We already went over some of the Old Republic's mechanics in Part 1, but in this part, we'll go over more specifics on crafting, PVP, and space battles.
Companions are one of the more useful aspects of the SWTOR. Not only do they help you in combat which I've mentioned in part 1, but they are an essential part to crafting. Instead of having you scour all over the galaxy in search of materials, you can queue up your companions to go find them for you. The game boasts an impressive 14 crew skills, though they're split up into three different categories; Gathering, Crafting and Mission.
Gathering skills will send your companions out to gather important items that you require for crafting. Gathering is also one of the only crew skills that you can participate in yourself, as various nodes scattered across locations are able to be scanned and picked up. Crafting allows for development of weapons, armor, upgrades, etc. And lastly Mission skills are specialty crew skills that grant various bonus items, such as lockboxes, gems, and other money making items. These crew skills then work on a timer. Initially these times will be fairly short, and will put your companion out of commission for about 5 minutes, but as you level up, these times get progressively longer. The convenience then comes from having multiple companions who you can send out at the same time, and therefore level up your crew skills much faster.
As you progress through your class quests (and this doesn't take very long) you'll get access to your very own starship. We're not talking X-wing size here. Each class has a different starship that not only enables space travel, but space battles as well. These are somewhat of a sore subject though. They play out as an on rail shooter, much like Star Fox and task the player with certain objectives like shoot a number of enemy ships down, escort a ship to safety or completely eliminate an enemy base. While these are awesome the first couple times around, you'll slowly realize that doing them over and over and over again never changes. Objectives are always the same for each stage, meaning if you have to shoot down 25 enemy ships when you're level 15, you'll still have to shoot down 25 enemy ships when you're level 30. Granted, you gain access to more space battles as you level up, and they do get progressively harder, but repeating them never yields new results. It would have been far cooler to have rotating missions so that coming into it each time would at least feel different.
Moreover, the more you upgrade your ship with better armoring and laser cannons, the more you'll realize just how much of an exercise in patience they really are. Since they're on rails, they always take a certain time to complete. No matter if you complete all your mission goals within the first minute, you'll still have to trudge your way through the next three minutes until you've flown through the level. Still, the space battles are fairly fun, regardless of the amount of times you're going to be repeating them, and believe me you will. Each day you can pick up quests associated with these space battles from your ship terminal. These award extra XP for completing them, and will become an almost essential part of your leveling process since they can accumulate up to half a level or more each day.
It is a shame however that a multiplayer component wasn't built into space battles. You're able to board and fly on a friend's spacecraft, but as soon as they engage in space combat, they disappear and you're left to twiddle your thumbs until they're finished. Hopefully Bioware is working on some sort of multiplayer space battle, since it would be amazing to go head to head against the enemy faction Rogue Squadron style.
Though there aren't any multiplayer space battles, PVP is where you'll spend most of your time decimating other players. Starting from level 10, you're able to queue up for three different warzones. You'll either be placed into The Pit where a game of Huttball awaits, transported to the Voidstar where you alternate attacking and defending key points as well as secret plans for a powerful weapon, or lastly Alderaan, which will task you to take control over three giant turrets and shoot down the enemies' starship. There are no level tiers, as level 15 players can easily jump into games that have level 25 players. This is done by increasing their overall health to match the high level players. Each of these plays differently thanks to the overarching mission objectives, though killing other players is still a major aspect.
Players can opt out of doing PVP altogether but they would be missing out on a great component, not to mention some truly valuable gear.
For those who would rather be cooperating with fellow faction players, Flashpoints and Operations will fill that void. Flashpoints are fairly story heavy missions that require four people to complete. These tests of teamwork will really push each group member to play to their fullest. Since Flashpoints are story based, expect to gain quite a few social points in multiplayer conversations. These play out in dice rolls and award the person with the highest number the conversation choice. Operations on the other hand are part of the end game content, and are comprised of multiple groups of level 50 players.
Filling various roles in team missions is an essential part of any MMO. Since SWTOR has eight classes, each that separates into two specialized classes, bringing the total to 16 and then each of those have three separate talent trees, there is a ton of customization within each character. For example a Bounty Hunter can either go Power Tech or Mercenary, they both share one talent tree, but then have two completely separate trees each. This allows this class for example to focus on being a healer, a tank, or a DPS character. The game doesn't allow dual talent tree switching like WoW introduced a while ago, it instead relies on respecing, though adding this feature later on would be a nice and easy way for players to switch to a needed spec on the fly when needing to run a Flashpoint or Operation.
In our last part, we'll summarize our overall experience and share our final verdict on Bioware's first MMO.