It all started out several years ago when I first heard SWTOR was going to be an MMO and what made it even more amazing is the fact that my favorite company Bioware was the team leading the charge. It was like the fusion of peanut butter and chocolate, it can't go wrong, could it...
Now when one thinks about Star Wars it boils down to two things, space ships and lightsabers. So naturally one focus of the MMO should be "Space combat," after all more than half the movies are devoted to ships and/or space activity. Imagine controlling your own ship as you traverse the Kessel Run or a dogfighting an interceptor in open space to "relieve" the empire of it's cargo from a disabled freighter. Nope, in their infinite wisdom Bioware relegated this to a minigame and threw out any hope of story use. It's a polished version of Starfox, basically you do nothing but click to shoot as your ship flies itself down a predetermined path. Some people find this to be a "fun diversion from questing", which is sad in and of itself, but I want to control the ship, worry about shield strength during a dogfight and jump to hyperspace myself, it's 2011 not 1994... I do like the fact that they let you have a ship and that acts as your player housing, its a nice touch, but you cannot decorate the interior and the only modifications that can be done are to your weapons systems in the minigame.
As far as customization goes you are extremely limited in the experience in every way. First there are no sliders in character creation, not too harsh but race makes no difference either. Then they decided to go with a cookie cutter option of, this class has this role and uses this kind of lightsaber/gun/gear and that's it. No discussion and no other options available, not now, not ever! Sure you can mod the item/gear and the crafting is interesting, but customizing the only option they'll allow is hardly an option. The same goes for the class structure; once you get to level 10 and choose your advanced class, BEWARE!!! If you don't like the option you've chosen you'll have to roll a new toon. It really speaks to the fact that they will only you to play the experience they provide.
Nowadays adjusting your UI is a commonplace in any MMO; whether you're scaling the size of you toolbars to fit your screen, adjusting what your HUD shows or modding the UI, it's a standard feature. Bioware decided to not allow this feature in its current build and didn't entertain the option during beta. Unfortunately, the Developers were not active in the forums to steer and/or advise on both constructive and destructive feedback, and it quickly devolved into chaos. Fanboys arguing with fanboys over minute details and why we should be thankful or whether one should question the almighty creators of TOR who remained mysteriously absent in any the discussions. Without their direction the feedback process became questionable at best and started to frighten me, did they even care about improvements or areas of opportunity?
One of the new features to the MMO gaming world was the hardcore inclusion of the Companion. It was designed not only to help in questing, but crafting as well and if your familiar with Knights of the Old Republic games I & II this would be an easy transition. Unfortunately there are many problems with these glorified pets. First, they never shut up and by that I mean they continuously jabber; you can't shut it off. It gets really bad when you're in a zone and several people in the area have the same pet and they all say the same thing at the same time... Village of the Dammed anyone??? Second, clunky controls marr the experience as their reaction time has a serious delay and your pets refusal to jump off things to follow you; so they sometimes pull aggro accidentally. The truley sad part for me is the fact that they made it mandatory for storyline. I know Bioware is getting props by everyone for evolving the genre with this feature, but I could care less about other characters and whether or not they like me, that's what a guild is for. I do like the fact that you can dismiss them when walking around though because they always try to position themselves right next to you and it makes clicking around them difficult to interact with the world or obects because you can't click through them.
Another sad reality is there are way to many servers and this tends to diminish the experience as there are to few people per server. For a brand new game (4 days after launch) it's sad to see empty areas even though there are 150 in this zone. In addition, zones aren't connected like any other game, so it doesn't feel like a true world. To compensate they provide nice background graphics that give the illusion but its still a 2-mintue trip in an airspeeder to get anywhere. Also, most of the content is soloable so there is really not much need to group. Before I forget, grouping has the little caviat of the conversation system included too. For heroics, which are standard questing with more people needed, its not bad; but Flashpoints are daily 4-man raids that get repetitive too quickly hearing the same conversation over and over and over.
I know Bioware created the whole conversation system from back in KOTOR and Jade Empire and it was revolutionary for its time but that was several years ago and to be honest, sometimes I find myself not caring about the amazing voice acting and I spacebar though it. I try not to, but its not Shakespeare, its the same MMO quests just voice acted and the hokieness really shines in all its glory. Besides, when you're in Flashpoints and you have to sit through other peoples responses for everything, because its random as to whose conversation decisions are shown, it loses its luster quickly. An example is in one flashpoint there were probably 30 or so conversations and my toon only responded in probably 3 of them, not kidding!?!
Overall the storylines for each class are amazing and while that aspect is what you've come to expect from Bioware; just about everything else, under the hood, seems too shallow. Space combat is just enough to be there but not enough to be of any substance, character customization is allowed but has strick limits, the fact that you can only be humanoid races and it make no difference anyway for mechanincs... WTF???
Maybe Bioware limited the game beause they plan on expanding on everything in the future but this game has been in development for 6 years and cost over $80 million to develop. As my mother what say, "what were you doing with your time?" Basically it offers too little to be worth $14.99/month. If it were the same game six years ago I would have been impressed, but I feel like I bought a brand new car and the only audio option I could get from the dealer was an 8-track player. Sorry Bioware I tired, I really did, but I'm not sure if I want to wait another 12 months for a game worth playing...
| Voice Acting
Player ships as housing.
| Space Combat
Limited customization of, well... Everything!
Out-dated gaming experience