One of the recurring gamer complaints about Star Wars: The Old Republic is that it’s becoming less and less an MMORPG over time. With Knights of the Fallen Empire’s fresh emphasis on the solo story, how is SWTOR going to still feel like an MMO? And I agree that the MMO aspects of the game have been downplayed or outright lost in BioWare’s promotion of the game. BioWare has now added solo-mode flashpoints, and even the upcoming Eternal Championship will clearly focus on single-player bouts against NPCs.
It would be disingenuous of me to say that SWTOR is perfect and has everything that an MMO should. But the game hasn’t lost its MMO cred, and if we examine it closely, we can see that it’s actually gained some of its credibility back as an MMORPG. Of course, the flaws still exist, so today, let’s talk about where SWTOR’s cred stands by examining some of the major things that people usually point to discredit the game, and let’s also talk about some things that rarely get mentioned that could sway opinion one way or another.
The epic story
There is no arguing that SWTOR has some of the best stories in the MMORPG genre. Even those who don’t play the game for other reasons will say that the game story is top-notch and wonderfully presented. But the story is clearly a single-player story. That certainly takes away points when we are arguing that SWTOR is a massively multiplayer game. And I will allow those hits and go on to say the biggest subscription MMORPG in the world does the same thing. I will chalk that up to the nature of themepark-style MMOs in the first place. I think it takes away from the whole MMO aspect of the game, but at the same time it does add to the overall appeal of the game.
To counter the argument against SWTOR specifically, I will have to look a bit further back to the Shadow of Revan, when BioWare cut off many of the single-player instances from groups. Prior to SoR, players could join other players in their class story in a spectator mode. They could watch the other players’ action during the cutscenes and then assist during the fights. However, during SoR much of that was impossible.
Though some players believe the same is true in Knights of the Fallen Empire, it isn’t. In fact, you can actually summon other players to your instance. It’s not a perfect fix, but it is certainly better than not being able to do it at all.
Heroics have always been designed as group content. But since they were tied to the level of the planets, players could just storm right through most of them without any issues. Since KOTFE’s release, heroics have become a bit more difficult because your character level is now synced two levels (at most) above the planets. To the dismay of those looking for forced group-content, it’s still possible to solo-complete heroics despite the level sync.
However, those looking for incentive to group up need to look no further than heroics. Of course, the content itself has become less difficult when you’re in a group. Most of the heroics only required two players in the first place. And since KOTFE, BioWare has given an extra incentive to grouping by giving out bonus credits for each person in the group. That means if you have the maximum of four players in your group, you will get up to four times the number of credits that you’d receive doing the heroic solo.
For more evidence of this, take a look at last week’s Hyperspace Beacon, where I outlined my step-by-step instructions for earning 1 million credits in less than an hour. MJ and I livestreamed her earning her first million in SWTOR that way.
I have to admit that flashpoints seem to left out of the latest updates coming from SWTOR’s camp. The last time we were introduced to new flashpoint, BioWare included solo flashpoints, which defeats the purpose of flashpoints if you ask me, and tactical flashpoints, which are group flashpoints that don’t require a specific group composition. Tacticals might as well be another form of heroics because the group size is limited to four, and other than Blood Hunt (which has a mechanic that could kill a group in one shot), these instances aren’t too much more difficult to complete.
Hard-mode flashpoints do certainly present a challenge, especially ones like Lost Island, but the rewards earned from them don’t really lead anywhere. They are not stepping stones to raids, and frankly they sometimes take longer to complete than just combining a couple of four-man groups and running a story-mode operation, which has much better rewards and can be less frustrating.
There are some people who stand by flashpoints and absolutely love doing them. I can appreciate that. Small-group, challenging content needs to be a constant in the SWTOR build cycle. Well-designed flashpoints have always been a features that has set SWTOR apart from other MMOs. I’d like to see that continued.
And Star Fortresses don’t count considering that even the hard-modes are designed to be soloed. Anyone with the “one and only” title can tell you that.
Just like flashpoints, operations have been non-existent since the release of Shadow of Revan over a year ago. But I’m a little bit more optimistic about operations because the core design of operations has changed. I believe that the bolstered story-mode and the featured hard-mode are the stepping stones for really great operations coming in the future.
I know that many world-first type raiding teams have not always found SWTOR raids to be the most challenging, but for me, they have always been fun. And the added incentive to do some of the older hard-modes with the idea of earning top-level gear by completing the featured hard-mode gives my raid group a wonderful reason to mix up the raid schedule.
Hopefully, my little run through the group content was encouraging to those who believe that SWTOR was turning into a single-player game. I believe that it very much still an MMO; BioWare just might not be advertising that side of the game very strongly. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.