Knell, my Sith Warrior, is Level 17; Sef, my Jedi Knight, is Level 7; the Bounty Hunter is Level 14; and the Jedi Consular is Level 6.
There is a definite discrepancy between how much I play my characters. It’s interesting to play a Light Sided Sith. Yet it seems wrong to make my Jedi Dark – so it’s a bit boring being nice all the time. Maybe Sef is too much like the real life me?
Rolling a male character is a different experience than a female character, as well. Many players have complained on the SWTOR message boards – and I have to agree – that the guys get to flirt, and have romance options, far more than the girls. Knell was flirting at Level 5 on Korriban. Sef doesn’t even have the option until much later, after she becomes a Jedi Knight and goes to Coruscant. It seems sexist.
I’m also not sure about how female NPCs are portrayed. The Bounty Hunter gets a contract from a wife who wants her husband killed for hiding their child from the Sith Academy. The Sith Warrior meets Lady Gratham, who gives him her husband’s security code so Knell can kill Lord Gratham and she gains more power. On the other hand, on the Republic side, a Twi’lek mother passively waits at home with their sick child while her husband hunts manka cats for their magical teeth, which is equally annoying. Yet the Twi’leks are portrayed as a society led by a Matriarch. Is all this negative or empowering? I’m not sure.
What I really like is that none of the female characters, not even the Twi’lek cantina dancers, wear heels. They either wear boots or sandals. It’s hard to imagine, even with the Force, being able to run around and kick ass in stilettos and I’m glad Bioware agrees.
I also like that the female characters are varying ages. Some are appear young and fresh faced. Others are older, with wrinkles, even.
Overall, there are lots of powerful women on both the Empire and Republic sides – starting from Satele Shan, head of the Jedi Council, to members of the Dark Council like Darth Lachris, down to women Imperial and Republic soldiers.
Another aspect of the game I’m surprised to find I enjoy is chatting with other players. I don’t text a ton anyway, and my iPhone allows me to dictate texts, so along with all the gamer language I’ve had to learn all the texting terms. The other players fascinate me. I’d love to see Bioware’s marketing research. Who picks certain characters? What percentage play Republic or Empire? What’s the meaning behind character names? Who are they in real life? I call Krail “The Bounty Hunter of Mystery.” He seems to enjoy that. But it’s true, the mystery of the other players is as fun as the game itself.
I’m on a trail in Tython, playing my Jedi, about to ask DJ’s girlfriend about her grad school plans, when I’m suddenly attacked by Flesh Raiders. Padawan glances at me while doing her homework on the otherwise languishing Mac. “Stop chatting, Mommy,” she cries, “and start fighting!”
Here’s a new parental worry: have I turned my sweet Padawan into a scary Sithling?
Meanwhile, I can’t get out of chat. either. I’m about to die when a passing Level 10 Consular whips out his lightsaber and saves me. Thank the Force, as Sef’s Jedi Master says, for the good guys!
I’ve gained enough confidence play in a few more heroics – the quests that require a group to do. Though I still wish Knell could have “noob” tattooed on his forehead, I’m starting to get a feel for things. Knell is a Sith Marauder. That means he is a DPS – he deals damage up close and personal, but only wears medium armor, so he can’t get hit as much as a player who is a Tank, but his hits have a lot of power. The idea is that Tanks have the ability to endure and get enemy fire focused on them so the DPS players can take out the enemy. The Healer is often a “ranged” character, like a Bounty Hunter, who stays behind the lines of direct combat. They’re usually shooters. Importantly in group combat, they help the Tanks and DPS recover from damage by the enemy.
SWTOR leaks into all aspects of my life. My treadmill time, which I usually spend working out story ideas in my head, is now all about strategizing for SWTOR. My playlist is worthy of a Sith Lord, I think: Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter,” Daft Punk’s “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” and just to be balanced Beyoncé’s “Crazy” and Rick James’ “Superfreak.” In karate, after repeatedly bruising myself with the bo staff, I realize that I do not actually know the juyo form. Sigh. Even at work, I realize that as the leader of my team, my role is the Tank and my title and position are my heavy armor – and in real life, I even do it heels.
In the game I’ve gotten bolder, though. I don’t need to pester the infinitely patient DJ with as many questions as I have in the previous few weeks. I buy Vette and my Jedi fancy armor with the bonus commendations I’ve earned. I learn that in real life, Krail is in law school and writes his own stories. Maybe he’s the next Paul S. Kemp.
On Korriban, I play in one group where we all die multiple times trying to finish a quest. The Tank’s not tanking and we don’t have a real Healer, though the Sith Inquisitor tries when she’s not being killed in the melee. At least I’ve come far enough to know how bad this group is, I think grimly. I have to smile, though: I still got more XP, some social points, new armor, and I just leveled up.
And that’s what it’s all about.
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