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

Justin Clouse | 25 Mar 2013 23:00
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The Hutts have seized control of Makeb with a massive mercenary force in order to mine a highly coveted and powerful new resource that could tip the balance of power. With the bulk of their forces still engaged in combat, and a heavily armed blockade surrounding the world, the two respective factions have sent their best soldiers, agents, heroes, diplomats and scoundrels to either make right or exploit the situation. Those hoping to see how the trooper might solve the problem with heavy firepower while the imperial agent uses subterfuge might be a bit disappointed to find that each side engages in the story-line from just their factions perspective and not individual class missions, but the Makeb main quest has a noticeable level of depth and polish too it. There are numerous decisions to be made that will affect the lives of those involved, like being able to double-cross other folks you've been manipulating to further your own goals on the planet Once again playing an Imperial Agent, I found there to even more player agency than before that allowed me to dial in closer to a character that wasn't evil per se, but was willing to do whatever it took to ensure the security of the Empire, something I found lacking in the original quests.

One new feature that's sure to garner some attention is the addition of some same-sex romancing, a feature some fans have long been asking for. While I didn't encounter any indication that you'd be able to form more lasting relationships with say your companion characters, the game does allow you to flirt with and share a moment with one of the NPCs central to the Makeb storyline. I didn't have enough time to see how that relationship further progressed, little flings and affairs having already been present in the game, but it is worth noting that the whole of it is brought up in a very matter of fact manner. The flirt dialogue options are plainly labeled as they have always been.

Makeb is even an interesting place in and of itself, with an improbable but impressive geography you'd only find in the Star Wars universe. Where planets like Tatooine and Hoth might be memorable for their broad and vast expanses of sand and ice, Makeb draws the eyes vertically instead of horizontally. Everything on the planet seemingly balances precariously on narrow mesas that tower up from below, and gravity hooks add further impressive verticality to the skyline. Makeb's atmosphere interferes with the systems of normal spacefaring vessels, so these space elevators are needed to move people and goods on and off world. Though be forewarned, with all this elevation, you're bound to fall to your death at least once, or grumble at the fact that a shuttle that's just out of reach is separated from you by a nearly bottomless ravine. I kind of wanted to yell out across the 20 meters or so and tell them to just send the shuttle slightly to the left to pick me up. Despite its nature though, Makeb is a surprisingly large zone if you were to stitch it all into one piece, and the whole planet flows together better than previous worlds as you move from one area to another during your attempts to foil the Hutt Cartel. In addition to the events on Makeb, new daily missions and quest chains are being added to the universe with a specific emphasis on exploring not just the highest level worlds, but the whole galaxy. There's something subtly satisfying about returning to a previous low power zone and teaching the local rabble that you're no longer to be trifled with as you pursue these new objectives, though not every opponent is going to be a push-over as some sections will change or spawn higher level enemies accordingly.

While purchasing the expansion is required to unlock the new world, abilities and increased character level, there are some improvements for those who opt not to buy it. To accommodate and balance the increased amount of skill points and new abilities, the talents trees have received updates, and all characters can enjoy new legacy achievements and other changes coming in the game update 2.0 dubbed Scum and Villainy which will coincide with the release of Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Whether you've been fervently playing since launch or got involved as the game switched to free-to-play, Rise of the Hutt Cartel represents hours if not days of new content to explore and might even spark some renewed interest for those not actively playing any more, I certainly had the thought more than once of dusting off my agent. The digital expansion will launch on April 14th.

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