18/04/2016

Side Quest Love

Side quests in Star Wars: The Old Republic don't get much love. People complain that they get repetitive quickly, and others even claim that they are outright dumb. Last year Syp even made a post to suggest that they should be removed from the game entirely. Yikes! It's funny that people clamour for MMOs with more "worldly" aspects to them, but at the same time campaign to have everything removed that doesn't personally entertain them.

Time for some facts: It's true that doing the same quests over and over again gets boring, but it has never been necessary to do all the side missions on every character. You can go back to my levelling diary from launch and read about how I skipped several planets pretty much entirely on my first playthrough. No, just doing your class story wasn't going to do it at the time, but there were always options in terms of where to get that extra XP. If you decided to follow the exact same path on every alt, that's entirely on you. (My personal pet theory is that many of the complaints about repetitive side quests originated from players who couldn't decide on a class, kept rerolling, and therefore burnt themselves out on the starter experience in weeks.)

And if you consider the side quests "dumb", I can't help but wonder if you space-barred through all the conversations and focused on nothing but your quest tracker. No, killing x space baddies isn't revolutionary, but it isn't the point either. The point is the world-building done by the dialogue.

When it comes to Bartle types, I score about equally high as explorer and as socialiser. Some people think that being an explorer in an MMO means that all you ever want to do is wander towards the horizon and see new lands, but there are more things to explore than geography, and for me the background and the lore are one focus. I'm not usually someone to read huge walls of texts about lore, mind you, but I love it when the NPCs around me bring the world to life naturally, and that's exactly what SWTOR's side quests do. It seems quite appropriate that they were officially renamed to "exploration missions" in 4.0.



Let's take this one from Ord Mantell for example. No, the task of fetching two holodiscs by itself is not very exciting, but within the space of only a few minutes we get: insight into the tension between loyal civilians and the local military, the story of someone who decided to convert to the side of the separatists, and a taste of how the duration of the conflict as well as just spending too much time being exposed to this kind of thing can emotionally harden someone. Personally I also think that Lamalla is kind of funny.

On my Cathar trooper on the Ebon Hawk I decided to do all the side quests again for a change, and it really adds so much context to everything. How much do you really learn about Coruscant during your class story, no matter which one? Generally speaking, you tend to be too focused on your main objective to pay too much attention to the kind of scenery you're running through. Also, in a somewhat bizarre move (in my opinion), Bioware has decided to label the Black Bisector storyline as Coruscant's main planetary arc in 4.0... Don't get me wrong, I like these quests very much, but I would have thought that the stuff with the senators and the gangs would have been more relevant. Because yes, there is a lot going on: popular senators conspiring with gang leaders, Coruscant security being overwhelmed on all fronts, vigilantes deciding to claim whole sectors for themselves, infrastructure breaking down, and so on and so forth. Plus, some of it is just plain fun. How cool is it to help out a struggling security officer by sending a known thug off to jail with a simple wave of the hand?



Same thing on Taris. Funny thing, I never liked that planet much, and I can't help but wonder if that's at least in part due to me skipping most of its content at launch. During my brief visit to progress my class story, my main impression was that it was an icky swamp full of rakghouls, a type of mob that was simply annoying.

But when you listen to all the dialogue in the side quests, there is so much more going on: conflicts between old and new settlers, official recovery programmes clashing with greedy scavengers, and all kinds of exciting discoveries, such as that the Tarisian government decided to freeze itself to survive the bombardment, or the sad story of the refugees who built up a primitive society of their own underground after everyone else had been wiped out, until their offspring became infertile from radiation poisoning. There's more to the rakghouls as well: they may at least have some semblance of sentience...



... oh, and some of them have learned to use the Force. OK, I always thought that particular story idea was a bit dumb, but I figured there were only so many ways they could think of to make rakghouls more interesting.

The point is that a lot of what makes the planets in SWTOR interesting places to be comes from the side quests. I'm actually really excited about redoing all of those exploration missions now after skipping most of them on my more recent Republic alts and dealing with the single-mindedness of the KotFE storyline. (Chapters ten and eleven have tried to give a bit of background about the civilian population of Zakuul, but it's still quite thin compared to what could have been done with some simple side missions.)

Do you have any favourite exploration missions? I might do a "top ten" or something eventually...

14 comments :

  1. There's one on the way to dromund kaas city - this imperial officer executed his entire squad because they were plotting against him. Then he found out they were planning his surprise party.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the guy with the Kubaz spies! I think that entire planet shows that being surrounded by Sith all the time causes "normal" soldiers to become a bit unhinged eventually. :P

      Delete
  2. Republic Tatooine has a good amount of fun-in-a-bizarre way side missions; there's the Sullustan bodyguard, the rogue Astromechs, and the recovery of "loved ones" which turn out to be simple models. They're always fun to revisit, especially the last one to see the reaction of the militia officer.

    Imperial Balmorra also gets some very good missions; there's Officer Sakoal and his unfortunate wife, The Secret of Cave 52, and dealing with Grand Marshal Cheketta with Darth Lachris.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I consider it a sign that it's clearly time for me to redo all the side missions on Republic side that I can't recall everything you mentioned off the top of my head - though yes, the toy collector is definitely among my favourites too.

      Delete
  3. My favorite side mission is probably the Light Side version of Officer Sakoal on Imperial Balmorra. If you spare her, she sends you the most hilariously terrible letter, telling you that she's cleaned out their joint bank account! :D

    (I even wrote fanfic about a character trying to salvage the situation.)

    But I like a lot of the missions that are now exploration missions.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Side-quests are something KotFE could really do with. I like the Star Fortresses, but like the H2 farming, they aren't really an alternative to some nice side-quests.

    I must admit I can't remember any of the side-quests, it's so long since I did them. My first two characters did just about every side-quest they came upon in 2012, and I was so burned out on them that none of my subsequent characters did any of them. My Smuggler and Bounty Hunter didn't even do the planetary story lines, as I decided that neither of them cared about helping their factions (and frankly I was sick of doing them).

    Now we have level-scaling I may just go back and do some of the side-quests again. I think it's been long enough that I might enjoy them again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Burnout is understandable but doesn't mean that the content that burnt you out is bad. I do think you would enjoy the side missions again after having had a bit of a break! Also, due to the level scaling, doing them at max level is actually reasonably profitable now.

      Delete
    2. Oh I agree totally, I don't think they were bad. The more side missions the better, for my money. It was my own fault that I burned out, because I insisted on tracking down every little quest I could find on every map.

      I did actually realise what I was doing after a bit, and began deliberately NOT doing all of them in the latter parts of the game, just so the alts I knew would be following would still have some fresh stuff to discover. But it was my third generation of alts who didn't do any at all. I just couldn't face all that again at the time. I thin now I probably can.

      Delete
  5. Of the back of my head, I like:

    The Dromund Kaas sidequest involving the missing soldiers who are garrisoned at The Wall; due to their chilling and sad conclusion at the hands of Lord Grathan's scientists. Makes me really motivated to kill any Grathan's scientists that I encounter.

    The sidequest of a Flesh Eater on Tython who wants to learn the ways of the Force is pretty funny.

    The questline of Taris survivors are sad and tragic; while the one involving the fate of Tarisian leaders are quite shocking, but the resolution was short and unsatisfactory (was expecting to explore the carbonite halls and interacting with the leaders' memoirs; and de-carbonizing them).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that the matter of the frozen leaders of Taris could have ended in a more interesting manner; it does have a sort of follow-up on Imp side though, in the heroic "The Fathers of Taris": Apparently the Republic was really slow with thawing them out, so the Imps end up disrupting the mission and blowing up the stasis chambers.

      Delete
    2. So, that's why it felt unresolved.
      None of my Imps have finished Imperial Taris yet.
      So sad that the leaders just got blown up.

      Delete
  6. I'll have to have a look back at all my screenshots, I only really remember the early world side quests as I did those a few times on different alts back when it was mostly necessary for the XP. I loved the Black Bisector ones actually because of the lore/linguistic aspect :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed that the Gree speech is interesting, Telwyn. It is fun trying to figure out the language. Bisector is..warrior/soldier? Black bisector..the best warrior? Yellow concave...terrible state? Perpendicular..bad situation/opponent? Parallel..good situation?

      So difficult..yet intriguing.

      Delete
  7. It's funny, as I try and think of side quests that I enjoyed, I almost always end up thinking of missions that turn out to be part of the planetary bonus series or heroics.

    There was one on Republic Alderaan that was in the bonus series area - "The Missing Holocron" with pompous "I am the twenty-third highest ranking officer in all of House Organa" Lt. Weeznod - always good for a laugh, and pretty simple. In fact there were several there that made things a bit embarrassing for House Organa with traitors and more lazy nobles (which I don't recall you seeing in House Organa much).

    And on Tython, "The Thousand Steps" to meet Kolovish was fun, with that champion mob at the end, Mar'gavrok.

    One thing I'm enjoying on a few characters that still have their class stories to complete is running EVERY mission on a planet, and not jumping ahead using the unlocked speeders - just poking along from outpost to outpost on my speeder. I'm not doing it on every planet with every character, just a few here and there and it really does increase the immersion in the world. It's nice to run them again and get the full story of a planet since after my first two characters I skipped a lot of side quests and bonus series (and even they only got through the chapter 1 world completely).

    ReplyDelete