I’m a pretty skeptical person. I am quick to deny a claim and I am always wary of what is supposed to be considered amazing. So … looking at SW:TOR without playing it, made it pretty easy to judge it. I have a hard time thinking that it’s a massive pile now once you’re in it.
Here’s what I like in my MMOs:
EVE Online has captivated me the longest. I have been in this universe for half a decade now. And though it hasn’t been my overall concentration at all times, it always has a way to bring me back. This would seem contradictory as it is actually very surprising when understanding my play style and interest. Sandbox just isn’t something I am usually attracted to play. But that’s what I claim different about EVE. It’s not Sandbox, it’s EVE. It’s its own beast.
What works for EVE that everyone can learn from, is within the fact it’s easy to get into without the commitment. No box sale, just monthly fee. This means, they are forced, literally to do what it takes to update and balance the game for the pure purpose of growth. This is great concept, because unlike so many other games, EVE can’t go into ‘maintenance mode’. It will die shortly thereafter. It also is a mathematics dream comes true. If you like stats and you like numbers and analysis, this is the end all. Massive in depth development customization with player driven rewards and punishment, EVE entails the whole reality of making a never ending game.
What EVE fails at, is within its PVE. It’s very bad, and mainly farm based. This leads many to just wish it was just Ratting on a bigger scale. It’s not dynamic, it’s not story based, it’s just short tales of nothing wrapped in a shell of time delaying ISK making.
Warhammer Online is where I really found an interest in MMOs and found a place outside of EVE. Granted I’m a Games-Workshop fan, but the game I felt was solid. Despite the other claims. It combined the prefect art with great aspects for PvE I had not yet ever seen. The first month of Public Quest blew my mind. The rewards and armor set system gave me a reason to enjoy mindless uncalculated PvP in a slash and hack. It entailed the best to date search and find, unlock system, called the Tome. How this isn’t in a larger scale in every other game made after, I have no idea. So simple, yet barely implemented. All there seems to be are these basic ones. “Oh, did you kill this, here you go”. WAR had an unlock for everything. Discovery, first encounter, special champion encounter, secret location unlock, kill so many, kill even more. Then you could get trophies and abilities for doing them. So, so, easy to do. Yet, apparently not worth copying. I miss it so.
WAR, took PvP to new levels in my eyes. Its open world campaign was amazing to me. The improvements over the years, made it even more so. And the original plan for end game gear was awesome. Instead of making a game that everyone and anyone could get the best gear and then it was a matter of waiting for the next expansion, they simply said, “You are going to have to work your ass off for this as an entire server”. Best concept to date. Unfortunately they changed tails and went to the “Here you go” route.
The PvE dungeons in WAR were challenging because they were broken. And in retrospect, I greatly preferred that to always accomplishable dungeons so long as you have the gear. I much rather have broken, but possible, over Farmville any day as a result of my time in each phase of the next hardest dungeon.
What WAR lacked was expansions. Actual real new content. What it received instead was game breaking extras in gear and ranks. I will always look back to RvR in WAR as the ultimate PvP style. And everyday we can wonder, what if Mythic was able to produce the game without EA. I’m pretty sure most of us would be enjoying the satisfaction of WAR with probably about 4 expansions and a solid half a million subscriptions. So much potential being held back by lack luster investments.
RIFT Online brought to the table a shiny product that worked. It gave players the greatness it so desired for having multiple roles, changing battleground for PvE, updated Events. It was hard to hold anything against RIFT because it wasn’t broken, and it ran smoothly. But in the end, for me it was only a shiny better vacation spot for WOW.
What RIFT mainly had going wrong for it, was a story line that blew giant hairy balls. The only way to improve the game was to tear the story right out, and basically say, grab missions and have fun. For god’s sake, please don’t read what our prepubescent daughters wrote. We couldn’t afford real writers. When you can’t respect an IP, then you can’t play an IP. You can’t look it in the eyes, it’s not worth doing. You are just having drunk one night stands you don’t even remember.
PvP wasn’t made better quick enough for me. I hear it received quite a bit of updates, but poor initial half ass implementation is all I need to see to know where commitments lie. And RIFT was clearly a game for Dungeon Kings. And as I said above, dungeons are great, just so long as I can’t complete them without 3 months of angry guild mates yelling at each other. RIFT was a grind, and I wasn’t interested. The PvP had amazing potential, but I lost interest.
Aion Online I mention because it’s really my only experience in the Asian market of MMO playing. And that market caters to an entirely different base. It’s worth noting. What I gain from Aion playing was that grinding can be fun for a short amount of time. And there are ways to make better decisions about what a game thinks it offers. If it says it has it, but won’t provide any details, than be completely wary. E.G. PvEvP is a lie. If you can’t provide specifics on your PVP, then it sucks. Lesson learned.
The travel between sights in real time was about the only thing I wanted other games to steal. And so they have. Aion did its job, and provided at least one thing worth stealing.
MMOs that I have played but not worth comparing or taking anything from: Age of Conan, City of Heroes, Champions Online, Dark Age of Camelot, DC Universe Online, World of Warcraft, Perpentum, and some others I can’t remember.
What I gain from the above grants me an appreciation for Star Wars: The Old Repulic.
What you have is a game that takes a beloved IP and makes storyline gameplay interesting with movie based watching. If you can watch Clone Wars, you can watch the PvE in this game. And this is coming from someone that hated the Dragon Age games. I do not see the point of trying to bang an NPC. Do not understand why I need to worry about bitches in real life and in game. I don’t get XP for killing hundreds of idiots, I shouldn’t want to kiss my companion. Just saying. However, crafting and gear are based on your in game decisions. Making your desire to please your companions while balancing, or lack thereof, something that draws your attention and makes even myself (someone in a hurry to catch up to the 50s in the guild) stop and smell the PvE roses.
PvP has been excellent for me so far. Because of scaling and a properly working buffs, I can literally enjoy being a level 20 up against teams of 50s. Yes, there is at many times a clear separation in skills and gear (and there should be), but I can kill you. And that’s all I need.
SWTOR introduces to me a very brilliant idea for counterbalancing server population differences. Huttball, allows you to play your own side of the faction to keep your PVP desires pumping. I have not been to Ilum after the latest fix for sub-50s but the upcoming changes that are very WAR like, are welcomed and show an early prefacit to make PVP more in this game. The blueprint is there, it will be up to EA/BioWare to make SW:ToR take what worked in WAR and build into their system. My skepticism comes into play when I realize EA is funding that change.
SWTOR did a great job of making vastly different skill trees for each class. You can see a class, and basically know very little about what you could be up against. And I like that. We just need a role change feature from RIFT and it’s the best system to date.
Zone size and travel are really decent. I haven’t had the waiting for objectives issue. But I also wasn’t there at launch. I hear things about the issues. SWTOR also takes what I liked about Aion, real time travel on the maps.
Upgradable gear is probably the best customization idea for leveling I have seen in a long time. Once you receive an Orange Piece of Armor you like, you can upgrade it to your hearts’ content. Allowing you to establish a look you prefer. However, you seem to lose that end game when you will be desiring gear sets. Looks like the ability to maintain a look gets lost in wanting the best stats. Doesn’t seem to be a way to dye gear. The plus is I don’t have to see Bubbles the Rainbow Sith, the negative is I have to wear grey/white cloak with a black/red hood. Clearly the idea is eventually you will want sets, they match, therefore there is no issue.
What could have been better about SWTOR, but isn’t game shaking? The graphics is one. Far too cartoony for 2011/2012. Obviously the facial movements and details are there. Just the mold of the body shape along with the shading takes away from the ‘verge of war’ dim look I would expect. But it’s not stupid ridiculous like WoW or RIFT, so I am okay. I think there is a place for cartoons, and SW shouldn’t have been one.
I also am eventually forced to do my storyline, it’s not optional to move forward and on. Meaning, that PVP is really rewarding, and it is probably the first game that you can actually level completely on PVP alone easily and the game doesn’t even mention that. So, unless you are trying to avoid PVP, you are probably like me, trying to blow through mission 5 to 7 ranks under you because you win in Battlegrounds far too much. It is a sad, sad problem when you want PVP to be worth less XP because you do too much of it.
Overall, my concerns and desires for SWTOR will probably be met by BioWare, and until I see something game breaking, I see a very decent future for SWTOR. If you are on the fence about SWTOR and your concern is it is just the same PVE mission mode now with extensive storyline in movies, you and whoever told you that is wrong.
The XP gain in game is actually very diverse despite the concept at first look. You do multiple things:
1- You follow your Storyline. These are a must. You can’t get out of them, you must do them.
2- These Storyline Missions cross you with side optional missions. These can be as simple as go kill this, go collect these, or as diverse as minor storylines. Example, the Ravanite is a mini storyline. These have full movies and choices like the storyline missions.
3- Then there are Heroic Missions. These are also optional. They are marked whether this is expected for a 2 man or 4 man group to finish. These usually have movies in them and besides gaining you social points, they always reward well. You are just unlucky if it’s something you can’t use.
4- There are hidden AREA missions. These are basically Public Quest from the WAR idea. Just that they aren’t scattered very 10 feet of the map and aren’t visible to the naked eye on a map. You have know where it is, or when it can be uncovered. They reward very decently as well. But generally have a stage that requires more than 1 group. Many players don’t know they exist because they never go off the trail of their missions.
5- PvP Battlegrounds grant a ton of XP. Finally a game that actually rewards you in ever fashion for PvP. Sadly, it’s not advertised that way and you still have to do your Storylines to move forward. So … if you keep doing these overzealously like I have, you have pause all the time from PVP and go do your storylines. It’s like you are turning your PvE into crafting. It’s a weird feeling.
6- Space Ship Combat. If you haven’t figured it out by now, yes, I am in love with this feature. If they keep expanding this aspect, and I will never leave SWTOR ever. It is so much fun. If I have to do something by myself, then this is the thing I want to do forever. Amazing XP for basically playing an Arcade game inside of an MMO. Amazing.
7- Flashpoints. These are your dungeons. Multiple level and very social related, these help solve the problem for your WOW enthusiast. A single place for people to gather and run instances. They are interesting and as long as you are doing the ones for your level or somewhere in between, the XP is amazing. Make the right social choices, and you’ll blow through the flashpoint. And of course gear drops are incredibly decent.
PvP is well rounded and flexible. So far we only have 4 battlegrounds with 1 being an arena style so that imbalanced populations can still get a PvP fill anytime of the day. Ilum is where I don’t have a great deal of experience. But with recent plans updated by former PVP End Game director of WAR, we can hopefully expect more WAR like function in an Open RVR setup. The PVP present is already far better off than RIFT was situated. And in the future may give us a glimmer of WAR and hopes and dream can only point us to WAR in our SW. And this where my review turns to dreaming, so I’ll point you to my last post about SW:TOR wish list. Toodles.