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Hi, on friday at 18:00 CEST, the TSW went live after a long closed beta and 4 public beta weekend for people who bought early access with pre-order or special package. I have bought the lifetime edition so was one of those people and have played the game rather a lot this weekend. This is my review.
A decent game, although not a MMORPG with a strong focus on PvP although NOT world PVP with some unique twists. It advances the genre in some areas but in others it is very primitive indeed. Whether it is a good game for YOU?
That depends on whether the positives outweigh the negatives. I can't tell what is postive or negative about the game from YOUR perspective, only from mine. For ME, the postive outweights the negative and that is why I bought the game BUT I also do realize the game is far from perfect. I have also bought Guild Wars 2 and plan to avoid the mistake I (and maybe others) have made with SWTOR which is to play a game so hard you get sick of it.
Read on if you want more of MY impression of the game. I use caps for ME and YOU because a lot of people take reviews as personal assaults on their view of a game. This is MY view of the game, read it and determine what of it is relevant to YOU!
Some posters claim this is the smoothest launch ever. Well, that might be true for them, there have in the troubled history of MMORPG's been some truly terrible launches including such disasters as Dark&Light where ATI cards were simply not working. How smooth YOU consider the launch, depends on YOUR previous experiences. MY previous experiences include SWTOR and LOTRO and they were much smoother, especially LOTRO.
On Friday, the game had severe lag (hours) for claiming special rewards for pre-order, many, including me, only got our low level booster items when we had already out levelled them. It could all have been avoided if Funcom just did what every other MMO does, have the items in your inventory when you create a new character. Why overload your shop with free item claims?
What is also galling about TSW for ME, is that the auction house isn't ready. This wouldn't be so bad IF it didn't look like it is a carbon copy of the Age of Conan system (the bank sure is), which launched some years ago. AoC also launched without it. You might have thought they would avoid such an obvious failure.
There are also a LOT of bugs with "story" quests, these are quests you can have only one active at a time and can only resume when you pick another one, by visiting the quest giver. These are the quests that go beyond the "kill X of Y" that are the main diet of MMO's and this game.
Some of them are totally bugged, requiring GM interference, others are bugged on certain dimensions/servers (more about this later) leading to lots of people claiming in chat a quest isn't bugged when it is for the player claiming to encounter a bug. Some of this can be worked around by getting invited to a server/dimension where it is working but FAR to many story quests are bugged. 50% at least. Many were not available in public or closed beta or did work in beta or didn't work in beta as well. Shoddy workmanship.
As said, you may have experienced far worse but I have experienced far better. I can however live with it BUT I am not going to go fanboy and declare this a smooth launch when it clearly isn't.
If you are not going to put up with a bugged launch in 2012, this game is not for you. If you can accept that a company with 2 previous MMO's and more then a decade experience can still screw things up, keep reading.
Funcom has changed the way MMORPG's work by introducing the concept of a single server. When you create a character, you selection a dimension/shard that has the usual distinction of being German or Role Play. NO PvP servers however, you might notice.
But in chat, if you pick Arcadia (RP) you might not notice a lot of RP. That is because chat is across ALL servers. And if you group with someone, you can join them on their server. So you might start on Arcadia, talk with someon on Cerberus and do a group instance on yet another.
It certainly makes things busy. YOUR area might be deserted but chat won't be empty. In fact chat is also cross area, cross level etc etc. General chat is EVERY single TSW player.
So, you won't be alone SWTOR style. If you played SWTOR, you might think this is positive. If you played WoW. Imagine Barren chat times a thousand.
Lets hope this remains a niche game because 10 million people in the same chat channels...
However, I LIKE my MMORPG's to have masses of players, I LIKE chat, I got 4 windows open for different channels and as long as you don't try to hold a convo in General, Help/LFG etc work pretty good. Yes, connection to chat sometimes gets lost and windows forget their subscribed channels but hey, I already told you the game had a lot of bugs yet you kept on reading.
Very interesting choice by Funcom, definitly different but will have to see how it works out. Pity a lot of players bought this game totally unaware of this feature, so lots of chat about how guest X works for them and they can't comprehend that people that are claiming a bug are on a different server where it truly is bugged (Something Wicked has this especially).
Basic quest design for a MMO
You would think a company with two previous MMO's would know what to do and what not to do. You would be wrong. A lot of the story/investigation quests require manipulation of objects in a certain order, puzzles. Get the order wrong, the puzzle resets. Someone else get the order wrong, the puzzle resets. For you too. Someone does it halve? Yours is bugged out too. Someone does the wrong move? You get damaged too.
SWTOR set a new standard with its heavy instancing so that stuff YOU had to do was only available to you without others interfering. This was done as an improvement of WoW, Lotro, EQ where people had to que to kill a quest mob.
TSW takes a huge step back for story quests. Oddly enough, quests mobs often do allow multiple solo players to kill the same NPC and all get quest updated EVEN if some arrived late.
TSW both improves on the standard AND goes back on it. How do you rate this? I rate it as confused. Mind you, I didn't like the heavy instancing of SWTOR one bit. I like my MMO's massive so I will take the interfering and enjoy the impropty working together with other to finish a quest. Like working together to clear a field of whisps just because.
That is one thing TSW gets right for some reason, a LOT of players help others out. More then once I got healed or had enemies stunned by a passing player that saved my hide. I like, I like very much! That is what MMO's are about, rather then the solo RPG that was SWTOR.
BUT YOU might also end up annoyed if you can't deal with the fact that quest mobs might be killed by others and you have to wait for a respawn.
The puzzle objects however are just bad design. And now it is by accident someone else messes up yours. Grievers are going to have a field day with this.
TSW is very traditional in its roles, you got the tank, DPS and healer and to a lesser extent, buffers and disablers. How you build YOUR tank, is however up to you. To a certain degree.
The game has 9 weapons and you can learn to use all of them BUT only have 2 active at any time. Switching sets is easy (can even be done in combat) and might become essential to a well rounded player later on.
Each weapon has a role, some give you lots of survivability and hate generation, such weapons are the basis for a tank build. IF you also pick the skills for that weapon that generate hate. Blade for instance has some attacks that generate lots of hate and some that don't. Blade also has healing skills. So... are you going to be a tank or (off-)healer blade user?
You are limitted to 7 active and 7 passive skills, from the skill set of the two weapons you got equipped. You can save builds for your "deck" complete with weapons and stat items. So you might start a dungeon as a DPS, switch to a healer setup for bosses and go tank on the final boss.
Skills are bought with action points, of which you can earn a unlimitted number through getting XP so it ispossible, with serious grinding (highest skills cost 50 AP) to get all skills.
The game offers several example decks that give you a handhold as to fit a certain role. You can easily make your own however, and I have (self-healing tank, I hit, I get healed, I get hit, I get healed, they miss, I get healed).
Working out YOUR deck MIGHT be a lot of fun. If you enjoy thinking. Remember Barren chat? Many a player doesn't enjoy thinking and so chat is rive with "give me a uber build".
When you have yoursetup for your current "level" combat itself is pretty simple. You got 7 active skills to choose from BUT if you do a decent build, you only need a few of them for most mobs. My setup basically is a area effect that does damage to all in it, a self healing hit for group mobs and a single target attack for the last enemy standing. White and yellow single critter mobs (on level and above level), I pull several since my multi-target hitting healing me, means that is actually easier then fighting them one on one.
It is NICE to get a build that works for you... but it does mean you can play the game with just 1 button if you make a build for that. You don't have to... but you can.
How complex combat is for YOU depends on YOUR deck and frankly on what you consider complex. Some enemies do avoidable attacks, even with my 1 button setup (well 4) pulling several of these and avoiding them all gets rather hectic and, I am ashamed to admit it, fun. In a way that a 40 skills game like WoW/Lotro/SWTOR could never be.
Twitch gaming is fun. Oh my god, I just vomitted in my mouth. Oh well, at least I can claim building your deck is a proper intellectual challenge... if you build your own and don't just copy others.
Now, how free are you to make your own build? Well as free as you want if you don't mind dying. You COULD for instance make a pure single target high DPS build. And you would hate enemies that run in a crowded area and end up pulling a dozen enemies that you have to kill one at a time.
The game is designed that you would SWITCH decks for such mobs, so you are free to play as you want... just as long as you do it according to the mob/area you are in. Free? Yes, if your game style fits Funcoms design. If not. Though luck.
Lets just say, single target DPS with no self-heal is not that suitable for PvE. In MY eyes, YOU might see it differently.
There isn't any. Well, not as you know it. Anyone can craft and there are no levels to grind. Any item you loot can be broken into base materials and base materials can be upgrade by combining 5 into 1 higher level. So 5 base water becomes 1 water.
You can create new items by arranging the right material in a patern on a grid and using the right toolkit for the level of materials and item made. Toolkits are looted, looted a lot. Items to break down into materials are looted less. I never managed to create on level items. By the time I had looted enough material, I had already looted or bought higher level items.
Items have a quality level and you need to have the skill to use that level, you use SP points to gain levels for a item set (weapon and stat items). Now it is entirely feasable to put all your points in your primary weapon to get it to level 6, then go the blue mountains and buy a quality level 6 weapon, outfit it with a level 6 glyph and have a very nice boost for the 2 areas before it.
Because any can craft and there are no skill levels to it and the number of materials needed is to high and better items can be easily obtained, you might as well ignore it.
Those of you who enjoy crafting in WoW/Lotro or even EQ2 (and may god have mercy on your soul), this is not your game if you expect something similar.
About the only use I can see for crafting is to give an alt a nice starter set.
There isn't any. If you ever played Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies and think MMORPG means more then just PvE. Then this isn't the game for you.
TSW is a number of seperate areas for PvE and a number of seperate smaller maps for PvP. It really isn't MMORPG by the terms of these older more venerable games where you could bake bread, go fishing and do lots of stuff other then killing things. Questing and PvP is ALL there is in TSW. Mind you, story/puzzle quests are something other MMORPG's haven't done before BUT if you are making an alt, those puzzle quests are going to loose their appeal since you already know the solution.
I like this game, despite its flaws BUT I would NOT call it a proper MMORPG. Closer to whatever the original Guild Wars was. A PvP game with grand lobby? SWTOR suffered from this too. Lotro offered music, special events with zero combat to give you something to do besides killing things. It is what make a MMORPG a MMORPG and not just another multiplayer game.
YOU might expect different things, but if you yearn to make your character be a cook or politician, move on. If SWTOR bored you with just combat, move on.
Some complain about the animation. I can only say that women hips move more when they run and so do their boobies. I know because I enjoy watching boobies in motion. But few MMO's get this right and anyway, some female enemies are nude and their boobies jiggle. Quite nicely. It is secret attack, I am just mesmerized by the movement and totally ignore the health bar going from green to red to black.
But the graphics and design of the environment, they are something else. Here Funcom has not just raised the bar but launched it into space where the last thing it heard was Voyager 1 going "wtf was that" as it zoomed past.
The designers have created a world where everything looks real, makes sense and fits into the scenery. You probably have gotten used in games that you can kill a mob a few feet from their comrade without raising an alarm. Well, you can do that in TSW with zombies BUT zombies are brain dead. So are hell spawn but they have a larger agro range.
I have not yet encountered a situation where you have to kill trained soldiers who are blissfully unaware of all their dead comrades lying about. IT IS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BRILLIANT.
But the game goes further, everything just looks and feel right, like you are in a real area, a real slice of the world. Steets are sensible, houses are sensible, kingsmouth looks just like a small town would. So do London and New York.
The Shire in Lotro gets a run for its money although TSW has less of a theme park feel with almost no set animated scenes, only a few overheard conversations.
Compared with SWTOR, the difference is gigantic. SWTOR to me never felt real, the sizes, speeds where wrong and the cities were just horrid and never felt alive, or realistic.
TSW kingsmouth looks just like a small town would after a zombie epidemic. The immersion is 100% and that to me is a HUGE factor. Lotro Shire also was good but later areas just had to many random placement of enemies and none sensical check points/patrols/bases.
All other MMO's are pong, TSW is TSW. Even Skyrim or GTA don't look and FEEL this real to me.
This is a game selling itself as PvP game, it has three factions (major plus, it means that in theory if 1 faction is bigger, the other two could work together to balance things out) and all factions have exactly the same skillset.
There is NO world PvP. The PvE areas is entirely devoid of PvP. No ganking, no PK. There is also NO such thing as a PvE or PvP server. All servers only have PvP in special areas you que for and all rules are the same.
It is fun, to ME but there are (for now) only three different maps, varying in size. I like massive PvP because it means you can work together and suffer less from the uber build grinders. The company has promised 200 player fights but not yet deliverd. Rather standard for Funcom. Age of Conan also was supposed to have massive PvP.
One intresting new thing is that everyone wears a faction uniform making it very clear what side someone is on (outlines are very different).
Frankly, unless the big battles come out, I don't see this as anything really special. It is good but standard. That a lot of other games have far worse does not make this particular good. So, yes, it is the best, most non-griefer I have experienced yet. But... actually I don't know why I am not more enthousiastic about it. Maybe it is that the promise that levels wouldn't make a difference is a load of bull.
You may not have levels but you items do and QL0 vs QL10 is a HUGE difference.
PvP does give XP and is therefor a completely viable way to level up. Until others have QL10 and you just end up dying a lot.
Maybe that is why I am still hesistant although to be fair, right now I am the one with the high level sets doing a lot of killing.
Your avatar/The sims
TSW make a HUGE difference from the norm in setting the game world in the real world and seperating your outfit, from your stats. So you won't have pants of smithing in this game. You can pick a set of clothes when you create a character, buy more with in game money and also buy them for real money (per character NOT account) in the cash shop. All three selections are adequate.
I did enjoy making some nice combo's for my avatar (had to benchpress with my tongue to keep my man card) but you cannot save these as a set for easy switching. Cash bought items are also expensive and only for one character, not your entire account.
Also, as a The Sims 3 player (had to benchpress with my eyelids to keep my man card for that one) the selection is tiny and no option for USER made items.
That is the problem with raising the bar, spoiled users like me instantly want it raised even higher. Why can't I wear sunglasses and earrings, why only 1 set of earrings. Why not used made designs? Why can't I pick my own colors for items, why can't I make t-shirts with my own logo?
I LOVE the realistic outfits and many people look very different BUT there is so much room to making this even more awesome.
Your face however... well, this is a The Sims and Skyrim thing. Game designers dream up realistic human faces. Gamers want pretty elfish faces. Designers point at detailed skins with realistic discoloring. Gamers want impossible perfect skins.
You can easily create a realistic mature face. A stunning pretty young girl, that is slightly harder and you have far fewer options. Small chin for one, girls should have one, not a realistic wide one.
A lot of mods exist for The Sims 3 to get rid of the cartoon faces. For Skyrim there are countless mods to reduce rimples, skin imperfections etc etc.
Either game designers are wrong or players are wrong. But in solo games, you can install mods. In MMO's you can't.
My avatar looks rather pretty but in a 24 year old woman style. And that is OLD. Practically senior citizen, one foot in the grave.
Hair styles are also limitted, so you will find everyone wearing a different combo of clothes BUT a lot of the same hairstyles. An option to mix match several styles together would definitly improve this. It isn't bad (lots of short hair for women for once) but MORE MORE MORE!
TSW sets a new standard here but Funcom can easily raise the bar even further and create a truly stunning feature.
--- SPOILERS ---
Barren chat has shown the IQ of the average MMO player is slightly less then my ping time. When players need help finding a mob right next to them, clearly labelled and marked on the map, decipering morse code might be a bit beyond the average player.
Funcom never made a secret of it that they were going to include puzzles and that not all quests might be solvable by all players. BUT they did forget that a puzzle MUST work. If you give a wrong hint, the puzzle becomes to hard.
For instance, the quest "men in black vans" (yes, the game has lot of lame puns like this) asks you to find a password with the hint "my wife". On the persons visiting card, his companies website url is printed. WRONG. There is a dash in the real url, that isn't on the card. The site really exists and can be found with the ingame browser or a real one. BUT with a dash you have no way of knowing should be in it. Once you been told this (or googled it) you can easily find a bit of human intrest where the password is "revealed" thanks to the hint. No, men in black apprently do not use secure passwords.
That same quests later asks you to disable a machine by using parts in certain order. It is strongly suspected the hints for this are wrong and the machine gives no indication of when you go wrong. Also, other people can interfere with your attempt.
Another quests asks you to decipher some morse code (SPOILER, there is an app for that) BUT the morse code is rather badly done. It should be a BINARY signal, ON/OFF. It is instead a wave more akin to music so unless processed or played on really bad speakers, it can't be automatically processed. You can record it and slow it down, even just look at the wave in a sound tool BUT it is very clear from that that whoever designed the sound, heard of morse code but didn't fully understand it. It is also insanely fast, far faster then a real operator could do. And as said, areal operator would use equipment producing proper blocks, not waves. On/off.
Another puzzle requires you to know a bit about how churces work (I never went to church and knew it) which many don't.
I LOVE the puzzles but you can only play this game AND keep your faith in humanity if you turn off chat. This game manages to combine all the clamor for "where is X" because people are to lazy to look for 5 seconds with people wondering what the password is for the hint "music of the seasons".
This is made worse by the fact that the players who refuse to think for themselves are also the less socially capable. True barren chat in general. The help channel is a lot more survivable were people asks for hints, not handholding.
Mind you, there is yet another element. The cry babies who constantly whine about "spoiler" on page 17 of a thread marked as spoiler with a subject of "help needed on X". About clues and hints in help. Yeah yeah, you want to figure it out all on your own, then close help and don't read help threads.
These people are akin to the "you can solo that" who always pipe up when people dare to group for normal content because they enjoy playing with other people.
Puzzles are a very nice addition to the game but they are also a huge divider in the community. For me, they really make me wish for a method of not just ignoring people but to actually vote them out of the game for being to stupid to exist. Or to keep general chat turned off.
For some reason, Funcom allows some scripting to create special chat. So cue russian spammers (is there any other kind of russian) spamming their guild recruitment is huge font size. Or images appearing in chat. Or links for free clothes which end up spamming the channel when idiots click on it.
Brilliant stuff Funcom. Why not just give griefers and instant kill for other players and be done with it.
One quest (men in black vans) is so bugged, it can't be advanced without interference. I made a petition and this was answered after about an hour. I was in a different area so had to walk back (remarkably enjoyable because of the nice scenery, realistic layout and clear roads) and then sent a tell and he fixed it in a minute or so.
Considering this was early launch with lots of bugs, that was fine and fast service.
For now, only titles, statless clothes, and some consumable special effects. No pay-to-win. So far. Rather expensive since clothes are per character and NOT all your characters on your account, but you don't need to buy them, the selection in game (London) is big enough for most.
I could however only get credit card to work, despite having bought the game itself perfectly fine with paypal.
Prepaid credit cards do work, which is nice for us non-americans who don't enjoy paying money to a bank each month for a card you only use once a year.
This rather long post is both positive and negative. After SWTOR, this game is a breath of fresh air but it is also a rather bare MMORPG compared to Lotro. But compared with the Moria legendary weapons, the simple crafting and levelling are a relief.
TSW is a well done McDonalds hamburger. Yes, there are better tasting hamburgers, there are healthier meals but it sure hits the spot for me right now.
The graphics, setting, single server, 3 factions PvP, same skills for all factions are all big plusses.
BUT if you are looking for a replacement for WoW raiding, Ultima Online bread baking, Rift grouping, Eve PvP, EQ crafting, SWG player housing, Lotro music, then this game ain't it.
I like this game, but I am also going to continue looking for a REAL MMORPG to satify my MMORPG needs. This isn't a MMORPG, it is a fun multiplayer game that I enjoy besides my MMORPG fix (momentarily rather lacking and suffering withdrawal sympthoms to the point of playing The Sims 3 to get some crafting done).
Agree or disagree with my view all you want, this is my view and not yours. If you feel similar, this game might be worth purchasing. If you read my description and disagree, play the game and make up your own mind.
If however you read it and think "but I want world PvP" or hate another feature I mention, best pass this game on. I predict this game will do moderately well eventually settling into a niche while people will keep looking for a game to totally immerse themselves in like they did in EQ/UO.