I have been fighting on behalf of the Sith Empire for a week now, and in that time I have come to appreciate certain things. Without wanting to catch too much backlash for this, I have to say that those things almost all fall into the "I am glad this isn't like WoW", or "I am glad this is the same as WoW" categories. It is a simple fact of life that for the next few years at least, just as they have for the past few years, all MMOs will be compared to the Blizzard model. To not do so would be ridiculous, akin to not comparing a new tablet to an iPad, or a new D-SLR to neither Nikon nor Canon. So, please forgive me when I cite Warcraft in the below list, it is purely for reference.
And so I give 10 ten things that you should probably familiarise yourself with when you first step into the galaxy far, far away.
1. Don't expect to see Luke Skywalker or Boba Fett anywhere. The Old Republic is set over 3,500 years before the events depicted in the films, which makes for a refreshing backdrop. However, you can certainly see familiar styles and technologies.
2. You need to pick sides. In this wide ranging conflict, you can opt to side with either the Galactic Republic, or the Sith Empire, in a classic goodies vs. baddies storyline.
3. Once you have chosen, you get to select your class and race. Race is certainly less important than it is in other MMOs, but your class is what will define your playstyle and role in the game. If you want to be life-saving healer, go with a Jedi Consular for example. Or if you prefer to rain fiery explosive destruction on your enemies, pick a Bounty Hunter. Each side has four classes to choose from.
4. Each class then has two advanced classes that you get to choose from when you reach level 10. This is what determines the exact roles that your character will fulfil in the game. A Sith Warrior, for example, gets to choose between Marauder and Juggernaut advanced classes. The former is purely focussed on damage, whereas the latter is more designed for a tanking role. Choose carefully, because this cannot be undone.
5. You can be a bad Jedi, or a cheery bounty hunter. Even once you have settled on a side, your choices in the game will affect your overall morality. When you interact with NPCs (non-player characters) in the TOR universe, you will usually be given a selection of responses to their questions. Sometimes, your response will result in an overall increase or decrease in your moral compass. Consistent bad behaviour will eventually earn you a Dark Side ranking. These rankings can then be used to unlock specific pieces of equipment and armour. They can also have an impact on how future NPCs deal with you.
6. Make good use of your companion. At around level nine you will pick up a companion. Like a hunter's pet in WoW, your companion can tank for you, or do some damage, or even heal you. Unlike your lazy pet, however, your TOR companion can also sell off your junk items, gather materials, craft items, and be sent off on a variety of missions. No longer do you have to traipse around looking for nodes to mine or flowers to pick, instead what you have is a very simple people management mini-game. If you aren't used to MMOs then you probably won't appreciate this feature so much, but for those who have spent 100 hours fishing in a game, it will seem like a godsend.
7. Group up. Like every other MMO out there, TOR has areas that are intended for groups of players working together. These will range from two to four player sections, including companions, and could be just a single room in a building, or an entire section of story. These Flashpoints, as they are known, can be repeated as many times as you like, and will start to appear as early as level six or seven for some players.
8. Join up. To make it easier to find other players for Flashpoints, it is advisable to join a guild on your server. These groups of players have their own dedicated chat channels and other benefits. You can also group up with others to do regular quests, and having some regular partners for this certainly helps your social experience of the game.
9. Master the controls. This couldn't be simpler for an experienced player of WoW or other MMOs, since almost all of the default controls are identical. You still use B to open your inventory, you still use tab to change target, and you still use spacebar to jump. If you aren't familiar with the controls, you can go into options and look at the key bindings. These can be easily changed to suit your style.
10. Have fun! This is undoubtedly the most important thing I could say about this or any other game. TOR is meant to be fun, and if you aren't having enough of it, you aren't playing the right game. Yes, at times it will be frustrating. Yes, you will encounter other players who are total jerks. But as long as every time you log off you were pleased you logged on, then it is all worth it.
So there we go, a brief list of what I think are the key points for any new player. If you want more information, then I can heartily recommend both Torhead and Darth Hater websites for all your reference needs. If you want a great podcast, then look no further than The Instance: The Old Republic Edition. And if you want to join me for some Sith-based fun, look up Splats on the Flames of the Crucible EU server.
May the Force be with you!