Monday, March 19, 2012

SWTOR impressions

The free SWTOR weekend is over and it's time for me to share some impressions. 3 days isn't enough, by any stretch of the imagination, to review a MMORPG, so I hope you will forgive me if I say that SWTOR seems like vanilla WoW with a Star Wars skin, albeit more polished.

The game is such a "clone" of WoW that I immediately felt at home, despite not playing WoW for almost a year. The interface is instantly recognizable and familiar, to the smallest of details. There's P for skills, I for inventory, C for character screen, ENTER for chat, R for replying to a whisper, /dance for dancing and so on, ad nauseum. Don't get me wrong, this is a great thing. I noticed the same thing in Rift and it has really become like a standard that MMO developers are following these days. Considering how many people play these games, it's extremely helpful if interfaces are consistent across games.

I tried 7 of the 8 classes, including Jedi Warrior, Smuggler, Trooper, Sith Warrior, Bounty Hunter, Sith Inquisitor and Imperial Agent. The only one I skipped was the Jedi Consular which didn't seem that interesting. I only managed to level the Sith Warrior to level 10 where I unlocked the talent tree and professions, while the others were leveled to 4-6 or so.

I can't even say that the Sith Warrrior was the most pleasant class to play with. I tend to prefer ranged classes and the Trooper, Imperial Agent, Smuggler and Bounty Hunter were more interesting. I also realized (too late) that I should have leveled a Sith Inquisitor instead of a Sith Warrior. The Warrior is based too much on melee moves and uses the "rage" system which didn't quite feel right to me. Instead, the Inquisitor uses both magic and melee and uses Force as a resource, which acts in a more predictable way, just like mana.

Character customization was disappointing. I expected more from this game, maybe not what Skyrim does but certainly something more involving than WoW. Instead, all the characters, regardless of race, felt bland. The thing that bothered me the most was the scarcity of options for height and body type. Those should have been 2 independent sliders with infinite granulation. Instead, each gender gets 4 predefined body types.

What felt even more annoying was that, while I could create a fat guy character, I couldn't create a fat chick. The closest thing was a curvier-than-usual female which was anything but fat. Dammit, I wanted to play a fat chick!

The game felt easy to play at the beginning, just like WoW. Grab quests, go places, complete quests, return, get reward, rinse, repeat. I appreciate the fact that each class has a "recovery" skill which helps you quickly heal and recover resources after a fight. Fights weren't too hard, except for one instance where a quest boss killed me about 4 times until I got my companion. Then, the fight became trivial. That encounter didn't seem too balanced.

The companions are an interesting concept but the way every class gets it's own companion type (which can't be changed) feels very artificial.

At level 10 I got my first taste of the crafting system and, again, it felt different in a good way. Being able to send your companion on a crafting mission is pretty cool. Also, sending them away to sell the useless crap that you find is a good thing, although not original to this game.

The graphics are kind of disappointing. I almost feel that WoW's are better, although they are probably not. The intro movies are kick-ass, because they are CGI, but the cutscenes suck ass. The character animations in these cutscenes felt very 2000-ish.

Now I'm sure lots of people won't be pleased by what I'm gonna say next. The much-ballyhooed voice acted quests are, in my humble opinion, rubbish, as well as a waste of resources. They would have been better off sinking that cash into something else, like some proper character customizations. OK, I admit, I'm not really the lore type. I don't devour lore and story like some people do. I prefer the action.

I started out by diligently listening to all the spoken dialogue - until I realized that I was wasting time (and I didn't have a lot of that) instead of exploring the game. After I figured that I wasn't missing a great deal by skipping through the dialogue, I started to do that. Pretty soon I wasn't caring at all about the story or anything that supposedly went on in the game. I just followed the quest markers on the map. While I kind of understand why they used voice acting for the main quest story, I don't see the point of this for every single crappy quest your character encounters. Every "Kill 10 rats" type of quest has voice acting. But whatever. Some people like it. Good for them. I just feel that they put too many resources into this one "killer" feature instead of improving other areas of the game.

And then there's this whole dark side/light side paradigm that is starting to grow old. I mean, even the Sith wouldn't be so stupid as to permanently do cruel things without reason. Yet, the game forces you down the narrow light/dark path, without the possibility of recourse. Of course, you could stay neutral but then you won't have access to certain items which are unlocked by how good or evil you are.

There is one thing, at least, that SWTOR does right. Dead, lootable mobs are marked by a shaft of light, which is colored based on the type of item which drops. Green item? Green shaft. Pretty cool idea. The other thing that, I thought, was awesome, is area loot. Oh how I wish WoW had this feature whenever I farmed low level dungeons with my level 80! Essentially this allows you to collect loot from all the bodies in your vicinity by looting a single body. Kick-ass feature.

Well, ok, I also enjoyed how light sabers can be customized, with crystals, grips, power sources and what-not. It felt very much like KOTOR. Too bad I'm not much of a melee person.

I wanted to post some screenshots but I have no idea where the game saved them, so screw that.

I'm gonna stop here because there's nothing much left to say. The game was ok, but nothing groundbreaking. I'm certainly not going to spend a single cent on it. Will I ever play it again? Not unless it goes free-to-play, and even then, if I don't have something better to do.


Unknown said...

> lootable mobs are marked by a
> shaft of light, which is colored
> based on the type of item
> which drops

We should say "thanks Borderlands!" ;)

Darraxus said...

I actually liked the voice acting, and it kept me interested until 50. Then after that, it just felt like a very bland WoW Clone.

I thought this could be my Next MMO. I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good summing up of the early levels. I'm definitely waiting for the next big patch before I give it another go.

It's worth noting that the well made & plot-heavy starter planets aren't very indicative of what's to come - it slows down a lot after that. Still lots of tedious and unnecessary voice acting though, that doesn't end.

Couple of things:

"The graphics are kind of disappointing. I almost feel that WoW's are better, although they are probably not"

The graphics are very disappointing. Just doesn't feel at all Star Wars-y, which has a pretty well defined visual theme.

Also, I think this applies here:

WoW just wins this one hands down.

"every class gets it's own companion type (which can't be changed)"

Not true - all classes get all 5 types of companion eventually (healer + ranged & melee versions of dps/tank, and even then they have different 'stances'), though some of the later ones come very late, and it sucks if you want a healer and don't get them early. They are generally the most useful unless you're doing it yourself.

It also sucks that the one that best complements your play style might be totally opposed to your chosen alignment, which also negatively affects their usefulness as crafting/gathering monkeys. The morality system really needs to be just flavour, and separate from the mechanics, I agree there.

What is cool about the crafting is that you can use your non-preferred companions to make genuinely useful stuff for both yourself and your main buddy. Slightly dodgy AI aside, a well-geared 'pet' is frequently better than a real other player! I recommend light-side bounty hunter, with the first companion, a very effective healer. Then take cybertech or armormech to make both of you decent equipment.

I do like the gear modification system. You probably didn't make it far enough to get much customisable armour, but you can find items you like the look of and then slot in (craftable or buyable) upgrades that affect how useful it is, so you don't end up wearing increasingly freaky-looking stuff as you level.

Surprised you didn't mention the Godawful 'running' speed + huge, pointless empty areas which is an obvious time-sink. Guess you didn't make it that far trying lots of classes in 3 days...

Finally, don't know if you ran the first group flashpoint (aka dungeon) at around lvl 10-12, it's Black Talon for empire, Esseles for the republic. "Solo" suggests you wouldn't, "Darth" suggests you really ought to;) The competitive conversation thing is really fun the first the couple of times.

Of course it gets old fast, and none of the other subsequent flashpoints are nearly as good, this game is very front-loaded.

Oh, and apparently WoW is stealing the awesome AoE looting feature for mists. Soloing those old instances suddenly becomes so much faster...

Darth Solo said...

@Loque Nahak I'll be damned, I think you are right. However, I never noticed that in Borderlands. Maybe it was better implemented in SWTOR because I noticed it immediately.

@Darraxus well a lot of people like it and to an extent it's a great accomplishment, but it feels a bit overkill.

@Anonymous a lot of great points, thank you. A very good friend of mine who was ecstatic over SWTOR played it until max level and then he quit. He said the story and leveling was awesome but at the end it just felt a lot like WoW and he was sick of that.

I thought the companions were specific to each class, sorry about the mistake.

I wanted to mention something about running and running and more running but I forgot :)

No, I didn't get to do any flashpoint. I just wanted a taste of the classes.

Ooo WoW stealing area loot! Here I come WoW! Not! It's great that they are doing it but it's too little too late for me. I'm really going to dedicate 99% of my spare time to Diablo from now on...

Unknown said...

@ Darth

This is a pretty good example:


Darth Solo said...

Oh of course, now I know exactly what you mean. But it's not the same thing. In Borderlands items dropped on the ground just like in Diablo. In SWTOR they stay on the bodies, like WoW, until you loot them. So the shafts are over the bodies which may contain magic/rare/etc items.