SW:TOR Releases The Rise Of The Hutt Cartel Expansion: Hands-On Review

Welcome gamers to Part One of The Inquisitr’s hands-on review of the new Star Wars: The Old Republic Rise Of The Hutt Cartel Expansion. Over the next few days, the gaming writers here at The Inquisitr will actually play through the new content and provide you with a step by step description of all the latest features. But before we begin, it is essential to understand the importance of this expansion.

When SW: TOR was released in December of 2011, the game attracted 1.7 millions players. Sadly, things went south quickly, and within weeks, players began to realize that the folks at Bioware neglected to provide the promised open world PvP, and SW: TOR lacked sufficient end game content. Players began to abandon Star Wars: The Old Republic by the thousands and by March of 2012, the population of active players dropped to less than 700, 000 paying customers.

After this rude awakening, Bioware responded by offering a free to play and a pay as you go model in addition to the monthly subscription. The company also announced a major expansion for the spring of 2013 and that would be followed by regular releases of additional content. They acknowledged the players complaints about the lack of open world PvP and promised to add more raids, flash points and group activities.

It remains to be seen if Bioware will live up to their promises and they will be able to re-invigorate Star Wars: The Old Republic. Certainly the gaming community is hoping they will succeed and that there will be a massive influx of new players, as well as the return of many of the former players who gave up on the game. The online gaming world deserves a great Star Wars game and with some polishing, SW: TOR could be great.

Enough of the past. Now that we have examined the problems and expressed our sincere hopes that Bioware will be able to give us the game we always wanted, lets begin our review of the expansion.

The Rise Of The Hutt Cartel expansion was available for pre-order early access on Tuesday, April 9, 2013. Immediately upon logging in to the Prophecy Of The Five Server, after not playing for three weeks due to work, I was greeted by my guild mates in The Sith Imperial Navy, who welcomed me back to the game. One of the best things about online gaming is belonging to a guild, especially when your guild mates are friendly, decent human beings. Guilds take gaming from a solitary activity to a social event and my friends in SIN have a real talent for making the game fun.

As I greeted my guild mates, I received an in-game mail instructing me to head for my space ship and access my holo-transmitter. I was asked to bring my Sith Sorcerer, Darth Ghodzilla, to the Hutt controlled planet of Makeb, where I was met by my fellow member of the Dark Council, a malevolent and dangerous Sith lord by the name of Darth Marr.

Darth Marr informed me that the Sith empire was in danger and it was up to me to save us from disaster. A powerful new mineral had been discovered on Makeb, attracting the attention of nefarious forces, including the Hutt Cartel and the Republic. The Hutts planned to use the mineral to power an unstoppable droid army and challenge the Sith for control of the Galaxy, while the Republic wanted to save the planet’s civilians from slavery at the hands of the Hutts. Since a few ounces of the mineral can also power a star destroyer, I must stop our enemies and acquire the mineral for the Empire.

With this task in mind, I began my class quest chain, and the journey from level 50 to the new level cap of 55. Tomorrow, I will return and tell you about my first two days of leveling. The new planet looks great and the initial quests on Makeb are original and exciting. So far, so good, but before we part company for today, let me share with you the official description of The Rise Of The Hutt Cartel Expansion from Bioware:

“Welcome to the Digital Expansion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Game Update 2.0: Scum and Villainy”

“Hello again, my favorite Force acolytes! Today we are a proud studio having delivered what we believe is our most ambitious update to date: our first Digital Expansion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Game Update 2.0: Scum and Villainy. This update is a big one – it centers upon the new story planet of Makeb, but also includes an increase in the level cap, all-new mission types, and a new major systems such as Achievements.

Introducing Makeb

Makeb is a planet highly contested in the intergalactic war due to an abundance of an all-important resource known as Isotope-5. Realizing the value of Isotope-5, the Hutt Cartel has moved to gain a stranglehold on this rare resource and broker their own position in the conflict between the Empire and the Republic. Players who land on Makeb will find quickly that they are key players in this conflict with the Hutt Cartel. In storylines that are unique per faction, intrepid adventurers will be able to insert themselves into the action, take on the Hutt Cartel, advance the interests of their faction, and even determine the fate of Makeb itself.

I am particularly proud of Makeb. It is a huge and staggeringly beautiful planet, and is in my opinion a worthy addition to the Star Wars™ universe. In particular, the storyline that the player will face is truly the most impactful and epic story we have delivered.. Beyond this, in most aspects of the planet’s design, you can definitely see the progress that we have made as a studio in building great BioWare storytelling in our engine. In particular, the cinematics on Makeb are by far some of our most eye-popping clips to date – be sure to take the time to enjoy them!

New Level Cap

Players with level 50 characters who purchase Rise of the Hutt Cartel will find that their characters can start moving up level ranks again – five new levels have been added to the game. This will allow players to get a sense of progression as they explore the world of Makeb, and use the new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid features.

As part of the level increase, all of the skill trees were reworked to account for the increase in available skill points. Your skill trees have been refunded to you so be sure to re-spec your skill points before you charge out into the field! Also, each advanced class was given a new active ability. With reworked skill trees and a new active ability, it is very likely that your classes’ ideal power rotation will have changed – be sure to hit the training dummy to experiment.

The increased level cap is only available to those who purchased Rise of the Hutt CartelPlayers who opt not to purchase will find that they still have the same Flashpoints available,. All existing Flashpoints and Operations will now drop improved gear (in some cases, significantly so). At level 55, four new Hard Mode Flashpoints will be available in Group Finder, as well as two Operations – Terror From Beyond, and the newly-released Legions of Scum and Villainy.

We have also adjusted the PvP Warzone queues – they are now divided into three brackets: 10-29, 30-54 and 55. On top of this, we have significantly reworked Bolster to reduce the barrier to entry in Warzones at level 55. The power gap between Bolster and the best equipment is still respectable, but you can now queue up at 55 and be competitive without picking up entry-level gear. Recruit gear has been removed, since there is no longer a need for it.

Legacy Achievements

This update also includes an all-new Achievements system. Starting in Game Update 2.0, players will be able to earn Achievements for all sorts of activities in-game, including crafting, exploring and unleashing their wrath on the world around them. Over 1,900 Achievements are in this release, and we see the system as a great way to add more, and more varied gameplay in future updates. Achievements can also grant rewards such as titles and in some cases Cartel Coins.

We decided to make Achievements Legacy-based, which means that players only need to accomplish an Achievement on one character on their Legacy to unlock it across all characters. This allows us to make Achievements for the things that we thought were important to reward in a BioWare game – completing the class stories, for example, or earning the affection of each individual Companion.

Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid

One of the initiatives that we wanted to take on in this Digital Expansion was to increase the kinds of mission activities to be found in-game. In particular, we felt that we wanted more exploration. The planets of Star Wars: The Old Republic are huge, expansive and beautiful, but we don’t have enough game systems that nudge players off the beaten path.

Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid were designed to serve exactly this goal – at roughly level 52, players will be invited to go on a mission that will grant them Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid technology, as well as unlock access to unique storylines and new daily missions, some of which send the player back to classic planets like Tatooine and Hoth. We think that players who fancy themselves explorers will find their playstyle rewarded if they choose to explore this gameplay path, as they discover ultra-rare items with their Seeker Droid and earn Reputation with a new organization link Galactic Solutions Industries on Nar Shaddaa .

Other Features

Many other improvements and minor features were added as part of Game Update 2.0. Among other things the player will see:

  • Planetary Commendations have been consolidated into a single type, ensuring that just about everything you do while leveling provides attractive rewards.
  • Commendations in the Elder Game have been reworked to be less confusing – earn Basic Commendations from most activities at level 51+, Elite Commendations from level 55 Flashpoints, and Ultimate Commendations from level 55 Operations.
  • New Cartel Market offerings, including one inspired by the Sith armor of the Deceived trailer.
  • Players in Guilds will now earn a +5% bonus to experience gain – be sure to join a Guild!
  • Priority Transport Terminals have been added to the Fleets, which will speed up travel between daily mission areas such as Section X, The Black Hole, and Makeb.

All of this, and a lot more, await you inside of Game Update 2.0: Scum and Villainy and the Digital Expanion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The team has been working very hard to bring all of this to you, and all of us are extremely proud of the final product. One of the most gratifying parts of working on MMOs is that we’ll be right there with you, playing the expansion that has been the fruit of our labors over the last year. We can’t wait to see you in the game!

May the Force™ be with you,

Damion Schubert
Lead Designer”