Star Wars: The Old Republic- Endgame Impressions

So here’s my thoughts on The Old Republic’s endgame, now that I’ve been playing it for a few weeks. I hit max level on my first (and if history is any guide) only toon on February 11th, about 2 months after I’d started playing and with an ingame time of a little under 7 calendar days. I leveled my toon as a pure evil darkside sith Inquisitor, and my character is a Twi’lek (not that race makes a ton of difference). I mainly stayed away from PvP and I didn’t allow my guild to twink me through everything, I leveled pretty much solely through questing and grabbing a pug when a Flashpoint looked interesting. So what are you supposed to do at level 50, anyway? The short answer is, grind through the gear progression, pretty much like every other MMO. Specifically, you can:

Unlock and run dailies on Belsavis and Ilum

If you’re a player without a guild, this is the fastest way to start picking up some daily commendations, which you can turn in at the rate of 120 per piece of gear and 8 per equipment component (for upgrading weapons), to earn the first tier of PvE gear. Dailies are short missions (5-10 minutes each) that can be repeated once every 24 hours. Between Belsavis and Ilum, once you have unlocked the hubs and depending on how long it takes to find a group of 2-4 to complete some of the Heroic Dailies, as well as factoring in that at least one of them is still broken, you can earn enough Daily Commendations in about 5 days to buy a piece of T1 PvE gear. Multiply that times 9 slots and you could spend a month and a half getting yourself your first set of first tier of PvE gear. However, if you’ve made even a modest attempt to keep yourself geared, as long as you have good gear with level 50 or 51 implants you can start tackling the easier Hard Mode (haha) Flashpoints  such as Black Talon, which drop T2 PvE gear- you can essentially skip the first tier of PvE gear, if you want.  I also neglected to mention that you can make 7k credits or more per daily, meaning you can easily bank 200k a day just by doing dailies. Personally, I think the dailies get boring, I only get about 90 minutes on weeknights to play and dailies are what I usually do if I can’t find anything with my Guild or PvP. Besides, I am starting to get better gear than the dailies provide so even though it would be nice to have a full set…I don’t need it. It’s purely for the completionist in me or out of boredom that I do dailies any more- frankly, Skyrim is a better use of my scant gaming time, though I do enjoy doing the dailies as they are easy and a good way to meet new people.

Work on obtaining 3 tiers of gear for PvP- Centurion, Champion, and Battlemaster

Get in there and grind, soldier! There are dailies for PvP as well as weeklies, and with a certain number of wins (3) in a day (also 9 in a week), you get a gear bag, which will either contain a piece of champion gear or some Champion commendations and some Centurion commendations, which you can trade in for PvP gear on the Fleet. There are also dailies and weeklies for kills (30 and 130 each award a gear bag). Once you hit 60 Valor (PvP XP, essentially), you can instead choose to receive Battlemaster gear bags, which contain Battlemaster PvP gear. Gotta be level 60 to use those, though. I’ve not played a lot of PvP and so I can’t comment much- though I hear Sorcerors are overpowered and PvP is a mess of stunlocks, so my class will likely get nerfed- but I will say that the gear progression on PvP is super, SUPER RNG-based. If you get lucky you can pimp yourself out in a nice set of Champion gear fairly fast, if you’re unlucky you might open 10 bags in a row and not get a single piece. I don’t have a lot of motivation to play PvP for gear, frankly.

Work on obtaining 3 tiers of gear for PvE- Tionese, Columi and Rakata, Run Hard Mode flashpoints for gear, Run Operations for gear

Once you ding 50, you can start running Hard Mode flash points. The bosses of these drop tokens which are class specific- but not advanced class specific, so you still have a choice how to “spend” that drop- that you can turn into the vendors on fleet for Columi gear. Some of them drop pieces of Tionese gear as well. There are lists on the web of what order to start with, but you should definitely be able to do at least Black Talon as a fresh 50. After you are fairly well geared it’s time to start doing operations, which drop Columi gear and Rakata tokens, and then finally the end of end game is Hard/Nightmare mode Operations, which drop Rakata gear, the highest in the game (unless you count rare, crit-crafted gear that has an extra augment slot). There are currently 7 Flashpoints and 2 operations in the game, with one more of each coming in patch 1.2 (also a new PvP Warzone!)

Collect matrix cube shards to build your artifact and hunt holocrons to increase your stats

For the Pokemon “gotta catch em all” crowd, there are, scattered about the game, matrix cube shards that can be assembled into a powerful artifact, and holocrons that contain + stats to attributes. The most impressive of these is the nearly impossible to obtain (without Ventrilo and the Internet) +10 to all attributes Holocron, which resides on the central meeting place for the two factions. This is most fun with a bunch of buddies and some beers on Ventrilo, and is a great way to see a lot of scenic vistas, and it’s also a great way to satisfy compulsive min/maxers on the Inspect screen. BIG PROPS to my Guild, WTS Deathsticks, PST, on Nadd’s Sarcophagus; I think all officers and many other 50’s have obtained the +10 to All ‘cron through teamwork and copious yelling on Vent.

Reverse Engineer all your crafting recipes/Play the Galactic Trade Network

This should be pretty obvious- and it gets expensive. Gotta spend that 200k a day you make running dailies every day on something, right?

 

So what do I personally think of the endgame of TOR? Compared to the other MMO’s I’ve played (Guild Wars, EVE Online, TOR), there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do outside of gear progression and PvP. Bioware really, really, really really wants you to roll alts, lots of alts, see all 8 stories alts. I was home sick from work with a 103 degree fever and so I actually got to see the Guild Summit from Austin and every answer was  IT’S COMING IN 1.2 or WE’D LOVE TO DO THAT IN THE FUTURE. Frankly, 1.2 needs to add a ton to the game- I personally am waiting to see what the “Events Team” has been working on (supposedly, Bioware-run, gamewide events that affect everyone, think of the Rifts in Rift) to hang on to a lot of subscriptions, with Guild Wars 2 supposedly breaking a lot of paradigms and entering public beta. I really like Star Wars but here’s what  my daily play time (outside of Wednesday night Guild Nights, where we do have a ton of fun) looks like:

Log in.

Go to Fleet and pick up my dailies and/or weeklies if I need them.

Shop for materials and set up some crafting.

Ping general to see if anyone needs a Healer for a HM Flashpoint. Get bored spamming after 5 minutes, leave and go to Belsavis. Alternatively, shut down TOR and go play Skyrim.

Run Belsavis dailies, if it’s a cool group, continue to Ilum dailies. If I’m bored, switch to Skyrim.

Log off (it’s been 2 hours) OR:

Head to the Ilum PvP area and see if there are any Reps there to fight for my Ilum dailies- oh, wait, Ilum is so broken that they are scrapping it with more details coming later THIS YEAR. So there’s even LESS Ilum PvP than there used to be :(

Queue for Warzones. If it’s anything else but peak time, expect to wait 10-15 minutes with a 90% possibility of getting Huttball. Again. Get bored, log out, play Skyrim.


See what I mean? It gets old after a while. And once those 2 operations go down on Nightmare mode…I worry what will be left. Still and all though, I’m having a lot of fun and don’t feel like the $110 I’ve invested so far has been wasted. Will I re-up my sub? Depends on whether or not 1.2 comes out when they say it will, some time in April. Until then at least, I’m on Nadd’s Sarcophagus and I’m always looking to run a hard mode FP with ya!

 

 

 

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.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Initial Impressions

So, I have been following The Old Republic, the new massively multiplayer online game from BioWare set in the Star Wars Universe, over the course of an 8 year development cycle. If that seems like a long time for a video game to be in development- it is. It’s BioWare’s first MMO and the second set in the Star Wars universe- the first was the sometimes contentious and soon-to-be-sunset Star Wars Galaxies, which I never got into, and my gaming friends tell me that’s for the best. What really interests me about this one is that BioWare is well known for creating 1-player RPGs that are usually considered the cream of the crop- some of their titles include Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. That’s quite a pedigree- but this is their first shot at an MMO. A fully-voice acted, story-focused MMO where the individual player’s story is supposed to be the main focus. Sounds ambitious, no?

I signed up on the forums for the game way back in 2009, and plunked down my $5 to pre-order the first day you could do so, back in July of this year. I didn’t have a functioning credit card at the time, so I called on my good friend Anwar Rodriguez- literally called him from the car on the way in to work- to reserve the game for me, which he did with his typical good humor and generosity. This means that I had entered my pre-order code into the website before 8 AM that day. I figured I would get an early beta weekend invite and I did, back in September- but I gave it to a guildmate and sometimes guest columnist on this blog, Brian DeWolf, as I figured he’d enjoy it more than I would. Also, I had just played the Deus Ex leak 3 times and as I started the actual game, was feeling quite bored with the first 10 hours. I didn’t want that to happen with TOR, so I have kept myself relatively virgin, even unsubscribing from the various forum threads I was watching back in early August. See, I don’t like hype- I like games, but I hate the hype- it’s why I doubt I’ll never attend Comic Con again, that is just a week of wall-to-wall “charging everyone up to buy stuff they had already planned to buy anyway”. I was resigned to (hopefully) start playing on 12/15, and thought that was pretty good- still 5 days early! However, I got my email at 4:23 AM yesterday and was able to put in about 2 hours last night (after my wife insisted we watch the Boardwalk Empire season finale because she was sick of people almost spoiling it). I don’t have the game in front of me, but from memory, here are my initial impressions.

The cinematics are absolutely fantastic. The game opening cinematic and my character’s class cinematic were basically so well-animated that I’m legitimately questioning whether or not we need actors any more. The cinematics were nearly Blizzard-quality, and if you play Diablo or Starcraft, you know that’s saying something. There’s not a ton of backstory given when you start the game as to the overall plot or your character’s individual arc, but I expect that to be fleshed out.

BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU SELECT A SERVER! I spent two hours playing a character on the wrong server last night because I mis-clicked the server my Guild was assigned at launch by a few pixels. There are both PvE and PvP servers available; my guild is on a PvP server and originally, this made me nervous- but from what I understand and can glean from the perma-testers I’ve run across, you really do kind of have to be looking for trouble to get in a scrap with another player, as the zones for the two factions (Empire and Republic) are kept pretty far apart. Why am I uncomfortable with the idea of open-world PvP? Well, I am a Grown-Ass Man with a full time job, some side stuff, and a wife and a daughter to give some time to, as well. I can’t have what’s maybe the 45 minutes a day I might get to game interrupted by some asshat whose idea of fun is destroying my fun. And trust me, if you read the thread at Something Awful about the game, the mix of young fans and people in their late 30’s could lead to some potentially grieftastic situations. I just want to have fun, not live an alternate life online or get ganked!

I’m going to be frank about the next item I experienced- character customization. How can I say this nicely? It sucks. There are 4 races available in Male and Female varieties per faction, with 4 body types. On my female Twi’lek Inquisitor, it seemed to be a choice between “waif” and “beast”, with little differentiation between the last 3 options. I also found the “head” customization option a little weird, maybe because I was a Twi’lek- but my face didn’t start looking different as I clicked through the available “heads” until I put makeup on my character. There are a total of 7 or 8 things you can customize, but there are weird things I don’t like such as “if you change styles of makeup, you can’t change the color- certain colors of blush and mascara and whatever other face stuff are tied to certain makeup patterns. There are only 8 eye colors, only 8 skin patterns, etc, etc- I think maybe I was spoiled by using Skyrim’s character creator so recently- that’s a pretty tough bar to leap over.  Anyway, I think it’s going to be very difficult to tell characters apart at low levels, until players start gearing up and differentiating themselves that way.

Star Wars: The Old Republic basically lets you know from the get-go that it is fairly standard as far as MMO’s go; you will literally get a fetch quest from your first contact less than 3 minutes into the game’s opening dialogue (at least as an Inquisitor, I did). I expected that though- but if you were hoping that BioWare had reinvented the wheel, I’m afraid you are out of luck. What’s cool though, is the combat. I was expecting the standard “whack away with your lightsaber and see numbers pop if you get hits” but was pleasantly surprised early on. I ran too far into a zone past an enemy and as I realized it I backed up. The enemy still swung at me, but my character actually parried with a situationally appropriate move- the game mechanics actually translated to the visual representation of combat, which doesn’t happen in games much, much less MMO’s. I was quite impressed!

Graphics are honestly nothing special, but I expect that from an MMO anyway. I have a fairly beefy i7 850 with 8 gigs of RAM and a (shitty) GPU that still allows me to run Skyrim on Ultra and get 40 FPS. I don’t think I was getting 40 FPS in TOR, but it was certainly enough to be serviceable. As always, the sound design in all Star Wars properties is amazing, and TOR doesn’t disappoint in this area either! Ambient music, blaster fire- even the clicks in the menus to customize your character are Star Wars, through and through.

More to come- give me a week to play this thing first! Happy Holidays, everyone!