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The game takes place 300 years after the events in KOTOR, or 3700 years before the rise of the Empire. The Sith have returned and are more powerful than ever. As the Empire steadily wins over territory, the Republic is crumbling. In a sudden change of strategy the Empire offers peace. While a committee of Jedi Masters and Senators discuss terms with the Sith ambassador, a Sith invasion force sacks Coruscant, destroys the Jedi Temple and holds the Senate hostage; the Republic is forced to accept any terms and surrender several star systems. Read more here.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (also known as SWTOR) is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game. The player is free to pick either the Empire or Republic and their favorite playable species (see: species) and choose a class like in most Role Playing Games. Later on in the game, you are able to decide on an advanced class that allows further customization for your character.
This MMORPG features many of the traditional mechanics of the genre, but it does bring innovation along with them, too. The extraordinary focus on the story aspect opens the possibility of choosing your own path: all the quests (fully voice-acted and optionally subtitled) branch, and through different dialogue options your character will be able to follow certain paths in favor of others, and in doing so change the outcome of the mission and possibly its future- not to mention your character's alignment and your companion's affection.
Questing and PvE
Quests will be the primary means of advancement for your character. In SWTOR, there will be several types of quests:
Class Quests: These unique quest chains are specifically related to your class, and are meant to be experienced alone, but can also be completed with a group. Those quests are extremely relevant to your character's story and only you can change their outcome and the finale. Each class has an unique chain, and none of it is shared with others.
Side-Quests: These quests are not directly related to any particular chain, and they can be started and finished solo in a relatively small amount of time. They still do give rewards and will be important to the advancement of your character. Like all quests in this game, they will have different outcomes depending on your choices.
Space Missions: Once you have received a ship through a Class Quest, a special kind of quest is unlocked. Your ship's equipment, instead of yours, is used to determine your relative attributes during these quests. You use your mouse (or WASD) to steer your ship through a limited range of motion, as you hurdle along at an uncontrollable speed and fire at enemies with your left (ion blasters) and right (missiles) mouse buttons.
Being a MMORPG, SWTOR also focuses heavily on multiplayer interactions. Many quests will have you looking for a group of other real players. The group size is slightly smaller than in most similar games (4 players maximum), and the game will feature a soft trinity system that allows players to pick their favorite role while still maintaining a certain flexibility within the group.
World Quests: World Quests are the multiplayer version of side-quests. They will feature single quests or very short chains, built for easy pick up and play, and meant to be played with a group. Your choices will still matter, but only one player will be able to pick a choice per dialogue. A random dice roll decides which player is allowed to talk (This mechanic is true for any kind of quest that is being played within a group, exception made for your personal Class Quests).
World Arcs: These epic quest arcs range from four to ten quests -sometimes even more- and feature epic storylines, big decisions, hard fights, and may have you playing them multiple times on different playthroughs in order to complete them, due to their length. Like World Quests, World Arcs are meant to be played with a group of players.
Flashpoints: Flashpoints are what other MMORPGs call "instances" or "dungeons". These are instanced, heavily scripted areas that will have you and your group experience the most important fights and storylines present in SWTOR. Unlike World Arcs, they are built to be played in a single sitting, but they will still require a group in order to be completed.
SWTOR also features a companion system: Each class has five to ten different companions, who not only are fully voice-acted combatants that aid you in combat, but they also have personal quest arcs and the behavior of the player toward them determines their relation with you. A companion may become your friend, or even your lover, or just be annoyed by your presence and abandon you.
Sometimes the things you say or quests you accept or decline will have an affect on your companions affection for you if they are present for the conversation. This is according to their likes and dislikes, which can be found on their codex entry in the persons of note section. Or you can check out their companion page for a more in-depth view.
You will be able to gear up companions much like you would with your main character, and you are free to pick their main role (healer, damage dealer, tank, and so on), allowing them to be fine replacements in case you miss a particular class in your group. Obviously, only one companion at a time can be brought in the field, while the others will be waiting, performing Crew Skills, or working in your personal starship (see section below).
For a list of currently known companions, see the companions page.
Housing and the Crafting System
After a certain level, every class will receive a starship which will not only be the base of all the players' operation, but will also allow you to travel between planets, store items, and chat with your companions. There have been hints of a system that allowed aesthetic customization but as of now, the Developers claimed to still be unsure on that matter.
For a list of currently known starships, see the starship page.
Your spaceship will also be the place where you craft. Actually, the player will not be doing the crafting, but his companions will. Those companions that are not currently adventuring with you can be ordered to craft objects, materials, weapons, armor or go on missions on their own (see: Crew Skills). They can even be ordered to sell junk to the vendor for you. One task may last hours, although you can have up to 5 companions at a time working on different things and they will keep working also when the player is offline.
Player Versus Player
Player Versus Player, also known as PvP, is present in SWTOR in different forms. SWTOR features both instanced and open PvP, where the two major factions fight for a particular objective. There is also equipment to be earned through PvP that will make your character even stronger in this particular area.
As of today, some information has been released regarding an instanced PvP encounter on Alderaan.