As many of you may have noticed there is a new MMO on the block and like a few of you I have decided to try out Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Now my playtime in SWTOR has been short and I’ve only got up to level 11 and I haven’t yet got my advanced class and am missing a lot of skills/abilities but I thought I’d share my experience with you and compare it to the WoW experience to see how both games could be enhanced by a transfer of ideas.
WoW: The introductory cinematic is OK, visually extremely good and well polished. It feels epic and builds high hopes of what is to follow. Then you get to the character creation page and discover that the graphical standard is a long way off the high level cinematic. The options are very limited with only 5 aspects to change which vary slightly by race/sex these are: skin colour, face, horn/hair style, horn/hair colour and finally facial hair/earrings/ears/markings. Once created and named you are thrown into the world with a race specific intro that uses the ingame engine to drive you to the spawn point and you’re ready for questing.
SWTOR: Logging on for the first time was a really awesome experience, the cinematic introduction was, as one would hope, was extremely good and very high quality. but knowing what the Wow is like I was expecting a huge downgrade in graphics. But upon entering the game this wasn’t the case (although there was a drop in quality it was a small step rather than a huge leap and I must say the graphics were simply stunning, even on my lowly setup which meant the setting were all set to low.
Character creation is a step up from the WoW one but after experiencing the Rifts one a while back and the LoTRO one very recently I was disappointed that it was a bit limited in the customisation options. However, the system has more variables (9) including the ability to change body style from slender to fat. Apart from the lack of options within each of the 9 categories (body style, head, scars, complexion, eye colour, beards/lips, hair style, hair colour, skin colour) my big complaint was that the design takes place in armour that adds a few pounds to the character and its not the stuff you start the game in which did alter the overall appearance of teh character a bit too much and my SWTOR Evlyxx doesn’t look quite the way I would like.
Overall there is little to choose from and neither really does as good a job as they could. At least WoW has the excuse that it is 7 years old (and the design probably nearer 8) and SWTOR fails at being as good as Rifts, last years WoW challenger and LoTRO, a FTP game that is 2 years old too.
WoW: with the launch of Cataclysm Blizzard fixed all the ills of their questing system. The starting areas were neutered completely almost removing any challenge from the quests, but the overall experience in the starting zone is good. Once leaving the starting area the difficulty is raised and it for the genuine new player it is possible to pull ambitiously and die. but if you’re able to pull mobs singularly nothing is too hard or particularly challenging. The quests themselves are well planned with each hub giving you a few quests to go and do and hand in on the way to the next quest hub. If you’re lucky special transport is laid on or you can use the in game taxi system (gryphons/wind riders/hippogryphs). If you’re expected to run somewhere you’ll only ever get asked to run there once rather than repeatedly have to walk to the location to do quests.
SWTOR: The quests in SWTOR have been excellent, there are a couple of things that make it feel this way. The first is that the starting quests are centered around your growth from a lowly padawan into a Jedi and how your efforts are actually making a change to teh world around you. The second is that while most quests are in teh open world a few are instanced areas that only apply to you (and your party if you choose to group at this point) and that means that you’re not left hanging around waiting for respawns on a key quest and many of these instanced quests are your class specific story-line ones.
Another reason is that there are multiple types of quest-line for you to follow, there are generic quests available to everyone, class quests and optional sideline story quests. There are no go kill 12 “X” quests that you pick up. These appear as bonus quests when you’re killing mobs of a certain types which is rather sweet as you don’t need to go hunt them and the hand-ins for these quests are automatic as they offer only XP and money as the rewards.
The final factor is that some quests you need to be grouped for unless you’re over level for them and imho that is an essential part of playing an MMORPG as if you’re soloing everything why bother with a group based social game when there are alternatives out there like Skyrim or Mass Effect?
Also the quests are spoken to you which is cool at first but does get a bit annoying as you go on and if levelling alts I can imagine it becoming a pita. An annoying feature of these spoken quests is that some are spoken in an alien language so you end up having to read the subtitles anyway? Explain the purpose of that as I don’t get it. If it is immersion then I shouldn’t be able to read the text as I wouldn’t be able to translate it. If I can translate it using the “force“, then just let me hear it in English please.
However the big failing of SWTOR questing is the problem that plagued WoW pre-Cataclysm, questing where you run from the quest giver at location A, completing the quests at locations B and C then handing the quest in at location A only to have to run back to locations B and C later to do more quests. Granted there are taxi’s that can get you close to the points and it does get you familiar with the maps but it is an unnecessary time sink and most definitely not fun.
Overall, SWTOR questing is better but only because of the group questing and the storyline quests. If they were to remove the constant ping-pong between the same locations it would be awesome and when wow finally implements scenarios which are the group questing content it lacks
My final comment is that it has been painful getting into SWTOR . I played the pre-launch early start and post-launch live and have had horrible wait times in queues. I appreciate that the server I am on is a higher population one but as my friends have set up a guild there that is home for me in SWTOR I’ll not be switching to a low pop one. Things have improved post Christmas Day and I hope that the reason is that the realm populations are being deliberately restricted to spread server load. But it is very reminiscent of the bad old days of WoW which are thankfully long gone.