24/07/2019

To Skip or Not To Skip?

Several bloggers I'm following have been talking about Final Fantasy XIV recently, not least because it just got a new expansion. However, the game being what it is, several of those bloggers haven't actually been able to talk about the expansion yet, because they are still in the process of getting through all the prerequisite quests first, something that can only be bypassed with a cash shop purchase, and even that is a relatively recent addition from what I gather (previously there was just no way around it, period).

From this post on Time to Loot I learned that the community even has a name for the long chain of quests that players have to complete to even get access to the very first expansion: they call them "the Horrible Hundred". Bhagpuss then used this as a jumping-off point for a post of his own on when focusing on the journey instead of the destination might not be sound advice.

I've previously written about how I'm kind of glad that SWTOR is not as dogmatic when it comes to story progression, despite of the game's self-professed focus on narrative. That said, reading this whole discussion, especially Bhag's comment on Naithin's post - in which he asked whether the latter would actually be happy to skip all that content if it was a gameplay option - really made me think.

As much I've moaned in the past about KotFE and KotET in particular feeling like a bit of a drag (though actually, I already complained about Shadow of Revan and Ziost before that), I have not made use of the option to skip either so far.


I keep thinking about it, but the thing is that there are choices to be made in those expansions, and I don't like the idea of simply being saddled with one of the two default sets of options. It doesn't matter if those things never come up again afterwards; I would know! I've sometimes seen people clamour for a tool similar to Dragon Age Keep, which would allow you to lock in custom decisions even while skipping the content, but I doubt that Bioware would consider creating such a thing a good use of their time and money.

The thing is, even if we did have that option, I'm still not sure I'd want to use it. Even though replaying the exact same linear story over and over annoys me, there are moments when I find myself engaging with parts of it on a roleplayer's level, even when it's my umpteenth time through - usually because I hadn't thought about how that particular character would feel in that particular situation considering her background... which can then cause me to make somewhat different choices than I would have made if you'd simply asked me to fill out a scorecard beforehand.

On the other hand, there are the problems that make KotFE and KotET in particular - and to a lesser extent also the Iokath/traitor arc - such a nuisance to replay:

- It's not just the linearity and one-size-fits-all format of the story, but that it is so all-encompassing. Makeb and Rise of the Hutt Cartel are also linear stories, but they are independent from each other and you can do them out of order if you so wish. When you start KotFE though, the game demands that you must have finished all the "important" storylines before it, and if you haven't they will be auto-completed for you, with no option to ever go back.

- For all the complaining a certain section of the player base did about lack of content during KotFE, I've found it striking just how long each chapter is compared to the average quest line in the base game. A single planet's worth of class story is generally shorter than a chapter, with the latter clocking in at about 45-60 minutes each if you watch all the cut scenes, and still at least half of that if you were to space-bar your way through.

This is a problem in so far as chapters make it much more awkward to pause at a random point and come back later. Your overall progress will be saved, but if you exit the phase even briefly while not at a dedicated "check point", all the mobs after that will respawn. I've cleared Odessen of Zakuulan troops in "End Times" more often than I'm happy to admit, simply due to exiting the chapter at a bad time and then finding that I had to do huge chunks of combat all over again.

I'm not certain that solo flashpoints are any better either. I haven't tested it, but I would expect them to give a bit more leeway when it comes to not respawning all the trash if you leave for five minutes, but they probably won't save your overall story progress if you need to abandon it halfway through to come back another day. Either way, the end result is that both solo flashpoints and chapters make you feel like you always need to be willing to commit a larger chunk of time to playing in order to make any progress.

- Finally, all of this is made even worse by the fact that some chapters are very closely tied together and affect your gameplay outside of the main storyline. Mainly I'm thinking of how starting KotFE gets rid of all of your companions, and you don't get any new ones until chapter three, and nothing like a proper full roster until chapter nine. For that reason I never start KotFE unless I'm willing and able to burn through the first few chapters in a single session.

So for all these reasons KotFE and KotET are a bit of a nuisance in the narrative progression of one's character, and I know quite a few people who have used the option to skip this content quite liberally. For me however, the roleplaying considerations I mentioned earlier in this post weigh against that, and so far they've still won out every time.

I do think that there's a chance that my attitude might start to shift over time though, as Bioware keeps adding more and more "post-Knights" content, because the more of it there is, the more I'll feel the urge to actually get to all that content. In addition, the more the adventures of Arcann and Co. retreat into the distant past and become irrelevant, the less strongly I expect to feel about "having" to go through them for my character arc to feel complete.

9 comments :

  1. I'll say it loud and clear: I've zero problems skipping KotFE and KotET. :P

    If my count (that's why you have a blog, I would've never remembered) is correct, I have 10 Level 70s, 5 of them CL 300. I did KotET and KotFE once per side and then I started a 3rd run but never finished it and I've no regrets. Except that I rushed a few chapters on that third because a certain someone pressured me into getting to the Star Fortress part and once I was there had stopped playing. :P And then I also didn't continue there.

    But of course I've played sooo much less than you did, so maybe I would've a) put up more of a bond with some chars and felt I wanted to complete it and b) would've wanted something to do more often.

    But overall. It was nice to see once per side, but I especially hated losing some of my companions and only getting worse replacements (fight me). Also the alliances rep grind (even though it's easy)...

    On the other hand I think I did Makeb on 8-9 of the 10. Arrr, pirates! :)

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  2. I think there's a difference between skips in FFXIV and SWTOR. FFXIV strongly encourages only a single character, since you can be all classes on that character. Thus if you do skip, it is likely you will never see that story. Thus skips in FFXIV cut against the shared experience of the playerbase. I think that is detrimental.

    Meanwhile, in SWTOR, I imagine that everyone has done most of the stories on at least one character, and skips are mainly aimed at people who don't want to repeat content on an alt. Or if they skip content on their first character, it's probable that they will make an alt eventually.

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    1. How exactly would it affect other players if someone had skipped part of the story? Not saying you're wrong, but it seems far from an obvious conclusion, so I would love to see you elaborate on that.

      And while I have no doubt that most people using the skip options in SWTOR nowadays are altoholics, when Bioware first introduced insta-level 60s (or was it 65s?), this was firmly targeted at new and returning players to get them to check out the new content advertised in the shiny CGI trailers, so I'm sure there's a market for that too. Not to mention that you'd have to level alts of all 8 classes to get even close to seeing most of the story, which I doubt the majority of players actually does.

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  3. The "hearts and minds" mission that went live with 10.3 plays has worse outcomes if you haven't bothered to do alliance alerts. Since I can't stomach having "worse outcomes", I might as well toss in the chapters too, since it really doesn't take that long to run through them.

    Skipping would only be an option if they auto completed alerts and allowed us to set our choices. It's kind of odd that they went with factions for the default choices rather than just looking at your light/dark meter. Another option would be to look at what "side" your on for dark/light.

    Instead my light V bounty hunter would immediately start kicking all the puppies and burning down all the orphanages!

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    1. What "worse outcomes" are there? I only noticed e.g. that Paxton Rall gets a mention if you recruited him, but if you haven't the situation doesn't seem any worse for it.

      Agree that the default choices being purely based on faction is very unsatisfying (even if most Imps are evil :P).

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    2. Also your freight captains get guarded by Mandalorians if you have Shae Vizla.

      Of course, those two alerts are subscriber rewards, so maybe that's the trick instead of doing all of them.

      Would actually be pretty shady of Bioware to punish people now for not subscribing back then.

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    3. I don't really see the "punishment" though. That's like one, two extra lines spoken by an NPC? And from what I remember there's no indication of your forces being somehow worse off if you don't have either of those two.

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    4. In an earlier Bioware game called Mass Effect 2, the end mission was a "suicide mission" against a technologically superior foe. In that game your also a Commander, Commander Shepard. Commander Shepard is building his own small time alliance to take on this mission.

      In fact the results of the last mission could vary wildly depending on how many people you recruit, whether you did "optional" side missions with your recruits, and whether you upgrade your ship.

      I recruited ALL the team members, bought ALL the upgrades and did ALL the side missions before launching the "suicide mission". If you play Mass Effect 2 that way you can beat the mission with no casualties. Now that I know how to "win", I can't play Mass Effect 2 any other way.

      Will our alliance ever get a litmus test the same way Shepard's team did? I don't know, but until I do, I'm going to build my alliance as hardcore as Shepard's team, just in case!

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    5. I've heard about that, but I don't think anything like that is ever going to happen with the Alliance in SWTOR. :)

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