The bustling metropolis of Nar Shaddaa stood out from the other planets I'd explored to that point, giving off a seedy Las Vegas vibe with its towering skyscrapers and garish neon signage. A more eclectic array of alien races are on display in the bounty hunter/smuggler's paradise, and urban touches like different types planters from which holographic trees sprung really add a lot to the atmosphere. Perhaps the one downside to Nar Shaddaa is that the map layouts seem a bit more labyrinthine, and therefore a bit more frustrating to navigate. Another aspect of The Old Republic that I've spent a bit more time with is the game's companion-based crafting system. Up to three related abilities can be trained, and are shared with all companions. Jedi Shadow Bukowski first teamed up with warrior-ally Quyzen Fess, but also received a protocol droid companion shortly before obtaining his ship. He mostly stays in the ship, because, in the words of C-3PO, "Nobody worries about upsetting a droid." Crafting skills fall into three categories, and players can select one from each category at a time. My current choices--Artifice, Archaeology, and Diplomacy--allow me to send my companions off to hunt for crafting materials, manufacture lightsaber upgrades, or retrieve gifts that can be given to companions to improve their opinions of you. Crafting is a neat idea, but is a lot easier to pursue consistently while adventuring in groups. When soloing, my character often needs his companion to run interference in combat--something that he can't do if he's off hunting for a new power crystal. The upshot for me was that utilizing my companions' skills often had to wait until I knew I'd be safe from combat for a while. Grouping up makes companions less necessary, so they can more easily be sent off to do your bidding. One minor issue I discovered is that some combinations of equipped items can create annoying visual glitches. You'll notice that in some of the screenshots included in this article featuring Jedi Shadow Bukowski that his hair clips through the top of his hooded robe. This visual issue was caused when I equipped a stat-boosting helm that I'd found, which apparently doesn't play nice with the robe I'd equipped. Bukowski has since moved on to statistically superior (though visually sillier) attire, but I played several hours in my glitchy hair-robe before then. The journey of Jedi Shadow Bukowski is far from over. Stay tuned for more mid-game impressions from Star Wars: The Old Republic, coming soon. After Nar Shaddaa, it's off to the planetary dustbowl of Tatooine. If there are Sarlacc pits to be found, I'm sure I'll manage to fall into one.
Welcome to downtown Nar Shaddaa.