Strongholds are SWTORs version of player housing
When BioWare officially announced the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic in the autumn of 2008, it was a shot heard around the MMO world. Given the developer?s ever-growing reputation as one of the forerunners in the RPG genre and the critical acclaim surrounding the original Knights of the Old Republic, for many the announcement was a little slice of history in the making. They really suck you in. Like for real. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the individual story lines for both the Jedi classes, the Republic Trooper, Bounty Hunter and the Sith Inquisitor. Each story, up until level 50, is unique in how it approaches the galaxy.
Star Wars the Old Republic is a great but deeply flawed game. I like Star Wars, though, so I play it and I enjoy the stories that are presented in the game. But maybe I don’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would because I’m not much of an MMO fan. I understand where the fun comes from, I can see how they are enjoyable, but I hate the grind. There is as much a grind as there ever could be in any MMO or RPG. It’s frustrating to no end, and it takes a long time to get to that top level (now level 60) so as to enjoy the new Reven story line. But dammit I love the story! Lets talk about that for a minute without giving away any spoilers. I feel that BioWare takes great care in crafting unique stories that are deep in scope.
The Old Republic's biggest failing as a free-to-play game, though, is its attitude. It doesn't simply push you to subscribe. It levies so many petty restrictions that it ends up feeling like the goal wasn't to attract newcomers so much as spite any who dared show up. One of many examples: if you don't at least unlock Preferred status by spending a few quid (or returning to an old account), you're not allowed to Sprint until Level 15. Yes, that was the case at launch. It was changed shortly afterwards because the maps are huge, and getting around them at walking pace was and remains a deeply miserable experience.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate Galactic Starfighter's scale is in its 12-versus-12 matches that pit you against other players in one of two different areas: the Kuat Mesas and the Lost Shipyards. The Kuat Mesas map is near the planet itself, with asteroid fields as well as other types of errant debris dotting the numerous canyons and other structures that serve as intriguing landmarks to watch out for. The Lost Shipyards lie out further in space, with enormous space stations that serve as capture points and the perfect bastions for a quick breather in the middle of an intense brawl. Once you enter the group finder and launch a PVP match to become acquainted with the maps, it quickly becomes apparent just how effectively this standalone experience revingorates The Old Republic, which after its only expansion was feeling as though it could be on its last leg.
Strongholds are SWTOR’s version of player housing. They are “legacy”(meaning they are account based, not character based) and use predefined grids and “hooks”to place items, which provide Prestige value. They can also be expanded by unlocking doors to adjoining sections. Owners can also create keys to give edit and access rights to others. Some of the placed items even allow you to harvest materials. You can also hang tapestries and even place vendors and mailboxes. A player account can have have up to four strongholds, each with a theme based on the planet (Coruscant, Dromunds Kaas, Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine). Players can gain Prestige by using and placing items, but that value doesn’t impact anything except your “rating”on the public list. A second rating called bonus exists for Conquests (discussed below), but it’s not related to prestige. A great Stronghold guide can be found here.
Shadow of Revan's story does not provide a good reason for former players to return or new players to give it a try for the first time, but this expansion is the pinnacle (so far) of three years of streamlining. The experience of actually playing SWTOR is much better now, and less of a pain for folks who aren't in it for the MMO stuff. If you couldn't be convinced to give SWTOR a serious shot before, I don't see much here to warrant going for it now. SWTOR may still be evolving into what we all want it to be, but this newest expansion, Shadow of Revan, doesn't get it there.
That's not a big deal, though, because you'll get plenty of storytelling through questing. The quality of the story is very good - you get opportunities to threaten, extort, maim and murder, or be totally nice and live and let live. Light and dark side options spring up regularly, and occasionally foregoing the obvious light or dark side choice early on in a conversation will reveal an extra opportunity. Force-alignment is mostly cosmetic (you can get equal or better gear through different avenues) but can influence what your companions, AI-controlled allies who aid you in battle, think of you.