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    dkirschner's Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

    [May 31, 2013 10:37:01 PM]
    As promised, the second half of my Star Wars thoughts as I leveled up to 17, started a Sith Inquisitor, and saw more of the galaxy…

    A few big things happen at level 10. You can queue for the game’s PvP “warzones,” PvE “flashpoints,” and you leave the newbie planet and go to a hub world (Coruscant for my Jedi). I’ve learned that each planet in the galaxy is a “zone.” The story mission leads you from planet to planet, and there appears to be one planet for each level bracket. So planet A is levels 1-10, B is 10-15, C is 15-20, and so on. I wasn’t too excited about having only one option of where to go at any given moment, but more on that later. Let’s talk about the hub world Coruscant for now. I had thought that Coruscant would be like the hub cities I was familiar with in RPG games. They’re mostly just the city, with a lot of vendors and trainers and some quests. Hub worlds here are more than cities. They are full zones. I always like hubs in games because it’s a break from the monotony of questing to explore and just see what all you can do. But this one, all the vendors and things to do were crammed into one little corridor of the zone, the majority of which were skill trainers for your ‘crew skills’ (archaeology, treasure hunting, armorsmithing and so on). The scale of the city itself was awesome, as are the rest of the zones I visited. But there is NOTHING THERE. NPCs stand around together not doing anything and…that’s mostly it. It’s that issue where it appears populated and lived in, but after being there a while you realize you’re the only thing acting. So anyway, I found an auction house and listed some items (even sold a few!), tons of vendors selling stuff that no one except high level players would care about, and the like 20 crew skill trainers. Otherwise all the big open spaces and pretty architecture is just to run through, point A to B, point B to C, point C to A, back and forth back and forth, playing the typical MMOG quest courier.

    Not knowing what else to do, I did most of the quests in Coruscant, and near the end decided I was going to focus on my Jedi story missions only. Turns out that if you focus only on story missions and neglect other quests (I did do the ones that were directly on my way to story missions), you start lagging a bit in level. So by the time I quit at 17, on the next planet, I was fighting level 18-19 enemies, which was starting to be a little tougher. It turns out that the life of a Jedi is completing trivial tasks for an endless number of people who need your help. Through at least level 10, this was all fine, new and exciting being in the Star Wars universe, and the full voice acting was mesmerizing. It is still cool for sure, but there are serious drawbacks to the full voice acting. The game moves slowly. If you listen to the quests, then it’s taking you like 5 times longer than other MMOGs to receive and turn them in than if you just read/skimmed them. Since that is the quest difference between SW and other MMOGs, I want to experience it. But it does drag the game’s pace. Then especially when you realize that so many of the quests are dull errands to keep doing the same tasks for NPCs, it loses its luster.

    I switched to a Sith character at one point to see if maybe the Jedi was just getting a bit dull. With the Sith, I decided to be only a jerk, thinking that the Sith would react. Turns out it’s the same as the Jedi there, and it was not how I imagined it should be. In the conversation wheel, I’d select only the smart-ass things, talking back to Sith masters and all that, and they just get pissed for one line of dialogue, and then continue on asking your help for something. No, I am a Sith and you are a Sith NPC. We should all be power-mad and vicious to one another. You should not let a mere slave talk trash to you, master Sith NPC, sir. So being a Sith was amusing for a few levels, then it just was silly that I could be an ass to such people without consequence.

    Anyway, so at level 10 I immediately queued for a PvE flashpoint. This has the same issue, at first glance, as the planet level ranges. There was only one flashpoint I was eligible for at any given time, meaning if I wanted to do flashpoints, I would be doing the same one over and over until I leveled out of it. I ended up playing two, and they were very different. The first one, I would not have a problem playing over and over, and in fact I tried but the queue times for the random groups were up to 90 minutes. The second one was a completely straightforward MMOG dungeon. Back to the first one, the conversation wheel works in groups and it is brilliant. There are 4 people in a full group, and when you get in a conversation with an NPC, each player chooses a response from the conversation wheel and gets a die roll to determine whose choice is the one that impacts the progression of the flashpoint. In this first flashpoint, there were like 30 conversation decisions. Everyone gets their lines heard at some point, and it is really really cool to be like, oh hey, this happened because I chose it!

    Example: This first flashpoint takes place aboard a ship. As I recall, it was being invaded by some Imperial forces that we have to run around stopping. There was some espionage and some backstabbing within the Republic crew, and it was very twisty-turny regarding the story. The whole thing really was a new experience for me and I thought it was fantastic. So anyway, at one point we run out into the engineering room of the ship and there is part of our engineering crew who has gotten locked in an airlock when something or other went down. If I recall correctly, we could either keep them in there and try to rescue them later, or vent them into space. I remember laughing at the vent into space option and I selected it. Then I watched as my die roll won, and my character said, “We’re going to vent you into space,” and then the cut scene played of me hitting the airlock button and all the crew ejected to their deaths. I was like “Whoa.” Then I felt bad and got 100 dark side points. Point being, we could have saved them and something different would have happened later I think. At another point, some other NPC called us out for venting the engineering crew into space. You can also choose to rescue some story NPC or ditch her and leave her behind. We rescued her, but I wonder what happens if you ditch her since she is a main story NPC in the flashpoint. I read that some of these decisions change boss battles, where you go, who you fight, rewards you get and so on. Worth playing again if it’s interesting, right? Unfortunately though, and mind-bogglingly for me, that second flashpoint I played had like 2 conversations and was just so cookie cutter. I don’t know why it didn’t pull all the cool tricks that the first one did.

    At level 10, you can also begin doing PvP warzones. I queued for one of these instantly and thought I was going to be squashed because I was in a group with level 20-somethings. I was getting squashed a little bit just for being new, but I realized at some point later that the warzones normalize player level. Everyone’s health and stats become normal for a level 55 character! Equal playing field, yay. Although I think that equipment is not equal, that if you have better equipment on, you are stronger. Not sure on that, but seems like if it did normalize equipment too then there would be no point for PvP equipment, which does exist. There are 5 or so PvP maps, which are neat, standard PvP modes. I couldn’t select a specific map, so it randomly tossed me in a few over the course of my time. One was a ‘capture and hold the locations’ kind of thing, where the locations were turrets that shot down an enemy ship. If your team held more bigger turrets longer, you’d shoot the enemy ship down first and win. Another mode was the typical attacker/defender thing. Team 1 attacks and gets as far as they can, then when time runs out the teams switch and Team 2 attacks and tries to get farther than Team 1 did. Then there was one more I played but I honestly can’t remember what it was. PvP was fast and fun, especially when I was doing it at the end around level 17 and had learned more (PvP) skills and how to fight better. The last one I did I was actually barely second on the damage charts, which made me feel good.

    After level 10, the next big thing is just following your story mission around until you get your own spaceship. I was really anticipating this because I thought it might mean I could explore the galaxy on my own and go wherever I wanted. I didn’t know what all I’d be able to do, what story lines I could discover. It happened after completing the Jedi story on Coruscant, when I was level 15. My own ship with my own crew being the three companions I now had acquired. I stepped inside and…my expectations were immediately dashed a bit. You see, I was imagining Commander Shepherd’s Normandy in Mass Effect. This is not the Normandy. It’s a tiny ship with three crew members, none of whom talk to you unless it’s story-based, one storage locker, a holodeck that is also only for missions, another space battle mission-dispensing machine, and a map. Ok, I thought, still plenty of new things to do, right?!

    Let’s try space battles. Ok, I can accept space battle missions from the computer and then click on the galaxy map, find the space battle icons, and travel there. Ok, first space battle. O…Ok, I can’t control the ship. All I can do is shoot lasers or shoot from my stock of 20 missiles. Ok, so I’m on a rail and I just need to shoot anything that moves for 5 minutes. O…ok, this doesn’t seem exciting at all. Yeah, yep, ok I’m just playing a shooting gallery for 5 minutes. Ok, first mission success. Maybe the others will be different. [Tried two more missions.] WELL, all the space battles are apparently 5-minute long shooting galleries, the exact same thing. How freaking lame! And you get yet another type of currency as rewards, presumably to get better parts for your ship(s) to do more difficult shooting galleries. Let’s try something else…

    Oh, I know, I’ll explore the galaxy now that I have a ship! I’ll just look at the map here. Neat, there are a lot of planets, but most of them are too high a level. Hey let’s see if I can travel to Illum, a level 50 planet, or if the game stops me. Oh awesome, I can go! I can go anywhere!

    I explored Ilum for a few minutes, wandered outside through the safe Republic base camp, wondered at the snowy and jagged planet, was attacked by level 50 creatures who amazingly did not kill me before I ran back to safety, and left. I really liked being able to go to Ilum, and figured if I could go there I could go anywhere. I knew I was approaching the end of my play because the whole boring questing thing had gotten to me already, and I wanted to see what all the different planets looked like, because as I have said, the game is beautiful and the scale of some of these environments is massive. So I went to leave Ilum and fly somewhere else only to see “Not enough credits” on my screen. What? Then I saw how much I had paid to fly to Ilum. ALL MY MONEY save about 20 credits. DOH! I couldn’t believe that I’d had exactly enough money to get there and accidentally stranded myself! The only planet I could afford to fly to was back to my Jedi starting world. I could have gone back and sold some things out of my storage to make enough money to fly somewhere else, but then I would have had to just stay there and do the quests and missions because I had no money to leave. So the real lesson here is that you can technically go wherever you want, but at level 17 it costs you a lot of money to get to places that are for higher levels. So though you can go…you can’t go. Or you can go, but you can’t return…easily.

    And that is Star Wars: The Old Republic as far as I will go with it. Broke and nearly stranded in a level 50 zone. Sad Jedi.
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    [May 24, 2013 10:48:31 PM]
    Star Wars: The Old Republic is a safe game. It doesn’t break MMOG conventions except by virtue of having apparently the highest production cost of any game ever. The high production cost allows for some new things like FULLY VOICED SCENES with good-to-great actors for every single quest NPC and story part. This obviously opens up some cool things with storytelling. I’m at level 12, and I think I’ll write here, just to split it up, about my experience up to level 10 (mostly), which is rule-book end-of-tutorial phase for most MMOGs. After level 10, you can queue for PvP Warzones and PvE Flashpoints, and you travel off the moon you started on and go to a capital world. I’ll cover 10+ and PvP and PvE experiences later.

    I began the game like any other MMOG. Choose a faction – But wait! An epic 10-minute movie telling the story of the Republic?! Awesome. If I was on the fence about being the good guys or the bad guys (a dichotomy that will undoubtedly be challenged as the story progresses…?), I decided that because of the movie, I was definitely playing a dual-light-saber-wielding Jedi Knight. It was either that or an evil force-wielding Sith. Chose a cyborg character, then made him look like Justin Bieber and named him Cybieb. Cybieb entered the world as a hopeful Jedi-to-be on some Jedi homeworld. Over the next 10 levels, he became a Padawan and then a Jedi. Those first 10 levels were completely cookie-cutter MMOG.

    The UI was immediately familiar, and you can even choose to play in “classic” mode which sets it up exactly like WoW’s. The Jedi Knight class is a standard warrior in any other game. I have a leap to jump to an enemy from afar, various slash attacks, some to build my “Focus” and some to expend it, and AoE attack that stuns enemies. Very, very familiar, not one thing uncharacteristic of the warrior archetype, except I guess that every character in SW can heal themselves out of combat and can revive other players out of combat. Death is not a big deal (yet…?) Up until level 10, you have infinite medical droids that revive you on the spot. After level 10, you just spawn somewhere nearby and run back. I don’t think there’s any cost to death besides time and repair costs.

    Other players mill about doing the same quests I was doing. My first interaction was with a character being chased by a mob who she wasn’t attacking for some reason. It was killing her, so I stepped in to help. She said “Thanks, I hate the bug where you get attacked by invisible enemies and you can’t kill them because you can’t see them to target and so they just kill you.” ?!?! Well that sounds annoying! My second interaction with people was during a “Heroic 2+” quest, which is a quest that the game suggests you bring two players to complete. Enemies are of varied difficulty in addition to level, with different decoration on their character portraits. I’ve seen normal (no decoration), sort of hard (silver decoration), hard (gold), or world boss, which I know better than to approach. Anyway these Heroic 2+ quests seem to have silver and gold enemies. Some other character and I were in this area together and helped each other clear it out, although I later found out I could do it myself. Not true for the second Heroic 2+ quest I got where I almost died immediately every time I tried alone. Maybe they get harder after the tutorial area. I also joined a guild solely because there is a +5% XP bonus if you’re in a guild.

    Questing is made easier and more fun because of your companion, which is essentially like a class pet, but is also a proper story character. I have a little R2-D2 type droid who tanks for me. The companion system is very cool, and it is part of what makes SW feel like a single-player Bioware game a la Mass Effect or the old Knights of the Old Republic games. The companions have alignment points, how much they like or dislike you, and I suppose that affects…things. In conversations with NPCs, you can gain and lose favor with your companion, each of which has a personality, attitudes, things they like and dislike and so on. Later on, after level 10, you can learn some “crew skills” (aka crafting skills) and some of them let you send your companion off on missions. So I learned treasure hunting and routinely send my droid off to hunt items for me. It’s…neat I guess. I keep asking it to go find items that increase companion favor, and it will bring those back, or some gems or something or other.

    There are other alignment systems in the game. There is of course the light side/dark side thing, which I have no clue what that impacts besides your ability to equip some items (i.e., requires Dark Side 1000). Hopefully it impacts how your companions treat you or your story somehow. If you are nice and say pretty things, you get light side points. If you are a jerk, you get dark side points. Black and white.

    You can choose to be nice or a jerk because of the very cool storytelling and conversation system. SW got a lot of praise for having essentially 8 full-length stories, one for each class. So the Jedi Knight has a story, the Jedi Consular, etc etc. They all weave into the main narrative of the game, and I do wonder how different each one actually is. I’m sure generic Republic story is quite different from generic Sith story, but within factions, I’m not so sure. Anyway, conversations with NPCs are handled with the conversation wheel like in other Bioware RPGs. You get a choice of a few things to say, and what you say supposedly directs the conversation and has outcomes on the story, including gaining light/dark side points. I confirm that saying and doing different things does have outcomes. This is very cool in an MMOG and personalizes the experience a great deal. For example, at one point some Flesh Raiders (bad guys) were terrorizing a Twilek village. I was talking to their matriarch at first, but she was sick and dying, so ended up talking to her daughter. The matriarch died, and the daughter became the matriarch. I did urge her to do this, and I’m not sure if she would or wouldn’t have done it without me. Anyway, I kept choosing the [flirt] option because, as it is in RPGs, I am most amused that I can meet a character and flirt my way into their pants in a matter of minutes. I consoled her about her mother. I told her I had feelings for her. I promised to save her village. She felt the same and in a fade-to-black screen, I’m pretty sure we had sex. Then she ratted out my Master and traded him to the Flesh Raiders because they threatened her. I know the relationship was my doing, but I think she betrays the Jedis anyway. But she felt bad about betraying the Jedis. Maybe she wouldn’t feel so bad about it if we weren’t romantically involved. She begged me to forgive her. I could either forgive her or kill her (sure dark side points). I forgave her and told her to remain matriarch. But the whole thing was so interesting because she seemed to be acting based on emotions that she felt for my character, and I can’t help but wonder how the story goes if I never flirted with her. Then at the end of the tutorial, when you become a Jedi, this roundtable of Jedis go over some of your deeds, and they will mention things you did during the tutorial! They even mentioned my relationship with the Twilek and told me to cut that shit out because Jedis aren’t supposed to love. Awesome.

    Other conversations, especially with more mundane NPCs are not so interesting. They spout a lot of lore and quest information. Although it’s well presented, these mundane quests are no different than WoW and other MMOGs where you go here and there, collect quests, go do them, and turn them in. Here though I felt I could safely be a jerk to NPCs and it didn’t affect outcomes. If you call them a dirty name, they’ll be offended for about one line of dialogue, and then return to normal telling you about their problem. Slander them again and they’re momentarily offended before asking you to help, and so on. This is a problem with the quests. Because the quests are voiced and the NPCs take more time to build them up and contextualize them, they should be more epic than they are. They feel too short and insignificant. The game feels so much like a single-player RPG, where getting quests from NPCs is usually a relatively major undertaking. In this game though, the quests themselves have the same buildup as a major undertaking, but it still takes 2 minutes to ‘collect 5 tablets’ or ‘kill 10 raiders.’ Imagine playing Mass Effect and going on a mission that you complete in a few minutes. That’s the constant letdown that I’m being socialized to deal with. They’re individually anticlimactic. So far it hasn’t really happened, but I hope that in some quest hubs, moons or worlds or whatever they may be, the quests add up to more of a climax.

    Climax or not, the game consistently preps you for the supposed awesomeness to come if only you will keep playing. Every couple levels, these tutorial windows pop up talking about “You’re about to embark on an epic space adventure!” and “You will be able to join other players and fight for the Republic” and so on. So far, at level 12, I’ve seen about ˝ these promises. I still don’t feel like I’m having an epic space adventure, and one of these tutorial messages was talking about me owning my own spaceship to explore the galaxy in. I WANT MY OWN SPACESHIP! So far there is very little freedom for me to explore. This is an MMOG on rails. I keep thinking, “When I get my spaceship…” but I don’t know when that will be. I suspect it will be once I finish my story on Coruscant, because then maybe I’ll have to go out of the star system or something. You always have to do your story missions…I miss WoW where you just go wherever the hell you want. Sure, there’s less overarching narrative tying everything together, but the freedom to travel...sigh. Hopefully I get a ship soon.

    SW is also a free-to-play game with a subscription option and a cash shop, so it’s always (albeit subtly, thank god) reminding you that you’re not getting the full experience and that they welcome your cash. Before I started playing, I looked at the comparison chart between the F2P, Preferred Status, and Subscription. Subscription is the clear winner of course, but Preferred had a few things that seemed worth shelling out $4.99 for. I paid my $4.99, which is the minimum purchase of something in the store to be granted forever Preferred Status, for one main reason: sprint. Yes, free-to-play characters move 35% slower until level 15. [shudder]. So for $4.99 I could sprint from level 1, well worth it. I also got two crew skills instead of one, access to the bank, which you don’t get as F2P and which would suck since your inventory is so small. I can chat outside the tutorial area, which F2P can’t, so that’s good because I’m, you know, not in the tutorial area and want to talk with people occasionally. I can use the mail system, which is good because sometimes you get mail from completing quests. And I get more auction house slots, which is good because I would like to try and sell some things, use my bank, participate in the economy a little bit. There are PLENTY of restrictions still in place on me though that Subscribers have, like caps on about everything imaginable – slower XP gain, no rest XP, 5 warzones per week, no additional inventory space without shelling out cash, can only win 3 items from PvE flashpoints per week, can’t equip some items or receive some quest rewards, and a bunch of other little inconveniences. Then of course if you somehow played all the way to level 50 for free, you can’t join Operations (raids), so no endgame for you.

    Anyway, after the tutorial is over, around level 10, you finally get to go off-world. Next entry for this.
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    dkirschner's Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored

    GameLog started on: Sunday 19 May, 2013

    GameLog closed on: Friday 31 May, 2013

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Very similar to other MMOs so far, nothing really different. AAA production though. --------- Yep, basically the same synopsis at the end.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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