Some of you may recognize me (I've been absent for quite some time) as the guy who started the BioWare Star Wars MMO Facts & Rumors thread way back in 2006 I believe it was. I followed the game, did some investigating, and overall just wasted a bunch of time delivering circumstantial evidence. Well the long wait is finally over, and...
MY OVERALL RATING IS: 6.5/10
Getting Started: 10/10 - It's as straight forward and streamlined as can be. There have been no issues 'getting started'
Server selection: 9/10 - This has gotten better over time - though I preferred the color bars that show how full a server is to just a word.
Character Creation: 4/10 - Is there one? Yeah sure. Does it live up to expectations for an MMORPG launching in late 2011? Heck no. It's actually one of the biggest disappointments.
-Body proportions are just awful for the most part, in my opinion. You've got thin, average, football player, and 1 big mac away from a coronary. What's wrong with sliders most modern MMORPG's use to define the body?
-Hair is atrocious. There are maybe a handful of decent options. Pick up a hairstyle magazine, choose some cool ones, get CREATIVE with it. It's STAR WARS. Simply uninspired and sloppy work - sorry to be so harsh but can anyone really defend it?
-Silly restrictions, such as only certain classes can have tattoos, piercings etc.
-Cybernetics are just a write off. They look uncreative, poorly designed, slapped on and ugly. Also, why the heck would cybernetics options add facial hair? What if someone likes one of the options, but hates that stupid mustache it comes with -- for no reason. Is it a cybernetic mustache?
I could go on but... to the rest of the review...
Quest intro: 6/10 - They aren't the most exciting but they're decently written enough. I do think they could have been MUCH more engaging off the bad. I know for certain that I could write a more exciting introduction for each class, so I was a bit sad to see how tame the writers went. Like the opening scene in a movie, this should grab the player a lot more than it did.
Combat: 6/10 - It's a slight step forward from the standard mmo's of yesteryear. Personally, if you want us to feel heroic and go with this combat system, I'd through about 3 times as many NPC's at the players but have weapons deal much more damage so it feels like you're plowing down the enemy and the only time you start feeling the panic is when you're truly outnumbered. CC's already a big part of the game anyway. Don't outnumber a player 3 to 1 and have them pretty much stand around spamming skills while enemies slowly go down. Outnumber the player 5 to 1 with enemies dropping much quicker. That would already make you feel like more of a badass.
Itemization: 6/10 - The FIRST item drop you get in game SHOULD be for your class. Teach new players early about upgrading gear, get them excited and hooked to get more. This never happened to me. Also, a lot of the gear, especially starter gear, is pretty lame. If I'm a havok trooper, shouldn't I get even a weaker set of armor out of the gate? I looked like I was a mechanic or something. Switching out one shirt of the same shirt with slightly different color isn't much fun either. Appearance tab would greatly help here.
Inventory: 7/10 - I like how much space is given to the player and the fact that it's fairly easy to upgrade your inventory, however I do find the pricing is way too steep. It goes from 5K for one row, to 20K for the next row? Ouch.
Character Sheet: 7/10 - It's functional even if a little clunky. Nothing special really, but it serves it's purpose.
Movement: 6/10 - I find the characters run WAY too slow out of the gate, which isn't a lot of fun. Until you get sprint. JUMP is a little weak and could definitely use a bit of a boost. There is no: Climbing, Swimming, Crawling etc, which all makes the world feel less real because we can't interact with it. It's a bit of a shame but sadly standard mmo fare. MMO designers could learn a little something from the platforming gameplay of the UNCHARTED series of games.
Zones: 5/10 - As many others have described including my friends, a lot of the time the zones feel like hallways. Sometimes the hallway is a little thicker in places, but you pretty much always feel like you're in a contained, controlled environment. This pretty much kills exploration for me. It's missing the truly vast and interesting open world feeling. Still, they're decently designed and the art direction of the environments is much better than they are for the characters.
Graphics in game: 6/10 - Artistic Direction for Characters is pretty uninspired. Artistic direction for just about everything else is much better. As far as textures, lighting, etc go, it's pretty standard when compared to any recent MMORPG.
Story Line/Voice overs: 9/10 - Stories are pretty decent - I think many people will be much more impressed them than I am. Not to say I don't enjoy them, I just believe many of them could have been better written, including some of the dialogue such as:
NPC: "Do you know anything about those explosions we've been hearing?"
Player: "I don't know. They must have been explosions."
The MAP: 5/10 - It's functional, but I find myself squinting sometimes. The mini-map can be confusing when icons are really close to each other. The main map only lets you select ONE search request at a time. Trainer, Bank, etc. Why is there no 'Show All' option? Been asking for that for months.
Guild Options: 4/10 - Guild support is fairly weak at the moment. Not a whole lot there yet but I'm sure it's coming.
Crafting: 6/10 - A lot of crafters are NOT going to be happy with this. Personally, I've never been into crafting and SWTOR did not change that for me. However, I do enjoy the companion missions and resource gathering more than in other MMO's for some reason.
Space: 5/10 - I see this space experience as 'Space Combat on Training Wheels.' Hopefully, a robust space adventure system will come later on that ISN'T just single player, and allows players to join their friends aboard one ship, take control of blaster cannons while the pilot does their best to evade the enemy, perhaps there could be an engineering mini-game to fix shields up, etc.
Housing: 5/10 - The only housing in game right now is your ship, which also serves as your transportation of course. There's no way to really make it your own, so really it's just a stage for certain cinematics, a crafting station and bank nearby. It's a clever route to take with housing for now, however without any control over the look of your 'home', it feels lacking. You also have no choice of your ship as it's class bound so if you don't like your class' ship, tough.
Summary of thoughts:
As BioWare’s first MMO, I’m certain it will be a great success. As a fan of Star Wars, BioWare and MMORPG’s, I find the game to be an odd mix of robust and lacking. There is PLENTY of game content to keep players happy for a while, but the question is, what happens when the players have devoured that content?
MMO grinders will whip through the game – they always do. There’s nothing so revolutionary about the game that will slow them. The cinematic storytelling may cause a few players to slow down and enjoy the game but ultimately it’s more or less the same as any MMORPG.
When the powergamers are through with TOR, they will likely look for the next MMORPG and this is where I think BioWare may have fallen short on the design and I hope they prove me wrong.
An audience I don’t think they paid much attention to (perhaps for short term business reasons) are the players who are really looking for extended Star Wars escapism. That would be your role players, your communities who want to build cities and big guild empires together – I know I know, this isn’t SWG. That’s all well and good – but it also doesn’t cater to those fans who WANT that kind of immersion.
Character creation is important to many people, not just role players. Sadly, it’s lacking. Powergamers won’t have an issue with that as they don’t get attached to their characters for the most part aside from how ‘leet’ they are.
There’s very little control over appearance once you’re in the game – something I hear BioWare is working on so we’ll get an appearance tab. That will help – a lot.
There’s VERY little incentive or even ability for people to form in game relationships and build communities. Guild system is very basic. You’ve got your friends list. Your player home is a ship that you can’t customize in any way. You cannot ‘MOVE IN’ to this Star Wars universe in its current state and that’s something I hope they address. Give us a galaxy we can move into and I promise you, we WILL and we’ll stick around a LOT longer than people who want to just consume content, play some PVP then move on to the next hot game.
Perhaps BioWare was so focused on controlling the player experience to maximize ‘fun’ they missed the point of how much fun it is for the players to have some degree of freedom and control over their game experience.
In closing, I believe BioWare still has their work cut out for them if they hope to retain people over the long haul but they will have a great launch.
Thank you for reading - please feel free to ask any questions.
--Few questions answered; Addid in case anyone missed them:
Originally posted by Redemp
I didn't notice if you stated it, but how long did you beta test the game?
Originally posted by skeaser
So the zones never open up? I'd only managed to finish the first 2 planets last weekend and was hoping things would open up later, I guessed that's why you couldn't get a bike until higher level. This bums me out, I need to EXPLORE!
They do open up somewhat, but never to the degree that has made me feel like there’s a world to explore. That being said, with the design route they went I’m sure they will be constantly adding onto the world zones.
Please don’t misunderstand me; the worlds aren’t ‘small’. The way a lot of it has been laid out however, feels restricting and there doesn’t seem to be much to find when you go off any beaten path.
Originally posted by Supersoups
I would like to ask what OP means when he says there is very less incentive to forrm communities in SWTOR? as far as i see incentive is PVP (both open and instanced), Flashpoints, Heroics and other group oriented PVE content.
Every guild is allowed to have 3 ally guilds so tools are there to form communities. What other incentive is needed to play together?
Could you please answer my question? my guild already has ally guilds all ready and set for launch days and not even once we thought that we lack incentives to form a strong community among ourselves and that is how we felt during beta too.
Now there’s a difference between grouping and creating a community. Right now, grouping only actually needs to be done for Flashpoints, some Heroic missions (some 2+ heroics can actually be solo’d..hehe, ‘Solo’d’, get it?).
The guild support is pretty bare minimum right now. I hope to see awesome guild locations in the future (BioWare has talked about Guild Capital Ships… awesome? Yes.) and maybe some player cities way later – I know it’s not SWG, but people really LOVE forging their own environment and become very attached to content like this which keeps them playing for the long run, growing a strong community etc.
Originally posted by solarine
Reading that comprehensive post, the first thing I thought was "Aww, it's such a pity Deacon did not enjoy the game". And I am serious: You were so excited about SWTOR even *before* it was announced Bioware was working on it. And you were sort of the go-to guy for the fresh and interesting bit of news.
Much-belated kudos to you for those times, by the way.
Thank you for your thoughts heh J I should note that while my review was very critical (and do I really have to state it was a personal and thus obviously biased review?) I have had fun with TOR.
Especially when grouping. The absolute best part of TOR in my opinion are the FLASHPOINTS and pretty much any time you get in a multiplayer conversation. The Flashpoints are fun, they feel like adventure and the multiplayer convo is a cool mix of competition/co-operation.
Originally posted by arieste
Thank you for reading - please feel free to ask any questions.
Good write-up. One of the best reviews I've read. Thanks.
Only thing I wonder about is this - you say you weren't impressed wtih the storyline, yet you still rank it 9/10. I find myself in the same boat, i'm not at all impressed with the quality of the writing, but the vast majority of people seem to think it's "amazing"... maybe it's because they've only played MMOs with really bad writing before...
I’m not too impressed because as a writer and an avid Star Wars fan, I think a lot of it could have been much stronger, more exciting and more engaging. However, I do believe that a LOT of the population will really enjoy it and will find it very strong and they should, because no MMO out there can compare with the storytelling TOR is bringing to the genre.
Originally posted by Teala
Actually Deacon is, was, one of the biggest fans of this gmae when it first was announced. I remember howexcited he was when he heardit was being made. His write up was really accurate on he whole of the game for the most part. To just blow off his commentary like he doesn't know what he is talking about is wrong. He is an avid MMORPG gamer with lots of experience beta testing and playing these games. I for one appreciate the time and effort he took to write this up. Thanks Deacon!
Teala! Great to see you still around here J and thanks for the kind words.
-- To explain my lacking enthusiasm for TOR in my post history, well, that just came with the more I learned the less I was excited about many directions BioWare was opting to go in. Not that it's wrong, I was simply less enthusiastic.
Still, go play it, you'll likely have fun. This is just my experience with it and I hope it will gradually improve with time and further development, even if core features aren't about to change.
As for GW2, it's a whole different topic but yes I've been impressed with what ArenaNet is doing with it and believe it could be a really fun MMORPG for me.