Why Star Wars The Old Republic Is Bad For Role Players

A lot of words have been written about SWTOR lately.

The impression I get is that these words have been mostly positive about Star Wars The Old Republic. And, to a certain extent, this is rightfully so. SWTOR is actually a pretty decent game.

I was given the opportunity over the weekend to participate in the final stress test for the game, and spent the greater portion of the weekend doing so. While I enjoyed my time playing it, despite some fairly annoying bugs, I’ve come to the following conclusion about The Old Republic.

It’s good for themepark gamers, bad for role players.

Darkside/Lightside Points

Bioware for some time now in their games have been using a simple alignment system to let players choose to be nasty or nice. This has the effect of altering the game play to some degree by changing the outcomes of some conversations with NPCs, and even altering the path of the game a little, even though the end result is the same.

This works quite nicely in a game like Mass Effect to provide some replayability and allowing different choices on the way through, but whether a player in Mass Effect goes light or dark really has no effect on anything other than romantic choices. But Mass Effect is not a MMORPG.

The big problem here is that Bioware has tied light and darkside gear to this system. If you are playing a darkside Sith or Jedi, when you reach darkside level 1 you can purchase DS1 lightsabres. It’s not clear to me if this equipment is better than what is normally on offer, or awarded from quests, but if it is then this encourages players to choose one path, dark or light, and stick to it.

Why is that a problem, you say.

Well, your choice is removed. If you want to be able to raid later on, you will need the best gear. Even if raiding is not your goal, having decent equipment is still going to be something to be desired.You are going to want to make the ‘right’ choice for your path, not necessarily the right choice for your character.

In other words the current darkside/lightside system encourages min-maxing.

If you are a role player who also wants to be competitive in raiding or grouping, you will have to choose between picking the option that awards the most points or the option that feels right for your character.If you don’t give a care about end-game, sure feel free to make the choices you want.

I did create a character on the weekend that was intended to be unrelentingly evil, and making the dark choices was fun, but even so, the darkside choice didn’t always feel right. That’s why the best bad guys in books, movies, and TV are so interesting, they make interesting choices. The worst bad guys are the ones who bwaa ha ha all the time.

It’s also interesting to note that the Bioware idea of morality was a bit off at times. Some of the light side choices were distinctly on the wrong side of right.

Legacy System

The proposed legacy system dictates that when your character completes the first chapter you choose a unique legacy surname. That is then used for all your future characters on that server.

This build has our first iteration of the Legacy System! At its core the Legacy system is about allowing players to create a family tree of characters. Family is pretty important to the Star Wars universe, with the Skywalker family having one of the most interesting dynamics in movie history. This version is just the foundational components that we will use to build upon in the future. Here are the features of this iteration:

  • Once your character has completed their Chapter 1 storyline, they will be able to choose a Legacy Last Name. This Legacy Last Name must be unique and is shared across all characters on that server – so choose carefully!
  • Once you have unlocked your Legacy, any and all characters on that server will now contribute to that player’s Legacy Experience Points. Much like normal experience points, when you reach certain Legacy thresholds, you will increase yourLegacy Level.

We already have plans for how we will expand the functionality of the Legacy System in one of our major post-ship patches. This will include being able to shape your Legacy’s family tree, and give you a reward for all those Legacy Levels.

I”m not really certain what the purpose is for this. I’ve seen conjecture that it allows characters on a server to share equipment, or provides some kind of bonus, but from the announcement it isn’t really clear.

Once thing is clear though, once you have a legacy name every character on the same server, no matter what species or allegiance shares the same last name. So your Twi’lek Consular, Human Bounty Hunter, and Chiss Sith Warrior will all have the last name. Nope, no logical problems with that at all. After all different species often share the same cultural background that results in the same last names… Hmmm.

This incredible lack of logic does not even take into account that a player might simply want to create a role play character that is not associated with their other characters. It’s odd to me that Bioware, a company that has grown to greatness on the back of encouraging role play in its games, is almost completely disregarding it in SWTOR.

So, if you are a roleplayer, you are pretty much out of luck.


A big part of SWTOR is the companion system. As the player progresses he is awarded companions that he can interact with, do their storyline quests, and even romance. Unfortunately here the role player is also let down.

You see you don’t have a choice.

You are given the companions for your class. You can’t choose from a pool or selection.

Every Sith Warrior is going to run around with that whiney Twi’lek as the first companion. (No wonder I enjoyed shock collaring her so much!) About the best differentiation you can hope for is to change the skin colour.

I remember reading a lot of love for the Jawa companion, Blizz. He’s only available for the Bounty Hunter. So if you love Blizz but can’t stand the BH playstyle, tough. If you want to access Blizz you will have to play a character you don’t like.

Of course you get a choice of which of the companions to take with you on a mission, but even this is limited by your class. A Jedi Knight for example is a tank. A JK player will always take the companion that offers the best support role, a healer for example. Some companions will be useless (does a tank need a tank companion?) Other companions will be indispensible and always chosen.

The same goes for the ship you get. Every character gets a ship which is nice, but the bounty hunter gets one single type of ship while the Jedi Knight gets another.

Now while this doesn’t directly affect a players role playing choices as much as the first two points above, there is an indirect effect in that all players in a class are exactly the same.

No two Jedi are unique. No you are not a precious snowflake in Bioware’s galaxy.


Okay. Made up word.

I guess everything I wrote above boils down into my biggest criticism of Star Wars The Old Republic.

There is very little room for customisation.

From character creation where there is barely any difference in some of the face styles and other choices (why couldn’t my Republic Zabrak have Darth Maul colourings?) to the rewards for light/dark side choices and companion and ship allocations there is very little chance for customisation.

For the most part players will be constrained to playing Star Wars The Old Republic through a fairly narrow and linear corridor.

Themepark players will love this game, as long as they are not roleplayers too. SWTOR is a masterpiece of themepark design, taking the player along on what appears to be a great story. But that’s about where it stops. It’s a very limited game in some respects, perhaps only having long term playability for raiders and those who enjoy battleground style PvP. There’s no sandpit in this themepark.

While the story that I’ve encountered so far is excellent, it is the Bioware story that is being played, not yours.

That’s why I think that SWTOR will be bad for role players.

How about you, what do you think?



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  1. Scopique

    I’m not sure I agree on any of these points. You’re presenting an either/or scenario, which indicates that you as a player have absolutely no say in how YOU play the game. In any MMO, if someone plays according to how the community or the rules dictate he should play, and never deviates from what’s imposed, then sure, your assertions will be on target. But freedom to RP isn’t ever limited by mechanics because RPing is more of a state of mind then it is what the mechanics allow you to do, or limit you to. I’d accept that the BEST RP environment is a sandbox, but if nothing else, players have proven time and again that they can easily skirt the shortcomings of any environment they’re given to make it accept their way of play.

    It’ll come down to priorities and flexibility. If someone is a hardcore roleplayer, then they can create a favored character for that purpose. If they want to go raid or whatever, they can create an alt for that purpose. I’m also not sure I’d discount Bioware’s foresight in forcing a high-end raider Sith to use a Jedi-colored lightsaber, for example (for those for whom that matters).

    On the Legacy system…Well, my last name is “Smith”. My heritage is Irish and French Canadian. “Smith” isn’t unique, nor is it limited to the Irish or the French Canadian. Maybe somewhere in history my family branched, so there’s a Bulgarian “Smith” or a Japanese “Smith” in my family tree…THAT is a roleplayer’s way of looking at it: taking a head scratching situation and warping the possibility to fit.

    On companions, well, as much as we’d like to say we choose our real life friends, the fact is that at one point we didn’t know one another, but we came together due to some circumstance that was really beyond our control; we were in the same place at the same time thanks to some cosmic lottery. Same thing here. That we can’t pick from a pool with historic Bioware freedom is only a problem because of hindsight. Might as well devolve into a discussion on SWTOR vs WoW at that point.

    I agree that there’s mechanical limitations to the game’s choices, and you nailed it: this is a themepark MMO. Despite the fact that Bioware is offering SOME level of choice, they’re hamstrung by the themepark creed: All things to all people; retain the playerbase through replayability; balance the choices. It would be great for them to have gone all out and given people the total freedom of unlimited companion choice or unlimited customization to satisfy min-maxing roleplayers, but the either/or doesn’t need to be the case with a bit of personal choice.

  2. Victor Stillwater

    If I want to play an Imperial Agent with a heart, I can do that. If I want to go “off the rails” of Bioware’s RPG story, I can still do so. Nothing’s stopping me, though it may be more difficult to do so as the capabilities for roleplaying aren’t as robust as other games.

    But then again, you made SWTOR sound like a JRPG. And I LOVE JRPGs. Bring it, I say! 😀

  3. Beleg

    Homogeneity perhaps? :p

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