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BioWare | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 12/20/11)  | Pub:LucasArts
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SWTOR as of October, 2016

A biased SWTOR review by a SW Fan and long time MMO player.
Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of its author and does not represent MMORPG.com in its thoughts or opinions. This is not an official MMORPG.com editorial article.

Foreword: The author of this article is a true fan of SW, a proud owner of both SWG and SWTOR collector editions and plays MMOs way too much.

SWTOR Collector Edition

Short version: SWTOR is fun for short come backs or new players though still a rough jewel.

 

Word of advice: if you aren’t that much into SW and played others well-polished MMO don’t jump into SWTOR you’ll be disappointed or even frustrated.

Worth a Try!

 

The setting: Most often you don’t feel that much into a SW world. Remove SW from the title and you could copy paste much of the game into another Sci-Fi MMO without any trouble. Also for a space based game you don’t either feel in space that much. For example, even in the space stations you really have to search to be able to see the space out there.

Now from time to time (say 5%) you will be blown away by some great SW environments, encounters or missions.

Siht on Illum

Graphics: The game is getting old for sure, still it didn’t age that much considering it’s using cartoonish graphics and heroic proportions. Although you can certainly see the game could use more polygons. Now it does the job for sure. The engine has some issues so grass rendering will kill your frame rate and unless you have something like a GTX 970 (or low settings) you’ll have difficulties in PvP and on the Fleet (social hub). The other biggest issue right now is the crenelated and blocky shadows in some cutscene, especially on close-ups.

Shadows still crenelated

 

Exploration: sometimes you can feel the designers are trying hard to mitigate the engine limitations. Still SWTOR plays like a game in 2.5D. One feet high rocks will block your hovercraft or mount. Your character can jump still barely revolves in 3D. Don’t expect to force jump to higher grounds nor use jet packs as in seen the trailers. Your jetpack mount feels more like a wheelchair on steroids than a powerful bounty hunter rocket booster!

Combat: The combat mechanic is robust and mostly fun. Force push and a couple of skills are a pure joy to use on non-expecting NPC and players. Purist still find it not as responsive as others AAA MMO, tough most players won’t notice. While you don’t use all abilities that much, 2 full bars of 12 quick slots aren’t enough to lay down your abilities at level 65. In the end, unless you play pretty much always the same class, you end up more watching your quick bars than the game in combat.

Force Push FTW

The main issue with combat right now is the tab targeting system isn’t efficient. So you’re going to cycle through mobs back and forth losing precious seconds especially in PvP.

There’s no such thing as mouse over a target making healing restricted to either dedicated or masochist players.

You can’t target of target transfer your attacks and heals, meaning focus fire or healing need a direct targeting. Added to the fact there’s no auto attack lll this making combat less fluid and more tedious.

 

One of the new companionsSolo-play: SWTOR is actually one of the most Solo-Play friendly MMO. You could nearly play on an empty server but for a couple of missions (GSI) and for the operations (RAID). This trend has been amplified in KOTFE, the latest update by scaling up companions without needing to gear them up. Now grouping is easier than before as character levels are scaled down depending on the level of the area they are, making any character being able to play with friends with lower characters.

Now there are a couple of issues here:

The first being while scaling down, a character will still be overpowered, making the other person (s)he’s playing with feel a bit useless.

The second being companions are so overpowered that you can do quite nothing and let them do the job for you. No need to gear that much anymore too. The “good part” being if you don’t want to play with a companion and like gearing up your character you’ll have fun as the content will be more challenging.

Finally, KOTFE isn’t group play friendly as if one player is running quests you’ll have to redo them as they don’t count against your story progression.

Space shooter:  The game launched with an “on rails” space shooter that has long been abandoned. Not sure there are any players doing single players missions anymore. Still it’s there if you want to feel more “in space.”

Group finder

Group play: Yes, you can! There’s a group finder out there and while not perfect it does the trick. At your disposal you have heroics (2+ players), Flashpoints (4 players) and operations (8+ players) and… PvP (8 Players - More on that later).

 

Heroics are now really easy to access as you get tokens to teleport close to their location and to do as companions are quite powerful now. So much that you can now solo the heroics would you like to. The good thing is people usually avoided them so it made players review content they skipped. The bad is you don’t need to speak to NPC anymore neither to get them nor to turn them in as such removing the voiced over content. Hint: using heroics missions teleport tokens is a now a great way to teleport to any planet bypassing any space station and space port. Be advised the credit rewards for the Heroics might certainly get nerfed in a not so far future, so abuse the system while you can!

Flashpoints as Operations come in two flavor: Normal and Hard mode. For the Flashpoints (again 4 players’ instances) with the group finder -in normal mode- you have healing stations set up next to bosses. All in all, while it’s more efficient with a Tank/Healer/DPS group, you don’t need tanks nor healers anymore for those.  It’s a great way to gain some easy XP and start learning some group content mechanics. Still don’t expect any cool loot out of them. With the Dark vs. Light event and such fast XP gain (using XP boosts tokens and DvL armor sets) expect to group with totally ungeared characters and player mostly clueless about their classes rotations while using the group finder system. Hard Mode is quite a step above tactical mode. It’s still challenging for most players, and fun. Biggest drawback being the loot isn’t as good as it used to be, especially if you expect decorations. The drop rate has been quite… nerfed.

Operations (8 players) are now accessible with the group finder. A good initiative though most PUGS starts on the Fleet with 7 players to make sure to have a decent group and then use the group finder for the last player to get the group finder rewards. The SM (Story Mode) is much more forgiving than the Hard Mode though your character still has to be geared well enough to go through them without being either kicked out or carried by your team. The gear dropping isn’t seen as appealing enough for most players. As always with 8 players content you’ll need to use an external VoIP client. Don’t expect people accepting a newcomer into an OP if you can’t at least listen to voice directive. To be noted there hasn’t been new operations in years.

PvP here is classified as group play as world PvP (and as such solo play) is nonexistent anymore.

From 1 to 64 PvP is somehow balanced, or should we say unbalanced, but as it hits everyone it’s not that bad. At 65 you’re going to be raped until you fully gear up your character AND learn not only your class rotation but all the classes strength and weaknesses.

Even if you aren’t into PvP we can advise you to try it out before hitting lvl 65. It will certainly record some nice moments in your brain.

Now PvP has a couple of major drawbacks:

First it’s a STUN fest. Your character is going to be slow down, immobilized, stunned, ganked and raped. At some point you might want to throw your keyboard through your screen. All in all you look at your character being hit while being unable to do anything… till death takes its poll. It’s like having your keyboard being taken away from yourself. Quite a frustrating experience

The second issue is you can have 2 more players on a team if one of them isn’t full. Having one less player is already quite a drawback. Two means you are either masochist or well the other team is THAT lame vs your team skill. On top of that players can still do nothing and not be kicked out penalizing their team

Another issue is while queuing as solo player you can end against premade. In two words: it hurts

Then you can’t choose which map you’re going to play or well which ones you don’t want to play. Depending on your play style you might certainly not enjoy one or a couple of maps. Still BioWare obliges you to queue for them all. The only mitigation here being right click on the PvP icon on the map and select quit just after landing in the arena. Issue being you’re certainly going to penalize your team as they might not find a replacement fast enough.

Speaking of balance, well some classes are way overpowered and some others have… difficulties. Don’t worry though the big NERF is going to hit with 5.0. Only issue being BioWare always hits too hard as they have a misery to balance the PvP as it’s tied to the PvE skills too.

Finally, there’s no such thing as dual spec and you can’t respect while in or queuing for PvP. So if you are doing quests/world content and queuing for PvP you’ll be geared and specced efficiently only for one of them.

GSF: Galactic StarFighter. There are a couple of players trying to enjoy this dumbed down 3d multiplayer space shooter. Even on the most active servers you can wait for hours in queue for an arena to pop-up. As too often with BioWare execution, the idea wasn’t that bad though the execution has been poor be it for budget restrictions, marketing influence or simply bad design decisions. If you are a space sim fan don’t expect much here: you can’t even use a joystick. BTW it’s been a very long time since they saw any new maps, improvements or even bug fixes here.

Crafting treesCrafting: B O R I N G. If you like crafting in MMO just don’t play this game. Not only the crafting system isn’t fun but the UI isn’t great either and storing and managing mats is annoying. Top of that apart a couple of item on specific crafting professions there’s nothing worth of interest either for stats, look or utility to be crafted.  To be totally honest gathering mats and leveling crafting has been greatly improved making it much faster and easier.

GNT Galactic Trade Network Aka Auction House without auctions but fees…

The GNT is like the strict minimum you can have to allow players sell stuff between them. The sales go only with fixed prices. You can only list an item for 2 days and can’t repost it in one click at the same amount without editing the price. The search button doesn’t work if you have 2 single letters couples in the name of the item. It lacks a lot of filters.

If you are serious about selling stuff on the GTN get ready to waste a lot of time tending your sales and reposting them and also managing your inventory.

Character customization: a couple of hairs and tattoos have been added in the Cartel Market (more on that later). Nothing to be thrilled though. The character body customization is still very much limited. Expect to see clones of your character around. The great thing is stats and gear look have been untied. As in other MMO you can wear a set of clothes for the look and use another for the stats. You can have up to 12 different gear sets per character.
The system has its limits as you can’t hide gear slots (but head) without buying the very expensive covert energy armors. The gear has 2 dye patterns alas they are bound together so you can’t choose separately the primary and the secondary color. Also most of the gear have 3rd non dyable areas, making so you can’t mix them with all presets and still look good. Some colors cost an arm and a leg: black dye 1600CC in June, i.e. +$12) for a dye you can’t reuse on other gear/characters when set on a piece of gear.

CM

At least you can now dress up your character the way you want to while still being efficient in combat. A much welcome change.

 

KOFTE companions customization slotsCompanions: right now it’s a mixed bag. You have the before and after doing the KOTFE story. Companion body customization is still limited with preset tokens, so expect to see clones of your companion everywhere: same body and same name.

The great thing is for companions up to KOTFE you can dress them up like you want as stats don’t matter anymore on them. Now you can’t dress up the news companions coming with KOTFE. Ever heard of Clone Wars?

As now everybody is running around with Lana set up with the same body and wearing the same set of clothes.

Companions roles have been mitigated as you can change on the fly (out of combat), whether they act as tanks, healers or DPS. As such you can play with whichever companion you want without sacrificing your gameplay. The great thing is wile you’re going to lose a couple of companions with KOTFE you’ll end with dozens of them giving you a real choice of barely speaking companions. Still don’t expect that much from them. The AI is still quite dumb. They’re going to stand still in AOE, won’t focus heal on the right character in groups and won’t shield as thank and will sometimes break CC.

We already mentioned companions are overpowered. They’ll be of great help soloing Heroics or replacing a disconnected or quitter group mate. So much that most normal FP can be done with 2 players and 2 characters alone. A great way to play with your mate or child!

 

HK-55

KotFE : Story, Fortress and more

Epic momentsStory: during KOTFE cinematics and cutscene you’ll feel not only in a SW setting but also heroic/powerful. Too bad the game mechanics are far away from what you see in the cinematics. Whatever your preferences, you’re going to love some parts of KOTFE story and loathe some others. Don’t expect cinematic nor book writing skills there. Seems the marketing department made sure to destroy any attempt at good writing. Without any spoiler while going through the story, contrary to your supposed role, you won’t feel in control at all during the whole parkour. You character is doing what its companions are requesting. I.e. you are your companion’s pet.

The other main drawback is you feel like killing the same type of enemy gazillions of times. The developers are aware of issue so expect this to be mitigated in the next XPack.

Now the good thing is you can run the all this content without having to wait for the next episode, which is much more interesting to play as you are still in the mood set by the precedent episodes.

Word of advice: avoid non force user characters with KOTFE. The myriad of stuns and knockbacks are quite annoying with regular classes.

Speaking of setting, most of the settings feels like upped in regards of a SW era. You really feel like in a Star Wars environment. That is enough to go through the content. So much that you’d wish you could revisit these areas without being obliged to drive an alt through everything to go up there.

Fortress are an interesting interpretation of repetitive soloable content. Doing one is fun, 2 is ok after 3 it becomes boring.

Alliance alerts are the new way to recruit companions. The missions are usually short, fun and convenient (porting available.) Though some players don’t like being required to do some PvP to get (no spoiler) a specific companion character. You should like being able to have a choice of plenty of characters. Apart the fact a couple of companions are still MIA, the other issue being your character doesn’t speak during those dialog. While you still can choose from a couple of answers you won’t hear your character saying them. It’s quite a disturbing experience from the core game play.

 

Strongholds (housing): players houses are fun to play with them though soon enough you'll find yourself very limited. The fortress are huge and yet you don't have enough spots to fully furnish them. The hook system is very limited and frustrating. Finally decorations are really expensive both in terms of credits or $$$. Sitll provided you are dedicated enough you can still come up with nice settings

Strongholds

 

SWTOR 4.0: if you have been away since long enough you’ll find plenty of changes in this game and good thing is quite a few Quality of Life improvements have been implemented too. Couple of examples on top of the ones already mentioned: there’s no time out on porting anymore, you can buy a legacy summon mount while moving, there’s no crew skill level restriction on materials gathering nodes, crafting is way faster. 

 

SWTOR Bold FontUI: Maybe allowing UI editing has some drawbacks but hell this game could certainly use a lot of luvin’ in terms of UI.

First the bold font is bad. (Author’s note: I used to work with a typograph and he was adamant of when to use bold fonts and certainly not for writing whole passages. Bold font has always been difficult to read unless you have lots of spacing between letters, and good eyes.)

Buffs and debuffs displays: both of them plays a critical role in FP and PvP. Still they are buried among many others icons making so you might certainly not know if a specific action is recommended or required depending on the situation. Situation awareness is bad.

UI scalability isn’t window specific, so some windows are too big and some too small. You always have to compromise.

Mostly nobody uses companion’s skills buttons but maybe attack and follow though we are stuck with a sitting duck in the UI and its 7 buttons.

Map, oh well the world map (tis getting personal)... what a piece of ***. Can’t scale, can’t resize, can’t move around, can’t browse off area. Yet it’s one of the most used feature while wandering around. Word of advice: don’t take 2 gathering profession with a single character as you can’t distinguish the nodes types on the map

 

CM, or said otherwise way of milking out players. If you want a nice looking gear, a cool mount or a nice decoration for your Stronghold (house) it’s not in the mobs loot tables anymore it’s in the… Cartel Market! While most players agree on any game is a business and runs on money, it’s a such high level here that players feel like being ripped off by the CM and the very low drop rate of the items in the crates. There’s a reason SWTOR has the best return over interest considering how cheap it is to reuse existing assets and resells them to the players at a premium. Players actually pay to gamble and get items. To be fair, the CM UI and crates management has greatly been improved lately.

SWTOR Gear previewBugs and polish: since launch SWTOR has been rigged with an uneven polishing and major bugs not being fleshed out. This has not changed and new major bugs arose. Right now the gear preview window is bugged, so the windows will start acting randomly hiding your whole character but the item you are previewing or display only your character in black without any textures nor gear. You’ll see other companions in your strongholds. You’re going to enter specific class instances and nothing is going to happen inside, even resetting your quests doesn’t always fix the issue. While entering in your ship you’re going to hear one of your companion throwing away something (someone?) though the escape pod. During class cutscene in your space ship you’re going to see your companion twin next to him/her/it. Finally, for German/French speaking people you’re going to have empty/blank lines in some FP, alliance alerts or CM packs.

Funny fact the forums aren’t in a better shape. The Galactic Strongholds section is still missing an icon since its iteration 2 years ago.

 

SPAMSPAM and gold sellers: as with any F2P game you can expect gold sellers and spammers. Here it’s worse than most other games as there’s very few restrictions on spam in chat for new low level characters. Then you can’t one click report and ignore the spammers, even less their whole account. Add to that the ignore list gets filled pretty fast and isn’t shared between your characters. 

Note: as of Oct, 4th BioWare hit the ban button on thousands of accounts

Communication with the player base: Any person who enjoyed SWG gets used to some sort of communication with the studio developing and publishing MMO. Well to be fair at least BioWare doesn’t lie. Though the communication with the player base is quite abysmal. Don’t expect feedback, even less 2-way communication. Even the most supportive players gave up. If you’re going to play or come back to SWTOR expect to be frustrated by this lack of interaction with the players. If you feel having any feedback just suck it up. Not only you’re going to waste your time, but rest assured since the launch of the forums every single issue has been laid out myriad of times. Still some of us still have hope… maybe the force is strong with us!

KotET and 5.0: The new Xpack announcement is around the corner and some datamining on the test tests servers are showing some class changes. Without going into wild speculations it seems classes are being revamped to make them easier to play and distinctive form each other’s.

Regarding how long it’s been since the last operation, this could be the nail in the coffin for high end group content. Not sure BioWare can afford that even if the stats show very few people still do OP lately. Not to break the hype still you’re advised not to hope much in regards of Tunnel shooter, GSF, voiced over companion story continuation and engine optimization.

 

Shall I play^

Shall I play?

If you never played SWTOR it’s really worth trying it out. But you said… Remember it’s an F2P, as such there’s no harm to play but to fall addicted! While the game did not have as much content over the years as others MMO there’s still plenty to do. The only drawback for a new player is you’re going to drool at others gear/mounts/decorations that you might most certainly never be able to obtain anymore. Only advice would be to get prepared to go through the content and leave until further updates.

If you quit long time ago and still liked the game mechanics you’ll have quite some content to do, new players to meet and knewl gear to show off or sell at insane prices!  The game is still rough but it’s less of a grind for most (but for companion affection). Also you can totally level your character only doing the voiced over content making the experience more like KOTOR than else.

If you were expecting major improvements or changes, move along. This isn’t the game you are looking for. This is mostly the same game with the same core design flaws and engine limitations. Just 5 years older.

Verdict: Good game, could do way much better. Still lacking a proper budget and good design decisions. Worth a try or returning for long time gone players. 

Approved

 

 

Final Score

8.7

Pros
 
 Star Wars IP
 Voiced Over Story
 Solo Firendly
 Easy to play and learn
 Content
Cons
 
 Not enough content updates to keep subscribed.
 Lack of group play, PvP and endgame focus
 CM lottery & very low drops rates
 Bugs & uneven polishing
 Engine limitations
 
 
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