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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SWTOR Free Weekend Visit

While I am surely late to the TOR party I heard about the free weekend from reputable channels (reddit is reputable right?) and decided to give it a shot. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised; the game was entertaining, but at this point I am not up to paying another $60 for a game and then having to worry about a subscription fee. Mainly this is because my playtime is unpredictable and limited. Many of the game's major qualities have been discussed and debated to death, so after the break I sort out what I liked and disliked that is not as mainstream (Full disclosure: Played a Consular to 11 (with a friend playing a warrior), an agent to 6 and an Inquisitor (Sorcerer) to 13)

The Good:
  • Voice-overs + Quests = Engaging! - Ok I broke my "mainstream" rule right off the bat but I promise it gets obscure from here. Certainly the quests here were far more engaging than they were in games like WoW because suddenly they have a context. I also liked that the quest flow made sure you did everything in the same place, which is good since running around at low level was agonizingly slow. The non-class quests often had a "Seeing as you're already here..." vibe to them but the "story" behind each was interesting enough to not break the immersion.
  • Crafting your destiny - Though I am a big fan of "hands on" crafting systems like WoW, or even better, Skyrim. I found myself rather intrigued and engaged by the "hands off" system of SWTOR. At times I found myself standing around waiting and plotting my next crafting move...forgetting that I had quests to do. Sending my big Burly McNoNeck Khem off to do my dirty work was entertaining, and the system felt a bit like EVE-lite. I really wish I had not been limited to getting to rank 40 with them but I can see the reasoning behind it.
  • Location, location, location! - Each location I visited felt unique, and despite them being relatively small overall they still felt large and expansive; I did not have that feeling of "So everything important on this world happens in a 1 square mile area?" that I often get in MMO's with zones.
  • Classes - The classes I played and the stories were fairly "par for the course" for Star Wars, and in my limited experience I did get a perception that each "felt" like its namesake. I am not sure how well thing scale but it eventually would be awkward to be playing a "jedi" who's lightsaber is mainly for show.
  • Dungeons - I only did one "The Eseless"  which I understand is a lowbie dungeon, but I loved how many of the fights involve a few challenging big guys, and then a bunch of easy mooks that even a DPS can take down. In WoW I can believe that the player characters need to work together, but in Star Wars it would break the "immersion" for me if a Sith Lord hard to run screaming to the tank because he made even the lowest ranking storm trooper angry.
  • Response - I was turned off from WAR because of the seemingly long delay between when I pressed a button and when my spell went off. This is actually one of the reasons WoW has kept me, because despite it being online it feels as fast as a single-player game.
  • Weapons in animations - WoW...DO THIS...there is no point to that staff on my priest's back if I never use it, SWTOR at least had my Sorcerer drawing her lightsaber to cast to at least give the ILLUSION that it might be used. Also, pressing Z (sheath/unsheath weapon) as I run along and having my character doing that wrist twist as the lightsaber ignites feels beyond badass.
  • The followers are great! But if Bioware does one thing right, it's make squadmates.
  •  The Daring Duo - Added after being reminded of it while reading Kill Ten Rats; I played my Consular with a friend who played a Jedi Knight, and we had a blast. I like that it lets you join in on your friend's quests and that the game shows you where your friend's quests are so both parties are on the same page. It was a little odd that NPCs ignore your presence in cutscenes...but I can see why. It was also a little disappointing that we're stuck playing specific pairs but after level 10 I gather that the issue goes away.
The Bad
  •  Animation clipping - WoW does this too, but it felt like SWTOR did it in reverse; an existing animation supersedes a new one (I found this often with the lightning bolt and force lightning spells, where half the force lightning will finished before the animation even begins).
  • Mobility - I know that some people enjoy the old-school feeling of having to run everywhere, go in and out of the dungeon when you're finished...but to me it is just an annoyance now. I am not asking for flying mounts, but at times I felt like my play was being artificially slowed by travel times. In the age of Skyrim (where almost every dungeon has a "fast way" out) and WoW (lol what's travel?) I understand that worlds can feel small, but inconvenience for its own sake can be just as bad.
  • Lightsabers and Pringles - This is a minor thing but why are all the lightsaber hilts the size of Tennis ball containers? "It is an elegant weapon, from a more...civilized age." that did not feel elegant when my character was swinging around a rod the size of her arm.
  • Quest quality - The "originality" of the quests (in terms of "Kill 10 rats") falls somewhere between Vanilla WoW and Cataclysm. The quests are a bit more interesting than "Go collect 8 basalisk urethras" but they don't have the crazy Cata vehicle or helper quests (which I liked because they broke up the monotony).
  • Gravitational Oppression - Gravity seems strangely powerful in SWTOR, jumping felt very artificial and mechanical. Certain areas that looked reachable through jumped turned out not to be.
  • Newbie experience - Perhaps one of the Holy Grails of MMO design, making the fresh newbie experience informative and fun is the one that to this day eludes companies. Even Cata doesn't do a fantastic job of making sure you know what you're doing without resorting to long tutorial slides. SWTOR does alright but leaves a fair amount to find out by accident, and between my three characters I kept finding out things I "should" have done with the last class. The main one, which is another "discussed to death" topic is the advanced class being selected upon level 10 before any mastery of the game is obtained. The fact that you can't "test out" the class or have a grace period is a little annoying.
The Ugly
  • Sith Donuts - Is it just me or are a strangely large number of Sith lords portly?
  • Harkun gets tattoos I don' inquisitor wants a cool tattoo...
  • Hutta is off-putting...I really wanted to get excited about a Bounty Hunter/Sith Agent but Hutta is sooooo's like Blades Edge Mountains without the promise of being almost done with TBC.
All that said it is a game I'd love to explore more (the trial limited me rather heavily, couldn't speak in general, advance professions beyond 40, etc) so I am hoping to see it on sale on Origin or something sooner or later, but as is a $60 cover-charge and $15 monthly I just can't justify right now.

Edit: Added Daring-Duo to "Good" list!

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