Fate of the Jedi Sentinel

Star Wars: The Old Republic made a surprise appearance on my “currently playing” list this past week. Not surprising was the fact that immediately after laying out which games I would be focusing on and which would be shelved, I ended up playing something completely different. SW:TOR was on the list of “tempting but not right now” until the pragmatist in me decided to take advantage of the “Choose Your Path” promotion that Bioware was offering. And it really was a good deal, worth almost double the asking price.

So last week I started a brand new Jedi Sentinel named Iron’weakness and set out to gain as much ground as I possibly could between now and when the 60 day sub time expires. To make the deal sweeter, Bioware turned on the double XP switch for the weekend and I was blasting through the levels even quicker, leveling from one to twenty-five in about a week’s time. I have to say, I’ve been impressed so far. This is the furthest I’ve been in the game and I fully intend to keep on the leveling path at least until the subscription time ends. I’m hoping to make it in to the 50s by then, just in time to lose the XP boost before getting into the The Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan content. I’m not looking forward to that.

So with a week of gameplay under my belt I figured it would be a good time to give a “first impressions” (more like third at this point) of what I like about the game and what I could do without, starting with the positives. What I find most appealing about SW:TOR in this stage of its life cycle is the diversity of gameplay options. Even as a low level Jedi I’m able to run flashpoints, warzones, galactic Starfighter battles, and tool around in my stronghold. This diversity kept me engaged all week and I regularly dipped my toes in all of the available activities.

My favorite of these features so far is the galactic Starfighter content. I’ve yet to get a solid handle on the controls but I enjoy the break from standard MMO gameplay by participating in interstellar dogfights while still gaining XP toward my character’s progression. Then there is the ship progression as well. I’m overwhelmed by the choices (not to mention the time it must take to max out a ship) but all the same I appreciate the depth offered for what is essentially a mini game. I purchased a Bomber with my fleet requisition but so far I don’t fully understand how to play this particular ship class well. Nevertheless it is satisfying when I receive a message telling me one of my drones dropped an enemy ship. I’m looking to buy a gunship next so that I have one of each type for comparison.

Another aspect of SW:TOR that I’m really enjoying are the companions and the crafting system tied to them. I currently have three available to my character which allows me to send two on crafting missions (the max I am able to send at this level) while having a third available for combat. So far T-7 is my favorite from a story standpoint as well as for his tanking role during fights. Having a droid feels more like I’m playing a traditional MMO pet class and it is classic Star Wars side-kicking at its finest. Kira on the other hand drives me nuts. Honestly I don’t even understand how she is a Jedi. If she were my padawan I would fail her out of the Jedi academy and set her up with scoundrel training instead. No one with so little regard for authority would ever last as a real Jedi. Because, you know, Jedi are real.

(Insert “but what about Jaina Solo” comments here)

With an unexpected twist of irony, that brings me to what I haven’t enjoyed- the story telling. I wouldn’t have such strong feelings about Kira if her characterization wasn’t so spot on, and that’s a good thing. The stories themselves and the characters aren’t the problem though, it’s the fully voiced cut scenes that I could do without. On paper I’m sure it looked like a great idea, no more reading boring quest text, no, we’re going to give them fully animated cut scenes with high quality voice acting instead. In reality it means I spend half my game time listening to people tell me things I could have read much more quickly. Considering I only have so much game time in a given week I would much rather spend it playing rather than watching an endless stream of cut scenes (I grow faint at the sight of a fresh quest hub). That’s why I like MMOs and spend my evenings playing them rather than other forms of entertainment, I like to interact with a game, not just passively watch TV.

During those times when I am actively engaged in Jedi acrobatics, I’ve also been disappointed with the overall feel of combat. In the past I’ve played enough of the other classes that I don’t think this is unique to the Sentinel, but there is something off with either the timing between when I use an ability and when the animation begins or the length of the global cooldown. Whatever the case, I feel like abilities are happening too late and the rotation is clunky. Add to that the relative squishiness of my Sentinel and I’ve seriously considered rerolling as a Trooper or a Consular in hopes of greener pasture. Instead I think I may try a different talent tree and see if that doesn’t improve my time to kill (and thus my survivability) as well as the smoothness of the rotation. Currently I’m playing as a Watchman because it looked like the DoT based spec but given this style of DPS often requires ramp up time I may be better off finding an option with stronger burst.

Regardless, my overall experience has been enjoyable. The game looks good, everything that’s been added since last I played has only helped flesh out the game options and I look forward to seeing at least one class story through to the end in this game. It may not have started off as the Star Wars MMO everyone was hoping for, but if Bioware continues to add new features, story, and group content as they have been over the last year I will continue to traverse the Star Wars universe in The Old Republic.

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