(sorry about the lack of images today, something wonky on the site isn’t displaying them, looking into it)
I picked up SWTOR again over the weekend and started fiddling with it. It didn’t take long for me to remember both why I loved that game and why I stopped playing it.
Four years on, there’s a lot of new stuff to find in the game. In my group of friends, everyone has the MMO that we collectively left that they didn’t feel “done” with. For some people, it was FFXIV, for others, The Secret World, and people still trickle back into WoW for brief stints sometimes. For me, that game was SWTOR. I’d always wanted to play through the class stories and see all of them, but I’d never had the time to dedicate to all of that levelling. What got me to check out the game again was the ability to play through the main story of each class exclusively– you can level a character from 1-50 and possibly further simply by doing the main story quests.
It’s a great time, because it keeps the feeling of urgency and the thread of content solid. As separate pieces, the main class stories feel well-paced, although I still feel like some are significantly better than others, but without the need to do a lot of sidequest and flashpoint grinding to keep up in level, I can enjoy them rather than feeling disappointed when the next unlocked class quest doesn’t just blow me away with awesomeness. It also means that when I *do* decide to do a sidequest, it’s because I’m genuinely interested in the story, not because I feel like I have to do it regardless.
It’s gotten me to play classes that I never enjoyed before, and as I’ve relearned how to play, I’ve found myself hooked on the new content that’s been added in the last few years, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming (story-driven) expansion. What got me out of the game initially were rampant bugs in top-end raid content and some very nasty class imbalance issues that came to the fore in higher-tier content (Sage = best healer by a country mile circa January 2004). I’m no longer dealing with any of that. In fact, the spec I always wanted to play (Balance Shadow, now called Serenity) is entirely functional and awesome now.
SWTOR is the one MMO that I’ve played that’s let me fill out the player fantasy I’ve always loved. I can play a finesse-based tank with strong magic– it’s an archetype I’m never allowed to play but it works brilliantly in SWTOR. I’m a battlemage in a way that makes sense and isn’t just about a wizard in platemail, or a warrior with some fancy particle effects. It’s really satisfying and fun to play without feeling brokenly overpowered. I love it. There are still some design decisions in SWTOR that bug me, but that’s true of most games (especially MMOs), and at this point, given the way I’m playing the game, I can overlook them.
All told, it’s been a pretty fun ride. Over the weekend I got my Shadow to 57, a Smuggler to 10, a Jedi Knight to 13, a Sith Inquisitor to 23, a Sage to 10, an Agent to 13, and a Sith Warrior to 8. The idea of doing that when I played last would’ve been laughable. My one complaint is that there’s no way for me to remember which non-class stories are particularly awesome; I know there are sidequests that are awesome and fun, but I don’t know which they are so I’m mostly just not doing any of them unless I remember them specifically.
I should also comment that SWTOR, despite allowing you to log in without paying any money, is a subscription game. I don’t have a problem paying for a subscription (things cost money), but it is something I’m doing to get the full suite of features. It’s worth it to me for at least a little while, but it’s something to consider.
In any case, I’m enjoying my time with the game, and it’s nice to return to an MMO after having been gone for a while. There’s a bit of a uphill climb to get back in the swing of things, but it becomes familiar again surprisingly quickly, and a good (story) hook gets me motivated to put in the effort.