The 13th of January has come and gone, and for many players their 1st month in-game has been completed. Here I take a quick look at some of my highs and lows in SW:TOR

Rather than just give a blow by blow commentary on what happened, when, why and how I felt about it, I thought I’d just give a kind of overview of my thoughts and feelings on how it has gone so far.

I was lucky enough to be included within the first batch of Early Access invites, so I could hit the ground running from the 13th. My friends and I trotted rapidly through the early levels having gained a good grasp of the mechanics from beta, so relatively rapidly a gap grew between my various friends and guildmates. This is always an inevitable occurence in new games, as different peopkle have varying amounts of time and dedication to spend on a game. However with the questing levels bracketed across the different planets, the character level disparity was emphasised even more by sheer geographical differences.

Having currently reached Level 47, I can honestly say that I have barely quested with any of my friends or guildies for at least 10 levels if not closer to 15. In fact I have probably only seen most of them when passing through Imperial Fleet or in PvP Warzones. I can see why people have commented that it seems like a single player game at times.

The questing and levelling in themselves work well, but upon closer examination its quite impressive how the mundane “go here, click on that, kill 50 of x” is overlooked when dressed up within a decent storyline. Its not that I am critical of the actual quests, as there is unlikely to be a huge revolution in quest design any time soon, I just find it ironic that nobody has noticed? One big plus is that the much publicized “100% voice acted quests”, which I was skeptical about, has actually proved to be true! Having said that it was very disconcerting hearing a Imperial Grand Moff berating me in a broad Yorkshire accent. I keep expecting to hear the distinctive tones of Bill Sallis (of Wallace & Gromit fame) asking me to go and rescue some Wensleydale from the local Republic base!!

Never having been a hugely dedicated crafter and more of a dabbler I was quite impressed with the crafting/gathering system from beta. Ultimately though I have found that it just isnt worth the time and credits. I chose Cybertech as my primary crafting skill, with Slicing and Scavenging to support it. Slicing is pretty un-noteworthy. It was unbalanced got nerfed and I havent really noticed that much difference in terms of my accumulation of credits. Scavenging is what it is and Cybertech is……. well, I’m not sure what it is? Within days of the game launching there was already a guide on everything you needed to for the grind up to 400 skill. I gathered the materials, did the grind, bought the skills and since maxing out have only crafted my own speeder, a few armour inserts and mods and a couple of ship upgrades.

One of the problems seems to be, certainly in terms of Cybertech, is that there are too many recipes available. For example, the armour inserts for Orange quality armour pieces are available at every other other (31,33,35 etc) but by the time you have enough material to craft and reverse engineer enough items to obtain the blue and then purple versions, you have levelled beyond that recipe and need to purchase and work on the next. Combine that with the rare(ish) materials you have to use and the frequency of similar mods being offered as quest rewards, and you have a somewhat pointless system. Even at the top level players are outgearing what you can craft with their PvP acquired equipment.

Speaking of PvP, this is one aspect that I have quite enjoyed……eventually. Open-world has been a little hit’n’miss whilst I’m levelling. Its usually reduced to stumbling upon an opposition player and hitting him (or her) as hard and fast as I can using everything in my arsenal of skills, whilst hoping they don’t have friends close by. Ganking is a natural occurrence in these circumstances and although its not pleasant to be on the receiving end, it hasn’t been the huge hindrance many players thought it would be. Warzones however are a real love/hate thing. There are endless threads on the official forums from every possible perspective regarding Warzones and although I browse a few of the more imaginatively titeld threads I really dont take much notice. I enjoy them on the whole, but being on the receiving end of a  6-0 drubbing in Huttball isnt particularly enjoyable. I feel each time I play I learn a little bit more about how to play both the individual Warzones and my class, which is always a good thing. With a few tweaks to the queuing system, level bracketing and some bug/exploit issues being resolved I feel that what we have is a pretty decent PvP system.

From the above commentary you may think that I’m not particualrly enthusiatic about the game. Now while I wont be taking holiday from work in order to spend time levelling or achieving something “spectacular” in-game I do still enjoy my time playing. Of course there are things I dont like or feel are poorly designed/implemented, but you have to remember that its less than a month since it was OFFICIALLY launched and all new MMO’s need a settling down period.

I thought that the launch was well handled (it was player misconception about the early access criteria) considering the anticipation and Bioware has done nothing to disuade me that they dont know what they are doing. I know there have been alot of grumbling about Customer Service response times, but not having had cause to use them I only have anecdotal evidence of any problems.

I certainly have a wishlist of things I am anticipating (or yearning for) but I am patient and will continue to monitor any and all communication from the developers on these items, especially in light of Update 1.1 being imminently released.

So to conclude, as per the title of this piece…….

The Good: The questing, with full voice acting, really works well. PvP is fun (for me at least) and its very very pretty

The Bad: Crafting, whilst a unique take on things, is still a flawed system and appears to be bolted on as in many other games

The Ugly: The UI and chat systems are quite simply horrible. Whilst perfectly functional they are way below what has been previously set as a standard benchmark by other games.