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Serea and Tas’meel face a Hutt

Reviewed using a retail copy.

Darth Serea Aeterna sits in her Fury-Class starship, meditating. Her husband, Darth Tas’meel is practising his knowledge of the Soresu lightsaber with a training remote. Serea goes to get her husband and says, “Darth Marr is calling us.”

Tas’meel immediately deactivates his lightsaber and they go accept the call.  It’s not everyday you get a call from a member of the Dark Council, and it would be foolish to ignore it. Upon answering, it turns out the Empire has turned its eye to a planet under the control of the Hutt Cartel, Makeb. Their mission is to aid the Empire in securing Isotope-5 to build the best weapons in the galaxy for the Empire.

The planet Makeb, a third faction within Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Hutts (as previously mentioned) are mining it for isotope-5, a powerful element that could be used to build the most powerful army in the galaxy. Unfortunately, excessive mining has de-stabilized the planet so much so that it’s core is going to collapse. The Empire wants to get the  isotope-5 to make their weapons and crush the Republic before Makeb is no more. The Republic, on the other hand, wants to evacuate the citizens of Makeb from the planet before it’s destroyed. And the Hutts are simply trying to carve a way into galactic politics. It is also where my journey into Rise of the Hutt Cartel began, along with a fellow RP-er who plays Tas’meel.

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Shot of Makeb’s landscape

Makeb is a planet designed to add new story to the game, as well as help players reach 55, the new level cap. It is a beautiful planet to travel around, because Makeb is literally falling a part from the inside out, the developers had to show a planet teaming with life that was in danger of being lost. The huge rock formations did just that as they looked secure and sturdy, and something that could easily be toppled over at the same time. It’s a good thing my Sith Warrior was not testing her abilities to force push rocks!

Another place that greatly stood out to me was the giant volcano you had to go through in order to further the story along. If Makeb wasn’t going to implode, it was a certainty to becoming like Mustafar. The way they designed the landscape, ranging from rocky formations to giant resorts, was truly a wonder to behold. The more I travelled through it, the more of I wanted to see it! The design team did an amazing job with it.

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My friend Stryks meditating by the fires of Makeb.

The only other planets that has ever stood out to me as much as Makeb was Ilum. Ilum was a beautiful world. Unfortunately, the developers let me see more of Ilum than  Makeb. You go to different places on a planet via a “taxi” service, and normally the taxi travels through the planet as you made your way to your destination. In Makeb the taxi simply takes up, starts to travel, and then it fades to black and you come back right at your destination.

This was a bit heart breaking for me, as Makeb  was so well designed and the developers only gave us a taste of the planet via the areas where quests were. My message in the suggestion box for the developers is expand on  Makeb, so we can continue to explore and experience it more.

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Shot of some of Ilum’s design

Thankfully, SWTOR is one of the those games where developers listen to what gamers have to say. Although it can seem like the developers are very silent in the Suggestion Box section of the forums, they do pay attention. For example, the addition of Makeb was an answer to our cries for more story. The planet story arc was well done, it engaged gamers both on an emotional and intellectual level. It also had factions step out of their comfort zones a bit. For example, the Empire potentially fighting to save a planet? The Republic just giving up on a world, and simply getting people out? That certainly is a reverse from the Taris planet storyline for the Republic and Empire.

Another answer to players suggestions was the introduction of same gender romances (SGR). Well, OK, suggestion is a bit of an understatement. Players have been pushing for a more inclusive SWTOR, and that includes SGRs. For a long time after BioWare initially promised bringing it in after the game launched, SWTOR players have been in the dark about it until 2.0 and Makeb were announced. While the brief story line on Makeb, and the GSI quests, were hardly the most romantic homosexual romances to grace video game history, it is a large step to Star Wars being a bit more inclusive of all forms of love. Since BioWare has put their foot in the door in terms of SGRs with 2.0, hopefully we may get NPCs on various planets, as well as adding one or two companions of the same sexual orientation to the class story lines in the near future.

The final suggestion that made me smile is a little bit on the racey side. What is it? Well, I follow a  forum thread that says female characters can dress up in skimpy attire in SWTOR… and men can’t! We have multiple slave girl outfits, some armour is more revealing when on females, and practically no male NPCs have ever dressed revealing. What was BioWare saying, men don’t wear sexy clothing in Star Wars? Not anymore! 2.0 introduced the relaxed uniform, a skimpy chest piece that is revealing on both men and women. Hopefully for people who follow the forum thread, this will lead to a bit more gender equality in the game in terms of male slave/dancer outfits and more eye candy for those who prefer their male characters to show off as much skin as their female counterparts.

First of Relaxed Jumpsuit Line of Armor. Special thanks to Taelios for posing for me!

First of Relaxed Jumpsuit Line of Armor. Special thanks to Taelios for posing for me!

In terms of game mechanics, I was glad I got a chance to test out the changes on the Public Test Server before it went live, as it greatly changes how I play the game.

1) The Level cap increased. With the new level cap comes one new move for each advanced class, and a re-arranged skill. For my main, the changes were good. Before 2.0 being a vengeance-spec’d Juggernaut was challenging because it was a very resource-heavy spec. Now, building up that resource is not a problem anymore. The increase to my juggernaut’s damage output was not so bad either. This was not the case for everyone, though. I found as I travelled through the expansion, and received feedback from my fellow guild members, the heat resource bounty hunters use became less forgiving in terms of management and use than it was before.

In fact, it cannot truly be said that Bounty Hunters are the mirror image of Troopers on the Republic side, because it is easier for trooper to manage their ammo than it is for a bounty hunter to manage their heat. It really isn’t fair, as a core mechanic within a character shouldn’t be enough to make them almost unplayable. Hopefully in the next patch, or expansion, the evolution of classes will be for the better of all classes, and improve upon them, other wise the Bounty Hunter might become the least played class.

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New Inquisitor Gear for 2.0 with dye in it.

2) There were new sets of gear, and a re-working of the stats with the level cap increase. For many of us, the change in specs as well as the stats we need is still a bit confusing. Let me explain, as a DPS Juggernaut, the rules for stats were simple before 2.0: Stack on your main stat, have accuracy at 100%, weapon accuracy–>110% Force/Tech Accuracy, Critical (crit) at 35% and Surge at 75%. Now it’s all over the map! Still stack the main stat, but now crit is a garbage stat, alacrity has been added to all classes but only Sith Sorcerers and Jedi Sages can really use it, so it’s another junk stat, and no one really knows how to balance things out, so surge is anywhere near the new cap at 70%. In many ways, it was frustrating and it is still frustrating and confusing for some people.

It was even more of a disaster PVP wise. The level brackets for  PVP areas, called war zones,  are levels 10-29, 30-54, and 55. Since that a wide range to have for PVP, they bolstered the stats so everyone is equal. Unfortunately, this lead to people realizing that it’s better to go into PVP naked then to actually wear armor! The developers definitely goofed in that regard, though it was amusing to see all those people running around naked in war zones. Hopefully they fix this soon before war zones go from being PVP to gong shows.

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Serea and Tas’meel looking with concern at the state of Makeb- and 2.0.

Speaking of PVP, I must now address my #1 criticism of this expansion. In SWTOR there are four major groups of gamers: story lovers, PVEers, PVPers, and RPers. In terms of those specific groups, who really got the most out of Rise of the Hutt Cartel? Unfortunately, the answer is just the PVEers. Think about it, Makeb is mostly PVE content, levelling is applicable to everybody, and new gear sets aren’t really brand new things. Furthermore, PVEers got a brand new operation, Scum and Villainy, to sink their teeth into.

PVPers didn’t get a brand new open world PVP area, nor a brand new war zone. There is no enemy-free spots in Makeb besides the main imperial base to RP, and we didn’t get any brand new RP areas either, no updated emotes, no chat bubbles. Just the same old stuff. And yes, Story lovers got the new Makeb storyline, but we got no new story driven FPs, and class stories did not move on. Furthermore, it didn’t really move along the Republic verses Empire conflict. In some ways, it’s as if the Republic and the Empire have forgotten about each other and have moved on in their day-to-day lives.

To put it mildly, Rise of the Hutt Cartel is really a giant present to PVEers. The problem with this is the patches between expansions were already doing that, & then some. An expansion should have something for all the different groups of gamers in SWTOR. Scum and Villainy was the new operation for hardcore PVE, why didn’t they release a war zone that takes place on Scum and Villainy’s planet, Darvannis? They did that with Explosive Conflict and Novare Coast, and when Terror From Beyond and Ancient Hypergate came out, those pairs of PVE and PVP content take place on Denova and Asation. Where is Darvannis’  War Zone? Where is an RP-friendly world on Makeb? Why are some emotes like /hug and /crossarms not animated yet? Why are there no chairs for my character to sit in correctly at the cantina? Why are there only 4-man stuff for PVEers? Why can’t PVPers have something similar yet? Where is open world PVP? Exactly, there’s nothing of that in there. Lucky BioWare, I’m a gamer who does hardcore PVE as well as RP, but  they only gave one part of my gaming experience an upgrade.

Beginning of Scum and Villainy

Beginning of Scum and Villainy

Rise of the Hutt Cartel was the first expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, it did well with the resources the developers had to build on, and what they started with. It had an excellent and engaging story,  an awesome new operation that is fun to play as well as master at the hardest difficulty levels, and gave players a taste of some of the things they have been asking for, like SGRs and revealing clothing for males. However, it has it flaws, confusing changes to the stats, as well as a very bugged PVP bolster, made the transition a bit difficult for some. Furthermore, I think it is was detrimental for BioWare and EA to design a expansion with only one group of gamers in mind. Please do not leave the players who are RPers, class story lovers, and PVPers behind in the dust. Hopefully the next expansion will be more inclusive as time goes on, if not, the game will be left in the dust by the player groups you chose to ignore.