In part II of his preview, Editor-in-Chief Chris Tom talks about what makes SWTOR unique and gives some final thoughts on his experiences.
Yesterday, I went in-depth with SWTOR's story and gameplay, as well as how it all fits with the MMORPG genre. Today, I'll be talking about some of the secondary systems in Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as giving some of my overall thoughts on the game. Let's get into it!
Crafting and Companions
This is a bit of an odd category if you have no idea what SWTOR is all about, but for those of you who tried out crafting (called "Crew Skills"), you'll know exactly why I've put them together. Crafting in SWTOR doesn't involve your character directly; rather, all crafting is done by sending your companions on tasks. These tasks are more like timed absences, where your companion disappears for a set period of time to fulfill their job and, when that timer runs down, they return with items in hand (sometimes they can fail). Currently, there are 14 Crew Skills in the game, which are further divided into six crafting skills, four mission skills and four gathering skills. You can only have three crew skills learned at any point in the game.
For me, crafting was an enjoyable experience because it could be done naturally, without feeling like a job. In SWTOR, it's possible to work on multiple crafts while PvPing or running flashpoints, but the option is still available to run around harvesting and crafting if you feel like really putting some effort into it. At the highest levels of Armormech crafting, some of my best items were taking up to 40 minutes to craft, however, so there were plenty of sandwich-making opportunities, but it's nice to know I can go off to a warzone if I've already eaten. I'm a bit worried that crafting will be useless at endgame, but we'll see at launch.
This brings me to my one big joy of SWTOR and what I genuinely feel is the best feature this game has to offer at launch: Companions. Companions in The Old Republic are robust, with each class getting six total companions (five combat companions and one robot servant). Each companion is fully voiced, but they also come with their own unique personality quirks and personal quest lines that fill out their back stories. Most classes get a nice balanced spread of companions to choose from, although I'll admit that, of my current four companions, Mako is, by far, the most useful.
What makes SWTOR's companion system so great, aside from the great diversity it offers in solo and duo content, is that you really do become attached to the companions you bring to battle. If there's one way a game can make you care about an NPC, it's by having that NPC be of vital importance to your character's progression. As you play the game and your companions become more powerful, it's hard not to appreciate just how versatile they are and what they can do. It's also possible to fully equip your companion, except for relics, which makes it very unlikely that loot goes to "spoil" during flashpoints; someone always has a companion that they want to gear up. This also has the adverse effect of players rolling need on everything for their companions, but I really think BioWare is onto something great with their very thoughtful approach to companions. I think what I appreciate most, however, about SWTOR's companion and crafting system, is that they are unique to the game without feeling forced. In other words, this isn't a case of BioWare trying to be different for the sake of being different; these are goodsystems that showcase some deep originality.