Story Matters

Way back when SWTOR (Dec 2011) launched I mentioned that I thought the leveling portion of the game was extremely well done.  It really was like playing KOTOR3 but with multiplayer.  Not MMO multiplayer, just lobby based games really.  There were next to no social tools in game at the time – which I argued was the primary reason it went F2P.

2 years on, or thereabouts, I decided to give the game another shot.  I do hear great things about it now, in terms of social stuff, where the account has value as well as the actual characters.  The Legacy System is  a neat touch that gets expanded every patch.  There are bind on account items that allow a ton of customization with no power creep.  That’s awesome.

So what’s changed?  Clearly, the F2P portion is a big one from my last session.  You can subscribe (which everyone should do for 1 month to get the expansion pack) and that gives you a ton of features that free players need to unlock.  Free players have a lot of limits but the entirety of the leveling game – the best part of the game – is free.  Experience gain is nerfed (~15%), you gain no rested, travel time is longer and there are limits on crafting, credits and what not.  It’s essentially KOTOR3 though, for free.  The stories have been expanded on Makeb and the progress is pretty neat.  I won’t spoil it but the concept is novel and the level gap isn’t a huge thing.  You know WoW’s expansion/raid issue where a raid boss at level 60 is the same difficulty as a rabbit at 61?  That really doesn’t seem to be such the case here.  Hats off on that.

There’s a character/item level dependent group finder now.  That’s a convenience.  You can swap specs out in the field, also good.  The real features are in customization of gear, dyes, vehicles and pets.  I’ve argued long and hard about this being the real venture for F2P, where power is not behind a pay wall, just content.  Every character is unique in their own way.  I wish Marvel Heroes would catch onto this a bit more.  Neverwinter did in the last expansion and WoW has transmogrification (still find that a stupid name).

Social tools still stink though.  There’s missing a summon player button.  It doesn’t prompt you to change instances to meet friends.  Loading screens can be horrendous.  It makes it harder to find and connect with other people.  I was really, really hoping they would have figured this part out by now.

As it is, I’m having fun playing through the story again through a different character’s eyes.  Replayability is super high here when the story is gripping rather than just a different set of class mechanics.  I played WoW recently and this has got to be my biggest gripe.  Leveling is just meh.  You only want to rush through it since there’s not meat to it and you have next to zero impact on the world.  I saved a damn world from demons and I still have to kill 5 boars.  At least in SWTOR your reputation precedes you and the story is cohesive.

I remember 2 months after launch having 2 max players and only PvP to do since everything else was busted.  The game is lightyears (had to fit that in) beyond launch state.  Had it come out with these systems at launch, I really do think history would have given the game a different by-line.  It’s certainly worth a look today and you can’t beat free as a price.  I’ll try to get a few screenshots up in the following days.

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