Monday, January 2, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic - First Impressions (Part 2 - The Bad)

The Bad

Blatant, inexcusable lack of QA.  This plagues every game, but in SWTOR some of it really is the most aggravating bullshit I've ever come across.  Take item vendors for instance - sorting doesn't work.  If I set the filter to "Show only items I can use" nothing happens.  I can exit the vendor screen, and then click on the vendor again, and it'll even show my preference of "Show only items I can use" still set; but lo and behold - I'll still see items I can't use being offered to me.  Infuriating. 

What's even worse is that this feature WORKS SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE GAME ALREADY.  If I go to a skill trainer, and select the same option, it works.  All the options work.  I realize skills are a little different then items, so it's different code.  But it's not that different - it's unbelievable that a bug like this made it past QA into a production (live) environment.

I have the same complaint about every Bioware game since Mass Effect; the conversation system and the paragon/renegade, or light/dark alignment options you choose throughout.  It's not so bad in the Mass Effect series, as you can't actually lock yourself out of anything except conversation options - which in no way hinders game play, just cut scenes.  In SWTOR, your conversation options can get you light or dark side points, and its measured by a meter.

This meter is one of the worst ideas currently in the game.  An example - I like to play Mass Effect and make conversation choices that I, as a real person, would make had I been put into that situation.  You can't do that in SWTOR, you'll gimp (a term for weakening) yourself.  The meter keeps a total score, so if you have 1000 light points, and 100 dark points, you have a total alignment of 900, and you're considered on the light side of the force.  Cool, right?  Wrong.  And by wrong, I mean stupid.

Equipment in the game is restricted to you by alignment.  That wouldn't be a bad thing - but conversation options are limited, you can't just farm alignment points to get the equipment you want (without repeating daily missions and/or taking a trade skill to do so).  At level 25 my character has a total of ~2700 points. I'm split 1200 light and 1500 dark because the tutorial (or lack there of) in this game didn't explain the alignment system very well (or at all) and especially didn't tell me that I could lose my light saber by making the wrong choices in conversations.

A funny story - around level 15 I had accumulated 1100 light points (to something like 50 dark points), and as a result, was classified as a Tier 1 Light Jedi.  My light sabre at the time was restricted to Light 1 Jedi's.  I probably fought without it for a good two hours before I noticed I wasn't wielding it anymore in combat.  (It's kind of useless for my Jedi, as he uses telekinetic powers instead of a blade as hot as the sun. . . right.)

So, why is this all a bad idea?  There's some very good equipment available at high tiers of light or dark side alignments - and you'd want that gear.  To get it, you can't really make the conversation options you might want to.  Instead, Bioware has us reading the conversation options and looking for the little red triangle next to them in order to indicate that you're making the right choice for this conversation as your character.  So much for role playing a character, now you're just a glorified stereotype.  Not even Light Jedi always made the right decisions, they're just human (well, some of them) after all.

The alignment system compounds with the affection system, which is really just how much your companions like you.  A high affection means they'll undertake trade skills faster and produce more.  The gains and losses for affection through conversation are generally guess work, and unless you religiously examine every conversation option before you make it you'll never get the maximum affection out of every companion - the options just aren't that obvious. 

To rectify the conversation options/affection they put something in the game called the gift system, where you can essentially buy your companions all kinds of shit to raise their affection.  Cool idea, build a system and give us an affordable way to circumvent it.  I'd rather you have spent more time on making sure vendors worked.

Speaking of vendors, they're everywhere.  It's almost like they're multiplying.  There's something like 20 PVP-item vendors on the fleet ship (your main base for your faction).  Why are there that many?  It's not like items are sorted by level (they kind of are) and its not like the sorting on vendors even works anyway!!  What a fucking mess, there's really no other way to put it.

*Free Idea:  Make one PVP reward vendor.  MAKE FILTERING WORK ON THIS VENDOR.  He'll greet you with a set of options and a well thought out UI that lets you pick equipment based on your class, skills (what kind of armor you can use), and stats.  Put this vendor in a few different places - stop flooding the game with useless shit.

The tutorial system is a joke, doesn't explain anything, and what it does explain is usually done in a one-paragraph vague-as-hell format.  See the alignment system above for one example.  Another would be the trade skill system.  As I mentioned previously, you get one craft skill and two gathering skills.  Good luck figuring that out without asking for help.  Took me forever to figure out why I had two skills, one open slot, and couldn't train Armstech when I had Artificing (two crafting skills, you can only have one).

The guild system isn't in the game yet.  Right now, guilds are nothing more then a chat channel for friends, a tag over your character, and a message of the day to greet people with.  I hate using other games as an example, but World of Warcraft has had a 6+ year old guild UI that works very, very well.  How could you not mirror this and implement it from DAY ONE.  Guilds are important to people, they shouldn't fall to the wayside.

The Legacy system isn't in the game yet.  When you go into your skill tree, you see the 'legacy' tab, which says the legacy system will become available once one of your characters finishes act one.  (I'm level 25 and not done with act one... how many acts are there?)  Ironically, even if I was finished with act one, nothing would happen.  It's not implemented yet.  If it's not done - don't tell me I'll get it when I do X.  That's ridiculous.

I like PVP, if you've read anything here you can probably pick up on that.  PVP in SWTOR is a bit of a disaster at the moment, as once you hit level 10, you can get put in the queue with everyone, even level 50's.  So as I found out, you can find yourself against a team of drastically higher-level characters which, barring direct divine intervention, will walk all over you until you've either learned your class well, got lucky, or gotten to level 20+ where the talent points you can invest will at least give you a shot.  They use a bolster system to get the level 10's up to level 50 (attribute wise) but this doesn't make up for the dozens of talent points, and the limited skill set a level 10 has.  It's a stupid and lax interpretation of a PVP system. 

Most games use a tiered system, so level 10-19, level 20-29, etc.  Bolster everyone up to the highest level of that tier, and you eliminate the problem.  Sure, some tiers will be less populated then others.  Life will go on.

The market.  The UI is terrible.  You can't search for items easily, as you MUST select 2-3 things via drop down first, then enter the item's name, then sort through.  You can't just search by item name.  Again, World of Warcraft did this 6+ years ago, it works well there.  GET IT WORKING WELL HERE.  The current UI is an abomination.  Oh, and if you have a companion finish up a trade skill mission or crafting assignment while you're in the market, it's nice enough to kick you out and make you start all over again.  Wonderful.

The social functionality (the who list) doesn't work as it has in every game I've played for the past ten years.  If I type '/who 10 50', I should see a list of everyone currently online from level 10 through level 50.  It should cap about 100 people or so making me refine my search a little.  If I type /who jeff, I should see that there's a character online named Jeffimus, and anyone else with jeff somewhere in their name.  If I type /who sage, I should see all sages online (to a cap).  Simple right?  Try it in SWTOR, you can type /who whatisthemeaningoflife or /who eatshit, and you'll get the same thing; a generic search in your area of all players.  Cool right?  If by cool you mean uninspired, incomplete, and worthless, then yeah.  That's pretty cool.


  1. it seems that the wow can not escape the destiny of comparison between it and the star wars the old republic


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