Bioware’s The Old Republic- Impressions at Midway

So a few weeks ago, giddy with a week’s early access and a week off of work to play, I wrote up my initial impressions of The Old Republic, the new MMO based on the Star Wars Universe from Bioware. I’ve had a chance to play up to level 32 now, and I realize I still haven’t seen the whole game but I have seen a lot more! I haven’t played another game since I logged into TOR, and many of my guild mates are approaching 50, so I’ve seen a lot more. Here’s some of what I’ve seen:

I finally got my space ship. I didn’t get to pick, the game will assign you a ship based on your class. Inside the ship are a conference room, bedroom, storage area and bridge. It’s also where your companions hang out when they aren’t standing by your side, questing away. In addition to the aforementioned, the ship is how you get around from planet to planet, using the galaxy map. It’s sort of an unsatisfying experience- you enter your ship from its hangar on whatever planet you’re on and see a cutscene of your vessel leaving the atmosphere, then you are on your ship. You pick a location from the galaxy map, pay the fuel cost and hit the button- at which point the ship turns slightly to the proper angle, kicks into hyperspace for a few moments, slows, and drops you in orbit at the new location. You then exit your ship to another cutscene. I must say that this process makes changing planets pretty laborious as the cutscenes are the same every time- but you can skip them with the spacebar, just like the dialogue in quests.

Your ship is also the means by which you participate in “space combat”- which to me, is fun, but to others, has been called massively unsatisfying as there is no multiplayer or true space combat- you are taken through an on-rails sequence whereby the game flies the ship for you with minor corrections so you don’t smash into asteroids while you shoot blaster bolts and missiles at enemies, through geometry that allows the bolts to clip straight through, so there’s virtually no challenge. As long as you’ve ground out enough credits to buy the space ship upgrades appropriate to the current mission, it’s pretty easy. All of that said, I like the space combat and think it’s the most appealing portion of the game graphically, but I can definitely see how the on-rails and lack-of-multiplayer nature of what is essentially a minigame at this point would put people off. My bet’s on “full-fledged space combat is coming in an expansion, but they didn’t dare launch without it and so we got this”.

I finally got my speeder! It’s expensive, at 40k credits to train when you hit level 25. I have to say that I’m very glad to have purchased the collector’s edition, as the STAP that comes with it is pretty cool looking, and I’ve heard the other starter speeders described as looking like everything from a pimped-out wheelchair to a sorry Segway substitute. Getting on the speeder increases speed by 90%, a blessing for planets like Tatooine, where more than half of your play time will be taken up traversing the dunes between mission locations. There are also higher level speeders that grant up to a 110% movement speed bonus (for a million plus credits) as well as special speeders for being an Evil Bastard or a Goody Two Shoes. Being an Inquisitor, it’s nice because I can pop static field before I get on my speeder and it’s much harder to get knocked off for about 30 seconds. Additionally, mounting and dismounting your speeder restores all of your companions’ health. So far, the STAP is the only reason I’m not kicking myself for buying the worthless Digital Deluxe edition.

Speaking of companions, I’ve got three of them now! I didn’t realize this when I wrote my first post, but the way you craft in TOR is to send your companions on missions for you. Collect stuff in the field and then when you click on the companion interface, you can send them on missions to craft, or, depending on profession, come back with supplies or even increase your Light Side/Dark Side rating. I took Biochemistry, Bioanalysis and Diplomacy as my skills, and I still haven’t fully committed to crafting as it seems like a huge money sink, but I like the idea that I can craft WHILE I play, instead of having it be a zero sum game of spending time on either/or. Can’t wait to buy some better recipes and start playing the GTN (Galactic Trade Network- TOR’s version of an auction house)!

I finally got my last name for finishing Act I and I have to say I am very much enjoying playing a murderous puppy-kicking Sith. It makes the conversation choices a little boring, as I usually just always pick whatever is the most evil, but it’s also a departure for me- in games I almost always play a paragon of virtue, or I just go with what I personally would do in a given game situation, were it real. However, I’m trying with all my might to reach Dark V as I really like the gear that requires it, and I think the way my toon looks as her face cracks and eyes turn red is awesome. I always play the good guys but I’m having a ton of fun roleplaying a bad guy- and the story resolution to act I was supremely satisfying, at least as a Sith Inqusitor. Let’s just say…some people get what they have coming to them :)

A word of warning- I stayed on Balmorra, my third planet, way, WAY too long and essentially outlevelled most of Nar Shadda, Alderaan and Tatooine. I am sort of a completionist, wanting to do every  mission on every planet, but that did me no good- I haven’t changed headgear in at least 10 levels, for example. That led to me doing only class quests on Nar Shadda, Alderaan and Tatooine, but I’m heartened by the folks telling me that when I level alts, some of them will start on those planets. What a great way to see everything!

I’ll be back in a few weeks with high level and PVP impressions. Thanks for reading! I’m Eitodda Nurr in game, by the way, playing on Nadd’s Sarcophagus if you want to hit me up.

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