SWTOR 1-40 Commentary

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We’ve been working diligently through the content of SWTOR, and it’s time for an update on where we’re at!  I haven’t been doing these updates as regularly as I had planned, but life gets busy at very specific times every single year — SWTOR’s launch coincided with one of those times.

I think what I’ll do first is give you guys a run down of the planets and what I thought of them.

Coruscant – The city itself is beautiful and truly more than I expected in terms of scope.  The flying traffic overhead, the massive and realistic scale of all the buildings and vertical space, all serve as great atmosphere.  I was disappointed by the taxi system being used to basically mask tiny little areas to quest in.  The questing itself was a little linear and I felt funneled.

Taris – My experience here was tainted by terrible lag.  The story was lost for me.  I lost interest in my class quest because it felt like an unimportant stepping stone.  The zone story was pretty much all about killing ghoul-like mutants, then rinsing and repeating in another part of the zone.  I was glad to leave.

Nar Shaddaa – The look of the zone is immediately a plus.  I like that Hutt-dominated slummy/shadowy neon city look.  Similar to Coruscant, the vertical space is excellent.  Again, similar to Coruscant the quests are very funneled and the repetitious nature of killing thugs standing around on the streets got old.  We ended up leaving as soon as we could.

Tatooine – I loved everything about Tatooine.  The quests were fun, the stories were interesting, the openness of the planet made it feel less funneled, and the nostalgia this planet holds for me is something I can’t quantify.

Alderaan – This planet’s story was convoluted with lots of political issues between Houses.  In the end, I still don’t know what happened.  I tried to pick good options and just go with it.  I felt like the quests were okay and the funneling was moderate.  The planet was aesthetically pleasing to me.

Balmorra – When I first arrived, I though it looked really cool!  A war-torn planet, aliens, and an Imperial base looked great at first.  The geography, however, destroyed me.  Getting anywhere was confusing.  Cliffs blocking paths, elevators, a map that doesn’t make sense… Give me back the Coruscant funneling!

Quesh – Short and sweet.  A two step class story and some killing.  I think there was one, maybe two class outposts.    I enjoyed the poisonous planet motif.

Hoth – Like Tatooine, Hoth is open and full of nostalgia love.  The planet can be a little bit daunting, given how big it feels compared to the funnel-zones, but in reality it’s not bad once you think of it outside of its internal relativity.  Hoth felt like an EverQuest zone.  Really open, lots of aggro in places, and opportunities to dodge enemies if you’re smart with the terrain.  We actually managed to complete the Heroic 4 quests here, which is saying a lot since we skipped them in quite a few zones.

Right now we’re getting ready to run some flashpoints.  We’ve skipped several and I guess we need to complete them in order to do their harder versions or move on to future flashpoints.  Esseles, the first flashpoint, was great.  Then the next couple were… not so much.   .

SWTOR’s PvE is mediocre, at best.  There’s a lot of “Kill X bad guys” and “blow up X machines”.  The unoriginality and repetition are cleverly masked in story, but even the story begins to wear thin as it becomes clear even the writers themselves tired of the same old thing.  Graev and I have started to notice A LOT of re-used dialog.  His character says the same 2-3 lines over and over.  “This will be no challenge for a Jedi.”  It’s not the best PvE, but it’s definitely not the worst and still enjoyable.  We’re going to hit level 40 tonight and hopefully 50 by next weekend.

I have a lot of thoughts on the PvP that I will write up for tomorrow, and inevitably more thoughts to come on the game’s PvE as I come closer to finishing.  Tonight’s patch should also introduce some major changes — stay tuned.

Update: Just finished Teral V and had an absolute blast.  Really long, but really neat story and atmosphere.

Update 2: I clarify what I mean by mediocre PvE in a comment below.

  • It’s funny. I held off on this game for a long time because I just didn’t “feel it”. But my brother talked me into getting it so I gave it a shot.

    The first night was a ton of fun. I really enjoyed the story, and even into the second day loved it. Truly enjoyed the “Level 10” story for the trooper.

    But after the second day I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I have done this same type of game….and a LOT. My guy doesn’t have “focus or mana” but now he has ammo. And now I am finding that I just want to skip most of the story because it’s dull. I love the main part, but all these other quests are just killing me (and I can’t skip them, can I?).

    Tried a flashpoint and felt the same. Even the mobs stand and act just like WoW. And the Pvp…I won’t even get into. Played 4 matches and was crushed so severely that I didn’t want any part of it. (*I do know about the lvl 50 bracket…and that is a HUGE plus for me, but how this game doesn’t have leveled tiers dumbfounds me!)

    I need your help. HELP me find what I’m missing here. Why have I not had the urge to play after the first two days?

    Loved being in the Keen Vent again..but I just can’t get myself to load the game right now.

    HELP ME Obi-Keeners…Your my only hope!

  • There are moments of dull story — plenty of them! But then there are moments where it’s like “OMG THIS IS AWESOME!”

    I may not like many of the planets, or particular moments on some, but the ones I do like make up for it.

    Like any other game, it will get better with age as it matures beyond the initial growing pains. Think back to when WoW released and the issues that were solved within the first six months. It was rougher than people remember, but evolved quickly.

    Most games don’t last that long. SWTOR hopefully has the initial staying power to last. Rift did not. WAR did not. WoW did.

    I’ll be sticking with it until something better comes along. I have no idea when or what that will be.

    And to be honest, it’s all about friends. Run a flashpoint with friends and you have 100x more fun than running quests solo. I have INFINITELY more fun playing with others.

  • I pre-ordered and played a few days the pre-release and week one, but it didn’t grab me. TBH, the game reminded me a lot of AoC — a single player game masquerading as an MMO. I hate the fact that developers are making it an inconvenience to group quest. My experience is based solely off the first 15 levels, so I may be totally off base, but I don’t see the longevity in this title. I’ve got a lot of friends who are still playing, but I’ll check back in two or three months and see if the enthusiasm is still there.

    The problem is that MMOs (and most games for that matter) are trying to be movies. Cut scene, cut scene, cut scene. It’s all passive. It would be nice if they would allow players to actually participate, create and interact. /rant

  • I loved everything about leveling to 50. I never skipped a quest and I did every flashpoint, loved them all.

    All the planets you didn’t like I loved, taris is one of my favorite planets, I guess from all the kotor references.
    Same with balmora.

  • Yeah, I may be a fanboy, but I am loving the game. Something about it has really clicked with me.

  • @Howdy Doody:
    I’m a huuuge SW fanboy, a huuuge Bioware fanboy. I fully expected SW:TOR to be MY GAME for months to come.

    But I’m with ya. It didn’t click for me either. It’s like this beautiful woman came up and kissed me on the mouth but she tasted kinda goofy. Not bad…just a faint trace of onion. Just enough to turn me off.

    SW:TOR was my Christmas present though, so I’m not giving up on her. I’m gonna give her 3-4 months to work on her oral hygiene and I’ll try again. Maybe that polish is what I’m missing. I hope so, because I really want to like this game.

  • When I heard about this game and that the majority of my MMO friends were going to be playing it was blah to me. They finally talked me into giving it a try along with some of the postings I’ve read about the game… So I finally gave in and ended up enjoying this game more than I’ve enjoyed any other MMO. There are many bugs atm but overall they’re all tolerable. I know they will be fixed it’s just finding the patience until they do so.

    After playing wow for the longest time it’s really refreshing to have a new group of developers throw out some new types of gameplay for me from the crafting to pvp. The BH storyline has been great up to lvl 38 and yes, it had its slow points, but overall it’s been able to keep my interest which tells me a lot. I hope this game does well and grows in popularity. I’m looking forward to the endgame content and pray it’s just as good as its been so far. To sum up the game so far in one word would have to be “FUN”!

  • I enjoyed the PvE in this game but maybe I have lower expectations. It is a computer game and in a sense, all what really can be done is mask the fact that I am pushing 4 buttons to control my “pixelated” character and mash some more buttons to fight….over and over. Compared to previous MMOs, the storyline is unbelievably good. I am not necessarily a fan of fun and storylines being shoved down the player’s throat but besides that – what they shove down my throat is excellent. I think WOW started to have interesting storylines in Cataclysm (that I actually followed…maybe I didnt follow them enough in previous MMOs haha).

    I only did the Esseles flashpoint so far and it shows some disadvatage of this great storyline presentation. First time through is awesome – if you run it again and again then the storyline gets in the way. On the other hand, if you throw up a generic dungeons with critters and almost no storyline – it seems easier to run that thing over and over.

    The PvP – well…I told myself that I wont play this game for its PvP and any PvP added to it is just an extra. I can see the potential but I will try not to be disappointed by Bioware screwing up the PVP 🙂

  • Going into launch I was worried about what might happen at end game, and having hit 50 that worry persists. I have hit Centurion and they will have to do something other than PvP gear grind to keep me around, esp given that 2 of the 3 warzones, Alderaan and Voidstar, are simplistic small scale shifting zerg tactics between 2 control points and the other, Huttball, is completely imbalanced for PUGs playing against premades due to the benefit of coordinated passing especially via voice chat.

    I actually like playing in PUGs as they are less predictable and one needs to be a better individual player than in a pre-made due to the spotty, if any, team support; it is just a different style of play. The biggest thing they need to keep PUG gamers playing are cross-server randomized bracketed warzones; immersion is a far less important factor relative to balance (and let’s face it immersion is already blown by having Jedi and Sith playing football on the same team no less).

    Currently the small size of warzones allow premades in Alderaan and Voidstar to decimate PUGs by simply flowing between 2 points and picking off the puggers as they straggle in after getting focus fired down individually. I am not saying that this is unique to SWTOR, but it is a greater problem here as teammates can immediately shift the zerg to the other point as called out in voice.

    The 3rd warzone suffers even more from premade dominance due to the coordination of passing needed to win; inevitably the puggers get frustrated and turn to Deathmatch.

    They need to establish balance before PUG players quickly lose interest as SWTOR is by far the most punishing PvP environment that I have ever played for one not in a premade. Basically there isn’t any compelling reason for a pugger to even step off of the platform into an immediate hail of fire; it is much less frustrating to instead log out and back in and requeue. At least the 50’s will now be set into their own groups, which is a start.

  • I was really looking forward to this game, but I don’t know, it just didn’t hook me in – the stories for the different classes were nice, but it just doesn’t have that “just one more hour” thing going for me. I’ve been playing it off an on, but nothing like the total devotion that I have for most new MMOs. Not sure what it is – the individual parts seem really cool but the whole package isn’t there for me.

  • I have really enjoyed this game so far. My favorite planet so far was probably Tatooine, and Belsavis. Belsavis is somewhat funneled, but it’s also huge, and I love the storyline there, at least from the Empire perspective.

    I agree Taris was bad, but then again I had the same feeling about Taris back in KotOr that I did here, it seems to be a Bioware theme for the planet.

    I’ve heard that the Jedi Knight storyline is fairly week from people who have played both it and it’s equivalent, Sith Warrior, to conclusion. I can’t personally say as I haven’t played that one yet, but the Sith Warrior storyline is awesome and is reminiscent of the type of rpg storytelling from KotOR.

    My favorite moment so far has to be doing the Foundry. I won’t say why except that it is pretty much completely 100% tied to KotOR 1. And that Revan plays a major part.

    Also, some of the later flashpoints have some of the best boss fights in any MMO I have ever played. My guildies and I did D7 last night and agreed the fight at the end of D7 has to be one of the funnest, craziest, most awesome fights we have ever done… so much so I can’t wait to do it on hard mode. Imagine not battling just a single boss entity but battling a heavily fortified room.

    Last comment is that… Bioware did an amazing job with the atmosphere. When I do flashpoints with a group, it feels like we are a powerful group of people tearing through a place like the small groups the movies focused on would do. It gives you that feeling of being awesome while still having some challenging boss fights. The animations and sound and environment all are just amazing. It’s just that feel of actually being a Sith, or a Jedi, or a Commando, or Bounty Hunter that I think will keep people around. Maybe not everyone, but a lot.

  • I’m a trooper, and absolutely love that story line. I’m 25 at the moment. The formula i’ve been using that seems to be working for me is…

    1) Do all my class quests
    2) Do some of the other pve quests
    3) Do some warzones
    4) If i’ve outleveled the content, I move on.

  • Keen,

    If you like the Taral V flashpoint, you definitely need to do the follow up flashpoint, Maelstrom Prison. The rescuing of the “jedi prisoner” is a HUGE plot point for the Old Republic lore.

    There’s some strong KoTOR 1 and 2 references from this flashpoint two-some.

  • One thing I forgot to mention above and for people who get discouraged low level. The first 20-25 levels are kinda meh I have found for most classes so far… but it really picks up after that.

    The first 25 levels on my Marauder I could barely bring myself to want to play sometimes. Now… I don’t ever want to stop playing.

  • Does anyone care about the MASSES of exploits in this game? And where are the news about bioware banning 500.000 accounts for abusing these common exploits? …

  • @Drathmar Darn, too late for me I reached about that level on my Marauder and just lost all desire to log back in. Sub cancelled in near record time (SW Galaxies holds the record!)

  • @raginggerman, that sounds a bit trollish, there are a couple of known exploits, MASSES? Like what? And really, BW banning HALF of their customers? really…

    I actually think teh PVE is great, it’s an old formula (mostly) but well executed, but probably I enjoy it so much because I like a lot the combat (that someone calls ‘clunky’, just to show how opinions can differ). To me, if I had to indicate ‘mediocre’ PVE I’d think WAR. But I also find WoW PVE and combat quite boring…

  • It’s not the feel of combat that I think is mediocre. It’s the content.

    SWTOR’s PvE is comprised almost entirely of quests from quest hubs. Those quests fall into three major categories:
    (1) Kill a number of something
    (2) Click to gather something
    (3) Click to destroy something

    I could have also said “ordinary” since it means the same thing as mediocre.

    The redeeming quality is story. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing the same thing for every quest because the story has my mind preoccupied.

    Other times the story is boring and I find myself loathing the thought of dodging hordes of space pirates just to click one control panel on a wall.

    @mutharex: WAR and AoC had HORRIBLE PvE content. I wouldn’t even call them mediocre.

  • Keen – do you have an example of what good PVE content would be like? I never played LOTRO but maybe LOTRO?

  • Eh eh yea horrible is a better description.
    I agree most “side quests” are average, for mechanism, but the combat and some times presentation make it better. Also, most side quests are well above average.
    In general I enjoy TOR PVE a lot more than other games, but yeah story at times loses steam

  • I have been having fun playing a healing smuggler, its great to able to heal myself & also sneak around while using stealth. The story actually had me laughing last night, something I can’t say has ever happened in an MMO to me before. I also think that Taris was bad, had to take a break from the game for a few days before I could bring myself to finish that planet. I hate rakghouls!

  • @Argorius: Obvious disclaimer of subjectivity here, but I’ll give you two sides of the spectrum that I enjoy.

    I enjoyed EQ and DAOC(Pre TOA) PvE. It was very group-centric, slower, and more difficult, but also more rewarding. Find a group and stick with them, get to know them, and rely on them to survive in an area of roam around. There was less of a story going on and more of a “this is my character and I am improving him by using him”.

    I also like the quests in WoW after they were all redone in Cataclysm. Crazy stuff with vehicles, out of the box ideas. A little zany, but fun.

    LOTRO had good PvE at times, but also felt mediocre as you were sent out to once again kill 30 boars for their intestines.

    @Mutharex: Yes, the presentation is what excels for SWTOR and I too enjoy it more than most. I like SWTOR’s PvE more than any MMO in the last few years, but I still find it mediocre compared to the MMO industry over the last 10-12 years.

  • I actually do agree with it being ordinary, and that the story is the saving grace. Even a lot of the side quests (planet main quests at least) have an overarching story that lags in places yes but overall is generally good. I think this is one reason I also dislike Taris, is I feel that planet is lacking in this. But on like Belsavis, and Hoth, you progress through the story like an RPG… turning on power, inciting rebellions, all to improve your factions standing.

    Would have been cool to see something more with that though somehow.

  • I’m now at 50, but I’m wondering if I’ll stay.

    Yes I loved the story, but it’s over now. It’s like playing WoW before BC, before flying, vehicles etc…Yes some planets were fine, the music is nice, but the gameplay is really repetitive. Now I found out “daily quests” !! Again ?

    So if no outstanding announcement in the next 2 weeks, I’ll walk out.

  • @Keen: That is what I was wondering. I enjoyed the PvE in DAOC, AC and even UO more than in any of the latest Themepark MMOs. However, that is what separates them – in DAOC, AC etc. you made your own story based on your character and there was so much more freedom. In the themepark world everything is shoved down your throat, pre-written, pre-packaged, all neatly put together. It is the crazy notiong of “game design” – believing that you must design this detailed world, character etc. but in reality, you just have to give a fun playground with tools and they will writ etheir own stories – much better than any designer ever could!

    WOW and Cataclysm raised the bar for the “down-yer-throat” MMOs and I think SWTOR raised the bar again but ultimately – both are inferior to the experiences of DAOC, AC, UO and whatever else fits here (EQ). DAOC leveling was painful but yet it was more rewarding…

  • I really enjoyed levels 1-49 and loved my class story (sith warrior). However, it started to fall apart for me when I hit 50. I love mod able gear and wore it from 20-49. But at 50 you cannot pull the mods from the pvp gear and this everyone looks the same. Additionally, the system to get the gear is horrible. Random loot out of bags. No thanks. I rolled another toon until they fix this.

  • Interesting to hear people’s impressions after a few weeks. Not especially surprising, I must say, but I guess this is just what we have to expect these days.

    Having just finished my first play-through of Stalker: Shadow Of Chernobyl, I find myself very much longing for the sort of emergent gameplay that made up the PvE “content” in old school MMOs. Who needs a canned story and voice acting when you have total freedom and acres of world spread out before you? You could just walk in a direction and find adventure – maybe some players fighting mobs you could join, or a raiding party of hostile players, or just a rare world boss. In comparison the new model in themepark MMOs, where every experience handholds you and is rigidly designed and unchanging, just feels so flat regardless of voice acting or attempts at injecting narrative.

    Unfortunately absolutely no one is exploring this aspect of the MMO right now. As excited as I am for GW2 as a social play space, its scripted event chains are going to be repetitive and predictable by their nature. I really wish they’d pursued more simulation and AI-based behavior in their content design, but I can’t really blame them given the massive task that would have been.

    I think our best chance is for Bethesda to make a Fallout or Elder Scrolls spin-off MMO, after the massive success of Skyrim. They might be able to leverage that into an argument for a sandbox-style MMO design. But somehow I get the feeling even that would wind up sharing more in common with WoW than it would with Skyrim’s world design… And I can only imagine how horrible the inevitable F2P implementation would be!

  • EDIT: Sorry if my last post is sort of OT, I got on a tangent and only now realize it’s not very tightly tied into the threads of discussion going on around it.

    On further reading the comments, I see a lot of people are still really enjoying TOR, which I’m genuinely happy for. For a number of reasons, I have no desire to see this game flame out – if it does poorly, it would suck for a lot of fans, as well as being another excuse for cowardly producers to foist more F2P garbage on us.

    This was just never going to be the game for me, and I have no intention of playing it. But I am glad that a lot of players are finding it to be a refreshing and worthwhile experience. It’s truly exciting to have some good news out of the MMO industry for once!

    I think if Bioware can get a good system in place to keep the story content coming, they’ll be OK. If there is only new story every 4-6 months like in WoW… Well, that might be a problem.