Last month, I had the opportunity to take part in the early access for the new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This would be the first time in over a year that I played the game, having sunk about 140 hours after it launched in December 2011 (plus a significant time spent during the beta and early access). I decided to play the game before I was scheduled to receive the expansion and the biggest shock to the system was my non-subscriber status. Tragically, SWTOR didn't perform as well as EA and Bioware hoped, and not even a year into the game's lifespan it went Free To Play. The devs assured that players could still experience the character stories and a few raids and dungeons would be blocked unless one became a subscriber. I didn't think much of this at first, but to actually encounter these roadblocks quickly reversed my position.
Thankfully, the Galactic Starfighter content kicked in, I received 60 days of game time, taking me back into the game proper and all was well. Originally, I had planned to spend the time just going through the new PvP space combat gameplay and calling it day. I did some pick up quests with my level 50 Sith Warrior for awhile until I experienced the itch to create a new character. Rolling an Imperial Agent, the floodgates opened and I was reminded why I really enjoyed SWTOR. It is true that the game offers a great deal of startling similarities to World of Warcraft, but I found that Old Republic did story so much better than Blizzard. Much of the quests are of "Go here and grab that" and "Get me X of Y" variety, but the reason for seeking out 10 Tauntaun scrotums were well reasoned and more often than not fit the planet's current conflict. Having the quest givers speak in full voiced helps quite a bit, I'd say. These individual quest stories are topped by your character's primary story arch. My first character was a Sith Warrior and I felt Bioware really nailed what it means to be a Sith. Because they reign as fanatics who place strength and power above all, there's a great opportunity to do some pretty heinous things to most characters. The best moment of the story, however, was being responsible for turning not one, but TWO Jedis to the Dark Side. Admittedly, I did feel a little bad about crushing their world views, but the direction of the scene and the choice of music was handled so well, it was hard not to feel triumph over my dark deed.
I'm enjoying my Imperial Agent character so far, though I've just finished operations on Hutta and have been tasked with returning to the Imperial capital world of Dromund Kaas for my next mission. The spy game has been handled well so far, with some good opportunities with double crossing various marks. It'll be interesting to see where it'll go from there.