So, yesterday I just got the email letting me know that my Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) account was just renewed. It made me realize that I’ve been playing this game for a month now and it might be a good point to talk a little bit about it, now that I’ve really gotten a chance to feel it out.
I am playing a Chiss Imperial Sniper – I purposely didn’t pick either of the lightsaber classes or a bounty hunter because I thought those would be the classes most chosen, and I was right. Most of my time has been spent solo questing and doing PvP warzones (basically battlegrounds, for the WoW crowd) with my guild.
The first thing I noticed about the game is how much it felt like WoW, and not even just in a “well, of course an MMO is going to be compared to WoW” kind of way. Its a little bit hard to really put in words, but too much felt familiar – the keybindings are idential, the travel system is very similar, the item quality system was similar, even the Imperial fleet, basically your faction city, is laid out like Undercity. This general familiar feel did not give me a lot of hope for the game. I quit WoW because I didn’t want to play WoW anymore so I was really banking on SWTOR really being something new. I was determed, though, to stick it out and give it a fair chance.
Aside from feeling like WoW, it feels like a Bioware game too, with its dialog wheels and moral choices. This was a good thing for me, since I fully admit to being a bit of a Bioware fangirl. Your character has a voice and a personality so its easy to get invested in their choices and start developing your own ideas about who they are, at least it was for me. I’m in no way an RPer, but I could tell you that my Imperial Intelligence girl is witty, but professional. She is a loyal member of the Empire, but as an alien she is less respected than her human colleagues – a fact she is unsatisfied with. Also, she hates Sith and is not afraid to express her dislike for them and their inflated sense of self-worth.
Your character isn’t alone, however, not in a Bioware game – you gather companions as you progress through your story. Each class gets like 4 or 5, and they all have their own unique personalities and their own opinions about your choices, which they are indeed quite vocal about. Your companions will help you in combat or you can send them out to work on your trade skills – there’s no loafing allowed in SWTOR!
So, that’s kind of the general FEEL of the game, but I thought I would try and quickly break down the things that SWTOR has done right and wrong:
Voice Acting – The inclusion of scripted, fully voice acted dialogue for all interpersonal interactions was very ambitious, but totally worth it. Talking with a quest giver makes me actually read the quest text. It gives me a chance to flesh out my character’s personality a bit more and actually know why I’m killing 15 rebel relic hunters or something, instead of just clicking accept and grinding out my kills, completely skipping over the wall of text in my quest log. And not only is voice acting present, its GOOD – with people like Jo Wyatt (FemHawke – Dragon Age II), Nolan North (Nathan Drake – Uncharted), Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel – Cowboy Bebop), and Jennifer Hale (FemShep – Mass Effect) lending their voices to the various classes in the game, you know the acting is top notch.
PvP – The PvP is pretty darn fun. Starting at level 10 you can start joining warzones with anyone below level 50, 50s get their own. You are given a buff which boosts your stats up to around level 49, so level 10s don’t squish too easily, though they still only have their level 10 skills, they they are still working at a disadvantage. Doing warzones is a good way to get XP and credits without having to grind quests, and since you can queue from anywhere, you can do a bit of questing in between warzones. My impression so far is that classes seem fairly well balanced. Some classes need tweaking, for sure, but for the most part I haven’t felt terribly underpowered myself or that any one class is too overpowered.Story – Another thing Bioware is great at is story. The class quests are so far quite good and keep me interested in progressing through my quest lines. The characters you meet along the way are pretty well developed – enough so that I see people stopping and listening to the dialogue rather than just clicking through it. When I played WoW and most other MMOs, I usually just accepted the quest as fast as I could, paying little attention to the story behind why this guy needed me to get him 30 wolf hides or whatever. In SWTOR, I’m willing to take a minute to let some dew farmer on Tattooine explain to me why he needs 15 pieces of droid parts to get back on his feet. Its also kinda nice being able accept a quest begrudgingly, rather than just agreeing to be anyone and every one’s gopher.
User Interface – There are a lot of little things about the UI that feel restrictive, buggy, and annoying. Windows cannot my unlocked or moved or resized, so there is some overlapping issues. The auction house interface feels clunky and unfriendly, for example, all armor slot items are displayed together until its corresponding light, medium, or heavy classification. If you are looking to replace your gloves, you have to look through all the boots, legs, wrists, etc to try and cherry pick our the glove items. This is kind of how the whole UI feels like now, it works, but it feels like you have to fight with it a little to do what you want it to do.
The WoW-Factor – I can understand why copying WoW would seem like a good idea, it is an incredibly successful MMO, but at this point anyone who wants to play something like WoW is already playing it. I think a lot of people, like myself were hoping for something a bit fresher from Bioware, not just SpaceWoW. Like I said above, there was enough Bioware in the game to keep me interested enough to get through the first month, and presumably at least another month more, but I’m not sure if it is enough to keep people looking for the new interested once you hit level 50.
Races – One thing Star Wars is known for is its rich universe. There are tons of alien races of all shapes and sizes that Bioware could have tapped to make playable, but instead they took a somewhat more lazy route. All of the races are basically just copy/pasted humans with either some horns glued on, or their skin color slider changed to a new hue, or like, some sunglasses thrown on. The most “alien” of the alien races is the Twi’lek with their lekku (the tentacle things on their head). Even Star Wars Galaxies was able to get some true diversity by making Rodians, Trandoshians, Ithorians, Mon Calamari (Its a Trap!), Sullustan, Bothans, and of course Wookies all playable in addition to the nearly-human Zabraks and humans themselves. Some of these races show up, along with others, in the game in the form of NPCs or player companions, but every player is confined to one of the very human races available. Even if Bioware plans to add new races in the future, my guess is it would be in the form of an expansion, and a little variety in game based in such a diverse galaxy seems like something that should have been available from the start.
Overall, I am enjoying the game and plan to keep playing for a while. Though the game is keeping me interested at the moment, I think the game’s biggest weak point right now is end game content, though I admit I have no first hand experience with it.