Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Coruscant

Slowly but surely, me and the missus are still playing through The Old Republic. This means that we are officially "subscribers" now, having paid for our second month, and I've not seen much about the overall performance of the game now that initial month has passed. Anecdotally, most of the people I know that bought the game are still playing, but what that means in the bigger picture I'm not so sure. I hope it's doing well though, the MMO space could do with a bit more competition surviving in the more premium end, especially as most of the (still anecdotal) stories I'm getting out of World of Warcraft paint a picture of a game sucking up huge large subscriber numbers but now just coasting lazily along.

Anyway, the next world in TOR after the introductory planet has taken us a while to get through, but it's pretty indicative, I think, of the leveling game as a whole.

Coruscant! Coruscant! Coruscant! (it's only a levelling zone)

Coruscant is a good choice for the first zone that all Republic Classes will see after their split starting experience. For a start it's immediately recognisable, a big and iconic Star Wars location, and the capital of the Republic, and being send on missions from the Senate Building, meeting the great and the good, gives you a good sense of the Republic itself and it's slightly tenuous, only-just-at-peace-with-the-Empire status. It's also where the game started to feel distinctly "Bioware" in it's flow - you get a load of quests that take you to a zone, you go to the zone, the quests gradually take you deeper until you finished, then you come back to the hub and go a lot of talking, then head out to a new zone.

It works pretty well, in my opinion, breaking the game out into digestible story-focused chunks, and playing alongside Z, on her own quest chains, we still end up heading to the same sorts of places with handy side-tracks for each of us. Like earlier, it feels like a "proper" co-op RPG, something no-other MMO I've played has managed. The story remains the games strong point, a mix of a central "planet" story that everyone does and the more private class-only story, but I find myself wanting to play to find out what happens next, not just to grind that next bit of exp.

There is also a nice mix of 2- and 4-player mini-dungeons dotted around the place if you feel like more of a challenge. The two of us, with a bit of care and guile, can manage the 4-player once with a couple of levels over their recommended bracket, and there is a few of them on Coruscant (and on Taris, which we will come to in a minute), and they seem to be designed to bridge the gap between the single-player experience and the full-on "Flashpoints". The game could do with a proper party matching tool though, given the constant General Chat spam with people looking for teammates.

At the end of Coruscant you get your own spaceship, and a choice of worlds to go to. It's pretty cool to stand on your own bridge and watch the streaky stars effect as you hyperspace around, and it also unlocks the rail-shooter space combat missions, which are fun, but very much a side show as far as I can tell. But onwards we pressed to Taris, hundreds of years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic, in which a populated city world was bombed flat by the Sith.

But that's for another day.