Man, what’s going on with SWTOR? They seemed to be on such a roll there with Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne. Two great expansions in rapid succession that seemed highly successful by just about every possible measure. But now I return to the game after nearly a year away, and it seems to be floundering, with barely a trickle of new story added since I left.
It’s not that I don’t like the new story. It’s imperfect, but it’s got a lot going for it.
I do give Bioware major points to finding a way to bring drama to the story after effectively painting themselves into a corner with the ending to Eternal Throne. At this point, the player is the most powerful person in the galaxy, commanding an army that no force in existence has yet been able to beat.
It’s hard to make a dramatic story in that context. The War for Iokath suffered from this. Why am I wasting time fighting a ground war against the Republic when I can just threaten to wipe Coruscant off the map with the Eternal Fleet?
There’s pretty much only one thing left that can threaten the Eternal Alliance: a betrayal from within its own ranks. And very wisely, that’s exactly what Bioware has thrown at us.
Unfortunately, I had the traitor’s identity spoiled for me, so the reveal didn’t have much drama, but I still think making Theron the traitor is an interesting path to take.
More than anything else, I admire the sheer gutsiness of it. Theron’s been around for a long time. People have put a lot of effort into grinding influence for him. Many people have even romanced him. I feel really bad for those people — I’d be losing it if Lana had been the traitor — but at the same time I can’t help but admire Bioware for being willing to take such a huge risk. No sacrificing good story for the sake of gameplay here.
It fits well with my own RP, too. As a player, I’ve never had any strong feelings one way or another on Theron, but my agent has always hated him. This is due to a combination of the traumatic experiences she’s had at the hands of other Republic spies and his close relationship with Lana — Cipher Nine is the jealous type.
So having Theron now turn traitor is a great escalation of the tension that’s always existed between them.
Also, speaking of Lana, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of romance content in recent patches. I mean, it’s not a lot, but it’s more than I expected, and it’s well done. I think I might need to reexamine my views on relationships, because I think Lana’s bloodthirsty tirade about the wrath and ruin she’ll bring down on anyone who hurts me is just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.
It’s an interesting story, but the trouble is there’s just so little of it. Each of the three major content patches since I played last contains roughly an hour of new story. Even TSW, at least prior to the pre-reboot drought, was putting out more content than this.
It’s not just a lack of bang for my proverbial buck, but the extreme brevity of the story harms its quality, too. I think Theron may have a point, and there’s probably a great conversation to be had around the Eternal Alliance playing Team Zakuul: Galaxy Police, but there’s just no time for any of that, so instead of a gripping ideological split it’s more, “I’m the bad guy now, kthxbai.”
Also, we need to talk about Copero. Man, that was a disappointment. As a Chiss main, I was really looking forward to finally getting to know Cipher Nine’s people. Not being a big Star Wars fan, I know very little about the Chiss, and I’ve always regretted being so ignorant of my own character’s origins.
But the Copero flashpoint and accompanying story tells us pretty much nothing about the Chiss, their history, their culture, or why they’re the only society in history the Sith have chosen as allies. They’re just a different color of trash mob to mow down.
On that note, it also needs to be said Copero is an absolutely miserable experience from a gameplay perspective. Umbara was pretty good, and I thought maybe Bioware was finally figuring out how to do fun dungeons, but Copero is a long, long slog through endless trash mobs and bosses that have about twice as much health as they should. It was painful — actually painful; my fingers were getting sore by the end.
To make matters worse, I had to do it twice. For some reason story mode and solo mode are separate this time, and I made the mistake of doing story mode first, which doesn’t count for the story mission. I therefore had to pick up the actual story mode (which is called solo mode) and do it all over again.
Oh, and there’s no recognition at all that I’m playing a Chiss. Racial content is usually very minimal in SWTOR, so I wasn’t expecting much, but at least a few dialogue tweaks would have been nice. It’s weird having all the Chiss treating my Chiss as an outsider.
At least Raina’s back. She was one the last missing companions I really wanted back — just waiting on Nadia now. Although it was too short as always, I did really enjoy seeing her and Cipher Nine catch up. That was a very real feeling moment. I’ve always liked their relationship.
So it’s not all bad news, but nonetheless, it’s a big letdown after how stellar Eternal Throne was. My hope is that the current lull is due to most of Bioware’s efforts being put toward another big expansion, and I think there’s pretty good odds that is the case, but I don’t like having to take it on faith. It would be nice to hear them confirm, “Yes, we’re working on Knights of Theron’s Douchey New Haircut; just be patient.”
Because at face value, it looks like SWTOR reinvented itself for the better only to squander all its momentum and faceplant once again.