Star Wars: The Ol’ Impressions

Thankfully my server or time played  was perfect. I never had a queue, but that seemed to be a rarity. Anyway, I felt like I got a solid play session or two in. I would say getting I got enough time to make a solidly informed consumer decision.

First, it’s rock solid. A lot of love and polish has gone in to making the game really smooth in pretty much every factor. Sure, there are a few minor bugs here and there, but if there was a vision to how the game would be, it was pretty much implemented to the fullest.

Second, the vision is of course something branching off of a vanilla MMO, which World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift et al. hold domain. There are some twists, which I am still digesting for future posts here, but my gut feeling is they don’t change much. It’s like the difference between presenting a nicely cooked steak on a plate and one that has been sliced for the guest to show a nicely cooked interior. It’s a steak either way. The two things that hit me were interactionable cut scenes replacing quest text and groups of mobs as being a single encounter. I’d be really interested to see how different those two things feel after 20-30 levels of gameplay.

Finally, I would love to play, but I don’t feel like shelling out $50 plus a subscription to play something essentially super-shiny vanilla. With holiday gifts needing spending, I might pick it up next year. I think I would enjoy the journey of going through each class’ story. So much of it feels though like “play together, alone.” I am a little worried at what might become of the end game too. I know once I got a whiff of Rift’s near-release end game I quit the game. For now, I think I will just look forward to stories and spoilers.


33 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Ol’ Impressions”

  1. You’re right, it’s definitely “play together, alone”.

    Well, assuming you don’t do any of the group content (group quests start showing up around level 6 or 7), any of the instances (starting around level 10), tackle any of the world bosses (level 11 or 12), or raid. Or just group for the fun of it, although some class-story instances only allow one member of a given class in them.

    1. “So much of it” != “all of it” add in the weasel, subjective word “feels”, and I’m not sure what you are getting at.

      1. “Feel” is about as far from a weasel word as it’s possible to get, I would have said. Taken me years to learn to say “feel” when I mean “feel” and “think” when I mean “think” but it’s added a ton of verisimilitude that was previously missing. Clarity ftw!

        And why do weasels get such bad press, anyway?

  2. There are lots of folks out there who haven’t spent roughly a decade of playing this “style” of MMO already, and I’m sure that for them, SWTOR is a great experience.

    Like yourself, this is definitely a BTDT, got the T shirt, mug, and cap type of experience for me. I’m just not interested in yet another “version” of the same game I’ve been playing since before the turn of the century.

    I consider it to be truly a shame that BioWare didn’t at least attempt to move away from the “holy trinity” class mechanics… especially with the Sci-Fi, cowboys in space, setting that is Star Wars. Instead, they have managed to create a game that “feels” like they went the exact opposite direction and tried to make it the MOST “trinity” game ever made, with the only concession being that they give everyone a companion (whether they want to run a pet class or not) to try to balance out the hopelessly inbalanced/co-dependent trinity mechanics.

    Even if I wasn’t completely exhausted by the same designer mistakes in the class mechanics, there is still the issue of the whole “playing together, apart” dynamic that is exacerbated severely in SWTOR. Not only are the same tired, antagonistic mechanics still present (such as “tagging” mobs and single person resource nodes) which pit players against each other constantly, but they further encourage players to want to have nothing to do with each other because of the very single-player aspect of their class stories.

    Basically, they made a game I would rather play by myself in for the story of each class… then made it unpleasant to do so by forcing my character class down narrowly defined “holy trinity” style class roles.

    Unfortunately for me personally, this isn’t even a matter of waiting a year or so before purchasing… I don’t ever see myself buying this game – that I’ve essentially already played a half dozen different examples of…

    1. exacly, my feelings!
      Bioware – I can’t thank You enough for early beta invite. Thanks to that, I’ve cleared my mind and resigned from pre-order. I wish luck and send warm feelings to whoever gets “my” SWtOR box ;)

  3. When you look at your grocery freezer, there’s a reason Vanilla has the largest shelf space.

    EA has failed at every swing of the bat in the MMO meatspace, each time with something that was a little different from mainstream. Their only success is the UO purchase, launched over 10 years ago.

    There are plenty of different MMOs out there for varying tastes. They are all niche because as much as one aspect is amazing, another portion is a huge turnoff. A game that is acceptable for everyone is by it’s very definition, generic.

    1. I think it’s possible to make a game with wide appeal that doesn’t simply copy the design conventions of some pre-existing genre. I believe The Sims is an acceptable example of this? Or is it just a logical outgrowth of Sim Ant? I honestly don’t know, having little experience with either.

      Perhaps more importantly, the safest bet (in terms of the publisher’s RoE) is to make a deeply familiar game, and to excise every element that could possibly turn someone off and limit your audience.

      So I’d add to your statement a similar one: “A game where the most conservative and familiar design direction is always chosen, will inherently be extremely generic”.

      It is certainly a matter of prejudice on my part, but I can’t help but see SWTOR as a product of compromise and corporate profit-chasing. That’s fine and all – and it does seem like Bioware honestly put a lot of love and passion into the game. but I’m much more interested in playing niche products that represent a unique and distinctive design vision.

      Different strokes for different folks and all that.

      1. I have to agree with your last big paragraph. It feels like this game was made for consumers by a corporation instead of a game for gamers by gamers. It is extremely safe for stockholders.

      2. Corporations are for-profit entities. So by definition anything made by a corporation is “profit-chasing.”

        This has become a de-rigeur way of saying you don’t like companies. Which is fine, but doesn’t have anything to do with real-world, big-boy, game development.

        You can only do so much for today’s audience from your garage.

        So I guess I’m saying; I’m not sure what you were expecting.

        1. I highly doubt Ravious doesn’t like all companies ever because they work to make money (In fact, I’m pretty sure he likes ArenaNet). Corporations and companies can and do work and produce great products without appearing to be all about the money.

          Just look at ArenaNet/NCSoft. While they might not be as “big-boy” or your so called “real-world” entities like EA/Bioware or ActiBlizz they are hardly working out of their garage. And I doubt you’d find many of people that would agree with the notion that a buy to play MMO is overly profit-chasing.

          1. I think Gsenda’s comment was aimed at Brise, but I agree with Brise.

            Corporations can love profits, their customers, and their products. Some corporations want consumers and some want fans. Both have profitability values, and it’s up to each to figure it out.

            I’d love to hear from people that feel more of “the love” from BioWare. Between EA’s talking mouth and Brise’s thoughts… I haven’t seem it.

            1. I’m not sure why people aren’t considering the influence Lucasarts has on this project. Give how Galaxies worked out, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that an extremely vanilla MMO is exactly what they wanted for their brand.

  4. Its going to be interesting to see whereSWTORs subscriber base comes from. Is it going to be new to MMO Bioware/Star Wars fans or is it going to be a mass of players switching from the current de-facto generic MMO looking for something familiar but new?

    I dont see SWTOR taking that many players away from niche MMOs. I think the subscription fee and reputation as “WoW with lightsabers” will keep F2P and people still subscribing to older games away.

  5. “So much of it feels though like ‘play together, alone.’ ”

    I thought so too, until I played with my husband, turned in finished quests with him, etc. Then I was pretty pleased.

    “There are plenty of different MMOs out there for varying tastes. They are all niche because as much as one aspect is amazing, another portion is a huge turnoff.”

    I’m a person who likes RPG’s first and MMO’s second. And honestly? I think the RPG elements (like the convo cut-scenes etc) will turn off the WoW people and people who just want to hit “accept” and look at a map to figure out how to complete a quest. Meanwhile in WoW, the loss of class quests, the steed my draenei was too big for (but finished the quest line for), and the ability to spec how I wish (even if stupidly) removed all RPG elements to me.

  6. “Finally, I would love to play, but I don’t feel like shelling out $50 plus a subscription to play something essentially super-shiny vanilla.”

    My exact thought. The only themepark I can enjoy anymore is Vanguard, which isn’t that vanilla in itself.

    Plus, my money’s saved for the sandboxes. :P

  7. I felt pretty much the same way. Nothing from the game blew me out of the water. I played each class for a bit and while I did enjoy the Sage and the Trooper the most the rest were okay as well but just nothing new. I really was hoping that all those naysayers that kept saying that this was just WoW in Space were wrong but they were not for the most part. About the only real improvement I saw was the ability to know if a mob had a loot table or not saving you from wasting time trying to loot a dead corpse that didn’t have a loot table. That plus the ability to do an area loot was nice.

    All in all though I am mixed in regards to the game. I may cancel my preorder though I haven’t yet. The game isn’t bad. It’s just that I am so over WoW like Themeparks and while I love TOR novels the game story outside the class stories are just repeats of “kill ten rats” and delivery quest.

    All in all not a bad game. On par with with Rift as far as polish at this close to launch. But much like Rift it is just too much of the same old stuff to really set itself apart. As far as the side quest I found myself more often than not just hurrying through them no differently than I would quest from any other game.

    Considering I had more fun playing the Warhammer: Wrath of Heroes beta over the weekend than the SWTOR beta tells me that at least to me the Theme Park MMO has had it’s run.

    Is SWTOR a bad game? Not at all. Is it a great game? Not at all. Like many predicted I fear that the game will have a HUGE release and then after a few months it will fade into the background. Sure it will stay in the top 5 for some time to come. Most likely it will kick EQ2 and Rift down a few notches but all in all I predict that GW2 will do more to pull gamers away from their current games over the long haul than SWTOR will.

    1. The thing with RIFT was I felt that the social experience of their “public quests” was worth experiencing and playing. I did have a blast for a long time until I hit that moment where I felt like I had to start joining a raid guild. I felt I could only experience that in RIFT…

      SWTOR has something really neat too, except it’s in every one of their single-player games. That’s the big difference for me.

      1. True. The Public Quest in Rift set it apart from WoW as did the ability to have multiple souls and specs on the fly.

        In regards to SWTOR I turned off Chat completely and didn’t even notice anything missing.

      2. It’s interesting to compare to Rift. It came out with polished mechanics that offered a different twist on gameplay and lackluster story. SWTOR is the exact opposite, though granted a much stronger IP.

        It will be very interesting to see if BioWare’s bet on Story being key will play out in the long run.

        1. Only if they can update the Story fast enough. Content is king in MMOs.

          Interesting juxtaposition of the two MMOs though, you’re spot on about the differences.

          My personal opinion is that the first is superior because of the different twists in gameplay mechanics, but I fear the vast hordes of vanilla majority will still linger on in SWTOR. Precisely because the mechanics are simple, easy-to-understand and easy-to-consume.

          Far more people watch soap operas and eat fast food over watching a play and eating gourmet food at any one time.

          IP is their trump card. And I think the attraction of the Star Wars IP is on par with Blizzard and World of Warcraft in terms of popularity. One of the few that can match up.

  8. Playing the beta on the weekend, I was not surprised that the traditional sword & sorcery MMO tropes were a horrible fit for a Star Wars game. Really, kill 10 sepaRATists, loot their bodies for credits and vendor trash, go back to the Republic military base I’m stationed at, sell the trash, and buy new weapons and armour? Nothing like any Star Wars I remember.

    Not to mention that the short cooldown ability rotation just felt dumb for a blaster-toting space soldier. So I can throw an infinite number of grenades.. but only one every 15 seconds? Why?

    But no, what surprised me was how disappointing the much-hyped fully voiced questing was. The voice actors I found exceedingly poor. Half of them were so wooden that if they WERE in a fantasy MMO people would tie their horses to them. The other half were just over the top and silly. The actual conversations were stilted exchanges of lengthy soliloquies that felt nothing like any conversation I’ve ever heard. By the end of the five hours or so I spent on the game, I was thoroughly sick of it and would have much preferred to read the storyline rather than have to listen to any more of it.

    This is definitely one that I’ll give a miss.

  9. Lots of negative comments. I mostly agree with the post, though different outcome: I was considering canceling my pre-order before the beta week-end and now I feel more like playing the game. Enjoyed the JK and trooper stories, a bit less then IA where I though the story could have had more depth. PvP war zone was exact same as wow or rift – i’m not a pvper but it seemed ok to me. I thought space combat was pretty good. Yes it’s on rail but many good games are on rails (star fox!!). For sure being on rail didn’t make is easy either and I failed several times before completing the mission. Great side game and maybe potential to have something not on rail in the future. Companion and fighting groups of enemies at once are the key differentiating factor for me. I really can’t stand those theme park where you keep pulling mobs one by one for hours. TOR offers diversity with different groups size, hard mobs and elite mobs. It’s refreshing. Having several companions you can choose from with different roles is also fun. As much as I found dragon age companions painful to micro manage, having ONE companion to fight with you is nice and also brings in interesting strategic elements in tackling harder fights.
    Overall for someone like me who plays “off peak” hours and doesn’t have ability to maintain any kind of schedule for group content, I found it to be a good “single player MMO”.

  10. Oh Ravious. You and your food analogies. Great post. Definitely not a game for me, but obviously others have interest. Guild Wars 2 all the way baby :P

  11. The two things that blow me out of the water on SW:TOR are the voice work (I’ve been singing for a living off and on for many years, so I pay a lot of attention to voice work in games) and the story lines. I’ll be playing it at launch, and those things are what sold me.

    The combat and leveling is about what I expected from an EA-funded AAA MMO – faceless corporations don’t take risks with hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite that, I found myself enjoying it this weekend. Guess I haven’t quite lost my taste for vanilla yet.

  12. Got to level 23 on my Jedi Sentinel over the weekend, and I was truly blown away by the visual and aural quality of the game… for a while. The first 15 levels were a joy, swinging that lightsaber was all it should be, but I noticed that they had a “skip cutscene immediately” option in the preferences menu and was wishing for a “skip everything but the cutscenes” option after about level 5, I can’t say that I really enjoyed the combat, especially once you got enough skills that you had to watch your skill bar constantly, waiting for cooldowns, and whoever invented the global cooldown for all skill use needs to have a special place in hell reserved or them, all it is is annoying.

    Once I got to the level 15-20 range I had gotten weary of the massive amount of time spent watching cutscenes, I didn’t skip any of them, but I found myself wishing for the occasional wall of text I could simply ignore guilt-free. At this point I also noticed that I was hardly ever watching the actual game instead focusing almost exclusively on the damn cooldowns on my 20+ skills. By the time I got to Taris I found that I was forcing my self to continue on with the quests, at which point I decided that I didn’t really need to play ’til the servers went offline afterall, but, before I shutdown the game and never looked back I decided to give the space combat a shot… and wished I had tried it sooner, oh well.

    Among the other things that annoyed the crap out of me was the god-awful UI. MOVE you damn widows! MOVE! And did anyone else want to punch their screen when trying to compare the mods on their gear to what was on their companions to what was in their inventory?

    -It was extremely disheartening to encounter the full stop of my first flashpoint, The Esseles… GLF Healer… sigh.
    -Speeder bikes are supa-sweet, wish I had been able to get one of my own in my beta time!
    -Perhaps the talent tree would become something useful later on in the game, but early on it was a confusing mess of underwhelming and ultra specific skill modifiers. Trying to make decisions about skills you have not even acquired yet was, at best, meh!

    Now, taking all that into consideration, the only thing keeping me from actually purchasing the game is the sub, I object on principle, I will never buy a game with a sub. Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable game, and had I not been trying to cram as much gameplay as I could into the few days I had I might not have become so jaded against many of it components. At least I got to play.

    1. -It was extremely disheartening to encounter the full stop of my first flashpoint, The Esseles… GLF Healer… sigh.

      Yup. That UI you were just mentioning? I played a Sawbones and a Trooper this weekend, and while the UI is just mildly annoying on a DSP class, it’s a full-on hatefest for a healer.

      I forsee a HUGE healer shortage in this game, and most of the healers that DO exist will be guild-only and not open to PuGs. It’s just not worth it to fight with the UI, as if green-bar whack-a-mole isn’t annoying enough on its own.

      1. Has there been anything said about UI moddability?

        I love healing in WoW but I avoid it in most other games, because if I can’t set up my own sweet arrangement of frames and mouseovers and click-casts and what have you, I don’t want the frustration of healing.

  13. It’s interesting, I just wrote this, and then came and read your post and comments. Feared I might be alone in my feelings that SW:TOR is a single player MMO – and a fusion of the worst features of the two at that.

    I also found the cynicism of the theme park and game mechanics is staggering.

    In short: made me want to play SWG again.

    1. This is what disturbs me about what people keep saying about this game.

      “Its a Single-Player MMO”

      I keep hearing that phrase to describe this game,and people keep saying it like its a good thing (like on Singleplayer isn’t what a Massively Multiplayer game is about.

      When i played it, that phrase it what ruined my experience.

      Other than that, the game felt like it had way too many time sinks. Such as: a whole a conversation for EVERY quest and side quest (seriously? 3 minutes of worthless chatting to do what a bounty board could have done in 20 seconds); quest hubs a good 3-5 minute run from each other in the STARTING zone; etc.

      In short, I totally agree with Mr. Dean, and have no idea where and how you felt that “A lot of love and polish has gone in to making the game really smooth in pretty much every factor.”

      1. You may be finding that what ‘love and polish’ means differs from one to the next. I love the voiced quest chatting, and have one max-level, and 2 20-somethings. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.

        And the running? Big deal. I remember when I first played WoW, and the run from The starting Tauren camps all over Mulgore were quite long.

  14. All what i think about SWTOR ^-^ a big play alone together, i will buy it to play the pve content and because this is Star Wars and at the end i will play the pvp and leave the game.

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