Last week we took you on adventure across the Bounty Hunter’s origin world of Hutta and through the Sith Empire’s very first Flashpoint – the Black Talon in an experiment to play Star Wars: The Old Republic grouped from start to finish during a two-day event at EA Redwood Shores in sunny San Francisco, California.
Today, our adventure continues. Following the successful completion of the Black Talon Flashpoint my party and I arrived on Dromund Kaas where things got a bit more interesting. Unlike the Republic capital of Coruscant, the planet of Dromund Kaas isn’t a sprawling metropolis, but instead features vast expanses of lush jungles replete with exotic flora and fauna and what appeared to be tons of well hidden areas and interesting artifacts. Nestled deep in the northern end of the planet is the Imperial Capital of Kaas City, but getting there was a bit of an adventure in of itself.
Our class stories continued in Kaas City, but in order to get there we had to assist some Imperial personnel with some fairly mundane tasks involving monsters and relays. This was standard fare stuf; go here, kill that, click on this, which was admittedly a bit disappointing, but this was also where we first got our taste of the vastness of the planet. BioWare’s Daniel Erickson wasn’t kidding when he told us that Dromund Kaas was about the size and scope of multiple Huttas and a quick glance at the map certainly confirmed the former; make no mistake about it, Dromund Kaas is huge.
Immediately after grabbing our quest we were presented with a forked path. Being the intrepid explorer that I am, I decided to lead our group along the left path as it seemed to be the non-direct path through the jungle and I was hopeful to find something of interest in our adventures outside of the bread-crumb path laid out to us by the game’s developers. Sure enough, several of our quest objectives were also found on this path, but as we got deeper in and satisfied all the quest objectives we could, we came upon a field full of monsters, leading me to wonder aloud about what lay ahead. BioWare’s Associate Lead Designer Emmanuel Lusinchi, who was often hovering over shoulders intently observing our curious way of playing through the game, offered a response as only he can: “Lots of XP!”
If my groupmates weren’t convinced they should bother trekking any further for explorations sake, they were now. We made quick work of the monsters in the field only to notice that a relatively huge gold elite boss monster was also in attendance. Unflinching, we rushed to beat him down like he owed us money, and due to our level and awesome gear we took care of him pretty swiftly as well. Satisfied with what our exploration earned us, we were about to head back when I noticed a winding path leading behind the great creatures spawn area. The path lead me down through some caverns, which gave way to a small hidden away area where a glowing Datacron teased us from across a short bridge. I informed the rest of our group (who were already heading back to turn in their quests) of the discovery and they worked their way back over. The Datacron was for Willpower +1, an attribute that assists healing via Force Powers, something that didn’t apply to any of us (obviously), but nonetheless everyone wanted to come see the shiny and so we all grabbed the Datacron.
With our treasures in tow we headed back to our quest-givers in order to turn in and took a speederbike taxi straight to the entrance of the glorious Kaas City. It was here that we picked up a number of sidequests that would later send us out to brave the jungles of Dromund Kaas, and also where we were to select our Advanced Class.
At this point all of us split up to get our Advanced Class selections in order and get sorted with our class story quests before we would meet up again. We’d decided earlier on to put together a balanced team in order to tackle Dromund Kaas’ considerable Heroic content, stuff that would easily test our mettle according to BioWare’s Daniel Erickson, and at this point we were definitely looking for a challenge. Our team make-up would consist of a tank in the form of the Bounty Hunter Powertech, an Agent Sniper, a healing Bounty Hunter Mercenary, and an Agent Operative.
As I made my way to the Mandalorian Enclave on Dromund Kaas to train as a Powertech, BioWare’s Emmanuel Lusinchi noticed a fairly major bug: I’d lost my class quest! Apparently, something happened that deleted my class quest and I never ended up “checking in” at the Dromund Kaas spaceport. I was told to go ahead and choose my Advanced Class before we would attempt to figure out the bug.
Choosing your Advanced Class is a fairly simple affair. I spoke to a few NPCs who briefly explained the important aspects of the Mercenary and Powertech, and then I simply returned to the original NPC to make my final decision. While the Mercenary and Powertech both continue to wear heavy armor, the Powertech is the only one of the two with access to Shield Generators, which grant hefty bonuses to your character’s durability. Skill trees also opened up at this time, with Bounty Hunters of all stripes sharing the Advanced Discipline tree (which gives many general bonuses), and two trees unique to the Powertech: Firebug and Shields. As you would imagine, the Firebug focuses on improvements to the Powertech’s Flamethrower-based abilities and DoTs, while the Shield tree focuses on well, shields. I opted to go down the Firebug tree as the early boxes offered additional endurance (HP).
With my Advanced Class selected, we attempted to figure out my class quest bug, eventually leading to BioWare’s Daniel Erickson whisking me off to Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Debug Room, a giant white room lined with random NPCs whose names denoted their various functions. Some short fiddling and a load screen later my class quest returned – whee! I checked in at the Dromund Kaas spaceport, prompting a short dialogue scene where I rebuffed my bossy companion Mako and I was off to return to Kaas City.
Back at the Mandalorian Enclave I met my contact, a fairly husky lady with a thick Southern drawl. As it would turn out, the next leg of my story involved me competing with other sponsored hunters to take out some of the most dangerous marks on Dromund Kaas. I was also informed that in my travels I might want to take some bounties alive (pfft!) and so I was given an arm-mounted carbonite gadget that would allow me to freeze my marks right then and there for safe transport back to my clients. Neat! Oh, I also got to meet the Wookiee Huntmaster at the Enclave who was curiously speaking all his lines in Huttese, which was both disturbing and incredibly amusing; but hey, that’s why the game’s in testing right? BioWare’s Daniel Erickson let me know that they hadn’t done their Shyriiwook voice over yet, in case you’re wondering.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far into Dromund Kaas, but we did undertake one of the planet’s early Heroic quests, which involved wading through a camp of fairly tough elite mobs in order to take out the group’s commander. We decided to test out our slightly upgraded group tools, and while I was lacking an active taunt ability, I must’ve had something built in as I did a fairly decent job at holding aggro nonetheless. As a Powertech I had access to Hunter’s Defense, a group-wide buff that improved my groupmembers’ armor values, as well as additional Flamethrower attacks. Perhaps it was the increased burninating that aggravated my enemies? I certainly felt a good deal more durable compared to my experience on Hutta, but our Bounty Hunter healer didn’t feel too useful with his piddly Heal-Over-Time ability. We were told that while there are many different healer options in the game, most of them go about it in a different way. The Mercenary healer tree is primarily focused on mitigating groupmembers’ damage outright in order to reduce the amount of healing necessary. While the heals on hand weren’t amazing, they got the job done, and we ended up taking out the commander with little fanfare. Oddly enough, we had more trouble getting out than we did getting in, as all but one of us died on our way out.
Satisfied with ourselves, we went off to clean out a few nearby sidequests, one of which simply involved the simple task of gathering pelts and horns from Vinecats and some horned type of creature whose name escapes me. The task is simple enough it wasn’t necessarily worth mentioning, except for the fact that our Sniper had picked up the Crew Skill of Bioanalysis (the game’s equivalent of skinning or butchering), which as it would turn out helps get through quests like these quicker. While we would loot a single pelt or horn from our kills, our Sniper was able to retrieve a second after performing Bioanalysis on the corpse. We thought this might have been a bug, but we were actually informed that this was fully intended, and that other Crew Skills help in this manner vs. different enemy types. For example, Scavenging functions the same way with droid enemies.
Before we ran out of time we undertook one last quest to wipe out a small Republic force who were hiding out in a cavern beneath a waterfall. Oddly enough, I’d split off from the pack and ended up going in first, and I was far enough away that Mako had automatically summoned herself in order to offer her assistance. This was actually the first time I’d used my companion during my play and she proved to be quite valuable in taking out enemies in the cavern. My groupmates soon joined me and we proceeded to basically go nuts and kill everything in there, though the enemies refused to stay dead and started respawning fairly quickly after we dispatched them. By the time we were done satisfying our quest objectives our time with the PvE side of The Old Republic was over, and it was time to wrap things up.
While I didn’t get as far into Dromund Kaas as I would have liked during my time in San Francisco, I found our experiment to be a great success (albeit with a few niggling issues), and I can definitely say I was beginning to feel “the bug” or the desire to go back and play some more. Dromund Kaas was such a stark contrast from the fairly hand-holding experience on Hutta; it felt like true MMO world, and belied all the sense of mystery one would hope to feel when setting foot upon such a vast planet. Our quest logs were full of adventures we weren’t going to have time to experience, and while some certainly sounded more interesting others, I found myself eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to get my hands on the game.
Our Star Wars: The Old Republic coverage isn’t over yet; we’ll have more for you tomorrow and throughout the week, including our impressions of Player vs. Player combat, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!