One of the more frequent criticisms of Knights of the Fallen Empire that I've read is that its combat is tedious and boring/detracts from the story.
Now, some of this is probably just the current Zeitgeist that hotbar combat is supposedly boring and everything needs to be about action, dodging enemies and aiming your attacks. I'm not on board with that because I think that different types of combat are just about appealing to different audiences, with neither being inherently superior or inferior. Where action combat lets people test their reflexes, having several action bars full of abilities is more about choosing your fights carefully and using the right ability at the right time.
This doesn't always have to be difficult or complex either. There is joy to be found in the small victories, such as placing your AoE attack just right to hit the maximum amount of enemies, interrupting an enemy's cast just before it finishes, or using a cooldown to survive/negate a specific attack.
With that in mind, I think that the "fun factor" of SWTOR's combat has suffered somewhat since 4.0 since everything has become so much easier to kill. This is not me being an elitist and saying that levelling must be hard, but simple logic: if part of your combat system's fun lies in using a variety of different abilities, it's going to be harder to have fun when ninety percent of all enemies fall over dead before you can even hit them three times.
However, that alone doesn't explain KotFE's problem, because even now I can go questing on a lowbie alt and still have more fun killing things than I do in the various KotFE chapters. What gives?
I decided to get scientific about it, got pen and paper out, and started up chapter ten (which I remembered feeling particularly annoying in terms of combat) on one of my alts. As I played through it, I made a quick note of every single pull I had to fight, how many and what types of mobs it contained (weak or higher) and whether anything else about it was notable (for example a named gold mob having a unique ability instead of just standard attacks).
Then I loaded up my lowbie trooper on Ebon Hawk, went to Taris and started comparing.
My first theory after looking at my chapter ten notes was that maybe KotFE featured too many weak mobs - nearly ninety percent of all enemies in the chapter were weak. However, while running around the first area on Taris that theory seemed to go out the window quite quickly, because outside of the one heroic area that I entered, almost all the mobs I encountered were also weak. I didn't keep a detailed counter on that occasion but I think I met one silver droid, two or three strong scavengers and not a single elite.
Then I thought that maybe it was all the additional spawns you get in KotFE, with skytroopers frequently launching themselves into the room from above or below, but while there is definitely a lot more of that in KotFE than there used to be, the concept is also already present on lowbie planets like Taris, with extra rakghouls bursting out of the ground and such. That theory didn't quite hold up either.
However, the one thing that struck me right away was how much more free I felt on my lowbie Commando. I was travelling all around the first part of the map on my own terms, doing bonus missions, going after the local datacron etc. but even if all of it had somehow been mandatory, I could have done things in any order and approached enemies from any angle.
On my agent (who was the one I was doing KotFE chapter ten on) however, I was always confined to a narrow path that I had to follow, even as the story officially took me all over Zakuul's underworld. There was no wide and open map to explore, and no side missions to maybe go down a different path for a while. Oh, and almost every single mob pull was unavoidable. I did try to start most fights in stealth, but on many occasions I would simply be put into combat as soon as I entered the area, and some mobs would even charge all the way across the room and smack me in the face while I was in stealth. It was supremely annoying.
At the end of my little study, both my agent and my Commando had killed about 150 mobs each. But while my lowbie had pursued a wide number of objectives, including bonuses, in an open area that allowed her to pick and choose her engagements (fun!), my agent had basically been running down a tunnel, forced to mow down everything in her way, all in pursuit of a single mission objective. Remember how we used to rail against bonuses that required you to kill 40 of a local mob or something similar? Well, then it's hardly a surprise that going through three times as many mandatory kills in a single storyline is annoying as hell, especially if they are always coming at you as soon as you enter the room, giving you no choice in terms of attack vector.
My advice to Bioware to reduce this annoyance in the next couple of upcoming chapters would be as follows:
1) Keep an eye on the overall mob count. Asking people to kill 150 mobs over the course of a single chapter is just too much for that amount of story content.
2) If you want people to kill things, be honest about it and make it the actual objective. Or at least a bonus! Whatever happened to those? You're not cleverly stretching the content out by asking your players to go to the end of a long, narrow tunnel and then filling said tunnel with unavoidable mob pulls. It's just annoying.
3) While I understand that a storyline in the style of KotFE encourages a certain amount of railroading, it's OK to make the environments a little more open, allowing players to skip a pull or two if they are careful. Note how none of the chapters in the swamp are nearly as annoying in terms of combat for example.
4) Ease up on the "forced" combat, with things spawning in and aggroing on you the moment you arrive, even if you are in stealth. There is a place for defensive scenarios like that, but it shouldn't be the standard. You're just robbing your players of their opportunity to actually decide how to tackle the combat themselves.
(That said, I'm definitely also still game for getting another properly wide-open planet, with side missions and everything, but I'm not holding my breath for that right now.)