s dedicated Bioware fangirl, there was no way I could not give SWTOR a shot. I had signed up for the beta early last year, and of course never made it in until that final beta stress test weekend. But that’s cool. I don’t begrudge the lack of beta times. In fact, I am not a huge fan of getting invested in a beta as a way of experiencing content. It just means you’re done with the content that much earlier. I really wonder how Blizzard will handle their biggest beta test ever for Mists of Pandaria, with all the one-year package folks. But I digress.
The beta weekend was actually quite lovely. I ran into no technical issues at all, and got to experience a most wonderful thing: my SO being actually interested. She’d quit WoW in 2009, right after killing Yogg-Saron, being bored with the game in general. Since then, she’s never shown any interest in WoW again, and well, can’t say I blame her. It’s not become more interesting since Ulduar days, I fear. But here she was, being very interested in the beta, and so I let her have the reins of my computer. She enjoyed it so much that she decided we’d be giving each other SWTOR for Christmas. WIN!
We both had early access, though only like two days headstart or so. Because of insane server queue times on The Red Eclipse we changed our plans of rolling there, and instead rolled Empire characters on Nightmare Lands, to join Spinks and a few other bloggers in her guild. As my SO and I are duoing together, and she’s far more casual than I am, we’re taking it really slow, but you know what? It’s fine. This means we’ll hit 50 around the time Bioware will have patched in more content already. I can’t quite understand people rushing to endgame at the moment, because from the get-go it was clear to me that endgame and content will be the achilles heel of SWTOR.
Let me introduce you to Yvadis. Chiss, with the coolest mohawk since Kadomi, absolutely dedicated to the Empire to the point of being a bootlicker, sarcastic and slightly mean to everyone else. Ruthless and cold-hearted when on missions. The only folks she gets along with are Kaliyo, her companion who is very like-minded aside from the devoted Empire service, and Chanta, the goody-two-shoes bounty hunter she’s hanging with. See what I did there? The thing is, the way you do quests and your class story in SWTOR, unless you’re the kind of player who spacebars through conversations, you are bound to have your character develop a personality, and see it in characters you play with. Chanta the bounty hunter is not really in it for the killing, she’s in it for the money, so she will use any chance to be paid off. She probably cringes at every dark side roll Yvadis wins, just like I facepalm when the light side wins.
On Hutta we quested our separate ways and only did heroic quests together, but since Hutta, we’ve been a team. She’s a DPS Powertech, I am a healing Operative. It pleases me to no end that healing means Yvadis shoots injection needles at folks. That’s just something she would enjoy, hell yeah. I thought healing would be odd without magic/force, but it’s not. It’s quite clever. Lots of little probes, injections, all very technical. I like it. Can’t say I like the Operative’s energy system because sometimes I go from 100% to nothing in no time, and sometimes it feels like my energy supply is endless, but I guess that depends on the encounter.
Can you imagine questing together in Cataclysm? I can’t. It’s mindlessly easy as a solo player. One of the disappointments of Cataclysm is that playing alts is not that much fun anymore, because of the quests on rails system, and the overall difficulty curve. I would say it’s rare to die while questing between 1-60. That’s where SWTOR is coming in so wonderfully for us. Questing as duo is viable. We did outlevel the last quests on Dromund Kaas, leaving the planet at level 18, but inbetween I can’t say it was like we facerolled it. We had good challenging fun.
I declared SWTOR as the best duo experience ever and I stand by that. Black Talon is a flashpoint best done by two people, and it’s here that the game first blew our minds. Mine at least. An incredibly tight story, fun encounters, close calls, and the right amount of time needed to finish it. We were slow, so maybe 45 minutes to an hour? Good fun. I really loved the multi-conversations, the fun of having your decision shape the story (hahaha, my dark side roll to shoot the captain won). I understand that future flashpoints are not as good, but that’s fine. I hope Bioware is aware of the concerns and will add more similar FPs to this though.
On Dromund Kaas, the second planet you hit as Empire character, there are plenty of heroic quests. In WoW of yore it would have been called an elite quest. For those kids who don’t remember them, back in the day WoW had elite mobs that required groups to kill them. They were one by one patched out of the game. I think the only group quest of Cataclysm I recall is the arena one in the Twilight Highlands. You might know the Hogger jokes, but maybe not the times where you wiped on Hogger over and over, with a whole camp of angry gnolls chasing you. Ah, those were the days.
In SWTOR, every planet has heroic quests, from the first world you start on to the end. Some are Heroic 2+, some are designated as Heroic 4. Four is the default partysize in SWTOR. The heroic quests are totally optional, offer nice rewards and can be repeated daily. They’re fun! Some of them end in real boss encounters, like Friends of Old. That one was actually fairly involved. First you had to kill some champion mobs to get Thermal Detonators, then head on over and destroy 3 landing shuttles. Once the shuttles were down, you had to enter the main building and kill the Sith behind the operation, and her apprentices. Basically three different quests, but the objectives update as soon as you are done with one part. This was a heroic 4 quest and we duo’d it, with our companions Kaliyo, my pocket tank, and Mako, her pocket healer. The last fight was a close call, as I wasn’t able to keep Kaliyo up, but a very satisfying kill.
I understand heroic quests are not for everyone. They’re not for dedicated soloists. But they’re also currently not for people who feel that groups can only be handled with an LFD-style tool. Sure, LFD is convenient. It also destroys community. I have always keenly felt this since Wrath of the Lich King, and Vidyala’s post in her blog really resonated with me. I enjoy seeing people look for groups in general chat, and I have seen plenty of groups actually doing the heroic missions in groups. I don’t know if it takes a turn for the worse on later planets but up to Balmorra I haven’t seen any issues so far. Go out there and meet people. Don’t call SWTOR a single-player game and then demand an LFD tool. I have seen all those fingers pointed. I find the WoW leveling game much more a single-player game than SWTOR. You can easily spend 1-85 without ever speaking a word to any other player.
The other cool thing about duoing together is that I get to experience the bounty hunter story as well. Only as spectator, but I come along to her story quests and she comes along to mine. Sure, it spoils the main story for me if I want to play a bounty hunter, and replayability is one of SWTOR’s issues, but at the moment, I am enjoying it.
I would definitely recommend SWTOR to anyone who is looking to play the game with a friend or significant other. SWTOR is my fourth major MMO, and between WoW, LotRO, Rift and SWTOR, I feel it’s definitely the best for duo or small group play. With the right companions, you can turn into a potent four-man group that can tackle champion mobs easily and earn your blue rewards for it. We sure kill every champion mob that crosses our path. It’s a game that has great strengths, but of course also flaws that I will address in later posts, but it’s definitely a satisfying two-player experience. Questing together is good fun, you can assist each other in your class quests and definitely kick some serious ass in the 2-4 people heroic quests. I hope to find out if you can successfully do 4 people Flashpoints as duo as well, but for now at level 19, Hammer Station is still kicking our butts.
Before I finish, let me show you this amazing version of Yvadis that I won in a Twitter contest. DiscoPriest, the amazing artist behind Disciplinary Action, Maps for Tanks and Space Cadet Comic, made this for me based on the screenshot I posted earlier. How cool is that? If you are interested in one of those for yourself as commission, follow the easy instructions that Stop provided in his blog. You also get to admire his art there that he commissioned. Can’t pimp those icons often enough. A lucky winner is me.