However, many MMO gamers aren't looking for story, specifically. These gamers want to hear about the mechanics. I can appreciate that. Once the story becomes tired, the mechanics of a questline are going to be what holds a player to the game. How does the new questlines on Oricon stack up? That's a good question. I'd usually judge quests on the environment, challenge, flow, and overall immersion. But since these quests are supposed to be done on a regular basis (thus the name dailies), that means there has to be a repeatability factor. Let's examine these categories.
We already know the setup for the story, as I mentioned last week, so we already have some idea about the environment, but what about actual landscape of Oricon? The first thing I noticed was the size. I do not expect a daily area to have a huge, expansive landscape, but I've noticed that the daily areas of SWTOR appear to be getting smaller and smaller. The first areas were integrated into the existing landscapes of Ilum and Belsavis, and the actual area that these dailies covered was quite large. The Belsavis dailies in particular took up too much of the landscape adding far too much travel time to the dailies, but CZ-198 represented the other extreme: not enough space. CZ-198 seemed very compact, and if there was more than four or five people in one given area, you were literally clipping into each other. In total space, Oricon seems to be about the same size as CZ-198, but you don't have the tunnel-vision issues.
With its bright orange cloudy sky, Oricon feels expansive. However, once the quests start, you start to feel how small the island really is. The lava falls, and the varying levels of hills create an appropriately hostile environment, but it also makes the map a bit difficult to navigate at first. I found myself on more than one occasion attempting to run to a mob that I couldn't reach because of a seemingly tiny hill that I couldn't scale, and I constantly aggroed large groups of other mobs on my way to some other destination.
Bottom line: Oricon is gorgeous and fitting for the questline, but it could stand to be a bit bigger and easier to navigate.
For new questlines, players generally look for something challenging. If there isn't something new, the game becomes stagnant. Yet for a part of the game that is intended to be played over and over as a part of a reputation grind, you don't want something that's going to be so difficult that it turns players off from repeating the quests.
Oricon certainly lets you know that it's a level-55 area. Some of the mobs -- specifically, the tentacle monsters -- hit like trucks, even against my Marauder in hard-mode raid gear. If you know ahead of time that certain things will hit harder than others, then it might be a bit of a challenge, but you will at least be able to prepare yourself. If you are a fresh level 55, don't step in here right away. Get yourself a bit of gear. Basic gear will likely be fine, but elite gear would certainly be better.
Back when SWTOR was being touted at conventions, the developers mentioned that players wouldn't have to grab a quest, travel out to the quest, then travel back to the questgiver. Players have holographic communicators, rendering the constant travel back and forth obsolete. This turns out to not be the whole truth, at least for the first time you do the Oricon quests.
To follow the story of Oricon properly, you have to speak to Lord Hargrev after every mission. If I were someone looking to just complete the questline for credits or reputation, the constant back and forth would grate on me. Even as someone who enjoys the story, I was about to throw my hands up after the fourth time I had to return to the same spot. Thankfully, after you've completed the quests the first time, you get all the quests at the same time. This allows you to travel in a circle around the island to complete the quests all at once before turning them in.
From a mechanics standpoint, I would consider anything that takes me out of the reality of the environment is immersion-breaking. For instance, if a mob spawns in an inappropriate place or giant monster dies just by your breathing on it, I question whether that works for this questline. Immersion is tarnished basically by anything that makes me sit back and go, "WTF?"
Initially, the first quest of rescuing Republic troopers made me blink because when I opened the escape pods, nothing came out. But by my second run-through, this item was fixed, and the soldiers appropriately hopped out of the pods and ran to the base-camp. That said, the two monsters in the third questline still seem too easy for their imposing size. I expected that they would be almost equal to a champion mob, but clearly, they didn't live up to an intimidating name like Corrupted Elder Subteroth.
(And although it's obvious where the second beast is hiding out, you do have to activate a quest item in order to "find" the cave it's hanging out in. Don't forget to do that as I did.)
Of course, I don't expect dailies to be fun every single time you do them, but at the same time, they should not be so frustrating that you want to pull your hair out. Do the Oricon dailies make me want to pound my head against the wall? No, but they are far from my favorite set of dailies. That award goes to the Black Hole still, although CZ-198 is pretty close. Oricon's environment and mob density are the two biggest factors reducing the replayability of the zone. It's difficult to navigate by itself, and then you also have to pull a train of mobs behind you in order to travel from one area to the next.
Next week, I hope to introduce you to the two operations on Oricon, and then on Wednesday, October 2nd, my guild will jump right into these new operations for our weekly livestream. See you then!
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!