I faithfully played and fully enjoyed my time in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) from launch up until patch 2.2. It was a thoroughly grand experience of high-octane acrobatics, force power flinging, pvp maddening, and Bioware quality story telling. It truly was a game I was willing to stick with until it sunk, hell, I even know a guy who subscribed to SWTOR for ten (10) whole years. But then, why did I quit too early?
SWTOR had its up and downs, mired by incessant launch problems that continued on years after, newly added content had the possibility of becoming unplayable (Eternity Vault, anyone?), bracketless pvp warzones, and much, much more. However, it did not deter me from actually experiencing the game for what it was. It isn’t like no other MMO had launch problems, and it isn’t like any other MMO doesn’t have problems. The game was fine for what it had back then; and it only could get better.
PvP: The Real Highlight
Sadly, I was only half-right about that. PvP saw a drastic change from 1.2 and beyond, nerfing the all-powerful Sorcerer/Sage which had been a gamebreaker for most people since the beginning. Let’s face it; no one wanted to get into a warzone pre-1.2 against 6-7 Sorcs/Sages, but was, unfortunately, more real than one would think. Most of the classes on said patch were balanced to a point where I really couldn’t complain about how PvP was. With every single class on Empire, I found that whatever character I chose to play, I would find no difficulty in performing exceptionally in any warzone. Of course, there really are classes that have advantages over others, but that did not downplay any of the other strengths that purported weaker classes had. It was all a matter of knowing the class well and playing it to that extent and I had felt that all the way till the end of my time in SWTOR.
The matter of class balancing in PVP simply cannot be avoided as it is deemed impossible by most people, considering that there really hasn’t been a balanced game. Ever. The sheer number of people who dropped from the game due to frustrations in PvP is as common in any MMO as are goldsellers. For that, I can’t place blame on any company trying to make efforts to do something about it. However, there are some things that you can blame on them; progression.
PvP progression in SWTOR, for a very long time, was a quagmire for pvpers as there as nothing beyond the idea of getting the best pvp of whatever patch they found themselves playing in. Only months later, when the game’s population had dramatically decreased since launch, did they add the pvp ratings system for 8v8 warzones, akin to that of World of Warcraft’s. There was another problem here, however, as it remained in “pre-season” for about an entire year, diminishing the value pvp ratings. The only reason anyone would ever participate in ranked warzones were because of pure love for the action or simply swagger. Who didn’t want to be identified as a PvP juggernaut?
Unlike most games out right now, which had rewards per season at a timely pace, it took SWTOR a few patches more and the removal of the 8v8 ranked bracket all entirely just to reward pvpers for progression. This came in the form of 4v4 ranked matches that were obviously of smaller scale. I was not able to reach this patch as it was introduced a few months after I quit the game. Now, you would think that it might actually be a great time to come back since PvP seems much better now due to the seasons actually commencing and not perpetually stuck in a pre-season stagnation. In my point of view, it was a very late move, and I had already moved on from the game. Bioware was simply too slow to release content to merit any more of my continuing subscriptions.
The Fallen Bastion of Content: PvE
PvE was very much the same. Many guilds that had high hopes for endgame progression found themselves reeling in disappointment due to the average of six months before any updates came live and, sometimes, even longer. The first two raids, Eternity Vault (EV) and Karraga’s Palace (KP), were quickly over-farmed, and many players quit a few months thereafter due to the lack of anything else to do. When it was first hinted that there would be endgame content updates, it was simply an increase in difficulty where even gear did not get stronger as only an increased number of items would be the difference from the earlier difficulties. That was a big disappointment to the PvE crowd.
Though, admittedly, the content that was slowly pumped into the dying MMO was of top-notch quality. The newer raids like Scum and Villainy (S&V) had very interesting fight mechanics and a great story to boot. Terror from Beyond (TFB) had a powerful Lovecraftian feel as it involved creatures from beyond the Star Wars universe’s reality and was just a treat to raid in. What I loved about the raids was that it had a very strong need for teamwork, unlike most MMOs I’ve ventured in. It made the raid much more authentic and, despite not being a roleplayer, made me feel like what I was doing was truly important. This last part is especially great considering that I was expecting the “Hero role” to end after I finished SWTOR’s class story quest line. It was quite the surprise.
Despite all the polish and craftsmanship the game offered, it was, again, still too slow. Personally, I found it just right, but the consumers of this day and age aren’t as patient, and if the population continued to drop because of content issues, there would be less of a reason for me to play as well. Who would ever want to play a multiplayer alone?
Fancy Pants! But I Want Heavy Armor Skirts!
It is also worth mentioning that SWTOR sports one of the best appearance customizations I have ever seen in an MMO: the armor modification. It virtually let you use any armor “shell” and you could pick what stats to put on it via its armor mod slot, mod slot, and enhancement slot. Not to mention the option to unify all other pieces of equipped armor to be unified to whatever main and sub color your chest piece had, making matching armor pieces much less of an eyestrain.
I am just a sucker for Barbie-dolling my characters and this kept me entertained for quite a while. It even came to a point where I would level new alts just because there was an outfit I liked that I could no longer have my main characters wear because they already had too many. I am so in love with armor modding that I can’t help but criticize other MMOs’ customization options.
Makeb: Treasure Troves of Mostly Nothing
In between all of this, the expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, happened. I mention this only now because I felt that it did not truly feel like an expansion. It just seemed like a sorry excuse to increase the level cap, meagerly patched gameplay, and just an overall bad cash grab. The story did not sit well with how I played out my characters as it felt much more impersonal, as if I was relegated to Darth Marr’s goon. Don’t get me wrong; the story and voice acting is top notch, but there were just too many promises and expectations that were left unfulfilled. The world that came with the expansion, however, was just beautiful and fantastic. I would sometimes find myself afk-ing in some of the vast zones of Makeb, eyeing the lush greenery and massive constructs strewn across the land while waiting for a warzone queue to pop. But that simply wasn’t enough for me to consider it as a top-notch addition to the MMO as I felt it could have had all its features without it itself.
Cash Grabbing For The Greater Good
The Cartel Market, SWTOR’s very own cash shop, became a large part of the game with its introduction in the expansion. At first, many were thinking that it was going to ruin what already was the ruinous remains of an ambitious MMO, but I would have to disagree there. It provided a lot of cosmetic items and equipment that enhanced my own experience like the then-new dye system and a plethora of unique set pieces and lightsaber crystals. What’s even more awesome is the fact that you don’t have to shell out a single dollar to obtain these items due to most of them being bind-on-equip, enabling those that had the cash to sell them off on the GTN for credits. Not to mention that you also received an small amount of Cartel Coins for each month you remain subscribed, eventually granting you enough dough to get that pilot suit you always wanted. Eventually. It became, albeit an optional, element that spices things up that in no way affects the actual game. If you don’t like it, then don’t get into it. Simple as that.
I still read some of the forums from time to time, checking up on the PvP community I loved and found that it was mostly the same at best or, at worst, deteriorating further. PvE seemed somewhat non-existent with the exception of some very dedicated guilds. This game really could have become much more and it saddens me that I can no longer afford the wait just to see it happen. Maybe it will get better and maybe I can come back to a game I had loved and so faithfully played for two years. But here and now, I’ve got a lot of better things to do.