SWTOR: Rise of the Hutt Cartel reviewed – This may not be the expansion you’re looking for

SWTOR: Rise of the Hutt Cartel

By on May 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Rise of the Hutt Cartel, the first expansion to The Old Republic, was released last month with a promise of fresh content to play through and more carrots to chase by upping the level cap from 50 to 55. So, with the galaxy saved and level 50 reached, my character headed back to his starship, to find a holocall waiting for him. After a cutscene featuring a delightful action sequence with some training droids, and a conversation about the imminent destruction of Makeb, my giant green Jedi zoomed off to the newest entry in Star Wars lore.

Players on the Republic side are tasked with trying to push the titular Hutt Cartel off the planet Makeb and save it from a mysterious energy that is pulling it apart at its core. Much of the story quest is well written, and provides ample opportunity to leave people for dead, save villages, flirt with daughters and all the other things one expects from modern RPG dialogue.

Many of the new cutscenes are a treat, with panoramic shots of your starship, hammy action sequences and general Jedi awesomeness. RotHC works towards adding some excitement into the conversations of your main character, who in previous cutscenes has been mostly static.

In the background, the planet Makeb makes a passable effort towards providing some fresh scenery. Its horizon is lined with towering mesas, while the ground has plenty of jagged rocks, canyons and mercenary bases to stop you staring into the sky for too long.

Like all other planets in TOR, Makeb has a long, fully voiced storyline that takes you across the entire zone to complete its many objectives. But unlike other planets, Makeb does little to give you something to do in between these objectives. Normally, you’d have quite a few side quests with dialogue cutscenes, then whatever you had to do would be spaced roughly between your location and the major storyline’s next objective.

For some reason, BioWare Austin have decided to forgo this and instead place repeatable daily quests in each area. These are almost always issued with a text popup and seem to invariably involve accessing a computer console of some kind, because apparently space-faring races enjoy leaving computers out on the patio. These quests are relatively short and only repeatable once a day, which means that you’re required to spend a fair amount of time moving between objectives by just grinding through mobs.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a bonus mission to give you some extra experience for killing them, but mostly you’re just grinding. This impersonal approach to side quests makes it hard to stay engaged with what you’re doing, as every story beat is followed by a mind-numbing mob-grind.

The new hope in RotHC is the addition of space binoculars macrobinoculars and scanner droids. These two new features come with brand new quest lines attached to them, both of which send you back to planets you’ve previously been on to find hidden items and new areas.

For example, the first quest for the macrobinoculars takes you back to Coruscant, a low-level planet, so you can search out droids and transmitters placed by a mysterious spy known as “The Shroud”. With a press of a button, you enter a first-person binocular view which allows you to zoom in on otherwise inaccessible places to scan the devices left by The Shroud. After finding all the objects in an area, you’re presented with a new objective that leads you to a hidden room inside a cantina. Here, you use the binoculars once again to solve a puzzle which finally allows you to confront one of The Shroud’s lieutenants. The addition of new, more puzzle-based questing makes for a really refreshing change in the TOR experience, and one which I’d like to see expanded on.

Alongside this new style of quest, RotHC also adds a fairly standard achievement system that rewards you with titles for completing some of the harder tasks, along with a range of class tweaks designed to remove previously unused skills and add additional ones for the five extra talent points players will receive. As well as these, RotHC offers new end game dungeons to take on with your guild — but as I’m not part of such a guild, I unfortunately can’t comment on their quality.

What Rise of the Hutt Cartel fails to add is an extension to The Old Republic‘s greatest selling point: its class quests. As I previously mentioned, planets in TOR had their own story that stretched over the time you spent in that area, backed up by a unique, fully voiced class-specific quest-line that stayed with you for your entire levelling career. I had hoped that RotHC would continue these brilliant class quests for another five levels, but I can only assume that budget constraints have forced BioWare Austin’s hand and prevented them from extending these. This makes most of the content feel more like an epilogue, rather than an extension to the grand story your character has participated in thus far.

With only the planet-wide quest and the new puzzle-style quests engaging me, and the grinding and lack of a personal story quest force-pushing me away, I found the expansion to be — for me, at least — wholly unnecessary. If you’re still playing and just eager for anything new to do on your max level characters, RotHC is worth looking into. But if you’ve previously left TOR and are waiting to see if this new content makes it worth getting back in, then this isn’t the expansion you’re looking for.

Good:

  • Cutscenes are a step above the vanilla game.
  • Planetwide story is fun, ample roleplaying opportunity
  • New puzzle quests

Bad:

  • No addition to personal story
  • Gets very grindy at times

Rise of the Hutt Cartel costs $9.99 for subscribers and $19.99 for free players. You can buy it at the official SWTOR website.

This review copy of the expansion was provided by the publisher.

11 comments (Leave your own)

Great work stepping up for the review, Vencha :)

 

Not at all!

 

Good read, I still may check this out in the near future but it doesn’t seem like something that’s going to have me racing home to reinstall Old Republic tonight.

 

I pretty much concur with this, and to be honest, I can’t really see the player base getting a follow up of the main storyline, would cost them too much. Personal opinion of course.

Great review, I personally think you nailed it.

on a side note; when, OH when, will ranged caster DPS get to stop wearing dresses, sick of seeing them, sick of my character in them, sick-sick-sick of them.

 
steve_rogers42

I have been back playing the f2p since a little bit before the 2.0 update… i must admit, i feel like i am getting my monies worth playing it again, but the difference between subbed and unsubbed is a vast and wide ocean of experience that has made a lot of my mates drop it altogether.

Personally, having played the beta, bought the CE and now unsubbed and f2p, it feels there is still something missing from the game. The Beta felt a lot more free flowing and seemed to have a lot more content that is only now being seen in the Cartel market packs… which is kinda weak. If i resubbed i would probably pick up the expo, but at this point in time, they really need to look at why people are moving away…. and playing the neverwinter beta.

 

I have no idea how they will ever continue the character stories, especially the Imperial Agent story, which has several radically different endings that definitely need completely different storylines.

I’m not sure if this would count as a spoiler (since it’s been out almost 18 months) but I’ll keep the details out – you could end up working for any one of 4 different masters / organizations which have radically different goals, or you could decide to go out Batman style by erasing your identity and travelling the galaxy as a vigilante.

 

Personally they are still trying to recover their cost in developing this game. They have one of the worst f2p models – even to the point they lock part of the UI. I wouldn’t call this an expansion but just a nice DLC.

 

Im still playing swtor…
Sadly I chose the PvP realm which is totally fkn dead now
Wouldnt even hit 50 people on fleet at peak times.
Makeb.. well 10-20 people at peak, most of them dont talk, wont group etc.
Lucky for me I have a good guild with ~400 members.
If your not in a good guild.. well best of luck getting anything requiring a group done in swtor these days.
I recently tried to level without guild backing, was horrid.
Oh and do NOT try to level as F2P, A sub is required if you actually want to be able to play the game.
Its still a blast if you have good people to back you, but stay away from Makeb unless you really, really need you LBG mmo content :P

 

fragarach: Im still playing swtor…
Sadly I chose the PvP realm which is totally fkn dead now

you and me both tho i only really play like once or twice a week if that.
Been looking forward to the server merge with the U.S server so theres actually a player count, I find maked to be another planet nothing really special just more SWOT story the lack of personalised story line means there’s probably no replayability here but o well

 

fragarach,

Interesting, your description in what it itakes to get the most out of the game (joining guilds, subs) really reinforces my aversion to MMORPG’s. I acknowledge the appeal they have to gamers out there (millions of players can’t be wrong right?) but reading what you’ve written, I can’t see myself dedicating that level of time or effort. Which is a shame because I love Star Wars and I really like Bioware’s work.

 

I’ve been subbed and playing it on and off for the last 6 months or so, ever since I realised that I have plenty of time and money to waste on a SW game.

Not just the cutscenes, but the whole of Makeb in general has a much higher degree of polish than any other planet in the game.

Endgame content is decently expanded, with 2 new equipment tiers (I wasn’t top tier before, so I was happy to feel like I got to skip grinding for that, since the old top tier is obsolete now). I recently joined a progression guild with the intention of exposing myself to more gear drops, and seeing if it’s as much fun as all those MMO players I know seemed to be having over the years. So far I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

I hadn’t actually noticed the absence of class specific quests. The expansion opens with the title Chapter 4, and ends with a second Interlude for the second endgame section. Obviously the next expansion will be Chapter 5, so it will be interesting to see if new class quests appear in future.

I played the Imperial story after Republic, and enjoyed it a lot more. The two tales reference each other nicely, and it’s interesting to see both.

 
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