Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TOR Trial Thoughts

SWTOR's patch 1.2 finally landed last week, and I finally took the game for a spin.  A few thoughts on the experience arriving four months after the game's launch and playing the game through the 15 levels of the trial...

Getting In
For a game that seems to want new players, they appear to be trying everything except what all the other subscription titles (and most non-subscription titles) are doing - the one week trial requires a referral and does not offer any benefit to the person who sent sent you said.  Anyone who does not have someone to refer them needs to wait for fixed weekend events which are shorter than the referral trial.  While I guess I can see an advantage to making the community seem more populated by concentrating newbies into specific weekends, this process feels convoluted compared to basically all the other MMO's out there. 

Fortunately, hunting for someone willing to send an invite also allowed me to get a head start on the first and hardest irrevocable choice in the game - picking a server.  This turned out to be easier than I anticipated, as basically everyone I asked suggested the RP-PVE server Sanctum of the Exalted, home of the Republic Mercy Corps and numerous bloggers. 


Trooping
Anyway, I signed into the game and rolled up a cyborg trooper named Aldebaran.  (In keeping with my custom, this is a location from Star Trek Online - the sector in which Deep Space K-7 resides in Eta Erdani block.)  I've previously said that I don't see why this class is even in the game - compared to Han Solo (smuggler), Boba Fett (Bounty Hunter), and people with Lightsabers (four of the eight classes), it wasn't clear to me why anyone would choose to be a cannon-fodder stormtrooper.  Setting that concern to the side appears to have been a good call.  I've found a fun story, and if anything perhaps it's easier to reconcile being one player amongst hundreds as a trooper than it would be as a Jedi given that so much of the movie lore revolves around a handful of force-users changing the course of the galaxy. 

Lore aside, this class is also one of the most unique I've played in MMO's.  The trooper's resource are energy cells for their weapons, which regenerate over time but at a slower rate as they are depleted - you can burst if you need to but there will be a longterm penalty to doing so.  The really unusual part, though, is that this is not your squishy ranged class.  In fact, I selected the Vanguard advanced class, which allows me to function as a full-fledged tank with damage reduction and short-to-medium ranged skills.  Meanwhile, many of my abilities can be cast on the run, rather than channeled, making it feel much more dynamic than your standard stand-and-nuke class.  Overall, several big pluses.

Firing on the enemy.  Note also my companion's mighty invisible gun, looks like he's killing foes via ranged pelvic thrust.
The Business
Bioware made some headlines last week with an odd promotion - a free month of game time for everyone who had already reached level fifty, an offer that was later extended to accounts that had hit Legacy level 6 in a move to appease alt-o-holics.  Azuriel has a good take on this odd move - it was pitched as a reward for loyalty by players, but it actually demonstrates the opposite sentiment from Bioware - cold calculation that something needs to be done to hold players who are hitting the end of the road from leaving and disrupting their communities. 

During about half of the trial week, I have gotten a character to the trial cap (currently level 15) and also reached the permitted levels in three crew skills (slicing for cash, bioanalysis and biochem for potions).  I could probably do the same on a second character, but I'd rather continue to advance my main and unlock the Legacy system first, so I can receive exp and perks for my future alts.  I see relatively little way in which Bioware would lose by making this an unlimited level-capped trial - yes, someone could in principle play all the newbie planets, but all of these are just the first chapters of stories that successful players will want to continue. 

Overall, my outlook on the game so far remains the same.  While I think this game is less vulnerable to churn than most MMO's because players will be tempted to come back to play additional stories, I'm already seeing where the focus on story may harm replay value.  In a very brief visit to the beta last winter, I played through level 6 or so on Ord Mantell as a Smuggler.  My trooper had different class quests but the same sidequests, and I already felt like I'd been there and watched these cutscenes before, even though it was months ago.  Legacy perks may help by offering the chance to skip more of the content on subsequent playthroughs, but this will also reduce the amount of additional subscription time that followup characters will require. 

This game is not in trouble yet, but I definitely can't blame them for being proactive in attempting to keep it from getting there. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also was surprised to really enjoy the Trooper starting story.

I played all four republic races through the starting areas and it was the stories that I enjoyed - although yes, the overlapping side-quests are a little... less than ideal.

Magson said...

I've got a 41 commando in RMC, but I've been playing the past couple of months with some friends ona different server. I'm playing a Vanguard as my main now and dinged 47 tonight. I'm doing the Tank route. I did re-spec to damage at one point, but I felt too squishy and like I wasn't doing all that much more dps, so... back to tank I went. It's a little odd to be mostly a melee toon while carrying this big honking rifle, but overall I enjoy it.

Imakulata said...

Don't the force users get a different starting planet, i. e. different side quests too? I tried the game during one of the free trial weekends and I remember seeing only Imperial Agents and Bounty Hunters on the starting planet. I've also seen Jesse Cox's Sith something videos and am quite sure he started on a different planet.

Magson said...

@Imakulata -- Yes, there are 4 different starting planets

Jedi -- Tython
Smugg/Troop -- Ord Mantell
Sith -- Korriban
Agent/Bounty Hunter -- Hutta

You can travel to the other starting worlds, but if you're not "the right class" for the world you can only grind mobs there. No quests will be available.

The only exception seems ot be if you take a BH or Agent to Korriban there is a single Heroic 2 quest that you can pick up.