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'Rise of the Hutt Cartel' First Impressions

Michael Bitton Posted:
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While Star Wars: The Old Republic’s first digital expansion, “Rise of the Hutt Cartel”, officially releases next week, those who pre-ordered the game before early January are already digging into the new content as part of an Early Access bonus.  I’ve spent a couple of hours with the new expansion myself and today I’ll be offering first impressions on what I’ve experienced so far.

For the uninitiated, Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a digital expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and is priced at $19.99 for non-subscribers or $9.99 for subscribers. The expansion brings with it a level cap bump to 55, new abilities for each of the game’s Advanced Classes, Makeb; an entirely new planet to adventure on, achievements, a new Operation (raid), and more.

As an aside (and a bit of a rant), I understand that there’s been some hemming and hawing over the length of the Makeb content, but given all the aforementioned additions and the fact this expansion is priced at your standard 3-5 hour DLC level price point, I’m not really sure what some people were expecting here. While I haven’t dug through it all just yet, I feel like the additions as they are described are more than satisfactory given the price of admission. This thing doesn’t represent Lich King or Burning Crusade for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s more along the lines of the DLC packs for DC Universe Online. And don’t get me started on the use of the term ‘expansion’. These days, many MMO publishers are referring to your run-of-the-mill content additions as “free expansions” instead of game updates or patches. The term has really lost its meaning. It’s all DLC, folks. Judge it for what it includes and what they’re asking you to pay for it, not on the silly semantics.

Keep in mind, I haven’t been able to dig deep enough into the expansion content just yet. I’ve not experienced the new Macrobinocular or Seeker Droid content, for example.  I’ve mostly played through some of the introductory quests and the expansion’s first four-man heroic quest, so we’ll have to keep today’s impressions within that context.

Makeb is a planet rich in an extremely rare mineral known as “Isotope-5” and it has been invaded by the Hutt Cartel, which looks to exploit the planet for said rare resource. The planet has a pretty unique geographical makeup, too.  Makeb’s an oceanic planet with huge stone pillars rising up high above the clouds and many of these pillars are significant enough in landmass to support large cities and cave networks.

As a player in the Sith Empire, you’re tasked with liberating the “Isotope-5” from the Hutts so that it can be used by the Empire to make a comeback in their war against the Republic. As it would turn out, the Empire is on the losing side of things at the moment, and so your mission on Makeb is especially crucial to the war effort. Of course, Makeb is also aligned with the Republic, so your mission on Makeb places an emphasis on concealing your presence from both the Cartel and Republic.

There’s a catch to mining Makeb of its Isotope-5 resources, too. The mining operation on Makeb is apparently destroying the planet’s core and is causing intermittent “groundquakes” on the planet as a result. Eventually, Makeb may be destroyed entirely due to the mining activity, so not only is acquiring the resource important, but it’s also a bit time sensitive. There’s a definite sense of urgency in the way the story is presented.

We began our adventures on Makeb by crash landing a cloaked ship into the planet and salvaging local debris to establish a communications link with a couple of new characters who are leading the operation on the planet. Once a link was established, we sought out one Solida Hesk of the Hesk Corporation upon an isolated mesa resort where she was hosting a trio of high-level Hutts. Fighting through a variety of beasts, slavers, and bodyguards, we eventually cornered Hesk herself and got information on the location of Isotope-5 out of her. My particular group also chose to keep her on hand as an ally, though what you do with her is up to you.

We didn’t really make it much further than these early quests thus far, though we did tackle the first Heroic 4 (The Observer), which tasked us with destroying a Hutt ship that could potentially detect the Empire’s presence on Makeb. A friend and I attempted to two man this heroic at level 51 and with some careful planning and play we were able to get all the way to the last boss room, but we were unable to overcome the swarm of adds that aggro once you trigger the fight. Fortunately, a helpful Agent tagged along with us and we were able to defeat the boss fairly easily.  My new ability, the Double Lightsaber Throw, acquired by Marauder at level 51, came in real handy during this mission, too.  It’s also incredibly satisfying to line up a perfect shot.

Despite my admittedly brief experiences with the expansion so far, it’s at least crystal clear that BioWare’s pedigree for solid storytelling is alive and well in Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The cutscenes and voiceover work are as compelling as ever and both the characters and the story so far are interesting. I’m eager to tackle the rest of the content, content that focuses on the seedy underworld of the Star Wars universe, and less on the typical Force or military oriented storylines we normally see in these games.  Look for our full-review of the expansion in the near-future!

How are you enjoying Rise of the Hutt Cartel so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB