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SWTOR makes a poor single-player game

I know what most of you are thinking, that SWTOR isn’t a single-player game, but hear me out. SWTOR does have a single-player component that you’ll spend hundreds of hours in. And during that time, you’ll find players rarely talk to one another. A world where those same players would rather kill steal and be generally obnoxious than to group up for the benefit of all. And when you’re done, you rush back to the quest giver only to find, disappointingly, this was just another “throwaway” story.  You know, though, deep inside that there are some really great stories just waiting to be found, so you keep on, and on, and on.

This might be why EA stock just dropped and and analysts rethinking their “churn assumptions.”

I see things a little differently than dedicated MMO-exclusive players in that my work requires me to play many non-MMO games over the year. So when I approach TOR, it’s with a particular eye to what Bioware is doing in terms of unifying their console and MMO experiences; what lessons have they learned, and finally in the online space, what is it they’re really trying to do with it. Comparisons to the Mass Effect series are inevitable, and with even the lowest level quests being fully voiced, I find it very hard not to feel like questing is that unifying attempt to bring the non-MMO player into the fold. Here, it says, you know this from our console titles… step in a little deeper.

And that’s really the part where it falls flat and why I think resub-rates rumoring low is probably pretty accurate. As all of these single player gamer’s sign up and take on the world without ever once grouping, they start to realize that damn, this is a really long game. At about 60 hours, it’s become, damn, I’m just skipping this other crap and listening to my class story. Fast forward to 100 hours and, damn… why am I even doing this anymore? I’m not even level 40… and this story is so SLOW.  The experience of playing through those hours varies from class to class, as does the scenery, but the repetitive nature of the side quests is static.  Compared to the $60, much more exciting console game, and the many hundreds of hours awaiting the final assent to 50, my only surprise is that players are closing the door quietly as they leave.

In the world of console games, forty hours is a harrowing experience; sixty is epic. TOR tries to offer you the same thing but asks for hundreds and hundreds of hours beyond that. It’s a recipe for burn out.

That said, TOR provides LOTS of grouping opportunities. Every planet has a handful of heroic instances for the leveler and there are dungeons (flashpoints) throughout. Great PvP, too, now that the bracket has gone in. So lots of opportunities to break from the monotony of quest grinding.

If TOR was released as a single player game, it would have gone down as one of the most long-winded and drear-failures in Bioware’s history. But it didn’t, so what does Bioware have to do to remind its players that it’s an MMO they’re playing in. From my seat, I offer a global LFG channel.  An easier way to jump in and out of other people’s groups. An easier and cheaper way to fast travel back to headquarters.

So this is my advice to help you prevent burnout: Step out of your comfort-zone and  invite people to groups yourself. Get in there and experience the group content. It will remind you that this is an MMO and that people who call the game an sRPG have only been telling half the story.

Class quests aside, I still haven’t decided if sRPG is made better or worse by how bad (read: pointless) it all seems.



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  1. Nobody

    when i unsubscribed, the comments i left are very similar to what you said here.
    i started ME2 about the time of early access and i find myself saying
    “why isn’t swtor more like this?”
    swtor is clearly not a sandbox game, so why waste my time with pseudo-exploration/travel?
    as i remember, way back in kotor we had a ‘travel to ship’ option.

  2. Tesh

    “TOR tries to offer you the same thing but asks for hundreds and hundreds of hours beyond that.” …and a subscription on top of that. That’s something that Bioware single player fans aren’t going to be nearly as blase about as MMO veterans.

    I don’t have any rancor towards BioWare, but man… I think they really deserve the reality check here. These structural problems weren’t hard to foresee.

  3. Professer

    (only read the title but)

    Making a singleplayer online RPG with a business model based upon player retention was a silly idea. I forsee their core subscriber base being a main core of pre-existing Bioware RPG fans.

    Bioware really does need a reality check. At least make more MMO stuff to do at ‘endgame’ (oooh I hate that word).

  4. Craftygod

    I’m still holding out judgement on exactly what the future of TOR is going to look like. Right now, I think Bioware has done a pretty good job of creating interesting and (somewhat) unique stories for each of the different classes. I’ve found myself pulled along through the game wanting to get to the next part of “my” story. I do have to give a nod to the fact that the side-quests tend to get a bit repetitive, but overall, the leveling experience is much more enjoyable than other MMO’s I’ve played. As for where Bioware will go next, I think there are two main options (with lots of variations): 1. they having been holding plans and/or actual completed content in the wings that they will slowly release at end-game as more and more players reach it. 2. They got the $60 per box and the $15-60 per sub fees from players as they leveled to max level and that’s a ton more money than most single-player games make, so who cares if they have a high retention rate. I’m really not sure which of these Bioware is moving toward at the moment.

  5. Merauder

    I’ve had a few play sessions where all I’ve done is click on quest givers and space bar through stories, run out of time, and logout without a single fight. I really do like having the story for your class quests, as well as some of the more epic chain quests (i.e. where the plot is slightly more complex than killing six snow moose), but for everything else the amount of time it takes to accept a quest is a real pain.

    One way to do this could be if more of the trash quests came via terminals with no dialogue required, or if there was some way to be able to spot the chain quests through marked NPCs or something like that. I don’t want to miss out on a fun quest line, but I don’t want to have to click on every single person and skip through hours of talking just to find the hidden gems.

    I’m enjoying so much about the game, but the cinematics are killing me..

    1. Jim Franklin

      I’m not sure I agree with the terminal idea as I think you’d lose that sense of NPC character interaction, but then I do sit through all the voice acting on the quests (Although I suspect this may change after several play-throughs)

      However I do agree that there should be an option somewhere that allows you to skip the conversation and accept the quest automatically. Either in the Options menu itself, or right at the start of the conversation. Maybe a selectable conversation option that depends on your alignment, such as ‘I know you want something, just tell me.’ or ‘I sense you need help, I can help you.’ You get the idea.

  6. Christopher

    Informative thanks for your nice review Article But It’s been still a fun game. i wish there was a new game like this that’s on a new theme with good graphics
    Christopher recently posted..The Best Hard Drive, SSD, SSHD, and NVMe for Gaming

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  1. Narrative and The End « Tish Tosh Tesh

    […] makes the subscription system work.  This is what BioWare does, it makes single player games.  (Even if SWTOR as it is might make for a stupidly grindy single player game… I enjoyed Disgaea and several Final Fantasy games, so a long game doesn’t scare […]

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