Tales From The Backlog: Ten Things I Should Have Learned Sooner About The Old Republic

Games can get off to a rough start for all sorts of reasons.  Adding game play elements too quickly or too slowly.  Poor tutorials or documentation.  Dense expository dumps, especially when marred by wooden voice acting and cryptic references, are particularly off-putting.

Sometimes, though, you’re just playing it wrong.

This was the realization I came to during the early levels of The Old Republic, a game that had been so consistently described to me as a World of WarCraft clone that I overlooked a lot of the streamlining tweaks Bioware had made to that formula.  Or my memory of that formula, anyway: any accuracies I could sift out of my old WoW memories have likely been outdated by expansions and patches.

So here are ten things I wish I’d known – and probably should have – to make the most of my MMO rebirth in The Old Republic.  I can’t say they qualify as good advice per se, but maybe they’ll make you good about your own lack of noobishness.


1)     Bind points and taxi stations have to be unlocked manually.

Entering a new area in The Old Republic fills in the region on your personal map and tosses in a nice experience point bonus for good measure.  I mistook that to mean that all the district’s amenities were then fully unlocked, leading to a long hike back through some early outposts to open up my fast travel options.


2)     Quests stack nicely…as long as you pick them up.

Okay, I am here.  My next story point will occur over there, down a winding path that would probably take five minutes to navigate even if it weren’t lousy with raiders, pirates, scavengers, and rogue droids.  Fortunately Bioware has sprinkled in a half-dozen vignette missions to complete along the way, largely by doing all the same stuff I was going to do anyhow.  These dense mission zones are great for tackling in hour-long chunks.  I just had to learn the hard way that overlooking those unjoined triangle icons on the first run through a safe zone would mean a lot of backtracking in the field later on.


3)     Bind points are great for mission extraction.

Speaking of backtracking, it took me a while to figure out why The Old Republic simply referred to my Hearthstone as “Quick Travel.”  Turns out it isn’t a Hearthstone at all.  No, unlike World of WarCraft which only allowed me to tractor back to a single pre-determined destination, the holo-beacon allows me to instantly warp back to any unlocked bind point on that planet.  What a convenient way to avoid trudging back through the warren of respawned baddies at the end of a successful mission.


4)     Always head to the nearest medic.

If Fast Travel is that useful, surely dying in battle forces me back to the last settlement I visted, right?  Maybe the last medical droid I unlocked with a quick right-click?  Nope!  In the event that I were to die multiple times trying to do a Heroic Quest by myself – which would just be silly – choosing to be evaced to the nearest hospital automatically restores my character at the closest medical droid.  Trying that option earlier would have saved me a couple ten-minute waits for resurrection in the field.


5)     Heroic Quests are seriously not for lone wolves.

The Old Republic’s difficulty curve does a solid job of making me feel like a bad-ass.  Wandering into a Heroic area by myself cures that right quick.  For some reason I was assuming my catman buddy was sufficient for those missions designated “Heroic 2+,” but in a game where everybody has a battle-ready sidekick in their utility belt, I probably should have realized that was a cue to start making friends.


6)     Getting gored to death busts up your gear.

Continuing my mastery of dying a whole bunch in front of an audience, imagine my surprise to learn that my military kit was taking a beating too.  Then imagine my horror at having three pieces break, losing complete functionality, just before grappling with a tough mission boss…followed by my chagrin to discover that literally any vendor in the game could have fixed it up in a jiffy.  The option’s right there at the base of every shop screen.  Repair All and often, folks!


7)     Commendations are planet-specific.

Regardless of how baffle-headed my early adventures were, I still managed to pick up a sum of Ord Mantell Commendation chits that could be traded at a couple local shops for special high-level swag.  There was some nice stuff in there, but I thought it would be much more clever to save them for gearing up with whatever the next planet had to offer.  Whoops!


8)     Smashed droids can be scavenged for crafting materials.

Sometimes, at least.  Scavenging is one of the two gathering skills I chose for my companion to learn.  The skill grants access to a new interface where I can fund his expeditions around the galaxy to find the raw components needed for crafting new weapons, only to discover it also lets me strip usable parts out of mechanical enemies.  I wonder if Jedi can extract any crazy crystal components out of guys they defeat.


9)     Crafted goods have variable quality.

I did my share of leatherworking in World of Warcraft, and as far as I can remember, every Reinforced Jerkin was the same as the one before it.  Not so in The Old Republic.  Careful observation has taught me that every blaster my companion cranks out has a random chance to arrive with a bonus stat increase or extra modification slot.  It’s yet another incentive to keep his build queue rolling even when I’m not playing.


10) Bugged quests can be reset.

Just as I was preparing myself to settle for a mere nine-point list, my character got himself stuck on a quest to contract a virulent disease from the local wildlife.  A solid hour of failure finally convinced me to try deleting the quest and try picking it back up, only to have it pointed out by a couple helpful players that the equally prominent Reset button would have accomplished the same thing with a lot less hassle.


The lesson I’ve picked up from this learning curve is that Bioware has crafted a game that’s more inviting, modernized, and sleek than I was prepared for.  All the little things dragging down my early hours were the result of my assumption that MMOs revolve around delayed gratification, with prizes that take hours of tedious grinding and hoarding to unlock.  The Old Republic has the sensation of constant progress and gratification.  It wants to pack every region full of objectives, turn those Commendation chits into player-chosen rewards, and get me back into the action as quickly as possible.

It’s a good way for an MMO to hold the attention of a solo-minded player like me.  I can’t wait to see if it holds up this momentum as I finish my tour of duty of Coruscant.

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