Archive for January, 2012

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?


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.