Failing In So Many Ways

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Liang Nuren – Failing In So Many Ways

SWTOR – First Impressions

Star Wars: The Old Republic must be one of the most anticipated games of all time – at least, in my opinion.  I remember the initial commentary from the Eve Community when it was announced/confirmed.  Some people said “It will be the Eve Killer”, and that it would finally provide competition in the Sci-Fi MMO scene.  After my first day in SWTOR, I can tell you with no small amount of authority that it most certainly will not – ever kill Eve Online.  The two could not be further from each other and stay (barely) inside the realm of Sci Fi MMOs.  I’ll explain a tiny bit about Eve first and then move on to discuss what I found in SWTOR.

Just in case someone from another MMO drops by, I should explain that Eve is quite possibly the most hard core Sandbox PVP MMO in existence.  Wars in Eve have taken years, campaigns are waged for months, and individual battles can rage for weeks and take many thousands of man hours.  In the end, these battles can (and often do) permanently change the political face of the galaxy.  Because Eve is a Sandbox MMO, every individual’s story is added together to provide a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

SWTOR, on the other hand, follows the story of one person – you.  According to this story, you are Special – a world changer.  Bioware goes to great lengths to ensure that you can remain that world changer.  I think it’s more accurate to say that we are all world changers – separately.  SWTOR has one story – the story of the player, and for all its an epic story, its still only one story.  Still, it is unashamedly a story based Theme Park MMO – and at this it is beautifully executed. I think a large part of the success of the story telling revolves around the use of strategic instancing and voice acting.

As you walk up to your very first NPC to speak with them, you’ll see people (well, zombies really) standing around with a computer monitor above their head.  These people are in their very own cut scene that you may duplicate… Or do differently. The strategic instancing continues with specific world changing quests (your class quest for starters) – where the important stuff is really for your eyes only.  Other people of your class are forbidden to enter these areas with you (though of course there’s an option to override this behavior). Overall: the way this is done allows for a single player MMO feel, which is just really weird but somehow works out.

The voice acting is superb and well integrated into everything in the game. However, it’s well integrated into the game – which can make it hard to listen to something else while you play. Like music, or Taugrim’s live streams. I haven’t decided if this is going to drive me bonkers just yet – but I admit it may.  Either way, the voice acting adds an incredible depth to the game that I just haven’t seen anywhere else… and given the price tag, I’m probably not going to either.

The battles that I’ve seen so far in SWTOR are your standard fare of instance warfronts and provide content for 15-20 people for 5-10 minutes.  Whether you win or lose doesn’t really matter, and in 20 minutes you’ll be back in the same warfront again with no change to the galaxy as a whole. This kind of on demand PVP action is fantastic if you’ve only got a couple hours to burn but ultimately feels a little bit like playing Sci Fi Counter Strike where half the people have swords.  Still, its iconic Starwars combat and very sexy indeed.

I’ve yet to see any open world PVP at a day and a half into the game, despite having rolled on a PVP server.  I expect to see contested areas for PVE (questing, mob grinding [ratting], etc) later on where I’ll find something that resembles Eve’s Low Security space.  You can roam and do open world PVP, but can never really control the areas or change their story.  There’s rumors of a high level area that is very resource rich and is capable of powering the in game economy.  Most importantly, its apparently a fully group based PVP area – which means you can go so far as to kill people in your own faction.  So while there doesn’t appear to be any empire building or other real sandbox PVP, its still got its own quirks that are likely to be very exciting indeed.

I realize that I’m most known for my analysis of game mechanics, but at this point I wouldn’t feel comfortable making any sort of commentary on it.  There are rumors that the Jedi Consular is overpowered, but I’ve heard that about pretty much every class, which is probably a good sign.  What I will say is that I fully expect to see the demands for class buffs and nerfs almost immediately even if there’s no real grounds for it, for such is the way of class based MMOs.

Ultimately, I think I’d suggest buying SWTOR to anyone who’s interested in Star Wars and wants to spend some time playing KOTOR 3.  I’d also suggest it to anyone that’s willing to give up The Sandbox and wants a faster paced lifestyle than Eve provides… but really its probably best to just keep your Eve accounts going and play SWTOR on the side.

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Filed under: Gaming, SWTOR,

5 Responses

  1. Hiram Alexander says:

    I heard someone compare it to being a bit like a SW themed Warhammer Online… insofar, as you can just drop-in and have some non-consequence pvp fun for a bit, and leave at will. Would you say that’s a fair analogy?

    Warhammer was a great game at launch, but completely bombed (for me) later, as the intermediate ‘zones’ were completely deserted… you were either ‘new’, or in the ‘endgame’ already. Do you think it’ll have much in the way of ‘staying power’…?

    • Liang Nuren says:

      Yes, I’d say that’s a fair way to say it. SWTOR is well done with regards to instanced PVP and I haven’t any complaints about it aside from the fact that its instanced PVP. Warfronts in Warhammer, WOW, Rift, and even SWTOR seem to me to be third person Counter Strikes with magic and swords anyway. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – its certainly nice to be able to log out for the weekend and not worry about whether or not your enemy is going to destroy months or years of work while you’re gone.

      As for the staying power of the game… no, I think for a number of reasons that SWTOR will avoid that particular death:
      – Warfronts are not split. As a level 10, you’re in the same WF with level 50s (max level). You’re bolstered up to their level and the only way you really feel it is in your lack of ability options and potentially worse gear.
      – The game is very solo friendly, to the point that I’d be lying if I didn’t think of it primarily as KOTOR3 with Counter Strike multiplayer. I rather strongly suspect that people are able to get to the “end game” rather quickly if that’s their stated goal – even when solo.

  2. Katsumi1980 says:

    I’ve only reached level 24 Smuggler and 18 Bounty Hunter, but I find this game a refreshing change from the sandbox. My last 3 years in Eve have left me thirsty for a truly story based MMO. Eve and SWTOR are two completely different games as you stated. I’m really impressed with it so far as I approach week 2 of my beta session. Eve will always rule the sandbox though where players truly shape the universe. Play SWTOR when you want story and substance though.

    • Liang Nuren says:

      Ah yes. I don’t mean to imply that SWTOR is inferior to Eve – because its not. They simply are not the same thing at all. I’ve already preordered SWTOR and I fully intend to keep a SWTOR account open – but it just won’t be replacing Eve for me. As I said – in a lot of ways SWTOR seems to me to be a really big KOTOR3 with some multiplayer elements.

  3. P. George Stewart says:

    Nice review, almost wholly in agreement.

    There seems to be a bit of a backlash against the game on the web, from sundry disgruntled MMO vets, either bored ex-WoW-ers, or wistful ex-SWG-ers. There were cries of “BIG fail after first month”, but SWTOR doesn’t seem to be obeying The Script, and seems to be toddling along healthily enough.

    I’ve decided that this is going to be a nice MMO to dip into every now and then for a bit of a change of scenery and pace. There are eight unique stories, and having nearly finished one, and having 7 other alts on the boil with the others, I can see myself just enjoying the other stories at my leisure over the next couple of years, intermittently subscribing.

    The only ground-breaking thing about the game is the solo and grouped dialogues, everything else is pretty much standard MMO fare. But even with that, the game definitely has its charms, with quite an immersive feel overall so long as the stories are holding one’s interest.

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