This guide is primarily written with friends in mind who have never touched an MMO before and are approaching Star Wars: The Old Republic solely to experience more BioWare storytelling. If you have been avoiding SWTOR because it happens to be an MMO and it seems like too much hassle to get into, this is the time to dive in and get all of the story with a minimum of the fuss.
Until Knights of the Fallen Empire comes out in October, subbing for SWTOR gets you a whopping 12x experience points boost. Which means you can play from lvl 1 to 50 by only doing your class story and not repeating any of the planetary quests at all if you don’t want to. That’s a LOT of story right at your fingertips!
This is therefore not an exhaustive guide on how to get the most out of SWTOR. It is instead focused on getting you fast and deep into your own Star Wars tale with a minimum of (MMO) distractions.
At the end of the post, I will link a number of in-depth guides that will help you effectivize (it’s totally a word) your gameplay, if min/maxing caught your fancy or find every secret datacron in the galaxy or show you all you can do with your Strongholds.
For now let’s get you in game and playing.
First off I have the following most important advice to BioWare fans who are playing SWTOR for the first time:
There is no save game!
The escape key will immediately interrupt and take you out of any dialogue you are in! Use it if you regret your dialogue choice or want to see the other options. Be aware it will interrupt the dialogue for any other players in the same conversation.
If you finish a dialogue and you are unhappy with the direction your choices took, you cannot change them!
Subbing or Free-to-play
You get all of the story in SWTOR with the free-to-play option and this is a great way to get a sense of the game. However, the game is a lot easier to play on a sub. You get more XP, more gold, there are fewer restrictions on things you can do and your crafting isn’t anal retentive (you’ll understand when you compare).
My advice: Dip your toes in with F2P and if you fall in love, sub and don’t look back. The worst experience is the one we poor folks get which is subbing when we can afford it, and reverting to free-to-play when the money runs out and sobbing in our keyboards at all we’re missing out on and were able to do the day before.
If you have friends who are already subbing to SWTOR you can ask them for a referral link. This will hook you up with a week of free fully subbed experience. Or you can use mine:
Be aware that the one who shares you a referral link is given in-game treats too, so if you’d rather those went to someone you like better than me…
You are presented with a small list of servers that are sorted by PVP, PVE and RP. These abbreviations stand for Player vs. Player, Player vs Environment and Roleplaying.
PVP means there are certain areas (not many) of the game where you can suddenly get attacked by other players despite not actually doing anything to invite this sort of behavior. I’m not judging!
PVE means those areas up there are not automatically dangerous unless you set your PVP flag manually (or it is accidentally flagged for you, see below).
Faction, Class, Race and Gender
There are two factions to choose from Republic or Empire, either is good to choose. My personal opinion from playing several classes from both factions is that in general the storytelling is deeper on the Empire side (not necessarily better or worse, just broader in a sense).
For your first character, I suggest picking a tank class and preferably rolling with a Sith Inquisitor or a Consular as your starting class. They are tough as nails, and with stealth can avoid a lot of fights and get you through areas others will have trouble with. Obviously the choice is yours but that’s my recommendation.
For tanks, your options are Jedi Knight, Consular or Trooper on the Republic side and Bountyhunter, Sith Warrior and Sith Inquisitor on the Imperial side.
The actual tanking subclass choice happens at level 10 where you will be presented with a permanent(!) choice of subclasses. Be sure to pick the correct one, but do not fret, it will be very clear what you are choosing between.
This is not to say that any DPS or healing classes aren’t viable for leveling or solo play but for your first experience I warmly recommend the Sith Inquisitor/Assassin class or the Jedi Knight/Guardian class.
Race has no bearing on your abilities other than each race has a social ability unique to them. You will find this ability if you hit ‘P’ and look at the general tab.
Gender effects which companion you can schmooze. Unfortunately, these are all straight options with the chance of a little same sex fling on the side later in the game. Sorry!
The love stories are quite different between the two gender options for each class and definitely worth pursuing with multiple alts. More on this in the next sub-point!
Companions and Love Interests
As you play the game you will pick up companions as part of your class story. They come in dribs and drabs as they fit into your tale and you may see several planets without gaining any new members to your crew.
Companions can have their faces customized! If you are unhappy with the look of one of your companions seek out one of several hard-to-find vendors around the galaxy that offers a different look for that character.
Only one of these is romanceable for either gender. The dialogue should make that obvious, but you will also start to see [Flirt] markers in the response choices.
You do not have to hit every [Flirt] to successfully romance a character. But you do need to hit one or two and there will be a point of no return after which the romance dies aborning. Much like any other BioWare game.
Every companion has dialogue and quests that can be unlocked with increased affection. You can see their current affection toward you if you press ‘N’ and hover your mouse over the bar beneath their pictures.
You increase affection with them approval, gained through dialogue (but beware, they may also disapprove so watch those popups!). You can also increase their affection with gifts which you can get from certain crew crafting skills or from vendors.
Your companion only disapproves of actions she witnesses so you can dismiss them before a dialogue where you know they won’t like what you have to say. Better still call in another of your companions who you know is in agreement with your sentiment!
You gain an achievement when you max out affection with a companion and another one when you do so with all of your class’ companions.
Dark Side or Light Side Points
Your choices may lead you down a dark path, padawan. But if peace is truly a lie and there is only passion, then we both know where all the fun is at.
There are several consequences to turning your character to the dark or to the light. I will not spoil these for you merely state that you should expect it to have an impact on several aspects of your game.
Every class has a primary and secondary stat. Aim for Bounty Hunters and Troopers, Strength for Sith Warriors and Jedi Knights, Cunning for Agents and Smugglers and Willpower for Consulars and Inquisitors.
Don’t worry too much about the secondary stat. If you are playing a tank pick defense, avoidance and/or power and you’ll be ok.
You should be fine with the gear the different quests hand out to you, however if you want to take the issue of gear completely out of the equation do the following:
Get a full set of modable (orange) gear and change out the mods every 5 levels from the vendors in the Supplies quadrant of the fleet.
Don’t worry about the looks! You can change what your character appears to be wearing in the customization tabs without changing the gear your are actually wearing.
Active Outfits and Appearance Customization
You will find a row of numbers next to your character when you press ‘C’. If you click on number 1 it presents you with a version of your character with empty gear slots. Any gear you put in there will a) be shown persistently on your character regardless of what gear she wears, if b) this outfit set is active and c) that gear will be bound to you if it wasn’t already.
In effect, you can gear your character with any armor you feel is appropriate to handle the content you are facing and appear to yourself and anybody else to be wearing a slave girl outfit, if that’s what you want.
Any item of the correct level, regardless of armor class can go in your outfits, even if you can’t actually wear it on your character. There also item sets for sale both on the GTN on various vendors around the galaxy and in the Catel store (the big hard-to-miss gold button obscuring a quarter of your UI).
Gear and items belong to you in different ways in an MMO: Bind on Pickup, Bind on Equip and Bind to Legacy are the suffixes you will most commonly see on items.
Bind on Pickup or BoP items are stickied to you. You can use them (if your class permits), you can vendor them (sell the item to an npc vendor) or you can discard them by dragging the off your inventory and onto the game window. You cannot give these items to other players or to another character on your own account.
Bind on Equip or BoE items sticky to you like BoP items only after you have used them or put them on. Before that you are free to trade them to other players, other alts of yours or sell them on the Galactic Trading Network (GTN or auction).
Bind to Legacy items can freely be sent to other characters in your legacy (i.e. other characters that belong to you on that server). This is very useful for divvying out hand-me-down gear for example. Do not delete these items.
Once you make it to the fleet for the first time. Just as you enter you will find a metal box with a quest marker on top. It will offer you introductory quests to the group finder, pvp and crafting. Do these quests if you feel like it but definitely seek out the crafting area on the fleet and click on every crafter. You will get a small amount of xp and an explanatory note for each type of crafting. You can re-read these in your codex (press ‘L’ and click the codex tab).
My recommendation to go with the Sith Inquisitor is Artifice with Archeology and Treasurehunting. You will be able to make your own costume dyes that way and I know you’ll want to.
Navigate to your map (press ‘M’) and turn on ‘Resources’ in the map notes on the side. This will make the gemstones you will be harvesting show up both on your minimap and on the big map which is very helpful.
In SWTOR you have, unlike in any other MMOs, a toolset defined as your Legacy. A legacy opens up to you at level 10 and spans any characters you add to your legacy tree on any given server. Thus, anything you unlock for your legacy is only unlocked for that server’s legacy. You can have other legacies on other servers.
The Legacy tree does not mean that all your characters are related to each other! It does indicate that every character in this Legacy somehow impacts upon another character in the tree. But nobody else can see your legacy tree, so what you put in there is for your enjoyment alone!
How much or how little you play around with your Legacy is up to you but here are some of the perks you get from adding a character to your legacy tree:
Titles (a last name if that was the legacy name you chose!) or a legacy title.
Legacy wide perks such as the cannot-be-sufficiently-praised Rocket Boost:
Character perks such as a boost to your crafting criticals, a field re-specialization option, field mail etc.
As with almost all other things in SWTOR you have two ways of unlocking these perks: Credits (in game cash you get from quests and drops etc. denoted by a green credit symbol) or Cartel Coins or CCs(Gold symbol), A currency you obtain with real money, or from gifts.
This is where you will find all manner of extra goodies you can buy for real money to supplement your game. There is nothing in this store you need to be able to play!
There may, however, be items in this store you feel a great need to own nonetheless. Enter at your own risk.
I found something that is pulsating in a blue light. What do I do?
Click it! Pulsating blue light means the item is interactive. You may need it for your quest, or it could tell you something interesting about the area you are in or it may simply do somethign fun!
I’m at the end of a long dungeon do I really have to run all the way back to hand in my quest?
Nope, Look for a small white crystal ball looking ability on your bar. It is called quicktravel and will take you to quest hubs you have visited before.
I found a glowing box hidden at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory behind a sign saying “Beware of the Leopard”! What should I do?
Click it! There are datacrons hidden on every planet. 3 on the starting planets and 5-6 on most other planets. Each datacron give you a boost to a stat or an item and they are usually hard to find or hard to get to or both. Google planet name + Datacron for help finding these of try SWTORSpy.com for datacron maps. They are not necessary to have (unless you are min/maxing) but they can be fun to get.
This quest turned out to be a Flashpoint, what does that mean?
Flashpoints are meant to be group content and mostly you will need a tank, a healer and two damage dealers to get through them. They have a lot of story nuggets and cutscenes and are definitely worth exploring. If you don’t feel like doing any given Flashpoint with a group you can usually wait until you out level them and solo the content. Ask around for tips on when and how to do so.
I got PVP flagged and it won’t go away!
Type /flag + enter twice in the text box and you should get a message that states you will de-flag after 5 minutes in a safe zone. Go to your ship of stronghold and make a cup of tea.
I seem to be stuck falling and I can’t move!
Type /stuck + enter in the text box or try your Quick Travel ability.
Do I have to join a guild?
No you don’t have to. There are benefits to joining guilds, especially ones that have some work put into them. For example guild with a certain amount of members offer all members an xp bonus. Established guilds also often invest in guild strongholds and guild flagships. These are in guild hubs with (usuall) access to banks, GTN and more.
If you would like to not be spammed with invites to guilds you can choose to auto decline guild invites in your preferences.
This UI is really big and distracting, Can I do something about it?
Yes! You can’t make it less blue (sorry!) but you can move parts around, shrink it, disable anything you don’t want to look at etc. Hit Escape and choose the Interface Editor. Any ui changes you save there, you will be able to load up on all your other characters!
You can also visit SWTORUI.com for downloadable UI settings you can use instead of the default.
There are so many abilities how do I keep track of them all?
It is pretty overwhelming. Here is what I do:
I use 3 active bars (meaning bars I have keyboard shortcuts for) and anything else I mouseclick. My primary combat buttons go on 1, 2, 3, 4. My Area attacks (AOEs) go on Alt + 1, Alt + 2, Alt +3, Alt +4.
My interrupts and stuns go on Q, Alt + Q, Shift + Q
My Medpacks, heals and self cleanse go on: E. Alt + E, Shift +E
My Armor and defensive abilities go on R, Alt + R, Shift +R
My class buff is on G
I have more to this scheme but I use that setup with all characters. In effect I mostly just use 1 -4 with some alt modification of the same when I fight. Sort your abilities into what they do for you. Direct attacks, AOEs, Damage over Time attacks (DOTs) and so on. All classes have some versions of these and they are all used at the same time in a fight. DOTs for example don’t do much for you at the end of a fight. They are better used in the beginning where they have time to damage your foe with every tick.
I zoned and now my companion is dead.
– cough -This is a bug. Right click your companion and choose dismiss, then resummon him and he will be good as new and we won’t talk about this anymore.
I want to know a lot more about how to play this game
Try also the Tor Community particularly their database is a stellar tool to have.
TOR Decorating has all the latest in house items for your Strongholds.
The Escape Pod Podcast has an excellent show (episode no. 98) with all kinds of community links that may intrigue you and is itself a lovely, positive laid back podcast which will inform and entertain you on the topic of SWTOR.
Please note this is a work in progress and I may add points tp it. Especially if you offer up suggestions in the comments section below!