A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy
As I entered the starport, I found I'd arrived just in time to watch my ship fly off into the distance. A few moments later I received a taunting holo-transmission from that scumsucker Skavak, who had apparently marooned me in the middle of a battlefield, taking my cargo along with him. After some typical smuggler posturing, sarcasm, and death-threats were exchanged, I made my way towards the settlement of Fort Garnik along with fellow smuggler Corso Riggs, who Skavak had also betrayed, to give our client, a burly man named Viidu, the bad news. Along the way I completed a few more sidequests, gained a couple of levels, and visited a trainer for the first time, gaining a few useful new abilities, including two grenade skills that could stun or damage an entire group of enemies at once.
At this point I'd run into a few of the game's phased areas—sections of the game that are cut off from the rest of the population. Similar to an instance in World of Warcraft, major story segments within the game are contained in phased off areas that only people currently on the quest can enter. A unique version forms for each group entering, but simultaneously, it's not cut off from the rest of the game world either. It's simply a barrier you pass through. There are no loading times associated with it; it's completely streamlined and provides a way to keep major story events separated. For class quests, only one character of that class was permitted in at a time, though other classes could come in and help if they were in the same group. For global quests, it similarly provided a way to avoid waiting for respawns when a quest required me to go after a unique NPC. I found this whole set-up to be quite impressive and a terrific way to keep the game flowing when multiple players were working on the same quests.
Unfortunately, Viidu had some bad news of his own. After speaking with him at his base of operation in Fort Garnik, I learned that my cargo had been a shipment of blasters intended for one Rogun the Butcher, a man as dangerous as his name implied. Apparently he wasn't the forgiving or understanding sort, and so my next step was to buy some time to find Skavak before Rogun and his cronies came down on us like a ton of bricks. From here I set out deeper into Ord Mantell, helping the Republic's fight against the Separatists while running a few errands for Viidu.
You Could Use a Good Kiss
"It seemed that the war between the Empire and the Republic would have much more room for gray area than one would initially suspect."
After a few errands, I returned to Viidu's place where I met someone new, a girl named Syreena who was in Viidu's employ. It was around here that the game's conversation system started to pique my interest a bit more. Among the dialogue options available when speaking with Syreena, some of them included the preface "flirt." Since every good smuggler ought to be a ladies' man as well, I naturally chose these options, and although it didn't ultimately lead to anything special, it was an entertaining section of dialogue nonetheless. Although this particular conversation didn't include any, shortly before I had started receiving light side and dark side options when completing quests. Despite being sided with the Republic faction, dark side options were regularly present, and my character was likewise accompanied by a light side/dark side meter, tracking my progress towards one or the other. It seemed that the war between the Empire and the Republic would have much more room for gray area than one would initially suspect.
In any case, Syreena was more than just another pretty face. She turned out to be a great source of information as well, and provided me with a few leads that might lead to Skavak and my ship. I ventured further into Ord Mantell, completing quests and gaining levels, and overall the game was beginning to feel a bit more like its own entity. As I gained a few new skills, combat as a smuggler started to feel very different from anything I'd ever experienced in World of Warcraft. I found myself seeking out good cover spots and getting into position before engaging enemies, and it wasn't always easy. There were times when cover was sparse and I'd have to make do simply crouching down, which still gave access to cover-based skills but wasn't as effective in deflecting damage.
It wasn't long before I ran into Syreena again, this time acting as a protector. She was being accosted by a couple of Viidu's other "employees," but some clever wordplay quickly scared them away and hopefully scored me some points with her as well. I continued following leads and completing quests, until finally I got my big break. Syreena and Viidu had gotten some solid intel that Skavak was dealing with the Separatists, and could be found at their Secret Volcano Lair. Alright, they didn't actually call it their Secret Volcano Lair, but that's what it was. In any case, it was time to bust some skulls.