Star Wars: The Old Republic successfully launched to a great rejoicing in the Force and rabid fans have been playing the game at a feverish rate. However, with such a splashy launch and fans' desire to immerse themselves into the Star Wars universe, it's quite easy to overlook some aspects of the game that don't live up to expectations. Let us examine the top five aspects of gameplay that The Old Republic got wrong.
Please note that we are discussing the gameplay of The Old Republic for the time period of the game's launch and for the first few patches. MMO fans know that the first few months of a new MMO is extremely critical for the success of that game. First impressions are vitally important for online games, and if players don't find a good hook or reason to continue playing the game, then they'll drift back to the familiar game that they were playing before. A MMO can only make a first impression once.
I have previously listed five things that The Old Republic got right, but in the interest of fairness, we should examine some aspects of the game that aren't up to snuff. Personally, I think The Old Republic is a solid game, but there were some gameplay aspects that I thought were lacking. Without further ado, here are the top five things The Old Republic got wrong.
In the five things that The Old Republic got right article, I talked at length about the great use of story. However, there is a hugely disappointing side to the story coin. I had great hopes for the plethora of choices that a player could choose as they adventured throughout the Star Wars universe. After all, BioWare has made amazing games (the Mass Effect games) that featured agonizing choices that had an almost infinite number of repercussions to whatever choice a player made within the game.
Sadly, a player's actions have no real consequences in The Old Republic. The only real impact of a player's decisions is if they lose or gain a companion's affection or gain Light Side or Dark Side points. That's it. Making a choice at the end of a mission doesn't come back to bite you in the backside later. The only repercussion that my level 50 Bounty Hunter encountered in all his choices was that a Jedi padawan that he let live was part of a group that later tried to take him prisoner. Only one consequence in fifty levels? Not a great average.
What about having people get mad if I killed members of their organizations or their friends? Wouldn't it be great if you had a mission to kill a person, chose to let them go, and then the person who gave you the mission got angry with you? The result could be for the next level or two, you had to deal with random spawns of assassins trying to take you out. How about new missions becoming available due to the choices you make or having certain NPCs refuse to deal with you because you've betrayed their faction one too many times? Overall, I think it would be really cool if your actions came back to either bite you or reward you depending upon the choices that you made.
While I enjoy the PvE combat in The Old Republic, the PvP leaves a lot to be desired. I'm not god of war at PvP with my sloth-like reflexes, but as long as the scenarios are fun and I can get a few kills in, then I'm happy. The bad thing is that PvP in The Old Republic isn't fun for me.
The main reason that PvP is lacking is that you can't choose which scenario you want to play. I understand that BioWare developed PvP without giving you the ability to choose specific scenarios in order to foster community and have really fast queue times. However, the altenative seems to be that you always end up playing Huttball. Let me now state for the record that I hate...no...loathe Huttball with the unrelenting fire of a thousand suns. I don't find the scenario fun and, yet, it pops practically EVERY single time I queue for PvP. As of the time of writing this article, I believe the percentage of Huttball popping for me is about ninety percent. There is good news on this front as that BioWare has recently mentioned upcoming changes to PvP to have other scenarios pop more regularly.
PvP can be made better by improving scenarios that players don't care for (Huttball!) and the upcoming change in patch 1.2 where scenarios will support same-faction brawling. It'll be interesting to stick it to my fellow guildies in PvP.
The one feature of Star Wars that grabs me is space combat. I saw the original Star Wars in the theater when it came out and the opening scene of the Imperial star destroyer firing on Princess Leia's ship hooked me and the final assault on the Death Star reeled me in forever. To this day, I still get goose bumps watching the Death Star battle when the rebels are approaching and Red group starts reporting in. Later on, I played the various Star Wars games such as X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, and, naturally, X-Wing versus Tie-Fighter. To me, space combat is essential to the Star Wars experience.
Sadly, the space combat in The Old Republic is a huge letdown. I was hoping to fight countless enemies in the icy depths of space and go toe-to-toe with other players. The reality is that instead of piloting a ship in thrilling space combat where we have control, we fly a handful of missions where our ships fly on rails. There are only a few different scenarios for space combat (such as escort, station attack, station defense) with a higher level of difficulty. While the space combat missions can be amusing as a mini-game, they are a far cry from what space combat should be. If I wanted to play Star Fox, I would play that game, not Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was really hoping for something similar to Star Wars Galaxies where they had free roaming space battles integrated into the game. Space battles really cry out for PvP. I'm keeping my fingers crossed as, in a recent interview, bringing PvP to space combat was mentioned.
BioWare has talked quite a bit about fostering community in The Old Republic, but in one critical area, they've let that aspect down. Of course, I'm talking about the lack of a dungeon finder. Many players have voiced their displeasure over this fact and the difficulties in grouping. Without an automated system in place, it can be very hard to group up. There are a lot of cool heroics and flashpoints that I would love to play, so why not make it as easy as possible for me to find interested groups and enjoy that content? While my Bounty Hunter prefers to keep his lone-wolf reputation intact, he's not afraid to turn down an invitation to group.
The last item on our list of the top five things that The Old Republic got wrong is lack of features. What I mean by this is that certain features have become a fixture in any MMO and is expected by the players at launch. Features such as customizable UI, guild tools, combat logs, a easy-to-use auction house, and decent grouping tools are standard in today's online gaming environment. Which makes their exclusion all the more perplexing for a game like SWTOR that has had a lengthy production schedule and an enormous budget.
Players want to play a game that they're comfortable with and allows them to play with friends more easily. The first thing that most players do when they begin the game is to play with the UI to create the set-up that they wish. Gamers like to play with friends (or join new friends) in a guild, but want membership in a guild to have tangible benefits like guild housing, guild banks, or other perks. The fact that these items were not in the game at launch is disappointing. There is some good news as BioWare has stated that many of these features, such as customizable UI and a better auction house, are on the way.
Overall, I feel that The Old Republic is a solid game, but it needs some work. I've listed the top five things that I felt the game got wrong, and there are more. However, these wrongs can be righted in the long haul, but the damage may already have been done. A game only has one chance to make a great first impression, and that's when it launches. With it's stay-on-the-rails space combat, no dungeon finder, no real consequences to a player's actions, Huttball-or-bust PvP, and lack of expected features, SWTOR may have missed the window to make that all-important first impression. Time will tell if the Force is with The Old Republic.