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The Top 21 Locations in SWTOR

By Jean Prior on March 17, 2015 | Columns | Comments

The Top 21 Locations in SWTOR

Not every article has to be an in-depth discussion of gameplay, offering commentary on press releases, or speculating what big reveal BioWare might choose to unleash at Star Wars Celebration next month.  While we're waiting on Community Manager Eric Musco to make good on the statement that they were going to make up canceling the Boston Cantina Tour stop with a livestream and announcements, I'm going to celebrate the artistry that is creating cool iconic places and lush scenery in Star Wars: the Old Republic

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Let's face it, I've given BioWare a ton of grief over what I see to be failings in the game, things such as the former disparity between skimpy female outfits and skimpy male outfits, the inflexibility and linear nature of the game, or even the verbiage they use when 'encouraging' free-to-play players to subscribe... the latter of which earned me a 'Jeff Hickman would like to talk to you' email from my lovely editor.  However, there's a metric ton of things the game gets right, and one of the things that is rarely celebrated is the environmental art.  We have the movies and the cartoons to tell us what many of these places look like, or in the case of BioWare-created locations, previous video games, but overall it could easily have gone very very wrong when the art team painted and animated the scenery in SWTOR.  So, since I like lists because I'm a Letterman fan, I'm going to present to you my Top Twenty-One locations in Star Wars: the Old Republic, listed in alphabetical order.  It doesn't cover every single location you can go to, otherwise we'd be here twice as long.

Alderaan

  • Location: Castle Organa
  • Faction: Both
  • Level: 28-32

Why This?: Alderaan is an iconic location that hasn't seen much airtime in the revised canon, unless you count that whole exploding thing.  The best visual reference BioWare had was the scene where Bail Organa brings baby Leia to Queen Breha at the end of Revenge of the Sith and you can see the majesty of the peaceful planet that apparently got rid of its weapons in the next 3000 years before it was destroyed. 

Belsavis

  • Location: Near the Tomb
  • Faction: Both, Republic planet
  • Level: 41-44

Why This?: I like to refer to Belsavis as the Genesis Planet due to its lava and snowy areas right near each other, but alas no Klingons here.  One of the better skills the environmental art team had was the animation of lava in the game, and it really shows up in zones like this one.  Of course, if a touch more realism were present, my character should theoretically have been fried being this close to lava.

Corellia

  • Location: Coronet Zoo
  • Faction: Both, Republic-leaning
  • Level: 47-50

Why This?: I'll be honest, I thoroughly loathe Corellia's map.  It frequently has pathways running to dead ends and you always have to go up and around and sideways and through this opposite-faction-infested tunnel to get where you're going.  On the other hand, I thoroughly love the rocket tram. It reminds me of WoW's Deeprun Tram, which also reminds me of the minecart ride in Riven.  However, in the Axial Park zone, you can find this lovely rancor to be your new best friend. If he kills you, you earn the title of 'The Unlucky'.  If you (and your buddies) kill him, you get the title of 'The Lucky'. 

Coruscant

  • Location: Senate Tower
  • Faction: Republic Only
  • Level: 10-16

Why This?: The heart of the Republic, the Senate Tower is one of the iconic places visible on a planet that is otherwise all inside in terms of gamespace, and frankly, the Jedi Temple is too depressing to visit, even though the art team did a bang-up job creating its ruins.  Due to limitations in the outdoor gamespace, it's hard to get a proper screenshot of the tower itself, but this will do.

Dromund Kaas

  • Location: The Citadel
  • Faction: Imperial Only
  • Level: 10-16

Why This?: While the Dark Temple might have been a nice screenshot to have, I'll have to admit I see more of the Empire's power here at the Citadel, home of the Dark Council, Imperial Intelligence, and the Mandalorian Enclave.  It might be the Star Destroyer looming overhead, or the clean and elegant but yet sharp and dangerous lines of this piece of architecture, but either way, it's a forbidding place to be even if you're a loyal servant to the Empire.  And if you're a Jedi Knight...?  Whoops, spoilers...

Hoth

  • Location: Starship Graveyard
  • Faction: Both
  • Level: 37-41

Why This?: Let's face it, there isn't much to see on Hoth in general.  Many players have complained that the white and blue glare of the snowfields gives them headaches.  I was always intrigued by the lava vents in the great chasm, but a more iconic view of Hoth is here, at the frozen Starship Graveyard.  Of course, in 3000 years' time, no one will remember this place, or else neither the Rebels nor the Imperials ever found it. 

Hutta

  • Location: Near the Muckworks
  • Faction: Imperial Only
  • Level: 1-10

Why This?: One might wonder what sort of beauty could be found on a polluted planet, but the environmental art team doesn't just get to paint pictures of pretty planets like Alderaan.  Even here amongst the toxic air and seas of Nal Hutta, there are landscapes that have a look all their own.  Just watch out for the chemilizards.

Ilum

  • Location: Near the abandoned Republic base
  • Faction: Both, vaguely Republic-leaning
  • Level: 50+

Why This?: I'll be honest here.  In terms of scenic beauty, Ilum is my favorite place in the game.  That starscape, folks.  I love it so much that all three of my computers sport Ilum screenies as their wallpaper.  Whether you only visit during the recurring Gree event on the Western Ice Shelf, or you decide to do a few level 50 quests on the Eastern Ice Shelf before moving on to Makeb, the icy desolate nighttime beauty of this secretive planet is not to be missed.  Don't forget to get the lore object in the Republic base far south of where Gray Secant appears, but you'll have to go through the free-for-all PVP zone in the middle to get to it. 

Korriban

  • Location: Valley of the Dark Lords
  • Faction: Imperial Only
  • Level: 1-10

Why This?: Much of Korriban's look and indeed much of the ancient lore of the Star Wars universe (Legends or not) is based on the old Dark Horse Tales of the Jedi comics and Knights of the Old Republic.  One of the advantages of the Old Republic era is that much of it was created with an eye to keeping the lore more or less consistent, and thus our in-game Korriban is thematically in tune with previous incarnations of the planet. 

Makeb

  • Location: Volcanic Mesa
  • Faction: Both, Republic-leaning
  • Level: 50-55

Why This?: Makeb was created out of whole cloth by BioWare Austin, and while much of the planet is nice and sunny (albeit on the dangerous mesas), it also has this mesa that reminds me a great deal of Mustafar from Revenge of the Sith.  Once again, the environmental art team did an amazing job of lighting and animation to create a cave that felt oppressive and hot.  Once again, the lava flows and geysers are used to great effect.

Manaan

  • Location: Spaceport
  • Faction: Neutral
  • Level: 55

Why This?: By contrast, the peaceful surface of the watery world Manaan is nice and airy, with a lightly cloudy day and pleasant weather all around.  It's unfortunate that the game doesn't use Manaan more, currently only used for a Flashpoint in the Forged Alliances storyline, but this would be an excellent place to go jetskiing, wouldn't it?

Nar Shaddaa

  • Location: Spaceport
  • Faction: Hutt Cartel, but both government's people are welcome as long as they behave themselves.
  • Level: 20-24

Why This?: The lurid neon signs hawking all kinds of wares is important for a Nar Shaddaa environment.  Even though most of a player's questing will happen inside just like on Coruscant, there are a few outdoors locations that really show off the Smuggler's Moon to great effect.  Here you can see the two casinos for either faction.  Makes you kinda want to go gambling, doesn't it?

Ord Mantell

  • Location: Lava Overlook
  • Faction: Republic Only
  • Level: 1-10

Why This?: The starting planet for Smugglers and Troopers, Ord Mantell is the earliest place where we can see the game's lava animations on a background of volcanic rock.  This overlook is readily accessible near Fort Garnik by going behind some separatists, but it's also available by scaling a specific back wall in the fort itself.

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