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I'm level 50. Here's what I think of the game.

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > General Discussion
I'm level 50. Here's what I think of the game.

RolyartNala's Avatar


RolyartNala
01.09.2012 , 03:19 PM | #1
TL;DR
For a brand new MMO, the leveling game is quite polished and very enjoyable; however, high level content and systems need some serious love. If you're rushing to 50 to get a taste of endgame, stop and smell the roses instead, because you aren't missing much right now.


~~~~~~~~~~


Okay, all the ADHD kids are gone. Now let's talk.

Overall, I was and remain blown away by this game. It's a massive undertaking and one of the most incredibly complex entertainment projects in history. Kudos to BioWare on the engaging class story that kept me struggling up through the levels so that I could continually see what was next. Like a good book, I couldn't stop reading (or listening, as the case may be.) But now that I am done, I do have some criticisms of certain portions of the game. Before I mention that, let me speak to the good.

THE GOOD

Absolutely Epic Story
I decided to level a Smuggler (Gunslinger) as my first 50, and without spoiling the story, let me just say that it was, for the most part, fantastic. The dialogue choices and voice work for my character often left me feeling like cheering or giggling with childish glee. There are several surprising options available if you unlock them, including hidden titles, strange romances, and startling revelations. As a (male) Smuggler, one can choose to be (1) the charming rogue, (2) the space gigolo, (3) the cold-hearted killer, the (4) clever criminal, (5) the courageous privateer and many other things. You can be many of these things at the same time. You have many, many romance options, both short- and long-term. The story is always fast-paced and twists and turns with great frequency all the way to the end. Eschewing gear concerns (I'll get back to this later), you feel empowered to be whomever you choose, and you will marvel at times that the crazy choices you make are fully supported by the actions and reactions of the non-player characters around you. No matter how you decide to play, BioWare planned for it. It's very, very entertaining.

Gorgeous Worlds
BioWare, give your environment artists a raise. They deserve it. From the war-torn plains of Balmorra to the industrial sprawl of Corellia, each world's distinct aesthetic stands out as a truly unique environment. Interior art assets are reused enough to notice, but not so much that it really bothers you. Exterior art assets seem, for the most part, unique to each planet. BioWare has done a very good job of making each world actually feel like a completely different planet. The decision to not include day/night cycles or weather effects, while disappointing, makes sense given the goal of ensuring that each planet (1) feels Star Wars-y and (2) is unique and alien in its own way. You did a good job here, BW.

Novel Crafting System
BioWare has done the impossible—it has made me care about crafting in an MMO. I have dumped roughly half a million credits into crafting and maxed all three skills (crafting, mission, gathering.) I love that I don’t have to sit around the forge making sword hilts all day if I want to level my skill, and I love that once you have gathered the materials, construction of an item is guaranteed. I love that you can get skillups even on failures to find materials, and I love that you can reverse engineer green items to get blue, and blue to get purple. On the balance, the crafting system is fundamentally sound.

Mirrored Classes, Mirrored Skills
By mirroring the classes and skills, BioWare has, I imagine, significantly reduced class balancing difficulties. Every class has (1) an interrupt, (2) a stun, (3) an escape mechanism, (4) defensive cooldowns, and (5) some form of CC, be it a snare, a root, a mezz, and so on. From 1-49, skill is the major factor in a PVP victory, all things being equal. This is good design. There are significant problems once level 50 PVP gear comes into play, however, as it is far and away better than leveling gear, even for bolstered characters.

Combat is Hard
What, you ask? Hard is good? Yes. Unlike in many other games, you cannot sleepwalk through leveling, relying on autoattack and spamming AOEs to see you through. Combat requires focus and smart applications of your skills. Even monsters you’ve fought dozens of times can still present a challenge for the unwary or lazy player. Also, as you level up, the higher-level monsters become a titch more challenging. Not enough to always be overwhelming, but enough such that you end up relying on your whole toolkit of skills to win, rather than simply pressing the same one or two keys over and over. Pull too many mobs? You’re probably dead. Backpedal into a pat? Dead. Ride through a big group, hoping to rely on your speeder to whisk you past them? No, sorry, you’re likely dead. And that’s all to the good, because it forces you to remain engaged with the environment. Even in your class quest, there are moments when you are forced to dig deep into your skill reservoir (not to mention, your cooldowns) to pull out a win.

Companions and Personal Starships
I’m happy with both of these systems, on the balance. I love that you get a variety of companions to satisfy any playstyle within each class, and that each companion can be further fine-tuned to support a specific style of play. I love that companions can be customized appearance-wise, both through gear and customization kits, and I especially like that I can give them my hand-me-downs when I upgrade. I also love that the companions are distinct individuals with different concerns, and that you can gain or lose massive affections with them if you say or do the right or wrong thing (protip: Don’t flirt with other girls once you have a main squeeze). I love that I have a personal instance in which I can hang out and invite friends (in other words, my starship), and that I can use it to travel from planet to planet and also to engage in space combat.

Other Things of Which I Am Fond
The idea of social gear, jukeboxes, appearance customization with orange-quality moddable items, my A-300 Heavy Sonic Needler (or, as I call it, the Dirty Harry gun), space cowboy hats and coats, my character’s epic sideburns, Jawas, hating on my protocol droid, companion storylines that are unlocked as their affection for you increases, starship upgrades, datacrons/easter eggs (anyone for a 45-minute hot air balloon ride on Tatooine?), and that crazy puzzle with the power transformers and the planetary defense cannon on Balmorra. Seriously, it took an engineer, a scientist and a college professor nearly an hour to figure it out, so kudos.


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I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been thorough in outlining what I find appealing about the game. As you can see, it’s a long list. I love SWTOR, and in the broad strokes I find playing it to be a very engaging experience. But now I want to get to the actual point of this post, which is this:

There are many broken or frustrating things that need to be fixed.

Since the devil is in the details, let’s devil it up.

THE BAD

Dear God, the Load Screens
BW has never been shy about loading screens. Having played through Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, and both Mass Effects, I can’t say I was surprised that they are in SWTOR. The problem is there are so freaking many of them, and they are inordinately, inexplicably long. Look, I have a sweet gaming rig. It’s a big, new computer that I bought specifically to play SWTOR, and I spent too much money on it. SWTOR doesn’t seem to care—I load, and I load, and I sit there loading some more. Every ten meters, it seems, is a load screen that takes thirty seconds (or more!) to resolve. Let’s say you’re on Carrack Station and you want to fly to Tatooine. You load into the Smuggler’s hangar bay, and then you load onto your freighter (cutscene), and then you walk to the cockpit, input coordinates for Tatooine (cut to galaxy map), then hit enter (cutscene as you enter and exit hyperspace), then you walk back to the airlock to exit the ship, where you load onto Tatooine (cutscene), which puts you in the Tatooine Smuggler phase hangar bay, which you then have to load to exit, and finally you’re in the Tatooine spaceport and can walk outside and go “ooh” and “aah” at Anchorhead. Repeat the process in reverse if you want to fly back to Carrack Station. If you’re flying to most higher-level worlds, there’s an additional process—you don’t land on the planet, but dock at a space station in orbit, which means that you also have to load through an airlock and a shuttle ride down to the planet! BioWare! Come on! This is ridiculous! And forget about loading from instance to instance within a world—if you’re on Coruscant [1] and you’re buddy’s on Coruscant [2], it’s a loadscreen to switch between the two.

Gear Customization Ends at 50
All those cool outfits you’ve meticulously collected over the course of leveling? You might as well vendor them, because endgame gear is miles better than anything you could throw level 50 mods into. That’s right, you’re encouraged by the gearing system from levels 1 to 49 to customize, be unique, find a look that you like and wear that. And then at 50, you’re encouraged to throw all that stuff in the trash and wear the exact same gear as everyone else. In and of itself, this is disappointing. What makes it worse, however, is the fact that the level 50 gear is not unique to advanced classes—though BW makes a big show about the uniqueness of the ACs, let’s be real; all Smugglers have the same storyline regardless of whether or not they are Scoundrels or Gunslingers, and all Smugglers wear the exact same level 50 gear. Scoundrels in healing specs and Gunslingers in sharpshooter specs look exactly the same when fully geared, with the only visual distinction being the fact that one has one blaster and the other has two. Worse, the epic gear sets are all identical except for minor color variations. So as you earn better and better endgame gear, your look doesn’t change at all, just its color scheme. BioWare, broskis, after designing a robust system during leveling that encourages individuality and customization, endgame gear is an epic fail.

At 50, Crafting Seems Irrelevant
This is one of the biggest fails I can see in the game right now. I worked hard, dumped all my money into leveling Armstech, and then I discover at 50 that the first tier of PVP weapons is miles—leagues—better than the best thing I can craft with 400 skill. That PVP weapon is rewarded RNG from playing warzones, which means you could get it in a day or a month. But either way, when we’re looking at effort vs. reward, I’m pretty frustrated. I had to scrounge to afford all my skills the last ten levels or so, I put off buying level 40 speeder training until level 50, and I busted out Armstech to the tune of half a million credits and dozens of hours of companion missions only to discover that all of my effort is completely irrelevant. Operations bosses drop better weapons, PVP RNG drops better weapons. So now, at 50, the smart thing to do is to set Armstech aside and PVP all the time until the RNG gods favor me with a deuce of blasters. I’m sure glad I’m still dinking around on this level 40 speeder and getting no benefit from all that time and money spent crafting.

Completing a Flashpoint With a Full Group is an Epic Quest In and of Itself
You can’t just zone into a dungeon in SWTOR. First, you need the feeder quest, which takes you to an NPC who wants to talk to you. You are not allowed to zone in and start the FP until you this. If one of your party members doesn’t have the quest, he can’t zone in until everyone drops the feeder quest, picks it up again, and does the talky talk with the NPC guy. If you’re midway through a run and someone has to drop group, and the new guy doesn’t have the feeder quest, guess what? You have to go back and do it rather than just zone in to replace the guy who left. Then you pick up where you left off inside the FP. If you’ve already killed some bosses, though, replacement guy might not get credit for running the FP and will have to do it again. If you delete the feeder quest before completing the FP, you don’t get credit for completing the FP and will have to do it all over again. Once inside the FP, if you kill the final boss and leave, you won’t get credit for completing the FP since you left before the dénouement, and you’ll have to run it again for credit. BW, for the love of all that is holy, make it easier to run FPs. I know story is king, but in this case, a fun, no-hassle play experience should take precedence. FPs should not be armadas of obstructions, but something you should be able to just jump in and do from anywhere, at anytime. Right now, honestly, they are more of a pain in the pazooka than they are worth. That’s a shame, since the few I’ve run were epic. Except, you know, for the crippling bugs, disconnects, and random resets.

Social Ranks Unlock Social Gear, and…?
So far, as near as I can tell, the only purpose of gaining social points (and, thus, ranks) is to unlock special “social” gear sets that are sold by various vendors in cantinas across the galaxy. In concept, this is cool, if limited. In practice, it’s something of a bummer. For starters, all social gear is light armor, so it’s clearly not intended for anyone but Consulars/Inquisitors to actually use in combat. I suppose it’s a good thing that we won’t be seeing Troopers with miniguns in slave girl bikinis, but that means that social gear, since it’s of little practical use (and, by extension, Social ranks are of little practical use), should be simply amazingly cool to look at, right? I mean, this gear should be far out, wild, awesome stuff, aesthetically dynamite, since you’re grinding for it and it has no use for almost everyone. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most social gear sets are actually pretty lame, just variations on the uniforms worn by local NPCs on those worlds your visiting. There’s a Leia slave girl outfit, and a Tusken Raider outfit, and then half a dozen drab uniforms with inexplicably high Social ranks required to purchase them. This feels like an unfinished, half-realized system. And, of course, it’s subject to the same limitations described above as leveling gear. Thus, I have to ask: What is the point?

The Major Milestone in Your Class Quest is at 30, Not 50
This one baffled me. I leveled my Jedi Consular to 32, completing Chapter 1, to be made a Jedi Master and have accolades fall from the sky. On my Smuggler, I got a cool title and an even cooler blaster pistol. In contrast, the end of Chapter 3 on my Smuggler was quite a letdown—no new title, no sweet piece of gear, nothing new or unique or special. The ending was simply that, an ending. Having been conditioned by fifty levels of being rewarded for completing things, it was a big letdown. But then I got to thinking. Where do you go after Jedi Master, exactly? What greater accolade could the galaxy bestow upon you? None, really—you play a Jedi to become a Master. Why, then, was this awesome final gift bestowed at the end of the first chapter rather than the last? Was it decided that fifty levels was too long to wait for the greatest honor a Jedi could get? Were the other classes’ stories then designed to follow suit? Why exactly was there no “Welcome to endgame” package for characters completing their class storylines? BioWare, I loved the story, but I would have loved a Cool Thing™ as well. Why didn’t I get one?

Entering a Warzone Removes You From Group
This is more of an annoyance than anything, but if you PVP with your friends a lot, it’ll go to the top of your “MUST FIX NOW” list. Say you’re grouped. You queue for a warzone together. You enter the warzone, and the group is disbanded. When you complete the warzone, you have to manually group again and queue again—the game does not remember that you were grouped. I’m sorry, but WoW had this one figured out years ago; if you’re group and enter a battleground together, you leave the battleground together. It’s a no-brainer, so why can’t SWTOR do this?

Auto-Follow Doesn’t Work
Speaking of minor things SWTOR can’t do, there’s autofollow. It doesn’t work. You click it, follow for ten or twenty meters, and then stop following. So much for letting your buddy get you both to the quest phase while you take a leak.

A Host of Other Bugs, Some Crippling, Some Not, That I Know Are Being Working On
Too many to list, really. The most annoying to me personally are the random disappearance of your companion after zoning, mounting or dismounting; the companion’s inability to sell trash items; Corso Riggs and his stupid Harpoon Shot that you can’t turn off; the Cover bug for smugglers; the lack of a targeting reticule during the cannon phase of the Colocoid War Games flashpoint; random disconnects; and random graphics glitches.


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On the balance, I love the game. It has potential for great longevity. My gripes are the gripes of a dedicated player who wants to see the game he loves improve. What will determine SWTOR’s longevity are the decisions BW makes over the next few months regarding endgame, and the speed at which they lay out new content. Right now, endgame and the systems that support it need a lot of work. This is not unexpected in a new MMO, but it is still disappointing. Oh well, I know the leveling is good, so off I go again to level my Consular. Hopefully by the time he’s 50 these issues will have been addressed.

urborror's Avatar


urborror
01.09.2012 , 03:28 PM | #2
I read it all. Very nuanced and agree with much of the criticism.

KetMalice's Avatar


KetMalice
01.09.2012 , 03:31 PM | #3
Crafting is terrible. Period. You wasted half a million credits.

Kentontudor's Avatar


Kentontudor
01.09.2012 , 03:32 PM | #4
Very good post man. Couldn't agree more about the class quest ending around level 30 or shortly there after...

But I agree with pretty much everything you said.

This is a great game with great potential IF updated correctly.

Kentontudor's Avatar


Kentontudor
01.09.2012 , 03:33 PM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by KetMalice View Post
Crafting is terrible. Period. You wasted half a million credits.
And yeah I kinda agree... It's VERY pointless...

Battyone's Avatar


Battyone
01.09.2012 , 03:34 PM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Kentontudor View Post
And yeah I kinda agree... It's VERY pointless...
Except Biochem. (don't nerf, don't nerf, don't nerf, don't nerf)
Amistar Nelmarra -- 55 Sage, Ebon Hawk <The Azure Blades>
I stream my bad gameplay.
Come watch the Fat Man rageth on Twitch!

Baracca's Avatar


Baracca
01.09.2012 , 03:35 PM | #7
load screens go bye bye with SSD drive

well not bye bye but waaaaay better

SWImara's Avatar


SWImara
01.09.2012 , 03:37 PM | #8
I'm definitely not one to typically care what others think of games, but if nothing else your review was really well thought out and... omg... reasonable. For the forums at the moment that last bit alone is a really big deal, thanks for a good read. I definitely appreciated your negative comments as they were presented reasonably rather than crazed rants as is our current standard.
  • Load Screens:
    You'd be hard pressed to find anyone to disagree with you on this one, basically its pretty unjustifiable at this point in MMO play, as is the degree of instancing in game.
  • Customization:
    Wow did it make me angry to realize that raiding and PvP essentially made the customization system useless, why even bother having a system to customize your appearance if its only useful for non-endgame equipment.
  • Crafting:
    I see this as tied to the customization complaint really. BW seems as if they've fallen into the standard "focus on raids and end game group content, crafting is just a means to get there" approach to design. Definitely a shame as there are plenty of games out there already. Also on discussion of crafting, there is currently nothing approaching parity in the crafting professions. After a certain point I honestly feel gimped for not picking Bioanalysis over an equipment building profession.
  • Social Ranks:
    These still have a great deal of promise, overall I think this problem and the customization problem could be addressed by going with a standard "Appearance" equipment tab instead of trying to stick with the custom gear route. Its a shame that this should seem necessary, but unless customizable gear is expected to actually exist in parity with end game gear then its honestly worthless. Social ranks could provide all sorts of great appearance mods etc for your character, but atm there is no point to any of this as end game folks are carbon copies.
  • Class milestone
    30 does seem an odd choice, particularly as this is also when you gain your legacy etc. Its currently the hugest level in the game with 50s only purpose being end game. Perhaps this will change when eventually the level cap is raised etc.

lilbyte's Avatar


lilbyte
01.09.2012 , 03:41 PM | #9
Nice job. Might of disagreed on some thing. might of jumped up and down screaming that you was spot n about others. Either way, you well thought out and presented.. without either blind fanboying or hating.

Wraithwarr's Avatar


Wraithwarr
01.09.2012 , 03:43 PM | #10
Well written! I agree with the majority of your pros and cons. I honestly hope they are listening in regards to flashpoints most of all. As it stands right now there are too many people who just don't bother with them. To me that is a sad state of affairs which will lead to an entire generation of players not knowing full well how their class functions in a group PvE setting. Now I know the majority of us have plenty of previous MMO experience, but when you look at a game like Rift, and see how integral they make running dungeons in the process of leveling up, it makes me wish they would do something like that in swtor. Most of the flashpoints are great fun, but some of these barriers for entry need to be removed.