Monday, October 27, 2014

Star Wars: A Return To The Old Republic - Day 1

I could tell you what this article will be about, although you probably know already given what the title is. However, I thought of a decent and completely unoriginal way to introduce this feature. So prepare yourself.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

(Insert Star Wars Opening Music Here)

Several years have passed since Paul departed
from The Old Republic, in search of greener pastures.

After seeing the news about the upcoming expansion,
and after rewatching several of the older Star Wars films with his family,
Paul decided it was time to return to The Old Republic and see what had changed.

So Paul took lightsaber in hand once again and jumped back in,
completely unaware of the shenanigan riddled misadventures that awaited him...

Forgive me, I couldn't possibly resist. That said, I decided it was time to go back to Star Wars: The Old Republic and provide my thoughts on how things have changed since the game was released back in December 2011. However, one mere article would not be enough to do this game any justice. As a result, this return to SWTOR article will be broken up into several parts. Tentatively, I'm thinking maybe six or seven.

In case you hadn't heard, there will be an expansion for SWTOR called Shadow of Revan. The level cap will be increased to 60, and will feature Revan as both the Empire and Republic seek to put a stop to whatever it is he is planning on doing. As expected, there will be some new flashpoints and operations (AKA dungeons and raids) for players to do as well. I haven't decided if RBFB will be providing coverage of the new expansion, but time will tell.
Without further ado, let's get started.

This is a landscape shot of Dromund Kaas I had taken back in 2011.

Day 1, Entry 1:
As many of you know, SWTOR went free to play awhile back. I remembered reading how limited the free to play version of the game was, even for former subscribers. So I decided to pick up a 60 day time card so that I could play the game without any restrictions. As I tried to log into my account on the official website, I remembered that I had gotten one of those authenticators for my SWTOR account. I searched all over the place for it, but couldn't find it. So I had to go through a few hoops in order to detach the security key.

When SWTOR went free to play, a micro-transaction system was put in place that used something called Cartel Coins. I hope that Cartel Coins can't be used to purchase raid gear or anything like that, but that remains to be seen. As I checked my account, I discovered that having an authenticator attached to my account was giving me 100 free Cartel Coins a month. As a result, my account had over 2000 Cartel Coins. So now I basically have free in-game money to use as I see fit. I never made it to level 50 on any of my characters, so perhaps I could make use of some EXP boosters if they are available on the in-game store? 

EA is involved in this game, so the fact that micro-transactions came into this game is not surprising at all.

After my account was set up, I downloaded the SWTOR client and got it installed. It took a minute to figure out which server my main characters were on given that my home server known as Thana'vesh was gone, lost to the void when SWTOR went free to play after the game's population dropped drastically. Now I am on Shadowlands, which seems to have a population that ranged from 'light' to 'standard'. I wonder how many players are actively subscribed to SWTOR now?

When I reached the character log in screen I selected my Sith Warrior character. Upon logging into my level 39 character, I was greeted with various messages talking about stuff that had changed along with updates to the graphics. My skill tree was reset and at the time of writing this entry I have yet to set it back. To be honest the first hour or so of gameplay has just been browsing through all the new stuff. When I left the game, the legacy system had barely been implemented beyond being able to gain experience in it.

Now there are a bunch of systems and mechanics that I barely recognized. I wonder if this is how a WoW player feels when they return to the game for the first time in years, because I felt completely overwhelmed as I gazed at countless amounts of new information, updates, and content. Now there is reputation, a bunch of legacy perks, and several messages in my mailbox. Despite the fact that I have not been an active player since early 2012, Bioware was nice enough to give me various event gift packages in the mail. This included some anniversary packages, titles for content updates, five currency tokens for starter end game gear, and even a astromech companion that was a reward for Star Wars day (May 4th). 

Here is the astromech in question.
I noticed one big change to the UI as well, which was a giant flashing Cartel Coin which proudly labeled itself as the in-game store. I browsed around the store and noticed the wide variety of content that was being sold. Now that the game has gone free to play, I suppose that they had to do something to get some money. At present I've only bought a pack of EXP boosters so that I could try to catch up with whatever the end game content is.

While we are discussing Cartel Coins, I noticed that they can be used to purchase things like inventory slot upgrades and legacy perks at significantly lower costs than credits. I only have about 110k credits to my name at present, so Cartel Coins give me another option while I earn more credits.

There is even the option to fully customize the UI, but the editor does not seem particularly friendly. So I'll need to play that and decide on what my spec will be for my Sith Warrior. It could actually take a few hours before I'm able to get back into the game in terms of actually playing it. Speaking of the game, I apparently have the first expansion involving the Hutts completely free of charge. I don't know if this is true or not, but I saw it listed as a game I own on my account. 

When I first saw this on the editor, I had no idea what to make of it.
Day 1, Entry 2:
It took some time, but I think I finally found a UI setup that I like. I found a good leveling build for my Sith Warrior as well. After I completed all that, I headed straight to the Imperial fleet to see if there was anything I could buy or any skills I could pick up. As I arrived and left the dock area, I was greeted by many an unusual sight. There were quite a few vehicles/mounts I had never seen in the game before. I could have sworn I saw a guy riding around on a small Rancor, but I must be mistaken as there is no way a creature like that could be a mount.

One thing that caught me by surprise was how populated Shadowlands is. I was expecting the fleet to be rather ghost town-ish, yet that was not the case. I have included some screenshots to show the population of the game in this particular area. Of course, the screenshots I had originally taken didn't register because the SWTOR screencap function is bugged. So these other images will have to do for now, I'm afraid. 

So after looking around I started visiting vendors as I came across them. Apparently all the commendations you get from doing quests on planets have now been consolidated into one currency, and that is a wonderful thing. There were way too many currencies back when I played, and it is nice to have only one kind of currency to worry about. To make things even better, all my commendations were combined so I could afford a new helmet for myself and one of my AI companions and still have some more commendations to spend.

I encountered an area which talked about Strongholds. After reading some of the descriptions, it sounds like Strongholds is basically player housing. I could easily afford the apartment on Dromund Kaas, but for now I want to focus on leveling up my character and continuing the story. There is a lot of content that a mere level 39 character cannot so much as even glimpse at, so I have my work cut out for me. Thankfully I do have some EXP boosters, so that should speed up the process a little. Speaking of Dromund Kaas, I got an item in my mail which will allow me to create a weapon if I turn it into a vendor on that planet.

Day 1, Entry 3:
Well the item turned out to be a waste of time, so I moved on and set a course for Hoth. I still had a few quests left to finish there and I'm a little under the recommended level for the next planet in the story. There aren't many quests, but it should be enough to at least get me to level 40 and possibly half way to 41.

As I landed on Hoth and started doing some quests, I realized that the gameplay for SWTOR hasn't really changed much. Kill X amount of bad guys, collect this, activate that, same old stuff. Compared to WoW, leveling is a little more challenging given you do have to pick and choose your fights to some extent. But with a decent spec and a good rotation, the difficulty is very much manageable.

Even in the distant past, Hoth was a frozen hellhole.
I only wish that the EXP booster gave more than 25%, but there are other ways to boost how much EXP I gain. The legacy system has several perks I can purchase that boost EXP in a variety of activities from class missions to flashpoints. However, my legacy level is only five so there is only so much I can purchase. Granted I can use Cartel Coins, but I'm trying to use mine sparingly.

As I write this, I'm very close to level 40. In the next entry, I will likely be well on my way to level 41 and possibly on a new planet.

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