So once more the weekend rolls round and I'm sat at my GF's unable to TOR it up, so hence this write up. I'm not a professional reviewer and I suppose this is gonna be more a casual bit of blogging than an IGN review but you might find it an interesting read.
So I've been on TOR since release, Xmas was a busy period socially so I wasn't a particularly early 50 but I've been there most of the month. Overall I've never enjoyed leveling in an MMO but I think you have to commend BW for making the game at the very least an interesting solo experience, by Chapter 3 I was pretty into my own story and this kept me from trying to brute force to 50 asap instead I was more interested in completing every quest on every planet....I can't really explain why though lol, all I can say is some story lines are better than others. Tattoine for instance I have no idea what the planet story was, I went there to kill a Jedi and I can't remember anything else but I certainly know that Taris had a Rakghoul problem and that we were competeing for an alliance on Voss. Overall it's a good effort, I can't say that this is the first time I've been enthused to finish of a quest hub but BW have done a decent job story wise.
Story aside though I found alot of the enviroments to be quite dull, maybe Tattoine or Hoth seem abit of a blur to me is because the environments completely switched me off. Fair enough they are both deserts be it ice or sand but thats all they are, it doesn't seem to me that whoever designed these environments tried to challenge themselves or innovate.... or I might be being overly critical. I dunno I reserve the right to say both zones bored me though. I loved any City-esque environments, this was new to me and I liked Nar Shadaa and Correlia even if Correlia suffers from a muted pallette and on the outdoor front I liked Belsavis note how geothermals can be used to make interesting environments on an ice world, I agree they couldn't repeat the trick though but would have to innovate elsewhere.
As for the Quest hubs themselves I feel BW missed a trick. Quest hubs should be laid out in a fashion that stops you from running back and forth between your objectives and your hand in's. When I go to a quest hub when I leave I should know exactly where I'm going and which quests I'm going to do before I hand them in. Blizz were outright clinical with this in cata and I think that annoyed alot of people as they noticed the formula but I appreciated that Blizz knew how to make a quest hub intuitive. SWTOR on the other hand has some absolutely terrible hubs, Taris for example had me running round in a circle going back to previous quest hubs to hand in things I'd missed or done in the wrong order. I'm up for accepting some responsibility in this but it's the same on every world. Voss for instance had me ping ponging between the temple and the previous quest hub with objectives popping up next to the temple then going back to hand them in then being sent back to do another quest and having to return once more (blowing up Jedi statues was the quest iirc), it just stopped the quests from flowing for me and they could do better.
The Voice Acting is a mixed affair, it's great when your soloing but once you hit the end game it becomes superfluous. I can't say that it should be mandatory in future MMO's and if a company can work it in without it drawing resources away from things that actual make the game better then it's at least worth a go for the solo experience. The Dark/Light thing is also a complete red herring, you end up choosing either Dark or Light and get penalised for doing anything that runs to the contray, even the dialogue options lost all meaning to me as I was using the grind affection points. What this resulted in was me picking an dialogue options I thought would earn me affectioin points or Dark side points. I try to power game when I can, my GM for instance embraced this aspect of the game much better than I choosing to max affection with gifts and choosing dialogue he wanted to hear or had charecterised for his avatar, on me though it was wasted I just felt obliged to game it for points. My failing but I can't help but feel the dialogue shouldnt have any effect on anything so players are encouraged to charecterise their avatars. I'm sure neutral will be an option in the future but that boat has sailed for me, at least on my Marauder.
When I dinged 50 I activated Ilum (bit disappointed with another ice world but what the hey) and the Belsavis dailies and noticed that the hilts/armorings were good enough to entirely skip the normal modes, however since I'm waiting on my guild to level up I've only cleared BT and Foundry in HM and roflstomped em both, wanted to give Rise of the Rakghouls a go on HM (was easy peasey on normal) to see how hard they could get but haven't had the chance, hopefully this week will change that though. In truth I'm not expecting much from the current tier of PvE content, it's something that requires time and experience to get right and make challenging without overtuning and that was the essence of Vanilla WoW raiding, X amount of easy bosses then a massive cock block of a boss to stop people roflstomping everything. I guess my only point about end game PvE at this point is I'd like to do more of it but I'm not gonna be disappointed if it's lacking.
Now onto the other route of progression, PvP! I'm loving this atm and since the mods and enhancements keep pace with equivalent PvE gear then both paths pay dividends, if I get a duplicate via champion bags then I take out the mod/enchancement and stick it in my PvE gear so I don't feel disappointed with RNG bags....unless they don't pay at all or give me relics (4 so far!!!). What I'm enjoying the most about the PvP isn't the game play but the community, you know whos gonna be a threat to you or not, you can build rivalries and relationships and the fact that you can use /1 to talk to each other mid game is great. In the end this might just turn into a flamefest but atm on Kellian Jarro EU theres camaraderie and lulz, if the other team is clearly better they get a GG, if the games been close then I can at least tell the other team I've enjoyed our match. What I'd like to see is BW addressing the imbalances so we can stabilise the community.
On that theme then community is one aspect I think this game shines, and thats because we are trapped on one server with a certain group of players and you make the best of it. Knowing people outside my guild is great fun and it's different to how insular my community has been on WoW, I don't speak to anyone on Ghostlands who aint in my guild and I don't need to, thats a curse and a blessing. In WoW I'm effectively alone and adrift in a sea of anonymity, on SWTOR I'm chained to the deck with my fellow oars men and theres no where to hide if I'm being a jerk. Theres no future in this though, it's something that will eventually drain away like it did in WoW but I'm gonna enjoy it's whilst its here and I hope BW try to preserve it, it's actually SWTOR's best USP atm and I think this resonates with other MMO players who have felt abit isolated lately.
Professions are a major fail atm, go Biochem or don't bother. Artifice was great as I leveled but as soon as I can be bothered to drop it I'll go Biochem. Even if they nerf being able to stack adrenals etc the perma stim/adrenal/health pot will save you more money than you will ever make with the other proffs that stop being able to make items that keep pace with the rewards from top tier pve/pvp. I'm also not a fan of crafts taking upwards of an hour for epics, I know I don't have to sit there making it but really....anyone enjoy waiting on hour for an item....it just doesn't make sense and it doesn't achieve anything aside from making a fairly solid crafting system (the rewards don't pay outside of biochem but crew missions etc are fine and welcome) a little bit worse. If I had to watch my char craft an item for an hour then I'm really investing right? If I have to send a crew member away for an hour then I'm not invested at all and all I'm doing is waiting and finding a distraction, I just don't get what they have achieved by bothering with long crafting times.
I like SWTOR and I'm prepared to overlook it's failings, I'd like the UI to be made more responsive and I'd like the engine to not be the complete pile of turd that it is for hogging resources. If I'm going to talk about whats wrong then it's not that there is anything explicitly wrong with the game, but theres been some very odd design choices that boggle the mind. Why isn't the UI unpinnable? Is it really that hard to code? Did every beta tester fail to mention that MMO players like to set out their UI's in a fashion that makes sense to them? I suppose for some classes it's not a problem, they at least let you unpin the OPS frame if your a healer but as a melee DPS with too many abilities and resources being tracked in such a way that I have to stop looking at my char entirely then I feel I've been sold short. Let me unpin my Rage bar and place it under my char and I'm happier, let me choose which buffs/debuffs to track and place em where I want and the UI is spot on.
When it comes to the lack of a combat log or metre then I can see both sides, no one likes to be told they suck and the way most MMO players use metres is completely misguided. That being said though I'd like to know how I'm performing but since I don't know how other people are doing either then their is a veneer that maybe we don't need one. I can understand BW wanting to keep creative control of their game but things like Health bars, CD trackers and the like made by the modding community can really benefit the game and BW should be quicker to realise how much happier they can make their community by letting these guys do their stuff...even if they are afraid of things like DBM it's not like they play the game for you, they just stop you having an excuse for missing vital mechanics.
I know these may come off as negative conclusions but the truth is that the game is inches from being fine, it's not the next big thing but it's good enough to survive, what SWTOR's problems are atm aren't hard coded things that make the game destined to suck but silly oversights that BW could have had right on release. I'm hopeful and I hope you guys are too, if things aren't addressed then come MoP then SWTOR is over for me....but then again come D3 and I might be done with MMO's entirely.