With the recent Knights Of The Fallen Empire though, things have changed. For a few months now, BioWare has offered a band-aid solution for subscribers, courtesy of just handing out generous experience boosters so that the main story quests - class quests - offer enough oomph to get players through the game. Now though, it's been worked into a far more streamlined experience throughout. I wanted to see how much, so I fired up a brand new Smuggler character with the following rule - I would only worry about the story quests, and run past anyone who wanted my help finding their space-cat or whatever. Sorry, but there'll be someone else along soon enough.
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And what a difference it made. At their best, The Old Republic's class quests are some of the finest interactive Star Wars stories you can be a part of, with the Imperial Agent's being the cream of the crop. Being a Smuggler, sarcastically dealing with scumbags and inevitable betrayals and the fishier side of the universe, was so much fun that it's hard to believe it never became a full game. What was previously a spectacularly tedious few hours stuck on Ord Mantell now became a fast-paced story of back-stabbings and cheery doings on the very edge of the law, never ruined by The Old Republic's traditional problems like being told to hurry and do something now, only to then have to dick about gaining the levels to do it.
The way things work now is that every planet flags up important quests in purple, and then clarifies further in the mission log whether they're part of the overall planet story, which everyone on your side goes through, or your personal story quest. Other quests are still available, floating over characters' heads, but entirely optional - the promise is that if you do the purple ones, you're doing the most interesting stuff on the current world, and that will give you more than enough gear and XP to move on. It certainly seemed to in my - ahem - experience. Arriving on a new world is no longer a prison sentence until you climb enough levels to secure your release to the next, but far closer to how it should feel: you land, you do your business, you move on.
The irony is, as was pointed out back at launch, this makes the idea of going back and actually completing multiple class stories far more compelling. One of the biggest frustrations was that, while the padding and running odd-jobs for people as an Imperial Agent was annoying, the real sting was the knowledge that you'd have to do most of them all over again if you decided to check out, say, the Sith Inquisitor story and its return to these places. The Legacy system that unlocked bonuses was nowhere near generous enough to counter this.
I'd recommend taking a gap between stories as it'd be very easy to burn out on them. Just finishing the first Smuggler chapter took a good deal over 10 hours, though to its credit, I only realised that when I typed '/played' and went "Really?" I'd totally gotten into its story of sleazy crooks and having the moral authority to deliver lines like "It's hard to be humble when you're as amazing as I am," and had entirely lost track. The Old Republic's minute-by-minute action isn't that great, unfortunately, with weak combat and a general lack of range in terms of interactions, but it still develops a good rhythm of combat, comedy, exploration and drama.
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