Tuesday, January 17, 2012

[SWTOR] Through a Glass, Darkly

The Old Republic has an interesting mix of zones. There are zones unique to each faction, like the starting planets and the capital planet. There are "shared" planets, like Hoth, where both sides quest (and gank, if on a PvP server) together.

And then there is Taris.

Taris is a city planet, destroyed by planetary bombardment by Darth Malak back in Knights of the Old Republic. It's now infested by rakghouls, a vicious bunch of monsters who infect their victims and turn them into more rakghouls.

Taris is a level 16-20 zone for Republic and a level 30-36 zone for Empire. But Taris is not a shared world!

Both zones use the same geography, and the same planet, and the same concern with the rakghouls. But on the Republic side, the Republic holds Taris and is attempting to reclaim it from rakghouls and pirates. On the Empire side, the Empire holds Taris and chasing the remnants of the Republic off it.

It's as if the two Tarises exist side-by-side in parallel universes. In one universe the Republic is dominant, and in the other universe the Empire is ascendant.

It makes me wonder if SWTOR is a shared universe between the two factions. In World of Warcraft, it's obvious that the two factions share the same world. You can go and visit the home cities of the other side.

But SWTOR seems to be running two parallel universes that only occasionally overlap. Which is really odd at first, and seems quite unusual. But there are advantages. With two separate universes, the storyline can unfold differently for each side. One side can "win" without the other side suffering a "loss".

Still, this quite caught me by surprise. I'm so used to the shared world, that other setups seem hard to grasp.


  1. I didn't get the 'Parrallel universe' thing at all actually. Indeed, I believe that it is the same Taris, some time down the road.

    I really never got the impression that 1-50 takes place over the course of a few days, but over perhaps a year of time. At level 10, the Treaty of Coruscant is still firmly in tact but skirmishes are starting to break out around the galaxy. By level 40, well, at least as a Bounty Hunter, I was quickly informed that all out war has resumed.

    You actually see a lot of the NPCs shared between the two as well. Imperial prisoners are former republic quest givers and all. If I recall some even reference the missions that republic characters perform at one point. But that may be my faulty memory at work.

    So, I think the Imps drives the Republic off the planet AFTER the Republic has their adventures, just as I assume the Republic spends a chunk of Balmorra driving back the Imperial conquest that was performed earlier in their leveling. (No clue, my 'Pub character is only at Nar Shadaa)

    Makes sense as the war begins to ramp up really. Balmorra is firmly in Republic space, and Taris is a hop skip and a jump from Dromund Kaas. I'm sure reclamation would be a high priority.

  2. Balmorra has the same thing going on, except that it's lower level for the Empire and higher level for the Republic. Like Vrykerion, I got the impression that the implication is that the stories take place at different points in time. At least I hope so, cause I'm not a fan of WoW's "let's tell everybody that they're winning, even if they clearly aren't" model in the revamped old world. :P

  3. I would have thought that Alderaan would have make a good case for it being parallel universes, given that the Republic and Imperial planet story for them are reversed.

    That said, the suggestions that Balmorra and Taris are just the other side taking care of what happened from the side that gets it earlier also makes sense.

  4. Well, in the timeline when you get to Taris, the Treaty of Coruscant is still in force. I'm pretty sure that the Empire attacking and conquering Taris would be a major violation.

    Perhaps it's because I did Imperial Taris first, but it felt like the Imps and the Republic had both held parts of the planet since the war, and the Imps were pushing the Republic out. So when I did Republic Taris, it was a real shock to see no sign of the Imps, in the same geography where all the Imp outposts used to be.

  5. There's definitely a big element of "time passes".

    Fairly spoiler free:

    At the end of the Imperial Agent's chapter one it's fairly explicitly spelled out that you get four months leave, and the story picks up again after that in the next quest.

  6. A good question to ask, actually, is how many of the personal stories are actually compatible? I mean, other MMOs make it while there are other players in the world, YOU are the only one that matters, so I actually just assumed that TOR was the same.

    If the Imperial Agent class storyline contradicts events in the Sith Warrior storyline, for example, then it doesn't matter that Taris and Balmorra are different for Republic and Imperial; the game is already making a parallel universe just for you.

  7. I'm just going to repost a description from a friend. and no, its not parallel universes, its most definitely different points in time,. not only that? individual class stories interlock and overlap at points and the only way to get a full story is to play all 8 classes.

    and now, for the quote of the analysis :)

    The Empire go there first and kick the Republic out. Then the republic come back later and restablish themselves. It's opposite on Taris. Timeline in TOR is very synchronous with levels. SO stuff that happens at level 40, happens after stuff that happens at level 20, for everyone.

    You sort of have to imagine your other-faction counterpart leveling at exactly the same speed as you, if that makes sense? So your Empire counterpart went to Balmorra at 18 and drove off the Republic sympathizers and resistance fighters, while you were still assisting with the rebuilding efforts on Taris. Then while you're taking Sobrik back, he's off undoing all that good work you did and blowing up all the buildings you helped rebuild.

    Make sense? TOR's story is complex, that way, and requires a certain amount of mental flexibility to keep everything straight. I can see what BioWare were going for though. I think in their "perfect" world, you could take a group of 8 people and then:

    These 8 people would form 2 full, static permanent groups, 1 of each class, one of each faction.

    They would level at exactly the same rate, travelling to the mirroring planets and completing both side quests and story quests at the same speed.

    Those 8 overlapping and interlinking stories, when looked at from the omniscient narrator's point of view would then constitute "The complete story" of TOR.

    Of course, out in the real world, that never happens.