The Repopulation – An Early Look
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
The Repopulation first got public notice back in 2012 when their first Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign ended in success. Since then it has enjoyed a growing popularity that allowed for a second Kickstarter campaign for further funding in 2014 as well as continued success doing their own crowdfunding campaigns without the use of Kickstarter. It has been championed as the true successor of the much-loved Star Wars Galaxies, which was shut down around the time that The Repopulation began to raise in popularity. The fact that The Repopulation has been able to survive off of crowd-funding, raising several hundreds of thousands of dollars, and has made it to Steam Early Access is a testament to just how much the gaming community wants this Sci-fi MMO Sandbox to be a success. And please, keep in mind, the game is so massive that I can’t possibly play all of it so I may (unfortunately) skim over some things and completely forget to mention others.
So far, the character creation seems to be great. I imagine they’ll be added some polish to the creation process sooner or later, as the UI for it seems a bit clunky at times and more options never hurt, but for now it’s more than satisfactory. When you’re making your character, you’ll have to choose your initial Nation – the totalitarian OWON (One World, One Nation) or the freedom-loving FPR (Free People’s Republic). Well, in Planetside 2 I play TR and in Star Wars Galaxies I had many Imperial-affiliated characters, so I chose OWON for my first character.
Your first initial steps after making your character will take part in the tutorial area. I’m told it’s different depending on your chosen faction, but that could be in-accurate. The tutorial zone was fairly simple and even this early on in the game you’re introduced to the true nature of the Sandbox, leaving you to decide what to do for yourself. There are various places within the tutorial area – such as a Medbay, Firing range, and stealth training facility – where you can receive training and instruction on various skills. Some of these will require you to redeem a limited number of ‘chits’ you have been given in return for skill chips and equipment.
The First Few Hours
I want to stress that the game is still in Alpha, so things I say may change drastically by the time you get a chance to play the game. This is just an Early Look and isn’t meant to be a review of the game or its features, just relaying the things I’ve discovered during my first days in the game. That being said, I will admit that during my first couple of hours in The Repopulation I was completely lost. Over the period of a few days I logged in for a handful of minutes at a time, doing some of the random mail quests you’ll receive, making some credits, and trying to figure out what direction to take with my new (virtual) life.
These mail quests are an interesting way of giving players missions. Rather than running around soliciting work from various NPCs, you just do whatever you like and then check your mail every few minutes to see if any interesting missions are available. These range from killing, courier, and collecting quests. Some are a lot more in-depth than others, but a lot of them use the same “Kill X of Y” and “Collect X of Y” formula that most games use. But, the upside is, these missions aren’t the primary means of going forward in the game but rather something to help you pull yourself up by your bootstraps (for the most part) rather than begging experienced factions for assistance.
But, as I said, some of these missions are funny. For example, you may find yourself delivering a secret love letter from a lovely young lady to an egotistical entertainer. Or you may find yourself unable to complete a mission because an NPC is currently “on break” or is wandering around the city. There are also occasional missions that pop-up that have gone above-and-beyond. For example, as an OWON in Plymouth City, you may be given a mission to infiltrate ALT Labs and get some incriminating evidence from their computers.
The missions don’t just give money either. Some of them have the chance to give you ‘free’ skills. Most of the time, you will need to make use of Repop Points (skill points, essentially) to learn new skills. However, if you’re willing to work for it, you can do work relating to the skill you want to learn and perhaps you will be offered the skill as a reward for completing the mission. This will free up Repop Points to be used on more important things later on. This is a really neat, system I think.
The Repopulation is constantly called the “true successor” to Star Wars Galaxies. By this, people mean the pre-New Game Enhancements version of Star Wars Galaxies, where there were tons of skills to learn. So, when I bought The Repopulation, I was expecting a decent handful of skills. But what I found pretty much blew my mind. There are: Seventeen Combat skills, thirteen Defense skills, four Armor skills, twenty-four Crafting & Gathering skills, seven Beneficial skills, and eight General skills.
That’s over seventy skills to learn, train, and make use of. These skills can be trained up to 60,000 (although I’m told the benefits of going over 6,000 are minimal). Lots of these skills will unlock new abilities for you to use as you level them up. For example, leveling up your Rifle Tactics will make you eligible to learn more rifle-related abilities. So, even though there isn’t (currently) a skill cap, you still get a lot of specialization due to how much effort goes into leveling up these skills. You won’t be able to master everything, at least not without years of effort.
Crafting in The Repopulation is awesome. There’s a ton of interesting professions to take up. For example, you can become a Roboticist and build robots for people to make use of. Or, if you’re more into organic pets, you can take up Genetic Engineering and use DNA samples taken from the fallen to create hybrid creatures to do your bidding. Or you could just pick up the Culinary Arts if cooking is more your thing. Of course, there’s gathering skills like mining to help keep the crafters supplied.
Truth be told, I find the crafting system in The Repopulation a bit intimidating. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a crafting system that was this in-depth. For a lot of recipes, the ingredients can sometimes be fairly free-form. For example, to refine ore you’re told you need agents to help with it, but you aren’t told which agents you have to use and instead must dig through and test a ton of different ‘agent’ materials. So, after experimentation and practice you may find that using a certain agent is best for you to use (either because that particular agent is easier for you to get at higher grades, or because it simply works better with the recipe). Recipe rebalancing is also a big focus on recent beta updates, making it a bit more challenging to learn what’s going on when the recipes and results are changing constantly.
All of these are considered agents, something that comes up frequently in basic crafting.
Each item has a grade attached to it. These are F to A and sub-grades of 0 to 9. Early on, you may only be able to get your hands on D grade resources and so cannot produce that great of a recipe. You could purchase the higher grade resources instead, but depending on your skill level and particular mastery of that spell, you may only be able to boost the grade of the finished product by so much. And then those ‘completed’ craftings are often used as components for other recipes.
A map for crafting the Cycle, a basic vehicle.
Unlike most games, the crafting of equipment itself isn’t so important. It is, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all. This is because of the Fitting system the game used. A bulk of the stats an item, be it armor or weapon, provides come from the Fittings, not the item itself. Fittings are similar to sockets in other games. The stats a fitting provides is based on the resources that go into its creation, which adds a great dimension to the game’s crafting and equipment system. It also makes it possible to put looks before anything else if you want – you won’t have to be a clone of everyone else wearing top-tier gear just to stay on par.
Combat is alright. It wasn’t mind blowing, and there is still a lot more polish that needs to be put in. Even with the recent changes to melee. I focused mainly on rifles, however, and I’m enjoying the combat a decent bit. Most fights are easy, however. In fact, every fight I’ve been in so far has either been incredibly easy or impossibly hard. There just doesn’t seem to be many encounters with NPCs that felt challenging and fun. Perhaps that’s just because I’ve not put enough time in the game and don’t have my skills very high, but some of the vets I’ve talked to have shared the same sentiment. Hopefully things, at least in the PVE side, will get better as The Repopulation receives more polish. The game is still in development, after all.
If you played Star Wars Galaxies, a lot of The Repopulation is going to seem familiar. The combat is similar. Of course, it’s not exactly the same. But there are a lot of things that will cause you to have nostalgia flashbacks. Riflemen, for example, in Star Wars Galaxies relied heavily on stances; some attacks would only work if you were prone on the ground or kneeling or perhaps they would only do minimal damage. The Repopulation is much the same when it comes to rifles, as early on your most powerful ability will require you to be kneeling to use. I haven’t tried much other forms of combat yet – heck I haven’t even gotten halfway through the skills of Rifle Tactics – but I imagine most of the combat resembles what we had in pre-NGE (And in some cases, pre-CU) Star Wars Galaxies.
One really interesting feature is the ability to switch between the “RPG Combat” and “Action Combat” modes. I know I keep saying this, but this is similar to what was available post-NGE within Star Wars Galaxies. Some of you may be familiar with it. It’s not so much a fully fledged action system (at least not yet), although there are things like dive-rolls that can be done to help get away from certain attacks. I personally found myself sticking to the RPG style more often than the Action, simply because (in its current state) it feels gimmicky.
Next, I want to talk about Energy and Endurance/Stamina. Energy is something interesting, and reminded me of the stat migration that was once available in Star Wars Galaxies. Well, it’s actually a lot different. You are able to freely make use of a slider bar under your character window that will help you control how your energy is distributed between your weapon and your energy shields. Obviously, giving more power to one will make it more powerful, but at the cost of weakening the other. If you know you’re going to be on the offensive and aren’t likely to be attacked much, you may put most of your energy towards your weapon. Vice versa if you think you may be on the defensive in a fight. From what I understand, this energy stat is determined by your chest armor and different grades of armor have higher or lower regeneration rates.
Combat states are yet another familiar feature. As you fight, your character may become off balance, for example, and that may cause him to be more likely to be knocked down. The number of times during my first few missions where I faced off against a melee creature and found myself off balance and (usually right after) knocked down was annoying. However, I can say the animating for these two things were well done. I sure got to watch it enough.
Non-Combat Activities (besides crafting)
Combat and crafting aren’t the only two things to do in The Repopulation. You can get into the Cosmetic side of things and change the appearance of others. Or if you prefer, you could become an entertainer and play music or dance to buff others. Heck, there’s even a set of story-telling abilities that can provide buffs, too. This social-focused aspect of the game adds a whole new dimension to the experience – one that I haven’t had the pleasure of having since (once again, sorry) Star Wars Galaxies.
And that brings me to the controls. For the most part, they were alright. However you can really tell this is an alpha game with all the control-based glitches and problems. For example, sometimes my hotbar will refuse to acknowledge my key-presses, which can cause some issues when I’m being attacked by a Malagion. Or when I’m running around with my map open trying to figure out where I’m going, the camera has a tendency to spin when I close the UI, disorienting me. But again, this is an Alpha. So I’m sure these issues will be steamed out soon enough.
Nations act as the guilds within The Repopulation. When a nation is created, they can be affiliated with one of the pre-existing nations (OWON OR FPR), or they can set themselves to Rogue, which means they aren’t friendly with either nation. One neat feature is the ability for Nations to build Player Cities (which I will talk a bit about in the next section). These range in sizes, and they can even build defenses that will automatically attack anyone they have set as an enemy.
Housing & Player Cities
This is one of the features I’m most looking forward to getting to try. Back in Star Wars Galaxies, my guild and the guild city we had played a major role in how I played the game. Visiting my friends’ houses who lived just down the ‘road,’ buying equipment from the mall we had set-up and the various private shops, heading to the cantina to get buffed, and the small hospital we had after that. It all made up for an extremely community-centric experience. A guild was more than just a group of friends, it was an actual community to play the game with.
Once again, The Repopulation shares a similarity with Star Wars Galaxies. It has both player-cities where people can construct their homes and instanced housing available in the cities (which is, funny enough, a feature a lot of people wanted in Star Wars Galaxies). But there are differences. In fact, although I’ve heard there are plans to expand this, there is a fairly limited number of spots for player cities as far as I’ve been able to tell. Also, apparently there will be siege mechanics that allow for attacks on these player facilities.
The Repopulation, from what I’ve been able to see, is the true successor to Star Wars Galaxies. It’s got so much in common with the old SWG that it’s uncanny. Yet, despite being so similar, they are completely different games and The Repopulation manages to build upon and improve the concepts and features of Star Wars Galaxies in ways that we had begged SOE to do years back when SWG was still going. I honestly cannot wait to see how development continues on this game and I know for a fact that this will become my new “main game” once it’s released. Definitely check this out on Steam Early Access! Even though it’s still in development, the game is quite playable!