[SWTOR] What exactly is an evil society like? And the pure joys of barrel kicking!


(Quesh is not the prettiest of planets, but Bioware artists really do shine with these surreal industrialised settings.)

One of the joys of playing through SWTOR as a Sith is that you get some solid insights into how a fantasy society that is run by evil wizards who can murderise high ranking military officers at a whim might operate. It is a tall order to make this plausible in a way that doesn’t have players screaming, “Why exactly has there not yet been a military coup?” In fact, why would any semi-sane sith (let’s assume these exist) kill a competent military officer just because they were in a snit anyway? And the perennial question with Sith is why any of them bother taking apprentices, when it’s inevitable that said apprentice will one day try to kill or betray you.

Bioware has shown in the Dragon Age and ME games that they’re adept at designing plausible yet alien fantasy societies. The dwarven society in Orgrimmar Orzammar (thanks Risandre) was a delight, as was the strange world of the Qun in DA2, and even the Dalish elves had an alien yet believable polish. And they’ve done it again with the Empire in SWTOR.

As my warrior’s story progresses, I have been involved in  conflicts which saw military units caught up in the middle of political spats between backstabbing Sith Lords and seen how the commanders respond. There’s a variety of responses from “Argh, you sith and your infighting again!!! (Dies)” to “I expected no different, and it is an honour to die in the service of the empire.” Also I get a sense of the brown nosing that officers show to Sith when they want favours done, which tends to make them (officers) as a class seem quite spineless if you’re a) not used to it and b) don’t realise that they’re not actually like that all the time.

Another nice touch is the difference between the officer class and front line soldiers. Officers tend to have posher accents, and be far more polite. With practice, you’ll be able to tell exactly what type of military NPC you’re speaking to just by listening to the voice acting, even if they don’t explicitly tell you. I’ve been more aware of this since having Lieutenant Pierce as a companion, since he actually likes it when you are uppity to officers, but understanding of front line troops. In other words, the NPC companion is quite class conscious, so I tend to be also when he’s with me.

Another theme that comes through is how having a Sith Lord as a mentor/ employer can do great things for a military career. There’s a risk of being casually force-choked, or thrown away in a spat of Sith infighting, but the rewards for an ambitious officer (like Quinn) can also be very good. In a recent cut scene, he noted that he had been recommended for a promotion, but would need my approval for it to go through. It’s these little touches that show the thought that has gone into the background.

And as for the apprentices, it becomes clear that having a strong, competent apprentice who can get things done will vastly improve the reach, and maybe even the reputation of an ambitious Dark Lord. And equally clear that they tend to have at least two apprentices each, so that they can keep them occupied by being at each others throats. Also, woe betide the apprentice who seems to be getting a bit too powerful, too full of themselves, or too difficult to control – a smart Sith Lord will shoot first. I’ve enjoyed being able to see through the storylines how different Sith Lords might handle their apprentices, from my character’s master to Darth Gravis on Taris who seems extraordinarily laid back yet still manages to set you in competition with his apprentice without even breaking a sweat.

Barrels, and how to destroy them

Apparently Diablo 2 is 15 years old this week. Which seems like an appropriate time to celebrate one of the ground breaking game mechanics that made the game such a great success. Destroyable barrels.

Who has not played D2 and felt the sheer joy of kicking barrels, watching them explode impressively, and seeing if they contain any interesting loot/ monsters. This never got old for me.


And maybe this is why it makes me so happy to have explody barrel things in SWTOR also. This screenshot shows how they are presented in the game, if you see those 4 red arrows around an object, that means it can explode.

What took me awhile to realise is that even if your character has negligible ranged attacks, you can still explode the barrel from range. You mouse over it until the hand icon turns solid gold, then right click. BOOM. And any mobs close by get thrown onto their backs and take some damage.

It’s the simple things. Next post I’ll talk about more useful hints and tips, and potions/ heal potions/ buff potions in specifics.


13 thoughts on “[SWTOR] What exactly is an evil society like? And the pure joys of barrel kicking!

  1. I haven’t bought SWTOR but did participate in the beta. Before the beta, I hadn’t played any Bioware games, but so many people kept talking about DA and ME. Not knowing what the fuss was about, I bought them (Thank god, for holiday sales) and started playing.

    Both games feature very immersive worlds that well-planned, and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of elf mage–tried the dwarf warrior and human rogue before–, and femShep. With the dwarf society, I expected hard-nosed, ale-guzzling cliches, but I was pleasantly surprised with the rigidity of the caste system, and the backstabbing going on. By the way, isn’t the city called Orzammer? Not Orgrimmar. 😀

  2. I am finding it interesting how •i• react to the empire storylines. I’ve played dutiful, honourable Imperial Agent, I find myself agonizing over the little ethical nuances in each situation, trying to do the right thing in impossibly wrong reality – consider being a Syrian soldier who is likely to be shot if he doesn’t fire on a civilian to be ab equivalent.

    As a (racial) Sith, I am playing it pure dark, and the ethical considerations have vanished. I race through without thinking about the consequences. My ‘companion’ is, in my mind my ‘slave’, and I actually find myself bemused when others talk about gaining their companions affection. Electric shocks work just fine for ensuring obedience.

    It’s exhilarating, and more than a little scary – which is a sign of quite how well Bioware have done this aspect of the game.

      • Such interplayer RP as I’ve seen on RP servers has been quite good, too. And yes, the game is able to get under one’s mental skin very well. I view the world differently on different classes, too, even down to how I respond to non-story gameplay events.

  3. One of the touches I love about the barrels is that they have different ones that do different effects. Some explode in a ball of flame, some encase nearby enemies in carbonite for a time and some release a cloud of poisonous gas. There are even a few that release fog clouds that obscure you from the NPCs, allowing you to shoot or sneak as you prefer.

  4. The best thing about the boom barrels is that different classes activate them in different ways – where my Smuggler pulls out her blaster and shoots the barrel, my Consular just waves her hand and detonates it with the Force.

    It’s also worth pointing out that careful use of barrels and other environmentals can make some fights a lot easier – you see this as early as the Black Talon/Esseles flashpoints, and it becomes key in certain later class missions.

  5. Oh god thank you so much for the barrel tip! And I agree, the nuances and depths of interaction are amazing – and I’ve found it hard to articulate this to others, as on face value some npcs just seem like walking quest texts.

    I’m going to tape my thumb to the desk to stop myself spacebaring through dialogue though.

    • One of the interesting things with the warrior is how much emphasis the game places on class, and showing appropriate respect. There are tons of conversations with imperials where you get a choice to tell them off for addressing you wrongly or disrespectfully. And when your master ascends to the Dark Council, the first thing he says to you afterwards is to remind you that you should bow in the presence of a Dark Council member (you don’t have to actually do it, but it’s clear that this is an important part of sith interactions.)

  6. Haha, welcome to my life. My play sessions with my spouse go like this:

    *mad cackling from the other side of the room* “BAAAAAARREL! I’mma shoot!”
    BOOM explosions or lightning or gas clouds on my screen and 4-5 angry mobs shooting at my SO’s Bounty Hunter. 🙂

    I think the barrel’s might be her favorite part of the game, aside from finding slicing lockboxes that are actually clickable, and the big fire AoE that bounty hunters have.

  7. The Imperial Agent story is amazing for this, showing how the Sith Empire functions from the point of view of the non-Sith lower classes.

    To be honest though, I wonder how much of the class structure of the Sith Empire was unconsciously influenced by the fact that Lucas decided to use British accents for the Imperials.

    • I must also admit though, it leaves the imperial agent in a quandry. I am struggling to play mine, as it seems so out of place. I want to help all the rebellions, cause indeed, from an Empire point of view, the Sith are almost as destructive internally as they are externally.

      I should have started a dark side force user or hunter. The Sith characters are immersed in that culture and its part of thier story. The hunter care less, cause its not about who is ruling for them. But the Agent is basically on the outside, looking in. Responsible for the functions of the empire, and at the whims of the madmen (Sith) who truly run it.

      • As an Imperial agent, I find myself pretty much sighing and trying to limit the damage the Sith do. At the end of the day, though, the Sith DO rule the Empire and Imperial Imtelligence DO serve them, so it’s my duty to help the Sith and clean up the mess they tend to make. I’m sort of a special forces Jeeves to an order of psychopathic Bertie Woosters.

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