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Columns: Five Not So Great Things About SWTOR

By Michael Bitton on November 28, 2011

Five Not So Great Things About SWTOR

Last week, we took a look at five things we love about Star Wars: The Old Republic. However, nothing’s perfect, so today we’re looking at some of the not-so-great things about the game. Of course, we want to preface this list with a cautionary note that the game is still in beta, so please keep that in mind!

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5.) Itemization

Itemization, at least from a visual standpoint, has been a bit hit-or-miss for me so far in The Old Republic. While I’m not running into “clown suit syndrome” even without an appearance tab or the “match colors to chest piece” option I saw in the game back in April, the variety in available looks appears somewhat limited. Now, the item modification system will ultimately take care of this issue in the long run, but that system is introduced to players slowly as they progress through levels, which means there is a bit of an Attack of the Clones feeling going on as you push towards finding more items with modification slots. I understand the whole idea of introducing a potentially complicated system such as item modification to players over time, but perhaps it could ramp up a bit earlier?

4.) Sidequests

Huh? You’ve heard me go on and on in my previews about The Old Republic’s sidequests, so you might be wondering why this is #4 on this week’s list. Well, it’s true; there are quite a few standout sidequests in Star Wars: The Old Republic. However, I've noticed that a significant amount of the sidequests don’t feel quite right for your character to undertake. For example, as a powerful Sith character you might feel that fetching power converters for someone whose misplaced them in the icy terrain of Hoth is beneath you (and it is), but you’ll end up having to accept it anyway as both the much needed XP and credits are certainly not beneath you. If you do actually reject these quests, your character will often respond in a way that confirms this notion that the task is beneath him, adding a bit of irony.

Fortunately, there are multiple avenues of gaining experience in Star Wars: The Old Republic, so if you begin to tire of the sidequesting it's quite possible to make up the lost experience by participating in PvP, space combat, or running Flashpoints. On the upside, if you play a Bounty Hunter or Smuggler, most of the sidequests work perfectly fine if you’re the type who cares about nothing but the almighty credit!

To be fair, even the original Knights of the Old Republic sent Revan on these sorts of sidequests. The difference then, is the fact you have to extrapolate this experience over hundreds of hours (due to it being an MMO) so there are many more of them and the sometimes menial tasks can begin to annoy. It’s easier to turn your brain off and accept these sorts of quests in standard MMOs. But when you’re invested in your character’s story, it becomes a new problem, especially when you feel like some of the voiceover for these quests is basically just an excuse to do some simple task.

3.) The U.I.

One thing MMO gamers are sticklers about and it doesn’t matter how good your game is, is the user interface. A poor user interface experience can really make or break an MMO gamer's experience, and unfortunately Star Wars: The Old Republic's user interface is lacking in some ways. Now, the interface is fairly slick and it certainly works just fine for the most part, that is, until you decide you want to move or resize a window or almost any other UI element. You simply can’t (with the one exception of being able to resize the chat window).  I’m not asking for Warhammer Online level UI customization where you can move around any UI element, skin the UI, mod it, or even hide elements altogether, but the capability to simply resize and move windows would certainly be appreciated. I’m a fairly laid-back type, so I’m working pretty well within these restrictions, but I imagine this is or will be a huge pain or turn off for many of you.

2.) Character Creation

I don’t think BioWare’s games have ever been known for their exhaustive visual character creation options, but I was hoping they would prove me wrong with The Old Republic. Unfortunately, they haven’t. Again, to be fair, from a technical standpoint, there is actually quite a bit on offer. You’ve got four body types, all with numerous heads and hairstyles to choose from, as well as a smattering of visual details you can add or remove from your character. They also had to make sure all this stuff animated well for their cutscenes. I can appreciate all that, but the fact of the matter is there are only a short list of species to choose from, they are all completely humanoid, and to make matters worse, the vast majority of them share the same heads, hairstyles, and other options.

There are a few exceptions, sure, but go through the character creator and look through the heads of the Human species and compare them to the Mirialan, for example. The only difference is the fact you can choose from different eye colors, skin shades, and facial tattoos. The actual heads are identical. The same is true for hairstyles, again, with few exceptions.  This would be less of an issue if some sort of facial or body morphing (sliders) were available, but since they are not, it’s pretty easy to tell you’ve got mostly the same options from species to species unless you pick some of the more 'exotic' ones such as the Zabrak or Sith Pureblood. Keep in mind, you can still create some cool looking characters, but to say TOR's character creation is anything remarkable would be a stretch.

1.) Space Combat

Space combat easily makes number one for me simply because there isn’t really anything MMO about it. As I mentioned in my column last week, it really just amounts to a minigame of sorts. There isn’t anything you can do with it that involves other players.  Space combat is purely singleplayer (for now) and is only connected to the MMO aspect of the game via starship upgrades, titles, and possibly some loot. There isn’t even a leaderboard so you can compare your performance in any of the game’s numerous (and fairly fun) missions. Honestly, if you’ve played the starfighter minigame in the family friendly MMO Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, you’ve basically played space combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.