SW:TOR: Second Impression

Good things first: I tried out a few characters, and brought an imperial agent to level 10, and a Sith sorcerer to 14. I liked the stories for the most part, playing full-of-themselves characters. The dark/light mechanic is a bit strange though, it seems quite random at times what qualifies as dark or light; as an effect, I ended up with a relatively even distribution, which seems to be a bad thing, stat-wise.

The game is also quite polished. It didn’t crash on me at all during the weekend, though I had to close it manually once when I got disconnected and the game didn’t recover properly. My server lagged badly for some time on Sunday, though; not sure whether they were overloaded by the amount of people during the trial weekend. Then again, there were a lot of people, but not that many that it should influence the server like that.

Performance is a bit of a problem overall. I heard in December that responsiveness was pretty bad, and I still had problems with that and the spell animations at some points. In addition, SW:TOR seems to use the same engine as Rift (Hero, or something like that), which… I’m not a huge fan of. My GPU fans go crazy during the game, not only, but especially during the cut scenes. Not sure why the cut scenes are that demanding. During “normal” play, the Hero engine has these weird lighting effects, where every character and much of the fauna seems to have this strange glow around the outer edges, which looks very out of place, like things were sprinkled with fairy dust. Then again, I could complain about most other engines used for MMOs, too, so eh.

I’ve already talked about the huge distraction that the alien gibberish is for me. That seriously degrades my enjoyment of the game. I hate to make this such a big deal, but it is for me.

Finally, EA puts a massive limitation on trial characters: they can neither whisper other players nor talk in chat channels. Grrreeeat. Especially if you are a healer, and see a group looking for one in General for 30 minutes, and you can’t do anything about it because you can’t contact them. I understand that EA probably wants to reduce chat channel spamming from bots, but there must be some other way. Put a severe rate limit on how often you can talk on trial accounts if you think you need to (though I don’t see how this is a big problem with a game that doesn’t even have a free trial yet, outside of friend passes and weekend events), but having no way of communicating with people unless you happen to stand right next to them is quite silly. I wasn’t able to test any of the group content because of that. It further underlines the lingering notion that SW:TOR is more of a single-player game that happens to run on a server so you can be charged 15 units of your local currency every month.

Overall, I have to say it is a cute little game, and I’d probably continue playing it if either 1) it was box-price only and no subscription (preferred), or 2) the other way round. I probably would see this differently if I cared about Star Wars, but whatever little interest I had in that series died with Jar Jar Binks long ago (I was young enough when I first saw the Ewoks that they didn’t ruin it for me). That pretty much leaves me with a slightly boring vanilla gameplay, with story line elements that seem nice enough that I would play through the game once or twice to see a couple.

If EVE doesn’t work out, I might pick up the game after all to tide me over until TSW is released. If I can find a good deal. I’m not keen on paying more than 30 Euros or so for the box, considering I’ll also have to pay the monthly subscription. Even if I don’t buy the game, I might pick up my good friend Thuul on the offer to play another 7 days on a new EA account at some point. I’m still a bit embarrassed I totally forgot to ask him before or during this weekend trial, seeing how I told him in January I might get the game at some point to play with him for a bit. Sorry Thuul!

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