Sunday, April 28, 2019

Switzerland Is The Place To Be: SWTOR

Arriving on Alderaan felt like a breath of fresh air. Cold, clean alpine air. I never thought of Princess Leia as the Heidi of the stars but if her home world's not based on Switzerland, I'll eat my lederhosen.

Of course, Heidi was poor. I don't believe anyone on Alderaan is poor. I'd be surprised if the average Alderaanian had ever met a poor person. Even the servants probably have trust funds.

The spaceport looks like the lobby of a luxury hotel. It has trees. Not shrubs. Full-grown conifers. Actually, I bet they're larches. Also giant succulents that look totally out of place.

You did get all of that Spice out from under your skin, right, Corso? This isn't Nar Shadaa.

What the Alderaan spaceport doesn't have is street gangs that try to kill you in the Arrivals lounge. That's the kind of welcome you only get on Coruscant. At least, I think it was Coruscant. So many street gangs have tried to kill me on so many planets, it's hard to keep them all straight.

What Alderaan has instead of gangland violence is internecine political strife shading into all-out war. Because of course it does. Someone always has to be fighting someone else for the soul of the planet.

Let's see, so far there's been Ord Mantell (seperatist insurgency), Taris (failing reconstruction efforts due to piracy), Coruscant (gang warfare and vigilante justice) and Nar Shaddaa (organized crime and general breakdown of law and order).

Alderaan may look like a tourist brochure but I wasn't even out of the main concourse before someone buttonholed me about bomb disposal. This is a feature of TOR that fascinates me. I understand the trope whereby the Player Character is a de facto Hero, or even a DemiGod, but I'm a smuggler, for heaven's sake!

Yes, off-worlders often mistake it for a Cathedral. Can't imagine why. It's just the old Organa family pile...

On what planet do generals in command of entire armies delegate crucial and specialist military procedures to professional criminals? And it's not even as if they're recruiting The Dirty Dozen. There's only one of me. Well, and Corso, who no-one ever notices. Or mentions.

It isn't only generals and military high-ups who react as though I'd arrived at the head of a full armored division with air support. It's noblemen and senators, spymasters and technical experts of every stripe. They see me step out of the Smuggler's Elevator (let's not even go there...), they watch me jog past the destination boards and somehow they just know I'm the one they've been waitng for.

The extreme expectations placed upon the head of a slightly-built, scruffily-dressed captain, owner of a scuffed star-freighter with a crew of two humans, a wookie and a droid, three out of four of whom never leave the ship, beggar belief. I'm used to stretching credulity to the breaking point in fantasy MMORPGs, where complete strangers often refer to me as the Chosen One or The Ascended, but in this context some of the conversations I'm having verge on Spinal Tap levels of irony.

They must have heard we were coming, Corso. Red carpet treatment, again!
It's become entirely commonplace, normal even, for me to accept Missions that I'm told would be too risky for whole squads of sodiers. I seem to have an almost infinite variety of technical skills, from hacking to explosives to PTSD counselling. It's very fortunate I envisaged my character having a Can Do attitude when I created her because it's apparent she can quite literally do anything.

Which is fine. I've suspended my suspension of disbelief, packed it away for the duration, and now I'm just going with it. Stop a war here, start a revolution there, all the same to me.

I'm just happy to be doing it against a background of beautiful, blue skies and majestic snow-capped mountains instead of jaundiced jungles or claustrophobic corridors. I spent so long on Coruscant and Nar Shadaa, battling gangs, bashing droids and going so deep into the water supply network Corso complained his blaster was going to rust. It's just nice to be out in the fresh air again.

Do you hear that rustling sound? It's too cold for snakes, right? Tell me it's too cold!

So far, Alderaan has been such a refreshing change. I've spent more time tripping across the alpine meadows, waving at the Nerfs and taking tourist shots of the mountains than I have doing missions. I have done a few. I grabbed some guy from some insects. That was weird. And I delivered a headless droid to a brother and sister double act (siblings, yet again - it's becoming quite the theme).

Sis did the straight lines, Bro did the comedy. He was dressed for it, too. He reminded me of a minor member of The Legion of Super-Heroes. Matter-Eater Lad, perhaps. There was some flirting but I just couldn't take him seriously. For a moment I wondered if he might be looking to join me as an official Companion but nothing came of it.

I confess I'm a little vague on Companionship in TOR. I'm never really sure who might be up for it. I can think of at least three possibles I've let slip.

I'll take a Legion Flight Ring for the robot, Tenzil.
There was that treacherous minx on Ord Mantell, the one who got Corso's boss killed. I liked her. I kind of wish I'd taken her instead of Corso. I think she might have come along if I'd asked. Then there was Corso's cousin. She was a bad egg. There was a conversation option about her working for me but I didn't take it. I'm sure there was someone else, too, but I forget. I meet so many people.

Or maybe it's all in my mind. Perhaps I'm reading things into conversations that aren't there. I could find out. I could go read a guide on  "Companions and How To Get Them". But I don't want to. I like muddling along. I'll be "efficient" another time, with someone else.

Now that  my first character's only a handful of levels from the original cap, it would normally be the time to think about starting another. In the old days, when it took months, not days to get to max level, I'd often have four or five characters in play before any of them capped out.

And stay down!

That's why I never subscribed to the "Main" and "Alts" way of thinking. I used to annoy Guild Officers no end with my instance that I didn't have a "Main", but it was true. I had characters I was playing more than others at any given time but it probably wasn't until MMORPGs fully adopted the Free to Play model that I finally reached a point where, at least in some games, I could honestly I had a Main character.

Once the financial barrier fell I played a lot of MMOs. I just didn't have time any more to build up a big roster. I tended to play one character for a few weeks and then, when my interest began to falter, instead of starting another character I'd start another MMORPG.

In TOR, though, I'm beginning to feel the pull. I'm already wondering what some of the stuff I've already seen would look like through another pair of eyes. With the expansions now available and the level cap raised to 70 I could probably stick with my Scoundrel for weeks but I don't think that's going to happen.

Now this beats a yellow cab!

I might manage 50 before I squirrel off to another Class. That should be manageable. I definitely don't want to leave Alderaan for a good, long while. Although next comes Tatooine and I do like a good desert.

Anyway, enough of that. This civil war between noble houses isn't going to stop itself. I'd better get back to what I do best: saving the world by shooting people in the head.

Hey, I never said I was Heidi!


  1. That's one downside to playing a smuggler. It's hard to justify doing anything outside your class story in-character. It makes a lot more sense to be fighting wars and mediating galactic politics as a Jedi or Sith, who are supposed to wield political power and canonically can take out entire battalions single-handedly.

    Regarding companions, you have no choice in who you recruit or when. They'll just show up when they show up. Even if you hate them, you'll still wind up stuck with them.

    That's true of the base game, anyway. In Fallen Empire/Eternal Throne, there's a bit more choice, but only to a point. You can fire, kill, or avoid recruiting some companions, but not all. There's no option to get rid of Lana, for instance (though why anyone would want to is beyond me).

    If you've had any issues with alt addiction in the past, SWTOR is definitely the game that will make you relapse. Between its variety of class stories and its wealth of account-wide progression, it does everything it can to encourage alt-play. Which is a refreshing change of pace from most MMOs, where alts seem to be something developers tolerate at best.

    I say give the Imperials a try. I find their stories much more interesting as a rule, and Dromund Kaas is nicer than Coruscant.

    1. Yes, I thought several times that some of the Missions would make a lot more sense if I was a Force-using, lightsaber-wielding Jedi. On the other hand, I do play, and the dialog as written wholly supports, my Scoundrel as having the self-confidence and ego of a megalomaniac. I'm not surprised she takes all these Missions, I'm just amazed she survives them!

      I am definitely going Imperial on my next character. Not sure what Class yet. It's going to be interesting because I am almost pathologically incapable of playing characters that are impolite or bad-mannered. I'm happy with snark and sarcasm but open rudeness just makes it impossible for me to enjoy playing. That's why I keep taking the Light side options and why I eventually had to stop taking all the "Just give me the credits" ones - not because of the morality but because of the rudeness. I'm imagining that the Empire dialog is considerably more abrupt than The Republic, which could be problematic.

    2. You'd be surprised. You'll deal with a lot of awful NPCs Imperial side, but it's not that hard to play your character as mostly reasonable and decent, most of the time.

      Unless you're a bounty hunter. For some reason they decided to make it all but impossible to RP a bounty hunter as anything other than a bloodthirsty psychopath.

      A large part of the reason I enjoy Imperial side so much is I'm fascinated by the dichotomy of trying to play a good person in a corrupt empire. Being the nice guy is the path of least resistance for Republic characters. As an Imperial, it's a struggle against the grain, and it feels far more meaningful.

      Based on your experiences so far, I'd say you'd probably enjoy Sith warrior the most. It's arguably the lightest story Imperial side ("lightest" being a relative term). While it's not to the same degree, there is a fair bit of the kind of snark and humour you see in the smuggler story.

      I still recommend agent just on general principle, too. It's much darker and more serious, but it's so good. It's probably the best story for illustrating what life is like being a "normal" person in a galaxy full of Force-wielding demigods and galactic empires. It somehow manages to be both one of the most epic class stories, and one of the most grounded.

  2. Kudos for the LSH reference. Back when I used to follow comic books the Legion was one of my favorites. I loved reading the Darkseid saga when it came out. :)

    @Tyler - It's funny to watch my own reaction to someone saying DK is nicer than Coruscant. My views of DK will always be colored by the early days when the taxi system was two separate systems and being forced to traverse a Heroic area to get into the main city. I got killed by the latter a few times, which upon reflection felt like a rather Dark Side introduction to DK. While both issues have now been fixed in various ways, those initial impressions remain.

    That said, DK does have one of my favorite quest chains. No spoilers.

    1. I grew up reading The LSH and when I say "grew up" I mean from when I was about five years old until my mid-30s. I began just before the Jim Shooter/Curt Swan classic 60s run but that's the defining period for me, followed by the controversial Keith Giffen/Tom and Mary Bierbaum reboot. I do love the Levitz/Giffen Darkseid storyline, too.

      I lost track of the comics timeline after Giffen left but the reason I'm watching the Melissa Benoist "Supergirl" series right now is becasue I just happened to see a clip where she was talking to Mon-El and Brainiac 5. Which is in Season 3, which I haven't quite got to yet.

      Probably best not to get me started on The Legion...

  3. I think it's the Bounty Hunter on Alderaan that has one of my favorite conversation options/scenes in the entire game.

    1. That's kind of one vote for, one against Bounty Hunter. It's on my list.

  4. The image of princess Leia and Heidi somehow merged together made me laugh really hard! I never had that association myself when we played on Alderaan, but it makes perfect sense now.

    I noticed that your captions are getting very funny since you play TOR. I approve! ;-) You seem to really enjoy yourself, good for you. I'm almost tempted to return to the game once more. Almost.

    1. I'm certainly enjoying it more than I expected. Going to be playing for a while, I would think.

      Captions are kind of a zen thing: sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. I do like a good caption when it works, though.


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