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

quesh1

(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.

barrel

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.

[SWTOR] Let’s talk about class, and role, and faction, and morality, and story

Latest news on SWTOR pre-orders is that they are through the roof and analysts are now predicting 3 million box sales in the first year with 2 million steady subscribers and I’d like some of whatever they are smoking. 2 million subs, huh?

Still, it’s great news for Bioware, and I cannot be the only person eyeing the various classes and thinking about what I might want to play. These are the types of factors you may be weighing up:

  • What faction?
  • What race?
  • What role (ie. heal/ tank/ ranged dps/ melee)?
  • What look do I prefer? (robes vs plate)
  • What theme and feel? Other roleplaying considerations? (Do I like the idea of being a sith warrior, a smuggler, etc.)
  • What will fit in best with my friends?

In addition to this, because of the heavy Bioware emphasis on story, companions and voice acting, there are other variables too.

  • Which companion do I like the look of? (Some companions seem to be class specific.)
  • Which romance option do I like, if any? (Jedi get darkside points for romance, you have been warned.)
  • Which voice actor do I prefer?
  • What type of storyline do I want? Jedi are likely to be heavier on moral choices, the imperial agent looks to be like James Bond, etc.

This information is not all available yet but expect to read more about the game as we get into September and people try out the beta weekends. Meanwhile, MMO Gamer Chick has a post showing the intro videos to all the different classes which may help a bit with getting the look/ feel and some of the voice acting out there.

The interesting thing for me with the differing class storylines is that you may get a completely different genre of RPG depending on which class you choose. The sneaky agent is going to tell stories in a very different style to the monastic, high fantasy jedi knight. In that sense, this game is a very true descendent of DAO where the starting preludes genuinely felt like different styles of story.

It also becomes increasingly clear that Bioware would like to make the dark side/ light side choices very important in play. For example, some of the crafted and dropped gear will only be wearable by light side/ dark side characters. I think this will be controversial but I hope that they stick with it, because it’s a really interesting way to drive the storytelling into the gear acquisition game. My only concern is that if you are mad enough to play a light side sith inquisitor, do you really want everyone else to be able to see it?

To do more research, I went to the official forums to see what types of conversation players who had already picked their class were having. At least it will show what the player expectation is. Here’s a roundup of each.

Jedi Knight: These guys are clearly interested in discussing moral dilemmas. My favourite thread on the front page is called “Is it wrong to use the force to make money?” which practically inspires character concepts all on it’s own. The goblin jedi!

Jedi Consular: Consulars seem more interested in social issues, such as whether they like their companion and how they feel about romance leading to the dark side. I’m not saying these are more likely to be female players but …

Smuggler: Smugglers have two full threads about what to name their ships (the first one capped at 1000 posts), so clearly of great interest. I still want to name a ship “Justifiable Homicide” since that had too many letters for STO.

Trooper: Some discussion about whether dps specced Troopers will get groups, and a long thread asking for a Jedi companion ‘to boss around.’ I’m sensing control issues, you can tell this is a tank class.

Sith Warrior: Some threads discussing the various advanced trees, and one asking if anyone is nuts enough to consider playing a light side sith warrior. I found a thread a few pages back asking if it was possible to play a non-outrageously evil looking sith warrior also (not in this genre, I suspect.)

Sith Inquisitor: Like their counterparts, sith inquisitors spawn a few romance threads. There’s a large poll on whether sith purebloods should be able to be inquisitors (controversial because Bioware have said that this would not fit with the sith inquisitor plotline because they start as force sensitive slaves, which would not be appropriate for that race.)

They also have my favourite thread so far, which is advice from a SI to their apprentice:

Alright Darth Noobster. Starting today you get to be my apprentice. Congratulations. But, before you get too excited and start planning any shenanigans, like trying to push me over a cliff, I think we should have an open and honest discussion – put all the Pazaak cards on the table as they say in Nar Shaddaa.

So, it’s like this. One of these days, you’re going to get it into your head to kill me and take over, probably while I’m in the bathroom with my robes around my ankles.

Imperial Agent: There are some complaints at not seeing enough footage of the IA in action, and some discussion of whether people like the idea of playing a Chiss Agent (I’d think the name Mystique will be gone fairly quickly given that they are blue skinned and red eyed.) I see a few threads about PvP also.

Bounty Hunter: Wide ranging discussions on specs, as well as more RP type issues like names and inspirations. There’s an active thread discussing player bounties (and the lack of same) in game.

Still not sure yet? Me either. I can’t help feeling that I’d like to know more about the storylines before I decide. For example, I really like characters who start out fairly seedy rather than heroic from the get-go, which is one of the things I liked about my uncaste dwarf in DAO and Hawke in DA2. It looks as though the smuggler and sith inquisitor (!) both come from that side of the tracks, so that’s another thing for me to bear in mind.

Do you think story considerations will come into your decision also?

SWTOR: Jedi, Jedi Everywhere (and all the stars did sink)

Hurrah for Europe and for publishers who don’t realise that in these internet-enabled days, even a magazine article in *gasp* a foreign language will be translated and spread all over the net in a matter of hours. Thanks to german magazine “PC Games” (PC Spielen?), the final two classes have been revealed for Bioware’s upcoming Star Wars MMO.

As Massively report in the previous link, Bioware did confirm that the Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor will complete the lineup. They have chosen to keep the numbers of classes small, and have stated that each class will have its own personal epic storyline.

So, what do we have on offer? I’m going to run down the list and make some assumptions about the styles of the storylines and what sort of role each class might play in combat. I am assuming a holy trinity based game, I love Dragon Age as if it was my own child, but Bioware’s strength is in storytelling and producing awesome gaming experiences, not in reinventing the rule book.

Republic

Trooper

“The fate of the galaxy rests upon ordinary men becoming extraordinary heroes. This is the path of the Republic Trooper.”

The Knights of the Jedi Order have defended the Republic for generations, but they have not fought alone. A host of unsung heroes have marched at the Jedi’s side—common men courageous enough to enlist and face the same risks as their Jedi comrades despite not having access to the Jedi powers of protection.”

It sounds as though this storyline is all about how ordinary guys and gals in the Republic special forces become extraordinary heroes and end up fighting alongside Jedi and … err.. smugglers. The gear has a strong military flavour.

As far as their role in combat goes, the official site has this to say:

“A Trooper’s rifle is his best friend, and the military is constantly challenged to design faster, more powerful and more reliable blaster rifles every year. Wielding such rifles and wearing protective battle armor designed by the Republic’s top engineers, the Trooper will not hesitate to step right into the crossfire.”

Sounds like a mostly ranged class to me.

Smuggler

“Stacking up enemies as fast as they stack up credits, Smugglers only survive in this galaxy by being slick, sneaky and street-smart.”

“Experienced in flying under the radar, Smugglers are amazingly elusive. Yet when backed into a corner, they quickly become cunning and often deadly combatants.”

OK, so the smuggler is Han Solo. Since he was the coolest character in Star Wars, that’s not a bad thing, and it  gives a good indication of the sort of storylines to expect.

For the role in combat:

“Smugglers often rely on the element of surprise, using stealth and trickery to catch opponents off guard. Despite the sly tactics, they are more than capable of holding their own in a fair fight.”

So it’ll be roguish, probably with some tricks and traps, but the flavour text sounds as though they prefer pistols to melee.

Jedi Knight

“A source of inspiration to allies and intimidation to adversaries, the Jedi Knight’s presence is welcome in any confrontation.”

“With unwavering allegiance to the Republic and the light side of the Force, the Jedi Knight fights with valiant determination, wading into the thick of any battle to protect freedom and democracy and hold fast against those who oppose it.”

Wading into the thick of battle to protect X  and Y, and hold fast against Z screams tank to me.

The combat tactics section reads:

“Whether defending allies by deflecting a barrage of blaster-fire or charging in to challenge a Sith Lord, the Knight’s role is crucial in any conflict.”

Defending, charging in to challenge nasty Sith Lords … it’s a tank. I have no idea where the storyline might unfold for this one, but I’m thinking Knight at King Arthur’s Court for the style of story and moral dilemma.

Jedi Consular

Not one but TWO Jedi classes on each side. We don’t have much information about this class yet, but it is known to be a ranged heal/ CC type of support class.

Sith

The Sith classes  sound stronger than their Republic counterparts — maybe to encourage players to pick the side they haven’t seen so much about in the films.

Bounty Hunter

“In the bounty business, one’s name is everything, and with each mark a Bounty Hunter takes down, his reputation grows, as does his price.”

Well that pretty much sums up what I’d expect in the storyline.

Tracking elusive targets across multiple star systems requires expertise, especially when the targets can be prominent, powerful, and often prepared for confrontation.”

“Bounty Hunters are renowned for their versatility on the battlefield and their ability to go toe-to-toe with force-users.”

“Whoever they must face, however, the Bounty Hunter comes armed with the most-advanced weaponry on the black market, packing heavy firepower but always keeping a variety of tricks and gadgets ready to go.”

It certainly sounds more flexible than the poor Trooper who only has her rifle to fall back on. The Bounty Hunter here sounds like a strong dps class with lots of tricks and gadgets up her sleeve.

Imperial Agent

“Agents of Imperial Intelligence track down and eliminate the Empire’s enemies—from intractable Republic senators to traitorous Imperial Moffs to bloodthirsty rebels with Republic ties.”

Though there are few idealists in Imperial Intelligence, the art of professional perfection is held in deep reverence, and the Agent embodies the Imperial ideal in this respect.”

So you’re going to be Evil James Bond if you play one of these chaps.

“Though striking from a distance or from the shadows plays to the Agent’s strengths, a well-equipped operative is more than capable of evading his enemies when necessary or moving in close to quietly slide a blade between an opponent’s ribs.”

Again, the Agent sounds like a more flexible class than her Republic counterpart. They will be stealthers, with some ability for assassination, and also have ranged capabilities.

Sith Warrior

“Sith Warriors crush their opponents and stride toward their goals with dreadful determination, leaving ruin and annihilation in their wake.”

A natural leader in any context, a Sith Warrior inspires both fear and undying loyalty into his followers and allies.”

It’s a tank.

“Protected by heavy armor and his powers of intimidation, the Warrior wades into the thick of the fight and unleashes pure hatred and fury to eliminate all who would stand against him.”

Huh, the Sith Warrior actually gets heavy armour. Well that screws up the plans for total world domination via robe.

Sith Inquisitor

The other newly revealed class, as with the Consular we don’t know a lot about this one yet. But it’s likely to fill a similar role.

Keeping down the Jedi numbers

So I think that all the Jedi are actually going to be support classes in this game. The Knight and Warrior will be tanking classes, and the Consular and Inquisitor will be support. The non-jedi will make up the bulk of dps and stealthers.

You have to admit, that’s quite a smart way to keep the numbers of Jedi limited …