SW:TOR: Third Time’s the Charm?

Regular readers will remember that I have tried Star Wars: The Old Republic twice before. The first time earned a hearty “meh,” though I was intrigued by what little I saw of the Imperial agent story. The second time resulted in a rage quit and a massive rant, thanks to the game’s ungodly abomination of a free to play model.

The capitol of Dromund Kaas in Star Wars: The Old RepublicBut regular readers will also know I’ve been agonizing over whether to give the game another shot, due to the major changes made by the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.

So, yeah, I finally broke down and gave SW:TOR one final chance. I even went so far as to buy a month of subscription, because it’s pretty unplayable otherwise.

I feel like I have to justify this decision, though I really shouldn’t. I may not be a big Star Wars fan, but I’ve always wanted to be. And I figure if anyone can make Star Was not dumb, it’s Bioware.

For the record, I still think the business model is a miserable horror show. I wouldn’t recommend the game for that reason. Myself, I’ll put up with almost anything if a game can provide a good story. I was having a hankering for some Bioware-style story-telling, and seeing as Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age 4: Tevinter Strikes Back* are probably still aways off, this was my best option.

*(Probably not what it will actually be called.)

I decided it would be best to start over from scratch, but I’m playing as essentially the same character. A Chiss Imperial agent who is as good as her loyalty to the Empire will permit.

My Imperial agent plotting from her Dromund Kaas stronghold in Star Wars: The Old RepublicSo is the third time the charm for SW:TOR? I’m still not sure.

Better, but…

I’ll say this much: Knights of the Fallen Empire has made the game much better.

SW:TOR has some good stories, but they were always bogged down by, well, the rest of the game. As of Knights, you can now skip all but the main storylines. You won’t even see most of the side quests unless you chose to — a smart move considering the nature of gamer completionism. You can just sit back and enjoy the story without the tedious MMO grind. Mostly, anyway.

Also, I love the new leveling scaling system. There’s a double XP event on right now, so even though I’m still in chapter one, I’m already near max level, yet enemies still put up a fight, and quests are giving me relevant rewards. It’s wonderful.

I also like that you can solo some dungeons now. Dungeons were always one of the messiest examples of SW:TOR’s attempts to marry single-player style story with MMO mechanics.

My Imperial agent in a firefight in Star Wars: The Old RepublicThe remaining leveling dungeons have been retooled to be role-agnostic, similar to WoW’s unfortunately abandoned scenario feature. Any attempt to break free of the trinity gets my support, and it certainly helps queue times, but it’s definitely an imperfect system. Some of my runs have gone perfectly well, but others have been miserable slaughterfests.

Admittedly, it’s also a bit hard to separate the improvements from Knights of the Fallen Empire and those from being a subscriber. The improved fast travel options, in particular, help massively. For a game with relatively small and claustrophobic maps, SW:TOR has an incredible amount of travel time.

If I’m still enjoying the game by the time my subscription runs out, my plan is to buy a bunch of cartel coins and unlock what I can to make the game bearable as a preferred player, but we’ll see.

I’m still a bit on the fence about the game as a whole. It’s a lot better, but it’s still struggling to shake off its WoW clone roots. The crafting is still mindless and grindy, the combat is still basic and overly easy, and it still has a horrific case of button bloat.

I am liking the Imperial agent story still, but thus far it hasn’t quite equaled its initial quality during the Hutta leg. It’s a pretty fun class, too, my issues with button bloat aside. SW:TOR is a textbook case of my least favourite style of MMO combat, but it’s probably the best example of that style. Complex rotations, good class flavour.

My Imperial agent's office within her stronghold in Star Wars: The Old RepublicI’ll also give them some credit for creating a class where energy management is meaningful without being resource-starved or tediously slow. WoW still hasn’t figured that out.

Can’t stand Kaliyo, though. Really wish you unlocked companions more quickly.

New things (to me):

Having gone farther into the game than ever before, I’ve had a chance to explore more of SW:TOR’s features.

The player housing system, strongholds, seems pretty good. I’ve heard a lot of criticisms of it, but I’m enjoying it, in so much as I ever do housing anyway. We’ll see if it holds my attention long term, but it’s pretty easy to use, and it does have at least a little practical benefit.

I’ve also tried a few space missions, which are… odd. Nothing really wrong with them, but they feel so totally disconnected from the rest of the game, mechanically and story-wise.

I’ve tried crafting, as well, as mentioned above. It’s not so bad, but it’s not explained well. I kind of crippled myself by not realizing you need two gathering professions for each production profession. So now I’ve got 300 points in slicing and a completely useless armstech profession. As with so many things, I’m not sure if I want to keep at it. Slicing was a good money-maker, but the missions seem to be getting less cost-effective as I level.

A space combat mission in Star Wars: The Old RepublicAltitis strikes back:

And of course, my endless lust for alts has risen again.

There is actually something approaching good reason for this. I don’t know if I’ll stick with any of these alts, but in case I do, I want to get past the first few levels while I’ve still got all the subscriber, double XP, and anniversary bonuses.

I’ve focused on Sith so far. Played both inquisitor and warrior to a bit past level ten. I liked the “underdog” story angle of the inquisitor, and his voice actor is a little better, but I liked the mechanics of the warrior much more. Inquisitor was more of a caster type, and while I like that fine normally, if I’m going to play a class with a lightsaber, I want to use the lightsaber as much as possible.

Also, I took an instant liking to Vette, so that’s pretty much decided.

I feel I should have a Republic character to see both sides of the story, but I can’t decide what class to pick. I recall from my first time trying the game (as well as my experience with the warrior) that I enjoy the mechanics of the Jedi knight, but while I’ve heard good things about its story, what I saw of it was snore-inducing. They do get Jaina Proudmoore as a companion, though, so there’s that.

My low level Sith warrior in Star Wars: The Old RepublicI was considering a consular, but I’ve heard a lot of people say their story is quite weak. The trooper story sounds like something I’d enjoy, but I’m not sure what I’d make of the class’s gameplay.

I have no interest in smuggler at all.

And there’s the final Empire class I haven’t tried. I initially had no interest at all in the class, but then I heard the female bounty hunter is voiced by Grey DeLisle, and now I’m tempted to make one just because of that. If I do, it’ll be a human female with blonde hair and green eyes. Ideally named Nova, but that’ll probably be taken. As will November, Annabella, and NovaTerra, I suspect.

Hmm.

Anyway, since I’m experimenting with polls, I’ll let you readers have a say. What should my next SW:TOR alt be?

Feel free to offer justification for your vote in the comments.

* * *

So I’m still a bit uncertain with SW:TOR. It’s certainly a much better game than it was, but it still suffers from its origins as a “me too” WoW clone. But it’s growing on me a little, and it has at least managed to hold my attention longer than on my previous two sojourns to a galaxy far, far away.

We’ll see if it lasts.

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4 thoughts on “SW:TOR: Third Time’s the Charm?

  1. Interesting, I am with you in wanting to be a bigger Star Wars fan but kind of needing the right experience. I was really into SWTOR a few years ago. I tried a few classes for fun, but Imperial Agent was my first and main one. I do think the story is good for that one, though I didn’t finish it!

  2. When I was a kid I loved the 1st SW movie. I still more or less have the whole script memorized, that’s how much I watched it. But I never really cared for Empire or Return. I loved Tim Zahn’s books, but found most of the (now “Legends”) books to be of dubious-to-poor quality. The “New Jedi Order” series brought some impressive shakeups and higher quality writing, at least, but overall I found myself not caring so much either.

    Even so, I enjoyed SWG well enough back in the day and have a soft spot for SW, so when SWTOR came out, I bought the $150 CE box. I played as a subscriber for about 8 or 9 months (before the F2P switch, so it was my only option). I also have alt-itis, so I got a few characters all the way to the cap, and several others into their 30’s.

    and about then I felt like it didn’t matter what class I was playing . None of the stories impressed me and while the way I went about it might change, the result of every battle was the same: The easy trash swarms were no threat at all. Silver-mobs died with me (or my tanking companion) at about 75% health, gold mobs dies with me (or my tanking companion) at about 50% health. The end.

    When that hit me, coupled with the fact that the story lines really just didn’t do it for me at all (not even the fabled “totally awesome” IA story), and… that was it. I canceled my sub, logged out, and haven’t been back.

    The level scaling actually does sound interesting, but not to the point that I feel like re-installing the game to check it out either.

  3. I heartily recommend the Trooper to play-through, I loved it. I played as Commando (healer/dps advanced class) and found him to have a bucket-load of survivability even when specced more for dps. I haven’t managed to stick with Smuggler yet myself, although I really like Han in the films, I found that I don’t want to play as that archetype.

    I am a fan of SW so I can’t really add much to that discussion. In the glow of the movie hype I am loving playing SWTOR for that SW fix despite the enormous timeline distance between the two. Personally, I see little wrong with the ability bars or the gameplay style but then I’ve grown tired of action MMO limited abilitysets I fear. Tab-target games that have tried to cut “ability bloat” often damage or even out-right destroy the feeling of playing certain classes (WoW in some cases, e.g. shaman; LoTRO, e.g. champ). It’s a huge undertaking for a usually shrunken (post-launch) dev-team.

    • Trooper is what I’m leaning towards right now, though I can’t say I’m concerned about survivability considering my (full glass cannon) agent died only once or twice in my first two weeks with the game.

      Personally, I feel the opposite — I’m really tired of the “throw eleventy bajillion vaguely different abilities at the player” school of design. I’d much prefer a limited ability set where each ability feels meaningful and I can comfortably keybind everything without having to rely on a heap of macros and shift modifiers.

      Trying to pare down bloat in an existing game is a bit different. It’s a good idea in theory, but it’s difficult to execute well. As you say, it can harm class identity, and everyone has a different idea of what abilities are crucial to the feel of their class. I’m still bitter about losing clash on my monk. There’s also an argument to be made for sticking to an old system, even if it’s objectively inferior, because it’s what people are used to. Radical changes to an existing game often do more harm than good.

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