As we move into the official launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic I thought it seemed like an appropriate time to offer guidance and suggestions to those who might be new to the game, or new to MMORPGs in general (we all know someone who would never give World of Warcraft a shot, but loves Star Wars enough to try out a new game). Some of this is advice I’ve gotten from playing previous games, some of it is from the Beta and Early Access experience, and some of it is from questions I’ve seen other players asking repeatedly, regardless of how recently the question may have been asked in the same damn channel.
With all of that in mind, here are ten tips for the starting Star Wars: The Old Republic player:
1. This is not your galaxy far, far away
Much like the console games that came before it, The Old Republic is set thousands of years before Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca meet and decide to cruise around the galaxy, blowing up Death Stars willy-nilly. However, the game is also set several hundred years after Knights of the Old Republic. That means Darth Revan, Darth Malik, Bastilla Shan, Carth Onasi, and other familiar characters are nowhere to be seen. Well, the characters themselves are rarely seen (although you might encounter echoes of them from the past depending on your character story), but the influence of the events that transpire in KotOR and even the legacies of those characters can be seen. In short, this is a universe you should be familiar with if you’ve seen the movies or played the games, but it isn’t so recognizable that everything feels like a desperate attempt to cram familiarity into the title.
2. Play around with classes.
The biggest mistake I made in World of Warcraft and EverQuest was picking a class and then locking myself to that class and character until I made it to end game (particularly in EQ where I never actually made it to end game before the next expansion was released). Each class in The Old Republic has a unique storyline, but there are only four classes to choose from (we’ll get into how specializations expands that in a minute). Take time to experiment with different classes and alignments before you lock into one character. For example, I was certain I was going to play a Jedi Consular, but Beta gave me the chance to experiment with an Imperial Agent – a non-Force user on the other side. Surprisingly, I loved the Agent. While I don’t want to play Imperial as my main character, I’ve already created an Agent to play with when my main server is full.
3. Servers are going to be full for a while.
The Old Republic is probably the most anticipated MMORPG in quite a while… possibly since Star Wars Galaxies came out a decade ago (Rift was anticipated, but didn’t have the buzz and hype TOR has). People want to play this game. During Beta stress tests and early access, the servers were full. Now that it’s open to everyone who buys it, the servers are definitely going to be full. This means you can either sit in queues for long periods of time (I’ve seen upwards of 40 minutes) or make a backup plan – plan to meet with friends on another server. Yes, it may not contain the characters you’ve picked as your mains, but getting to play some TOR is better than sitting in a queue for an hour.
4. No, you can’t do it over again.
Many of the choices you make in the game are permanent and will have an effect on your character. Conversations give options that will garner you light side or dark side points, and those accumulations are irreversible. You might be able to counter our the accumulation of points by picking up other points in a future conversation, but you can’t go back and choose another course through the conversation. Once you’ve gotten those points, you are stuck with them. That may come as a shock to players not used to MMORPGs who are used to being able to return to a previous save point and replay a choice so it goes the way they want it to. Speaking of permanent decisions…
This may be one of the most commonly asked questions I’ve seen in all of my experience with TOR. At level 10, your character gets to pick an advanced specialization. Once you’ve picked a specialization, you’ll have access to three talent trees where you spend points you gain each level in order to better hone your character in a specific direction. For example, the aforementioned Imperial Agent gets to specialize into Operative (which is essentially a rogue) or Sniper (which is a ranged fighter, like a hunter). From there, the Operative can actually become a healer or a damage dealer, where the Sniper is locked into a damage role.
Now, to answer the biggest question I’ve seen related to this: The specialization choice comes at level 10. It’s one of the few things that is locked into a certain level in the game. When you hit level 10, you’ll find a quest-giver on your faction’s fleet who will lead you to the quest where you make your choice. As long as you’re level 10 before you leave your first planet, this won’t be a problem. The problem comes if you leave your first planet before you hit level 10. Despite many players’ feedback, you pretty much have to backtrack all the way to the first part of your fleet in order to pick up the quest if you aren’t at the right level when you pass it. It’s a little bit of a pain, but it’s how it is for now. So, if you leave your planet at level 8 or 9, plan on backtracking all the way to the shuttle that took you to the fleet before you find the quest giver.
The other big question related to specialization is how to change it. You can’t. Once you pick your spec, you’re locked into it. You can reset how you’ve spent your points on your talent trees, but once you pick the advanced spec you are locked into it, so choose carefully. I fully expect BioWare to get tired of the numerous customer complaints that come in from mistakenly choosing the wrong spec and find a way to let players change (even if it’s only a one time change), but for now just be careful when you choose. The good news is that level 1-10 is pretty quick, so even if you have to restart you can probably do so in an afternoon.
6. … but level 14 will quickly become your favorite.
One of the big complaints I have about The Old Republic is how fixated BioWare was with sticking to older, somewhat outdated MMORPG designs. As a result, you’ll find you have quite a bit of running to do between quest and quest giver, particularly as you leave your first planet and head for the big city. This can become exceedingly frustrated if you miss a quest and have to go back into territory you’ve already covered or if you blow the cooldown on your easy transport (or missed a bind point). Suddenly, at level 14, this becomes less of a problem. You see, at level 14, all classes get Sprint, an ability that increases your speed when you’re not in combat. It’s a saving grace for the game and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it – and the answer is you got by with a lot of bitching and complaining. Don’t believe me? Start a new character after you have played one with Sprint for a large amount of time and see how much you whine!
7. Save, save, save for level 25!
Sprint is nice, but Speeders will let you move even faster. At level 25 you get the ability to train in Speeder Proficiency, but it’s a pricey ability. At launch, you’ll need 40,000 credits in order to train in the ability, and that doesn’t even cover the cost of the speeder itself. While 40k sounds like a big deal, it is possible to hit by level 25, provided you haven’t spent a ton of money on other extravagances (storage space, crafting, that RP outfit you just had to have). The big benefit of buying the Deluxe Edition of the game is that it included a STAP mount for free, but you still have to train in order to use it, so start saving now!
The popular question has been “What level do I get my ship?”. The answer is: you don’t. Things like companions and ships are not level dependent. Instead, they come at the appropriate place in your character’s storyline. If you focus only on story missions and not on other offerings, you’ll probably get it sooner, but if you’re a completist (like me), it’ll take you longer as you take time to experience everything the game has to offer. On top of that, some classes get access to their ships and companions sooner than others. That’s just the way of life: as soon as you pick something like a class or crafting skill, you’ll realize how cooler all of the other classes and crafts you didn’t pick are. So, what level do you get your ship? Whenever you get to it, but almost certainly before level 20 for most classes.
9. Two is company… unless you don’t want company.
One of the mechanics that has taken me the longest to get used to is BioWare’s companion element. Over the course of your character’s story, you’ll encounter characters that wind up becoming your companion (NOTE: Not every character has the possibility of becoming your companion; this isn’t Pokemon where you catch the ones you want). Having a companion makes it easier to take down bad guys (very few game players will say no to having a second gun or healer along), but it’s not a common element to MMORPGs for a reason – traditionally those supporting roles are provided by other players, helping gel the “multiplayer” part of the genre. I’ve gotten used to my companion and even come to like the one I didn’t think I’d care for, but I know some players who are completely put off by theirs. The simple solution is to have yours always working on a crafting mission for you, or just dismiss them outright. If you don’t want the steenkin’ companion, don’t use the steenkin’ companion. It’s an easy solution, although one that takes away some of the QQ some players embrace so dearly.
10. Mankrik’s wife is dead
Yes, it’s a World of Warcraft reference. Get ready for them, as well as Star Trek Online, Rift, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and even Doctor Who references. It’s geek culture, and that sort of thing abounds. Now, to bring the Mankrik’s wife reference to Star Wars: In Vanilla WoW, Horde players had a quest to find the wife of a character named Mankrik. Players had the hardest time achieving this, mostly because Mankrik’s wife was dead and the corpse was hard to find. The result was one of the longest running in-game jokes of all time (to the point that even Blizzard got in on it when Cataclysm came). I’ve already seen similar situations form in The Old Republic, where players are desperately looking for something but not finding it, so they turn to general chat, overlooking the fact that the same question has been asked five times in the past five minutes. Sometimes the people you’re looking for are dead or hard to find for a reason. Look at icons on the map, look for blue glowing icons, and most importantly look at chat before you ask a question.
So there you go: ten tips to help out the new Star Wars: The Old Republic player. How are you enjoying your Old Republic experience so far? Have a topic you’d like us to write about in upcoming weeks? Sound off in the comments section below!