While I think that the image of SWTOR on general MMO sites has improved a lot since it had to deal with all those issues in its first year, you'll still find a fair amount of people commenting on SWTOR articles purely to spread misinformation about the game. (I'm not saying that they are doing this intentionally, but the effect is the same, whether the intent was malicious or whether they are simply basing their judgement on outdated information.) It always makes me pretty annoyed, but when has anything good ever come out of arguing in an internet comment section?
Nonetheless it's not good to have this stuff out there, because people who genuinely don't know anything about the game will read it and think it's true. (I'm pretty sure that I must have some pretty warped views of a lot of games that I've never played myself, having used random internet comments about them as my knowledge base...) I thought that I could at least try to provide an article that those who are curious, who want to learn more about the game and are wondering whether some of the bad things they've heard about it are true can read as a counterpoint - a counterpoint from someone who has actually played the game since launch.
You might argue that this makes me biased, and of course it does, but I've never claimed that SWTOR is perfect or that everyone should play it. However, if you don't think that SWTOR is your cup of tea, I'm sure that you'll be able to come to this conclusion based on actual facts, not rumours and myths that some people like to perpetually regurgitate in comment sections.
Without further ado, here are five myths about SWTOR that shouldn't prevent you from trying the game, where they originated, and why they are wrong.
1. SWTOR is effectively a single player game
I actually wrote about why this wasn't true shortly after launch, but sadly I still see it pop up quite often even three years later.
Why do people believe this? When SWTOR first launched, the way it delivered quests with cut scenes, multiple-choice dialogue and voiceovers was quite revolutionary for the genre, even if its ultimate importance was overhyped. Since then other MMOs, such as The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online have adopted similar systems of quest delivery, but at the time of SWTOR's launch it was very novel. It was the closest thing to questing in a single-player RPG that any MMO had done before, and it made sense that people noticed the similarities. However, some players got so caught up in their class stories that they ignored everything else and were then confused that nobody wanted to play with them.
Why is it not true? SWTOR is, on average, no less group-friendly than other theme park MMOs. You receive bonus experience while in a group, there are group quests and world bosses on every planet, and the endgame is very group-centric. In fact, it's other MMOs that have introduced features like XP penalties for grouping and forced solo instances! In SWTOR, being in a group is pretty much always rewarded and there's no content to which you can't bring along a buddy.
Yes, you can make your way to the level cap on your own if you wish, but you've been able to do that in pretty much every major MMO since the launch of World of Warcraft. The mere option of being able to play on your own does not turn any virtual world into a single player MMO. I always found it odd how SWTOR got singled out for this as if it was something new.
Busy being bored in my no-endgame, single player MMO.
2. There is nothing to do at endgame
I can understand why people believed this at launch, but at this point it's just baffling. Do you honestly think that Bioware hasn't added anything to do in three years?
Why do people believe this? At launch, a lot of very vocal people burnt through the levelling content very quickly and then found themselves bored with the endgame. Even then it wasn't true that there was "nothing" to do at max level - there was PvP, two daily areas, an operation, three normal max-level flashpoints and nine hardmode flashpoints even at launch, but it's understandable that this wasn't enough to keep people busy who had burnt through the entirety of the levelling content within days.
Why is it not true? Speed levellers were never a good benchmark to measure when people would run out of content. Personally, despite of playing for several hours a day immediately after launch, it took me over a month to hit level 50, by which point Bioware had already patched in another operation and another flashpoint. I never experienced a lack of things to do at max level.
Since then the game has kept adding patches at a pretty steady rate of about once every two to three months, raised its level cap twice, and added space combat and housing. There is plenty to do.
3. The servers are dead
In the comment section of the old Massively site, I noticed this one guy who liked to claim this repeatedly and "backed it up" by posting a screenshot that showed his character standing on the fleet, alone.
Why do people believe this? Because there was a time when many servers were dead. The game launched with dozens of servers and initially they added even more... so when the game lost over half of its launch population in the following months, a lot of servers were left as ghost towns.
When Bioware actually started "soft merges" by allowing people to transfer off towards a designated number of target servers, those ghost towns became even emptier... yet they were still left open for a while, ready to give new and returning players a terrible impression of the game. (No, I didn't think that was a good idea either.)
Why is it not true? This was back in mid-2012. Ever since all those smaller and deserted servers were merged into a handful of mega-servers, the populations of those have been healthy. Obviously there are still differences in terms of how busy things are depending on the time of day and your exact location, but there are definitely people around.
Somewhat related to this, not everyone understands the way the game's instancing system works. If more than a certain number of people (I think it's 250 on the fleet, less on most planets) are in the same place, the game will create a new instance of that location to split the population up. However, the counter in the top left will only ever show you the population of your current instance. So even in game you sometimes get players going "oh my god, only 42 people on the fleet" - while they miss the fact that there are already two full instances of the fleet and they happened to load into the newly spawned third one.
The Republic fleet on The Red Eclipse on a Saturday morning, ca. 11 a.m., instance one of two.
4. The alignment system affects your gear progression
In other words: I can't play my character the way I want, I have to maximise my light or dark side point gains or I won't be able to wear the best gear in the game!
Why do people believe this? There are items with alignment requirements on them in the game. People who saw these drop early in the game and couldn't use them due to their alignment obviously jumped to conclusions and aren't shy about sharing those conclusions with the world.
Why is it not true? The Torhead database had over 58k items on record when I originally started drafting this post. (RIP Torhead.) If you looked at just the ones that had any sort of alignment requirement on them, the shown number went down to 871. Or in other words, about less than 1.5% of all items in the game have an alignment requirement, and not a single one of them requires max level. Most of them are pieces of orange (cosmetic) gear or levelling relics - in other words: totally irrelevant if you're worried about your gear progression. There are other reasons to care about your alignment, such as the story - but that only makes sense. Gear and character power however are definitely not a concern when you're wondering whether to be naughty or nice to those NPCs.
5. The payment model is horrible and will constantly annoy you
This point is probably going to be the most contentious one and I fully expect someone to pop up in the comments just to go: "No, you're wrong, SWTOR's payment model really is horrible." Nonetheless, I ask you to hear me out.
Why do people believe this? When you go to the official SWTOR website, it advertises on the main page that you can "download the game and play for free". It is somewhat understandable that some people misinterpret this as meaning that it's a free game. News flash: it's not. The game will remind you very early on that it's still a subscription game at heart and wants you to cough up some money. People can get very grumpy if they are asked to spend money on something that they expected (or simply wanted) to be free.
Why is it not true? SWTOR is a subscription game with a free-to-play option/trial and those options work fine the way they are. I suppose you could argue that they are being advertised in a misleading way, but that doesn't change how they work. I've been a subscriber since launch and aside from the fact that the game has inevitably changed and evolved in some ways, my subscription has allowed me to continue enjoying the game in exactly the same way I have since launch. While a cash shop has been added, I receive a monthly Cartel Coin grant as part of my subscription, and since nothing in the shop bestows any kind of gameplay advantage, there is no pressure to buy things all the time. On the rare occasion when something strikes my fancy, my stipend is usually enough.
If you're only planning to play casually, the "preferred" play status, which you gain as soon as you spend any money at all (the lowest amount you can spend is on a bunch of Cartel Coins for a fiver), isn't such a bad deal either, as you have access to a huge amount of content for free, the worst restrictions are lifted, and many of the others won't really apply to you anyway (e.g. if you're just going through the quests for the story, you probably won't amass enough credits to hit the credit cap, and wearing ugly hats or purple gear to maximise your stats is hardly required).
If you were trying to play without paying a single penny, then yes, the game will nag and annoy you a lot. But such is the way of free trials - they are not the full game.