SW:TORs Biggest Flaw

Fat Trooper

He's not fat, he's just big boned

I’ve been playing SW:TOR since Tuesday and, whilst I have been enjoying it quite a lot, a number of big game design flaws have cropped up already, most of which I think will start to grate on people pretty quickly. The biggest flaw, in my book anyway, is the now very apparent terrible distribution of classes amongst the playerbase. Simply put, everyone is playing the same darn class (Advanced or otherwise)… and I don’t just mean by a small percentage either, I’m talking about by a frickin’ massive degree. I think for every one Vanguard I’ve encountered, I’ve seen about 20 Commandos and I’m not even sure the Smuggler class exists.

Of course it’s always going to be case in class driven RPGs that some are more popular than others but BioWare has unfortunately compounded the issue by making an irrevocably large boo boo: they linked weapon selection to Advanced Classes. I mean, who would want to wield a single lightsaber when they could use two or a double bladed one? Who wants one pistol when you can have two? And who the heck wants to use a piddly little rifle that goes ‘pew pew’ when you can truck around a gigantic auto Assault Cannon? Someone didn’t think this through.

Not only is this causing a huge divide between classes, it also means that every player ultimately looks and acts exactly the same with very few options for variety. I’m a Commando and I use Assault Cannons, end off. Couldn’t BioWare at least have tried something a little more interesting and perhaps linked weapon selection to skill trees or something? I know I’m being childish here but I must confess I’m bitterly disappointed that I either have to sacrifice the option of tanking with my Trooper or spend the rest of my days resigned to using a crappy little pea shooter, suffering weapon envy time I see one of the billions of Commandos run past (sure Freud, eat your heart out…).

Another couple of SW:TORs flaws also make matters worse. The archaic and frustrating archetype Advanced Class system means that now I’ve picked a Commando and not only realised that he is about as unique as black hair in Asia but the Assault Cannon isn’t even all that much fun, I have absolutely no way of respeccing to a Vanguard. Indeed my only option is re-roll my character and spend five or six hours replaying through the same content again just to see if I like the other Advanced Class any better. I won’t even mention my irritation at the mirrored class system (i.e. Bounty Hunter = Trooper) which kills my individual sense of identity and the replay value of the game even more.

And whilst I’m moaning, I may as well reiterate my issues with the skill tree system (BioWare could’ve done a lot worse than just scrapping the current talent system completely and making Advanced Classes the skill trees instead) and mention how the concept of a ‘fourth story pillar’ is a bit of a sham. Is it just me or has that basically translated into ‘kill 10 rats’ quests surrounded by five minutes of voice acted cut scenes?

But I don’t want to be completely negative. The ability to select from different answers in conversations, even if they really have no impact of meaning whatsoever, is very fun and unique in the MMO world. Likewise the whole Dark Side/Light Side mission options are very enjoyable plus the general maturity of the content is refreshing (it’s nice that you see a lot of moral ambiguity in the Republic story lines, for instance). Also, being able to make your character a huge fatso is a massive plus in my eyes.

At the end of the day I’m having fun with SW:TOR but I can see it becoming frustrating sooner rather than later. The whole game could basically be described as Mass Effect combined with a MMO from 2007. The story element is nice but I’m not convinced that it’s really what players are looking for in MMORPGs and I can’t help but feel that the developers made a lot of game design concessions just to make it possible. Personally I believe in substance over style and I’d much rather have had well through out class progression, talents, a better variety of races and classes, and a much wider selection of starting areas than full voice acting and cutscenes which, I might add, is something Age of Conan kicked off back in 2008. Originality in your face, BioWare.


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  5. When Money Is The Biggest Motivator


  1. Polynices says:

    Great points.

    Don’t forget the absolutely atrocious UI. Immobile windows except for chat? No point in moving chat since everything else still overlaps with it? Can only open 2 windows at a time and can’t move them? All sorts of new windows cancel old windows (a mission completion closes the auction house, you can’t view skills and the auction house at once, etc.)?

    Love the game but so annoyed by so many obvious mistakes. Dearly hope they at least fix stuff like the UI.

  2. Tesh says:

    Hey, I’ll play a Smuggler. Just as soon as they drop the subs. :P

  3. bhagpuss says:

    The big U.S.P. that SoE touted for EQ2 in 2004 was that the entire game was fully voice-acted. FFXI, launched in 2002, is famous for its cut-scenes. Combining the two is hardly a paradigm shift.

    Also, can you explain what happens in SW:ToR that makes “The ability to select from different answers in conversations, even if they really have no impact of meaning whatsoever…unique in the MMO world”? I haven’t played SW:ToR so maybe I ‘m missing some subtlety, but isn’t that basically what we get in most MMOs? Almost every one I can think of gives you at least two reply options, often more, that supposedly reflect different attitudes or reactions for your character, even though the quest proceeds whichever you choose.

    Moreover, I have played plenty of MMOs where quests offer you multiple response options that DO affect how the quest proceeds. Mrs Bhagpuss and I were doing the same quest in Freeport in EQ2 last week. We weren’t grouped and we were doing the quest independently while chatting about it in Guild chat. After a while we became confused because it seemed that we were talking about different quests entirely. After going back through our chat logs it transpired that because we had responded differently on a particular moral choice (which was implied but not stressed in the dialog options) the quest had forked and we were now effectively on different stories altogether.

    I’ve seen that in plenty of MMOs. Apart from being voiced and acted out in cut scenes, initself far from unique or original, how is the SW:ToR method of telling stiory through quests different?

    • Joc says:

      I’ll try not to be too spoilerish in this… But for one example where your choices make a difference is the first Flashpoint (Dungeon instance) that i came across as a Sith Inquisitor. You have a choice after clearing one area in how to respond to the ship’s captain. I’ve played through both responses and this does affect which area the second part of the instance takes part in. They are different branches, but ultimately as far as I’m aware meeting again in the middle afterwards. So it gives you the choice to experience alternative content, but not really to change the story in any meaningful way.

      It sounds like EQ definitely got there first and more effectively if your choices could lead to different quests entirely. So far in SW:TOR its just different ways to respond to the pre-destined story that you’re on.

      • bhagpuss says:

        Well we haven’t finished the quest yet to see if it comes back together later on. I would guess it does.

      • Tesh says:

        Seems to me that’s inevitable when the point is to have voiced over stories. Voice work isn’t cheap, and it’s hard for the Bioware guys to let players really have a lot of agency. It’s still a theme park, after all.

        …that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just the nature of the beast.

        • Gordon says:

          As much as I think voice acting helps with immersion I don’t really believe it’s feasible in the long term for MMOs. Every tiny quest tweak and every new bit of content all require new spoken dialogue – it’s a massive overhead and pretty much why EQ2 and AoC dropped it very quickly.

      • spinks says:

        I don’t think EQ did it more effectively, the voice acting in SWTOR is actually really good quality. I think you’d have to check it out (maybe there will be a free trial at some point) and see what you think, it’s just a very cinematic portrayal and with the attention to detail, I’ve never played anything quite like it.

        • Oh, but EQ2 had people like Wil Wheaton and Christopher Lee. That doesn’t make the voicing more effective, but it was certainly fun when you heard some of them speak. And SOE gave up on being fully voiced eventually because it was expensive, led to a lot of file overhead, and in the long term it wasn’t enhancing the game for a lot of the player.

          In the SWTOR beta at least I felt the portrayal of cut scenes wasn’t quite approaching cinematic in quality. Some of it felt more home movie in quality. (Stand in frame, say your line, milk the giant cow.)

          But I have my own issues that cloud my view. I am more interested in the story of my character than being forced to pay attention to a story of somebody elses making. So it was probably the wrong game for me.

        • Carson says:

          I actually found the voice acting in SW:TOR pretty mediocre when I was checking out the beta. Certainly not good enough that I’d been keen to keep on listening to it for months.

          Having said that, you’re right that EQ2 didn’t do it better, since EQ2’s voice acting was uniformly horrible, just dreadful overacting for comedic effect. Really detracted from the game far worse than SW:TOR’s does.

        • Gordon says:

          I really like how your character talks back to NPCs. Just a shame we can’t pick our own voices :)

      • João Carlos says:

        I just completed the jedi knight chapter 1 today… let me say it, I just saw THE MOTHER OF ALL SPOILERS!!!! And chapter 2 just started with anotehr big spoiler.

        Sorry to say it to you naysayers, but the voice-acted worked very fine with teh story. And the story is the strong point at this game. Not the skill system. Not some specific class. To be sincere, I continue to think you are overthinking: eventually everyone will pick all classes, just for see the difernt stories.

        By the way, you can reset all skills, there is a NPC for that. You cannot change the specialization that you made at level 10, but you can reset all skill tree.

    • Gordon says:

      I can’t remember selecting different replies to quests in EQ2 (been a long time since I played it) but in that case, yeah, SW:TOR isn’t really doing anything dramatically differently. All it does is take the whole cutscene stuff a little further and now, just like voice acting in EQ2 and close up dialogue in AoC, they’ve added the ability for your own character to speak and pick from Light or Dark side options. It’s not really as innovative as they make out to be though.

  4. Joc says:

    ‘Mass Effect combined with an MMO from 2007. I think this is pretty apt. I’m having fun so far, but they really haven’t learned a lot of lessons that MMOs like Wow and Rift at least tried to address such the sheer tedium of traveling endlessly back and forth to your quest giver. Not nearly enough use has been made of using the holo-transmitter thing to remotely turn in quests and facilitate a conversation. Numlock and something good to read is definitely needed to distract from the amount of retreaded steps in this game.

    The idea of NPCs that aren’t even ‘C’s, but non-clickable, non-interactive, speechless parts of the scenery seems also pretty retrogressive. Most places feel large due to the distance rather than any actual content in between your points of interest.

    I’ve seen a lot more Sith warriors than Inquisitors, and in PVP battled a lot of Jedis. Its ironic that some of the most popular classes have the least convincing combat. Watching my Inquisitor use her her melee attacks to wail on enemies which show no particular reaction to what’s supposed to be the most iconic, deadly weapon in the universe hasn’t exactly sold rolling a warrior to me.

    Despite this i am enjoying it, but i couldnt resist joining in with a good grumble ;)

  5. amcl says:

    “It’s just Warcraft with different graphics”, said Gord’s 6yr old niece, who also happens to be my auto-run function (she gets me from A to B, while I drink coffee)

    I’ve been playing a Sith warrior (now at lvl 9) and it’s just the same as playing WoW. Slightly better graphics. More interesting moves. Not that impressed though, as I’ve just played Batman Arkham City and that *is* an amazing game!!

    I’m sure I’ll continue with SWTOR for 90days (we’ll see after that), but I’m not convinced that any MMORG that comes out these days is any different from the last .. even down to the hotkeys!

    The good thing is that having played WoW I’m not a n00b anymore, or I don’t think of myself one, considering I got a mount far quicker than Gord in Rift ;-)

  6. Kierbuu says:

    Kind of amusing to me. Don’t have the time to play right now, but if I was, the only class that looks really interesting to me is the smuggler.

  7. Leah says:

    one of my 2 mains is a smuggler.. that said, I’m too in love with my inquisitor to give her any affection at the moment.

    mass effect like mmo, is a more apt description then WoW in space. if you travel with a companion, the answers you chose in conversations, even if they are not attached to dark/light side – can have a great effect on your companion’s affection for you (apparently, I’m a nastier person then I realized, cause Khem Val luuuuurves my light side sith inquisitor.) I’m very much enjoying how they handled professions and the fact that you can farm by either actually farming, or sending your companions on missions that reward crafting supplies.

    its not perfect. lfg function could use some work (not automatic matching, ala WoW, please dear god, no, but some improvement – at a minimum, make it global)

    but I’m enjoying it greatly.

  8. [...] now, as I’d have loved to provide some choice feedback on the system. Other people may have found SWTOR’s biggest flaw, but for me crafting is about even with my issues on Space [...]

  9. [...] that is because this is a single player RPG slapped into a MMO universe. Gordon has come up with a bunch of flaws that are interesting in of themselves. But what is really telling are his good points about the [...]

  10. Telwyn says:

    A good summary of some issues, certainly I’ve seen some of the bugs (the guild list one is very annoying as we’re still adding members, setting their notes etc).

    I think the voice acting/cutscenes are classic Bioware, nothing new perhaps but very good nonetheless. Certainly a lot of the choices are fake choices – but then resources are limited even for Bioware/EA, multiple real choices in a conversation would lead to a hell of a lot of custom animations for NPC responses.

    I have found the cutscenes to be a refreshing change from reading. Although I love the lore/quality of the quests in LoTRO I did burn myself out on a push to finally get a character from 40 to Moria – so much reading! The social system when grouped is interesting as well.

    I can’t yet comment on class mix as I’ve only just finished the starter world – Tython, I’ll see how it is when I next play though hopefully on an RP server there might be a better mix anyway, there certainly is in my guild so far.

    The best moment for me so far was the first use of [Force Persuade] – of the “these aren’t the droids you are looking for” variety. That reawakened my inner Star Wars geek for sure!

  11. [...] drag it down:Gordon at We Fly Spitfires discusses what he believes is SW:TOR’s biggest flaw: the imbalance of character classes – “Simply put, everyone is playing the same darn class (Advanced or otherwise)… and I [...]

  12. Rinvan says:

    Yes I see a lot of the the sames classes everywhere I go, on Dormund Kaas it seems everyone is either some type of bounty hunter or a lightsaber class. But at least several of the AC’s can heal or tank. I only saw one imperial agent which is a shame, the class is a ton of fun.

    • Gordon says:

      “seems everyone is some type of bounty hunter or a lightsaber class”

      That’s because they are pretty much the only classes you can pick from :P Very limited selection indeed. And yeah, it’s a real shame the Imperial Agent is so underplayed. Not surprising though.

  13. Jomu says:

    i hate class mirroring too

    the only upside to the fact that there seems to be distinct favorite classes *coughbountyhuntercough*, is that it helps me pick what class ill play (the least played class)

  14. Tim Dean says:

    And let’s not forget Wing Commander III’s standout feature in 1994 was full-motion video cutscenes. It’s generally conceived as being far weaker than it’s gamey predecessors.

    I would much rather BioWare have invested even a fraction of the voice acting budget into developing innovative gameplay. But the company went conservative, copied the WoW formula, added voices and hoped no-one noticed the *game* itself is a bit thin on the ground (let alone in space).

    Wouldn’t have been hard to make it more interesting, either. Unshackling the skills from talents for a start. Or make the skills themselves moddable – improve the accuracy, or reduce the cooldown, or lower the energy/Force cost etc. City of Heroes does that, and it has arguably the greatest diversity of combinations of abilities of any MMO. It’s unlikely you’ll run into a carbon copy of yourself in CoH. That allows people to super-specialise or be more flexible, depending on taste.

    • Gordon says:

      “I would much rather BioWare have invested even a fraction of the voice acting budget into developing innovative gameplay.”

      Totally agree. The voice acting is nice but ultimately, shallow and unfulfilling. I would have rather they spent the time and money making more interesting races and classes, for instance.

  15. ogrebears says:

    Currently on my server i see a pretty even distribution for the sith classes (about a 40/60 split). With the inquisitor i’ve seen more sorcerers (single blade), than assassins (double blade). For the sith warrior it been closer to 50/50.

    The non sith classes on the other hand i haven’t seen enough to tell. (seeing as maybe only 5-10% of player are playing them). But i expect that to change over time.

  16. Ken from Chicago says:

    Don’t worry, Gordon, you’ll always have Guild Wars 2, coming out later next year (PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND DECENT COME OUT NEXT YEAR, ALREADY, COME ON, ARENANET). It will have truly innovative gameplay, flexibility and dynamically different quests depending on what choices you make.

    – Ken from Chicago (who reminds himself it’s ONLY been 2 and half years since the initial GW2 teaser dropped August 2009, so it’s been a total of LESS than 5 years since GW2 was first announced in 2007, that’s like 2 mediocre or 4 seriously-flawed MMO lifetimes ago)

  17. Andrew says:

    ” I mean, who would want to wield a single lightsaber when they could use two or a double bladed one?” erm because they want to play a tank? I always enjoyed your blog but you’re tending to talk alot of bollocks about TOR.

  18. Aaron says:

    Anyone ever see the show Chopped on the Food Network?

    The judges evaluate a dish by the chef’s value of creativity, and by its flavor.
    If the dish tastes horrible, although the chef may have really spun together a nice creative presentation, it won’t get served at a restaurant because nobody wants to eat nasty food.

    I hope my point has already made itself clear…

    BioWare has the creative presentation with the cinematic cutscenes and voiceovers, but the gameplay is boring, shallow, and bland. No matter how fancy they make TOR look, if the gameplay rots, its ultimate fate is in premature, suffocated demise.

    A colorful piece of crap is still a piece of crap.

  19. Steve says:

    I use one lightsaber instead of two, we’re not all so silly.

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