Last night, I at last wrapped up the Imperial agent class story in Star Wars: The Old Republic. In the end, it did actually manage to live up to the hype that has surrounded it for so many years. It’s definitely going down as one of my favourite Bioware stories to date.
It’s very much a slow burn story. There’s not necessarily any point of it that’s boring, but it does take a long time to get to the stuff that’s truly memorable. But once it finally hits its stride, it’s well worth the wait.
I don’t know how the agent story compares to the other class stories, but I have to say this didn’t feel like just a class storyline to me. It felt like the main plot of the game. It wasn’t pared down or seemingly unfinished or otherwise lacking the way class or faction-specific content in other MMOs tends to be. The Imperial agent storyline could easily have worked as a standalone RPG.
As always, Bioware’s skill with character writing shone through. By the end, I was reflecting on how attached I had become to Vector, Lokin, and Temple (I’m still airlocking Kaliyo and SCORPIO at the first opportunity), but what was even more impressive was the deep, violent hatred I had developed for my enemy.
It has been a long time since a villain or group of villains — in any medium — has inspired such a depth of loathing in me. Maybe Adrian Zorlescu in The Secret World.
Bioware’s excellent character development really does go both ways. They can make you absolutely adore a character, but they can also build a character who is so vile, so insufferably smug and irritating, so utterly despicable that it’s all you can do not to punch your monitor every time they appear.
I also found the ultimate conclusion of the story immensely satisfying. Looking online afterward, I was surprised to discover just how many different variations on the ending there are, but it looks like I got the best one. The best for my particular head canon, anyway.
It does make me a bit sad that Bioware didn’t have the resources to continue the class storylines, but it’s obvious they never could have. Even WoW doesn’t have that kind of resources. It can’t be done — they simply bit off more than they can chew.
I hope I at least get to see Keeper again. I like the cut of her jib. Would love to see her become a full companion somehow at some point. I know it’s not too likely, but a man can dream.
Speaking of companions, that is one minor blemish on the experience. Companion stories could have been handled better.
Let me summarize the climax of every companion story for you:
Companion: “I’m going to do a cool thing.”
Me: “Can I come?”
And then the camera fades out briefly, and the companion returns to tell you of their adventure. I imagine it’s another resource issue, but there were companion missions in the early game that let you go out and do things. You’re telling me I have to trek to the ass end of the galaxy to help Kaliyo get revenge on someone who talked back to her five years ago, but I can’t be there for my boyfriend on the most important day of his life?
It’s not right, man.
The layout of companion content is odd, too. New conversations are relatively rare in the early parts of the game, but near the end, they’re popping up after nearly every mission. I don’t know why they couldn’t have been spread out more.
Same deal for unlocking companions. I was stuck with nothing but Kaliyo for a huge stretch of time, but I acquired SCORPIO so late I’m not sure why they bothered including her at all. Why couldn’t they space those out better?
Still, this is on the whole a minor nitpick that doesn’t much detract from an otherwise excellent experience.
Of course, there’s still plenty to do. I still have expansion content awaiting me on my agent, though as I’ve said before I’m not in any rush to do so. I’m not sure my patience will last, but right now what I’d like to do now is finish one or two more class stories (at least consular to see the Republic side of things, and maybe inquisitor as well) to get a full view of the launch story before moving on to expansions.
I may also end up playing other alts down the line, too. Both knight and warrior have companions I want to get to know, and I’m still somewhat intrigued by the trooper story, even if the class itself didn’t impress me much. Bounty hunter is tempting as well, purely because I’m a Grey DeLisle fanboy.
I don’t think I’ll be done with SW:TOR anytime soon. This is why I followed through on my original plan of cancelling my subscription and buying enough cartel coins to eliminate the worst restrictions. Which brings me to…
Making the switch from sub to preferred:
As I wrapped up the agent story, I was also getting used to life as one of the unwashed masses without a subscription.
On the whole, it hasn’t been too bad so far. It’s very different from what I had been expecting; either the information I had read was out of date, or I had misinterpreted it. Probably a little of both.
Firstly, action bars. I had been led to believe I would lose access to some of my action bars after the switch, but this was not the case. Nothing changed. Granted, I don’t use the full compliment of action bars, but at the same time, I can’t imagine why you would need to, even considering SW:TOR’s outrageous case of button bloat.
Similarly, I had been led to believe I would be limited to six character slots, which would force me to decommission one character (likely the level 60 smuggler I made purely to farm Gree reputation), but I actually have eight, which allows me to have one of each class. Will come in handy if I ever decide to make that bounty hunter.
I had also been led to believe my cooldowns for quick travel type abilities would go up significantly after I let my sub lapse, but they didn’t change at all. With full legacy perks, this means I have no cooldowns at all on quick travel and the fleet pass.
But one thing I had never seen mentioned is that I can no longer use my stronghold to reach the fleet or my ship. The good news is the legacy perk to teleport to my ship isn’t too hard to get, so it’s not the end of the world.
In the end I had to buy less unlocks than I expected to. Kind of frustrating that I bought more cartel coins than I needed to, and I’m not sure what to do with the leftovers. I bought some extra legacy perks (rocket boost FTW) and stronghold decorations, but I’ve still got over a thousand left. Despite having some of the most aggressive monetization in the industry, SW:TOR has a surprisingly unappealing cash shop. Usually I buy clothes in these things, but most of the outfits are less interesting than what I already have, or too expensive.
My agent has been max level for ages, so I can’t judge the impact of the reduced XP until I spend more time with alts, but as a subscriber I was always well ahead of the level for each planet I was on, so I can’t imagine it’ll be too problematic.
The one thing that is bothering me, surprisingly, is the credit cap. I’ve never been very wealthy in the game, so 350,000 credits seemed like a nice high ceiling, but turns out I hit it quicker than I thought, and the warning messages about approaching the limit are far more insistent than I realized. It’s irritating, especially as I slowly run out of things to buy.
Still, on the whole, life as a preferred player isn’t half as bad as I had feared. So far, anyway.
This ultimately only further baffles me in regards to Bioware’s decision-making. Supposedly the point of their free to play model is to offer a free trial and then entice people to stay subscribed, but it doesn’t work. The absolute worst experience you can have in SW:TOR is as a new, level one player who hasn’t paid before. The later in the game you get and the more you’ve spent in the past, the less reason there is to keep spending.
It’s like the world’s wonkiest buy to play model.