Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hands-on Makeb: Exploring Chapter 4

Going Hands-on with Makeb

Isotope-5 Droid

I've been playing Makeb for a few months. There, I said it! The NDA ended today and PTS servers are being taken down. Unfortunately, being in the test group for leveling content prevented me from using public testing so I was unable to do Scum and Villainy.

I think my hands-on experience with Makeb will still be interesting to many of you, so let's get into it.


Chapter 4: Rise of the Hutt Cartel


Makeb is Chapter 4. There are just two stories to be told; one for each faction. That isn't to say that your class story is forgotten, though.

The writers did a nice job of including class-specific dialogue in an natural way throughout the entire experience. Will it bug you that the story plays so similarly the 3rd time around? Sure, but that's the cost of a fully voiced game with a following that didn't take off as well as expected. It's still more engaging than providing no relevant story context like many other MMOs.

Leveling


Gear scaling is slow in Rise of the Hutt Cartel for players currently in Ops gear. Artifact crafted level 53 gear is item level 156 compared to best-in-slot 150s now. This means the difficulty ramps up quickly as you progress through the planet, and fresh 50s will need to be careful and vigilant of patrols.

I recommend doing your dailies to pick up extra experience; some of the difficulty comes from fighting enemies a few levels higher than you and the addition of Force/Tech attacks missing. Enemies come in pretty large packs, which is mainly why I love 5-target Death Field so much. DF and two Lacerates kills off standard groups.

Heroic quests tied to the main storyline were not repeatable in the build I played. I plan on grabbing a group for these as soon as I get them before the pool of players that need it dries up. Due to the small testing pool, I ended up soloing these at 55 with great difficulty - clear areas completely or opening doors aggros absolutely everything still alive. I learned the hard way.

The main story arc of Makeb took me about 9 hours to complete. I was barely into level 54 when it ended. What do you do from there? GSI quests and dailies. Those will have a post of their own soon.

Exploring


You've seen the rocky mesas in images and promo videos. Makeb is split into a bunch of subsections, each with a distinct feel. Speeder paths between the mesas "fade out" and teleport you as you're riding to save time. Areas are densely populated with enemies, making the world feel alive... but also a pain to cut through on the return trip for quest turn-ins. Have your Quick Travel cooldown upgraded.

I have a few favorite new creatures from RotHC. Vrakes are medium-sized Star Wars versions of dragons. There are also a few species of dinosaur-like critters in one part of Makeb (and I want to hug whoever was responsible for that.) It's a shame Bioware hasn't shown these off yet. They'll probably end up as Cartel Market pets one day.

Datacrons


There were two new Datacrons we found on Makeb. These may change before the expansion launches.

+10 Presence Datacron was on Perekta Mesa with the path entrance near the Empire's landing area. Follow the cracked upper level of housing until you reach a stony half-circle. There's a hole in it to drop down and circle around the left, then back up. There's another place to drop down onto a boulder. Don't go over it; jump on it then look down for another path. This leads to a pipe with two precision jumps to make before landing on the Datacron. Phase Walk is a massive time-saver to reset your position if you screw up a jump.

The other Datacron, +10 Endurance, is located at the Cartel Drilling Platforms. I was unable to find the route to it during testing. Dulfy's guild found this one, and you actually start at Frinn Mesa to reach it.




Story


This is SPOILER territory where I'll give an overview of what each faction's objectives and accomplishments are during Makeb's main storyline. If you want to keep it a surprise, don't read any further.

Empire


Darth Marr, head of the Dark Council contacts you via your ship holoterminal. He asks you to lead a small strike team to infiltrate Makeb and take the Cartel's resources for the Empire. You claw your way from a rough ship landing to claim a Gravity Hook. Hutt Isotope-5 droids prove the resource is worth fighting for, but you discover that mining it is tearing the planet apart.

Your goal: seize control of the drilling lazers and stabilize the planet for your own use. The Hutt Archon tries to prevent your success and becomes your major enemy. This could be the Empire's last chance to recover from its losing battle against the Republic.

Known Same-Gender Romance Options:

Male: Lord Cytharat - pale Sith Pureblood from the main story
Female: GSI Macrobinocular main quest

Please do not make a big deal out of this. You need to specifically inquire about the person to open the romance option or you never even see it. I will block anyone discriminating from every platform I use - at my discretion.

Republic


Supreme Chancellor Saresh and the Jedi Council are confident they have the upper hand against the Sith Empire. A formal announcement is made that the Emperor has been defeated. When the people of Makeb reach out to them with a message that the Hutts have enslaved the planet by paying off mercenaries, the Republic leaders decide to intervene and cut off the Cartel from creating an army of its own.

Toborro

While protecting the locals from Toborro's forces, you discover the resources the Hutts use to power their equipment on Makeb is highly unstable and mining it could break the planet apart. Seeing that the Hutts are well aware of this and have a massive ship to escape in, your goal becomes claiming the ship for the Republic and getting it space-worthy before Makeb explodes. Innocent civilians rely on you as their only hope of getting off the planet alive.

Known Same-Gender Romance Options:

Unknown. As I said in the Empire section, you need to specifically ask about a person to trigger the option. I did not find one during my playthrough.

Based on what other testers have revealed from their experience, the main Republic SGR option is Female/Female and nobody found a Male/Male flirt dialogue.

Releasing April 14, 2013

Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a respectable mini-expansion with the strongest planetary story yet. I'll see my fellow pre-orderers on the 9th and hopefully the rest of you on the 14th of April. I'll even be allowed to record it this time!

Still to come: GSI quests, new dailies and my thoughts on Hard Mode Flashpoints. I'm aiming for one a week, taking us right up to early access.