Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s mid-term report card
Here, I would like to give my impressions of where Star Wars: The Old Republic sits in the middle of the year. As always, I like to use the Bartle Taxonomy to see how it appeals to different types of players. Bartle’s archetypes are Socializers, Achievers, Explorers, and Killers. I’ll get more into the details of what that all means in a bit. No one will fit any one of these archetypes 100%, but people will tend to lean heavily into one category or another.
Massively OP writers took a test based on Bartle’s Taxonomy a while back, and although it doesn’t cover everything that players are interested in, I believe it gives a good impression of what players of MMORPGs are looking for. Below, I have pulled apart the key features that each archetype is looking for in SWTOR and measured them with a letter grade scale.
Socializers look for things to do with other people. It’s usually more important to them that they are able to interact and do things with other people than the actual activity itself. A pure socializer would want conversation or teambuilding activities over anything else. However, no one is a pure socializer, although I come close.
We have had two major patches that have added social activities this year. Bear in mind that Knights of the Eternal Throne actually came out last year and was on last year’s report card. However, I will keep in mind some of the carry-over activities. This year, we gained things like Iokath dailies and the beginning of a new operation, as well as the continued support of instanced and open-world PvP.
I will be honest: I was not personally impressed with anything that was released this year. But I am one person, and I have been playing this game for five years. I completely understand that things are going to wear on me differently than someone who might not have been playing the game for so long.
If I take that alternate perspective and look at what has been given to us, I would have to say there is a marked improvement toward group activities this year. I will get to some of the mechanics of the Galactic Command system when I talk about Achievers, but as a social activity and its ability funnel players toward specific group activities, the Command system works really well. Iokath also gives the Socializer-Killer opportunities to do some open-world PvP.
BioWare usually has amazing goals, but where it consistently falls short is execution. I don’t believe that Iokath worked out the way the developers intended, and player-to-player communication in game is just as difficult as it has always been.
Last year, I gave SWTOR the Achiever grade of B. As a general rule, SWTOR has done a better-than-adequate job of giving Achievers rewards and things to do to earn those rewards. However, based on this year alone, the rewards versus the time that it takes to earn those rewards have fallen short.
I still think that many of the things that players have to do to gain Command rank borders on insanity. The rewards are insignificant versus the time spent. Many changes have been made to improve the Galactic Command system, but I just think that the whole idea behind it in the first place is a rehash of an old system that fundamentally didn’t work then and fundamentally doesn’t work now. I also believe that BioWare is reluctant to scrap the idea entirely because there are cash-shop items attached to it. Based on this alone, I would have given it a much harsher grade.
But BioWare has made significant strides to make the Command system a lot better than it was at the beginning, and I can’t knock the activities just because many of them happen to be ones that I don’t personally enjoy. There are many players in the community who really enjoy Iokath, heroics, the new operations bosses, and dailies. The studio also brought back the Night Life event with different prizes and new achievements. So I’m not going to fail the game outright, but it’s certainly not as good as it has been in the past.
I would like to give SWTOR a higher Killer grade because of the open-world PvP of Iokath, but I’m just not certain that the execution of Iokath was up to the standard of places like Oricon or the Gree event on Ilum. On top of that, BioWare seems to be balancing its classes strangely. From my perspective, it seems to be nerfing the classes that don’t need it and taking away abilities from “overpowered” classes that make no significant impact on why it’s overpowered.
I am interested to see whether BioWare ends up doing something significant by the end of the year, so this is not its final grade in this area. But I can only judge based on what I see now, not what it is suggested in the future.
As a Socializer-Explorer, I am highly disappointed in BioWare. One thing that every Explorer type hates are corridors, even corridors that you can see over the wall. In fact, I would venture to say that if you can see over a wall but for some reason you cannot get there, then that just makes it that much worse.
Sins against explorers continue to plague this game. First, Iokath is so small and has such a vast horizon that it makes me want to tear my hair out. The land and concept is amazing: a technological Dyson sphere with many different biomes of natural and artificial environments. It sounds like an Explorer’s dream, but instead, we get a single corridor made of technological, sterile hexagons. Honestly, it looks pretty good, but it’s just a tease of what it could be, or rather, should be.
There is one thing that I’d like to mention that I think BioWare is doing really well at this stage of the game’s life. For the past five years, the creators of the game, especially the producers, have been very tightlipped or very scripted when it came to addressing the community. Recently, the game producer switched hands again; this time falling to Keith Kanneg. Although I cannot say that I agree with everything that Kanneg has done, I appreciate his candor and level of transparency. More than probably any single producer in the game’s history, Kanneg has directly addressed the community in the forums, instead of making us rely on second-hand information from a community manager.
Those are my grades and my thoughts, but now it’s your turn. How well do you think SWTOR‘s doing this year? Which grades should have been worse? Which grades should have been better? Let me know in the comments below.