We’re about two weeks out from the next big expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, called “Galactic Strongholds”. It’s the introduction of player housing in the game, something I honestly thought we’d never see in a game like this. Of course, it’s also not quite what fans of SWG might’ve liked, either, but I don’t see how that was going to happen.
Housing is one of those things that seems to provoke strong opinions on the ‘net. One group insists that having housing is a way to give players more of an investment in their chosen game. Not a financial investment-an emotional one. That sort of thing, they say, encourages players to stay with the game over the long haul-everyone likes showing off their houses to guests. Another group, though, tends to view it as a waste of time; it’s playing “dress-up” with houses instead of going out and doing things. The time spent on putting in housing could be better spent, they say, on actual content.
I kind of see both sides of this, especially in today’s content-locust environment. TOR has been fairly quiet with content lately; there have been a couple flashpoints, a couple raids, and small planets (very small) for dailies, but that’s been about it for a long while since Makeb. (Oh, yeah-and Galactic Starfighter, for the PvP crowd. How’s that been working out?) Nothing that significant for a game that touted itself as relying on that fourth pillar of “story”. And now we get housing. But…they aren’t wrong in the idea that having a housing setup can promote a sense of place in the game. Plus, there is another flashpoint coming along with this expansion-and while I am somewhat incredulous that the developers can pull this off, they still claim another Makeb sized expansion is in the wings before year’s end. I’ll believe that one when I see it.
Which brings us to the housing itself. Full disclosure: I don’t have access to the test server-mainly because I don’t have the client downloaded. At this point, I have exactly two test clients on my system: Star Trek Online, because I never bothered to get rid of it, and City of Heroes, because I can still access useful bits thanks to a utility put together not long after it shuttered. I don’t need to add more test clients. The point being: what I know is hearsay, mostly from awesome sites like Dulfy’s. (Incidentally, as a side note, it sounds like the Rakghoul plague has hit again in Tatooine-I only know this thanks to Dulfy’s.)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, first. The housing is instanced. There was absolutely no way it was ever going to happen where you could place homes on the planets that exist. I would think that sort of thing would’ve had to have been planned for from the initial development of the game. Now, I’m not sure if the strongholds will have an obvious hook into the world, or if you will have to use something similar to a “quick travel” to get into it. I’m sort of expecting the latter, based on the screenshots I’ve seen. The good news is that you should be able to access it no matter what world you’re on, so there’s the tradeoff.
In many ways, it sounds a lot like the housing in Champions Online with their hideouts. Except better. First, the scale seems on first glance to be larger; and second, you have a much larger selection of decorations to put up. It isn’t a free-placement sort of decor. Heaps of sections in the Stronghold can handle different styles of “hooks”. You put the decorations on the hooks-some of which, as I understand it, have a hook of their own (tables, maybe?). The downside seems to be that to get the good decorations will require achievements of various types, or a lot of credits-or materials gained via raids. Not to mention crafting; crafters seem to be the way to get the building blocks needed to create various decorations.
There’s a monetization aspect, too-does it surprise anyone that some good decorations are going to be in Cartel Market packs? It shouldn’t. More frightening, though, is the expansion of the Stronghold. It costs a heap of credits-and I mean a HEAP-to open up more rooms to the maximum size. Of course, Cartel Coins can be used to do it as well. That’s the price one pays for a free-to-play/freemium game.
The Strongholds themselves cover a wide area: Nar Shadda, Tatooine-these are “any faction” Strongholds. Then there’s Coruscant and Dromund Kaas, which are factional strongholds. A key factor here: Strongholds are “legacy wide”, which means you pick up a Stronghold, and all your characters have access to it; it’s not tied to a single character. Which means, yes, your Sith Lord can go to your Coruscant Stronghold. There’s apparently some kind of cost to doing that-unless the character is a l, who’s used to breaking rules all the time, or an Agent, who’s used to going where they’re not supposed to all the time. (And as an amusing note, I consider my Smuggler to be my Republic “main”, and my Agent as my Imperial “main” character. Sometimes the choices work out!)
In keeping with the idea of the Strongholds being open to the roster of characters on the server, there is available a “legacy bank”, which allows access to all your characters to inventory. Cost may be an issue, and credits aren’t one of the things that can be shared, but it might prove helpful to crafter-heavy players, depending on how many slots are available. And like other cargo bays or inventory, more bays can be purchased. But expect sticker shock.
Finally, it’s worth noting that a guild can open a Guild Stronghold. There’s also the idea of Guild Flagships that are supposedly hitting the test server in the near future, and from what I understand, the cost on those things will be…let’s call it “nontrivial”. It’ll be brutal for small or dead guilds, but larger guilds should be able to spread the pain-similar to how I’ve seen things work with the Fleet Holdings in STO. Between the personal Strongholds, the guild Strongholds, and the Flagships, I imagine that there’s going to be a great deal of anguish as far as wallet-beatings go. Cost of doing business-think of it as a set of goals to go for. As for me: I plan to deal with my personal Strongholds before I even think about anything Guild related. And I’ll likely try to fill out at least three of those Strongholds, and theme them to fit the worlds: Coruscant will be heavily Jedi-ish flavored, a place of heroes; Dromund Kaas will be so Sithy it’ll make your head explode; and Nar Shadda, which I figure is gonna be Casablanca. We’ll see how it all shakes out-in about two weeks, should all go well.