The ZAM staff talk about their experiences in TOR!
After spending some time beta-testing Star Wars: The Old Republic as a Jedi Knight and cursing my old computer for barely being able to run the game, release came upon us at almost the same time that my new rig showed up. Feeling vain and materialistic, I decided to get in touch with my dark side and make my new character part of the Empire. And so began my adventures with both a new Imperial Agent and Sith Warrior, and I blasted off to learn a bit more of the TOR universe and my place in it.
The first thing I learned is that, although there are many ways to play your characters, none of them open up until level 10. Until then, you are stuck in your starting class and forced to do the beginning quests. Not that it’s too bad (as they set up the story) but it’s slower than, say, World of Warcraft. However, it does give ample opportunity to enjoy the voice-acted storylines and get a feel for your class. My Imperial Agent plays much differently than my Sith Warrior; while the Sith has a rage bar that fills with some attacks and is used for more powerful ones, my imperial agent takes cover behind debris and uses energy that restores at sliding levels depending on how much he has left. This (generally) means that my Sith has to build up to strong attacks but keeps going strong as the battle goes on, while my Agent can open with huge burst but needs to find cover and keep an eye on his energy levels in longer battles.
A key difference between the two involved their starting areas; my Imperial Agent went to Hutta, while my Sith Warrior went to Korriban. I don’t want to spoil the story too much, but both followed roughly equal level paths; around level 7 or 8, your story quests will provide your first companion and, around level 10-12, you will head to the Imperial Fleet and get to choose an advanced class. On my Warrior I went to the Fleet ASAP; as soon as I hit 10 I wanted to become a Marauder. With my Imperial Agent, I took my time, finished all my quests, and wandered around a bit more.
It was also around this point that I decided to shape my characters’ personalities. There are plenty of options to get different gameplay experiences in TOR. The most obvious is usually whether your choices are Light or Dark aligned; generally speaking, “good” or “evil” choices make the relevant decision. These aren’t always immediately identified, although there is an option to show Force alignment changes next to decisions available in your options. Another big difference comes in the companions players will use. Not only will different companions make different comments during the quest cut-scenes, but suddenly the choices picked during the dialogue matter. As an example, I wanted to make my Imperial Agent-turned-Sniper a “Light” sided character. But my first companion, Kaliyo, made some decisions extremely difficult. As a result, instead of being a patriotic do-gooder, I had to straddle a careful line of threatening, insulting, and talking back to authority while still trying not to be purely “evil” and thus changing my alignment. I can’t even imagine what the people of the Galaxy think of my Sniper. He’s like James Bond mixed with Dr. Gregory House.
I definitely put more thought into the looks of one character rather than the other...
My Marauder, on the other hand, is just a complete jerk and happy to be so. His companion, Vette, generally liked it when I stuck to the man, but hated every other evil choice. So I choose to kill innocents or torture slaves in the name of science… come on! I’m SITH! As a result, my affection with her is much lower than my Sniper’s with Kaliyo. However, affection plays a rather large role in crew skills (which in any other MMORPG would be called professions or trade skills). In TOR, crew skills are done by your crew members, and used to craft items, run side missions for rewards, or to harvest materials. I took the same choices on both characters: Biochem (think potions and stimulants), diplomacy (for gifts and rare Biochem components), and Bioanlysis (for Biochem components off plants nodes and beast enemies). Higher affection will decrease crafting times and (I’ve heard) will increase critical yield rates. Plus, more affection opens up new quests, reveals more background on your characters, and can allow a romantic relationship to flourish between some male and female characters.
Thanks to my high affection with Kaliyo (around 5000 right now), I’ve had several quests, a smooch or two, and a huge reduction of crafting compared to my affection = 0 android companion. To give an example, a diplomacy mission taking 24 minutes to complete on my droid takes about 12 on Kaliyo. I also discovered some simple ways to increase affection; the obvious one is through gifting items to your companions. These gift items can be bought, or found from crew skill missions. Diplomacy brought me enough that I boosted Kaliyo’s affection through the roof. The other way, as already mentioned, is through conversation choices. While it breaks the immersion a bit, conversation choices can be made to show the affection gain or loss with your companion; and if you don’t like the result, you can exit and restart a conversation if you push Escape before the cutscene ends.