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Getting Started In Star Wars: The Old Republic

by Matt Miller on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Will this holiday mark the beginning of your journey into Bioware's sprawling MMO? Our extensive beginner's guide offers simple tips to help get you going.

Trying to offer advice to potential MMO players is tricky, since there's such a broad spread of experience and background in the genre. For many players, The Old Republic is the next in a long line of MMO love affairs. In fact, you've probably been researching the ins and outs of The Old Republic for months. We figure you're doing pretty well on your own. Move along. These aren't the droids you're looking for.

However, The Old Republic is likely to attract some new players into the mix, many of whom might have only dabbled in previous MMOs, or never played an MMO at all. Whether you love Star Wars movies or BioWare RPGs, playing The Old Republic might be daunting. Worry not. We've gathered our best selection of simple tips to help get you started.

The First Steps

First things first – you need to think about a few things before you get started. If this is your first MMO, that might be unintuitive, but a lot of your play experience is going to be dictated by your early choices.

The first of these decisions is your server, which should be influenced by three factors. First, and most important, where are your friends going to be playing? Second, what style of play are you looking for, PvE (player versus environment) or PvP (player versus player)? Remember, you can still engage in player versus player combat on a PvE server, but only when you opt in. Go on a PvP server and there's always a target on your back. Third, consider server population – in general, all others things being equal, head for a server with a lower or medium population, and you'll avoid those inevitable server queues.

The other big decision in front of you is which faction to play. Again, make sure and coordinate with your friends. You won't be able to group up with someone from the opposite faction. Whether you go with the Imperials or the Republic, your character can go down the light or dark side path or choices no matter their faction or class. That said, the Empire is ultimately a militaristic dictatorship led by a horribly evil emperor. The Republic is a democratic collection of many equal races. You do the math; Republic players generally work more with traditionally "good" guys, and vice versa. That said, playing an evil path in the otherwise friendly Republic is pretty amazing. Likewise, playing an Imperial officer or Sith resisting all the evil around him in order to the right thing feels pretty darn heroic.


Starting A Character

The other thing you should think about before you actually dig into the game is your character class. More than other MMOs on the market, your choice of class will dramatically affect your game experience. Each of the eight classes has their own storyline, not to mention their own set of powers. Our recommendation is to consider the Star Wars fantasy that most appeals to you, and go for it. Are you a Han Solo fan? The Smuggler is your best option. Darth Vader is the best? The Sith Warrior should fit the bill.

If you're more of a mechanics-focused kind of guy or girl, you'll also want to consider class role in your choice. The important thing to understand here is that your class role will be determined at level 10, when you choose your advanced class. In effect, the game has sixteen distinct advanced classes, and these subgroups will speak to your abilities, gear, and what you can contribute to a group.

While the full picture is a little more nuanced, here's the short summary:

Bounty Hunter (Mercenary): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Dual blasters, missiles, and a jet pack are a deadly combination

Bounty Hunter (Powertech): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Crazy tech armor for the win

Imperial Agent (Operative): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Stealthy up-close assassin

Imperial Agent (Sniper): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Kills from afar

Jedi Consular (Sage): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Force powers to blow away the opposition

Jedi Consular (Shadow): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Double-bladed lightsabers look sweet

Jedi Knight (Guardian): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Unyielding melee powerhouse

Jedi Knight (Sentinel): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two lightsabers are awesome

Republic Trooper (Commando): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Assault Cannons!

Republic Trooper (Vanguard): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Holds the line against any attackers

Sith Inquisitor (Assassin): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Darth Maul-style double-bladed lightsaber

Sith Inquisitor (Sorcerer): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: Force lightning!

Sith Warrior (Juggernaut): Damage, Tank; Cool Flavor Feature: Rage-fueled berserker who can take anyone's punishment

Sith Warrior (Marauder): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two lightsabers at once

Smuggler (Gunslinger): Damage; Cool Flavor Feature: Two guns, Old West style

Smuggler (Scoundrel): Damage, Healing; Cool Flavor Feature: A piece of technology for every occasion

QUICK TIP: Tired of picking up loot? The options menu lets you set items to auto loot, or to combine all the nearby lootable bodies on your first pick-up.

QUICK TIP: Datacrons are awesome, and you should look for them. Keep an eye out for hidden paths that have no clear quest objectives connected to them. Follow those paths to their conclusions and you might find one of the hidden datacrons. There are a few of these on each planet. Not only do these handy little boxes give you an insightful snippet of lore, they also offer a static, permanent bonus to one of your attributes.

[NEXT UP: What stats are important for your class?]

Stats For Your New Hero

Know your primary stats, and do your best to equip items that boost those stats. The game will help you along in this regard by giving you quest rewards that will work well for your class, but you should be careful when buying your own gear, or picking up and equipping random loot from killed enemies. Just because an item improves one of your stats (even by a lot) doesn't mean it's better for you.

Here's the most basic rundown of the primary stats. Don't worry too much about the other secondary stats at this point (like Absorption, Alacrity, or Shield), and remember to adjust your focus once you get your advanced class. For instance, while Strength is always good for a Knight or Warrior, you'll likely increasingly focus on Endurance if you plan to use that character to tank in later levels.

Strength: Good for melee, and the primary stat for Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors

Aim: Good for ranged attacks, and the primary stat for Republic Troopers and Bounty Hunters

Cunning: Good for tech usage, and the primary stat for Smugglers and Imperial Agents

Endurance: Increases health and health regen. This one is good for everybody.

Willpower: Good for force powers, and the primary stat for Jedi Consulars and Sith Inquisitors

Expertise: Affects your skill in Player vs. Player battles. Ignore if you don't plan on engaging in PvP.

QUICK TIP: Don't like your helmet, or the way it modulates your voice? Go to your options menu and turn off the appearance of head gear.

QUICK TIP: Some players care as much about how their character looks as their gameplay stats. If you're in that camp, you'll want to know the command "Ctrl-Left Mouse Click." By pressing that button combination on any wearable item, you'll pop up a virtual dressing room that will show you what the item will look like before you buy or equip it.

Light or Dark?

A quick word on The Old Republic's morality system is in order. Significant choices you make during the game's conversations will move you up and down on a spectrum of light and dark side morality. During conversations, choices that affect your morality will be marked with either a white and blue light side marker, or a black and red dark side marker. If you prefer things to be more ambiguous, you can turn off these notations in the Options menu.

Keep in mind that light side points cancel out dark side points. As a result, there are two different approaches to morality. If you're playing to maximize your character's gear potential, you should choose either light or dark, and always choose conversation options that move you along your desired path. Certain pieces of gear require that you've hit a certain tier of light or dark side choices.

The alternate path will feel more organic, and that is to make a decision on a case-to-case basis. Sometimes you go dark, sometimes light. Just remember, later in the game, some gear options may be closed off to you. NOTE: BioWare has hinted that a future patch may add "gray" gear that will work for players in the middle of the morality scale, but those features have not been implemented as of this writing.

QUICK TIP: Commendations are worth picking up and saving. Commendations are specific to an individual planet, and can be turned in for excellent equipment and upgrades. You'll acquire these mostly from completing side missions. When given a choice between a piece of equipment you won't use or a commendation, the commendation is often a good choice.

Getting Around

MMO game worlds are big, and TOR is no exception. To get to the action and mission sites quickly, a few simple guidelines can make a big difference.

Quick travel can get you to almost any place on planet that you've already visited. Unlike quick travel in many previous MMOs, quick travel can take you to any terminal you've unlocked, so keep an eye out for these terminals as you find them and make sure to interact with them so they're added to your map. After that, you can just click on the Quick Travel button on your hotbar and be instantly taken where you want to go.

Quick travel is on a half-hour timer, so you should also take advantage of the taxi routes that are scattered around planets. Hiring a taxi (often a speeder bike) to another location is a great option; it's cheap and fast, and a great way to return to a quest giver or city after a given quest is complete.

Later, you'll acquire a sprint ability. Turn this on, and leave it on.

Finally, you may want to make a point to return to a cantina at the end of your gaming session in order to get "rest XP." By logging out in a cantina, you'll build up a section of your experience bar that will allow you to level faster when you return until that section of the bar is filled.

QUICK TIP: Use your map. The world map has features to highlight individual locations you might be looking for, like a particular vendor or a class trainer. Consult your map regularly. You can even move around with the map pulled up, and it will go transparent so you can see both your character and the map at the same time.

[Next up: When to group, and which crew skills are for you?]

To Group Or Not To Group

BioWare fans need not worry; The Old Republic is about the most solo-friendly MMO we've ever played. If you want to run around and quest by yourself, go for it.

But you'll be missing one of the fun things you can do in the game.

If possible, consider playing TOR with one or two good friends. You can see each other's class story lines unfold, and work together on harder side quests.

If that's not an option, and you still want to play with other folks, you'll just need to keep your eye out for potential players as you adventure. A number of quests will be marked "Heroic," often with a number beside them that indicates the recommended number of players. Rather than ignore these challenging but rewarding quests, head over to the most obvious beginning point for the quest, and look for other players. In a matter of minutes, you're likely to find another solo player looking for a buddy. Target their avatar, right click on their portrait, and invite them to a group. Worst case scenario, they stink and you abandon the party. Best case, you complete the quest, and potentially find a future buddy to play with.

The Old Republic also includes some awesome, story-driven multiplayer dungeons called flashpoints. Head to the starting point for a flashpoint, and you'll find lots of players looking for group members.

Finally, once you hit level 10, you can start queuing up for PvP. You'll be automatically added into matches. Good luck in your first battles!

QUICK TIP: What's the deal with Greed or Need looting when you're grouped up? In short, this is a way of saying to the group that you'll either pass on picking up an item (close the loot window), you'd like the item to sell because you won't use it yourself (greed), or you'd like the item to use for yourself (need). Need rolls always take precedence over greed. Most players have limited patience for a player who rolls "need" on every lootable item, so don't do it!

Handling Companions

Every character class in The Old Republic has access to a collection of companion characters that join in your adventure. You won't have any companions as the game begins, but between levels 5-10 you'll get your first. This initial companion will complement your class skill set, so they should be a good partner for the foreseeable future.

Companions are like pets in other MMOs, but more advanced, because you'll get to fully equip these characters, as well as engage in conversations with them. You'll customize their appearance, and they'll have opinions about decisions that you make. In short, they're a pretty big deal.

Companions are pretty self-sufficient, but here are a few things to keep in mind. You can always summon your companion by clicking on the large circular portrait in the lower left of your screen. Similarly, a button on that portrait will let you dismiss your companion at any time. By pressing the "+"sign next to the portrait, you'll pull up a manual control hotbar for your companion, in which you can set different behaviors. When you're done with that hotbar, press the "-" to make it minimize.

From a story perspective, your companion will sometimes participate in conversations, and will often like or dislike your conversation choices and decisions. Take a look at your companion's codex entry to find out what they like and dislike; it's not always about light or dark side. And remember, if you ever make a decision in a conversation that you don't like (or your companion doesn't like) you can always press "ESC" to exit the conversation before it's over, and begin again. But seriously, that's a pretty boring way to play, so we don't recommend doing it very much.

QUICK TIP: Inventory filling up? Right click on your companion's portrait, and have them "Sell Trash Items." Your companion will disappear for a few minutes, sell off all your junk, and come back with a pile of credits.

Crew Skills

Gathering and crafting is handled in a unique way in The Old Republic. Your companions do most of the work. There are whole guides on the internet out there about actually leveling your crew skills, and that's beyond the scope of this tutorial. However, you may want some guidance about what crew skills you should get for your particular character.

You can have three crew skills, taken from a pool of 14, and only one of them may be a crafting skill. These are long term side skills that can help you make money and create new items for yourself or others, including abilities like archaeology, scavenging, and biochem. In short, you should take three skills that complement each other, and will benefit your character. We recommend the following groupings, each of which will full complement one another:

For medium or non-force heavy armor: Armormech, Scavenging, Underworld Trading

For blasters, blaster rifles, and related upgrades: Armstech, Scavenging, Investigation

For Jedi/Sith artifacts and lighsaber pieces: Artifice, Archaeology, Treasure Hunting

For consumable potions and implants: Biochem, Bioanalysis, Diplomacy

For droid upgrades and other gadgets (like earpieces): Cybertech, Scavenging, Underworld Trading

For light armor/force-user heavy armor: Synthweaving, Archaeology, Underworld Trading

If you're totally not interested in crafting, we recommend picking up any combination of gathering skills, especially the crew skill called Slicing - an excellent money maker.

No matter which skills you pick, a great time to focus on sending your companions out on crew skill missions is while you're headed back to a city to sell or buy new gear.

QUICK TIP: It won't be long in the game until you have access to a cargo hold to store extra stuff. Crafting materials can always be stored in your cargo hold, and you can still utilize those items for crafting, even if you're not at your hold. It's a fantastic way to save inventory space.

QUICK TIP: Utilize the Galactic Market, TOR's equivalent of an auction house. Early on in the life of a game, most prices tend not to be incredibly inflated, so you can purchase new gear, mods, and consumables at decent prices. In addition, it's a great place to sell medium to high quality gear and other items you won't use.

That's it for now. Needless to say, there are several fundamental features we haven't even touched in this guide, most notably combat. Mainly, our avoidance of these topics is simply because each character class plays very differently than every other, and general tips can only take you so far.

Hopefully, the above suggestions can give you a good start in your journey. We'll see you online!