Nar Shaddaa

Story Wars: The Old Mechanics

“Typical Jedi. Slaughter a roomful of men, and then apologize for it.” – Commander Graul, Sith Empire, Nar Shaddaa

The major difference between my Jedi Knight and my Imperial Agent, apart from being aligned with opposing factions, is that my Agent makes no apologies for what she does. Both characters have made Light Side choices almost exclusively – my Agent has a bit of a temper and can’t resist acting out at times, though. She has, by turns, backhanded a young, coquettish, female noble and murdered a roomful of men after witnessing a noblewoman’s husband backhand her. Double agent, double standards.

They’re both, however, ultimately aligned with the Republic: my Guardian Defender as the consummate do-gooder and my Marksmanship Sniper as a recovered brainwashing victim who sees the “rebels” as the lesser of two evils. As misfortune would have it, my duplicity is garbed in Plot Clothing which requires me to spend anywhere from an instant to a lifetime enduring the vicissitudes of the Empire in order to effect change from the inside. Color me unenthused.

Darth Jadus is not amused.
Darth Jadus was in no mood to accommodate my insolence.

When I first met Kaliyo Djannis, a bald-headed, grey-faced Rattataki with black facial markings, I understood her to be an amoral assassin enforcer who would not hesitate to gut me like a fish if given the opportunity. My first Dark Side choice was thus to declare my intent to kill her after I discovered that she had “broken into” my room in the pleasure palace of her employer, Nem’ro the Hutt. Much to my chagrin, my superior at Imperial Intelligence had already decided to make her my well-compensated subordinate. Her ability to tank meant that she remained my companion for most of the story unless I needed a healer or wanted to hear the unusually cheerful “Here, Sir!” of Ensign Raina Temple nearly every time I summoned her. By the time I met my second tanking companion, I had almost completed the third and final chapter of my Agent’s pre-expansion class story. I ended up finishing it off just in time for the release of Knights of the Fallen Empire in which all companions can fulfill all roles and no longer derive statistical gains from their equipment.

Cue the flood of female companions tanking snow beasts on Hoth in their bikini dancer outfits.

Kira Carsen in action.
“Eat lightsaber, jerk!” One of many reasons why Padawan Kira Carsen was my companion of choice for the entirety of the Jedi Knight story.

The accelerated pace afforded by the 12x experience available to subscribers prior to the release of 4.0 meant that I could experience the class stories of my choosing in a reasonable amount of time. Anyone with enough time to spare could have completed levels 1-50 (Chapters 1-3) on any given class in a single day. My somewhat shorter play sessions meant that I required roughly a week each for my Jedi and Agent. I also took the time to get the other six available classes off of their starting planets. If I had much more time and 12x experience were still around, I’d probably seriously think about completing the Smuggler and Sith Warrior class stories as well. Instead, I took the time to watch Chapter 1-3 for the six classes I wasn’t interested in on YouTube at 2x speed without loss of comprehension. Can’t say the same for interest, in some cases.

As it is, the new post-4.0 experience rates for subscribers, while noticeably more generous than those for non-subscribers, make leveling up somewhat more deliberate. Flashpoints (instanced four-player content), which were previously level-restricted, are now “tactical” and scale you to an appropriate level. This is as it should be. Numerous other improvements and quality of life features were added, none of which I’m terribly interested in at the moment as I’ve decided that this is a good stopping point prior to my subscription running out eleven days hence. We are presently beset with a cornucopia of spooky offerings in Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, WildStar, and elsewhere, not to mention the smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt launch of Heart of Thorns.

I enjoyed my time in the story, less so in the game. Star Wars: The Old Republic is really nothing new to anyone who’s played World of Warcraft before: if you like tab targeting and hotbars but prefer droids and blasters to orcs and elves, then SW:ToR is your playground. PvP was, as it usually is, a visceral and thrilling experience. Otherwise I found myself wishing that I could simply skip the in-between bits which invariably had me disabling shield generators of all shapes and sizes prior to returning to the story bits. No, I don’t want to do another load of laundry before I can turn the page, thank you.

Kira and Kelestria in a loot-cave,
“Kira, dear, I’m going to need you to run back to the spaceship and do the dishes before we proceed to the next level of this instance.”

The upshot was that I paid a month’s subscription for 30-40 hours of story. It’s not terribly different from having purchased Skyrim or Dragon Age: Inquisition, I suppose, with the caveat that DA:I completely does away with gender-locked romance options. (Getting a smooch from Lemda Avesta in Chapter 4 of the Republic story is hardly a whirlwind affair.) I am perfectly happy with this financial decision. Once my subscription has lapsed I should have enough Cartel Coins to un-hamstring the characters of my choosing on my Preferred Status account. I may end up letting the Star Wars universe percolate in the background for a while; it took a bit of doing to get myself to pony up the money for a month’s non-cheapskate status in the first place after witnessing first-hand the extent to which programmers had been made to remind non-subscribed players that equipping purple-text equipment modifications without the corresponding “authorization” from the cash shop to the tune of 1200 Cartel Coins (approximately USD$13.33) would make them less effective and then, once equipped (which was allowed in-game), literally make their characters far less effective. How wretched. I would have to have a rather compelling reason to dedicate more time or especially money to this proposition.

It’s apparently a running joke that SW:ToR is an excellent single-player MMO. I would have to agree. I am not the only person to independently come to the conclusion that they intended to play the game primarily (or solely) as a single-player story experience. It’s not my fault they made three or four really good stories and slapped a bucket list of MMO features on top of them. It is my fault, however, for disappearing into a rabbit hole for over a month and ignoring everything else, including games with things I like (fewer/no levels, limited skill bars, action combat). At least with Star Wars I knew when to stop and didn’t complain too much. Going to pat myself on the back for that one.

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