We're now more than six months past the launch of BioWare's highly anticipated MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and we feel like it’s time to look back at the game and reflect. You’ll get our opinions on just about everything, including what we think BioWare did right with the game, what hasn't worked at all, and what they can potentially modify to improve the game we’ve all grown to love.
This is the second part in a four-part series. As always, feel free to comment and leave your thoughts in the section below.
End-game Hot Topics
Shadowlance: Compared to most titles I’ve played, the dailies in SWTOR are not only quite easy, but also very generous in their rewards. A casual player can easily rake in several hundred thousand credits (not to mention a generous helping of commendations) by investing only a few hours a week. With the next major update containing an expansion of dailies on Belsavis, it’s going to be interesting to see how the rewards are scaled there compared with the daily reward from the level 50 LFG tool.
Koryalis: I don’t really like Dailies. They are repetitive, boring, and in some cases such as Belsavis and Ilum, the start up quests are just so annoying I needed a group just to have some fun while working through it. That said, dailies are a massive source of credits and commendations, which is my only reason to do it. I only do them with a group to make it as quick and painless as possible.
Vox’mortis: For me, personally, dailies have never been much more than a means by which to make money. The inclusion of Daily Commendations certainly helped give you a reason to grind them out, as they awarded both relics as well as recipes for some folks, but mostly it’s always been about the money. When I’m feeling adventurous I’ll make a full round of dailies, starting on Ilum and making the circuit, and there’s the potential to make some serious credits there.
LordBurek: I don’t find the dailies very compelling, but they’re not very difficult either. As a means of making money, they are effective. As PvE content, I find them to be in stark contrast to the excellent story-driven content you do while leveling. I also don’t think that they are strictly necessary, so they can be skipped if you have other means of income. While the dailies do provide some good rewards through the token system, equivalent gear can mostly be acquired through different means.
Raiden: While I tend to find Daily Quests to be tedious work, SWTOR’s dailies are for the most part enjoyable. This is especially true when you can get a full group to quickly run through them. However, I do believe that the Black Hole dailies are a step in the right direction and I would welcome more similar content.
Vykus: I’m not sure I know anyone who’s into daily quests no matter what they are. I mean sure there are a few people here and there who do them religiously, but I highly doubt they have any fondness for them. That said, I loath dailies. If I were a masked vigilante these would be the bane of my crime fighting existence.
Though, I do feel like dailies are a necessary evil. Without any alternative to dailies, once you hit 50 there are little avenues to generate small sums of cash to aid in all the little expenditures of day-to-day play. Once you hit 50 theoretically the quests dry up so there are no more monetary rewards there. There is still PVP, but 20 odd minutes for a trifling sum is hardly effective.
So I feel like dailies are there to augment the costs incurred just by playing at the max level. I feel that it is necessary to have them. And I feel like the ones we do have, while not groundbreaking, are fairly decent quality.
Spiral Stars: As someone who avoided dailies in World of Warcraft like the plague, I’m surprised by how often I found myself on Belsavis grinding them out. The rather large amount of cash offered by them was the primary reason, with commendations being secondary. Eventually, with Daily Commendations being available in hard modes, I found myself completely abandoning the routine of doing dailies.
Jaspor: To me, daily quests mean one thing – grind. While the level 50 dailies in SWTOR don’t take incredibly long and offer pretty good rewards in the form of credits and Black Hole commendations, there’s other ways I prefer to spend my time. I can make credits and earn commendations in other ways, so they don’t feel as “required” as they do in some other games. There is no such thing as a “reputation grind” and rewards tied to obtaining certain levels of reputation, so in that sense I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything but not doing them regularly. I do understand that this is considered “end game content” that some players do enjoy and the fact that they’ve already introduced a new daily quest hub since launch (and will launch more) is a good thing.
Hard Mode Flashpoints
Shadowlance: With the inclusion of the LFG tool it’s easier than ever to get into the set of end-game 4-person instances. Since they revamped the loot rewards in 1.3, it’s also easier than ever to get geared up very fast. While you may not have the set bonuses you’re looking for, or the specific mod setup you want, you’ll be able to get your hands on Columi level gear quite rapidly. Combine that with the daily reward of 5 Black Hole commendations, and there’s a recipe for steady advancement all around, regardless of how unlucky a player is, or how little time they have available.
The only thing that is of concern right now regarding Hard Modes is a gear check on the LFG tool. It’s quite annoying to pop into a Lost Island group, only to find that the Sniper has 8k more health than the Tank. However, as far as I’m aware this is one of the things that the folks working directly on the tool are looking to implement in the near future, so I think I can probably live with it for now.
LordBurek: While interesting the first few times, they never really hooked me. I think part of the issue for myself is that I never really felt like I was progressing, since better loot was easily available via Operations which were very easily pugged on Story Mode. Since I had access to Story Mode EV and KP early on, I didn’t get much mileage from them. With the loot revamp, I could see myself revisiting them, mostly for the commendations.
Raiden: Difficulty imbalance aside, Hard Modes never seemed that necessary to me. Maybe this is because Story Mode Operations are so easy to get into. I found myself mostly skipping them in favor of going directly into Operations for the gear. My hope for the future is that BioWare re-balances them to provide a clearer progression path. Also, unique loot in the Hard Modes may give the player base the incentive needed for multiple playthroughs.
Vykus: Hard mode Flashpoints started out more frustrating than useful for progression minded folk. They were long and unwieldy and often didn’t offer rewards equal to the effort needed to complete them. For most it was easier to just skip them outright.
A few patches ago Flashpoints in general got some lovin’ and now they’re a bit more useful, though some still remain a tad too unwieldy for my taste. Though, compared to the dungeons of other games’ I feel that what we have now it a great step in the right direction.
And the LFG helps.
Spiral Stars: At first, I wasn’t too interested in running Hard Modes. My first level 50 character was a Concealment Operative, a class that is far better suited for the burst damage fights in PvP than for the long boss fights of PvE, and since I didn’t want to go through the trouble of respeccing as a healer whenever I wanted to find a group (which was a pain early on to begin with), I decided just to ignore Hard Modes all together.
Once Group Finder was released and my server suddenly became populated by all the server transfers, however, I found the Hard Mode Flashpoint experience far more enjoyable. Finding a group became significantly easier, and at that point I had a heal-specced Sorcerer and a tank-specced Guardian, so my queues were essentially instant. Combined with the fact that Group Finder created a demographic of players who all knew the mechanics of each fight beforehand, this made everything much faster.
Eruptive: As an end-game progression raider, Operations in SWTOR are in an okay state right now. At launch, it was pretty good with Eternity Vault and then Karagga’s Palace opening very shortly after. For the most part, they worked. There weren’t any server downtimes getting them to work or any massive bugs preventing completion, so that’s good. The Operations still had their issues, but for a launch product it was good. Fast forward a few months, enter Explosive Conflict (Denova). Once again, worked from the get-go and was able to be cleared without any massive issues but things are a little different this time around. I could be nit picky with a few quirks in Denova, but I’ll go for the bigger issues. The wait for tier two (Denova) was about three months after Karagga’s Palace opened up. In MMO standards, that’s pretty good. Right now though, we’re approaching four months since Denova went live and there’s not even a whisper of 1.4’s PTS status. Include the fact that many progression raiding guilds have had Denova hard mode on farm for a few months and you have content that’s getting/is stale for quite a few people.
Second issue: The lag. If you’ve been in Denova in the past month or so with more than 40 people in the zone, you noticed the 1-5 second seemingly random lag spikes that afflicts everyone in the zone. Depending on when it hits, your run can go smoothly or it can be the cause of numerous wipes, totally out of your control. I’m so surprised that BioWare STILL hasn’t fixed it and really hope they can get it together soon.
Third and my final issue: Difficulties not being released at the same time. When it comes to this, BioWare really dropped the ball for Denova. I understand they’re essentially crafting new versions of the fights for Nightmare difficulty, but it should really be a top priority when launching a new Operation and definitely not something you tout as a new feature months after the Operation’s been live.
Shadowlance: Ah raids…the lifeblood and bane of every PvE oriented MMO. SWTOR took the forward thinking step of actually making their raids accessible to folks who aren’t in mega-guilds, which is something that should be commended. What shouldn’t be commended are lingering bugs that took months to solve. The running joke in many quarters was that you were fighting against bugs not the boss at the end of Eternity Vault.
Most of those issues are resolved, though some people are having problems with Explosive Conflict (lag not included). BioWare does also need to up the pace that they’re releasing content, as one new raid or instance every five months just isn’t cutting it.
Vox’mortis: Now, this is a topic very near and dear to me. For me, an MMO is always about the End-Game raiding scene. You’ve worked so hard to get your character to the max level, obtain the best gear you can from the various Hard Modes, and then you arrive to a challenge you may or may not be prepared for, weapon in hand, hoping for that one drop that will completely validate all of that effort. It’s such a great feeling to accomplish something with a group of people, too. Nothing feels quite as good as banging your head against the wall with your guildmates and then finally downing that boss; the triumphant shouts in Vent, and the nervous rush to see what the boss dropped. All of these are very fond memories for me.
LordBurek: I think the Operations content that’s out there is high-quality and is quite accessible. I like that the Operations fit into the general storyline of the struggle for the galaxy, and that BioWare seems committed to giving us opportunities to relive awesome moments from the trilogy (Rancor pit fight anyone?).
My real hope for Operations though is that eventually we will get epic, multi-part encounters like in the movies. Though BioWare has said in the past that they would love to have an encounter where some people are in space, others are fighting an army, and some are dueling an NPC (think Return of the Jedi’s final sequence), it remains to be seen how long it will be before we see something like this in-game.
Raiden: I was content with the amount of Operation content at launch and BioWare has been good about releasing new ones in my opinion. I also like the available Operations both in content and pacing. I just wish there was more variety in the Operation content though. Not so much aesthetically but different types of Operations, such as open world Ops or boss Operations involving different stages and types gameplay mechanics. I hate to compare to WoW but think of the Malygos encounter. BioWare could also release this type of content more often since the development time would be much smaller than a full blown Operation.
Vykus: Right off the bat, Operations give way too much loot. I feel like it takes more time to distribute the loot than it does to kill some of the bosses.
Loot aside, I love the Operations we have currently. I think the story behind them is well done, the fight mechanics for most of them are interesting and engaging. I don’t feel like there are any pass/fail mechanics and nothing seems too extraneous.
The downside is that they’re rather short. And my only real gripe is the lack for social point interaction. It seems like they built in this system to encourage social interaction yet decided to scrap it for the one thing that requires a high level of sociality.
Spiral Stars: Operations are another part of the game I largely ignored until Group Finder came out. Running Operations with a PUGis much more difficult than running Hard Modes, since communication is essential and the lack of a “gear score” requirement meant that some players would queue with nothing but recruit gear on.
As one of the people who aren’t part of a large guild, I find myself incapable of giving a proper opinion on Operations at its best. I imagine it’s glorious.
Jaspor: I actually like the Operations they’ve released so far. Yes, Eternity Vault was a bit buggy. Soa was incredibly frustrating due to the bugs. Karagga’s Palace and Denova were much more polished. I really liked that they’ve had some non-traditional type fights, including the puzzle mechanics. Despite the loud voices complaining about not having enough end game content, 3 different raids with a total of 8 different difficulty levels isn’t too bad for a game that’s only been out for eight months. The Hard and Nightmare difficulty modes could have been a bit more challenging considering how quickly people blew through it. We’ll see how Nightmare Denova turns out when we finally get a chance to see it.
Shadowlance: The things Ilum could have been. RvR. Giant battles. A mashup of PvE and PvP. Sadly, as most readers know all too well, none of these things materialized, and all Ilum is right now is a credit factory interspersed with random bouts of meaningless PvP in the middle of nowhere.
BioWare needs to nail down exactly what the purpose of Ilum is, and focus solely on that. They tried to put too many hats on Ilum at the same time, and ended up crushing its head instead. There’s still a ton of potential, but given how spectacularly the first round imploded I’m going to remain quite skeptical until I see what they have in store for Ilum’s future.
Koryalis: It could have been amazing, it really could have. When I saw videos of walkers, I was thinking vehicle combat, laying siege to the enemy base and large battles. Then it was released, and it was, at best, an unregulated control point warzone. It was a joke. I went a few times in the beginning, and it was depressing. Bioware had great potential for a “world dedicated to World PvP” and the World PvPers I knew were so excited about the prospect.
At this point, theres nothing really to do with it. They have to completely scrap it and rebuild it, or admit their mistakes and start a new attempt with a defined goal and mechanics to support it.
Vox’mortis: So much of what the player base clamored for, and it was all squandered. I mean, you look at Ilum and you think “Wow, planet-sized battles, the scale is just amazing! It’s like I’m really involved in a Galactic war effort!”. And then you find out that it’s nothing more than a glorified dailies hub, and that it’s absolutely dead. Aside from this, there were imbalances early on that seemed like such amateurish oversights, and you wonder exactly how much care and attention went into the design of the planet. Oh Ilum, we’ll always think of what you could have been.
LordBurek: Anyone who reads the PvP Column knows my opinion on it, and BioWare has openly admitted it as well: Ilum failed. I think the issue that Ilum had was a lack of direction. BioWare did not want to commit to a full RvR experience, possibly thinking that the PvP aspect of the game would not be one of its driving forces among players. However, as admitted by BioWare, PvP ended up being a lot more popular than expected.
Ilum suffered from the perennial issue that so many Open World PvP zones have: namely that without an incentive, many people opt out. However, once you give an incentive to players, they usually try to complete the requirements for that incentive as quickly and painlessly as possible. In Ilum’s case, this meant kill-trading and giant zergs were the effective methods for completing the mission.
While the lack of important battlefield objectives may have been a factor, I won’t pretend it would have solved everything. In other games, objective-based requirements just meant that factions would take turns owning a given objective, amicably flipping it back between the two factions to complete the quest more rapidly.
While I await good news about Ilum in the future, I’m quite honestly not holding my breath.
Raiden: Poor Ilum. The red-headed stepchild of SWTOR. Don’t get me wrong. There was some good days where Ilum was intense and exciting and you can catch a glimpse of what BioWare meant to do. But the execution was horrible and the community took advantage. Ilum’s issues were plentiful and discussed ad nauseum so I won’t do that here. I just wish Ilum had a bigger impact on the server at large. The awards should have been better and different. Holding Ilum should have been more beneficial to your faction. The list goes on. To fix Ilum, BioWare is going to have to go back to the drawing board and I hope they come up with something wonderful. SWTOR is desperately in need of some RvR action.
Spiral Stars: Ilum is sort of pointless. Not enough players were ever on Ilum to justify the size, and the rewards weren’t enticing enough for players to grind on Ilum as opposed to just partaking in Warzones.
Jaspor: Let’s not sugar coat it. Ilum was a complete and total disaster. Ilum was teased several times during conventions last year with some pretty videos and screenshots and not much solid information provided regarding its gameplay. This led to wild speculation among anxious players. People dreamed of large scale battles for meaningful objectives. Players hoped BioWare had some tricks up their sleeves to deal with the inevitable imbalances in population between factions. Those hopes and dreams were quickly shattered when the first groups of level 50s ventured to Ilum to see what it was all about. The objectives were confusing. The faction imbalances were painfully obvious. As the development team made quick adjustments to try and correct the glaring flaws, they created new issues and exploits. And the lag, oh yes, the lag, made the game completely and utterly unplayable once a decent sized battle broke out. Ilum is probably the single most disappointing part of SWTOR up to this point. BioWare has seemed to acknowledge its failure by effectively phasing it out of the current game. They have promised that a redesign of Ilum is coming in the future, but it’s going to take an incredible turn around for Ilum to live up to its initial hype and recover from its subsequent failure.
Open World PvP (excluding Ilum)
Koryalis: It doesn’t happen, unless the players go out of their way to make it happen. The game mechanics limit the capabilities of large scale Open World PvP, and the random players will rarely run into each other on their own. There are no in-game mechanics to encourage World PvP such as rewards or a built-in defense channel (the latter often takes up a custom channel slot) and many worlds are built specifically to avoid the two factions running into each other
LordBurek: Again, we need incentives. Without them, the only other way to encourage it is circumstance. The best way I’ve seen thus far is just putting more world events in contested areas. When the Rakghoul Plague started, I engaged in more World PvP in the first 48 hours than I had since I started playing at release. Putting in quests for the events that encourages this could be an idea.
Raiden: Ever since the server merges, a day doesn’t go by where I’m running into a member of the opposite faction and little skirmishes occur, especially on the higher level planets. The Rakghoul world event is a perfect example of how to bring both factions into the same area and force confrontation. This fact is made more apparent due to the lack of confrontation during the latest world event. Open World PvP is too dependent on the server population and will vary from server to server.
Spiral Stars: Open world PvP at its worst is players complaining about being ganked while questing by a group of enemies on general chat, ignoring the fact that they signed up for a PvP server. At its very best, it’s an even group of opposing faction players suddenly colliding with each other and having a massive slugfest.
I know there isn’t a lot of instances where World PvP outside of Ilum is actually worthwhile. There are no actual rewards for it, and really it just seems like a waste of time. However, that has never been the point of Open World PvP in MMOs. It’s for the juice that some players get from stalking live prey. It’s about making the other faction fear your presence, that attacking a mob is essentially taking your life into your own hands. It’s that extra rush you get from the knowledge that at any given moment, some Imperial might come around the corner and you’ll both be fighting for your lives.
As for how the Old Republic handles Open World PvP: no better but no worse than anyone else. Starting from Tatooine and on, there’s at usually one area where both factions need to go to complete quests, and therefore will have ample opportunity to throw down, although I’ve only really run into a lot of Open World PvP on Alderaan, Belsavis, Voss, and Hoth. Speeders being, at most, 20% speed apart means that high level players can’t catch lower levels at a whim also helps reduce unfair ganking.
Jaspor: What open world PvP? Outside the world events which forced opposing factions to overlap in a few key areas, world PvP is largely absent from the game. During the leveling process, it is totally impossible to engage in PvP in several worlds and the remaining worlds are designed to keep the two sides apart. Outlaw’s Den is an interesting concept, but its out of the way location and lack of incentives means it is empty more often than not. I play on a PvP and only encountered an enemy players three times while leveling up – I was ganked one time on Alderaan by two players while I was fighting a mob. The gankers promptly fled after killing me, so there was no back and forth battle; One time in the vast Tatooine desert I crossed paths with an enemy player (and we both kept driving our separate ways); And some decent PvP action at the temple on Voss. That’s it. On a PvP server, I expect way more world PvP to dynamically occur than what I’ve experienced so far. I almost forget I’m on a PvP server.
Sanctioned PvP (Warzones)
Raiden: I actually like the amount of Warzones available right now. I think they are varied and plentiful for a game only six months old. I also enjoy the objective nature of them, as it provides purpose for player not playing DPS. Of course there is imbalance, but that is something SWTOR is going to have to deal with slowly and carefully.
Vykus: I love pvp. I love each and every Warzone (including—no, especially—Huttball). I’ve played every role possible and found each and everyone of them exciting and enjoyable. I make sure that all my characters wear a skirt. I’m also a masochist.
In all seriousness, I do find Warzone PvP to be fairly well done. I’ve played on both sides of the fight on several different servers and it feels fairly balanced. But of course that’s subjective, because I get just as many losing streaks as I do winning ones—the losses just seem more memorable. Because we were this close!
I’m excited to see how Warzones develop in the future—the Ancient Hypergates looks like a total blast (heh, no pun intended).
Jaspor: PvP Warzones are, by far, my favorite part of SWTOR. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of going up against other human players in head to head competition. The four existing Warzones offer four different game types which each offer different advantages and disadvantages to each class. Not everything is perfect though. There is still no way to queue for a specific Warzone, so it’s quite possible you’ll get your least favorite Warzone multiple times in a row. The importance of Expertise in end game Warzones can make it a painful experience for fresh level 50s. The inner workings of the resolve bar, which is supposed to prevent players from being chain cc’d, remain a mystery to most players and sometimes appears not to work as expected. Rated Warzones offer a higher level of competition and reward, but the amount of participation is very low. Organizing a full group of eight players willing to participate in Rated Warzones is a challenge, and without cross server queuing, the wait times can often be long. Plus a quick win in an unrated Warzone can actually lead to better rewards than a harsh loss in Rated Warzones. And of course, there are still some balance issues among advanced classes, with the most powerful specs becoming more popular. Despite these issues, the Warzone experience within SWTOR can still be quite an enjoyable activity for those who enjoy team based PvP.
Thank you for reading the second part of our look back on SWTOR, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for future installments. As always, we look forward to reading and discussing your thoughts in the comment section below.