Now that BioWare has announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going free to play, we can expect an influx of new players to the game. For some, it will be their first time playing. For others, this will be their first time playing an MMO. As it is a vast and complex title, playing can be daunting for any first timer. Therefore, instead of spending hours trying to explain the game’s various systems and intricacies and getting frustrated to the point of head butting your best friend, we have put together a primer for beginners detailing just that. If this is your first time traveling to a galaxy far, far away, hit the jump.
Before I begin with the various game systems, I think it is important to go over the story. The game takes place 3,641 years before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. During this tumultuous time, the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire are engaged in a shaky truce. About 12 years before, the Empire attacked the Republic capital of Coruscant during a peace conference and forced them to sign the Treaty of Coruscant. This document, while ending the Great Galactic War between the two factions, forced the Republic to withdraw their forces from Sith controlled parts of the galaxy and even release some planets from the outlying regions of the galaxy. Your role in this whole conflict solely depends on which class you choose.
If you wish to learn more about the background of the game, I recommend you read the novels and comic book series set in this timeframe. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance takes place 10 years after the Treaty and sets the stage for the events in the game. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived follows Darth Malgus, an important figure in SW: TOR during the attack of Coruscant. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan follows Revan after the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the predecessor to SW: TOR. The three comic series Blood of the Empire, Threat of Peace, and the Lost Suns further flesh out this world, or rather galaxy. I also highly recommend playing the original SW: Knights of the Old Republic, arguably one of the best RPGs of all time. Even though all of this will greatly broaden your understanding of the game, none of it is necessary to fully enjoy it.
The first thing you will do after picking a server and watching the sweet opening cinematic is pick a side: Galactic Republic or Sith Empire. After watching a faction specific second opening cinematic, you will pick a class. On the Republic side, you have Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, and Trooper. Think of it as playing Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, or a Clone Trooper. On the Empire side, you can choose between Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter, and Imperial Agent. That would be like playing Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett, or… random Imperial officer? Ok, so there is really no Imperial Agent type character in the films, just know that they’re similar to the Smuggler in gameplay.
All the classes concentrate on dealing damage. Once you pick an Advanced Class at level 10, you can further specialize to take damage—tank—or heal others. Most Advanced Classes can either be a tank or a damage dealer, or be a healer or a damage dealer. This is done by allocating points in a specific skill tree. The different classes and their roles are listed below. For the Republic:
And on the Empire side:
It is important to choose the role you would enjoy playing the most as you cannot currently change your advanced class once making your selection.
Once you decide which class you want to play, it will be time for you to pick a species. The species that are available to choose from are different for each class, so I will briefly explain each one. Human is self-explanatory, i.e. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and so on. Cyborg is a human with robot parts, i.e. Darth Vader. Twi’lek are aliens with two long tentacles coming out of their head, i.e. Bib Fortuna, Jabba the Hutt’s assistant. Zabrak look like humans with spikes coming out of their heads, i.e. Darth Maul. Sith Pureblood are the original Sith species and look like red humans with face tentacles. Rattataki look like bald, white humans. Chiss look like blue humans. Mirialan look like green humans with face tattoos. Last, but not least, Miraluka look like humans, but have curtains over their eyes because they are blind and lack the formation of physical eyes. Of course, this is an oversimplification and each species is rich with their own history, but you get the idea. After picking your species, you can customize your character to look the way you want them to. Finally, you pick a unique name for your character—either by coming up with it yourself or by choosing one from the random name generator—and your own, personal saga begins.
After the intro fades and you step off your ship, your journey will begin as you are given your first quest. SW: TOR has several different types of quests and they might be a bit confusing in the beginning. The first quest you get is a class quest. A class quest is designated under the Class header in your quest log, which you can access by clicking on the triangle icon at the top of your screen or by pressing the L key. Class quests move your class’ unique story along and carry you through the game. A world quest is a series of missions that takes you through the events of your current planet, revealing some of its history and allowing you to make an impact on its conflicts and struggles. Both of these types of quests sometimes have bonus quests that pop up. A bonus quest is just a bonus and is not necessary to complete the parent quest. Sometimes a bonus quest has several parts, with an excellent reward at the end. Heroic quests are separated into two tiers. Heroic two+ signifies the quest’s difficulty is for two or more players, while Heroic four is for four players. Story quests will never be Heroic quests. Remember you can always track or untrack a quest by clicking the button in the quest log.
While you are still on your first planet—your origin world—you will get your first companion. Companions are a game mechanic that separates SW: TOR from other similar games. A companion is a character that will help you in combat, go on Crew Skill missions (which I will discuss later), and enhance your own story with their own. You can either leave your companion to operate on their own or you can use the companion’s quickbar to access their skills and micromanage them. Each class gets five unique companions, and each faction gets a unique ship droid that comes with your ship.
Crew Skills are tasks that your companions can do to gather materials, create items, or go on special missions. As you can probably guess, Crew Skills are separated into three categories: Gathering Skills, Crafting Skills, and Mission Skills. Gathering Skills allow you or your companion to gather materials for crafting out in the world or for you to send your companion on special missions to obtain these materials. Gathering Skills include Archeology, Bioanalysis, Scavenging, and Slicing. Crafting Skills allow you to build all sorts of items from armor to lightsabers to medpacs. The Crafting Skills are Armormech, Armstech, Artifice, Cybertech, Synthweaving, and Biochem. The last Crew Skill type is Mission Skills, where you can send your companions on missions to collect items such as companion gifts, lockboxes, and so on. Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting, and Underworld Trading all fall under the title of Mission Skills. You can pick any combination of Crew Skills, the only restriction being that you can only choose a maximum of one Crafting Skill. It is very important to pick the Crew Skills that not only complement your character, but also complement each other.
Flashpoints & Operations
At level 10, you will also encounter your very first Flashpoint. Flashpoints are like dungeons in other games in that they are story driven, instanced four player content, spread throughout your leveling experience. The level 10 Flashpoints, The Esseles for the Republic and The Black Talon for the Empire. Throughout your journey, you can experience 13 different Flashpoints, three of which are unique to your faction. Hard modes open up at level 50 for a more challenging experience. Of course, more Flashpoints are to come.
Operations, on the other hand, can only be accessed once you have reached level 50. They come in three difficulties: Story mode, Hard mode, and Nightmare mode, and are further split into 8 player and 16 player varieties. Operations by design are intended to be the most difficult and time consuming content in the game. There are currently three Operations in the game with more on the way.
Warzones are the game’s instanced PvP, or Player versus Player, content. Inside a Warzone, you are part of an eight-player team charged with completing a certain objective while battling another team of the opposite faction (or sometimes even your own faction) and stopping them from completing their objective. Warzones have two brackets: level 10-49 and level 50. In the former bracket, a player’s stats increase or decrease to even the playing field a bit, diminishing level disparity. There are four different Warzones in the game so far.
Ranked Warzones are similar to regular Warzones except they’re only available for level 50 players in premade teams of eight. Ranked Warzones offer more competition and teams receive a rating based on their win/loss ratio. Ranked Warzones also offer better rewards and better PvP gear.
The final piece of the questing puzzle is the Space Missions. Combat takes place on rails and your job is to dodge incoming fire and debris while destroying enemy ships and completing the mission objectives. Gameplay is similar to other games such as Star Fox or Panzer Dragoon. Space Missions are a fun diversion from other parts of the game, and you receive rewards for completing them. You can embark on these missions from the cockpit in your ship, and they appear as regular missions in your log. Due to the amount of experience acquired from completing them, they can often be highly rewarding for your character's overall progression to max level.
One of the newest features added to the game is the Legacy system. Once you complete Chapter 1 of your story, you will pick a last name and unlock your own legacy. Among the many benefits, this system allows you to unlock several perks, class and species combinations previously unavailable, and more. Some of these benefits are, of course, subject to your Legacy level, which you begin leveling alongside your character’s levels once you unlock the system. The only difference between the two is that every character you create on a server adds and benefits from the Legacy system. You can also set up a family tree with your characters, which is a nice feature. As the game continues to mature, the system will continue to grow.
Keep in mind this is a very distilled and simplified explanation of only a few of the game’s many features. Use this primer as stepping stone, a first step into a much larger world. If you want to learn more about anything that is discussed in this article, we have more in depth guides and articles right here on Darth Hater. Most importantly, remember to have fun. There is a lot to enjoy in SW: TOR.