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Shrandar

SW again, an ongoing review.

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Ok, I still play the game. Mainly because I want to give it a fair chance and for that I need more time. I will try and posts my impressions here, these are more of a reflection then a really thorough analysis of the different mechanics. Most is written from a WoW perespective since that is the MMO I know best, this might put some off but so be it


This time a rather negative approach mainly going into what should be the main accomplishment of SW, the story.

The story is nice and if you ever felt like rping your character a bit more in relation to the gameworld, the dialogue's certainly give you the chance. That said I do get the feeling sometimes that this way of presenting quests is just a more lengthy exposure of the same reason you always quest in WoW: xp, items and money. I always read the stories (quest text) in WoW, at least the first time around, and while the class quests in SW certainly adds twists and turns with the choices you make, the side quests are not noticably better then the ones in WoW. Now it might be argued that the reason for questing in the end always boils down to xp, items and money, at least in MMO's. But here is where imo the schizophrenic character of SW comes into play; the presentation of story is so heavy and eleborate that it gives the impression of a grand sweeping tale but at the end of a quest the same reward window as in WoW pops up again, listing all your numerical gains (xp money etc), blatantly reminding you of their ultimately very mundane character. (As a humorous aside, all the questgivers try to lure you in with "credits", try to "bribe" you regardless of wether you are a Jedi or Bounty Hunter -Time is money friend we are all goblins in SW.) As I see it, story and quest, at least when presented this way, should have rewards that relate to the story, environmental changes, story progression and so forth. Experience and other rewards are always nice but should be handled passively, not as a numerical summary of the epic story you just partook in.

But here the limitations of the gameworld or the genre kick in, no amount of phasing can ultimately conceal the respawn of the mobs you just killed or all the other people doing that same quest 'that would change history' you just did. SW goes through great lenghts of making you forget that you play with others, the story is about you and you alone, that jedi/sith with exceptional strength in the force, that agent with special skills and so on. In the end though you are no more special then that player next to you (which SW cleverly tries to conceal by phasing out the players in the conversations you have with the questgivers) and if everyone is special then noone is. Ultimately this is a limitation of the genre, you cannot change the world singlehandedly in a game where you play together with millions of others that have to do the same thing. But instead of trying so hard to make us forget all those others, why not try to create content that fits the genre and includes other players? The classic "bring friends" comment in dungeon and epic quests becomes ironic in a context where you do not have time to make friends, being constantly asked to deal with things on your own, important mission after important mission.


The final question I ask myself personally is: what does SW add to my MMO experiences up to date? Getting caught up in the stories is certainly rewarding, it engages in a way that reminds me of my first experiences in WoW. However the story in itself is not the reward as it ultimately doesn't change the basic premise of the game and that premise doesn't differ in any way from WoW. (And, as an aside, the stories in WoW also engaged me) Once the story ends we are left with the same activities as always: pvp, heroic dungeons, raids and achievements. You could argue that this will always be, in whatever shape or form, the activities you partake in in an MMO endgame and I am inclined to agree. But there is the crux, SW doesn’t add anything new there, the gameplay is the same and arguably even of less quality then WoW in certain aspects. Too many times my skill that gets praised so high by all the npc's boils down to wars of attrition, healthbar vs healthbar without any of the nifty tricks and tactics that WoW added to fighting elites, enabling you to overcome the numerical disadvantage you had. Without that and without any active ways of preventing incoming damage the fighting in the end becomes dull, no matter how flashy the animations. SW tries to spice it up by letting you fight multiple mobs during regular questing, which tends to alleviate it a bit but its in the one on one fights where the system utterly fails.


In the process of making you feel the hero Bioware even took away an aspect that I personally enjoyed in MMO's, crafting. Yes it is there but you do none of the work, the companions do it for you, because, well, a hero can't be bothered with making a health potion now can (s)he? Aye, in the end it maybe doesnt make much of a difference whether your char performs the animation after pressing "create" or that your companion does it. But why then does it take 60 seconds to create a low level health potion without even being able to queue up crafting orders (none that I found anyway) requiring your to press "create" every 60 seconds again if you feel the need for a stack. [Edit: found out you can queue but you still have to press the create button as many times as the items you need, sloppy]. The game lacks polish, and is still bugged in several places. One of the most annoying for me right now is the fact that the friends list will not recognize certain chars even though they are on the same server. I know that every MMO starts out with bugs but that a major one is in relation to the social side for some reason seems symbolic: so much resources spent on
single player elements but the MMO side is not improved and on some points even underdeveloped/bugged. That said, some of the individual systems are intelligently designed and try to address issues that were jarring in WoW or at least smooth them over. It makes for some entertaining and engaging play time as there is a lot to discover but ultimately leaves a dry taste in the mouth. It could have been so much more, but isn't. Lets hope GW2 and TSW will set the standards for MMO's from now on.
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