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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