Star Wars: The Old Republic review diary, level 15-30

It’s hard to believe that Star Wars: The Old Republic has only been out for a week. Last week we wrote about our experiences with the first 15 levels of the game, but since then we've continued to grind away, passing level 30 earlier this week. We’ve already put over four days worth of play into Hollander, our Sith Inquisitor, who has continued his journey from lowly slave to Lord of the Sith. We're going to stray away from going too deep into his plot, like we did with last week's iteration, because we don't want to spoil the narrative for you. But even without talking about Hollander's personal story, there's still plenty to go over, including ship combat, new instanced Flashpoints, and a bunch of other content.

Above: We get ready to explore the outer rim

Exploring Fury

Soon after hitting 15 we were given our ship. Unlike mounts, which need to be purchased at level 25 (more on that later), ships are given for free to every player as part of their story. The Bounty Hunter, for instance, needs to complete a mission to steal her ship. Since we are Sith, and we’ve pleased our master, our ship was a gift. It’s named “Fury” and it’s absolutely awesome.

Ships in SWTOR work much like they do in games like Mass Effect. They’re a hub, letting players talk to their companions, and they’re a transport between the game’s planets. You can’t customize their appearance, which is more than a little upsetting, but you are able to add parts, improving the offensive and defensive capabilities of the ship. At first it wasn’t necessary, but as we leveled up and unlocked more space missions it became important and rewarding.

Above: Check out the space combat in action

Space missions are entirely optional, playing unlike anything else in the game. Each level is a twitch-based shooter that requires only the mouse to use, and asks players to blast apart enemy ships, destroy large space stations, escort defectors, or complete other similar tasks. They start off easy but slowly ramp up the difficulty, rewarding players greatly with experience and money for completion. They’re extremely fun, and a great time waster for players waiting for their friends to log in, or for their companions to get back with crafting materials.

Putting our friends to work, again

Yeah, companion(s). Plural. Once we got our ship we also got a robot companion which, while useless in battle, can still be sent on crafting missions. Later we got another companion, and then we got another. SWTOR slowly adds more characters to your party, and each one fills a different role. While you can’t have more than one out at a time (something we’d love to see them change in future updates, even if it’s only for a select few missions), you can still send the others out to craft. We talked about crafting in the first review diary, but it wasn’t until we started exploring it more that we realized exactly how fantastic it really was. 

Above: Khem is working harder than ever

Generally, all schematics learned from a trainer are basic, but it’s possible to get several higher tiers of the same item by reverse engineering it. It’s as simple as clicking the reverse engineer button in the item menu, and it breaks the crafted item down into some of its material components.

Sometimes, it will also give a schematic for a better version, and this version can also be reverse engineered to get an even rarer version. Some items? They can go one step further. It only works sometimes, and can be a huge money sink to actually get the rarest schematic, but the reward is massive. Since it costs so much and relies on persistence not everyone actually does it, and it makes crafting anything viable for making money back. Though we are far from making back our initial investment into crafting we’re definitely chunking into it by selling rarer versions of the stuff everyone else is selling.

Planet hopping

While levels 1-15 had us sticking to only a two planets, 15-30 had us running all over the galaxy. We jumped to the Colicoid-filled Balmorra, the giant city of Nar Shaddaa, the desert of Tatooine, and ended our leveling at the bureaucratic (and lame) Alderaan. While Balmorra and Alderaan likely offered the most typical MMO adventures, we fell in love with Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine because of how undeniably Star Wars they felt. Nar Shaddaa is essentially the ugly shadow of Coruscant – the dark, corrupt, crime-filled Hutt version of the beautiful city. 

Above: We really liked wandering the streets and killing civilians

Every inch of playable land on the planet is city, making for a wholly unique experience in the genre. It's as big as any other area of the game, just sectioned into run-down city streets. It got a little stale after a while, but it made us feel like we were in a Star Wars movie, which is still pretty cool – even if the movie it made us feel like we were in was Attack of the Clones. It also had some interesting urban touches, like replacing the bunny or squirrel neutral enemies that every MMO has with civilians. That's right, you can just passively shock civilians to death, just because. It's awesome. 

Check out page two for additional Sith-y adventures...

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  • Ravenbom - December 31, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    HoCo, I have a question: do you team up with other players for the Flashpoints mostly, since everyone is following a different storyline? I guess a better way to ask the question is: do you mostly solo when following your storyline, and join a party for Flashpoints, then dropping the party after the Flashpoint to do your story again?
  • Crabhand - December 28, 2011 10:25 a.m.

    Yea, when your last review went up and you discussed the enjoyment of the Black Talon Flashpoint, I knew you were in a for a disappointment. It seems like they put a lot of work into the first flashpoint, but they didn't really bother with the later ones. I imagine it is because they wanted to entice newer MMO players to try out instanced dungeons by stringing them through with a story while letting them get the hang of the basics. Then before they knew it, they understood the structure of a flashpoint and didn't need the story to keep them moving and doing objectives. Although I'm not sure if you got to the Flashpoint Boarding Party, because it has more in common with the Black Talon than it does with Hammer Station and Athiss. It's second half, The Foundry, would be the same way I imagine.
  • GR HollanderCooper - December 28, 2011 4:13 p.m.

    I'll talk about Foundry/Boarding Party next week, but WOW was it awesome.
  • Ravenbom - December 31, 2011 11:05 a.m.

    Are you saying "WOW" as a pun?
  • Yeager1122 - December 28, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    I wish i could play this damn $15 a month.
  • jmcgrotty - December 28, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    This may be absolutely obvious to everyone else, but is this article about the trek from levels 15 to 30, as the article seems to talk about, or from levels 30 to 45, as the title says?
  • Falstad007 - December 27, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    This game is so much fun. I'd agree though, the flashpoints do devolve into the typical MMO formula, but that doesn't bother me too much.
  • inkyspot - December 27, 2011 7:16 p.m.

    Okay that flying thing is cool looking. The game, if my life was good, I would be able to afford the PC and be able to spare the $15,00 a month, Just in the idea of all thing things I have in my budget next year, but you never know.
  • Mamudo - December 27, 2011 3:47 p.m.

    I have to play this but I am disappointed by flash points becoming generic overtime.
  • ThePrivateer - December 27, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    Your character is silly looking.
  • CaptCOMMANDO - December 27, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    I think he looks cool.