December 5 2011
Although alignment systems have been around since at least the days of Dungeons & Dragons, it's not often that you see one in a MMORPG. Nevertheless, Star Wars: The Old Republic is giving it a try, and it's one area where the game differs from most other games of this kind. This is a quick explanation of how the system works and what the implications of going toward the Light or Dark side are.
Your character window has a handy alignment meter to let you know where you stand. The meter starts at neutral, which has the numerical value of 0. Light points push the meter up and Dark points push it back down, so if you do good and bad things in about the same proportion, your alignment will remain neutral. Mousing over the meter will tell you exactly how many points you have and how many it takes to reach the next tier toward the Light side or the Dark side. Those who want to max their character to one side or the other will want to make consistent choices in that direction.
Your alignment in Star Wars: The Old Republic is altered primarily by your responses to mission-giving NPCs. Rather than simply accepting or refusing missions, many conversations give you several different ways to respond. Some of these responses will affect your alignment upon completion of the mission. When you mouse over the the options, an icon shows you how your character's alignment will be affected, if at all. You can actually toggle the display of this icon on and off in the game's settings if you prefer, although for the most part it's pretty obvious what the implications of each choice are.
Another way to alter your alignment is by using the Diplomacy crew skill. You can learn this skill at level 10 and then you can begin sending your companions on diplomatic missions. Companion missions are time-based and they cost credits, but if you have the credits to spend you can obtain a considerable amount of alignment points through Diplomacy.
While you can't go completely from the Light side to the Dark side in Star Wars: The Old Republic (as your faction is chosen during character creation), alignment does impact your character in other ways. As you move toward the Dark side, there are subtle changes to your character's appearance, most notably around your eyes, which take on a bright orange color. If you'd rather keep your original look, you can turn the Sith corruption effect off in game preferences.
Items and Vendors
A more significant consequence of alignment is that it determines whether or not you can equip certain items. Some of the items in Star Wars: The Old Republic have alignment requirements, so, for example, you may need to reach Dark tier 1 before you able to use a particular lightsaber. There are also special Light and Dark vendors that cater only to characters of the corresponding alignment.
The use of color crystals, which add bonuses to items with appropriate slots, is also effected by alignmnent. Neutral characters can use crystals of any color, but characters at Light 1 or more cannot use red crystals, and characters at Dark 1 or below cannot use blue or green crystals. Color crystals can be replaced, and that's what you may have to do if you have an item with crystals that becomes unusuable because of a change in your alignment. Players with the Artificer crew skill can create color crystals and they're likely to be readily available via the in-game auction system.
As your aligment moves in one direction or the other, you earn a variety of titles which you can choose to apply to your character's name. A drop-down menu on the character screen lets you select a title from the ones you have available and make it active so other players see it.