I have (finally) finished my Jedi consular’s journey leveling from 1 to 50. This post is my thoughts on the leveling game in SWTOR and some thoughts on the class mechanics and playstyle. I won’t go heavily into story spoilers here, other blog posts have reviewed the story thoroughly already.
Early game: grouped
My experience has been partially divided by how I played the game. Although I started out solo, I was soon in a leveling duo static group with a close friend. This took me from level 10 through to level 28′ish. So I saw several planets and some instances from the perspective of constant group-play. I did play through Tython solo of course, but then that planet was all about story setting and easing players in gently. I think there was a sense of variable challenge even then though. SWTOR gives players plenty of opportunities to select harder content if they want. From beta I remember running into my first elite zone Empire side and dying from the first pull: “ah so those silver stars mean something then”, thought I.
Leveling through to Tattooine and the end of my duo experience was almost flawless. We had so much fun working as a healer / dps team with our companions. The planet stories are, as far as I can remember, well designed for sharing with friends. In the end our differing free-time schedules brought a halt to this experience and not the actual game. That said the heavy emphasis on personal story, while a strength in Bioware’s single player games of old, does not mesh well with the MMO genre. There were many occasions were we had to split group to go and do a class story mission. Sure the system works well enough if you want to observe another class’ story to help out – BUT since part of the sales pitch of SWTOR is alt-tastic replay factor of the class stories the flaw is in the spoilers. What’s the point of plot twists or big choices if you dumbly watch them all as an observer?
Later game: solo
Carrying on from this high solo I have suffered that slow decline into apathy. The class story was the for the most part good enough, although like so many RPG plots you can see the padding to make it fit the number of levels / zones / quests that it needs stretching across. According to TV Tropes this is the “Dismantled MacGuffin” plotline. Whether it’s healing X Jedi Masters, killing X nasty Sith or whatever – there’s a *lot* of repetition in this class storyline. By the third chapter it was getting tiresome. Maybe the class storyline is simply too long? It could have been done by level 40 easily to free you up to have a choice of planets to goto to get to the traditional MMO end-game, plus you’d then have 10 levels of getting used to grouping in standard trinity roles, dailies, PVP battlegrounds or whatever tickles your fancy as a focus.
The last levels, especially from 46 onwards did drag somewhat. I’d spent 50 levels fighting the Empire, killing dozens of Sith and thousands of Imperial troops or droids. In the end I became very bored of my DPS rotation as forcequake is so overpowered it makes little sense to use anything else on groups of trash. Boss fights were a little more varied but generally it was down to me out-healing their damage and interrupting the odd ‘insta-death’ mechanic.
Of course in all honesty I knew that the writing was on the wall for my SWTOR sub already by this point. I’d done some time planning and knew that I was rushing to get to 50 before I went away. It just made sense to cancel my sub since when I get back GW2 will be out and will absorb all my free time, all I have to look forward to now is some dailies or raiding and that’s just not enough. I was happy to ding 50, but it was more a feeling of closure than a “so what’s next”. The story ended well (no spoilers), but in a sense I feel like it ended so well that I’m done with him.
As I was writing this I saw the news on Massively that the next event is now announced via a cutscene news broadcast. That’s a real shame as it sounds interesting, but it’s not enough to keep me subscribed especially as I expect it will launch around the end of August (perfectly timed for GW2′s launch; and yes Blizzard will be dropping their major Diablo 3 patch then as well). To be honest I think Bioware made a mistake with their release schedule especially of these crucial events. The plague event was a welcome distraction, but only one event since launch isn’t enough. I would have preferred them approximately every 2-3 months (not on a totally predictable schedule though), so really we should be on the third by now already.
Perhaps by the F2P relaunch I’ll be ready to dip back into SWTOR, but as it stands the game hasn’t held me. If I do come back in it’ll probably be to resurrect a leveling static with friends, to play some other classes up to 50 again but with a much stronger emphasis on heroics and flashpoints.