Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Shroud lifted [updated]

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Shroud lifted [updated]
Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Shroud lifted
I've been covering Star Wars: The Old Republic for going on three years now. My first full-time MMO was Star Wars Galaxies, although I had played a bit of Ultima Online before that. I have also played nearly every major MMO after SWG's launch, ranging from World of Warcraft to Lord of the Rings Online to City of Heroes to DC Universe Online. Although all those games had aspects that I really enjoyed, I was not able to stick with any of those other MMOs for more than a month.

But when I first started playing SWTOR regularly during beta, it had me hooked. Sure, there were many aspects that I didn't like; some areas made me question the strength of the game as an MMO, but I continued to play. Some people would say that it's the lightsabers that have kept me there. I would agree the hiss and buzz of a laser sword is part of the appeal. I have played through many of the class stories to a high level, and I've also watched every class story multiple times on YouTube to catch all the endings. I have personally played through the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor story twice -- not just to level up but to watch the story again. Some of the dialogue is shaky, but in my opinion, there had never been this level of storytelling in an MMO before. And I will continue to play as long as there is still story to experience.

Today, BioWare launches the next chapter in the story of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. The majority of the story takes place on the Hutt-controlled world of Makeb, but we have also been given two major quest that take us all over the galaxy. Today, I would like to talk about one of those: the Shroud.

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Shroud lifted
In November, just after the free-to-play launch, we asked BioWare lead writer Hall Hood if he could give us any clues about the upcoming story in SWTOR. He replied with a cryptic message:
For decades since the Sith Empire returned to war against the Republic, the Hutt Cartel has been content to watch from the sidelines and profit from the chaos. That is all about to change, and the fallout from the Hutts' actions will have long-term consequences for the entire galaxy. The Dread Masters aren't finished yet, either. They're about to unleash something terrible that only the galaxy's most powerful defenders have any hope of stopping. If I tell you any more, the Shroud will have me eliminated for talking. Who is this "Shroud," you ask? Oh, you'll see...
When I hopped on the closed test server, I planned to check out Makeb first, but after I completed that arc, the Shroud questline called to me. Dubbed by players "the macrobinoculars quest," this questline spans the entire galaxy. A mysterious intelligence figure called the Shroud has threatened the Empire. A former agent tells me that the Shroud is not interested in bribery or power, but he is interested in the chaos of it all. The Shroud will unleash terror on the Empire because he can.

The Shroud does not work alone, though. He has a network of agents scattered throughout the galaxy eavesdropping on some of the most private conversations of both Imperial and Republic citizens. The Shroud network has placed a series of listening towers on each major planet, starting with three on Dromund Kaas. My informant hopes that if we triangulate the signals from these towers, we can pinpoint the Shroud's listening station and ultimately track down the Shroud himself.

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Shroud lifted
To help triangulate the signal, I have been given a special set of macrobinoculars that can be used to deactivate or trigger certain electronic devices. Imagine the Doctor's sonic screwdriver but with a telescope. Sure, it's a bit of a stretched plot device, but it's the puzzles that make the quest fun.

At first, I was disappointed at how easy the questline started. I had to hunt down these listening towers. I was supposed to use the macrobinoculars to find them. The device would pop the screen into first-person mode, and when the listening tower was in range, a yellow particle effect would appear around the tower. However, all the towers look exactly the same, and after finding the first one, I was able to see the rest of them without the aid of the binoculars, which is exactly what I did to make the rest of tower tracking entertaining.

The real fun hit when I found the first listening station. First, it was in an unusual area of Dromund Kaas that prompted me to go to the live server to see whether it was there originally or had been added just for RotHC. Come to find out, it was on the live servers, but it's impossible to get to the entrance. This is actually the case with most of the listening stations. Second, the environmental puzzle (there is no jumping involved in the first one) inside the station gave hints as to how the rest of the questline would continue. I used my sonic screwdriver -- er, macrobinoculars -- to activate panels and open doors until I made my way to the first boss.

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Shroud lifted
I did ultimately get to the last listening station after combing the galaxy for towers and other listening stations. I can't say that it was an epic tale of espionage and intrigue. The Shroud's dialogue was less Dr. James Moriarty and more Dr. Douglas Evil. Fortunately, this questline didn't hinge on the dialogue. But the puzzles for the listening stations were challenging and sometimes just as difficult on a second character as they were on the first. I recommend that you do not look up any walkthroughs for this quest or for the seeker droid quest. The fun part is, of course, figuring out the puzzles on your own.

One more thing before I close up today: I livestreamed Makeb for two hours at noon on Massively's Twitch channel. You can catch the full stream and the trailer for the brand-new operation Scum and Villainy below. Until next time, gooddé da lodia!

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 larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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