26/09/2017

Shadow of Revan is Overrated

Clickbait title? Thanks to Pfannenstiel for the post idea in any case.

There is a new SWTOR podcast in town which I have yet to add to my sidebar, called The Council, and last week a Twitter poll of theirs made the rounds asking people about their favourite SWTOR expansion. I added my own vote and looked at the results, unsurprised that I wasn't part of the relative majority, and moved on without giving it any more thought.

However, this morning I found that Pfanne had written a whole post about it, detailing why he agreed strongly with the most popular choice and still considers Shadow of Revan the best expansion to date. This in turn made me want to write a post about why I strongly disagree and actually consider Shadow of Revan the worst expansion to date. Hurrah for blogger cross-fertilisation!

Now, saying that I think Shadow of Revan was SWTOR's worst expansion so far probably sounds worse than it is, because while I love to criticise and pick apart absolutely everything, I personally don't think that the game has had any truly poor expansions. I just think that all the others were better, even if Rishi is a gorgeous planet and I enjoyed the little class story epilogues that SoR gave us.


Post-launch support matters

First off, a good expansion - to me - is about more than a checklist of its launch day features. What is being done to keep things interesting afterwards? Is there ongoing support in the form of large patches and new content releases?

My own pick for best expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, was an absolute star in this regard, but because it didn't tie everything together into a single coherent narrative, people like to forget that all those patches were actually still part of the RotHC content cycle. Someone in the Twitter conversation even wanted to call Oricon an expansion due to its sheer size, and that was just one of those 2.x patches. Others included CZ-198 and the three Forged Alliances flashpoints - another piece of content that people wrongly associate with another expansion (SoR), even though it was actually released months beforehand and only had the "Prelude to Shadow of Revan" label attached to it afterwards. I even joked back then that the patches were coming out faster than I could keep track of them, which is a problem I haven't had in a long time.

In comparison, Shadow of Revan's post-release scene was an absolute wasteland. I even went back to check the patch notes on the official website to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, but it was actually the opposite: the patch notes only underlined how little there was going on during that time. For example the patch notes for 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 all made "Bounty Contract Week Returns!" one of the "highlights" because they just had nothing else to talk about. There was Ziost, and that was pretty much it. Three numbered patches for ten months of expansion time, and only one of those actually added a significant amount of new content. And to think that people accused KotFE with its near-monthly cadence of chapter and Alliance alert releases of having no content.

Hurting group play for poor solo features

At launch I only marked it as an "odd choice" that Shadow of Revan forced you into solo instances over and over again, but I actually became quite peeved once I realised that this was now the new normal. In hindsight I can see why they did it - because they wanted you to be able to smooch Theron or Lana in peace, but I still think that this was a piss-poor excuse to ruin the fun of people who were trying to level with their friends. I didn't actually mind the forced solo nature of KotFE and KotET as much because at least those expansions gave me the feeling that my character was driving the story to some extent and making choices that made a difference. If you've ever felt that KotFE and KotET's choices "didn't really matter", go back to Shadow of Revan and Ziost and tell me what great decisions your character got to make in that content. I'll wait. Makeb didn't have very exciting choices either, but at least you could play through the whole thing seamlessly with a group. SoR just combined the worst of both worlds.

It also introduced solo modes to flashpoints with that stupid GSI droid. I don't much mind giving people the ability to solo the content, but the all-powerful droid was a poor band-aid that made for incredibly boring gameplay. Crisis on Umbara is a good example of how you can make a good solo mode in my opinion.

Lack of quality control

Every patch has its bugs, but for some reason SoR sticks out in my memory as buggier than most. Maybe it wasn't - I don't have a handy list to consult for this as I have with the patch notes - but did any other expansion launch with the final part of its main story hopelessly bugged out? I seem to remember that the solo Revan fight was totally impossible to complete solo for something like a week? And of course, once it had been fixed, it was still a terribly scripted and annoying encounter that we were supposed to repeat weekly. I also remember Rishi and Yavin IV being lag hell for weeks, to the point that people said they were quitting because the game was as good as unplayable anyway.

People also like to cite that SoR launched with no less than two operations and two flashpoints, but the problem is that they really weren't that great! Blood Hunt was OK I guess, making a splash by featuring Shae Vizla in game for the first time, but Battle of Rishi was very bland and loveless. The operations were also full of bugs (there was that Coratanni exploit, the main SoR quest line not advancing after ToS completion, the infamous Underlurker remaining totally unpredictable for months) and poorly tuned. I remember Temple of Sacrifice was the first ever operation where I walked out after our first clear and instead of thinking "Wow, that was fun!" I just felt tired and worn out. I had in fact planned to record a video of our first run-through, expecting it to be a laugh, but ended up deleting all the footage because people just ended up getting tired and grumpy. It left such a bad first impression on me that I'd probably rank Ravagers and ToS as my least favourite operations to this day.

Things I Like

I'd personally rank Rise of the Hutt Cartel as my favourite expansion because I liked the game as it was at launch, and without claiming that it was perfect, the 2.x content cycle expanded the base game in a lot of ways that stayed true to the aspects I liked, even if more class and companion stories weren't in the cards at the time.

Knights of the Fallen Empire had issues with the lack of new group content and made levelling a tad too easy for my liking, but I loved the introduction of level sync as a general concept and got hours of fun out of the re-tuned group content. I dare say that my guild actually did better for itself during that time than it did in SoR. KotFE also introduced my favourite warzone of all time - no, I'm not being sarcastic. And I did enjoy getting a new story update every month, not going to lie, which means that KotFE firmly wins out over SoR in the raw fun department for me.

As for KotET - well, I'd say the jury is still out on that one! I think it was off to a strong start with the chapters, uprisings and the promise of a new operation, but Iokath was a bit of a mixed bag and it feels like updates have slowed down quite a bit over the past few months. Still, as I said above, I try to judge an expansion in its entirety, and KotET still has plenty of time left to throw out some more interesting patches.

15 comments :

  1. Deine Gedankengänge sind wie immer sehr interessant. Dein Standpunkt kommt immer klar und deutlich rüber.

    Ein Mitglied meiner Gilde würde Dir stark widersprechen, weil .... Revan...es ist und bleibt Revan...nichts ist besser als Revan. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ich bin sicher, dass dein Gildenmitglied mit diesem Standpunkt nicht alleine ist! Aber für mich, ohne den KOTOR-Hintergrund, war er nur einer von vielen NPCs. :)

      Trotzdem mochte ich die Story an sich, nur fand ich die im Post erwähnten technischen Änderungen sehr störend bzw. finde ich es Schade, dass es danach immer nur noch eine Storyline für beide Fraktionen gab.

      Delete
  2. I always struggle to pick my favorite expansion in SWTOR.

    What I liked about SoR was the fact that the story was not completely identical for the 2 factions. In terms of story and choices, it was controversial for me. As you said - no valuable player choices to be made, but the overall quality of the story (especially the 2nd part on yavin 4) was better than KOTFE and KOTET put together.

    You mentioned the crap support at that time. that added a very negative feeling to the expansion. I too feel that it was the worst moment in terms of support for the game with the impossible lag not only on the 2 new worlds, but on the origin planets too. And the colossal mistake they did to leave the Ravagers exploit for the Christmas Holidays without a fix.

    Overall, I disliked KOTFE and KOTET, because the story didn't fit the non-force users as well as it should have and the total focus on single player experience forced the dev team to completely ignore any and all group aspects and forget that EndGame is what matters most in an MMO.

    Now, while this may sound all bad, I do want to point out that I have enjoyed all of SWTOR's expansions and have invested a ton of time to get to every corner of each planet, do every mission and hear every dialogue option... All expansions without GSF. That grind-fest just didn't taste fun to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you really think SoR's story was that good? I mean, I liked it well enough, but it still felt more like a solid planetary arc than a personal story continuiation to me. Also, at least the part on Ziost didn't make sense for non-Force users either. (Yes! You, puny smuggler, have the Emperor's attention because you are such a dangerous individual!)

      Delete
    2. I never liked any of the additional stories. The origin ones were all great and quality with each expansion is going down. I am a fan of Revan and even though Land and Theron almost ruined the fun (by being, as it was said already) all the time in my face, I did like the Yavin 4 part a lot. More than the KOTFE and KOTET stories. I think it's the damned "Outlander" title that rubbed me in the wrong places from the very beginning and I still cannot shake out of that bad feeling. I hated being called an Outlander, even long after I had left the planet, where I truly was THE outlander.

      Delete
  3. I think the thing that stands out most to me about 3.0 in general is just how small it is. It had barely lasted half-a-year by the time 4.0 was announced, and it had given us a pitiful amount of content in the interim. Indeed, it feels like they're trying to pass off the Forged Alliances Flashpoints as actual 3.0 content by lumping them all under the banner of "SoR: Prelude", and that just doesn't feel right at all.

    Plus, as someone who hates when characters become over-exposed, 3.0 was the origin of my pure hatred for Lana and Theron, because you just couldn't escape them...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's strange to think back to how innocently Lana and Theron's introduction started out. I thought they were just going to guide us through that story arc (and liked them under that assumption) but I never would have predicted that we'd end up anywhere near where we are now...

      Delete
  4. I guess you and me are some of the few people who loved the game at launch. I still prefer to play in the original zones, mainly because of all the attention to detail on the class stories.

    But yeah, I prefer Rise of the Hutt Cartel too, but that's mainly due to its classic expac feel. Another big plus was the uniqueness to the stories on each faction, whereas Shadow of Revan began the merging of the separate storylines into one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My vote went to the SoR. I haven't played Makeb in a long time because when leveling a new toon I always avoid it.
    My issues with Makeb at launch were the mob density and the map design. The trash was packed in too tightly and getting around took you through choke points which meant fighting constantly to get to where you wanted to go. This was before the game became super easy. My other issue was with the number of trees and canyons and other environment assets that would cause my camera to zoom in and out when turning. I used to get motion sickness in games and Makeb with it's low frame rate and erratic camera would trigger it for me.

    In general though I've enjoyed all the expansions even though each one is flawed to some degree. I just wish that everything was a more coherent whole. Makeb feels more like a standalone spinoff series as does Czerka. KotFE/KoTET feel like a different game completely.

    Going forward I just hope the quality improves both in terms of being less buggy as well as actual design and writing. For me the Odessan PVP map, Iokath story and Umbara FP are all pretty bad designs poorly executed.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't disagree with any of your comments about Makeb actually... but ultimately that ended up accounting only for a relatively small part of Rise of the Hutt Cartel's content.

      Shame that you haven't been enjoying any of the newer releases. I think the Odessen Proving Grounds are excellent, and Umbara is a step up from their more recent flashpoints. They just need to fix that buggy bonus boss.

      Delete
    2. Reasons why Odessen is bad imho.
      1) It's not intuitive.
      2) It requires a lot of running around. Even if you want to ignore the objectives and just kill stuff.
      3) With it being mostly inside you can't see much of the battle field and need to rely more on the map to have any idea of what's going on.
      4) The key to winning is using the power ups correctly and avoid actual fighting. It's supposed to be PvP but if you're fighting there's a good chance you're doing something wrong.
      5) If you solo defend a node, you're stuck there until the end of the round. Other game modes the defender has the option to risk leaving it unguarded.

      If the map was smaller and open it would be much better. Have the same format on either Huttball map and I might actually like it.

      As for the Umbara flashpoint my main issue is the train. To render the moving terrain my fps drops by 50% and my abilities become unresponsive and laggy. They know they have a poor game engine but still chose to push the visuals at the expense of playability. Add in the dev troll respawn point in the middle of a large trash pull and the maze of trash to avoid if you join an in-progress group, both are very annoying.
      The fights are fun and I like the challenge of it but design choices were made that I think were poor.

      I guess my real point is that the content they are able to produce given budget constraints etc. could be better than it is. Their design philosophy is more "that sounds cool" rather than "that sounds like fun"

      Delete
    3. Just because I love Odessen so much and feel the need to defend it... :)

      1) I don't disagree with the basic point and agree that this makes it harder for new players to understand what's going on, but at the end of the day something doesn't have to be intuitive to be fun. Many great forms of entertainment have a learning curve.
      2) I see that as a positive because you never get stuck just guarding one point for the whole match. Every round is a new opportunity.
      3) Another positive in my eyes. It makes it refreshingly different from all the other warzones and makes it more of a challenge to predict enemy movements. It also means that you can perform a certain degree of ambush tactics even without being a stealth class.
      4) PvP isn't just about killing the enemy or we wouldn't need anything but arenas. I find it very enjoyable to beat an enemy by playing smarter than them. :) There was no other warzone to truly fill that niche before Odessen.
      5) That's a bit of a contradiction to your point 2 - with how short the rounds are, you'll never be "stuck" for long.

      I'm sorry to hear about your lag issues on the train - I have heard other people complain about it but have honestly experienced zero problems myself. I also don't think it's fair to expect an MMO to never try to push its graphics further. I remember when I started lagging horribly in WoW after that had its second expansion... I saw that as a cue to get a better PC though instead of blaming Blizzard for reducing playability.

      The respawn point inside the trash pull is stupid, I agree (see my latest video), but I'm hoping that's simply a mistake that they'll fix in the near future.

      Delete
  6. For me the big thing that SoR had over other expansions was replayability. It was fun to play through the prelude series and get a decent armor upgrade with a unique look (even if many of them were a bit goofy). By the end of Yavin IV, you had a pretty solid set of gear upgrades just from playing through the story. It was also fun kitting all your companions out in really solid gear sets customized for them.

    I took all 8 classes through SoR, and most of them are untouched since then. I played through the KoTFE / KoTETE twice and I was done.

    SoR did feel odd in places on a non force user, but at least there were story bits and gear sets designed with each class in mind. The entire "everyone thinks you're a pirate" story line actually also made more sense on a non-jedi then on a force user.

    KotFE, on the other hand, felt utterly contrived on a non-forces user (I am making a magic gun using force powers I don't have..after listening to a bunch of lectures about the force. . .hurray?). Making it pointless to have a variety of companions while simultaneously handing out tons of them was also an odd choice. Finally, Galactic Command absolutely murdered any inclination I had to play alts in the end game. I feel like there is a pretty fun game up until the end of the SoR content that becomes some other game in the same franchise I don't like nearly as much from KoTFE on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to disagree with some of your points there. I did love the little snippets of class story in SoR, but aside from those it also felt very repetitive. I even wrote a blog post about how I couldn't bear to play through it on yet another alt back when it was current. And I don't remember the gear rewards from those missions ever being any good; I think vendored them on every single one of my characters.

      KotFE also had at least some individual chapters that were clearly made with other classes in mind, e.g. 13 being a smuggler adventure and 14 being a nod to the bounty hunter's Mandalorian connections.

      Are you currently playing or are you a lapsed player? Just wondering since they improved Galactic Command a lot since its initial iteration.

      Delete
    2. A large part of my fun with SoR was doing new class stories in between many of my runs. When SoR launched I had still only seen about half of them, so I'm sure that colored my impression.

      If you played through a class story and went right into the SoR prelude series it was a nice steady trickle of upgrades ending with the token gear at the end of the Yavin IV and later Ziost. You could certainly craft or earn better gear, and I generally did craft myself top end weapons as soon as I could equip them.

      I played up until last summer. Iokath was the last content I played through. Even by that time GC had been improved considerably, but my interest had already waned too much.

      I follow this blog and a few other SWToR sites to keep up with the game. I subbed to the game from launch until a few months ago, so I certainly got plenty of entertainment from it. Once enough new content has built up I'll likely sub again for a bit to see it. However, I have no interest in taking multiple alts through either the last two expansions or the GC system.

      Delete