It’s certainly been an eventful first year for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Rocked by a mass exodus of players from the game and layoffs at the BioWare Austin studio, there’s been more than a fair share of negative press following the game. Still, this doesn’t mean that BioWare rested on its laurels with SWTOR. There were quite a few welcome additions made to the game over the first year and this week we’ll be highlighting some of the more notable examples.
#5 – Group Finder
This was a sort of controversial feature on the run up to the game’s launch and even afterwards. BioWare wanted to let server communities settle before introducing a group finder feature into the game. While group finders are certainly convenient, there’s something impersonal about putting groups together in this way that can often players’ sense of community.
BioWare stuck to its guns on this issue and a couple of months later the group finder eventually made it into the game. By some players’ count, the group finder came a bit later than necessary given the dwindling server populations, but I suppose it was better late than never.
Star Wars: The Old Republic’s group finder is fairly robust but most of its features shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to players with a few MMOs under their belts by now. Using the group finder, players can queue as any of their available group roles for a number of different content types, ranging from planetary content, to Flashpoints (instanced dungeons), all the way to story mode Operations (normal difficulty raids).
#4 – HK-51 Companion
As a single addition to the game, I have to rank this a bit lower than some of the later features, but this shouldn’t understate the excitement I felt when HK-51 was officially unveiled at E3 2012. Fans of the Knights of the Old Republic series will of course remember HK-47, the beloved, yet mouthy assassin droid, and he’s been a fan favorite for an additional companion as a result.
While he took quite a while to get to us, players have been enjoying HK-51 as a companion for a number of weeks now. His unique ability to assassinate Strong enemies outright every couple of kills and his high DPS make him a valuable companion to any team or class that needs a bit more oomph in its party.
#3 – Events
With little to no fanfare, BioWare introduced the first of two in-game events this year with the Rakghoul Pandemic following the launch of Game Update 1.2. The event kicked off with a neat Imperial News Network broadcast detailing the situation and set players off on a series of daily quests, often involving scavenger hunts all across the planet of Tatooine and particularly the Dune Sea. Over the weeklong event, players were able to earn a variety of in-game rewards, including a new title, armor set, crystal, and even a couple of vanity pets.
The Rakghoul Pandemic was followed by the Grand Acquisition Race event later this past summer. The second in-game event was almost entirely a glorified scavenger hunt, but was welcome by players nonetheless. Like the Rakghoul Pandemic, the Grand Acquisition Race came as a surprise and only lasted a few short days. Players were able to earn a similar bevy of rewards for their participation.
These seemingly random one-off events were definitely a welcome addition to the game this year and really helped to liven up the game world and server community during their runs. This is something we’d love to see BioWare continue to add to the game over time.
#2 – Legacy
The Legacy system is far and away my favorite new feature of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Account-wide (or at least server-wide) progression in the way the Legacy system offers definitely sets Star Wars: The Old Republic apart from its peers in a significant way. From a purely roleplaying standpoint, the Legacy system allows players to tie together all their characters as part of a family tree and share a surname. Functionally, players can use the Legacy system to unlock all sorts of special bonuses for their account, including using any species with any class, to bind-to-Legacy gear, to a whole host of other global unlocks.
Later, BioWare expanded on the Legacy system by adding in Legacy Perks. Perks are character-specific unlocks that allow players to tailor their experience to the activities they intend to participate in with a particular character. For example, if you made a Marauder with the sole intention of running Warzones all day, well you can go ahead and purchase unlocks for your character that dramatically accelerate your experience gain from Warzones. This is but one of many Perks available for characters to unlock.
#1 – Free-to-Play
Face it, the switchover to free-to-play is the most significant change that came to Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2012. According to EA, roughly 60% of the users who quit Star Wars: The Old Republic reported the subscription business model as the main reason they stopped playing the game. Taking this and I’m sure quite a whole lot of other criteria into account, BioWare responded quickly by implementing a full free-to-play option just last month. While the free-to-play option’s particular implementation came with its own set of controversies, there’s no doubt that it has had a significantly beneficial effect on the health of the game so far.
While the restrictions are a bit more than I’d personally like to see, players do have options now and this is critical given the fact the market is saturated with a number of high quality free-to-play or buy-to-play titles.
What were your favorite additions to Star Wars: The Old Republic this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!