Yeah. Another SWTOR Post
Happy Monday and other oxymorons on this, the day after the last beta hurrah for Star Wars: The Old Republic. I spent a lot more time in the game this weekend than I had previously, and after having learned a lot of things, felt that I had a better handle on the game and how I might feel about it later on.
I’m still avoiding the Jedi Consular, since that’s what I’ve decided to play in release. This time, I went with the Republic Trooper, a class which I don’t think receives it’s due. In a universe like Star Wars, the sexy archetypes are the Jedi, the Smuggler, and the Bounty Hunter. The Troopers are cannon fodder and once you get to the “modern” movie timeline, they’re clones, cheap, and expendable. No one wants to be a cookie-cutter character in an MMO, right?
I admit, I picked the Trooper because I knew I wouldn’t be playing one in release, but having played this class, and the Empire’s bastard class, the Imperial Agent, and now having been impressed with both, all bets are off.
I met up with Mindstrike who was playing a Smuggler while we were on Ord Mantell. We had several generic missions in common, but we finally got to experience cases of tagging along to someone else’s story mission, and the shared social missions. We had a bit of confusion at first about who could see what, who could participate in what conversations, and what was going on when one person was having a conversation that the other couldn’t see. We found that if you’re both taking a generic mission for the first time, you can both participate in the conversation. If you’re past another person’s green door, you can SEE their cinematic and hear their conversation, but you can’t do anything. If you have already done a generic mission or are ineligible to receive it, you just around like a doofus until your party is done with their conversation.
Playing with two people is great; playing with two people who each have a companion is awesome. It’s like a wrecking ball swinging through content. To some, that may sound like the End Of The World As We Know It, but as I’ve said before, I’m all about the progress and, in this case, the story.
About That Story…
I enjoyed the Trooper storyline. You’re the newest recruit in Havoc Squad, a special forces unit currently assigned to Ord Mantell in order to assist in the battle against a separatist movement. That’s all I’ll say about that. Spoilers, etc. As a class, the Trooper has as much subtlety as a battering ram. Sticky grenades, rockets, full auto, and armor-piercing buffs make for a formidable opponent, and that’s before you pick up your first companion. I died only three times which was more due to my overconfidence than it was to the performance of the class.
I ended the weekend at level 14, having completed some arcs on Coruscant which were supporting the Trooper plot. Normally, once you leave the training-wheel zones, you’d start getting off the beaten path of any overarching storyline, but I never felt more then one mission away from the Trooper’s narrative. For me, this is important because side-quests can be distracting to the point where the main story thread is lost in the haze of having to find someone’s lost heirloom or to clear a crime syndicate out of the lower levels of the city. Thanks to constant reminders for the why to your actions ties back into the main story. For me, this is critical to my potential long-term success with SWTOR.
My Potential For Long-Term Success With SWTOR.
It’s hard to say after only a weekend what the future holds for my investment in this game. I thought Rift would be the one game I’d stick with, but I lagged behind the general population (again) and found myself alone without support in a game that requires you to have support for the main selling point of the game – the rifts. Once that reality set in, and I reached that magic level decade of the 30’s, my interest in the game dropped like a stone attached to an anvil locked in a safe dropped from a cargo plane.
Right now, the story propels me in SWTOR. Having to kill X number of Y because my quest tracker says so is pure theme park MMO, but the fact that I can do it without much upset says a few things to me:
- Combat is a speed-bump in SWTOR. It’s necessary only because…
- …It’s all about the story.
I really hate to burst people’s bubble, but if you’re looking to SWTOR because you want another loot-whore, end-game hump-fest, or if you deride it because of the same, then the reality of the game totally went over your head. Like a novel, there’s the reader’s interpretation, and the author’s purpose, and the two may not align. If you want to run this game like a min-maxing, l2p-your-class, “win” at MMO game, then that’s fine, but I believe that the authors of this game really intended for you to put that artificial crap on the shelf and to treat the game as an interactive story. A story with pictures, so those with the World of Warcraft mentality don’t have to strain themselves to keep up.
I’m cautiously optimistic about my chances of progressing through this game for the reasons stated above, as well as an all-important third reason: so far, nothing has stood in my way. With Rift, I felt abandoned and unable to progress. With EQ2, WoW, and LotrO eventually left me with a treadmill feeling because there was no overarching reason; everything was a one-off mission that needed to be completed and didn’t have ongoing consequence* later in the game. With SWTOR, I made it to level 14 in two days. That’s more then 1/5th of the way to the cap which for me is huge. I totally credit the story as the vehicle for my interest. I’m hoping that this will continue to propel me through the game to the cap (finally).
It’s Like Duct Tape
Now, like the duct tape and the Force, there’s a dark side to all this light side. I’m not a fan of pointing out issues just to counter to ebullient praise, but I’m also not ignorant of issues; I just usually choose to rise above them in order to find the enjoyment that’s there. Unless there’s a show stopping issue, which is rare, I can live with anything else that the game throws me, even if there’s something that throws me.
That being said, my one gripe with SWTOR is that I was really expecting more polish on this sucker. And here’s a caveat! I know that many times the “beta” version we play is potentially several months old in the build cycle. I also know that it’s beta, still, even this close to launch. There’s a good chance that when things get pulled together, things will get ironed out. There’s also the chance that things won’t get ironed out.
Some of the gripes (which are by no means ground-breaking for me) include weird-isms like shooting with no weapons in hand, having to listen to other people’s companion’s one-liners all the time, and the delay between alien dialog subtitles synced with voice-overs, and the ability to select my conversation option. Again, none of these are really game breakers for me, but I know there are some “quality Nazis” out there who still equate “release” with “flawless” and who will use things like this to fuel their personal campaigns against the game.
While I totally understand that working on a game of this magnitude is beyond the scope of one mortal’s comprehension (despite the fact that many lesser-mortals claim to have their finger on the pulse of these things), I’m disappointed to see things like this in such a high profile title from a high profile studio this close to release because I know that in some quarters the game will suffer from it in the court of popular opinion. The game will still go on to be a huge success (by actual standards, not the usual self-important forum-troll standards), but I’d really love to see it clear hurdles easily in all areas, and not just because of it’s IP, features, or name brand developer.
While I hope these kinds of things are ironed out quickly, they won’t stop me from enjoying the game come release time.
And Now, Some Spoilers!
[To see these, highlight text from here to the end of the post!]
I wanted to put that in there because there’s some things that continue to impress, and some deal with spoiler content.
One of the missions for the Trooper story is to cut a supply line based in the criminal underground in Coruscant. The supply in this case is a shipment of advanced battle droids that you need to destroy, eventually bringing you face to face with the droid supplier. He boasts that he’s also augmented several humans with undetectable cybernetic parts, and plans on unleashing these unsuspecting time-bombs on the general population. You’re ordered to kill these citizens on the off chance that this scumbag is telling the truth, but as you can imagine, you have a choice to kill or not to kill. I chose not to kill.
Later, I received an email from an NPC which told me that while the rumors of potential cyberizing were found to be accurate, those people I released – who were supposedly altered – showed no signs of having this lethal technology.
From an emotional investment standpoint this is an interesting twist. During the mission, I found that my companion didn’t react favorably to my initial acceptance of the kill order, so I switched at the last minute to let the subjects go. I thought I was done with that, but the decision was brought back to my attention in a good way when I was informed that I had made a humane and correct decision, despite earning an earful from my CO for going against her orders. This bridging of time for what might have just been another step in the progression of the story made me smile because it supported my non-lethal decision, and because I thought that it could have easily have gone the other way. It also supports the idea that the story isn’t something that goes in one eye and out the other, like other MMOs.