault is, of course, not exactly on the ground; it's in the Drive Yards themselves. Several strike teams intend to take and control different sections of the station, each with its own mission objectives based on where it lands in the facility.
When the assault team lands in the hangar, it will obviously have to hold that hangar. Republic assault teams will attempt to retake the hangar from multitude of directions. The hangar has three different levels, and Republic troopers will spill out from just about any direction, including possible champion-level enemies. The second and third levels will vary in objectives. When I did it this weekend, we had to free prisoners from Republic holding cells, and then on the top floor, we had to defeat the Jedi Commander of that sector. Those who ran the flashpoint before me mentioned that the objectives on each level will change randomly, thereby making the experience slightly different each time you run through it.
I think I've made it evident that I love the Kuati Drive Yard Starfighter map, but the flashpoint leaves my opinion mixed on my first impression.
Turbolift bug aside, sometimes it seems to be difficult to know when you're exactly done. And it might be a bit nitpicky, but I thought on the first level that we were supposed to clear the hangar of Republic soldiers, but we had completed mission before the area was empty. And sometimes when I would finally get up to the level I was supposed to get to, the objectives were nearly complete. And when it ended, there wasn't any clear indication that we were done. In fact, a couple of the guys I ran with were standing around at the end questioning, "Was that it?"
I think I will reserve final judgment until it gets closer to live, but for now I just don't think it's ready for public consumption. Thank goodness it's on Test Center, and BioWare still has several weeks to perfect it. Update 2.6 goes live on February 4th.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!