You are questing on *insert name of planet here*and ahead you see a lone elite npc blocking your path.  You charge into battle and discover there were another three npcs, two of them elites, around the corner.   Do you:

a) Cackle with glee and rain death and destruction down on all and sundry?
b) Blow all your cooldowns and hope for the best?
c) Vanish and get the hell out of there?
d) Resign yourself to another long wait for the resurrection cooldown?

If you answered:

a) Congratulations, you are playing a Trooper or Bounty Hunter.
b) You are playing almost anything else.
c) Stealth classes rule.
d) Sentinel and Marauder really suck, don’t they?

First of all, let me just go on record as saying that playing a Sentinel isn’t hard.  Levelling up anything is pretty simple as long as you avoid all the heroic quests; but Gallandro, my Sentinel, hit 50 last night and having already levelled Commando, Sage, Scoundrel and Guardian to 50 (and Vanguard to 41) I’ve definitely had a harder time on the Sentinel than anything else.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll prove it with science!

Stuff other classes have that Sentinels don’t:
1.  Heavy Armour.
2.  Stealth.
3.  Self healing.
4.  Crowd control.
5.  Healing companion.
6.  Combat resets.

Stuff Sentinels have that other classes don’t:
1.  Er… dual-wielding?  Oh right, Gunslingers and Mercenaries.  Ok, you got me.

Playing a Guardian is almost as bad, in fact until you get Doc on Balmorra it’s pretty terrible too.   Once you get him, however, it’s plain sailing, since he can easily handle the steady damage you take because you’re wearing the Bismark strapped to your chest.  Sentinels on the other hand, struggle even with Doc around, because medium armour sucks donkey balls and Sentinels take a ferocious beating.  Every other class can either avoid trouble, reduce the number of active opponents, dictate the range at which combat begins, knock out entire groups in one shot, outheal the incoming damage or weather it, or a combination of all the above.  Some can do almost all of the above combined, yes Troopers/Bounty Hunters, I’m looking at you.  A Sentinel has to kill everything.  One at a time.  In melee range where everything can hit him.  And everything does.

Something else I noticed too.  Gallandro has the luxury of having a rich family who have level 400 everything at their disposal.  So his gear was always the best (or as close to it) as it could be.  Despite this, I couldn’t help but notice that Doc, in his starter greens with no helmet, implants or earpiece, had almost 1000 more health than Gallandro in his best in slot levelling gear.  It wasn’t until around level 46ish that I had more health than a healing companion in castoff greens.  And I was the one taking the beatings.  Seriously Bioware, what the fuck?

Actually, looking at the 1.2 patch notes it seems like someone agrees with me.  The following changes are the ones that directly affect your ability to kill stuff faster, take more damage or handle large groups of enemies.  Things that, for example, Troopers get just by a) being Troopers and b) using Mortar Volley.

General

  • Awe no longer costs Focus to activate.
  • Dispatch can now be used on targets at or below 30% of maximum health (up from 20%).
  • Force Kick no longer costs Focus to activate.
  • Master Strike can no longer be interrupted.

Sentinel

  • Force Camouflage now additionally reduces all damage taken by 50% while active.
  • Pacify no longer has a Focus cost and is no longer limited by the global cooldown.
  • Zen (while in Ataru Form) now additionally reduces the Focus cost and global cooldown of Cyclone Slash.

Watchman

  • Focused Pursuit has been replaced by Focused Leap, which increases the Focus generated by Force Leap.
  • Force Fade no longer grants damage reduction while Force Camouflage is active. It now increases the duration of Force Camouflage by 1 second per point and increases the movement speed bonus of Force Camouflage by 10% per point.

Combat

  • Ataru Form damage effects (procs) now deal weapon-based damage instead of Force-based damage. The overall damage of these effects has been increased by approximately 10%.
  • Ataru Form now correctly triggers when fighting very large targets.

In fact, you could scrap almost all of that, leave us the Dispatch, Cyclone Slash and Force Camouflage changes and I’d be pretty happy.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.  With lightsabres for candles. There’s another major buff to Sentinel/Marauder playability that isn’t obvious from just looking at the Class notes, however.  Before I get to it, I realise that about halfway up this blog entry, those of you for whom Doctor Sheldon Cooper is a role model had to resist the urge to leap straight to the comments and remind me that C2-N2, your ship droid, can heal.  Well sure he can, but since he comes with zero gear you first have to be prepared to spend a butt-ton of cash on the Trade Network to equip him properly with all that money you accumulated now you’re level 16 shut up you idiots, C2-N2 is not a valid healing companion.  If you have to go to great expense to make something work with tools that aren’t given to you out of the box when no other class in the game needs to, it’s not a solution, it’s a band aid.  But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?  Is that… yes I do believe it’s a ship crew droid, with gear equipped in all slots, fresh out of the box.  Why thank you patch 1.2, this looks like it might be a healing companion at level 16 or thereabouts.  Fuck you, Troopers!  (Yes, I know.  Bounty Hunters.  Mako.  Level 8.  Bah!)

See, these are the kind of patch notes I like to see.  Unlike certain other developers, Biowares’ response to something they perceive as an imbalance isn’t to automatically nerf the bejesus out of the Haves, rather they prefer to buff the Have Nots if at all possible.  Giving is always better than taking away, unless you’re on the pvp forums of course, but some things are eternal.  The sky is blue.  Water is wet.  People on pvp forums cry like the whiny little bitches they are.  C’est la vie.

P.S.  Nothing whatsoever to do with Star Wars, but I need to share this:

Yes, really.  Starfish Hitler.  God bless the Japanese!

We Seem To Be Made To Suffer

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Misc
Tags: ,

Before we go any further, let’s all just take a good long look at the following picture of the new tier 2 gear available in the upcoming 1.2 patch.  Sitting comfortably?  Here it is, Imperial side first.

Not entirely sure what’s going on with the Sith Inquisitor, their Tier 1.2 gear seems to be “a purple fart”, but it could just be a poorly timed special ability going off.  The other classes seem to be sporting the usual spiky/badass look you expect from the Empire.  The shoulders even seem to be relatively under control this time around.  Now for the Republic…

The whole “Get the shoulders under control!” theme seems to be extending to the Republic side too, the Consular in particular has gone from one extreme (My shoulderpads are a launch platform for moon missions) to the other (Dude, where’s my shoulders?).  Troopers look as badass as Troopers always do, Jedi Knights seem pretty HOLY FUCK WHAT’S THAT ON THE SMUGGLERS HEAD GET IT OFF BEFORE IT KILLS HER!!!!

Really, Bioware?  Seriously?  You couldn’t just go with a pair of pants, a low-slung holster and a vest?  That’s really all the Smugglers actually want, you know?  Instead we spent this entire raid cycle looking like this:

And we’re now condemned to spending the next god-only-knows-how-long looking like Beaker from The Muppet Show.

Meep!

The good news is I’ll at least be able to strip the mods out of that stuff and stick it in the gear I levelled up with.

That I got from Coruscant.

At level 15.


Sergeant Rock hit 50 a few days ago. You probably have to be a certain age to appreciate the name, but despite his actually being a Major now, I still proudly display the Sergeant title.  You can take this sort of thing to an extreme, of course.  As soon as I realised Smugglers could get “The Outlaw” title I gave serious consideration to rolling a Gunslinger, naming him Josey and taking the Legacy surname “Wales” as soon as Calli completed Act 1.  Luckily, sanity prevailed, but a few days after I chose my Legacy name I caught sight of someone else proudly sporting the name “The Outlaw Josey Wales” at Carrick Station.

Then there are the missed opportunities.  I saw one guy with the name “Pepper”.  Now you’d be thinking at this point that he was a Trooper with the title “Sergeant Pepper”.  Perhaps he even went the whole nine yards and formed a guild called “Lonely Hearts Club Band”?  That would have been too awesome, but of course this guy was Captain Pepper, a Smuggler.  Every time he walks past people look at him and think “If only…”

So yeah, Rock is now a level 50 Commando.  Levelling him up has been almost as much fun as levelling a Scoundrel, I have honestly enjoyed almost every minute of it.  Commandos are an awesome class and unlike Smugglers they don’t look like competitors from ComicCons Worst Costume Ever contest.

Ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a really crappy costume, kid.

 

There’s just one teeny weeny fly in the Trooper ointment.  They are totally awesome except for one minor detail.  The Trooper storyline really, really sucks balls.

To read more, follow the break, but be warned, here be spoilers!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Force Is Strong In This One.

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Guild, Raiding, Scoundrel
Tags:

So, I’ve been on trial in the new guild for a week now, and it’s, er…  well… going quite well as far as I can see.  I had to get out of Old Guild before I went nuts with boredom and pretty much just jumped at the first floating object I could see instead of doing the groundwork and making sure I was striking out for something seaworthy, but there’s only so far you can take the ship metaphor before you have to shut up and actually explain what you’re babbling about, so here we go:

New Guild was recommended by a friend who used to raid World of Warcraft during The Burning Crusade and convinced me to send in an application.  They were recruiting Scoundrels and that ruled out Calli (Consular Sage) and Aluriel (Jedi Guardian) so I filled out an application on Kessler.  He was a Scrapper spec Scoundrel, and for those of you who have no clue what that means, think of a Rogue who backstabs with a shotgun.  You also get to kick people in the happy sacks a lot, which is pretty much what sold the whole deal to me.  Seriously, you do.  It’s great!  Levelling as a Scrapper was silly amounts of fun.  Unfortunately it turned out that while they were advertising for “a Scoundrel” what they actually wanted was “a Sawbones spec Scoundrel”.  Yeah, a healer.  Despite that, they were sufficiently impressed by my application to offer me a trial anyway, so I bade a sad farewell to Old Guild as it steamed inevitably closer to the rocky shores of “No-one Left In The Guild Land” and boarded New Guild at the next port, proving that crappy metaphors are harder to get out of your head than you’d think.

Almost immediately, I was asked if I’d consider switching spec to healer.  It’s a fair question, but the answer’s not quite as straightforward as you might believe.  First of all, I was sick to death of hardcore raiding.  It’s the number one reason I left World of Warcraft.  New Guild appeared to be a hardcore raiding guild from the little (and that’s a seriously small amount) I could tell of the SWTOR raiding scene.  They’d killed the last boss in Eternity Vault on Nightmare mode, that sounded pretty serious.  On the other hand, if I did ease back into things it wouldn’t be the same “work, raid, eat, sleep” burnout pattern I’d suffered last time.  I’ve got a lot more free time now to do stuff other than raid or prep for raiding.  On the other hand, Kessler’s gear was really not ready to heal anything because he’d never done an instance, let alone a raid, since level 11 and was melee dps, and here he was being asked to step into serious raiding again and keep people alive while doing it.

So naturally I agreed to give it a try.

In case you’ve been keeping track, that’s three hands, by the way.

So of course I did the responsible thing and started a) learning how Scoundrels heal and b) trying to sort out some more healing-relevant gear.  Off I went to Ilum to do some of the dailies with Corso, but this time instead of him tanking while I happily kneed everything in the nuts, I let Corso do the killing while I just tried to keep him up, and this is a good point for me to digress into exactly what Scoundrel healing is like.  See, if you play a Consular Sage you’re pretty much playing a World of Warcraft Priest.  There are some cosmetic differences but you may as well be casting Power Word: Shield and Greater Heal for all the practical difference it makes.  This isn’t a bad thing, Sage struck me as being an incredibly well-balanced healing class.  Scoundrel on the other hand (four hands now, that’s a serious mutation!) is a bit like playing a Restoration Druid in World of Warcraft.  Except you’re stuck in Cat form and have to heal from your energy bar.  Think of yourself as a healing Rogue, because funnily enough that’s exactly what you are, and yes it’s every bit as fucked up to get to grips with as that sounds.

In theory, you have a bottomless pool of energy to draw from, so you can keep healing forever.  Energy recharges, right?  Well, right, but the lower your energy bar goes, the slower it recharges, so you’re fighting a battle not just with everyone else’s health bars but your own energy bar too.  After a while it even stopped being pants-wettingly scary and started to feel like being set free from conventional healing strictures.  You’ve got your instant cast Heal Over Time which stacks twice.  You’ve got your No-Cost But Completely Shit Filler Heal, and you’ve got your Big Heal But FUCK ME WHERE DID ALL MY ENERGY GO????  In addition there are two other heals which are only active when a certain buff procs on you, called Upper Hand, which stacks twice.  When you get the Upper Hand there are four things you can do with it.  Consume it to buff your energy regen, consume it to cast a quick heal that costs energy and heals a medium amount, consume it to cast an instant, free heal that heals a medium amount and gives you Upper Hand back if the target’s below 30%, or let it ride and enjoy a small buff to your healing while it’s up.

No it’s not a hard choice.  Especially since the energy regen buff lasts 45 seconds and only has a 35 second cooldown.  So you keep that buff up at all times and spam the instant FREE medium heal as often as it’s up, while laughing heartily at the crappy medium cast-time heal as it stares forlornly at you and all of your healing friends enjoying a good dinner from out on the cold street where it belongs.  And no I don’t want to buy your fucking matches, get a job!

“Right!” I thought.  “That’s me sorted.  Do a few flashpoints to get into the swing of things and I’ll be ready to ease into raiding again in a few days.”

If you’re laughing hard at this stage, congratulations, because I didn’t see it coming.  I log in the next day and within ten minutes I’m healing a Karraga’s Palace 8 player Operation.  On Hard Mode.  Wait, whose Palace?  Wasn’t I…  AAAAH EVERYONE’S HEALTH BARS ARE DROPPING!

In this guild, apparently being accepted for a trial means they try to murder you.  It was like I’d taken a wrong turn and wandered into a Steven Seagal movie.

Yeah, I made some stupid mistakes.  Yeah, I was totally being carried by the rest of the raid.  No, I didn’t have much of a clue about what was going on other than “make the green bars go up and don’t stand in Bad Shit.”  But…  it wasn’t hard.  It certainly wasn’t easy by any stretch of even Billy Liar’s fertile imagination, but it definitely wasn’t harder than anything I’d seen before.  I mean, Kael’thas in The Eye before the nerfs, shit that was hard.  This was merely…   challenging, and probably only that due to a complete lack of a clue.  About halfway through I felt something I’d not felt raiding since Karazahn and Ulduar in World of Warcraft.

Is that…  am I…  yes I do believe that’s fun.  It’s been a while, and it’s hard to be completely sure, but yeah, I seem to be having fun again.  Cool.

Wait, I got another one!

Okay, that’s all I got.

The thing is, raiding in SWTOR seems to be a lot like raiding used to be in World of Warcraft.  I’m talking about vanilla raiding here, by the way.  I’ll explain what I mean.  There is no UI customisation in SWTOR.  None.  Nada.  Zip.  You play with what you’re given, and for a healer that can be an incredible pain in the ass, because that includes mouseover macros.  You can’t heal directly onto the built-in raid frame.  Its just there so you can see health bars and select who you’re going to heal next.  Now back in the bad old days of Warcraft, there was a boss in Molten Core called Lucifron.  One of his abilities was to drop a curse on random raid members which would double all your ability costs.  Just by way of an example, since Rogues had 100 energy and Backstab cost 60, any Rogue with the curse was completely boned.  I’m sure you get the picture.  Anyway, since it was a curse, you needed Mages to get rid of it back then.  Without UI mods, this meant you needed one Mage in every group or they couldn’t even see who needed to be decursed.  There was no built-in raid frame back then.  It was directly because of stuff like this that mods like Decursive were written and everyone who wanted to keep their raid spot was ordered to go out and install something like CT Raid Frames.  So everyone got used to raiding with UI mods, so Blizzard wrote more complicated boss encounters, so everyone wrote more sophisticated UI mods, so Blizzard wrote more…  you get the idea.  Eventually you had bosses with umpteen phases and seven different abilities in each phase that needed an addon folder the size of Wikipedia and reflexes like a rattlesnake on crack to keep track of.

Bioware, on the other hand (five hands, what monster have we created?!)  are firmly against UI customisation.  I can sort of see why.  Frustrating though having to heal like an Amish may be, you definitely feel like you’re fighting the bosses, whereas in Warcraft I felt like I was fighting my UI.  It’s a subtle difference, but I feel it’s an important one, and I believe this is exactly why Bioware are drawing the line in the sand over this one.  They don’t want to allow UI mods because then they have to start making things more complicated not because it’s fun but because they have to keep ahead of the UI modders in the boss mechanic arms race.  Let’s give you a really basic example.

First boss in Karraga’s Palace is a Rancor called *coughsplutter*.  Or something.  He will occasionally randomly target one person and pound the snot out of them.  The complicating factor here is that he also does a vicious cleave, so you can’t be standing anywhere near the person with aggro.  And I mean anywhere near the person with aggro, that cleave is fucking HUGE.  Seriously, Overlord Saurfang wishes he could cleave like that.  So I immediately go into Warcraft Raiding Mode and park myself on the boss’s ass.  The theory being that if he turns to cleave someone, I can just run through him and be safe.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Yeah but you’re not playing Warcraft now, sonny Jim!  There is no target of target focus in SWTOR.  You cannot tell who the boss is fixating on until he already started hitting the poor bastard.  And if you’re all clumped up on his ass waiting to find out who won the lottery, you’re all going to get cleaved.  Sitting staring at your raid frames in WoW Healer Mode will get you killed, you need to be watching, and I know this is an alien concept to any healer in a WoW raid, you need to be watching the fight.  Yeah, you can react to health bars dropping and find out who’s in trouble that way, but isn’t it better to know who’s in trouble in advance?  You can only do that in an SWTOR raid by taking your eyes away from those fascinating green bars and looking at what’s going on around you.  The raid is not your UI, it’s in the environment around you.  And that’s not something I’ve seen in an MMO in years.   Oh, it’s also fun.

So no, I don’t anticipate Bioware doing anything drastic with the UI other than tidying it up and allowing you to resize or move it around a bit.  No, I don’t think they need to do much with it either.  Sure I’d like to be able to click cast heals directly onto the raid frames, but if the price to pay for fun raids and low stress is a basic UI and being forced to appreciate what’s going on around me instead of marvelling at the clever coding in the latest release of Essential Boss Raid Decursive Healing Frames v7.1 rev 04561171, fuck it, I’m Amish and proud.

Also, I almost never die from standing in Bad Shit because I was staring at damn health bars.

And yes, I know health bars are red.  Thank you Doctor Cooper.

When The Sith Hits The Fan

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Guild, Misc

Just to put the following into some sort of perspective for those of you didn’t come here from Pewpewlazerz, I played World of Warcraft for six years in a raiding guild.  We weren’t world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination but got a couple of server firsts and if there was heroic 25-man raid content out there, we were beating it on a regular basis.  Eventually, however, the magic wore off and I quit WoW a few months before the release of The Old Republic.  I was tired of being on the hamster wheel, grinding the same daily quests, smacking my head against the same raid bosses in different skins…  you know the drill.

I wasn’t alone.  A couple of guys from the guild felt the same way and had been playing less and less, and when I quit one of them contacted me with the news that he was setting up a SWTOR social guild and would I like to join?  And so that’s what I did.  The idea of story-based levelling appealed to me, and the idea of not being in a semi-hardcore raiding guild with people who felt the same way appealed even more.  We decided that we were in it for fun, would just run flashpoints and the occasional 8 player normal mode Operation once we reached the level cap.  Having considerably more free time than most, I hit 50 on Calli pretty quickly and settled down to level alts and explore the galaxy while I waited for the tanks and dps to catch up.

And waited.

And waited.

And then two tanks hit 50, having already gathered a few level 50 dps characters amongst us and so I waited for them to gear up and get ready for flashpoints.

And waited.

And waited.

It turned out that one tank hit 50, did one flashpoint, then logged off and started levelling alts, never to be seen again.  The other, whenever he was on, which wasn’t often, couldn’t be prised out of warzones for love nor money, despite all his grand promises of taking on pve content at 50 while I was running him through Maelstrom Prison and Taral V.  So I thought to myself “screw this” and started levelling my own tank.  Enter Aluriel stage left.  Jedi Guardian tank, never stepped foot inside a level 50 flashpoint yet and has 16.5k health.  I’m tanking Flashpoints for you now, who’s with me?

Guys?  Hello?

So yes.  Seriously pissed off right now.  Of course I could just PuG flashpoints, except I had some truly horrific experiences early on doing that.  Allow me to give you an example.  Let’s say there are five bad guys, three of them are elites, two are not.  Two of the people in your group have very good crowd control, so you use it before the pull and now there’s just one elite and two strong mobs.  Out of those three, which do you think the tank should initially grab aggro on before gathering up the rest?  Yes that’s right, obviously.  The elite.  Except this tank decided the way to do things was to jump on top of one of the non-elites, do just enough area damage to break ALL the crowd control but not enough to beat healing aggro and then tank just one of the non-elites, leaving yours truly to “tank” the other four mobs, three of which, I hasten to remind you, were elites.

It didn’t end well.

And in case you’re all thinking “well anyone can make a mistake once”, this retard did the exact same thing not just once but three times on the same group of bad guys before my sanity snapped.  So thanks to mouth-breathing window-lickers like this moron, I don’t PuG flashpoints.  All of which leaves me with precious little to do other than run Ilum dailies to gear up companions or level more alts.  So I levelled more alts.  And then that started to get seriously boring around about the time I got my fourth character to Hoth, because no amount of story-based levelling can distract you from the fact that you’re on a planet where it takes 15 minutes of driving to get to the next quest and another 15 minutes to drive back and hand it in, and I realised I just didn’t have the willpower to do it anymore.  I needed to be in a guild that actually did stuff.

So I’m now on trial in a small guild of nice folks who raid four times a week on Nightmare modes.  Funny how no matter how much things change, they just stay the same.


Today I want to talk a little about the companion characters in The Old Republic.  They’re probably the most unique aspect of the game (Okay Guild Wars might have done something vaguely similar, never played it though) and for some people one of the most compelling.  Bioware have a long tradition of creating memorable characters, it’s probably the one most consistent thing you can expect from any Bioware title, and The Old Republic is no exception.  Lately, however, I’ve been noticing some things about the differences between playing a male and female character and the relationships you have between your companions that are, frankly, a little disturbing.

If you play female characters, your relationships with your male companions are pretty straightforward.  Let’s start with the Smugglers.  A smuggler’s first companion is Corso Riggs.  Corso’s a country boy from Ord Mantell, he’s as dumb as a box of rocks, but full of honest charm and good-natured wit.  He’s loyal to his friends, old-fashioned about protecting the women-folk and honest as the day is long.  Adventuring with Corso is like wandering around with Jon Bon Jovi at your side.  Choose to start a romantic relationship with him and you get pretty much what you expect: he falls head over heels for you and soon enough is talking about the two of you settling down and running a ranch on Ord Mantell.  He’s a good, straightforward, decent guy.

Play as a male Smuggler and your obvious romantic option is Risha.  Risha’s unique among the female love interest in that she’s strong, capable, can manage just fine without you and makes you work hard at chasing her down.  She’s complex, has a mysterious past, has no time for bullshit of any kind and can be quite cold and ruthless if the situation demands it.  She is, in my opinion, easily the most well developed female companion.

Playing as a female Jedi Consular your first love interest is Tharan Cedrax.  Tharan’s a technical genius who also happens to be a vain, self-obsessed slimeball with a vastly over-inflated opinion of his ability to get into your knickers.  He has his own sidekick, a holographic AI named Holiday who’s personified as an empty headed, simpering bimbo who hangs on his every word.  Yes, this sleazebag actually created a woman to adore him, he’s THAT sad.  When/if you kick his advances into touch he even starts sniffing around Nadia Grell, your Padawan.  Nadia’s a child!  Nice one, Bioware.  You made the first female Consular love interest character a paedophile.

Your next choice is Lieutenant Felix Iresso.  He’s pretty much the Consular version of Corso.  Strong, loyal, reliable, but somehow lacking in character compared to everyone’s favourite smuggler sidekick.  There’s nothing wrong with Felix, he’s just not going to excite anyone much.

This pattern continues with the female Trooper (voiced by the amazing Jennifer Hale, the female Trooper IS Commander Shephard!).  Your only choice with whom to get it on is Aric Jorgan, a no-nonsense, by the book Republic Trooper.  He’s incredibly boring.  Thankfully if you play a female Jedi Knight you eventually meet up with one of my favourite companions on Balmorra – Doc.

Doc’s been trying to get into Aluriel’s (my Jedi Guardian) knickers since the very first second he clapped eyes on her.  This says nothing about Aluriel and everything about Doc, he tries to get into everyone’s knickers.  He’s not a bad guy, he’s a highly dedicated combat medic and cares strongly about saving lives, he just absolutely cannot keep his trousers zipped up.  One of his side quests involves saving a doctor for whom he once embezzled a fortune from a gangster cartel so she could set up a hospital for Alderaanian war wounded.  Years later the gangsters have figured out where their money went and they’ve kidnapped the doctor and are holding her to ransom.  Doc saves the day and you’d expect her to be grateful, but no.  It turns out that Doc skipped the planet after the hospital funds were secured and left her at the altar on their wedding day.  When confronted with the evidence of his perfidy his response?   “That was just pillow talk, baby!”

Yes, Doc is Lando Calrissian.  If you play a female character and plan on making Doc your squeeze, I recommend you make him work for it.

Now we get to the interesting stuff.  The romance options for male characters.  And when I say “interesting” I mean “disturbing, creepy and vaguely insulting”.  We’ve already looked at Risha, so that leaves us with the Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight and Trooper companions.  First a quick summary of each.  See if you can spot any patterns emerging.

A Jedi Consulars’ only female companion is Nadia Grell.  Nadia was raised on a planet where Force-Sensitives were very rare, as a result she was feared, shunned and ostracised by her peers.  Her father, Senator Grell, sheltered her by taking her with him on his diplomatic travels.  As a result she spent most of her childhood with no friends, surrounded by aliens and with no guidance on how to control her powerful Force abilities.  You take her on as your Padawan.  So to summarise, she’s a shy, introverted, lonely, insecure child with whom you have a teacher/student relationship.  And you get to do the nasty with her.

/facepalm.

Next up we have the Jedi Knight companion – Kira Carsen.  (SPOILER ALERT!!  Skip to the next character if you enjoy your surprises and haven’t played a Knight past Nar Shaddaa)  Kira’s a sarcastic, irreverent, wild Jedi Padawan.  She has a snappy answer for everything and little respect for authority, yours included.  Except it’s all a front.  She was brainwashed and inducted as a child into a mysterious cult of Imperial sleeper agents known as The Emperor’s Children, but broke free of their programming and escaped to live rough in the alleys of Nar Shaddaa, stealing for a living until she was found by Master Bela Kiwiiks and brought to the Jedi Order.

So to summarise, she’s a shy, introverted, lonely young woman who hides her insecurity and fears behind a brash front, with whom you have a teacher/student relationship.  And you get to do the nasty with her.

/sigh

Finally, we end up with the Trooper love interest.  Sergeant Elara Dorne.  Elara grew up on Dromund Kaas, the Imperial capital.  She defected to the Republic and joined the military, but due to her strong Imperial accent it’s obvious to everyone where she’s from.  She’s been the butt of cruel jokes since the day she signed up, no-one trusts her, she has no friends and to top it all off, she’s viewed as a traitor by her family and a potential traitor and security risk by her superiors.  As a result she throws herself into her work, being the best Trooper she can be in a vain effort to prove herself to people who don’t care, don’t like her and don’t trust her.   Then you come along, recognise her for the excellent and loyal soldier she is and offer her the chance of her dreams, to join Havoc Squad, the Republics’ top Special Forces unit.

I think I see a pattern emerging.  She appears to be a shy, introverted, lonely young woman with whom you have a superior/subordinate relationship.  And then you immediately abuse her gratitude by trying to get into her plasteel armoured panties the second she agrees to work for you.

Yes, Bioware, we get it.  All women want is a strong man to shelter them from all the cruelty in the world and then immediately take advantage of their vulnerability.  It’s almost as if Bioware think that everyone playing The Old Republic fantasises about being the kind of tough, strong and ruggedly handsome man that damsels in distress everywhere need to shelter them from all the ugly in the world.

You gotta hand it to them.  They really got that demographic nailed.


Hello, folks!  First, let’s get the obligatory boring introduction out of the way.  Welcome to my Star Wars: The Old Republic blog, the spiritual successor to my now-defunct World of Warcraft blog, Pew Pew Lazerz!  I started playing MMOs with Ultima Online, moved briefly onto EVE Online, played Star Wars Galaxies for years until Sony destroyed it, then spent over 6 years having a metric ass-ton of fun in World of Warcraft while dabbling in a little Warhammer Online before finally growing bored with Warcraft and moving here, to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I like SWTOR.  I like it a lot.  It does a lot of things very, very well indeed.  It’s impossible to avoid comparisons with World of Warcraft, it’s the biggest elephant in the room, after all; and while the two games are very similar there are enough differences for SWTOR to feel fresh enough for me to not feel like I’m playing a WOW clone.  We’re at the stage in SWTOR now where people are over the gee-whiz! stage and are starting to complain about stuff, and while there certainly is complaint-worthy stuff in SWTOR, it’s easy to take for granted the things that it does better than anything else out there, so it’s time for a recap.

1.  Every class gets the ability to resurrect (but healers can do it without a cooldown) out of combat.
2.  Every class has a unique group buff.
3.  Every class has an out of combat regeneration ability.  No sitting around for two minutes between fights because you ran out of food/water.
4.  Each class has a storyline that you follow throughout the game.  You progress as you follow the story around, not just because the next zone is where the next series of pickup quests are.
5.  Every quest has seriously, ridiculously good voice acting.
6.  Gear that you can customise from early on, and keep upgrading until endgame if you prefer the way it looks.  No need to wear your clownsuit while levelling.
7.  Companion characters that can dps, heal or tank for you.
8.  No requirement to grind crafting materials.  You can simply send your companions off to harvest things while you play the game (if you wish to).
9.  Reduced lag in busy areas by automatically opening new world instances while still keeping chat channels global so you can find groups for tough quests.
10.  Quest rewards are specific to the class you play, no Smuggler loot for Troopers.
11.  Instance drops are heavily weighted to whichever classes are in the instance.

And there’s more.  Admittedly, not all of the above is going to ring everyone’s’ bells and that’s fair enough.  The voice acting is seriously good (It’s impossible to think of the female Trooper as anything other than Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect) but some people may not care for it at all.  That’s fine, press space to skip dialogue if that’s what floats your boat, although I suspect most will listen to it all on their first play-through because it really is that good.   The voice acting is part of what I consider to be the best feature of the game, however, and it’s something that Bioware have always excelled at, and that’s the storytelling.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Each class has its own storyline which you follow throughout the game.  This gives it serious replay value if you care even remotely about story.  The Jedi Consular is on a quest to track down and eliminate the source of a mysterious Force Plague that’s afflicting Jedi Masters, and later in Act II of the game focusses on building a diplomatic alliance of independent worlds to fight the Empire.  The Smuggler hunts down clues to reclaiming the lost treasure of an infamous underworld crime boss.  The Trooper tracks down and captures or kills members of an elite Special Forces unit that defected to the Empire, and the Jedi Knight is on the trail of an Imperial superweapon project.  The quests on the Imperial side are totally different for their comparable classes, too.  You absolutely can ignore the storyline quests if you wish, but engaging with them gives a point to the levelling process beyond the usual “complete quests in zone A, move to zone B” that every other game lacks.

Everything plays differently depending on the choices you make, too.  Even within the same class.  As an example, I have two Smugglers.  Kessler is a Scoundrel, and a low-down dirty backstabbing son of a bitch, to boot.  Jocasta is a Gunslinger, and generally does what’s right, especially if there’s profit in it.  At one point of the storyline quest on Tatooine you’re in a Cantina where a bunch of gangsters are about to pick a fight with the wrong Jedi.  Jocasta stepped in and helped out in a show of female solidarity, Kessler stayed lounging against the bar cracking one-liners while the Jedi carved up the opposition alone.  The choices you make affect how your companions feel about you too, and this opens up (or shuts off) new companion quests that you wouldn’t get otherwise.  Jocasta gained brownie points with her companion Corso for stepping up to defend a lone woman in distress.  Meanwhile, Corso hates Kessler’s guts.

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This.
Nothing’s perfect, of course.  There are some glaring disparities between the classes that, in my opinion, definitely need looking at.  The rate at which you collect companion characters gives some classes a definite advantage over others, sometimes to an extent which has serious repercussions on gameplay.  The most obvious example would be Troopers and Jedi Knights.  As a Trooper you’re going to have four companions by the time you leave Nar Shaddaa (the third quest world after your starting planet).  Aric Jorgan, a  Trooper Commando, C2-N2 your ship’s steward droid, Sergeant Elara Dorne, a Trooper Combat Medic and M1-4X, a Trooper Battledroid tank.  The important one here is Sergeant Dorne.  With a pet Combat Medic following you around, not only is there absolutely zero downtime whatsoever but you can also handle fights that other classes without the benefit of a healer would have to think seriously hard about getting involved in.  Another factor is the fact that with the exception of your ship droid, every Trooper companion is also a Trooper.  This means when you get a gear upgrade you simply give your old gear to your companion. Finally, with three spare companions plus the one you quest with you can always have the maximum of three companions deployed on crewskill missions while you’re questing.

By contrast, Jedi Knights have a bit of a slog.  Your first companion is T7-01, an Astromech droid and a fantastic little tank.  The only problem with T7 is that droid upgrades are only made by people with the Cybertech crewskill, otherwise you’re having to choose between quest rewards for yourself or T7.  Also if you’re a Jedi Guardian you have little use for a tank.  Luckily you get Kira Carsen, a Jedi  Shadow padawan very early on at the end of your second world, Coruscant.  Kira is melee dps and she can do some pretty hefty damage, but again she uses different gear to you and needs decent gear to be effective.  Finally, in common with every other class, you get C2-N2 (who unlike every other companion comes with zero gear) once you gain your ship sometime during the Coruscant questline.  So by the time you complete the second quest world you have have three companions, two of them are droids and while C2 is technically a healer, he has zero gear whatsoever and is totally unsuited to combat unless you put some serious effort into finding gear for him, which you won’t be able to afford since you’re only around level 16 at this point.  C2′s good for running crewskill missions and that’s about it, so you have two effective companions and neither of them can heal you.  You’re either a Jedi Guardian (tank) or a Jedi Sentinel (melee dps) and you have no healer companion until you get Doc.  But you get Doc soon, right?

Wrong.

It goes like this.  Tython (starting world) – Coruscant – Taris – Nar Shaddaa (troopers have dps, tanking and healing companions who all share the same gear at this point) – Tatooine – Alderaan – Balmorra and NOW you get Doc, your Smuggler healer, and you’re going to be able to see level 40 from here.  Up until the end of Balmorra, levelling a Jedi Knight is a bit of a slog.  Once you get Doc it’s like playing a whole different game.  Of course, he’s a Smuggler so he uses completely different gear to you, naturally.  Another point to note is that you can deploy up to three companions once you’re at the level  where you start doing Tatooine but since you need one of them with you to quest effectively you’re gimped doing crewskill missions compared to Troopers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m making it sound like playing a Jedi Knight is hard work.  It’s really not.  It’s just that playing a Trooper Commando or Vanguard is completely effortless by comparison.  They’re both enjoyable, but until you get Doc playing a Jedi will require a little more thought than just charging in, guns blazing, which you absolutely can do all the time with a Trooper.

Also, Troopers look awesome.  Really.