Rise Of The Hutt Cartel: A Targeted Review

Rise of the Hutt Cartel ReviewIt’s only been a few days since early access started, and it’s still a day until the full launch of SWTOR’s first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Being the dedicated chap I am, I’ve already put in a solid block of hours to levelling my Jedi Sage from 50 to nearly 52 (yes, yes, I know I have a long way to go).

That amount of ROTHC gameplay has given me enough exposure to the content to feel I can make some considered judgements on it. Instead of going on too much about specific likes and dislikes (make sure you check out Simon’s mini-review here), I thought I’d target my thoughts to particular groups of people.

Also, I’ve thrown in information related to Game Update 2.0 Scum and Villainy as it’s all in the mix now. So here goes:


Brickbats and Bouquets In Less Than 200 Words

Bouquets: This expansion is worth the money for the level of extra content it provides, Makeb looks great as a planet and is well differentiated from current planets. The Hutt storyline is engaging as well. Love the improved achievement system.

Brickbats: Quite a few graphical glitches and I’ve had an ongoing issue with staying in combat. It seems related to all the low level droids around – if one’s in an area where you’ve killed a bunch of enemies, you stay in combat even if you kill that droid. Killing the droid before the last mob seems to help sometimes. Very frustrating – please get this fixed BioWare. I also dislike the on-planet transport not showing the full journey – there’s a fade to black and arrival to the destination. Some will love this but for me it takes away from immersion in the game and seems and obvious way to save development time.


ROTHC By Play Styles

As promised, here’s some thoughts on how appealing ROTHC is, based on individual play styles:

For everyone: It doesn’t matter what sort of player you are, this release is a sign of SWTOR’s growing maturity as a game. There’s something for everyone here – even with some frustrating issues that have taken some of the fun out of the new content for me (more on that below).

For the cynical ex-SWTOR player: There’s enough in this expansion to make it worthwhile for you to invest a few hours. The reasons each person departs a game are obviously individual so ROTHC may still not have addressed them for you. But if you were wanting more story content, more Flashpoints and Operations and some improvements in interface and usability, then that’s been delivered to a large extent.

For the Achievement Junkie: I well and truly fall into this category and there’s been some much needed updates to the achievement system. For starters there’s a lot more achievements to earn. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t reflect your playtime prior to the new system’s achievements – an example is in regard to companions where you earn achievements for the number of kills done with each companion: all started at zero on my Level 50 Sage. That said, it doesn’t take long to chalk up a bunch of kills so it’s not a deal-breaker.

For the casual / solo player:  aside from the extra story and content, this expansion doesn’t deliver a lot extra for the more casual of us – although for me the achievement system adds to the solo appeal.

For the hardcore raider: For any raider it’s about progression and this expansion definitely offers that. Every new Operation and its challenges are very individual for each guild, so it’ll be a few weeks before we get any serious evaluation of either Terror From Beyond or Scum and Villainy.

For the PvP’er: This is a difficult one, particularly from an oceanic perspective. There’s certainly been changes with tiers and rankings and gear, but that’s about it. The imminent closure of local servers is not going to make many PvP players happy I wouldn’t think.

The Summary

Given the challenges SWTOR has faced over the first nearly 18 months of its existence, there’s been a lot riding on this expansion. The move to F2p saved the game’s bacon for the short to medium term. Rise of the Hutt Cartel has achieved something more: proof of a game with a growing content that integrates well with the current game. If BioWare fix some of the more annoying glitches in the next few weeks, I’ll be one of hopefully many touting SWTOR’s new expansion as one worth exploring.

What’s your take on ROTHC so far?

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel – Early Thoughts

and-another-thing‘And Another Thing’ is a regular column where one of the Oceanic Gamer team get an issue off their chest. If you’ve got a pet peeve or controversial issue you’d like to write about, drop us a line.

Finally the cone of silence lifts and we can finally spill some beans on Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Big question first, ‘Is it worth it?’ Easy answer: Yes, yes, yes.

So what’s it like? It is polished, visually impressive and a great boost to the game. While we’ll be talking about the game more as the release draws closer, I’ll limit myself to sharing a little of SWTOR’s outstanding feature – storytelling, or swtorytelling. Sorry.

As most of us already know, while this is Chapter 4 of SWTOR, it’s not Chapter 4 of your class story. This expansion is faction based, or a world arc if you prefer, so you just get to see events from your own side’s standpoint. There is a lot less voiceover in this chapter, with only significant missions threatening the health of your space bar. Incidental missions are, for the most part handled through terminals and, in my opinion, it’s an improvement. Quality voice acting is a good thing, but you can have too much of it. Especially when it blurs the significance of the mission. It’s a little like typing an entire email in bold capitals – it’s hard for anything to stand out. RoTHC doesn’t suffer from that and it definitely helps smooth out the story telling now there’s less background noise.

As to the quality of the story, it would be hard to complain. To the extent of the opportunityI had to play (thanks Eric), it felt at least as good as anything previously in the game. There is nothing that hints of reduced resources or a cash grab as some of the more cynical have suggested.

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel Interview: Brian Audette

audetteTo coincide with the announcement of Rise of the Hutt Cartel’s launch date, we fired some questions through on the expansion and got some replies from ROTHC’s content design lead, Brian Audette:

Can you give a little insight onto the journey that’s been undertaken to get to RotHC being a near-live expansion for SWTOR?

Brian Audette: A lot of what would ultimately come to make up Rise of the Hutt Cartel already existed in some early form around the time that we launched SWTOR. As with any live experience however you don’t really learn what players want and what you need to do next until the product is actually out there, so we spent most of our time after launch addressing player feedback and shoring up the existing game. It wasn’t until late last summer that we really started developing RotHC full bore. The great thing is by that time we had already solidified much of the art, writing and quest design, thus giving us the freedom to really jump into it and the time to make it shine. This was also when we decided to add our new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content as part of Rise of the Hutt Cartel as well and a lot of work went into not only finding the most epic way to introduce those features, but to make them exciting and worth doing over and over again. We’re all really excited for people to finally get their hands on all of this new game play.

How did the development process evolve compared to the original game development i.e. did you have more/less time to flesh out story elements?

Brian: We learned a lot of lessons through developing and launching SWTOR that allowed us to get out in front of potential issues before they became problems with Rise of the Hutt Cartel. One of the most important things we did was getting writers, artists, engineers and designers together very early in the process of creating Rise of the Hutt Cartel both to get input from every discipline, but also to make sure everyone was on the same page. I think it was this attempt at synergy that allowed us to create an experience that feels incredibly tight, where story, visuals, and game play all work together to create one amazing adventure.

It’s fair to say there’s a significant cohort of ex-SWTOR players out there – what would you say that ROTHC offers that should make them want to come back?

Brian: Well first off, we’ve added a lot of great features and content to the game since launch including hard mode Flashpoints, new Operations, new Warzones, Group Finder, and the Legacy system. Rise of the Hutt Cartel builds on that content by adding Makeb – a whole new world of story content – allowing players to continue their character’s epic journey. We’ve got the all new Macrobinoculars and Seeker Droid content that will allow players to explore the galaxy in search of unique items, artifacts, and gear. We’re raising the level cap to 55 with new abilities and talents to train, as well as new gear and tons of class balances based on player feedback.

Finally, along with the launch of Rise of the Hutt Cartel we’ve got our 2.0 game update which introduces more tweaks and bug fixes along with four level 55 hard mode Flashpoints, and an all new level 55 Operation. If you combine all this with continued commitment to publish regular game updates featuring more new content and features and the fact that you can jump in and play much of the game’s content for free, it’s never been a better time to play SWTOR.

It’s coming up to 18 months since SWTOR launched and by that time ROTHC will have been live for 8 weeks or so – looking back what are three achievements you’re most proud of and what are three things you wish you’d done differently over that time?

Brian: I think that all the things I wish we had done differently can be summed up under one singular heading, that being getting more frequent and regular updates out to our players. An MMO is a service and we serve the customer best when we’re able to interface with them and react to their feedback in a timely, regular manner. Even though not everything is a simple fix and there’s always going to be issues and features that take months to get addressed, I think we’ve drastically improved our response time since going free-to-play back in November and we’re committed to maintaining a regular cadence of updates and releases going forward.

Some of the things I’m most proud of are features like Group Finder, the Legacy system, and the Cartel Market that have been huge improvements to the game and that not only make it better to play, but make it a better service as well. It took us a while to get our balance, but with Rise of the Hutt Cartel we’re off and running through year two of SWTOR and committed to providing quality service and top-notch game play well into the future.

What personally for you is the most exciting part of your involvement with ROTHC?

Brian: The most exciting part for me is getting to work with some of the most talented developers in the business. SWTOR and Rise of the Hutt Cartel have been group efforts from day one and as developers I think we’re always striving to outshine each other’s expectations the whole way. Every time I play through this content I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished and while I can’t wait for players to get their hands on it, I’m also really excited to start working on all the awesome things that are coming next.


So there you have it – is there anything in what Brian has said that particularly caught your attention or surprised you?

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel Launch Date Announced

SWTOR’s first large expansion now has an official live date, and it’s a date that’s earlier than some people thought. Sunday April 14th (or Monday local time)i s when we get to jump in, or for those who pre-ordered before the 7th January it’s 5 days earlier on the 9th April.

We’ll bring you the exact local launch times as more details are confirmed. A second in-depth trailer has been released to coincide with the announcement, check it out:

So make sure you have some free time organised during April for some serious levelling time!

Rise of the Hutt Cartel: Makeb Trailer Part 1

BioWare have released a more detailed look at Makeb, the new planet coming to SWTOR as part of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion. Lead Writer Hall Hood and Lead Concept Artist Ryan Dening walk through Makeb and what it contains:

It certainly is a planet different to anything else currently in SWTOR, and the overarching story is appealing from what’s been disclosed so far.

What’s your take?

Why Should I Buy Rise Of The Hutt Cartel?

rothc-qaWith Rise of the Hutt Cartel coming to SWTOR in the near future, I’ve had a few people ask me: Why Should I Buy Rise Of The Hutt Cartel? My answer is always that it depends on the individual’s gaming style, but to help Eric Musco at BioWare has posted a nice summary of the differences if you do or don’t add the expansion pack:

Here is a bit more clarification on the differences between Rise of the Hutt Cartel and 2.0 put as simply as I can!

What subscribers will get without purchasing Rise of the Hutt Cartel:

  • Class changes and balancing levels 1-50
  • Any itemization/world changes which affect levels 1-50
  • Legacy Achievements

What subscribers will get if they do purchase Rise of the Hutt Cartel:

  • New Operation: Scum and Villainy
  • Nightmare Mode Terror From Beyond
  • Upgraded level 55 Hard Mode Flashpoints
  • Level cap increase to 55
  • All new Makeb storyline

The new Operation and Hard Mode Flashpoints in Game Update 2.0 are Level 55 Elder Game Content. The level cap increase to 55 is included with the purchase of the Digital Expansion: Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Free-to-Play restrictions apply. Visit theFree-to-Play Features Chart for more information.

So there you have it – even if you don’t upgrade you’ll see some impact of the expansion but you’ll need to buy it for the new content. Not surprising but it’s a good overview of where things are at.

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel: First Look Trailer

A combination of factors means I totally missed the release of a ‘first look’ trailer for SWTOR’s initial expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. At one minute and fourteen seconds it’s certainly no more than a first look but there’s some great scenic shots plus a decent storyline hint.

Have a look for yourself:

So, what’s your take? Anything in there that’s particularly piqued your interest?

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel: More Details

tatooine9In the post-Christmas lull I thought it was worth rounding up any further snippets of info BioWare have released on 2013’s SWTOR expansion, Rise Of The Hutt Cartel. So here we go:

1. Story/Lore in Rise of The Hutt Cartel

Allison Berryman at BioWare:

We think players interested in lore are going to really enjoy the story in Rise of the Hutt Cartel, and I’d like to share a few more details – this seemed like a good thread for it!

The people of Makeb have remained neutral in wars between the great political powers in the galaxy. Relying on their wealth, isolation, and an army of mercenaries, the citizens have enjoyed centuries of prosperity. However, in the midst of the current galactic conflict, the Hutt Cartel has recognized the planet as a crucial stepping stone to increase their organization’s standing and reclaim the strength of their ancestors’ empire. They’ve hired Makeb’s mercenaries away and have made the citizens prisoners in their own homes, forcing them to reach out to the Republic in a desperate bid for rescue.

The Republic recognizes the Cartel’s seizure of Makeb as a bid for galactic power. With victory over the Empire seeming possible for the first time in decades, Supreme Chancellor Saresh is determined to respond to Makeb’s request for aid to stop the Cartel before they can become an even greater threat and compromise the Republic’s chance for victory.

Taking advantage of the chaos erupting between the Hutt Cartel and the Republic, the Sith Empire makes their own bold play for the hidden power of Makeb, seizing their chance to regain some of the strength lost to internal struggles and at the hands of the Republic’s military resurgence. They plan to outmaneuver all their enemies to usher in a new era of Imperial dominance.

2. Talent Trees In ROTHC

Allison Berryman again:

We know you’re all very interested to hear about how the new level cap is going to affect your class, and I wanted to share a little information about the upcoming changes with you. As part of the new content, every skill tree will be expanding and you can expect significant updates. Players will earn a new skill point with each level, and new skills will be available in each skill tree. Additionally, a new active ability will be introduced for each Advanced Class. We’ll have more details about many aspects of Rise of the Hutt Cartel as we approach launch, so keep your eyes on the website and dev tracker!

3. End-Game Gear and the Level Cap

This time… Allison Berryman:

Hi everyone! While we can’t address every concern raised in this thread right now, we can reassure you that the gear you’ve obtained in our current endgame will continue to be relevant after the expansion is released, and it will provide a great bootstrap into the higher-level content offered by Rise of the Hutt Cartel. You won’t be replacing your Dread Guard gear with gear you pick up as you level, and thanks to improvements in the way item power is calculated, we won’t be handing out any entry-level gear at the new level cap. You’ll hear more about RotHC as we approach its launch, and we’ll continue to answer questions and provide more details!

4. Size of the Expansion

Some person called Allison:

To give you all a better idea of Makeb’s scope, it’s a planet of equal size to our larger planets and it contains a variety of areas – sprawling mesas, underground caverns, garden estates, and more. It introduces faction-specific storylines, new Heroic missions and bosses, repeatable mission series, and new Datacrons! The 5 new levels will occupy players for a fair amount of time, and there’s plenty of content to get you there (including a lot of stuff tucked away for the explorers out there). Keep in mind that this announcement is just the start – as we approach Makeb’s launch, you’ll see more details about the content coming with Rise of the Hutt Cartel!

There you have it: I’d expect to see more detail fleshed out in the next month. What’s your take on the statements so far?

SWTOR: Rise of the Hutt Cartel Announced

SWTOR - ROTHCWe should have expected a big announcement to coincide with SWTOR’s first anniversary, and BioWare have delivered it in spades with the announcement of the game’s first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

Slated for ‘Spring 2013’ (gee I love the US-centric language), which means between March and May 2013, the expansion includes:

1. An increase in the level cap to 55

2. The long touted new planet, Makeb, makes its debut

3. More missions (as you’d expect with a level cap rise)

Subscribers can pre-order for US$9.99, which includes 5-days early access – everyone else can buy it for US$19.99.

The FAQ is already up to answer any other questions you might have.