“I don’t like sand. It’s course, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere.” – Anakin
So I started playing The Old Republic Online again, and by the time I got to Tatooine, having leveled my character up to about level 40, remembered why I stopped in the first place. But before I get into that, I want to list all the pros about this game that drew me back in. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, because this game does have a lot going for it, and I really do enjoy it.
Probably the biggest draw for me is the sheer number of different storylines that are available. I have five different characters I created for this game because I couldn’t commit to just one storyline that I wanted to explore. My first character was a Republic-aligned smuggler, because I’m a sucker for those for-hire types with secret hearts of gold (looking at you, Han), and immediately loved the combat mechanism that allowed her to duck behind barricades for protection. Soon after, I got curious about the Empire-aligned characters and played as a bounty hunter (sort of the Imperial equivalent to the
smuggler) and was surprised to find an amount of compassion built into her storyline. Her first companion was a slicer who values freedom and kindness, and hates bullying and cruelty. I didn’t expect to be rewarded with companion approval points for making merciful and light-side decisions as an Empire-aligned character, and I loved that surprising moral stance. The storylines are also slightly complicated by the species you choose to play as. I always thought that being forced to play as a human in the original games was a bit of a bummer so this was very exciting for me. Unfortunately, most of the species are pay-to-play, but it was interesting to see anti-alien sentiments from NPCs directed toward my character when I played as a Zabrak Sith warrior. Maybe one day I’ll spend the cash to play as a Mirialan.
I also really liked some of the combat mechanics. I already mentioned the use of barricades for certain classes, but when I started a brand new character this time around, as a Jedi Consular, she quickly learned my absolute favorite ability in this whole game so far: stealth. I love avoiding unnecessary conflict as much as possible, and the stealth ability made it easy for me to stroll right on through enemy territory with barely any skirmishes at all. This was a huge plus for me as a player because something I hated about the game before I used this class was having to fight my way through big battlefields and then minutes later, after the characters had respawned, having to fight my way back out. Granted, you do walk much slower in stealth mode, but alternating between stealth and riding a mount got me through a lot of quests so much faster than before.
And that’s one of my biggest criticisms about this game. A lot of time feels wasted. I’m the sort of person who feels compelled to finish every side mission, no matter how small and trivial, and the number of side missions in this game is immense. You have planetary story arcs, class quests, repeatable missions, heroic missions, and of course your main story arc quests that have you running all over the planet. On smaller planets like Taris and Coruscant, finishing all the quests is completely feasible. It might take something around 8 hours to do it, but most of the quests appear in a specific order to guide you around the planet, so you’re hardly ever running back to a location you’ve already discovered for some menial task like delivering a letter. (However, playing as a Republic character for the third time, I did find myself getting antsy to explore new places and missions and ignoring a lot of the side quests I had already completed with other characters.) But then, there’s Tatooine.
Every character I’ve ever played has never progressed passed the Tatooine/Alderaan point. It’s not because the story arc for the planet is boring. I love fighting capitalists! It’s not even because of how slowly the game runs when I’m on those two planets. It’s solely because of how freaking huge Tatooine is. Even using the mount, it’s sort of exhausting to traverse these huge desert maps. And just like on other planets, the side quests help you explore the whole terrain of the map and bring you to new areas of the planet you probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. I could use the quick travel points to make this easier, but those only work once every hour and a half. So to complete any of the side missions, you basically have to press W for five straight minutes to get to your destination, and then do it again to report back and receive your quest rewards. It’s not even a very exciting five minutes. It’s just sand, and more sand, and a womp rat, and then even more sand. Of course Luke wanted to become a pilot and fly the hell away from this planet. I do, too. After visiting Tatooine, the comparatively small maps on Alderaan (which is still a huge planet) are something of a relief! I’m still tired of driving for ages around Alderaan but at least it’s prettier.
I have some other criticisms, like putting a monetary cap on free-to-play players, and then moving any excess money to an escrow that you can only access if you subscribe, but I’ve done enough ranting for now, I think.
In short: what Anakin said.