The Old Republic is a game that's built for those who, simply put, love Bioware titles. If you don't enjoy cutscenes, character dialogue, or Star Wars as a franchise it's hard to know where to really begin explaining how well the whole 'living story' concept that SWTOR attempts to craft. It's something that most gamers will be able to identify with quite well when looking at a game like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, but actually translates strongly when put against a pre-existing universe and lore. Most likely it's because MMOs as a form of game design are meant to take gamers from one 'stage' to the next via level hubs, but either way it translates into a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys a good story.
The hardest part of SWTOR is arguably selecting a class, since each class has its own sub-class options which are subtly different from each other. Within the first ten levels players get a chance to experience the core of their chosen class on their starting world, the Jedi Knights and Jedi Consular story evolve from the conflicts emerging on Tython while the Smuggler and Trooper classes start on the separatist filled Ord Mantell. Progression from 1-10 means learning about a lot of the core moves that an individual class carries with them throughout the game, but it also means learning about the core storyline that drives your character from world to world. Becoming involved in the plight of the Republic and your characters individual contribution to it is extremely engaging as selections made will have repercussions later on. For example, being rude to a character in-game may make them more difficult to deal with in the future while the opposite may open up more dialogue options in turn.
It's also within this range that players learn a bit about the grouping and quest system, which is so straightforward that there's really no room for confusion. Every single quest players get is pinpointed on the minimap, highlighted with what level range is appropriate and if you (or your party member) has the quest in the first place. This makes SWTOR more a game about the journey than the destination, giving players more time to let dialogue options play out or a bit more reason to go exploring zones without worrying about searching for items in a vaguely described area.
Furthering how important relationships are in this game are Companions, NPC partners players get at level 10 but eventually are given more in the future. Companions come in a variety of different classes themselves, ranging from healers to tanks or general DPS, and can go with the player just about anywhere. In dialogue options, they add their own opinions to the story, approving or disapproving of player choices or simply reacting as necessary. Companions are also used as party-slot fillers, giving players the chance to solo content that may be recommended for two or more actual players. In most instances (and of course, depending on the class), a companion is never a real replacement for a player, but if you have the right class combinations it may be possible to do with two players and two companions what normally requires four players to defeat. This flexibility in game design means less waiting around for the 'ideal' party and more moving at a quick and fluid pace. The fact that every class has DPS/Healing or DPS/Tanking options only furthers how flexible the game really is.
Companions don't simply serve as a secondary party member, but also as a means of crafting. Each player can learn up to three crafting skills, and assign party to the task of collecting materials or assembling goods. This means that when you're actually grouped with a few real players (or if you have multiple companions) players can still put them to work by having them create gear, gather new materials and complete side quests/missions for various other bonus goods.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as well, because things only become more interesting once you leave the core worlds and venture out into the galaxy. All of these points so far are merely foundations for the core of SWTOR, and we'll continue our look into this developing MMO over the next few weeks. In addition to our next segment covering Combat, Flashpoints (PvE instances), Warzones (PvP instances) and Space Travel, we'll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have in week two of our SWTOR breakdown experience extravaganza.