SWTOR: My Final Review, Part 1

Since the new Star Wars MMO was released I've been playing in the live game in order to continue my coverage of the crafting system. I didn't feel like I had enough opportunity to really explore as much as I wanted to in the Beta, so I've been spending more time with it. I've just completed my full review and I've decided to post it in two parts - one for crafting and one for general impressions. I'm the explorer/achiever type, so my opinions are going to skew along those lines. I'm sure the killer types have a completely different view of this game - this review probably isn't for you ;)

First I'll qualify my time in SWTOR and disclose that I spent around 20 hours in the open beta, and another 60+ hours in the live game. I leveled a Scoundrel to 25 and a Jedi Knight to 9 in the live game and a Jedi Consular to 14 in the Beta. I set up my level 9 as a dedicated crafting alt and powered the Armstech profession to 100. I also leveled two gathering professions to 150 on my primary character and one mission skill to 70. I feel like I got a pretty good taste of the leveling portion of the game, with more time invested than a typical trial user would be able to spend. For an overview of how crafting works in SWTOR, you can read my earlier review here.

The SWTOR crafting system is a pretty standard setup where you learn recipes from your trainer, make items for skill points and unlock new recipes. The only parts of the system that might be considered novel are the companions that are used for crafting instead of the player doing those tasks, and the reverse engineering function. I personally didn't care for the companion system as it didn't really help the convenience factor much in the lower levels. Plus, and I know this is a personal issue, it really bothered me to send companions on menial errands that I could just as easily do myself. To execute a gathering skill, you have to be close enough to click on the node. I guess I don't see the point of having your companion do the actual work when you're standing right there and you have to click the item to initiate the collection process.

Eventually you'll have more than one companion and you can send the inactive ones out on missions. I tried this "multi-tasking" approach and I found it a bit disruptive. They complete their missions every few minutes, so you are frequently interrupted with completion windows when they deliver the goods that were collected. Then you have to reassign them a new task, which also distracts you from the main focus of questing and adventuring. Often I would find that after a few rounds of missions I would eventually forget to send them out again.

I think for the average player there's just too much micromanagement involved in keeping 2+ companions active with missions while working on quests yourself. Bioware really needed to let players create a queue so that we can line up more than one task for each companion and let them run as background tasks. In the current incarnation, the extra companions can be more of a hindrance than a help. Bear in mind that each of these missions cost you credits, which may or may not be repaid in value of the items you receive from doing them.

The reverse engineering feature was a nice addition to crafting and I appreciated the ability to reclaim some of my crafting materials from completed items. This is quite helpful when leveling because you can use less materials overall. On the other hand, reverse engineering is also one of the main ways to collect rare schematics. While that's a cool idea, Bioware's design of rare schematics is pretty boring. Your trainer will teach you a schematic and reverse engineering will allow you to discover the rare version of that same schematic with +1 extra stats on the rare item. This was the case with all the rare patterns I learned from reverse engineering, they were just mildly boosted versions of recipes I already knew. This seems fairly uninspired to me.

In fact, all of the recipes are pretty unimaginative. For the Armstech skill I was learning, each new wave of recipes was just stronger versions of the items I already had from the trainer. This is not unusual in most MMOs but one of the motivating factors for crafters is the ability to unlock new item types as they progress in their profession. Adding novelty items and milestone recipes is a good way to add spice to a profession and I see minimal evidence of those types of perks in the SWTOR profession trees. The only profession that seemed to introduce any new item types at higher levels of crafting was Artifice. Of course the only recipes I was able to access in any way were the trainer recipes, so it's possible that there are more interesting recipes which can be found from some other source.

The profession leveling process is very much tied into the character leveling system, another area where serious crafters would prefer some separation. Gathering can be done without a companion, but no assembly or mission skills can be done until level 8-9 when you unlock your first companion. Gathering nodes are generally placed in close proximity to aggressive mobs and higher level materials are placed in higher level areas (and near higher level mobs). This pretty much forces the player to continue leveling so they can access higher materials for their craft. It's possible that you could unlock your first companion and rely completely on missions to level a profession and collect materials. I did not actually attempt that because the amount of credits needed to pull it off would be quite high. That would necessitate having a higher character funneling credits to you, since a typical level 8-9 character only gets enough credits to run, at best, 50 missions before they would run out of funds.

The overall economy in SWTOR is still fairly immature at this point. A lot of the weapons I made were competing with loot drops and selling below the value of the materials. I had better luck just selling raw materials, although the market felt kind of sluggish in that area as well. The most promising items I had were enhancements, which are used by characters to add extra stats to their gear. These items sold fairly well and for a reasonable price. Rare items were also selling quite nicely, so it might be helpful to focus on rare recipes when you have them.

As I mentioned in my earlier review of SWTOR (while it was still in beta) I personally wouldn't recommend switching to this game for the crafting. At this point I feel that Bioware missed an opportunity to leverage the success of SWG and create an MMO with a strong crafting system that would actually enhance the stickiness of their game. They opted to focus on other things and in this area it shows.

To see Part Two of this review, where I'll be sharing my thoughts of SWTOR in general -- click here!

7 comments:

  1. As your skill gets higher, the length of time for crafting missions lengthens. At the 300-400 range, they take 30 to 45 min. It isn't disruptive at that point, although your errand runner will inevitably choose the worst possible moment to show back up.

    Sorry, going to be a long comment. ><

    I have toons in the 3 to 31 range. One set empire, one set republic.

    My experience thus far is that for a first toon, choose slicing, a gathering profession, and a mission profession. It isn't as fun. It really isn't, but..

    Crafting is very very expensive. Crafting patterns will rapidly suck your purse dry, and leave you scrambling to put together enough cash to train. Republic side, my highest level toon has artifice and negative spare cash. Empire side, my highest toon (22) has slicing, scavenging, and treasure hunting. She can afford to buy her own riding skill and my friend's with cash to spare.

    I'll be honest, in a lot of ways Republic side is more fun. I like crafting things. :)

    If you want to power level a profession, choose an appropriate set of gathering/mission professions on one toon, and level that toon. Funnel the results to another toon, plus a HUGE heap of cash to buy patterns.

    Don't use your missions on your gathering profession except to fill in holes. On Tatooine, I got power crystals in bucketloads, but almost no artifacts, so I missioned for those. The exception to the rule is the items needed for crafting that you can buy from the crew skills vendor - doing a mission for those is usually cheaper than buying from the vendor.

    Another thing Kaliope didn't mention - the affection rating of your companion changes your rate of success. In crafting armor, a companion with a high rating is more likely to craft things with augment sockets; and on missions will bring back richer yields.

    The system has interesting nuances. For example, in armorcrafting, when you reverse engineer a green, you might get a blue pattern. Keep trying... armorcrafting has multiple blue types to one green. When you make that blue, you might get lucky and add an augment slot.

    I rather enjoy the crafting system, but if I will bewail anything, it is the the clunky 1980s style auction house UI. Just horrible.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, I forgot..

    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1ZRKcqEYQh6jigt902hkC-0Pj-83OAA15Br0d4pGidPY/edit?pli=1

    Not mine, but very helpful to see how the web of professions interacts. On my first toon I took slicing, scavenging, and cybertech... and not having underworld trading was huge ugly deal in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing more of an "end game" experience Christina :) I knew that the missions had longer timers as you leveled up, but for the purposes of the review I thought I'd focus on the early experiences with it. That's when new players are most likely to try it so it's really the early parts of the process that tend to make or break the situation for people.

    It's also good to hear confirmation that leveling professions is expensive. That has certainly been my experience, but not having made it past 150 I can't be sure it follows all the way up the chain.

    And I agree, the auction houses are terrible! It's like they didn't try at all to make them user friendly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I had no idea that it was so expensive until I rolled an empire side toon and started comparing what it was like without a crafting profession. Night and day as far as cash flow goes. I do find that I miss the crafting terribly.

    One of the ways in which swtor is similar to wow is that the cash flow improves at higher levels. Part of the expense of crafting happens when you try for items over your level. Petty cash at 20 and at 40 are very very different, and the recipe prices scale with the cash you get at higher levels. I _think_ if I didn't level recipes past my current level, that crafting wouldn't be as expensive. Overall though, it feels worse than leveling blacksmithing in BC.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ouch, I think you just named hell to anyone who's been around that long. Blacksmithing circa BC was the worst! I noticed that the recipes were scaling up in price and also took a peek at the high end numbers. Since I realized that quest rewards were scaling too I assumed it would keep pace. Interesting...

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1) Just as you RE greens to learn the prototype(blue) schematic, you can RE blues to learn purple versions - that is where it really can get expensive. Although always check the GTN; you can find the items to RE for cheaper than it would cost to make them. I *think* the average is about 6-8 RE to learn the pattern but you hear the complaints of people doing it 20-30 times.

    2) the good news is there is no level requirement - so I got my level 10 bank alt to max (400) level in a crafting profession without any of the gathering/mission skills and using one companion. I am not doing Arms but have alts with the other 4 skills in progress.

    3) It would really devalue any profession they allowed queueing on. At least the current system is like the EVE Online manufacturing slots - you have constrained jobs and have to decide what is the most profitable credits/hour. How much crafting profit would there be in making Resolve Hilt 6 if everyone could queue up 40 to be crafted overnight?

    4) As in life, luck helps. With a tad of skill and a truckload of luck my crafting alt found a good niche and has made 4-5 million credits although the halcyon days are over. Realistically, a lot of that, probably the majority, is from just snatching on the GTN.

    5) speaking of the Good Old Days, you used to could be able to send your level 1 BH out to the spaceport and then to the fleet. You got to level 4 just from the Codex entries from the trainers and you had access to your cargo hold.

    6) The monetary curve does seem to be steep - like most MMOs I guess. The hyper-battle stims(flasks) go for 10-20k, so you can level quite a bit on just what a 50 spends on a day's consumables. On turning 50 you need- well want anyway - about a quarter of a million to buy your final credits and another quarter to buy riding. So the total cost of leveling a profession will be much, much less than what it costs for your last skills.

    ReplyDelete