SWTOR: Epic Interactive Stories
I’ve gone back to visit some old MMOs, the ones I really loved but needed a break from for whatever reason. The three titles I’m referring to are: The Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World. Each of these I played a LOT (with SWTOR being the one I played the most). This is part 2 of the series and I’m moving into Star Wars: The Old Republic.
I will never forget playing the open beta for SWTOR. I loaded up my Jedi Knight and instantly fell in love. Tython was a joy. The story telling, the voices, the choices…my friend and I busted out the first planet but I refused to go on because I knew I’d be playing the hell out of the game when it released. I pre-ordered and waited anxiously. When it came out, as I predicted, my addiction hit hard and strong. It rapidly became my all-time favorite MMO.
Now, I will argue that for me, this was more of a single player game I could join buddies with occasionally but they did so many things right and a few that were kinda wrong. I’ll be touching on these momentarily as I really dig into what dragged me into Star Wars the first time and why I went back several times after finishing up.
First off, the Pros of SWTOR (Original Release)
Now for the cons:
I played through the Jedi Knight, Imperial Agent, Smuggler and Sith Warrior first. They were a lot of fun and I felt I got a broad feeling for the stories of the game and how each faction worked. I did get a little burned out by the time I finished my fourth character because I’d been through the same side missions and killed countless mobs. I needed to step away and wait for some new content.
And it came in the form of Rise of the Hutt Cartel. This promised two complete story paths on a new planet: Makeb. You, as your republic or imperial character, showed up to either save or exploit the planet. All around, it sounded good on paper and it brought me back ready to go. I beat the game with another character (the Sith Inquisitor) in anticipation of this expansion and it left me…well…lukewarm.
On one hand, it was cool to see a couple new campaigns. They stepped up the romance situation, allowing same sex relationships. The two stories were distinct but incredibly linear. The side quests this time around were primarily dailies and they gave enough experience to rise to the level cap quickly. By the end, I did not really feel an urge to play it again, not like the original game.
It all around felt too thrown together and a bit shallow. Since then, I’ve completed it with a Jedi Knight, Smuggler, Sith Inquisitor and Sith Warrior. I can say that while they have different means of dealing with some people and characters, their stories are so similar, it was not worth multiple playthroughs. Now, I would only do it to get to the next bit of content which I’ll discuss below.
The next thing to come out was Galactic Starfighter. This was free flight with a space ship and people seemed pretty excited. Unfortunately, it was (and is) only PvP. This shot it down for me and I didn’t really get into it but they have really supported this mini game in a major way through the market and various releases of spaceships and cosmetics. If they ever would’ve added some PvE content, I would’ve probably dove in hard but since they did not…I kinda shrugged it off.
Stronghold was a cool idea but I didn’t take advantage of it until Shadow of Revan came out. I’d taken a break and didn’t feel like playing it anymore until that was on the verge of release. Part of my excitement came from something I misread on the feature list: 8 new class quests available. I took that to mean the two new planets would have a class focused quest line. What it ACTUALLY meant was what it said: ONE new class quest for each class.
Anyway, before Shadow of Revan came out, they offered 12x XP. It was absurd and it allowed you to ignore side quests. I suddenly had nothing preventing me from finishing stories I previously paused in because I didn’t feel like doing the same crap over and over. This is when I wrapped up every other class in the game and saw their stories to completion. Meanwhile, I dedicated some time to Stronghold.
It’s neat and it’s useful. Mine has an auction house, mailbox, bank and shared bank right next to each other. I’ve displayed my characters, my vehicles and all kinds of décor throughout it. The place looks great and if you’re into building a house, it’s a lot of fun. The Tatooine one was HUGE. All around, it’s a bit of a time sink but it’s still an entertaining experience, one I encourage any player to at least try out.
Warning: it does cost a lot of credits so be sure you’re rich before you try to dive in. I probably spent over a million credits on mine.
So next, Revan came out and I dove in. It starts out with some pretty ridiculous stories. As the imperials, you attack Tython then defend Korriban. As the Republic, you do the reverse. Then, you continue through the prologue and do some scripted, linear quests to get to the actual meat of the stories in Rishi and Yavin 4. This expansion dashed my hopes for TOR in a lot of ways.
First off, my mistake on reading into the class quest thing. I was beyond disappointed with the single throwaway quest they gave me. My bad on that one. But they did a lot of stuff wrong beyond my little misunderstanding.
I hit the level cap before I finished Rishi. By the time I did the last quest there, I maxed out my character AND ended up with decent gear for that new cap. The quests themselves were incredibly linear and left me feeling pretty blah. They tossed a lot of great opportunities out the window and it all around felt lazy. Let’s take a look at these missed chances:
All around, I considered Shadow of Revan to be a total failure and I will admit, I kind of rage quit. I left them a message of disappointment but how mad could I really be? They’d entertained me for countless hours so I feel I was pretty unfair at the time. But they’d messed with something I loved and didn’t live up to the expectations they built for me…expectations I probably elevated considerably.
In any event, I swore never to go back…but Knights of the Fallen Empire had quite the promise and after watching the videos, I became intrigued. Nine chapters to start, a new chapter every month…I thought I might as well give it a try. I have some pretty mixed feeling about it to be honest and I’ll try to detail them out below.
So Fallen Empire did offer some pretty interesting storytelling but to say it’s a return to Bioware’s old ways is a stretch. First: it’s quick as shit. I beat all nine chapters in less than 6 hours. My second playthrough was less than 5. Second, the decisions didn’t feel all that impactful and much as they wanted to say I mattered, my character no longer felt particularly heroic. I’ll explain that in a moment.
Now, prior to diving into Fallen Empire, I found a sort of side quest/mini-expansion leading up to the story. Essentially, you’re dealing with the emperor. He’s taken over a bunch of people and is having them kill everyone around them. Each death grants him power to become immortal I guess. You eventually save the day and can move on to Fallen Empire but….
SPOILER ALERT!!! SCROLL TO SPOILER END TO AVOID!!!
The entire planet gets wiped out and it builds you up to join a coalition of Empire/Republic forces to find where the Emperor fled to and kill his ass. This begins Fallen Empire: you board an Imperial Warship and it is attacked by the eternal fleet. Oops. They’re crazy bad ass and annihilate your vessel, taking you captive.
From here, you begin a serious of linear missions killing loads of bad guys and encountering characters from your previous experiences, some of which spawn messages of ‘so and so is not amused’ or ‘this lady will remember that’ as if you’re playing a Tell Tale game. Quickly you’ll realize they’re just aping the success of The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands and all those others with meaningless combat thrown in.
Here are the pros:
They really want you to get into Star Fortresses and other time sinks. At this point, I’m in it for the story. I think gameplay, they haven’t really made the game better or improved it in any way. The graphics are feeling their age but are still passable. The voice acting is still great. I’m glad I went back to hit these chapters but at the same time, they really need to step up their game to make this GREAT instead of just a desperate attempt.
Final note on the game before my conclusion: at some point, they added level scaling. Holy. Shit. This sucks. If you go to a place like Hoth with your max level character, it reduces you to the 30s. Sure, you can hang with buddies now and apparently this was done to slow down farming of some material or other.
I didn’t like scaling in Guild Wars: my 80th level character shouldn’t be challenged by a level 15 regardless of what’s going on. Elective scaling (mentor system) is awesome. Enforced is lame and the fact that they did it really annoyed me. Now, I don’t have much cause to go back to old planets but when I did, I got pretty testy about their decision.
All around, Star Wars TOR was my favorite MMO experience. I have legendary status for finishing every story. The vanilla game was actually VASTLY better than the expansions they released. My friend and I believed they’d have trouble building expansions and we were right. They struggled to develop new and meaningful content with so many characters, voice actors and events.
Maybe they should’ve just made TOR 2 and called it a day.
Author of several books, composer of several CDs. Please check out the rest of the site for some of my work.