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MMORPG | Setting:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 12/20/11)  | Pub:LucasArts
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Danny Wojcicki - 6 out of 10

Former writer for & RTSGuru shares his thoughts on why SWTOR fails to impress.
Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of its author and does not represent in its thoughts or opinions. This is not an official editorial article.


Food for thought:
Most people who know me recognize me for the bitter old cynic I am. Frankly, I’ve been playing MMORPGs for as long as acronym has existed, and because of that, I tend to exercise a greater degree of scrutiny when judging a newly released game. While Mike Bitton’s review from for SWTOR was both well written and rational (not to mention his own valid opinion), I’d like to offer my own view on why Star Wars: The Old Republic fails to impress me, as well as provide a little constructive criticism on this early state of the game. It’s my hope that the opinions expressed here will lead to some genuine discussion within the SWTOR community, preferably without too much trolling or banner-waving on either side of the argument, and pave the way for some positive changes.
I’d like to begin by saying that I’ve played nearly every major MMO that’s been released to date, and have always preferred the games that sought to bring a little innovation to this genre; games such as Ultima Online, Dark age of Camelot, Shadowbane, Darkfall, Guild Wars, and even World of Warcraft (in its day) all readily come to mind as prime examples. While I genuinely enjoy playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I can’t help but feel as though the game does little for the genre that hasn’t already been done, and worse, that in many cases hasn’t already been done better. However, before I go on, yes, we’re all well aware that SWTOR has fantastic fully voice-acted questing, and that this is perhaps SWTOR’s biggest, if not only, contribution to the MMO genre - but even voice acted cinematic questing has been done before, albeit at a quality lower than what’s found in SWTOR.
While I thoroughly enjoy the fully voice-acted cinematic questing found in SWTOR, I can’t help but grumble at the fact that the majority, if not entirety, of the questing provided feels completely superficial. My actions are of no real consequence, and I’m rarely faced with a decision that has any sort of lasting impact on my gameplay experience, beyond the occasional accruement of light or dark side points. NPCs are oblivious to my benevolent actions, unaware of my insidious deeds, and completely indifferent to anything that happens outside of their direct quest lines. Part of what made questing in the other BioWare RPGS fun was that the player’s choices gave a sense of some sort of lasting impact on the world, the characters within it, and the opinions of those characters towards the player. In SWTOR, the quests throughout the galaxy just lack the sort of cohesion or significance found in those other titles, and as such, come off as either trivial or linear. So, while I think it’s great that EA spent more money on SWTOR than any other game in the company’s history; I wish they would have put aside a little less of their budget on the superficial aspects of quests, and a little more on the essence of what it is that makes quests worth doing. Giving us real consequences to the decisions we make would be a fantastic step in the right direction. 
On that note, a few more dramatic plot twists would have been nice. As far as I’m concerned, every good story should have at least one Ned Stark.
My biggest complaint with SWTOR isn’t regarding the questing, since I do find it fairly enjoyable, but rather, with the classes available and the combat at their disposal. The classes in SWTOR seem to lack the sort of depth and originality found in other contemporary games, and I believe this has largely to do with the fact that SWTOR’s classes, on average, only have about 20-30 active abilities each, some of which are functionally identical to abilities found on other classes and in other games. To make matters worse, the skill trees currently available in SWTOR follow the same sort of linear structure as what’s found in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm’s talent trees, meaning that most players have very little real choice in how they specialize their characters. After playing games like Rift and Champions Online, where the player is given a staggering degree of customization options, it’s difficult for me to play SWTOR and not feel like I’m taking a step backwards. Heck, even the developers of World of Warcraft seem to agree with me, given that they’re completely scrapping their Cataclysm talent trees in their next expansion.
The low number of abilities and the lack of character customization both blend together to make the combat come off as a little lukewarm. While the classes are distinct to a degree, I just don’t feel like the Sith Sorcerer, as an example, truly plays differently enough from the Republic Commando, aside from aesthetics and a few defining abilities. Furthermore, I don’t feel like any of the classes seem truly unique to SWTOR, lightsabers aside. One of the reasons why World of Warcraft has lasted the test of time is that each of the game’s classes provided a radically different experience from the next – a Warlock played nothing like a Mage, which played nothing like a Rogue, which played nothing like a Death Knight, and so on. In fact, when I reflect on my time spent in other games, I often find myself fondly looking back on the original play styles of the classes that I enjoyed most in those games, and I can’t help but feel that SWTOR’s classes just lack that same sort of panache. Five years from now, will I look back on the time I’ve spent on my Sith Sorcerer with the same sort of fondness as when I look back on my Undead Shadow Priest? Somehow I don’t think so.
Moving on; though I enjoy the PVP found in SWTOR to a degree, I feel as though there just isn’t enough depth to it. SWTOR lacks any sort of PVP character progression with the exception of a PVP level that grants access to certain gear.  And this leaves bloodthirsty players such as me wanting more. To make matters worse, there are only three PVP instances available at present, with the only truly unique one being Huttball. As a somewhat hardcore competitive player, I find this absence of refinement, complexity or variety to the PVP system to be disheartening to say the least. However, the existence of a PVP leveling system leaves me hopeful that we’ll see a little more attention paid to PVP in the future.
Instancing is another bone of contention I have with SWTOR, and I’m actually surprised to hear so few complaints about it. Much like Age of Conan and Champions online, SWTOR employs a system of zone mirroring, which makes it so that if an area is overpopulated, a mirror version of that zone is created. The result of this is system that we see countless parallel instances for the same zones, and the player population gets split up between these game spaces. I find that this noticeably diminishes the feeling of a giant massively multiplayer world, often results in zones that feel largely devoid of other players – and given that I play on PVP servers exclusively, I find this general emptiness to be a bit frustrating, as it severely cuts down on both organic open-world combat and social interaction.
Speaking of SWTOR’s social interaction, I’d say SWTOR is lacking in just about every category. Guilds have very little in the way of interesting mechanics, there’s no real looking for group tool, and there are no central locations for players to congregate and socialize, similar to something like the Gates of Stormwind. All of this, combined with the previously mentioned heavy instancing, just makes the game feel less like a massively multiplayer game, and more like a massively single-player game. 
And don’t get me started on the lack of chat bubbles…
As an avid crafter, I am extremely dissatisfied with the current state of crew skills. Despite the fact that I really enjoy the concept of my companions handling crafting and gathering for me, I feel that there just isn’t enough nuance to the crafting system to keep things interesting. As an artifice, I craft largely the same items at the lower levels of skill as I do at the higher levels, with the only difference being the total number of stat points allocated to an item. Maybe I just miss the complex crafting systems found in games like Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, EverQuest 2 and EVE, but I can’t help but feel that the developers truly missed the mark with SWTOR. I had hoped to find a little more randomization of stats in this game, more options for items to be crafted, and a greater frequency for the discovery of all new recipes, rather than merely the ability to reverse engineer a green strength hilt +20 in order to discover a blue strength hilt +20. 
SWTOR’s user interface is simply atrocious, and about as malleable as a rock. Given that nearly every MMORPG released within the past decade has provided the player with a wealth of customization options for the user interface, I find it entirely unacceptable that SWTOR lacks even the basic ability to scale my action bar. 
It would also be nice to have a greater degree of influence over graphics options, floating combat numbers, and the name display radius.
Honestly, there isn’t much that can be said about space combat that can’t be summed up with two words: It’s bad. Many missions are simply slightly more difficult copies of earlier missions, there are no interesting customization options for ships, combat is an entirely single-player affair, the rewards for participation are underwhelming, and the missions themselves fail to provide any sort of significant challenge.
Beyond that, if I wanted to play Starfox, I’d go out and buy a Nintendo 64. This is Star Wars, damn it – give me something more akin to Rogue Squadron or Tie Fighter, not the on-rails afterthought of a space-system found in SWTOR.
With all of these complaints combined, I can’t help but wonder about SWTOR’s longevity. Sure, the game is playable, well polished, and fun to a certain degree, but I still just don’t see any unique features at present that will keep people playing beyond the maximum level. After all, there have been other MMOs released in recent memory that were not only playable, well polished, and fun, but also provided new and exciting styles of play – yet those other MMOs found themselves floundering after only a few short months of time. Only time will tell, I suppose – but until then, I can’t help but be a little disappointed with SWTOR, and a little more eager for the release of Guild Wars 2.
Final Score


 Cinematic Questing
 Great Graphics
 Immersive Starwars Universe
 Lack of class customization
 Lack of PVP features
 Terrible UI
 Half-baked crafting
 No consequences for quest choices

More Star Wars: The Old Republic Features:

The List - Ranking SWTOR’s Sith Storylines Column added on Thursday March 03
trashburnin writes: 

After Danny Wojcicki (aka Tenebrion) got a paragraph published in a multireview thread, he went on various forums to boast how awesome he was

Later, after Danny's first review was rejected, he writes

"As far as I'm concerned, it's just an example of another big review website being too afraid to lose money for being associated with a negative opinion regarding a big budget game like SWTOR. I'm not saying that they're paid off by EA, but it's very obvious that their traffic revenue, at the very least, has influenced their decision to tip-toe around a potentially sensitive subject.

My fingers are crossed that Zero Punction will have a decent cynical review of SWTOR - honestly, Yahtzee is the only hope the industry's got"

Then he posts a little down the page.

"How funny - I posted my 6 out of 10 review for SWTOR on MMORPG's review forum, and after the thing got several pages worth of positive support, deleted it.

The reason cited: "No advertising".

What a joke."

Then he provides a link to this review of which he says he reposted here.

1/13/12 8:49:35 PM  / Report
evilastro writes: 

He sounds bitter. The fact that he is posting on the Darkfall forums speaks volumes about why he doesnt like SWTOR.

1/13/12 9:07:45 PM  / Report
sanosukex writes: 

Spot on with the combat overview.. this aspect is really making it hard to go from quest to quest.. the combat overall just is not fun...

1/13/12 9:09:20 PM  / Report
AutemOx writes: 

I'm so sorry that game reviewers are not allowed to go against the giant EA and its current flagship title.

1/13/12 9:11:23 PM  / Report
Golelorn writes: 

trashburnin is exaggerating a wee bit. Tenebrion never says "how awesome he is".


What is your motive, anyways? Why do you care that he doesn't like SWTOR? 

I find trashburnin's tactics extremely distasteful when he posted this in the SWTOR forums in hopes of getting the fanbabies all riled up to come over here, and chase Tenebrion away. Then again, that's about all the apologist can do. Beg people to give the game time and money, and belittle those who actually have standards.


Surely, there is a MMORPG rule about stalking and harassing users. Or is that rule only valid if they are singing the praises of a top advertiser?

1/13/12 9:13:57 PM  / Report
Arathir86 writes: 

A good review with many valid points in it.

SWTOR was definately a dissapointment for me, and one game I wont be revisiting for a long time if the current trend in content stays the same.

My only suggestion is to remove the Guild Wars 2 comment at the end, while I am a Guild Wars 2 fan myself, that last comment will just be misconstrued by the ignorant population as one fanboi taking a stab at another.

1/13/12 9:16:51 PM  / Report
Thorqemada writes: 

6 is to low!

The Companions be a good idea, it has better crafting than AoC and many other games, the UI is functional and not terrible (maybe you need all these automatic helpers some other games allow?), it has as much consequences in quests as 99,9% of any other mmo with a much better presentation and besie DAOC and EVE there is NO good PvP-MMO out!

I would accept anything between 7 and 8 as professional rating but 6 is not a matter of professional rating but personal distaste imho.

1/13/12 9:18:43 PM  / Report
trashburnin writes: 

the title of the thread he created after his paragraph was published was. "i'm awesome"

doesn't seem very professional to me and not someone who I could trust to review a game.

1/13/12 9:20:52 PM  / Report
Vhaln writes: 

How could you take a thread title of "i'm awesome" seriously?  it's obviously meant as more of a joke.

1/13/12 9:29:39 PM  / Report
trashburnin writes: 

no, actually he is just bragging.

1/13/12 9:38:49 PM  / Report
Jimmac writes: 

All of that money to develop the game, and they didn't even make a good "generic game." It's a generic generic game, which is like entering the special olympics 10 meter dash, then walking it.

1/13/12 10:20:48 PM  / Report
fiontar writes: 

I agree with much of the review. The unimaginative combat/skill system, combined with the poor, unmodifiable ui, are two of the biggest reasons I canceled. The story keeps sucking me back in and I'm still playing daily, but everytime I play, the flaws smack me in the face and act as a barrier to immersion and enjoyment.

I disagree on Huttball. Yes, it's imaginative, but it's clever for the sake of cleverness and is not a balanced or enjoyable warfront. The other two battlegrounds always feel competative, Huttball is almost always a one sided affair and particular skills, available to particular classes at particular levels, overwhelm teams who happen to lack players of the proper class/level mix to have those skills. This is made much worse by the lack of level based tiers for warfront PvP.

Crafting is a disappointment and not just because the professions only offer repetition of the same things with just slightly better stats as you progress. Crafting output was never balanced in a way to support a player driven economy, with matters made worse by the item modification system. While that system has it's pluses, the entire crafting system and economy needed to be balanced around it for it to actually work. As is, most of what armor and weapon crafters are able to create become worthless for players who have transitioned to modifiable items.

I can't shake the feeling that the developers copy/pasted design elements from other titles, with out any real appreciation of how they need to work together as a whole, nor an understanding of what differentiates good design from mediocre design or bad design.

A great MMORPG needs to be greater than the sum of it's parts. TOR is less than the sum of it's parts and many of those parts are sub-standard in their own right.

1/13/12 10:51:51 PM  / Report
Bookah writes: 

1/13/12 11:11:47 PM  / Report
Whiskey_Sam writes: 

Exactly the things I'd put in a review.  I've been telling people this is a 6/10 since Beta.  It lacks much of the framework of an MMO, and what it does have has no substance.  It feels like they were handed a list of features an MMO is supposed to have, and they added them to check a box on the marketing sheet without any concept of why an MMO should have them or how they are supposed to work.  That really shocked me considering how much they ran their mouths during development about their extensive MMO-playing experience.  

1/13/12 11:52:05 PM  / Report
NBlitz writes: 

The BioDriods have been trying really hard to get Danny ostracized not only here but elsewhere as well. 

Instead you're asked to keep tossing money into that well, to support the juggernaut that is BIO/EA. Why? 

Why support mediocre? Why support talentless? Why support unimaginative? Why support something that played it way too safe?

When is enough simply enough?

1/14/12 12:23:22 AM  / Report
lalartu writes: 

not sure who sounds more bitter here, I don't understand why people would want to trash the only sane review of the game on this site.


look at and read the user review scores, the aggreggate score of the game is 6.1 as of today and it has more negative comments than ANY mmorpg in history, including WoW. 

so really, is it Danny or is it everybody else that needs to grow a pair and start posting honest reviews?

removing an honest review (which I actually had opened overnight and was surprised when it wasn't there the next day) is a horrible practice and definitely reflects poorly on staff. that along with overblown critical reviews of certain games that really were just blatant promotions makes me think that mods here must really get something out of it.

why else would you lie to the public and erase any opinion that contradicts yours? a site that claims to be independent and critical would never do that

1/14/12 12:51:15 AM  / Report
Weretigar writes: 

I'd hate to be a fanboi here, but you really came into this review with the wrong mindset. 

You're supposed to play the game from a first time perspective and you came at it only with comparisons of different mmos. Instead of being like the voice acting was more insync then most of netflix movies, you were like i played all mmo's so compared to this this this, this game is like this.

Also The more bad things you do the worse your char looks, or the more good things you do the lighter the "Force" illuminates from you. 

BFF tried as hard as he could to compare this game to wow and did it successfully. That being said he even claimed and told everyone that they cared about pvp and how. Some of the things you said were true, but you didn't flip the coin over to look at the good.

Your a NEGITIVE NANCY. yeah i said it!

1/14/12 1:52:04 AM  / Report
Hatewall writes: 

A score of 6 is acurate for this title.

1/14/12 1:53:19 AM  / Report
Ziegler writes: 

Hey Teneb, just posting here to say you were right on, and your treatment is why I rarely ever come to this site and never take its reviews seriously.

Trashburnin = shamergamer = careful of this dude.

1/16/12 10:07:48 AM  / Report
Tenebrion writes: 

Funny that one of the reasons the folks here were too afraid to publish this piece was that they claimed the readers of this website would too strongly disagree with it. I don't know about you guys, but I don't see much opposition to a negative SWTOR review here, other than maybe from the sponsors.

But hey, I'm sure we'll see a token "SWTOR isn't perfect" article posted someday - just don't be surprised to see more praise than criticism in that piece.

1/17/12 2:22:47 AM  / Report
theniffrig writes: 

This review is pretty accurate for SWTOR in my opinion. If not accurate, at the very least the score given for the game is much more realistic than the other scores floating around and other sites. Anything above an 8 would suggest to me that the game is nearly perfect, which SWTOR isn't not by a long shot.

The fact that Tenebrion was "let go" because of his opinion on this "AAA" MMO when it went against the money drivers views speaks volumes to me about what really goes on in the background of this site. Funcom for example throwing money at the site to advertise AoC all over the place on this site after it started to tank is just one example. Then you have the Cata adverts now. Why? Well, because the game isn't doing well. That's why they advertise. Throw money at advertising in the hope you'll attract someone new who'll stay subbed to the game. But, my point isn't advertising. My point is the people in charge here obviously are willing to not only take the 30 pieces of silver for the advertising space, but they are also willing to actually "fudge" their own opinions on bad games in order to get the advertisment money & even go as far as fire a staff member who isn't going to toe the line & give views that could put that money in jeopardy!

Management can only do what they've done to these reviews & people like Tenebrion for so long before it becomes glaringly obvious to anyone with half a brain to what is truely happening. Then people will just either go elsewhere for their MMO news OR some real change will have to happen as a result of the mass rage everywhere on the site. 

Posts being locked. Reviews disappearing. People being removed. Small-scale conversations taking place in the dark corners of the site & via priavte messages. Is the Soviet Union back?!

1/18/12 8:00:11 AM  / Report
Hjorulv writes: 

I've played the game since beta and I'd have to agree with the review as a whole.  Right now I have leveled two different classes to 50, but I don't plan on sticking around for another month. 

In effect, SWToR seems like a console game thrown onto a basic MMO set-up.   The storylines are ok, at best, with some being frankly ridiculous.  And the stories lead you like a dog on a leash even if it leads you into doing something stupid.  i.e. In the Sith Warrior story you are told of an upcoming betrayal.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see it coming, but can you avoid or disarm the upcoming "trap"?  Nope, in order to keep going in the story you have to run headlong into a trap you know is there. 

Then what happens after the storyline is done and you're the Emperor's Wrath or Dark Council member, or what have you?  You get a daily quest to dig around in the snow of Ilum for mining equipment.  Somehow I don't see that in a Dark Council member's daily routine.  Besides that, how do you expand on it in the future?  Everyone becomes the Emperor?  You become so powerful, the Emperor is your servant?  To sum it up, the quests after the storyline just don't make any sense and there is no room in the story for future expansion.  Sounds like a console game to me.

The cinematics are neat, but after awhile I just wanted to bypass them and the conversation choices altogether and just have them give me the quest.  Especially true with dailies, but even with others once you've seen it a few times with characters, they just become monotonous.

Yeah, they spent a bunch of money on the game, but a tidy sum of that went for licensing fees to LucasArts.  For as much hype as the game got, I expected it to at least be comparable to what was already out there in terms of UI, crafting, classes, even races (for the Republic side).  Sadly, I don't think it is even on par with some free to play games in those respects.

If I gave it a rating compared to the hype, it would be lower than the 6, but overall I'd say that number is a pretty fair indicator of the game.

1/24/12 3:15:04 AM  / Report
Tenebrion writes: 

Honestly, above all else, I'm most disappointed with SWTOR's questing. I honestly can't wait for the MMO industry to move past this turd of a game, and am truly ashamed of the review industry for allowing this abomination to stand entirely uncriticized.

1/27/12 1:18:01 AM  / Report
//\\//\\oo writes: 

The best review I've read so far with an accurate score to boot.

It's a real shame they fired you over this; it just goes to show that corruption has it's hand in everything, especially when big names like EA are involved.

Isn't the advertising on this site enough? Why must they deliberately propagate lies about products as well?

I am an advocate of free speech, but to openly lie about your product and pay other people to should have ramificaitons.

3/19/12 1:37:41 PM  / Report
Tenebrion writes: 

It would appear that my assessment of SWTOR has only become more and more publicly accepted as time marches foward, as the MMO community at large, now more than ever, regards Swtor with a resounding "meh" in light of server pops steadily plummeting.


Once the next big thing comes out, SWTOR won't die off with a final roar - it will die with a wimper, tucked away and forgotten atop of the pile of other failed World of Warcraft clones.


All I can say is this: Good riddance. Bring on Guild Wars 2, Planet Side 2, and Salem.

3/29/12 3:54:14 PM  / Report
Pantericus writes: 

Its pretty safe to agree with this rating. I used my first month getting to lvl 14 (was busy on other mmo's) and  got another timecard to satisfy my curiosity about the space combat system, didn't get passed lvl 30 before I realized I wasted my time and money. I only wish a more accurate representation of this game was released on the official review, after all, is the goal of this website to maintain the integrity of its rating system? or do they have other motives? Its a pretty reasonable question to me. We need to keep these large developers at a higher standard, instead of letting them hide behind large titles like star wars and streamlining the game to the point were you feel like any sense of community or gameplay/replay value has been tossed away.

4/07/12 12:17:03 PM  / Report
JA137 writes: 
I'd like to add something to the comments here. With games out like Neverwinter, where combat is fast, fluid, epic, and leaves the player feeling that they are a force in the world to be reckoned with. Why hasn't anyone said anything about the foundation of SWtOR? At a fundamental level SWtOR's combat pacing is slow. When I say slow I mean, epic in its slowness! When I think of a "Jedi" or "Sith" I think of the movies (good or bad) and how amazing the fight scenes were. In SWtOR all I can think about is how my Neverwinter Rogue would carve up my Jedi like my Jedi were tissue paper. Huh? Is that supposed to be how it is? SWtOR combat is terrible! Why? Other games like Neverwinter are trouncing SWtOR in vibrancy with players aplenty, solid graphics and all the goodies of SWtOR plus, instead of 5000 useless skills that aren't useful (because they aren't killing the bad guys any faster no matter which buttons you push)they have unique skills that can be rotated out or in depending on how you want to play. This means that you are actually watching the fight instead of your skill bar! Who wants to play a game where you are ineffective in combat (you can't kick butt) and then spend the whole time in combat watching for yet another skill to cool down so you can use it? Isn't this short coming the largest one of them all? SWtOR flys in the face of all who say, "I wish I were a Jedi" or "I wish I were like Han Solo". To the contrary, SWtOR makes me say, with incredulity, "These characters can't possibly be Jedi." and "If this was Han Solo, the Empire would have won." and "If the Sith were really this weak, Anikin would never have joined the dark side!" SWtOR has let its fans down in the largest way any game can let it's players down! It isn't fun to play. You step out into the world of Star Wars only to get mowed down by a group of light weights. On what level is that fun? On what level is that epic? In what way does that draw players in to the excitement of PLAYING? Remember play, as in fun? How can a player have any fun when there isn't any fun? Shouldn't that be THE question to ask?
11/29/15 5:19:00 PM  / Report
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