Returning to ‘SWTOR’ for “Rise of the Hutt Cartel”

The first digital expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic is now live, letting players everywhere get their crack at “Rise of the Hutt Cartel.” People who purchased the expansion early may have already dived into the new content, but the rest of us still have plenty to take in.

Many people have returned to or joined BioWare’s ambitious MMO since it launched its free-to-play option last year. This year at the Game Developers Conference, director James Ohlen said subscription numbers are rising and actually made SWTOR the second-largest subscription MMO in the western market at one point. Two million new accounts came online in the months after the change, and the new real-money Cartel Market is so popular it’s leading microtransaction sales for parent company EA.

So where is The Old Republic going from here, and more importantly, where should you go once you first log in to your level 50 character? While there is a new Operation and a new planet full of missions to try, BioWare is also giving players reasons to go back to planets they spent so much time on when they first started leveling.

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Moving Forward, Looking Back

The first place level 50 players are likely going to want to visit is Makeb, a planet currently in the grip of the Hutt Cartel’s forces. Those who qualify will get a notification to visit the holoterminal in their ship, which will give them a mission to proceed to Makeb and take part in their factions’ efforts on the occupied planet. There are also helpful reminders which pop up as tooltips when you log in, and in-game mail that announced the change also tells you where to go.

Makeb’s holonet profile says it has been a stubbornly independent planet in spite of overtures by both the Republic and Sith. A strong mining consortium and access to a rare and valuable isotope gives them the credits to employ a mercenary army strong enough to make taking the planet by force a costly endeavor; that is, until the Hutts swooped in. Now, some of the planet’s former leaders want the Republic to help take back their world in exchange for their allegiance, while the Sith have their own machinations for the planet and its resources.

Makeb does not introduce new class missions for players, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it does give a new set of story missions for advancing with your respective faction, as well as other side missions. Players on the Public Test Server reported that these missions can take you about as far as level 53 or 54, depending on how aggressively you pursue them. If you prefer to take your time, earning a good chunk of Rested status and possibly purchasing some XP boosts from the Cartel Market or Galactic Trade Network (the game’s auction house) will definitely increase those gains.

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Meanwhile, there are two other new systems to get players leveling and exploring: macrobinoculars and seeker droids (possible spoilers in those links, so be warned). Both have a series of missions attached to them that get players to revisit lower-level planets to search for hidden treasures and secrets. The macrobinoculars send players across the galaxy in search of signs leading to The Shroud, a mysterious figure both the Republic and Imperial forces are worried about. Using them puts players in a first-person perspective to look around for hints of The Shroud’s activities and hidden Espionage Droids tied to a galaxy-spanning achievement.

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The seeker droids are given to players in a mission to find and stop a plot by the Dread Masters, a group of uber-evil rogue Sith who’ve been antagonists for both factions in previous content patches. Once players are in an area which the droid can scan, it’s just a matter of activating it and following colored indicators to locate the hidden objects left by the Dread Masters. It’s similar to part of the galaxy-spanning scavenger hunt players had to go on in order to find parts for the new companion HK-51, but the official website’s introduction makes it look like they’ve added indicators that  will make it easier for players to tell where they should go next.

Also recently added in the 2.0 patch which went live last week is a new Operation called Legions of Scum and Villainy for level 55 players. It continues the hunt for the Dread Masters after the Terror from Beyond operation, this time leading players to a world called Darvannis where the Hutt Cartel is assembling an army of mercenaries. There are also new Hard Modes added for level 55 players to run for the Flashpoints Athiss, Cademimu, Hammer Station, and the Mandalorian Raiders, as well as Legacy achievements which players can pursue once they’ve maxed out one of their characters and are itching to check out another class.

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Stocking Up

So what should you be doing if you have a level 50 character and want to get the biggest bang for your buck? As I mentioned above, consider getting some XP Boosts using either in-game credits on the GTM or buying them through the Cartel Market. If you want to possibly take advantage of the rush on these items and sell on the GTM, remember that any Cartel items come with a multi-day cooldown before they can be traded, so you can’t immediately turn Cartel purchases around on the galactic market.

On that same note, having a nice stash of credits going into the expansion will definitely help with training costs, new skill costs, and other expenses players may come across. If the Market’s not your thing, running dailies can net you a lot of credits in a hurry, if you’re willing to put in the grind. Cartel purchases can also be a way to build cash quickly if you hadn’t been stocking up prior to the expansion’s launch. I sold a rare lightsaber crystal from a random pack for about 150,000 credits pre-expansion, and some of the very rare vehicles like the Luxury Skiffs can go for 2 million credits or more at a pop (and aren’t going to depreciate like stat items, which are no longer top-tier). Before spending any actual money, though, I’d take a quick peek at your server’s GTM to see where things in the market stand; it’s likely going to be in flux over the next few weeks or months, and that can mean opportunity for savvy auctioneers.

You could also spend some Cartel Coins or credits upgrading Legacy Experience boosts, but keep in mind the Class Mission boosts will not apply to any missions on Makeb. The same goes for any Class Mission boost consumables you may have or earn. However, Exploration boosts and Flashpoint boosts certainly can’t hurt as you make the push from level 50 to 55.

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You may also want to join a guild. Even if you don’t plan on using the guild to run Operations or Warzones, you will earn 5 percent more XP just by belonging to a guild. It’s one way BioWare is encouraging people to stop playing as loners and get more involved in the community, which can be seen one of two ways. The bright side is that by joining a guild you’re more likely to take part in extra content you wouldn’t have participated in before, thus making more friends and getting more enjoyment out of the game. A cynic, however, might say that people in a guild are on the whole less likely to up and quit because peer pressure’s involved, even if it’s not overt. I know the reason I stuck around WoW for as long as I did was because of my attachment to my guild. I’m glad I did, but I also recognize that it’s good business for an MMO if those attachments keep you spending money on their game.

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May The Force Be With You

Whatever your situation, now is definitely a good time to be playing SWTOR. Free players can still access the core story of the game and upgrade features with minimal investment, while subscribers get a slew of benefits that make the experience even better.

My personal recommendation if you’re just starting out is to buy a $5 set of Cartel Coins, then purchase a leveling boost pack or a race unlock for the one you really want to play and see where things take you. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and played to the max level before putting the game down for a while, it’s a fantastic time to jump back in and experience more of the story. There are a galaxy’s worth of conveniences in the game today that didn’t exist before, and it’s made the game that much better as a result.

About Russell Jones

By day, Russell works in local TV news. By night, he plays and writes about video games for VGW and his personal blog, The Gentleman Gamer. An avid RPG fan, Russell can also be found plotting the demise of adventurers from behind a Dungeon Master's screen. He can be heard weekly on the "Geek In Review" podcast (GiRPodcast.podomatic.com).


  1. Cool, I’m actually tempted to give this game a go. My friend bought it for me ages ago however I couldn’t play it because my PC had just broken. After reading this I’m quite tempted to play it. Thanks.

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