(Il)Logical Progression

Random Musings by the Truly Random

A longer time ago, in the same galaxy far, far away…

Recently, I joined the ranks of Force-users and bounty hunters on the new BioWare MMORPG Star Wars:  The Old Republic, a game set in the early eras of Lucas’ Star Wars Galaxy, centuries before the events of Episodes IV-VI.  (What Episodes I-III?)  It builds upon some of the lore of that universe, and manages to provide a good setting to wander around in as a Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunter, or other denizen of the Republic or Sith Empire.  Like many MMOs, there are elements of PvE (Player v. Environment – i.e. beat up on AI monsters/characters), and PvP (Player v. Player – i.e. beat up on some other stranger out there playing the game), and each has their ups and downs.  You perform quests, gain experience, make and collect gear, and interact with AI and human entities within the game environment, just like every other MMO out there.

It plays a lot like Star Trek Online, from what I’ve seen – at least the STO that was before some of the recent changes to make it a little more like a FPS – for ground combat, with a combination of ranged combat – usually blaster or missile based – and melee combat – typically with vibroblades or lightsabers.  It’s fairly fast paced, with some combo elements to it, and is decently solid for an MMO.

Space combat is faster paced than STO‘s ship combat, with a simply designed mouse-based combat system.  It plays much like Starfox did on the old SNES, where you fly a predetermined path on a mission, trying to shoot things down with blasters and missiles, and avoiding obstacles in your path.  Capital ships are basically moving gun platforms, and you can blast the guns right off of them, in order to keep from getting shot up too badly.  The missions are pre-timed (you can even see in your quest log how much time is left in the mission), and involve the destruction of key targets, or protection of an escorted ship.  It’s pretty fun, and for those who know WoW, it’s a lot like a fancier, more exciting Outlands Bombing Run quest (such as the one in Hellfire Peninsula on the griffon/chimera).

Where it differs from previous MMOs is in the quest system, as most quests have a voiced dialogue portion, with dialogue choices which can influence the game in minor ways.  Based on those choices, your companions (I’ll talk a little more about those in just a moment), gain or lose affection for you, and subsequent quest parts can be gained or lost (i.e. a dead quest-giver that you just killed can’t really give you more to do, now, can he?).  Further, there’s a Dark/Light Side point system, based on those same choices, which can give you access to special gear as you progress through the game.  This adds a little bit of flavor to the quests as you level your character, and keeps up the flavor of the Star Wars Universe.

Another way that SWtOR differs from previous games is that every class is a ‘pet’ class, so to speak.  You’re given a number of ‘companions’ to adventure with – only one of which can be summoned at a time – that you use to fill weaknesses for your class – such as a Sith Inquisitor (mage/priest cloth class equivalent) getting a Tank companion early on to mitigate the class’ inability to soak damage well.  Using these companions effectively, in conjunction with your class abilities is essential for surviving solo adventuring in SWtOR.

Last, the crafting/gathering skills are a bit different from other games.  All of the skills are considered ‘Crew Skills’ which your companions perform away from the action.  You get three skills to use (only one of which can be an actual crafting skill), which fall into three categories – Crafting (building stuff), Gathering (getting raw materials), and Mission (going out for special items which can enhance crafted items) skills.  Each time you wish to use a skill (other than gathering an item that’s on the ground in front of you), you must send away a companion for a time to perform the skill or mission which nets you items.  Fortunately, you can only have one companion out at a time, and by the higher levels of the game, you might have up to five companions, so four can be out on missions/crafting without affecting your adventuring.  Further, you can breakdown crafted and items related to your crafting, such as looted armor for an Armortech, in order to recoup materials and to have a chance to learn how to make a superior version of the item in question.

The basic gameplay for this game is good, and the PvP is decent (though laggy on my older PC), with different types of ‘battlegrounds’ similar to maps and game types from WoW.   I’ve seen a CTF (Warsong Gulch) variant called Huttball – which plays like a gladiatorial football match, a Domination-style map (similar to Arathi Basin), and a competition Assault map (similar to Strand of the Ancients).  It’s a decent spread of PvP types, though I’m not sure if there’s any way to specify which game you want to play, as opposed to getting a random game.  It’s a bit hardware intense, however, as this game requires a decent machine to run smoothly – my PvP, so far, feels like I’m watching a slide show, due to poor frame rate, at times.

Overall, I’m enjoying the game – the classes and role mixes are decent from what I’ve seen – not many single role classes (I’ve only seen the Sith Marauder, at this point, as a pure-DPS class, and I believe that the Operative Sniper is the only other for the Sith side.  The Republic appears to have similar classes, just with different names.)  The instances – called Flashpoints – are interesting, longer than the newer instances in WoW, with multiple stages and objectives to fulfill as you go through the instance.  And I have no clue about raiding yet, since I’m nowhere near 50, but it seems to be creating some excitement with those in my guild that are at that stage of the game.

Now, for a few of the shortcomings…  Fortunately, most of them are fluffy, rather than game-breaking…

1)  Legacy names – At first, it looks as though your ‘legacy name’, which you receive about halfway through the leveling process (somewhere around 25-30, I’ve been told) just seems like your character’s last name.  Simple, right?  What I’ve heard is less obvious the first time through, is that your legacy name is the last name of every character that you make on that server, whether it’s Republic or Sith.  It can be turned off, or used much like a guild title withbeneath your character’s name.  I’m not sure why they chose to do it this way, and it’s caught many players off guard in the beginning, and once entered it does not appear to be changeable.  I don’t think that this was a good way to handle the last name idea, though if it was separate from the last name of your character (i.e. you could have both a last name and a legacy name), it might be better received.  I haven’t chosen mine yet, and I’m not entirely sure how what I would choose, though part of me thinks that if I’d known this was how it worked, I’d have chosen “Gundam” and named all my characters after various Gundam models that existed in that universe.

2)  Choose your destiny now!  (Lv 10.) – I like trying stuff out, and I like being able to respec, based on the roles you want to play at that time.  My Death Knight, Arhys, for example, could Tank or DPS, and could before Dual Specs existed in WoW.  It just cost a bit of money to do so.  While you can respec in SWtOR, you cannot change your class specialization, which is problematic, in my opinion.  It’s especially problematic for the Sith Warrior and Imperial Agent classes, as one of the choices is pure-DPS, and utility tends to be a premium at the endgame (assuming the hybrids can be built to do sufficient DPS).  For example, the Sith Warrior can either become a Sith Juggernaut (Tank/DPS hybrid), or a Sith Marauder (pure-DPS).  Once the choice is made, at level 10, the choice cannot be undone – and at level 10, I don’t believe that most people have seen enough of the game to decide on what they really want to be – the first time around, I mean.  Personally, I don’t want to get to level 40, and find out that Sith Marauders are being overlooked for Juggernauts because of their flexibility (one respec away from a role change), and have to reroll a new toon.  It would be nice if there was a way to change your specialty and buy the new skills, and just go from there, rather than being locked into the specialty from a point in the game where one might not know what they want to do yet.

3)  Just how many lightsabers were there in the Old Republic? – It’s amazing how many of the deadly glo-sticks exist in this game.  Yes, they’re iconic, and part of the reason why fans want to play this game, but it’s rather silly that half the character classes are lightsaber wielders – and this is not even talking about the number of NPCs that use lightsabers.  There are Sith Lords, Jedi Masters, Apprentices, Padawans, and all sorts of Force users everywhere in this game, both on the player and non-player side, so much so, that it comes off rather mundane.  Given that lightsabers were supposedly not mass-produced – each being constructed by hand as a part of the Jedi/Sith training, the fact that you buy and sell them on the marketplace in this game is comical.  Swap out a mod, change the color of the beam.  You’re evil?  Ok, then, you can’t use blue or green – enjoy your red one.  It’s made something that seemed cool at the beginning rather ordinary, and I’m a little disappointed about that.  But then again, Star Wars Galaxies tried that, and everyone complained that they couldn’t be a Jedi.  Go figure.

4)  You only get one ship – Why?  Sure you can reequip your ship like you reequip the rest of your characters, but not having the option to purchase or even choose your ship (it’s based on what class you are), is disappointing. Further, at least from what I’ve seen (the Bounty Hunter ship, and the Imperial Agent ship), you don’t get anything that looks iconic like the ships in the movies.  They use more varying models for the background ships, but the ones that you get to pilot aren’t anything like those in the movies.  No Slave I style ship.  No X-Wing (or even Z-95 Headhunter) style ships – one of the things I liked best about the original Star Wars movies.  No TIE style stuff.  It’s a bit of a bummer.

5)  Your companion choices don’t make sense, sometimes, and the affection mechanic is odd – I’ve played two or three characters on the Sith Empire side (the Dark Side, mind you), and I have to say, my companion choices for at least two of the cases (Mako and Vette, for those who know the game) just don’t seem to make sense.  One tends to expect the Sith characters to be more evil, more Dark Side oriented, but these companions seem to have problems with anything you do that’s remotely evil (unless it’s revenge based on their behalf, I guess.)  I’ve decided, for example, that my Sith Marauder is going to be an evil son-of-a-bitch, but my first companion Vette, seems to have trouble with most Dark Side choices, which leads to losses of affection points.  Now, interestingly enough, your character can flirt with other NPCs, even to the point of a fade-out style tryst (or so it’s hinted at), and your companion has very little trouble with that (no affection loss), but try to sound like a badass and oops, you have lost some affection.  Not that it matters much, gifts will often produce more affection than you can get in the interactions – so, whoops, I pissed you off, Vette? No problem, here’s an Underworld Hit List to make you smile.

Given that you can actually end up married to one of your companions of the opposite sex (no equal rights here?) it’s really funny that being promiscuous has little affect on them.  Ah, well, must be morality in the Old Republic – no wonder it fell.

6)  Finally, the Friends command needs to be mentioned – Why, oh, why is this the first game I’ve ever played that only allows you to add someone to your friends list if they’re online?  Why does it say “[So-an-So] does not exist,” when you’re adding someone to your Friends list when they’re not on?  It’s really frustrating because to add all of one friend’s characters to your character list, they have to swap them around online so you can capture them all.  Ridiculous.

Still, the game itself is pretty fun, and I’ve not seen what these classes look and feel like at the endgame (or with a higher end system, for that matter – my system limitations make playing this game rough at times).  It looks good, and carries the Star Wars mystique to it admirably.  I’m still playing and enjoying it, and don’t have any real desire to touch WoW again at this point, though who knows how I’ll feel when the new expansion for WoW is released.   Who can say no to Pandarens?

May the Force be with you.

My 2 yen,

Akiosama

January 30, 2012 - Posted by | Star Wars - The Old Republic | , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Overall id say I agree with your observations but have a few ideas as well (as always, I enjoy mentioning a different perspective)

    I agree with yor light saber (fyi one word spelling freaks my iPhone out)..sort of. I think it’s lame your first quest tells you what a big deal it is to craft your weapon and then you can go buy one from a vendor, for sure. However I don’t know about them being everywhere. The folks you fight seem to be of the same classes in the game that are available to players. I feel you see many with guns or knives, only the force users you fight have light sabers which you would expect no? I’ve been torched, poked, electrocuted, stabbed…seems like there are things to fight of every class with said appropriate weapons. Half the classes available use them so half the mobs have them. Might be noticed cause they are the dudes in the mob in your face. Try tanking and you’ll realize just how many annoying dudes w guns are out there and pray for sabers.

    Class flexibly: I would argue that this game has more than wow. Mage, hunter, warlock, rogue – never even have a chance to heal or tank do they? So half the wow classes start day one non-utility. Yes, in swtor there are 2/8 that can only do 1 thing but the other six will have utility options. That being said, I wouldn’t mind if like 1 or 2 were druid/paladinish with an option for everything for lazys that want to experience all end game content roles but hate questing.

    I think the reason classes share a base in the game is mostly for story line efficiency. There is some miner spell efficiency too as base classes do share some basics-but more on that in a second… If they actually made 8 different bases that would require 8 class quest story lines (16 counting both sides). Again, maybe cool, but I mean I’d like to play the game someday and the energy required to build that much more story would probably delay release alot. Throw in 5 companions each per class and you’ve jumped from 40 to 80 republic/imperial unique characters with thoughts, sayings, abilities, likes and dislikes, individual quest lines…OUCH! Thanks but I’d rather they spend their time on more important stuff – 4 bases is enough to get the idea, story lines, etc. kthx!
    Re shared abilities- I think the differences between classes that share the same baseline is pretty big and would be challenging for a player to pick up at 50. Part of questing is to learn your class after all. I was told just the other night that someone was unable to comment on a power tech tank eventhough he plays a mercenary dps. (touché?).
    My biggest complaint in the class/spec department is that there is no dual specing. Pvp/pve or heal/dps…it’s a pain to have to respec to get the most out of your character for the many environments available.
    All of this being said, I admit a Druid is what I always recommend to new wow players because you can do anything at max lvl -heal, tank, melee and even ranged. (shooting a whole in my “hard to pickup” argument as boomkins and bears have nothing in common).
    I wonder if the problem is more of perception than reality. This perception is two fold on top of that! 1. by giving u the option at level ten instead of when you create the toon – it Allows you to delay the decision until your already somewhat invested and it FEELs more like a Sophie’s choice compared to wow where you made the choice on day one and 2. Sharing abilities, companions, and a story line with another class again FEELs like you should be able to just BE that class. IMO this is like wanting a Mage to be a priest because they both use mana.
    So my perception is different than yours – I see 8 classes with 6 being utility to wows 8 classes 4 utility. With wow getting bonus points for 2 super utility classes and swtor getting bonus points for imperial/republic variety (a commando and a merc play the same but with different graphics/ability button icons/stories/companions etc. Which is better depends on your point of view as the wise OB1 said. More variety between opposing sides or a super class that can do anything even turn coat and faction change?…among other things.

    Companions: half the classes start with a companion that likes dark side and half with ones that like light. If your worried about efficiency go with the side your first companion likes I guess. Or you’ll get one later that likes the other way. Just wait until you have more than one team member. When completing quests on your ship all your team will give/lose affection for your choices and they don’t agree… Kinda like real life right? Can’t please everyone. I had a -678 affection (yes -678) from one and a +150 from another on one quest answer! I personally think it makes for even more interesting quest conversations- your answers do matter- sort of. Its cool geting to know your companion and it gives them a personality. Having to balence that with your own light/dark side battle just adds to consequences making it more interesting and real. Would your friend like it if you kill this guy and how much do you care about that vs your needs? This dynamic reflects life choices (sort of) while not making the consequences to big – see your hit list example. Combining these two points systems into your quest is the foundation of that complexity- a complexity I enjoy.
    Also some companions do get mad when you fool around with npc, some get extremely mad. I think some of our different views are simply the fact I have a lot more hours played (yes, I’m a bigger nerd in this area :D)

    Legacy names: it’s your legacy dude, do you not know what that word means? Would you change the last name of your child to fit better? No you wouldn’t. All your toons are your children and have one tag in common. It’s kinda cool to recognize an alt of a player you’ve seen around in a pvp match. I think this is more of an issue of understanding what it is b4 you pick up the game at all- it’s not televised that all your characters will have it when you start your first character and that’s unfortunate. 2 problems I do see are 1. the complete and total inability to change it can be problematic – I have a friend that misspelled his and now runs around with it hidden on all his toons😦. And 2 how can an imperial and a republic share the same last name – although I guess turncoats do exist in the world so maybe that does make sense – o boy there goes mean old uncle Larry disappointing the family with his evil Sith ways…glad he decided to shun us by hiding his last name and not embarrassing us at least!

    So there’s my 2 cents… Well more than that
    probably. This was fun. Writing down your opinions and sharing them really does make you think more about it and reach better understandings of the game, each other, and what the developers intent is!

    Hugs,
    Tazzzzzzz

    Comment by Tazz | February 3, 2012 | Reply

    • One more thing for the class/spec piece- one downside of this design is that if you want to have a max level character of each branch w the same base on the same faction your questing experience will be the same. This challenge can be overcome tho by leveling an imperial of one branch and a republic of the other which is what I’m doing.

      Comment by Tazz | February 3, 2012 | Reply

  2. O and a complaint/correction I have – you mention companions and how they fill gaps you have and make it sound like they strategically pair you with what you need early on. Unfortunately it’s not as strategic as you make it sound. For example i believe inquisitors can grow up to be tanks and soak damage well contrary to what you said. So you will find times your first companion isn’t amazing for you. They try to help you out with different stances tho which is nice but I’ve heard folks complain about their useless companion and being SO happy when they finally get one they need. Not sure how to fix this. It’s just a challeng you face when you have a character that can grow up to tank, heal, or dps. Gotta start somewhere I guess.

    Comment by Tazz | February 3, 2012 | Reply

  3. Hey Tazz,

    I agree with you on many of your points – and I’m glad to see them down in writing. (/poke)

    I think part of the issue I have with lightsabers is probably not about the sabers themselves, but more how they, and in turn the Sith (and to a lesser extent the Jedi, but as the good guys it’s a bit more believable that they’re as open as they are about their existence) are represented in the SWtOR universe. Just last night, I hit 19 on my Sith Warrior and started questing on Balmorra. As of that point, I’ve probably met about a half dozen “Darth”s between Korriban and Dromund Koss, and even killed one while still being an Apprentice. Aren’t they supposed to be the badass Lords of the Sith, and more special than that? I know that your character is supposed to be special, but these Sith Lords seem to be everywhere. In fact, Force users seem to be very common – and granted, it’s supposed to be over 3,500 years before Ep. I, and over 2,000 years before the whole “One Sith, one Apprentice” deal came into being. It’d be hard to believe if there were this high of an instance of Force users in the canon universe at the time that Darth Bane destroys all Sith but himself and his Apprentice. I guess, though, for the fans, it’s better than the Star Wars Galaxies view of it, where Jedi didn’t even exist for the longest time in the game.

    For class flexibility, you’re pretty right that there are four classes of ten that are pure-DPS from the get-go in WoW, and you go into it knowing that you’re DPS only. And it is easier to program 8 main storylines for all the classes. But like your example of Boomkin vs. Bear, I think that the fact that the classes diverge so severely isn’t that big of a deal for re-speccing. I will say that all the classes seem to DPS well enough, and therefore questing is often learning DPS and survival – unless you’re grouping a lot – and that at max level, people learn how to do their jobs. It seems more efficient that way, given that most quests are kill quests of some sort – either you’re killing guys because you have to, or you’re killing guys because you need something from them/they’re guarding your target/they’re trying to kill your escort.

    I think my concern is that if the damage output by the various classes aren’t skewed at least a little bit towards the pure DPS classes, you end up with what it felt like for rogues in Wrath, where there just weren’t many out there, and that they felt they had to add the trap mechanism in ICC to make them feel useful again. And since DPS is all they do, if they’re not chosen because the other classes are doing more reliable DPS, then the class can have a hard time finding raid slots.

    But, I do like the fact that even melee DPS has a few abilities with range, which gives them some passable options in fights where the targets tend to move out of range a lot, and I think that the developers put some thought into not pigeonholing the classes nearly as much in what they’re able to do.

    The companion issue seemed more to me like a flavor quirk – that the first companion for two of the three classes I played feel like do-gooders even though I’m on the Sith side. If they didn’t like doing evil stuff, then why are they Sith side companions? Just a thought – it’s a little frustrating the whole Light/Dark/Affection bit, but affection is really easy to fix, so it’s not a huge deal. Just makes me feel the writers should have planned it a bit better. As for the flirting bit – yeah, I did see last night Vette get bent out of shape a little due to it, but Mako’s never really objected, but she gets mad at the smallest bits of arrogance, sometimes, and I think that’s rather comical.

    As for companion roles and how they relate to the character class roles, I do think that it should have been a consideration for the design of the game. I didn’t see any problem with Sith Inquisitor or Bounty Hunter, but Sith Warrior should have gotten a healer early on, since they have NO means for healing themselves in a battle that isn’t a medpack. Not that Vette isn’t good at killing stuff faster, which is one way to save your health, I guess, but It would make questing a little bit smoother to have heals during a fight, IMO. I don’t know about the Imperial Agent, since I haven’t played one yet. Soon, though. Or you could illuminate, Tazz – I’ve seen your companion in action, but since you’re healing on your Op, I don’t know how much of a difference the companion role has made for your adventuring.

    As for the Legacy issue – I definitely understand the concept they’re trying to use, but it seems like it would be nice to have the option to apply it to all characters or not. I know when I normally choose my character names, I get them from all different sources, not just one, and rarely would they all be of a type that sound good with the same last name. I know I can use it as a guild-esque title like , but I still lose the use of a last name with my characters. May not seem like much, really, but it’s nice to see your character with a cool full name, I think. It’s all cosmetic, yes, but it is part of the total experience – and it’s forcing me, right now, to rack my brain for a good idea of a name to use, since I’d rather have a last name than the Legacy under my name.

    Thanks for the ideas, Tazz. Keep ’em coming!

    My 2 yen to Tazz,

    Akiosama

    Comment by Akiosama | February 3, 2012 | Reply


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