Scoundrel? I Like the Sound of That
Since the entire planet is a city, naturally I wasn't able to explore all of Coruscant, but that didn't really matter. With Ord Mantell behind me, plenty of new content loomed ahead. However, before I continued to search for Skavak and my ship, I had a few new pieces of gameplay to experiment with.
The first of these were crew skills, The Old Republic's crafting system. Unlike the crafting systems in most MMOs, it wasn't my own character that learned these skills, but my companions. I was able to select three skills in total: one crafting skill, and two gathering or mission skills. Although there were many to choose from, I ultimately decided on one of each type: Armstech for creating blasters, scavenging to gather materials for armstech, and treasure hunting, because, well, I was a smuggler. We like treasure. Although crafting works in a similar way to other MMOs, it's unique in that I never had to put in any time myself. Instead, my crew (in this case, Corso, since he was my only companion) did the crafting, becoming unavailable for combat for a minute or so while the item was being made. I, meanwhile, was free to continue doing whatever it is I had to do.
The more interesting and unique element of The Old Republic's crafting system, however, was its missions. There were missions available for both scavenging and treasure hunting, and for a small fee of credits and at the cost of losing Corso as an ally for five to ten minutes, he would head out on one of several different missions and bring back goods that could be sold or used for crafting. Although I didn't really explore the system very thoroughly, since Corso was such a valuable ally in combat, it was easy to see that once my crew expanded later in the game, these missions would be something one would want to partake in nearly constantly. Further, it would provide an excellent, continuous credit-sink that would hopefully stabilize the in-game economy, an issue plaguing nearly every MMO on the market.
These crew skills weren't the only choice I had to make, as upon reaching level ten, a quest in Coruscant allowed me to finally choose an advanced class. As a smuggler, I had two options: I could opt to become a gunslinger, dual-wielding blasters and generally shooting the living hell out of anything that moved, or I could become a scoundrel, one of the most unique, bizarre, and all-around enjoyable classes I've ever encountered in an MMO.
After choosing scoundrel as my advanced class, I quickly discovered that I had to completely change my playstyle. The scoundrel's abilities are very unusual: ranged weaponry, stealth, stuns, and healing. Stranger, the smuggler's abilities all draw from a rapidly-regenerating but extremely limited energy pool, meaning that while longevity in battle was never an issue, constant spamming of healing skills was completely impossible. Also, I gained access to a shotgun sidearm which could be used with a handful of short-range attacks, generally best utilized from stealth. With these new abilities in hand, my tactics changed. I began most fights from stealth (which enveloped Corso as well, thankfully), taking down my first target quickly with short-range attacks, before dropping into cover and working with Corso to finish off the rest of the group.
What Have You Done To My Ship?
"...a scoundrel, one of the most unique, bizarre, and all-around enjoyable classes I've ever encountered..."
From here, Corso and I began scouring Coruscant for our dear friend Skavak. Following lead after lead, the story meandered its way across the planet. In the Old Galactic Market, an old acquaintance of Corso's agreed to supply us with information, being none too fond of Skavak himself. As we continued our search, we met a hacker who was able to "adjust" Skavak's criminal record to make him a bit more popular with the authorities, and an offworld lawman name Meil who had been hunting for Skavak for quite some time, yet another ally in our efforts.
Finally we tracked him down to an Imperial hideout in the depths of the city, where Skavak was making a deal with the Imperial military. After eavesdropping on his conversation for a bit, we had all the information we needed. It was time to take the dirty nerfherder out. Unfortunately, this wasn't really thought out too well, as the Imperials had us a bit outnumbered. While Skavak and I verbally jousted, a figure was sneaking up from the shadows. Lo and behold, it was our old buddy Meil, here to lend us some support. A firefight ensued, but in the chaos, Skavak managed to slip away. After checking on Meil, who was wounded in the fight, Corso and I headed straight for our next destination: the spaceport.
Skavak had instructed a business associate to take payment from the Imperials, and we weren't about to let him beat us there. Rushing to the spaceport, we found his contact, and more importantly, we found my ship. After a bit of "coaxing," Skavak's contact, a starship salesman, was more than happy to return my ship, along with a few upgrades, all on Skavak's tab of course.
With my ship returned, the whole galaxy was at my disposal. But Skavak had slipped away and was still out there somewhere, likely very ticked off and looking for revenge. More importantly, I now wanted to know what happened next. Despite my initial reservations, this was now a game I very much wanted to play. The story had already grabbed my attention, but this was just classified as the prologue, and I only engaged in the single-player content. There are still heroic group quests, flashpoint dungeons, PvP, and much more waiting to be experienced. MMOs are generally designed to be most enjoyable with other players, but this entire outting I described was undertaken completely solo and I was having a blast.
As I said at the beginning of this impression, The Old Republic's scope is mind-boggling. Calling it ambitious is an understatement. These pages of text only cover the prologue of one class, and two planets out of who knows how many. Despite some obvious derivation from World of Warcraft, The Old Republic ultimately does manage to set itself apart from other MMOs, and I'm definitely interested in experiencing the finished product.
Star Wars: The Old Republic will be released on December 20, 2011.