Tuesday, 20 December 2011

SWTOR: First impressions

I've started playing SWTOR and it has to be said it's a beautifully crafted game. I have Stabs, an Imperial Agent on the Red Eclipse EU server. Level 17 now, the highest level we know of on the server is 50 (the maximum) and someone in our guild is 41.

So in terms of leveling speed it's probably too fast. Arguably the game's great strength is its beautifully and expensively made quest content. For one player that seems to have lasted him about 4 days. Is the end-game going to be enough to retain hardcore players? We'll see in a month.

As someone who loves to alt and who isn't hardcore it will certainly retain me. I'm planning to level several alts and it will probably take me at least a month to level the first one. So perhaps what we have here is a game that isn't interested in the hardcore vocal minority that gobbles up content so fast?

And that brings the question, will it attract an alternative audience of more casual people, maybe players who've never even tried WoW? I think it could. It is rather like a movie with interactive prompts at times and the pacing between running around shooting stuff and stopping to watch another excellent cutscene is good.

The economy is mildly broken with the overpowered skill Slicing. It's a gathering skill that gathers money. It levels independently of your character and my henchperson is just about never not on a Slicing mission. She's doing level 40 content while I'm level 17. I've bought my first bag slot for 5k credits and have about 17k left. If I didn't have slicing I'd be broke.

The auction house assigns a default price which I rather like and which allows for a certain amount of predatory opportunism. You see, it seems to give price more or less on item type and level. A level 15 blue item will be about the same price as a level 15 green item. This means you can search by quality and pick up some bargains very easily.

I started with Slicing, Scavenging and Investigation but I've realised I'd never get a chance to use Investigation due to permanently running slicing missions so I've changed that one to Archaeology where there's at least a chance to find nodes you can gather from in the wild. All three of those allow you to hit nodes and as a result my minimap, which I keep zoomed out, is often festooned with stars like a little round Christmas tree.

The Imperial Agent is very cool, a gadget-based action spy with a suave British accent. James Bond in space, what's not to like? I went down the Sniper tree partly as a consequence of the game's early structure. Most classes it seems build you up well in one of the areas of speciality from 1-10 then ask you to choose an advanced class. At level 10 I was a superb shot, sometimes killing mobs in one hit but I also had a fairly weak dagger attack and no stealth nor healing. So when the game asked me if I wanted to shoot things for a living or be a rogue/healer it felt like a duh! question. Yes I want to easily one-shot and two-shot my way through the game. I expected though that I'd be respeccing later but the choice is permanent. Not a disaster but certainly a surprise.

Overall it's immensely fun and very charming. There's a very strong Star Wars feel and I'm getting flashbacks to Galaxies in 2003. While it lacks some of the features of Galaxies I'd say it's every bit as good, as fun. Whether I'll be quite so hooked in the longer term depends on how the game feels after I've consumed the content. There's a danger of an extended Tortage effect. Everyone who played Age of Conan loved Tortage then felt very let down by the bland game that came after you'd finished Tortage (the starting city). There's clearly a lot more than just a city but it's still consumable content and in some cases it's being consumed at astonishing speed. So will the game hold people who hit level 50 before Christmas and don't want to make an alt? It will be interesting to see.


  1. I strongly suspect that the guys who are level 50 haven't really consumed the content at all - it's probabyl faster to powerlevel through PvP, space combat and mob grinding in heroic areas than to actually do the story quests.

    Each to their own, and I'm sure these guys are happy with their server first level 50s, but to me powerlevelling through TOR is like going to a Michelin starred restaurant and priding yourself on how fast you can bolt your food down.

    I also agree that this seems to be an MMO for the 'other guys'. Be interesting to see how that market works out for them... especially as far more WoW players are 'other guys' than 'hardcore raiders'.

    Incidentally - tried the PvP warzones yet? If so, what did you think?

  2. Wonder if any of those "never played WoW" players might then also give WoW a try?

    IMO the industry will benefit from multiple AAA titles increasing the consumer base.

  3. I expect to see something similar to launch LoTRO where the real hardcores are gone within the first month or two, and make a big stink about the game "having no content." However, for the rest of us that like to savor things this will be a good long term MMO investment.

    Even assuming half of the launch playerbase is gone by the third month, this could still be the first sub based MMO to settle North of 1 million steady players since WoW.

  4. @ Tremayne yeah, I heard on a podcast that the first guy to 50 just space-barred through the cutscenes. On the other hand he'd already played it during the beta so I don't know if he missed out. And of course maybe he'll alt later.

    I've played 4 pvp matches now. Quite good for what they are but I prefer asymmetrical surprising pvp to zerg pvp. Pvp as War rather than pvp as Sport.

    @Bristal Yup, for all its flaws SWTOR is definitely an improvement to the genre.

    @Yeebo I think retaining the same proportion of players that Lotro did would be a massive success for SWTOR. I'm not sure it's likely though. They've made a big splash and will sell a lot of boxes but people are already talking about moving on to another game after we've run out of things to do here.