Massively's hands-on with Star Wars: The Old Republic Update 1.2

Star Wars: The Old Republic Update 1.2
Goodness, I hope you have heard that Star Wars: The Old Republic is releasing a new patch soon. It's been jokingly dubbed the "Jesus Patch" because it's supposed to contain everything, and incidentally, it may "save" the game. Many critics have written off the game because developers missed some essential MMO ingredients when it launched. Despite that, SWTOR currently stands as the fastest-growing MMO ever and retains the second largest subscription base, according to Electronic Arts' investor calls.

During the recent Guild Summit, while the guild leaders and fan site press were shuttled off, the press made its way to BioWare studios to try out the new content in Update 1.2. Each member was given his or her station to tool around with. Immediately, I noticed that the two Bounty Hunters in the character selection screen wore armor I had never seen before: Black Hole armor and War Hero armor. We were about to step into the new flashpoint called the Lost Island as well as the new Novare Coast warzone.

UI changes
If you've been following me or the Hyperspace Beacon, you know that SWTOR's UI is a thorn in my side, and I prefer a very odd interface layout. Justin from Darth Hater referred to the changes to the UI layout as being similar to the Dominos mod for World of Warcraft. Personally, I would say that it's very similar to RIFT mostly because I never played with mods in my short time with WoW. Designer Emmanuel Lusinchi glanced over at my UI layout and asked whether I actually played like that. I replied that I'd probably do a bit of tweaking, but generally, yes, I do play like that!

My keymaps and tab targeting are most important when I play. I rely very little on actually clicking on anything, so I can place many things nearly in the middle of the screen without their getting in the way. Thanks to the new interface with Update 1.2, I was able to set my task bars hovering a couple of inches off the center of the screen, set to about 50% opacity so that I could see through them. My radar, health bar, target, and of course, target of target were at the bottom.

Although this should have been in at launch, I'm totally glad the developers are putting it in now.

Flashpoint: The Lost Island
The new flashpoint ties into the existing game lore. The Rakghoul virus found on Kaon during the Kaon Under Siege flashpoint has been traced to a lab on Ord Mantel. The mad scientist running the lab didn't stop with infecting humans; instead he continued his work with other species and wildlife in an attempt to perfect the viral strain. Of course, it is our job to stop that from happening. Unfortunately -- and despite BioWare's emphasis on it -- the story really falls short in this flashpoint. I'm not saying that story isn't there, it just wasn't as in-your-face as it was in other flashpoints like the Foundry.

Mechanically, the flashpoint was really sound, and did I mention fun? I was surprised at the complexity of the flashpoint, even in "story mode." The game became mostly about coordination timing and less about gear stats. Granted, my whole team was playing characters and classes that we don't play normally, but we did manage to work together well enough to get to the last boss.

For those wanting details about the encounters, I'll give you a quick overview. The first boss is a security droid that systematically releases Rakghoul at the same time it drops ever-expanding pools of electricity. The second boss is a mutated Savrip who thinks he's a monkey. He likes to jump and stomp the ground, and if you aren't close enough to him when he shakes the platform, you will get knocked off. Worse, he throws a poison DoT that will spread from one player to the next, causing major damage if you stand too close to your mates. There is a bonus boss about which I won't give too much away other than to say, "Watch out for the falling icicles!" The final boss is, of course, the scientist. The best comment came from my own character, who said, "If the formula is so good, why don't you use it on yourself?" and that's exactly what he did. This just goes to show that sometimes you don't even want to jokingly give bad advice.

Warzone: Novare Coast
The planet Denova has become a hotbed for galactic conflict. Both the warzone Novare Coast and the operation Explosive Conflict (hey, I didn't make up the names) take place on this previously unmentioned planet. Although it's a bit unclear to me why this planet is so important, perhaps it will make itself clear once Update 1.2 launches. Decked out in our War Hero armor, everyone in the room jumped into the warzone. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for us to complete the operation.

If you enjoy the Alderaan Warzone, then you are going to love the Novare Coast. And if you thought Alderaan was too slow or it was too easy to hold nodes, then try out Novare Coast when it goes live. The two warzones have similar objectives but are just different enough to make things interesting.

The control points operate cannons that aim at the enemy's bunker. Each bunker has a regenerating shield that just so happens to regenerate as fast as one cannon can fire. If you are able to get two of the three cannons to fire at the enemy's bunker, then it will begin to take damage. The map is set up with the cannon controls in an upside-down triangular shape with the bottom point between the two bases and the northern two points directly north of the respawn points. The map is smaller than Alderaan's, and more than one person can turn the cannon at one time, causing them to turn faster.

Overall, its smaller map made for faster action. I really can't wait to get into this warzone again -- or any of Update 1.2, for that matter.

We have more Update 1.2 news coming soon. Don't miss the Hyperspace Beacon and my interview with Creative Director James Ohlen coming out later today.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.