Star Wars: The Old Republic - Rise of the Hutt Cartel Preview

Justin Clouse | 25 Mar 2013 19:00
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It's been a bit over a year since Star Wars: The Old Republic first launched. Praised for its efforts to make story matter in an MMO, the game initially surged to great success as "the fastest-growing MMO ever", accumulating 1.7 million subscribers in the first few weeks. The game made impressive use of voice acting, quests and character choices to help craft an experience that melded the genres of MMOs with more traditional story based RPGs. A major decision during a story quest wasn't just a decision between new blasters, but one that might ask you to truly examine how your character might respond. And the best ones would leave you wondering if you even made the right decision at all. One moment about ½ way through my Imperial Agent's story left me honestly befuddled for what the right answer was for both me and my loyal agent.

However, as players churned through the available content in the year after the game's release, the subscription numbers started to dwindle. While I personally enjoyed my time with the game, I'm not much of one for rolling alt characters, so once interests dried up with the agent's story I was left wanting. During our preview, BioWare was very frank with what they felt the issues were, citing that the cadence of their updates were too far apart and they weren't focusing enough on the social and multiplayer aspects that the players were most requesting. The studio has since adopted a new policy to establish an eight week minimum between updates and is taking numerous steps to interact with their community more. Also during this time the game was converted to a free-to-play model, we were told that the decision was made by the whole studio together, not just the leadership. Since the change away from the subscription model, 4.5 million new characters have been created as have 2 million new accounts.

It's into this environment that BioWare will be releasing their first expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The new content allows players to increase their level from 50 to 55, explore the new world of Makeb and embark on a new story-line. In addition, players can delve into a new max level operation, gain new abilities, craft/loot new weapons and items and embark on some galaxy spanning quests. It's pretty much everything you'd want out of an expansion to a game you've been dedicatedly playing or enough new tidbits to perhaps entice former players back, and the folks at the studio were excited to be showing the new content off.

Rise of the Hutt Cartel's story is unsurprisingly centered on the Hutts, so if you didn't get enough of sticking it to those big bulbous slugs in the original story-line now's your chance. Picking up shortly after the storylines from the original game have concluded, the Galactic Republic has scored a few key decisive victories, whereas the heroes of the Sith Empire have risen to positions of great power or gotten in a few shots of their own. As the two sides continue to grind up their forces against one another, the Hutt Cartel are attempting to use this opportunity to wipe out both sides and place themselves firmly in control of the galaxy. An introduction of another major player in the galatic politics has some interesting implications for the factions expanding beyond just good and evil, which I think would be a great direction to pursue. The focal point for this new conflict and story is the planet Makeb.

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