I’ve been struggling a bit lately with the fact that I’m not playing SWTOR, while most bloggers I read are currently somewhere up in space. Let me explain. Besides the obvious thing, that this is a general MMO blog where I usually stay up-to-date with all major releases, I really like trying new MMOs. I certainly haven’t played every game in existence, but with the exception of Aion or LotRO, I’ve dipped my toe into most major titles that have come out the past 7 years. When times are quiet, I will even go back in time and try out older games just to get first-hand impressions. I like to know what I’m talking about. I also really love newbie level.
So, why not SWTOR then? Surely the game qualifies as “major title” – it comes with a big name, history and team behind it. You can expect a high level of technical polish and crowded servers. It appears that after some initial sign-up and subscription gripes, most players are content for the moment, few audio or UI issues aside. I don’t care for small complications like that – although I really think a flawless launch without server crashes and queues should be a standard these days (kudos to Trion here).
Yet – I can’t overcome my skepticism. I blame it on not enough time available, but that’s rarely the truth. A few things just bug me about SWTOR, have always bugged me ever since the early previews – to the point of remaining turned off despite reading more enthusiastic reviews of late. Even the ever-critic Nils calls it “worth 50euros for anyone into RPGs or MMOs” and Shintar has opened a brand new blog dedicated to SWTOR. So what’s my problem? And will I be able to change my mind yet?
Judge for yourself, maybe from more first-hand experience. Here are my major SWTOR “bias”:
- SWTOR looks horrid. Okay, let me re-phrase this: it looks incredibly dated. I’m not as single-minded that graphics are all I care about in an MMO, but I DO expect a title launched in 2011 to look considerably better than WoW. It doesn’t have to be the world’s greatest render-job, but Rift’s graphics are what I consider the minimum; its graphical polish, the atmosphere, the variety and “life” in your environment, the flora and fauna. Elaborate effects for shading, wind, fire and water. I’ve checked out plenty of SWTOR footage and screenshots since its launch and it’s just not there – the landscapes look sterile and dead, some textures remind you of the clone stamp tool in Photoshop. The cities are impressive, but anything remotely “organic” falls short. If I compare desert shots from Tatooine with desert scenarios I’ve recently played through in Uncharted or Fable 3….not good. I get it – we’re in outer space, scale and distances are vast, so you’re bound to see more boring, empty spaces. Still: really???
- SWTOR is Sci-fi; this too needs some explanation: I like the Star Wars franchise, I love the old movie trilogy. But the Star Wars films, as is widely agreed on, are in fact more “fantasy than sci-fi”. The story of Luke Skywalker, his quest to master the Force, overthrow the Galactic Empire, destroy the Deathstar and discovering his true identity in the process, could just as well have been staged in a traditional medieval or sword&sorcery setting. This is also why many fantasy fans still dig SW, when they would never watch Star Trek or Babylon 5. To me, SW is fantasy with light sabers – no issues there. SWTOR on the other hand, does not benefit exclusively from story appeal. It’s an MMO, which means it relies on different factors to create lasting player enjoyment. Being the protagonist in this tale, the deviating settings, the combat, the weapons & technology, the space-ships etc. all impact on my first-hand experience. And I personally really prefer sword&sorcery based MMOs, I can’t help that.
- SWTOR appeals to single-players; I’ve actually been told a couple of times now, that this isn’t “necessarily true”. I get it, you CAN always group up if you like to – that is as much a consolation to me as it was in WoW, to be honest. If part of SWTOR’s appeal is what Tobold compared to the “Tortage effect”, I worry about the game’s longterm appeal and community. I’m not sure I need to play SWTOR just to soloplay through the main storyline and send around NPC companions (which I already eye with worry as it is). Another point that’s worrying me in terms of cooperation is that combat is apparently slow and umm boring, but then it seems most players agree that SWTOR brings little new compared to WoW there, anyway.
- SWTOR and Electronic Arts; this is maybe a minor gripe, but for me it adds to the rest. Sure, EA did bring us titles like the Sims, Battlefield or Dragon Age in the past years, but some of the recent publicity the publisher caused left me with a very bitter aftertaste. Notably the Origin debacle at Battlefield 3 launch or their ridiculous BF3 forum policy argument. Intransparent personal data security in EULAs or phony player censorship doesn’t exactly warm me towards trusting EA or any company for that matter (hello Blizzard RealID debacle). Our BF3 pre-order was canceled over this – in the end it’s a matter of principle. How far are you willing to compromise (and compromise yourself literally) just to play online games? Needless to say, posts like this one don’t improve matters for me.
There you have it, all my negativity. Yet the thing is, I’m not putting it out here to rant – I would like to like SWTOR and give it a chance. There’s frankly not much else around for a while. There are features that interest me about the game: classes, multi-mob combat, difficulty level, just to name a few. I could also imagine that the sheer scale of the settings would greatly satisfy the exploration junkie in me (and traveling between different planets is kinda win).
I don’t know. For the moment I just can’t bring myself to overcome my gripes and enter my CC details to try out a game I might only play for 5 days. Am I wrong – am I right? You tell me. Maybe someone will yet be able to dispel my SWTOR doubts…Until then, the inner battle continues.