Aside from my short trip through the weekend beta, my time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) prior to launch was limited. However thanks to a lovely birthday gift card, I decided to pick this game up and give WoW a break for a bit. I was pleasantly surprised at what came out of the release, but there is still a lot that needs to be worked on to make it a stable substitute for an established game like Warcraft.
One of the first and largest aspect of SWTOR that really makes the game feel amazing for me is the in-depth class quest lines. You can feel your character progress and become stronger and more involved in the game as you level, and not just a ton of unrelated quests. This involves the player in the environment, and connects them to the NPCs in it. Much like it’s predecessors Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) this is a key element of attraction to the game.
In addition to interacting with NPCs on each world, you pick up companions as your progress. These NPCs are similar to player-controlled pets in other games, but have more to them. Each companion can play a different role, and acts as a secondary character for the player. You can equip them as you please, customize them, chat with them, and even buy their affection. This is a clear evolution from the companions you get in KOTOR building your crew. In combat, they can also take the place of a player if you can’t find a friend to help out.
Once you get through some initial lowbie quests, you get your own spaceship. Need I say more? Okay, you also get to do space missions and shoot stuff. And you can do a barrel roll!
A fun aspect to the standard gearing of most MMO are the orange colored custom or ‘social’ items. These items come with no base stats, but instead have armoring, mod and enhancement slots. In these slots, you add stats in (like gemming in WoW). With the correct enhancements added in you can easily wear the same piece of gear through out all your levels, updating it as you level. These are social items since it’s clearly for those who want to look a certain way instead of being stuck with whatever drops and has stats. It’s a wonderful thing to implement from a game launch, instead of having to go back later and help players customize their avatar.
On the subject of stats, there is tons in this game. Unlike some more popular games which are constantly dumbing down game stats for the ‘casual’ player, SWTOR took the opportunity to make stats for everybody. Each class wears a certain type of armor (light, medium, heavy) and has two primary stats that they use. Instead of saying something like “all physical attacks use strength”, some may benefit more from Aim, strength or cunning. Most pieces of gear will then have two stats on it, reducing the arguments and generalization of who gets the piece that is good for 90% of the group.
To counter one of my points above about having a companion, there is still much work to be done on the AI, as well as enemy AI. Artificial Intelligence in any game is usually something that constantly needs to progress. However, it’s understandably frustrating when you jump off a ledge and your companion runs the long away around (and pulls every single mob doing so!). Enemy AI works the same way though, and I know I’ve avoided death many times by getting them stuck running for stairs. Hopefully, this will be something fixed as the game evolves.
Again countering my own point, there are too many stats when you first start up. When I started, I had no item what stats did what. Quite honestly, I still need to check back at times and see. This is both a good and a bad thing. Though good in ways I said above; it’s bad because people are going to be confused, wear the wrong gear and because of it likely suck at playing their class. There is tool tips for most of the game, I’d like to see one titled “What stats you need as a [class] and what it does”.
Out of the gate, the UI feels a little clunky. There are a lot of expand/collapse areas and a bunch of bars that you need to turn on to make it usable. Even doing so, the customization options leave much to be desired. Given that there is still is no support for add-ons, I wish they had put more work into it. Add in the lack of in-game macros and it can make tasks like healing a difficult step.
The final point I need to make that I could complain about is the frequent downtime for maintenance. I understand that it’s a new game and there is a lot to work on, but honestly having it go down on a Friday night/Saturday morning isn’t acceptable. I wish they would make a list of the errors, and fix them once a week like normal developers.
I like this game. It’s buggy, but it’s new. It will need a bit of work to catch up with some more established games, but it has a lot of potential. I hear there is a lot of issues end-game, but BioWare has said they are going to address it (which is much more than some companies). I’d like to consider it a viable alternative to WoW, but can’t see myself making a switch until some raids (ops) become better.
I’d suggest trying it, it’s worth it. For those who have tried it, what do you think?