21/08/2012

The Grand Acquisitions Race in Review

After how exhausted I had felt after the first day of the event, I didn't feel much of a pull to get back into it. I completed the last couple of quests as they unlocked until I had finished the scavenger hunt in its entirety, but I didn't feel a particular urge to go back for more. It took me until Sunday to suddenly be overcome by panic as I realised that the event was almost over, and I was missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get as much out of it as possible (OMG!), so I went back and repeated the whole thing on my Sage. It was a lot less painful once I knew where everything was, though I managed to get lost in Nar Shaddaa's industrial sector yet again. I also completed the Race once on Imperial side, duoing through the quest chain with my significant other.

People have been sharing their thoughts on the event today, and as Spinks put it very aptly, common consensus seems to be a "resounding meh". I'm afraid that I have to agree with that to a certain extent, though I did have fun.

The Good Stuff

Mind you, I still don't take it for granted that Bioware creates content specifically for time-limited events between patches. I'm grateful for the effort, and I like that feeling of logging on and having my routine shaken up as there are suddenly more "pressing" matters to attend to rather than me just running yet another warzone.

I also liked that this event involved more storytelling than the previous one. The choice at the end whether you wanted to hand the items over to the Chevin or help your faction uncover their possibly nefarious purpose felt like a nice character building moment and a lot more meaningful than the random "kill/cure sand people" daily that we got during the rakghoul event. While the story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger of sorts, rumour has it that it will all tie in with the new operation and warzone once they come out, which would make a lot of sense.

Finally, they did take the negative feedback about the personal gating during the last event to heart and instead made it global, so if you only jumped into the event on the third day, everything was unlocked for you right away.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

There were two areas in which I felt majorly let down by the event. The first one was that there simply wasn't anything to do other than the main quest, unless you fancied running around Nar Shaddaa collecting smuggler's crates, something that I'd personally consider more masochistic than fun. I appreciate that there's only so much time and effort they want to invest into what's only a one-off adventure, but they set a much higher standard for themselves with the first world event, which had multiple dailies, two scavenger hunts, three world bosses and the plague. They didn't live up to that same standard this time.

My second gripe kind of ties in with the first one, in that the event felt way too solo-centric for me. During the rakghoul plague, the world truly came alive as people were grouping up for the world bosses, joining plague parties and engaging in spontaneous world PvP in the Dune Sea. This time around, everyone just focused on doing their quest, and other players were likely to be nothing but an awkward nuisance when it came to having to wait for a mission item to respawn or having to compete for the crates. I guess that the event might have encouraged some world PvP on Nar Shaddaa on dedicated PvP servers, but on my PvE one I didn't see much of it - I think people were too spread out and always moving through narrow corridors. I once got myself flagged by acccidentally driving into Empire territory, but nobody ever attacked me, even though I ran into plenty of Imps and even went AFK for a couple of minutes.

When my SO and I duoed our way through the event on Imperial side, we also found some of the quests unusually unfriendly towards grouping. We discovered quickly that the smuggler's crates did drop multiple copies of each quest item if you were grouped, but you could only share them if you looted the crate at the same time, otherwise the game would give two copies of the same item to whoever looted first and the crate would despawn right afterwards, which made things quite awkward.

The droid escort on Dromund Kaas also bugged out for us as the droid simply despawned every time I tried to repair it. Fortunately we soon realised that this appeared due to the game getting confused by the fact that I wasn't the one who had started the event, and we managed to circumvent the issue by making sure that whoever triggered any given mission would then also be the one to click on everything else involving the same quest. But really, I usually expect TOR's quests to hold up better than that when it comes to people attempting them in a group.

Not a problem for me, but...

While a week was plenty of time for me to get everything done, the short duration of the event sucked for several bloggers I know who were on holiday some time during that week. I generally do like that Bioware is keeping these events short to prevent burnout and boredom, but I think that limiting it to a week is taking things a bit too far. Why not make it ten days or two weeks? Hardly that radical a change, but it could make a big difference for many players.

I've also seen several people complain that they felt that the rewards weren't any good, specifically because the only available weapons were rifles, which are generally only used by three out of the sixteen advanced classes. I kind of agree and disagree with that one at the same time. I agree that the rewards weren't very exciting. I had a lot of tokens to spend, so I bought some things that I didn't really care about purely because... eh, why not? It's not like I'm in desperate need of credits, and at least a few months down the line I'll be able to show off that ugly pet I bought and say: "Yeah, I was there!" But I don't see why this should be a big deal. As far as quests go, TOR is not a loot-driven game at all. In fact I think it's slightly unusual in that you never even know what you'll get for any given mission until you complete it, as there is no preview of the rewards. However, people don't care because they do the quests for the sake of seeing the story anyway. Likewise, I would've happily participated in the Grand Acquisitons Race purely for the sake of getting to see it even if there had been no tokens involved at all. The items are just a little bonus, so they don't have to be awesome in my opinion. In fact, it's probably better this way so that nobody feels the need to stupidly grind tokens just to buy some item that is considered a must-have.

My Own Minor Niggles

Again, I appreciate that it makes sense to only put so much effort into a one-time-only event, but was anyone else a bit unsettled by how their character suddenly seemed to have turned into a mute? Couldn't they have at least given us a couple of conversation choices that reused some of the stock phrases? I thought it was really odd that every single "conversation" just consisted of people talking at my character, without giving me any way to respond. What is this, The Secret World?

I also still wish that they had given more obvious hints as to the locations of the various quest items. People shouldn't be expected to use an external guide or to blindly drive around a planet for hours, hoping to find a clickable thing in a corner somewhere. It's okay to have this kind of gameplay if it's just one optional activity of many, but if finding the hidden items is the entirety of the event, it should be a bit more engaging.

Finally, systems like having to collect quest items from random boxes can go DIAF. I didn't mind the mechanic as a way to allow people to collect additional tokens if they really wanted to, but making the quest items a frustratingly inconsistent random drop from the boxes was not a good move in my opinion.

Let's hope that the next event will be a step up from this one again. I do have to admit I'm rather tickled by the notion of an Ilum event as mentioned by Gabe Amatangelo in this Darth Hater interview.

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