No Fees Attached – Leaving the Old Republic

Ladies and gentlemen, my time has come. I will end this chapter of my life and put it behind me for now. It was fun while it lasted, but there’s other places waiting for me. No, I’m not saying goodbye to GFN. I would be crazy to leave behind one of the few places on the Internet that can stand my presence, I’m talking about ending my time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was an unexpectedly fun trip, but I do have some points of critique for this title, so why don’t we put away our lightsabers, sit down at the cantina and talk about it while we enjoy a fight between some smugglers?

For this review, I will give three scores to SWTOR: gameplay, presentation and payment model. Each of these scores goes from one to ten, and each of them weighs equally when it comes to the final score. The reason why I score the payment model is because I believe that this plays a vital role in every F2P or B2P game. I will score it on its fairness, prices and how much it gets in the way of people who do not want to chip in a few dollar. A high score will be given if the game allows you to enjoy most of its content free of charge, while a low score is reserved for the games that hide essential features behind a payment wall or try to trick you into paying more than you want. With that said, let’s take a look at the gameplay.

swtor mercenary coruscant
Sad merc expected something more…

If you played any contemporary MMORPG, you will find nothing new in SWTOR. It’s your run-off-the-mill MMORPG combat, with run-off-the-mill kill and gathering quests and run-off-the-mill NPC’s that you’ve already met in half a dozen other titles. Yeah, it’s fairly boring, but BioWare has done its best to add some depth to this classic gameplay by adding dialogue and ethic choices to it. I have to admit that most of the dialogue and voice-acting is of excellent quality, something you can expect from a BioWare title. However, I can only repeat my opinion about the dull Light Side / Dark Side options: they’re predictable, stereotypical and rarely morally or ethical challenging. Sometimes, they even feel forced, like the writers had to add a certain amount of them every 5000 words of dialogue. Luckily, the dialogues are used to push forward the story, which is different for every class. This gives the game a high amount of replayability, and considering you have access to every class as a free player, there’s a lot of story waiting for you. Still, the core of the game is nothing but the same old things, with a layer of really boring moral choices but neat personal stories. 6 out of 10 points for the gameplay.

I love the sound of lightsabers in the morning
Alright, the gameplay is nothing special, but the game wins a few points with its presentation. Before I get all fanboy about the music, let me say a few words about the visuals. I really love what BioWare has done here. The cartoony graphics really work in this title, and it’s good to see that BioWare didn’t go for the ultra-realistic look like those of Mass Effect or Dragon Age. The graphics look nice and colorful, even when you play the game on lower settings. Also, this style is timeless, as games like World of Warcraft show that it ages really well and will still look good in a few years. With that said, I have nothing but love for the sound and music of this game. If one thing about this game makes certain you know you’re in a Star Wars game, it’s the epic orchestra music and well-known sound effects. The sound of a swinging lightsaber or a shooting blaster puts you right into the mood, and with the support of the well-timed music, you feel like you’re starring in your very own Star Wars adventure. Kudos, BioWare, kudos. 8 out of 10 points!

Now it’s time for a really critical assessment, namely that of the payment options. SWTOR knows three payment tiers: Free, Preferred Status and Subscribers. As a Free player, you will be heavily restricted when it comes to total credits you can have in your purse, cargo space on your ship, the availability of traveling options and many other arbitrary things. Once you’ve spent five or more bucks on the Cartel store, you’re a Preferred player and some of the limits you’ve experienced are removed, but there’s still a lot hidden behind unlocks and a subscription. Subscribers just get everything, plus a monthly Cartel Coin stipend. Just take a look at the matrix for the full gist. Looking at that list and taking my own experiences into account, I have to say that SWTOR has one of the strictest and most limiting models I’ve seen. Sure, you can bypass many restrictions through the use of the in-game auction house or by spending at least a few bucks once in a while, but you will still feel that certain handicap when you’re not subscribed. The XP penalty, the restricted traveling options, the maximum amount of dungeon runs per week…it’s all these things that add up, and while they do not make the game unplayable for Free players, they will leave them with that sense of restriction. It’s a subtle feeling, but a feeling nonetheless. Compared to other models, I can only say that BioWare should relax their restrictions at least somewhat. I mean, come on…I gotta pay for action bars? 5 out of 10 points…

Adding all these scores, dividing them by three, the final score for SWTOR is a 6 (rounded down). No matter how much I was surprised by the good sides of the game, I still feel that there are superior F2P games out there. The gameplay is something you find in many other games, though the story gives it a special touch. The presentation is also fantastic, but the permanent feeling of being limited by the rather strict payment model takes away some of the fun. There’s hope though, since I see a lot of room for improvement and a company that is willing to take that. If EA and BioWare decide to undo a few of the restrictions and expand some of the gameplay elements, SWTOR could become a really strong contender on the F2P market. However, as it stands now, this game is only really interesting for fans of the franchise or people who are not in search of innovation.

This concludes my first No Fees Attached series. For now, I’ll just play whatever the heck I want, but you can bet your old-school consoles that I’ll be back doing another one of these. Now, I’m curious to hear from you. Do you agree with my final verdict? Did you enjoy my write-ups, or do you have some good feedback? Feel free to share it!

I’m the Chindividual, and it was an honor swinging a lightsaber in SWTOR!

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