Filipe is a Msc in Management graduate living in Lisbon, Portugal. Despite that, he usually prefers to write about his more geeky interests.
Hype and Expectations
Even though I only started playing The Old Republic well after its launch, I was quite aware of its arrival in 2011. Like many others, I was really impressed by the trailers Bioware had put out with the help of Blur, and I was interested in finding out whether the final product lived up to the huge hype and promise.
I had already played the previous Star Wars games set in the old republic setting: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. These single-player adventure turn-based action RPGs should be familiar to many of you as pretty spectacular Star Wars games and stories in their own right.
So obviously when an MMORPG set in this universe and advertised as the long-awaited KOTOR 3 that fans were clamoring for was announced, people got really excited. When the award-winning, mind-blowing trailers came out, people got really, really hyped.
Then the game came out. It got pretty good reviews. Critics praised the fully voiced and animated cinematics, the deep and rich story of each individual class, and the solid nature of the gameplay, among other things. But some time passed, and The Old Republic was gone. At least from my perspective, I definitely wasn't seeing a lot of online posts or videos on the game, and none were suggested to me. The game was based on a monthly subscription, and given my financial situation, I wasn't going to play it anytime soon.
Some YouTubers I was a fan of made a brief video series playing the game, and I liked what I saw. For what it was. It must be said that I have never been a huge fan of MMORPGs, probably due to my lack of proficiency at them. I've played some of them, on occasion with friends, other times alone, but I never managed to stay with a game for longer than a few months.
I love Star Wars, though, and the universe of The Old Republic. And despite my lack of strong passion for the game's genre, I was intrigued and remained on the lookout for an opportunity to eventually play the game. That opportunity ended up presenting itself in 2012, when the game became Free to Play. My browser was then overflooding with advertisements on this development, and I immediately went on the website, created an account, and downloaded the game.
What I Liked and Didn't Like
Like with many other players, I'm sure, I wanted to eventually wield a lightsaber, so I chose the Jedi Consular class. I was pretty familiar with how the story would play out in the tutorial world of Tython due to videos on YouTube, but nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience.
I was on my own, though, so my enjoyment was determined entirely by my own single experience. And, arriving at the end of the tutorial world alone, I was already becoming a bit tired of the gameplay. Particularly in how it manifested itself in the game's side quests. And this proved to be a symptom of a larger problem that drove me, and I think a lot of other people, away from this game.
The YouTuber Angry Joe once said that;
"the most important thing in an MMO is not the story, or the voiceovers, graphics or cinematics, it's the gameplay. As it's what you're gonna be doing for hours on end."
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I happen to agree with this statement, and it's probably one of the big reasons why I was never able to get into any MMORPG. And The Old Republic is no exception. Gameplay was where this game really underperformed. Not because it was bad; there was nothing horrible about it. It was just bland and unexciting, and when you examine it in the context of what Star Wars gameplay has been in the past—and what it could be—it becomes truly underwhelming.
Repetitive MMORPG Basics
So the gameplay here, in short, was like every other MMORPG up to that point. Your class determined your skills, hotkeyed to the numbers on your keyboard. Activating the ability triggers its animation, and you use a bunch of them in combat to take down your opponents. After you use each ability, they go on cooldown for a few seconds and then you use them again. Movement in combat is largely unimportant, you just click on numbers until the opponent dies. And the goals of combat are largely unchanged too.
Quest objectives are standard MMO objectives: kill X number of enemies, collect items Y and Z, bring them back to the quest-giver, get the reward. Again, not much worse than what's normal, but just, repetitive, unoriginal, too familiar given the promises previously made about the game.
So, by the time I was leaving Tython, I wasn't really that invested in playing the game for the playing aspect of it. I was mostly doing it for the story, which is the best part of the game. However, being a Free to Play member, my experience progression was slowed, which mandated that I complete several side missions in order to maintain the minimum levels required to tackle the enemies of posterior story missions.
This is not a criticism of FTP business models, I know this is how they work, but if I'm deliberately avoiding a major part of a game because there is only one thing about it that I find gratifying, then there is a problem. And if the game itself forces me to go through those other parts that I find less enjoyable in order to proceed with the story, then you're unlikely to keep me as a consistent player.
From One Boring Planet to the Next
This is what eventually drained away my will to play. I went through a bunch of missions and hours of not so exciting gameplay to finish the story in one planet. Then when I moved on to the next, I dreaded all the boring missions I would have to go through to get to the next development. Even the story missions themselves suffer from uninteresting, unengaging combat and thus become attractive only due to the cutscenes and the potential choices you might get to make.
Now, you might say that I did not play the game the way it's meant. I was mostly on my own, without interacting with other players, and I rarely engaged in PvP at all. These are, after all, two crucial aspects of any MMORPG, maybe the most crucial. I am aware of this. However what I found, and what many others found from what I can see online, is that this game pushes heavily the single-player aspects of its experience and doesn't put a lot of emphasis on the multiplayer experiences. The story expansions that have been released so far certainly support this claim as they are very story-oriented.
A Game With an Identity Problem
Ultimately, this game seems like it wants to be KOTOR 3 so much, but its MMO classification keeps getting in the way and it's making it impossible for the game to excel at either. I am not the first one to come to this conclusion, meaning it's something that's apparent to everyone, whether you're a subscriber, a free to play player, a fan of MMORPGs or simply a casual player.
I stopped playing The Old Republic a long time ago, but it was by far the MMORPG I played for the longest time and given my perpetual love for the Old Republic era, it's a game I have fond memories of, despite my problems with it. I wish I had the tenacity to finish the storyline of my Jedi Consular, but I don't think I'll ever go back, at least not on my own.
I realise some MMORPGs can be enjoyed on one's own, but many require the multiplayer experience to be fully satisfying. I didn't engage in that experience with SWTOR, but I also believe the game's confusing identity failed to provide it for me as well. In focusing on the narrative Star Wars experience, the game failed to excel at its own genre, and I believe that's what drove all kinds of fans away, whether they realised they could get that narrative experience somewhere else, or they realised they could get a better MMORPG experience somewhere else.
The Game Has Some Positives, But Many Negatives
So those are the reasons why I stopped playing The Old Republic and my overall thoughts on the game. I hope I didn't anger fans of the game too much. I do recognize that it does a lot of things very well. If it didn't, I wouldn't have played it for so long. I just wanted to lay out the fundamental reasons behind my progressive disinterest in the game, and to do that, I had to focus a little more on the negatives. Just remember that this is my opinion, and I know that what I think is a problem might not be one for you.
I'm interested to know your experiences with this game, so if you like, leave a comment below with your thoughts and feel free to check out my other articles. Thank you for reading.