Back when I gave my first impressions of The Old Republic (SWTOR, for short) I promised frequent updates on the status of the game, my character and everything in between. The major roadblock to that, unfortunately, is what I perceive to be a brick wall I hit around level 40.
But we’ll get to that later. First, as promised, a look at what’s been changing since the last time I wrote on this topic:
Most notably, the “Rise of the Rakghouls” patch brought a new level 50 flashpoint called Kaon Under Siege. I must admit, since hitting the leveling wall I haven’t been able to try the FP myself, but the trailer gave me chills. I’ll include it here for kicks. In addition, 4 new bosses were added to the Karagga’s Palace operation. One of the largest complaints I’ve heard about this game is that the endgame experience is lacking in depth, so adding additional PvE content seems to be the right development move. I haven’t seen or heard much about Karagga’s Palace, but I am psyched to get my hands on Kaon Under Siege. Seriously. Watch that trailer. Cool stuff.
Generally speaking, other changes to the game have been incredibly sound and favorable. The added optimizations to prevent dumping players to the character selection screen, as well as the lag reduction optimization meant to smooth out play in the Republic and Imperial Fleets (major Flashpoint departure and market hubs, for those not in the know), both seem to be working quite well. An initiative was also undertaken to smooth out combat responsiveness. Those listening intently to feedback from early players may have heard tell that it was hard to use abilities in rapid succession, that activation bars appeared late or not at all at some times, and that combat animations sometimes occurred twice after activating a move. This was a particular problem in PvP, where stalls or interruptions in your move rotation can mean the difference between sweet success and annoying death.
So back to the issue of this roadblock…I think it’s symptomatic of the great lengths the developers have gone to ensure the game’s epic feel at every stage of leveling. The trouble is there’s this preconceived notion that any game where you accrue abilities and stats by leveling should have a staggered experience system, whereby every level must be harder to attain than the last. While annoying to people like me who hate “the grind,” there’s nothing wrong with this notion on the surface. Unfortunately, in a game like SWTOR where you’re saving entire planets and changing the fate of the universe from something absurd like level 10, maintaining that dramatic pacing requires a steady raising of pace that eventually reaches critical mass. How does SWTOR add length and depth of experience gain to each successive planet you visit? It adds side quests. You’ll still have to swing the fate of each one in the favor of your chosen faction, but by the time you hit Belsavis (42-ish) it feels like you’re taking a break from your original mission to help every hapless Sargent Major, pharmaceutical rep and failed mercenary retrieve, kill or sabotage something. Combine this with the fact that each planet seems to be monumentally larger than the last and the process of leveling can start to look rather daunting.
There’s still a lot to love about this game, and I’m by no means through playing it. If you share my hatred for the grind, however, you might find the level 40-50 range a nice time to start bringing up an alternate character. This will allow you to maintain the flavor of epic-ness that makes the early part of the game so much fun, but only takes as much away from your main leveling focus as you want it to.
Until next time, keep it fixed to The Community for news, reviews and gaming culture articles. Peace, gamers!