I like Star Wars – the original trilogy anyways — so don’t take my opinions on SWTOR as indicative of me hating the premise behind it; but the very fact that I’ve started with a disclaimer should give you a bit of a hint of the tone I’m about to take.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMO by the makers of the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, BioWare. I have played many of their games over the years and, despite my initial impressions of SWTOR in beta being fairly negative, I figured that I’d show a little company loyalty and pick up the release version.
So far, my impressions are very mixed. This isn’t because it is a bad game. It is stable, I’ve encountered very few bugs and only had one boot out from the server. As PC releases go, it’s as good as Rift was.
Unfortunately, what it lacks for me is fun. SWTOR has fully voiced quests and conversations yet somehow manages to make them even more long-winded and tedious than any MMO before it except Final Fantasy XIV. Combat is familiar hotkey stuff, where you need thirty fingers to access your plethora of often-highly-situational abilities, and classes are surprisingly blah. Maybe it’s just because I rolled Alliance–err, Republic–side but the class options just aren’t very interesting.
I’ve tried the Smuggler, the Trooper, and the Jedi Knight now, and one thing puts me off more than anything else: specialising. At level 10 you make an irrevocable choice at which of two paths you can take your character. This wouldn’t be so bad if getting to level 10 was a fairly speedy affair, but it isn’t. It’s slow. Even skipping through all the dialogue it took several hours (or at least felt like it–I’ll do a more accurate count when I log back in) to hit level 10 and get out of the starter area. It just feels like too long and, as in FFXIV, there’s far too much running between places with little to do in-between.
Character creation itself is also quite lacklustre. Not only are all the available species humanoid and the same size, but the options within the species are poor too. Maybe I only find it so bad because I had a go at APD Reloaded’s character creation a day or so before and found it to be stupendously detailed–and this is a free-to-play game… Either way, everything in SWTOR has that awkward plastic feel to it that has often been present in BioWare’s other games: they’re getting better at hair textures, but they’re still a long ways off.
Graphically SWTOR is meh. I’ve not seen a single interesting place or piece of architecture. Nothing has yet made me go “Wow!” Even FFXIV managed that in a couple of places. Texturework in SWTOR is poor, and the armour that I’ve seen so far just looks awful: even the higher level PvP sets I’ve seen. I know they’ve gone for a stylised, 3D-animated look that reminds me of the Clone Wars cartoon; and I know they’re pretty limited by the lore and background of the world, but half of my incentive in MMOs is to make cool-looking characters and I simply haven’t been able to do that.
I haven’t opened up starship combat or tried crafting or PvP yet. I know there’s a lot of stuff to unlock as I play through the game. It’s just that currently I’m having to try to enjoy it so that I can get my money’s worth, rather than simply enjoying it for its gameplay. I expected to be disappointed after my beta impressions of the game, so I have no one else to blame but myself: I just hoped I could at least use the story-driven RPG-side of stuff to drive me through the game. It just feels like a bit of a slog at the moment, and these are the early levels…