Three Years Later: Star Wars The Old Republic Review 2015
Mechanics8.5
Technical6.5
Content10
Community8
Gameplay8.5
Value8.5
Stengths
  • Vast, diverse worlds to explore
  • Amazing storylines
  • Conquests & Strongholds
Weaknesses
  • Severe server lag
  • End-game repetition
  • Horrible trade interface (GTN) & Gold Spam
8.3Overall Score

Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR) launched in December of 2011 and received more than a million subscribers within the first month. It is hailed as the most expensive MMO ever developed at an estimated cost ranging from $100M to $200M. I wrote a review of the original release around the end of December, 2011 and played the game until February of 2012, but left after I encountered there was virtually no viable end-game content. Unfortunately, many others left the game as well, resulting in a large-scale player exodus from the game that lowered the subscription count to roughly 500,000. To address this problem, Bioware opened the game to a Free to Play (FTP) model in November of 2012 and which resulted in securing roughly 2,000,000 new players and creating $165 million in revenue.

It has now been more than three years since its initial release and the game has changed quite a bit; not just with the addition of additional content, but also with numerous changes to classes and new important features which make it a very different game from what I played roughly three years ago. I will cover the game as it stands today, reviewing not only the core game, but the Shadow of Revan expansion as well. I have also included a New and Returning Player Tips section for those who are interested.

Quick History

SWTOR has been out a little over three years and has evolved numerous ways with two expansions released roughly every year and a half. Below is a quick recap of the expansions and patches.

12-2011 to 02-2013  | Version 1.0 (Initial Release) to Patch 1.7: Legacy Enhancements, Guild Bank, Custom UI, Group Finder, Ranked Warzones, Cross-faction GTN, Cartel Market, Nightmare Mode, Heroic Space Missions, Reputation System.

04-2013 to 09-2014  | Patch 2.0 (Rise of the Hutt Cartel) to Patch 2.10: Level Cap 55, Planet Makeb, Space PvP (Starfighter Battles), Legacy Achievements, Guild Perks, Appearance Designer, Armor Dye, Cathar Species, New Mounts, Treek Companion, Graphics Upgrades, Planet Oricon, Monthly Bounties, Daily/Weekly Ranked PvP Missions, Numerous Space PvP Ship Additions, Conquest Events, Galactic Strongholds (Player Housing), Guild Flagship, Legacy Bank.

12-2014 to Current | Patch 3.0 (Shadow of Revan)  to Current: Level Cap 60, Planet Rishi and Yavin 4, Ability Costs Removed, Combat Proficiency System

For additional detail, Reddit has a great overview of the major changes to the game since launch.

The World of SWTOR

The game takes place more than 3000 years before the movies, but holds the look and feel we have all come to expect and enjoy from the movies. The numerous worlds each have a vast feel to them, and traveling between planets as you run through your starship while it’s warping from one system to another creates a unique gaming experience that bridges the large-scale nature of the galaxy with the ground-pounding standard players have embraced with most MMOGs. The full Galactic History of SWTOR is available in full detail here.

The Storyline is the game’s strongest point, creating a unique experience for each base class (8 in total). The voice acting is top notch and the story-select options available to a player range from the comical to the disturbing. While younger players can enjoy SWTOR, some of the branches in the storyline (such as killing an entire family) are very adult in nature. The stories are also very different for the classes; while a Sith Inquisitor pursues the Dark Counsel, a Bounty Hunter engages in the Great Hunt. The game also does a fantastic job of making you feel as if you are truly changing the shape of the galaxy. I don’t know of another MMOG that has this level of immersion (in part due to the way it’s presented) with such diverse core stories.

Companions play a key role in the game, more so than any other MMOG I’ve seen. Not only can you outfit them with custom gear, they are also the center of all harvesting and crafting. Each companion also has a unique set of abilities; some heal, some engage in ranged DPS, some melee, some tank, etc. At this point, a player can have a maximum of 6 active companions by the time they reach end-game, and while only one can accompany you at a time, you can send the other companions out on missions while you’re playing, or while you are offline. There are two additional companions a character can acquire (outside of the storyline): Treek, the Ewok healer (through legacy or cartel coins), and HK-51, the killer DPS companion. Once the core of either companion is unlocked, they can be used by any other account character (for an additional unlock price). A guide to obtaining HK-51 can be found here. A player can also acquire different skins for their companion. My favorite is the “darth” look for Treek, the Ewok.

Another key feature is that of Item Customization, the ability to augment equipment with custom modifications; not at end-game, but from the very beginning. This allows players to keep a specific look and feel to their character and raise the power of their gear by replacing the armor, mod, enhancement and augment (weapons have hilt, barrel, etc) components. If a character wants to change from one equipment set to another, they can pop out the modifiers and put them in another piece. One can also apply augment kits to items for an additional augment slot. While it’s not that important for the first 10-15 levels (because they happen so quickly), I make sure my character is using all customized equipment no later than level 19.

The look and feel of each class progresses nicely as you level up.

The look and feel of each class progresses nicely as you level up.

I like how mounts are fast, providing a 90% boost from the start (unlike the traditional 60% of many other games). They are also accessible at level 10 through the legacy unlock system. Mounts are very important due to the size of the world and distance between travel points.

As strange as it may sound, something that is important to me is good render distance on NPC nameplates. SWTOR has that; you can see enemies and their description from a very far distances (compared to other MMOGs).

Combat is focused on groups of targets (usually 3 or more), making the encounters a little more diverse than the traditional single wandering target. They come in Normal, Difficult, Elite and Boss difficulties, and many have special attacks one must learn to manage. AoE damage is a must for most any class as it’s easy to engage in combat with 4-6 target at a time.

Space missions (PvE) are fun, but get repetitive very quickly. There are also no dynamic aspects to them (which would be very easy to add) and once you hit max level, there’s no reason to run them because they don’t reward anything useful to a character other than experience and credits. Bioware could do so much with this very cool system, I’m surprised they haven’t added more complex and interactive missions. Creating a system that links space battle (ship enhancements) and character enhancement would be great; finding items your character, companion or ship could use in the debris after completing a mission would change everything. So would being able to find ship or mission-related components as you adventure around on the planets. Sadly, the system is rather limited right now, but for new players, space missions as they stand are a lot of fun the first time through.

The space missions are still beautiful.

3 years later, the space missions are still beautiful.

Quests are very easy to find and follow, especially in groups. I believe SWTOR has the best quest group integration I’ve seen, including participation in conversations via holo-calls. Another key feature which makes all the difference is phasing done right. Transitioning into a story line or group quest area is seamless and nearly instant.

Another feature I like is that of the loot glow color. Seeing that blue or purple light shoot into the sky is an enticing reward in and of itself that yells “come get me!”. The only complaint is the delay for the light to appear, often causing caffeine-induced quick game play to momentarily pause while one waits to determine if a body does, in fact, have loot on it.

The tab key actually works. It will select the target you want and doesn’t jump around like so many other games. Kudos to Bioware on this one!

Adaptive gear is another nice feature. While the stats will not change, the type of armor will. For example, you can put adaptive light armor on yourself, and then throw it on your heavy armor companion, and it will act as heavy armor. The only issue is the core stats will remain the same (i.e. strength doesn’t change into willpower), but you can throw in custom mods to change the stats if you wish.

The Legacy System has numerous costly unlocks, but many greatly benefit your character and leveling experience.

The Legacy System has numerous unlocks, many of which greatly benefit your characters and leveling experience.

While the Legacy System offers numerous upgrades to characters and the entire account, once you hit legacy level 25, there isn’t much more you can get that’s useful (except for Treek at 40, if you don’t want to purchase him through the Cartel Market). It would be nice if Bioware added new bonuses for players to pursue around the upper legacy levels, including the max of 50.

While the game has numerous achievements, nearly all of them don’t really reward anything beyond the flashing little notification. There are some that will award cartel coins and items, but they are few and far between. It would be nice to see some sort of point reward system that could be used to acquire tokens, coins, or other gear. That way a character can save their points up and either spend them, or unlock things once they reach a certain value.

When adventuring, a player often unlocks bonus stage quests which provide additional goals and rewards.

One big disappointment is how the Light and Dark choices really make no difference outside of the storyline. While some equipment is available (relics, etc.) and at Light V and Dark V you can unlock a legacy special ability, there is no end-game gear only available to the pure good or evil players. The loss here is a truly evil Sith cannot obtain gear that requires Dark V (and represents the evil decisions), nor can a Jedi who obtains Light V show their standing with flowing white robes only available to truly good characters (who must maintain their alignment). I believe this is a big mistake on Bioware’s part as Light and Dark choices are a key part of the game.

While many other MMOGs bring 40+ players together for large-scale raids, the largest Op (or raid) size is 16 people. I actually prefer this as it allows a smaller more focused group to get the job done without requiring the leader to give direction to more than double the number of people, which can often result in confusion and failed runs.

While there are World Bosses, they only drop gear relative to the level range they are found in. Unfortunately, they don’t drop any mounts or unique items outside of gear that could benefit a high level character that could solo them. But if you get a group of friends together, the rewards can be rather lucrative as you level up.

Strongholds are SWTOR’s version of player housing. They are “legacy” (meaning they are account based, not character based) and use predefined grids and “hooks” to place items, which provide Prestige value. They can also be expanded by unlocking doors to adjoining sections. Owners can also create keys to give edit and access rights to others. Some of the placed items even allow you to harvest materials.  You can also hang tapestries and even place vendors and mailboxes. A player account can have have up to four strongholds, each with a theme based on the planet (Coruscant, Dromunds Kaas, Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine). Players can gain Prestige by using and placing items, but that value doesn’t impact anything except your “rating” on the public list. A second rating called bonus exists for Conquests (discussed below), but it’s not related to prestige. A great Stronghold guide can be found here.

Note: Guild Flagships can also be “built out” like a stronghold (with interior items) and are used for guilds to participate in Conquests.

conquest-1122

Weekly Conquests add an extra layer of fun and adventure to the game.

Conquests are weekly planetary-focused weekly rotating objectives all players can participate in, but the main benefits are provided for guild members. Conquests include a list of objectives, the Guild Leaderboard for that objective, and how much your character has contributed to the event. In order for a guild to participate, a guild leader must assign the Guild Flagship to a specific planet, which provides a boost to health, etc. Participation is character based, so a player can have each character work on and receive rewards for completing a conquest. Each conquest requires 50,000 participation points and points are awarded by completing the numerous objectives associated with the conquest (ranging from crafting to PvP and PvE kills). This is where the Stronghold Bonus comes into play. For example, a character with 0% bonus will gain 750 points (toward the 50,000 total) for completing an objective while a character with a 100% bonus will gain 1,500 points. This means an account with all strongholds built out will be able to gain their Conquest points twice as fast. A player is awarded the personal rewards once they gain the 50,000 points, and the guild rewards (if they are a member of a guild and it’s on the top 10 leaderboard list for that conquest) once they hit 50,000 points as well (you can kill two birds with one stone). Each “filled” Stronghold provides a 25% bonus to Conquests. To obtain the 100% Stronghold Bonus, every hook in all four strongholds (fully expanded) must be filled (each one has between 300 and 500 hooks). The estimated cost to achieve all of this is roughly $12M credits. If a character completes a Conquest and the guild is #1 on the leaderboard, that character will obtain the “Conquerer” title for the planet. The value of the rewards can vary, but it seems the “average” value is roughly 250,000 credits or so. Unfortunately (at this time) there are never “unique” rewards for a conquest (i.e.  a special mount). I hope they change this as it would make certain conquests much more competitive and entice participation.

In the end, Conquests provide a different type of questing; not just for end-game, but for almost any level. Some guilds are very active and focus on getting the #1 spot and the Conquerer title, sending their members out to specific planets to complete the objectives. While it’s best to complete objectives based on the chosen planet by your guild, if the character you are playing is too low level for a chosen planet, you can gain personal points at another planet. A detailed guide to Conquests, the planets and their rewards can be found here.

Galactic Starfighter (GS) is a new PvP space-based mini-game that is brutal and has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of things, it’s a lot of fun and plays very well. As you play, you obtain Ship and Fleet Requisition points which can be used to purchase new ships and upgrades. One of the reasons it’s so brutal is many games have veteran players with built out ships that have numerous enhancements far beyond a new player (i.e. better movement and more firepower). The process of building up and being able to hold your own against these veterans can take a week or two, and you’ll die a lot during the process. But the overall implementation and “fun factor” is good (for those who like 3d space combat). You can assign crew members (which changes the passive abilities you receive) and change the visual appearance of your ship. The only connection between GS and the core game is experience and credits (per battle).

It would be nice if they added a training ground with NPCs for practice instead of thrusting all new players into the brutal environment. The tutorial doesn’t count since it’s extremely limited and doesn’t have any sort of dynamic interaction.

Weapons? Outfits? Droids? Mounts? Dyes? They've got it at the Cartel Market!

Weapons? Outfits? Droids? Mounts? Dyes? They’ve got it at the Cartel Market!

Collections is a system which keeps track of all items (except dyes) from the Cartel Market and provides a way to browse (and methods to acquire) these items (including Armor, Weapons, Color Crystals, Vehicles, Pets, Toys, Space Equipment, Titles, Emotes and Companion Customization). For armor you need to have the whole set in order to unlock it. Many of these items can be purchased from the GTN (i.e. you can acquire them through means other than spending cartel coins), and once an item from the collection is “used”, it is added (or registered) to the collection. Once it’s registered with the collection, a one-time cartel coin fee can be paid to unlock the item for all other characters on the account. Once this is done, any account character can get that item for free. The advantage to this system is being able to unlock and share items you’ve acquired with one character with any other character on your account. Got the Rancor mount on your main? (which can cost $20M). No problem. Unlock the bugger and now you can grab him on any other character on your account for free! Browsing collections shows the massive diversity in equipment available in the game, and will entice many players to get specific items they think look very cool.

There are a number of World Events players can participate in ranging from weekly bounties to double rewards. These events often have unique rewards (vehicles, etc) and usually last one week. Bioware announces these events here.

The Cartel Market is designed for everyone to use, including subscribers. They sell a number of “packs” that contain unique and interesting items, some of which can drop rare and ultra rare items (such as the Rancor mount). One can also find Cartel Certificates in these packs, which can be used to buy items at the Cartel Market Vendors, but they are very rare (and random) drops. As such, the items you can buy with them are also rare. Subscribers receive between 500 and 600 cartel coins per month (depending on length of subscription), and if they set up mobile security for their account, an extra 100 are provided (for a total of up to 700 per month).

Shadow of Revan (Second Expansion, Patch 3.0)

This expansion covers the return of Revan, an ancient “balanced” force master who has questionable connections to the Sith emperor. The storyline is excellent, brings both imperial and republic sides together, is very immersive, and continues to provide high quality progression content for all classes. SoR raises the level cap to 60, provides two new planets (Rishi and Yavin 4), and introduces a new discipline system to replace the older “ability” point distribution tree. New Flashpoints and Ops were added along with new gear, mounts, and reputation.

Overall, the content is very good for an expansion. The wookie with the droid head strapped to his chest is my favorite part. While Bioware dropped the ball on end-game farming for world/PvE (i.e. level 60-specific places beyond Yavin 4), the expansion and everything that comes with it is definitely worth $20.

End Game

SWTOR doesn’t provide any end-game character (non-equipment) progression beyond legacy leveling, which can be used to unlock character and account enhancements. Another issue is Yavin-4 doesn’t have any level 60 specific areas, it’s a mix of 57-60. The dailies are also very repetitive. As such, the game lacks dynamic and challenging world-based “farming” areas specifically for level 60’s. If you want the best gear, it’s really about running ops. Having said all of this, the game is designed for players to play and build multiple characters. To experience different classes, builds and the unique class-based storylines. This is good for those who want to experience the world of Star Wars in different ways, but not so good for players who like to play a single main character and continue to build/grow it for a long period of time.

Here’s a quick overview of what a level 60 character can do at end-game:

  1. Crew Building: Gear & Affection (companion gift guide).
  2. Gearing up by running Dailies, Flashpoints and Ops (includes acquiring tokens).
  3. Finish all world quests (Ilum, Oricon, Makeb).
  4. Ground (ranked and non-ranked) and Space PvP.
  5. Harvesting, Crafting & Missions.
  6. Datacron Hunting, HK-51 Quest.
  7. Buying and selling on the GTN for profit.
  8. Building out your Galactic Strongholds.
  9. Solo old content (including flashpoints and ops) to get achievements and light/dark points.
  10. Collect gear to refine your character’s appearance.
  11. Participate in weekly Conquests.

Between the Republic and Imperial sides, there are 8 core storylines a player can enjoy and each class has two core variations, so there is a total of 16 class builds a player can work on, however the class variation doesn’t change the storyline, so an Inquisitor Sorcerer will have the same storyline as an Inquisitor Assassin.

A few paintings... nice carpet... killer droids... this place is almost looking like home!

A few paintings… nice carpet… killer droids… this place is almost looking like home!

Issues

Every MMOG has issues, some more than others, and it’s very easy for players to armchair quarterback the massively complex systems required to make these games function not only well, but as flawlessly as possible. Even if the technology is solid, there can still be irritations with game play, game design, and other interactive systems. While SWTOR has a lot to offer, there are core problems that impact, restrict and annoy players. The game would be a much more solid product (and provide better retention) if Bioware were to address the problems described herein.

Technical Issues

Server-side lag is the #1 problem with SWTOR, and it’s a very serious issue that is causing people to leave the game. The primary symptoms are delays to executing skills, namely during combat. I’ve encountered 3-5 second delays to the execution of a single action. The action never “drops” but it gets pushed to a queue and simply waits. This has a monumental impact on overall gameplay. Sometimes it happens, other times it does not, and it can vary based on time of time and the planet you are on.

Players have made hundreds (if not thousands) of posts in the community threads about this issue, and the problem has been around even before the 3.0 release. Not only is the issue causing the game to lose subscribers, the way Bioware has handled acknowledging and communicating with the community regarding this issue has been poor and vague at best. To say they have dropped the ball here is an understatement. Bioware must solve this problem, especially before the new Star Wars movie comes out in December of 2015. If they don’t, they will be dealing with a massive influx of players that will paralyze their game and ruin it for most. I hope they get their act together on this one; there’s no question the problem is server-side, and will require substantial reprogramming of key systems to address.

One way you can sometimes lower the lag issue is to move to a different phase for the region you are in. To do this, bring up the world map and in the lower right corner there is a dropdown; moving to the last phase often results in less latency.

The game has incredibly long load times. I run a 4.2GHZ i7 SSD system and when flying to planets or going into flashpoints (including those I have been in before) it can sometimes take 30-60 seconds to load the area. At other times, those areas will load much quicker (5-10 seconds), so my guess is these load times are related to the server-side lag, and hopefully once (or if) that’s corrected, the load times will improve.

I’ve encountered Queue Wait Times that make no sense. My server will say standard load (not heavy) yet it’ll put me in a queue with ~80 or so and say it will take up to 30 minutes to get in, yet it pops me in a few minutes later even though my queue position hasn’t changed. I’ve even been in the queue that went up in count. Their queue system definitely has issues.

There are a number of bugs with end-game Ops. Certain mechanics won’t trigger, or trigger improperly, and impact the ability to complete the op. Many guilds are quite upset by this (and rightly so) and Bioware needs to prioritize fixing these problems.

The game client occasionally loses the mouse cursor and “locks” the viewport in Camera mode. Clicking both mouse buttons at the same time resets this issue.

Gameplay Issues

While the economy of SWTOR is very active and you can make a lot of money trading items and resources, the Galactic Trade Network (GTN) interface is hands down the worst I’ve seen in a MMOG. To search, you either shift-left click on an item in your inventory (which most people don’t know you can do) or manually type in an item name and there is no workable price matching. This means you need to search an item, sort by price per piece, and then bring up Excel to properly price your stack of items because you can’t define a price per item (only the stack). You also cannot purchase a quantity of a posted item either; it’s all or nothing. It’s cumbersome, poorly designed, and a downright embarrassment; especially given the fact the GTN is key to trading and making money in the game.

Welcome to the Galactic Trade Network, one of the busiest places in fleet!

Welcome to the Galactic Trade Network, one of the busiest places in fleet!

Group Finder doesn’t work at all as I have often encountered 2+ hour wait times for basic flashpoints and ops. This makes absolutely no sense given the numer of players online. I can only assume the mechanics on the server-side are somehow broken. Either way, it prevents people from playing together, and I’ve given up on using it.

I’ve run into a few bugged quests that were  stuck in completion mode without being complete. The way around this is to abandon and restart the quest.

There is no real support for for switching between specs. While a player can acquire a “field switch” item they can use in the world (or instance) through their legacy system, it doesn’t save action bars, and requires the player to constantly rearrange their skills.

Spammers (gold sellers) in Fleet are out of control and reporting them doesn’t seem to do anything, nor does the game set them to auto-ignore (as it does in many other MMOGs). I’ve reported gold sellers with the right-click interface and have seen them a day or two later doing the same thing. I’ve even seen gold sellers spamming messages every 5-10 seconds. The fact Bioware doesn’t have automated detection systems for this sort of thing after 3 years isn’t just pathetic, it’s downright irresponsible to the community.

Many world quest objects and NPCs spawn far too slowly; some on 5 minute timers. This is frustrating when other players are waiting.

Unfortunately, the end-game skill-level 500 Missions for Bioanalysis, Scavenging and Archaeology are bugged. They only return greens and in a small amount. This has been a problem since launch, and the community doesn’t quite understand why Bioware is ignoring this important fact, especially as the other crew skill level 500 missions can return fantastic blue and purple rewards.

Another annoying issue is the problem where Companions often ignore gathering orders. This becomes quite irritating when you’re in a region with many other people who are also resource gathering, often resulting in your companion standing idly by wondering what you want it to do while another player loots the resource node. One way around this is to loot these nodes yourself by shift-right clicking on the node. This ensures you don’t have to wait for your companion.

Additional Issues

The Galaxy map doesn’t show space mission quest locations. This often makes it difficult to find where the space mission is as you have to zoom in on every quadrant and check for a name match unless you have the locations memorized.

It’s counterproductive when the social list is unique for each character. More people want to keep in touch with their friends regardless of which character they are on. As such, friends lists should really be account-based. This is reinforced with the ignore list as well. Ignoring a terrible player on one character only to get stuck with them in a group or see their useless blathering because you’re on another character and having to ignore him again reinforces the poor current system, especially when the game is designed to support multiple characters.

New and Returning Player Tips

My first recommendation is to subscribe. It’ll unlock everything and give you some coins to use. If you previously played SWTOR (i.e. more than a year ago), I recommend starting a new character from scratch to re-experience the content. You can transfer money and items from any other character (even cross faction) via EMail or the Legacy Bank system. Mail is the best way to get money to new characters (who may not yet have access to fleet).

The new Combat Proficiencies system allows you to focus on specific build types.

The new Combat Proficiencies system allows you to focus on and refine specific build types.

For leveling up, depending on if you have previous characters and an established legacy level (10+), it’s good to grab the legacy experience bonuses for class missions and discovery. Also, I recommend using the Cartel Coins you get for subscribing to purchase the Rocket Boost and all of its upgrades. This allows the player to move at 110% speed in any region (even those areas that don’t allow vehicles). Once acquired, the ability can be found under Vehicles and is usable by all characters on the account. Another important legacy unlock is the ability to use vehicles at level 10. For speed and moving around quickly, this makes a big difference.

If you are wanting to make money (either as a new player with a first character, or returning player to re-establish a financial base), I recommend taking Slicing, Bioanalysis and Scavenging. While leveling up they are very lucrative and at end-game they are some of the best money generators. Treasure Hunting and Underworld Trading can also replace Bioanalysis and Scavenging; but Slicing is a must-have at 60 if you want to bring the goods in.

Take commendations for all quest rewards and use them to purchase mods and enhancements for your custom armor (which you will buy with the credits you make from selling your harvested materials). If you have the money, you can purchase armor mods from the GTN to save commendations for later levels. I recommend gear (mod) upgrades at: 19, 25, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, 50, 56, and 60.

Remember you can switch phases when you’re in the world, so if there are too many people around and your targets are not spawning quick enough, move to a phase with fewer people (usually the last one in the list). You can do this in the Map UI in the lower right corner.

Each class has a buff, and it’s easy to forget to turn it on. Make it a habit of hitting your buff every time you log in, and remember it needs to be re-cast every 60 minutes.

A character will acquire experience boosts from quest rewards as they level up. They come in two variations, 25% bonus for 1 hour or 3 hours. I recommend saving them until at least level 40.

Item Modifications are the bread and butter of character progression.

Item Modifications are the bread and butter of character progression.

Space missions (PvE) are a good source of experience; do the daily missions all the way until 50, and always upgrade your ship’s equipment so they are as quick and easy as possible.

Use your stronghold for instant transport to Fleet and your ship. You can teleport to your stronghold instantly from anywhere (except while in a mission phase) and there’s no cooldown. From your stronghold, you can instantly transport to your home planet, fleet or ship. This makes all the difference in quickly navigating the galaxy or heading to fleet to upgrade your gear.

Turn on “show light/dark choices” and “allow access to same class/personal phases” options. This will help you make decisions that supporting what side you want to pursue and also ensure group members can help you with class quests. To do this, go into Preferences->User Interface->Conversation and Preferences->Social->General.

Nearly every “quest” provides companion affection (either positive or negative). Before the dialogue is complete, you can press ESC to reset the process so you can choose different selections to maximize the affection (or light/dark) gain.

When you’re finally to Makeb, don’t forget to activate the GSI Buff, a console that is located at every hub.

I recommend players start the Shadow of Revan content at 56 with 178 gear, which can be acquired for about $1.4M credits. You will easily have this much if you take slicing, bioanalysis and scavenging (and have been selling your materials on the GTN). SoR begins with solo (or group) flashpoints and the battles can be tough without good gear. The game does provide a helpful battle droid companion in addition to your normal companion when you choose to run the flashpoints in solo mode, and it makes a big difference.

Once your character level is high enough, if you need to farm basic commendations, the best way to do it is hit the lowest level Heroic 4 “world” area on Dromund Kaas.

Summary

There’s no question SWTOR has a lot to offer, especially for those who are fans of the Star Wars universe. While the server-lag issues are a monumental problem and can impact the game greatly, most of the time the game is playable and occasionally it’s silky smooth – and when it is, it’s a blast. Overall, the game is fun, and that’s what a game should be. I have thoroughly enjoyed my return. The quality of the game is very good, the player community is interactive (and often helpful), the servers are teeming with players (and the Fleet is always packed), and even the starter areas are busy because the game entices the creation of multiple characters. SWTOR does have a different feel from the other traditional fantasy-based MMOGs; not just because of the story-based progression, companion support, and group-focused combat, but because of how the game moves the player throughout the galaxy from planet to planet and even offers fun and engaging space combat. You grow attached to your companions as you work to get them better gear and they fight by your side, and it’s nice being able to send your companions on missions even when you’re offline; this gives the player a feeling of working toward something even when they are not in-game. Yes, there are technical and gameplay problems, and there are many things Bioware could do to make it a better game, but it’s that way with all MMOGs (server lag issues aside). As I mentioned previously, when Star Wars episode 7 (the movie) comes out later this year, this game is going to explode. Bioware’s #1 priority should be to address the server-side lag. But, even with the server-side lag, is it worth buying a subscription and trying out the game for a few months? Absolutely. Even with its shortcomings, the most recent Shadow of Revan expansion shows Bioware is continuing to produce quality content for all players to enjoy. I look forward to seeing what enhancements they have in store for the game in 2015.

Creepy Droid Factories Await!

Creepy Killer Droid Factories Await!

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About The Author

Mr. Allen has an extensive background in technology spanning 20 years including software architecture, design and development, project management and leadership. He specializes in corporate planning, productivity and collaboration, and is the creator of the games Mordor, Demise, Horizons, and Alganon.

9 Responses

  1. JustMe

    “Ranked Warzones”

    Should not be in the list of things that were added, as they have since been removed.

    Most people have lost interest in Conquests since the initial batch of guilds got their titles. Winning the title for your guild mainly revolved around who could do the most crafting for the week anyway.

    “Ground and Space PvP (ranked and non-ranked).” – implies that there is a ranked version of space PvP (there isn’t.)

    As you said (paraphrasing here,) the game is good if you want to level alts to see the story – not so good if end game is what you’re looking for. This leaves it in a pretty awkward place for an MMO – especially since they can’t really afford to continue all the class stories in any meaningful way.

    Reply
    • David Allen

      Thanks for the feedback! I engaged in hardcore PvP when the game first came out, but have only casually done it since my return. I see the ranked option when engaging in PvP (I haven’t participated because I don’t think my skill level has returned to that point yet). What do you mean the Ranked Warzones were removed? Am I confusing the ranked Warzones with Ranked PvP (ground)?

      They definitely need to spice up the rewards for Conquests. Thanks for the comment RE Gound/Space PvP (I’ve adjusted it for clarity).

      I agree; the end-game systems are facing some issues — but I do think they have enough of a solid infrastructure that if they made some wise design and development decisions, they could have a much more solid recurring experience for those who want to play at 60.

      Reply
      • JustMe

        I don’t consider arenas warzones – and the version of ranked that you mention (earlier in the game, 8v8 warzones,) – was removed.

        Currently, the only option for ranked anything is arenas, and those are pretty much overrun with win traders and queue syncers.

        They do have a solid framework, but many feel that lack of investment on the part of EA is a major issue. The current state of the game leaves a feeling of overworked staff.

  2. Bstr413

    My comments from SWTOR’s subreddit:

    Couple of mistakes in your post:

    Couple of mistakes in your post:

    * Group Finder works perfectly. The problem is if you queue as a DPS, you are less likely to get a fast queue pop for non-Tactical Flashpoints. Only 2 out of 4 spots for DPS, while 75% or more players are DPS. Healers only wait for about 15-30 minutes, while tanks are near instantaneous. Their answer since end of 2013 is to make a version that doesn’t require the Trinity and one that does: seems to work somewhat well. I get near instantaneous pops for the one that doesn’t require the Trinity at prime time.
    * GF for Ops is worse, since you need 2 tanks willing to PUG for every 4 healers and 10 DPS.

    * Gathering Skill only returning green materials is intended. Only Missing Skills return blue or purple materials. They do tend to return less than in the past, but I believe that is intended.
    * The bug was with the consumable mission discoveries: they weren’t working correctly before 3.0.2.

    * “It would be nice if they added a training ground with NPCs for practice instead of thrusting all new players into the brutal environment.” They do have one: click the “?” in the upper right of the hanger. Its not easy to catch though: its only mentioned in a pop-up tutorial. Needs to be labeled better.

    * “Unfortunately (at this time) there are never “unique” rewards for a conquest (i.e. a special mount). I hope they change this as it would make certain conquests much more competitive and entice participation.” There are 2 “Unique” rewards for conquest:

    * If you guild conquers a planet, you can use a special mount on that planet.
    * The gathering decorations are unique to conquest. However, you can sell them.

    * Tab key doesn’t always work: occasionally chooses the wrong enemy. Better than most other games though.

    * Light and Dark side affect appearance: at least Dark Side affects your character’s face. Some aesthetic stuff is locked to certain Light Side / Dark Side, like decorations and pets. Full Level V LS and DS will unlock a unique ability for your account / Legacy.

    * Some World Bosses do drop unique loot. Dreadtooth drops a unique helmet, while the Primal Destroyer drops a unique crafting schematic, ect.

    * “Subscribers receive 525 cartel coins per month.” Its 500-600 per month, depending on length of subscription time. A 2 month subscription gives 525 CC.

    * Load times don’t have anything to do with the server lag. Its mostly due to this being a 32-bit game and how items are stored on your computer. (Only 2.5 GB loaded into RAM at any time.) SWTOR Unleashed greatly helps with increasing the amount of RAM you can use. However, SWTOR does seem to use a lot of different assets: not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

    * You can search for items on the GTN by Shift+Right clicking them with the GTN search open. I never type in the full name anymore. And you don’t need Excel: just a calculator or a brain good with simple multiplication. (99 items * 900 cr / item = 89 100 cr) Having a Per item option would help though.

    * Companions ignoring gathering orders has only happened since 3.0 and is due to the server lag / ability delay. Which, by the way:

    * The Server Lag / ability delay, queue wait times, and recent Ops bugs have only happened since 3.0: they weren’t really there before. These happened with 2.0 too, so it seems like it is a recurring problem with every expansion. The big problem seems to be that the servers have trouble handling the increased load.

    Your other issues are spot on: losing the mouse, quests that require a reset if you mess up, spammers, necessary enemies in the open world with a few minutes respawn, separated friends lists, and hard to find space missions are all problems that need working on.

    Reply
    • David Allen

      This is fantastic feedback – I’ll review making adjustments based on what you’ve shared here (also, if you could also post this in the comments on the review page so others could see your feedback, that would be appreciated). Thanks for the overview! I was completely unaware of shift-right clicking on an item (as are most players I think as my guild of 450 wasn’t even aware of that). After playing RIFT and seeing their most recent enhancement of their trade system, SWTOR could make some serious improvements to the GTN even with the shift-right click option. What it comes down to is it’s just cumbersome to use, and for such a critical component, they really should focus on refining it.
      Note the math isn’t that tough, but when you’re going through 10 different resource types and you have the 57 stack you want to sell for 325, it quickly becomes quite a burden. They really need to allow the UI to define a “per piece” price.

      Reply
  3. DryErase

    My experience with this game is much different than yours.

    Playing SWTOR makes me wish SWG hadn’t been cancelled, and SWG was an absolutely awful game in its own right.

    SWTOR caters to the lowest denominator of low-IQ, ADHD-medicated, self-entitled fanboys with disposable incomes to pay to win. It’s a single player game with optional multiplayer content, despite being marketed as an MMO. It’s everything that’s wrong with the gaming industry, and with modern cash shop MMOs. A game so awful that it had to go Free-to-Play after less than a year, relying heavy on the title screen to remind gullible subscribers and cash store buyers that it’s the only option they currently have to play World of Star Wars-craft. Add all this to the fact that SWTOR’s “space combat” was stolen from 1). a Clone Wars Adventures minigame based on StarFox, and 2). a ukranian F2P space game (Star Conflict) for people without gamepads or joysticks, completely removing the “Star” from Star Wars, delivering a product that not a single Star Wars fan or SWTOR subscriber asked for, and which less than 2% of the entire population even plays. If they’re so keen on stealing other games’ ideas, why not steal from Totally Games’ X-Wing and TIE Fighter series? Those games are 20 years old, and they’re better Star Wars games than Galactic Starfighter.

    The only good thing about SWTOR is the diversity in the class storylines. Had it been packaged as Knights of the Old Republic 3 and sold as a singleplayer game with the ability to connect to multiplayer content, it might have been heralded as one of the greatest roleplaying games ever. Instead, it will be remembered as one of the greatest MMO flops ever, a textbook lesson on 1). how to repeat the mistakes of one’s predecessors (Star Wars Galaxies), and 2). how to alienate an entire playerbase from not only one’s own product, but those of the entire genre.

    In a time in which every single potentially stellar Star Wars game has been scrapped in the middle of development, it’s heartbreaking that mediocre efforts like SWTOR are greenlit and maintained simply because so many gamers are starved for something better yet settle for less.

    Reply
    • David Allen

      You bring up a valid point about the current state of MMOGs being very stagnant. I look at things from a mixed perspective; not just a gamer, but a MMO developer as well. The time, energy and effort it takes to build, manage and grow these virtual worlds is unprecedented. However, I agree it’s time for the “next generation” of MMOGs to start entering the industry. While I don’t think SWTOR is as “bad” as you believe it is, there’s definite room for improvement relative to the points you’ve made. I also agree Bioware has made some monumental mistakes relative to design and implementation decisions regarding the game. But, it is a living, breathing Star Wars MMO people can play and enjoy. It may not be perfect, but it’s enough for more than 1,000,000 players to jump into. And my personal experience has been the players (at least the ones I have gotten to know) are in their 30’s and 40’s and aren’t “low-IQ” or traditional “ADHD” folks. But I’ve surely seen the type of people you mentioned posting in Fleet chat :). Also, the FTP model decision is due more to a shift in the MMO industry than to SWTOR being a “bad game”. RIFT for example, is an excellent game, and they had to go FTP as well for the same reasons SWTOR had to. Players have so many options, so much content, and are so overwhelmed with choices with what to play, the companies had to make the point of entry as simplistic as possible.

      Reply
  4. Jason

    One of the biggest problems SW:TOR faces is the inability to add content at any kind of increased tempo. Basically, by choosing full voice-acting and extensive cutscenes, I believe EA essentially priced themselves out of the market. It’s so prohibitively expensive to add new content that we’re stuck with changes around the margins. I stopped playing three months ago, and the lack of any kind of story expansion gives me little incentive to return.

    All of the changes are decorative (conquest, flagship, strongholds, cartel market, new customization options, new races) and have zero impact on gameplay. The only story additions are new missions, which, once you’ve completed them once, yield nothing new. How many times can you grind through Manaan?

    The only thing that could make me come back would be the extension of NPC storylines or a new character class. Everything else is just twiddling a few knobs and dials. I loved the game while I played, but unless you’re a hardcore raider, there’s just nothing to do… which makes me very sad. :(

    Reply
    • David Allen

      You bring up a very important point; the cost of continuing the “style” of content they have embraced is a key financial issue to expansion. SWTOR does suffer from the traditional “end game wall” that nearly all MMOGs do, which IMO revolves around the lack of reusable content tailored in a fashion that is interesting and challenging, yet doesn’t lock players in raiding and other standard models that cater to a selective group. The next generation of MMOGs must address the end-game raid requirement that’s ultimately hurting the longevity of so many fantastic products on the market.

      Reply

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