Choose My Adventure: Getting back in to the groove of Star Wars: The Old Republic

    
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This week’s Choose My Adventure piece is a homecoming for me. I was one of the folks who was all in on Star Wars: The Old Republic during its lead-up to launch. I’ve had no small measure of history with the game, including making some good friends as a result of it and even learning that sitting in front of a game for an entire day to grind my face off is an outstanding source of burnout. After some time, my circle of friends playing the game dried up and I grew increasingly ambivalent to the game. Then, its free-to-play transition arrived with all of the grace of Godzilla doing a cannonball into a major city, and that was that.

Perhaps, though, time has healed these wounds, or maybe I’m just in the right mood and mindset for SWTOR, or maybe I’ve made the right class choice this time around, or maybe this game actually might be good; whatever the reason, this initial return trip to the galaxy far, far away has been an enjoyable one.

It all starts with my character. I elected to go with a class I never played before: an Imperial Agent Sniper whom I named Jaenneh, which is a derivative of one of the auto-generated names that also doesn’t sound like a goldselling bot. As is often the case with my MMORPG characters, I came up with a quick headcanon for her, which I find doubly important in a game like SWTOR owing to the conversation choices one can make during their adventure. In Jaenneh’s case, she’s pretty cut and dried — a loyal agent of the Empire who follows orders, but is not above utilizing her good judgement and slinging some fun snark along the way. She’s basically less Daniel Craig and more Roger Moore.

My arrival to Hutta immediately struck me with a sense of enjoyable ambiance. Despite the sickly color scheme of the entire planet, it was really nice to see my character make her way through the slimy environs as some truly Star Wars-y tunes set the scene. The story immediately attempted to pull me in to a web of intrigue and machination and was generally successful in doing so. I was invested in the twists and turns of the narrative, and I particularly liked how the Sith appeared to be interfering with the regular day-to-day business at hand; it’s not a narrative angle I’ve seen explored in Star Wars stories before and wasn’t even a thought that not everyone in the Galactic Empire would be a-okay with every psychotic whim of the Sith. Really, it’s just nice to get a view of the normal person for once.

It was also nice to see a pretty healthy number of other new players charging about. So often you hear the bleating of “dead game lol” in reference to SWTOR, and while I don’t have any hard data, things still seem active as ever, even in the lowbie zones.

I’m also extremely pleased with my choice of class. The Sniper is a great long-distance combatant with a level of punch that feels suitable in terms of abilities. I started out with the Shae Vizla freebie companion which was in my mailbox for reasons I forget about, and her backup was pretty invaluable as she diverted mob attention while I snapped off sniper shots. Once I learned how to change her stance to a tank and arranged my keybindings to have her strike first, things felt even better.

I also have to give it up for the sound design in this game. Star Wars has always had a very high bar of quality when it comes to its sound effects, and SWTOR really nails it, particularly with the Sniper Shot skill. The cracking echo of the rifle’s blast combined with the under-explained, high-tech digital wind-up and energy expulsion really drove home the point that this ability hurt, even before I saw chunks of health bar get hacked off. Which is good, because I’m pretty sure this is my best attack button.

I think the only real sticking point I might have with the Imperial Agent is my first major companion. I’m undecided about Kaliyo right now. She comes off as a tough guy internet commenter brought to digital life, and her manner of speaking sounds like she’s trying to be sultry while also trying to talk me into buying a new mattress. It’s a little weird. I do like that her approval of my actions seems to belie her bristly demeanor, rewarding moments when I question her motives and those of others. We’ll see how it goes and whether my next companion holds more of my interest, but I don’t expect that’ll be happening any time soon.

It’s been a really great ride so far and I’m itching to press forward, but before I do so I’ve got to ask you fine CMA readers a few questions. I was convinced I was only going to have one polling option for this round, but I ended up with three.

First is the question of my character’s alignment. I know that this, ultimately, doesn’t have a greater bearing on my gameplay at this stage, and I have made a headcanon for her as I mentioned before, but I’m also not against asking for some opinions on which side I should lean towards.

Which alignment should my SWTOR character follow?

  • Dark Side. I heard they have cookies, and evil triumphs because good is dumb. (18%, 78 Votes)
  • Light Side. Just because you're an Imperial doesn't mean you're a moustachioed villain. (19%, 81 Votes)
  • Follow your headcanon. You know her better than anyone else. WWJ(aenneh)D? (63%, 276 Votes)

Total Voters: 435

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Next is the question of content. Obviously, SWTOR is a themepark MMO and so my choices are limited. I suppose this is more a question aimed at those who regularly play the game or have more experience than I do; should I pick up the planetary missions as I go along for maximum XP gain and story goodness, or do the main story missions of my Imperial Agent offer enough rewards and progression to just get on with it?

What should be my focus while moving from hub to hub?

  • Stick to the story. Planetary missions are throwaway and boring. (46%, 191 Votes)
  • Do everything. Why leave XP sitting on the table? Besides, the stories aren't that awful. (54%, 227 Votes)

Total Voters: 418

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Finally, there’s my specialization. The Sniper is all DPS all the time, but there appears to be a few different flavors of DPS, whether it’s DoT poison, using tech to hurt things, or just straight-up rifle shooting. I’m open to suggestions.

Which specialization should I follow?

  • Marksmanship. You like Sniper Shot so much, why not have more sniper stuff? (63%, 250 Votes)
  • Engineering. Use your gadgets and robotic friends to hurt things. (18%, 72 Votes)
  • Virulence. 'Cause your lips are venomous poison. (19%, 76 Votes)

Total Voters: 398

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Polls close at 1:00 p.m. EDT this coming Friday, May 10th, like usual. I’m extremely curious to see how these results shake down, especially since I want to keep following along with my Agent’s story. In the meantime, maybe I’ll roll an alt…

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.

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Roger Christie

Yeah, I’ve noticed that there do seem to be plenty of players on the low level planets. Considering it’s a dead game and all.

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Anstalt

I notice there’s virtually nothing about the gameplay in this article :P

I played after launch but got so bored with the gameplay. The combat was just too shallow for my tastes and every class within an archetype felt exactly the same, i.e. all melee dps played exactly the same, all ranged the same etc. Hell, even switching between my jedi shadow (mdps) and my trooper (rdps) felt exactly the same! All that changed was how close I was standing to the enemy….

So, I’d be curious to see if the gameplay has improved over the years. Did the expansions add more situational abilities? More group-orientated abilities? Anything at all that might get you out of the monotony of executing a rotation and popping a couple of special abilities when needed?

Also, what about the PvP? Did they ever fix Ilum? Anything beyond the warzones? I spent a long time in the warzones, got to rank 80iirc before quitting. Had some fun times there but it got extremely repetitive!

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Natalyia

I don’t suspect you’d find the gameplay much changed. They pushed their copy of Hero Engine pretty hard when they made SWTOR, and there wasn’t a lot of headroom for new abilities. At this point I’d be mildly surprised if anyone left working on it really knows how it all works.

They’ve meddled with individual skills, changed the talent trees/paths (several times) and removed the “start as a base class and then specialize” thing. But nothing you’d find revolutionary.

The biggest change to gameplay is that you autoscale your effective level to the planet’s max + 5. So you can’t overlevel your story, and can still get XP no matter where you go. It does mean that while you can roll over most things with ease when you go back to lower-level planets, there is at least some element of risk.

Oh – and Companions can now be set to be heal/tank/dps – which is nice if you had a strong preference for/against someone but they weren’t the “right” role for your character.

I mostly enjoy it, but it certainly isn’t really deep enough to find challenging or to allow for creative synergies between powers – either yours or your teammates.

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Sykes

I love the agent storyline – more than any other class, the choices feel meaningful down the line. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Axetwin .

If you’re subbed, ignore the sidequests. Only do the Class Quest and Planetary Quests. If you’re not subbed, you’ll have to do the side quests to keep up with the level increases.

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jason smith

To bad you cant get the xp gear anymore could lvl to 22 just on hutta

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Natalyia

There’s two “main story”arcs on each planet that the game’s UI will show you these days. There’s your class story, which is unique to each “main” class, and the planet’s story, which is unique per side.

The class story is must-play, of course :) The planetary arcs are usually pretty fun, happen “along side” the class story, and if you’ve not done them to death are worth the time to see.

You can also dig into the UI and turn on all the old side-quests. A few of those have some neat story elements, but they’re the exception, rather than the rule. Unless you find yourself needing more XP to move on somehow (stealthing past a lot of the critters in the story can do this) they’re probably not worth the time.

If you’re not subscribing, your XP progress will slow down a bit after… level 20? There’s a few things you can do to boost it if you find yourself underleveled as you go. In your legacy tab you can spend credits on XP boosts for things like class missions, and exploration. The game also gives you XP boosts as you do the story. Use ’em. :)

There’s also a couple convenience options (teleport to ship, in particular, is handy) you can unlock via credits on your legacy page.

If you need some credits to unlock things (and aren’t trying to do a no-outside-help run), you may know some people at a website that covers games like SWTOR who might have some resources to send your way. :)

Enjoy the sniper. Moreso than any of the other “vanilla” story arcs, I think it pulls off the difficult task of making the dialog choices your character picks feel meaningful on down the like. It does so better than many single-player games do, and that’s quite the feat in an MMO where you can’t really deflect the plot.

There’s at least two “flavors” of Imperial loyalist as well as a couple of shades of not as loyal an agent you can go down, and the story doesn’t feel “cheap” when you pick them.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Just stick to the suggested/pink story missions.
It’s more xp than you’ll ever need and the IA story is hands down the best in the game. Though you will be yelling at your screen at times.

Chiss Marksmanship Sniper was my first 50 way back at launch, so I approve these choices.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

What is the endpoint of the CMA play through for this game?

If I remember right, there are around 24 hours in the base class story line, which after the rework probably will get you to 50-ish on its own. Is the goal to hit the level cap, or to finish a full play through of the main story including all of the expansions?

Or will you just be playing for a certain number of hours and then sum up?

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IronSalamander8 .

Chiss Markswoman Sniper was my original main and loved it. Once legacy was added her daughter was my Chiss Sith Juggernaut and oh the force choking I dished out to the anti-alien bastard NPCs. Tended mostly to light side though, most of the dark side choices were what we used to call ‘chaotic stupid’. Agent gets some more grey ones as well, which I liked.

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Roger Melly

There were things I liked about this game but ultimately I hated the NPC buddy system and if I recall the mobs were just static most of the time .

The character stories were the best part .