Merry Christmas everyone! Or should that be Happy Life Day? Curiously, SWTOR seems to lack seasonal events. Perhaps it’s the terrible memories it brings back for those old enough, or curious enough, to have watched even a moment of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Before I Go any further, I must declare my love for this game. I have reached the end of Act 1 in my Class Quest – the Imperial Agent – and once again Bioware have shown that if anything, they are masters of storytelling. They are the geniuses who twist and weave stories using the most trite and over-used clichés known to modern culture into something plainly awesome. Through clever use of foreshadowing no single twist seems like an arse-pull or out of the blue, even if you predict one twist you probably won’t guess every detail. Unlike the latest revelations in a certain other game that make me glad I’m no longer playing it.
So far everything else has been merely a subtle refinement of the MMO Genre from WoW. Subtly tweaking, changing or removing things. The storyline however is unlike anything seen in MMOs ever. The way it’s presented, the way it flows, the way you feel like you’re actually making a difference. It’s also hard at the current moment to know if you’re making a difference though, since sites like TorHead are incomplete in their quest descriptions, you don’t actually know what would happen if you chose option B over option A once the conversation is over, and how it actually affects the later plotline. For now however, it does feel like you’ve made real choices. Even if the same outcome would have happened regardless, you still get to make moral choices that affect alignment, and non-moral choices that let you refine your character and gain affection from your companions.
The game so far has been far from bug-free, but I’ve come across only one game-breaking bug, flickering terrain, and it can be fixed by a re-log. (although, that’s hardly fair with the length of queues on my server). Most problems are cosmetic, or crafting/vendor related. Nothing that stops you progressing. One bug I found was commendations received through the mail system don’t go into your currency tab, but are physical items taking up space. I’ve only gotten 2 so it’s not a big deal. A few times I’ve had enemies embed themselves in walls, continue to shoot me but be completely invulnerable. Running round a corner forces them out, but it’s still frustrating, and if there’s no Line-of-sight cover then you’re screwed unless you can get out of range without pulling something else.
As mentioned above queues were abundant. Between 5pm and 9pm GMT my server had queues upwards of an hour. They’ve gotten better recently since they’ve upped the server cap, or people have decide to move server, and I’ve not had to queue for the last couple of days. Plus, out of about 200 servers there’s only about 12 with any queues at all, and I was just unlucky that every Tom Dick and Chewie picked my server.
Mechanically the game is sound. Familiar certainly. Balanced? Well, professions seem to be okay, except slicing which is guaranteed money (but has been nerfed in todays patch). Class wise I’m unsure. I’ve yet to try and PvP, and it’s too early to tell if one class is more powerful than the other (the meta-game has not gotten into full swing yet) though playing as an Imperial agent it does feel like I have a shittonne of tools that you wouldn’t expect a single class to have.
Firstly, I’ve gone Operative, which gains stealth and focuses on mid-ranged damage dealing. I’ve started levelling up as a Medic, one of the core healing trees in the game, just so I can compare to levelling as a Resto Druid at the start of Vanilla WoW. Yes, I did that, I spent 20 minutes soloing the 30 Elite Bhagthera in Stranglethorn Vale using auto attack and heals. Let me tell you now, SWTOR is nothing like that.
Like the Resto Druid I have both healing and stealth, and a little ranged damage. A very hybrid class at it’s core. Pile on top of this everything a rogue gets in WoW and more. Vanish, Sap, Evasion, a Threat Dump, a variation on cheap shot, an AoE stun, a frontal-cone ranged attack, ranged poison DoT. Okay, my damage output is terrible compared to someone who took one of the other two trees, and their healing output will suffer, but a stealthed, stun-crazy, DoTing, fast healer has to have some kind of balance issue.
I mentioned crafting being balanced earlier and I definitely believe that to be true. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they’ve been able to find something in their chosen profession that they’ve been able to sell to other players.
I picked Biochem, and again with the WoW analogies, it’s like Alchemy. I make stims (Potions) and implants (trinkets). Instead of discovering potions and flasks like WoW tried, you reverse-engineer items (think disenchanting) to regain some of the materials you used to make it, and you then get a random chance of learning an improved version of it. Also, each item takes various amounts of time to make, my longest crafting recipe so far takes about 8 minutes/item. Luckily you can just tell a free companion to make it while you continue to play. So you don’t actually need to stop playing to go crafting.
I can definitely recommend this game to friends. Even if it’s just for the storyline. It’s still too early to tell if the end-game team dynamics will work, but so far my group experiences have been fun. I can only hope that the group conversation options don’t affect which boss you spawn, otherwise you’ll get guilds forcing republic players to choose Dark Side options just to spawn a boss that’s slightly easier, or bugged, or whatever.
We know Bioware can do story, but can they do balance?