No, I haven't actually hit 50 yet. I seem to be a bit behind a fair chunk of the blogosphere in that regard - not that I'm in a hurry or anything, but my boyfriend and me playing flu-tag over the last two weeks hasn't exactly been beneficial to our shared progress.
However, that doesn't mean that I can't get started on writing this yet, as it's going to be long enough to require splitting into several parts anyway. Basically, I want to talk about my levelling experience in general terms: which planets I liked, how I felt about my class storyline, which moments stuck in my head as memorable. (Flashpoints not so much, since I already talked about them a fair bit previously.) This way, I can look back on it later and be reminded of how I felt about my first time through the game without any distortion of memory, and maybe other people will find parts of it insightful too. I'll try to avoid story spoilers, so I'll only talk about quests and story in either very generic or mechanical terms.
I don't actually have a strong opinion on the trooper starting planet either way. I mostly remember it having a blue sky and lots of rocks. To be honest, I think I was a bit distracted by my excitement about playing this new game and trying to take everything in at once. What does this button do? What do these icons on the map mean?
I don't recall any of the quests being particularly outstanding in terms of story, but with SWTOR's unique way of presentation they still felt excitingly different from the standard MMO fare. They also gave me a good first impression of what life as a trooper was going to be like, forcing me to choose between doing what others told me to do and what I myself considered the right thing to do, which wasn't always the same.
One of my most memorable early moments was questing on Savrip Island and meeting my first champion-level mob. I didn't have a quest to kill it or anything, but just having it there was like an open challenge: Can you take me? Of course our little trooper duo had to try, and we just about managed it, though it was a close call at the time, what with none of us having many abilities yet. After a lot of kiting and aggro-swapping, the Savrip Champion finally fell to our might and dropped a blue gun. It felt very satisfying, and I immediately recalled fond memories of taking down elite mobs in the open world in WoW, back when they, you know, existed.
The second most memorable moment on Ord Mantell was trying to do a certain trooper quest. Up until then my significant other and I had run our class quests in parallel but solo, since doing them together if you're both the same class tends to drag things out a bit, as you have to do each quest twice, once with person A's decisions and once with person B's decisions.
However, this one we just couldn't complete. It required us to kill three mobs at once, with at least one of them strong I believe, with no crowd control, healing or companions. It was almost comical how we both kept dying to it over and over again. At one point I thought that I was close to getting it, since I had killed one of the trio and he hadn't respawned when the group reset after my death... but as my timer on the medical probe kept getting longer and longer, they started respawning faster than me and eventually both me and my boyfriend just went back to the medical droid and decided to try tackling the quest together. It was funny just how much of a breeze it turned out to be with the two of us together. To this day that low-level mission remains the only class quest we had to team up for.
Ah, the Republic's capital and the place where everyone gets their ship. It's almost embarrassing to say it, but I didn't actually like this planet very much. The Senate Plaza is gorgeous, and the Senate Tower is the first place where you really get the sense that everything in this game is absolutely huge, which is something that I love despite of the increased travel times it creates.
However, the places where you actually quest... are pretty meh. Somehow they all end up looking like boring grey tunnels and platforms. Maybe city planets just aren't for me. The quests also weren't hugely inspiring. There were definitely a couple of fun ones, but the main storyline felt very repetitive to me, as you were just clearing out one nest of thugs after the other. I feel that the Empire got the better end of the deal as far as capitals go, as Dromund Kaas offers a much more varied environment and questing experience at that level.
Around this level I also felt that experience gains were starting to run away from us a little. If you love doing flashpoints, and I do, they'll give you a fair chunk of experience. Then you get your ship, and being the curious sort I tried out space battles. I didn't really get that into them in the end, but I did do the first couple of missions, which yielded another hefty amount of XP. Level ten is also the point at which you can start running warzones, which gains you yet more experience. I don't remember the exact number, but we must have been getting close to level twenty by the time we finished Coruscant.
Now this is where something interesting happened. Our class story branched out into two parts, one to continue to Taris and one to Nar Shadaa. I didn't really look into the details of it at the time, but simply assumed that they were pointing you towards two alternate levelling zones, and we picked Nar Shadaa more or less at random. This turned out to be a bad idea, since they are actually consecutive zones, and Taris comes first in the levelling progression. While we were high enough to do Nar Shadaa right off the bat, the end result was that by the time we were done with it everything on Taris had already gone grey.
Nar Shadaa itself, or "Hutt Vegas" as Scott Johnson calls it so aptly, didn't really impress me that much either as a zone, which I guess confirms my theory that I'm just not that into city planets. Sure, it was slightly more interesting visually, but in the end I still ended up spending a lot of my time traipsing through grey corridors.
This planet also featured our first and so far only encounter with a quest that was so bugged at the time that we couldn't figure out how to complete it and eventually just gave up. I don't remember the name, but it was a bonus quest to defend some sort of defensive turret. I wonder if they've fixed it by now.
I did love my class quest on this planet however, which netted me a new companion and had multiple laugh-out-loud funny lines. If you're a trooper and you didn't find this story entertaining, you have no heart!
After Nar Shadaa we went back to Taris briefly just to progress our class storyline. I was pleased to see that this planet looked a lot more alive and open, though I still felt like I was being "funnelled" a bit too much, as we kept running into dead ends in the ruins while trying to make our way from one sub-zone to the next. It felt very unnatural to just ignore all the quest givers, but we didn't really see the point in fighting all those grey mobs. There are always alts with which to see those quests.
Still, being so heavily overlevelled for that bit of our class quest definitely took some of the fun out of it. Everything died way too easily, and we probably spent more time just running back and forth between one trooper phase and the next than actually killing or talking to things.
After completing our class quests on both of these planets, we got a trooper mission on a special space ship, something that seems to happen every two planets or so (there was one after Coruscant too). This was one was really weird though, because it consisted mostly of a... puzzle? I was reminded of Dragon Age: Origins and how random the bridge puzzle in the Temple of Andraste seemed to me at the time; it just didn't fit. I got similar vibes from this quest, though it was a lot more straightforward. Also, it included an NPC conversation that featured a major continuity error and confused me big time until I looked it up online and saw other people pointing out that it was indeed an error and that I hadn't missed anything.
Let's conclude part 1 here. Next time: Tatooine and how things started to get a lot more interesting...