It is a testament to my wishy-washiness, I guess, that the next post down from this one talks about how sick I am of MMOs, and this one is gonna be about Star Wars: The Old Republic. But I ran into MMOGC in-game and she was surprised to find that I was playing and I realized I haven’t been making much noise about SW:TOR, particularly when compared to all the buzz about it.
But I really think I played things right with SW:TOR. Before the game launched I was very skeptical and told anyone who’d listen that I’d probably play for the free month, maybe 1 month beyond, and then quit. Star Wars isn’t really my thing and yeah I really am kind of sick of MMOs. My long-term plans haven’t changed though for now I’m having fun.
I also more or less avoided beta. I got into 2 beta weekends and played to level 7 in one of them, and to level 3 or 4 in the other. Barely scratched the surface, so now that we’re in (pre)launch I’m playing for keeps and everything is shiny and new (my Sharpshooter is level 12 as I write this). I’m also not bitter because something I loved in beta got taken out for launch (that’s what happened to me with Rift). The only downside so far is that just about everyone in the guild I’m in did beta test a lot so everyone knows everything. I feel like the kid that was locked in the cellar and is finally being let out to see what indoor plumbing and television is all about. I often (sorry any DoGs reading this) just close chat when I feel like exploring and finding things on my own, but on the other hand when I get stuck its awesome that I have a guild to ask; they’ve been super-helpful.
I’m also going outside my comfort zone, joining PUGs, doing Flashpoints (group content) and even Warzones (PvP Scenarios). Side note: I still suck at PvP.
Regular readers know that I’m usually a die-hard solo player, and ironically SW:TOR seems to cater to that type of player. That fact that there’s a built-in “Hide chat” feature and the Companion system tells me they’re OK with people who want to play this like a single player game.
And in some ways, it’s best as a single player game. There’s a lot of conversing with NPCs and story-driven quests that just work better when you’re alone. They’ve done a decent job trying to make conversation trees group friendly, but these techniques definitely impact how you’ll experience the storyline. When you encounter an NPC every group member picks a choice from the conversation dialog, then a random number is rolled and whomever wins gets to see his or her character talk to the NPC. If everyone is generally on the same page this is fine, but if half the group is driving towards the dark side and the other towards the light side, the party can seem a little schizophrenic. In less extreme terms, if some of the part is picking the ‘cocky, wise-ass’ answers and the other is picking the ‘noble, honor-bound’ answers, it again can make the story feel a bit disjointed.
Playing a sharpshooter is requiring a bit of adjustment too. My skills tend towards ranged and many of them work only when I’m behind cover. Playing solo this is fine and awesome, but in a group that’s mowing down baddies it means that I’m always left behind and if I try to use my skills, the mob is often dead by the time I get a shot off (it takes some time to get into cover, and my biggest damage skills take a couple seconds to fire). I tend to end up spamming the equivalent of an auto-attack since it’s fast enough that I can do some damage before the mob dies. I’m sure this issue will lessen as we get into higher content and fights take a bit longer, though.
That’s all balanced out by the joy of wading into a crowd of mobs, flinging a grenade then diving to cover to use my high damage skills to finish off the baddies while my Companion tanks. Combat in this game is just plain FUN in a way I find hard to quantify. I just love blasting things. Given how much of your typical MMO revolves around combat, this is a big deal and is what’s making SW:TOR where I spend my extremely limited free time these days.
Speaking more generally, it’s an odd, odd game. So it has single player Bioware aspects like giving gifts to your Companions so they’ll like you more. And it has Crafting and PvP and Flashpoints for more challenge group content. And the quests are heavy on story. All good.
But then really basic stuff, they don’t have. Like moving the windows of your interface around? You can’t do that. Or I’m missing something obvious. So chat is in the top left corner (I always put it bottom left) and your enemy’s ‘plaque’ is at bottom right at the end of your hotbars (I never even notice it down there). Speaking of hotbars, there are 4 banks (2 bottom, 1 left, 1 right) and one of them you’ll probably devote to your Companion. These get full pretty fast… (I’ve been playing EQ2 most recently where I have 7 banks of hotbars in my standard UI).
I haven’t figured out a way to do implied targeting. Y’know, target a friendly and when you attack, you automatically attack his target. Nor is there a way to open a target’s target window…again, unless I’m missing something. There is a command (I think it defaults to Alt-T) to target the thing your target is targeting…so target a group mate and hit Alt-T and you’ll be targeting whatever he is targeting. So Bioware is aware of this need, they just stuck an extra step in the middle.
So these omissions are weird and slightly annoying, but not deal breakers for me and as I said, I am enjoying myself. In fact I’m enjoying it much more than I suspected I would. My limited time in the beta had my feeling very “Meh” about the game and I was sick to death of the hype about it (I did my best to avoid as much of that as possible). I wouldn’t categorize myself as a fanboy just yet, but I’m pleased and I’m glad I ponied up for the “special edition” with the free goodies. And I’m really glad I didn’t decide to cancel my pre-order. I almost did, a few times.. glad I resisted the urge.