Galactic Strongholds, the latest digital expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, is set to launch for subscribers in a couple of days here and we recently had a chance to take a tour of the new content with SWTOR senior producer Bruce MacLean and Galactic Strongholds producer Jack Wood.
In a nutshell, Galactic Strongholds is BioWare’s answer to fans who have been clamoring for two key features for many years now: player housing and guild flagships.
To get started with your own personal Stronghold, you’ll have to be level 15 and undertake a quest to buy one from a new NPC on the Fleet. You’ll be awarded a handful of decorations for free to start you off with the purchase of a Stronghold. This area on the Fleet also features a host of new vendors that will sell you some decorations for credits and Cartel Certificates.
Purchasing a Stronghold is done at a Stronghold Directory – and there are four you can select from at the moment: Coruscant (Republic), Dromund Kaas (Imperial), Nar Shaddaa, and Tatooine. The Coruscant and Dromund Kaas Strongholds are priced for newer or lower level players to get into easily. They aren’t as large or expansive, but additional rooms for them aren’t as expensive to unlock. On the other hand, the Nar Shaddaa Sky Palace is large and players who subscribed by certain cut off points will receive a number of rooms (up to 5) for free when the expansion unlocks for Early Access next week. Finally, there’s the Tatooine Stronghold, which is absolutely massive and even includes outdoor areas to decorate. Each Stronghold’s unlockable rooms can be purchased using either credits or Cartel Coins.
Players may be disappointed to learn that BioWare opted to use the oft maligned hook system over free placement for decorating your Stronghold. We’re told BioWare is very much aware of the debate over these two systems, but they opted for the hook based system (certain types of decorations can only be placed in certain pre-determined spots) for accessibility reasons among other things. That said, from what I was able to see, the hook system seems fairly flexible. For example, the hooks themselves can be configured in multiple ways and objects can be manipulated along an X/Y axis, rotated, etc. Aside from your typical decorations, you can also display your mounts, companions, pets, and even starships.
Decorations can be acquired in a myriad of different ways, including: Cartel Market purchases, Achievement unlocks, crafting, drops, and so on. In fact, crafting plays a significant role in both decorating your personal Stronghold and aspects of the Guild Flagship and Conquest system, which we’ll discuss a bit later. One thing to note is that anything you unlock for use in decorating your personal Stronghold can also be used in decorating a Guild Flagship and vice-versa.
Decorations aren’t purely cosmetic, either. A number of amenities can be placed throughout your Stronghold and this includes the brand new Legacy Bank, which from what BioWare tells us, may be one of the expansion’s most popular features. It’s certainly not the most flashy thing, but as a longtime player of SWTOR myself, I can definitely see a use in having some Legacy wide storage available. In addition to your Legacy Storage, you’ll be able to add a GTN kiosk, mailbox, bank and guild bank, appearance modification station, music playing jukeboxes, and even objects that can be harvested periodically for crafting resources.
It’s also important to note that Strongholds and decorations are also Legacy-wide, so you won’t have to purchase one (or more) for each character. You can even pay credits to be “smuggled” to your opposite faction Strongholds. As a neat touch of flavor, Imperial Agents and Smugglers can smuggle themselves in at no cost.
Strongholds are managed via a new Stronghold Management window and all you have to do to visit one of your Strongholds is click the Travel button from just about anywhere in the game. Basically, as long as you aren’t in combat or otherwise in danger, you should be able to travel to your Stronghold.
There are social and competitive elements to Strongholds, as well. Unlocking decorations and using said decorations in your Stronghold adds to your Prestige total. Prestige and completion levels can be compared against other players in the Stronghold Directory, which is basically a leaderboard. You don’t have to list your Stronghold here, but the option is there. Of course, you can also use this directory to visit other players’ Strongholds if they have allowed for it. Strongholds have a maximum occupancy based on the amount of rooms you have unlocked for each, but it looks like there should be ample room for players seeking to arrange fairly large get togethers.
If you don’t list your Stronghold at all, you can still manually invite players to visit. Alternatively, you can dole out keys to individual players you’d like to grant access to your Stronghold at all times. Bronze keys allow players to visit your Stronghold whenever they want (even when you’re offline) while Silver keys do the same, but also grant holders the permission to invite or kick players from the Stronghold.