Legacy of the Sith launched this week and there is a lot to discuss, but I’ll try to break it down, but I am going to chop this overview into two posts. So let’s get the spicy parts out of the way first.
The big question at the heart of discussions I’ve had this week is this: Does Legacy of the Sith feel like a proper expansion? For a lot of people the answer is no. The story content, by far the game’s central feature, is the shortest of all of SWTOR‘s expansions. Both Fallen Empire expansions launched with six chapters each, Onslaught debuted with stories on Onderon, Mek Sha and a concluding flashpoint on Corellia. Legacy of the Sith comes with a single planetary arc on Manaan and a flashpoint on Elom to continue the Darth Malgus story. Compounding the issue is that some of Legacy’s launch content has been pushed to the next update even after 7.0 itself was delayed.
SWTOR does not charge extra for expansions, so to some extent the question of whether Legacy of the Sith feels like a true “expansion” is a semantic one. For bettor or worse, calling Legacy an expansion and not “Game Update 6.4” definitely attracts additional attention and anticipation that can be tricky to live up to. When push comes to shove, the scope of Legacy’s story content simply does not compare to previous expansions. And for players who care about story, and I include myself in that group, it’s fair to wish that there were more to play. But I can’t ignore the other features that have come with 7.0, even if the aren’t as literally dramatic.
Combat Styles and Loadouts
Legacy’s most significant new feature outside the story is, of course, Combat Styles. Combat Styles allow players to adopt the play styles of other classes and specializations even across the faction divide. To me, this is a very fun feature indeed. For a long time, the character I play for story has been different from the character I play in group content. Combat Styles allow me to focus on my favorite main character, regardless of whether I’m checking out the story or running an operation with friends.
But if you’re happy with your character and play style, this may be a feature you never interact with, regardless of how complex it was to implement in the game.
Combat Styles also come with the most significant class updates in SWTOR’s history. Class changes are always fraught for players. Logging on a not recognizing your character after an expansion is one of the worst feelings in MMOs, and certainly one I recognize from my time in the World of Warcraft. But as far as I can tell, my characters still play mostly like they did last week.
After 10 years, I think it’s fair to say that SWTOR’s classes got a little complicated. I used to be able to keep everything I needed on a pair of action bars with room left over for a medpack or a on-use relic. During Onslaught, I was lucky if I could fit everything into three. I’m honestly glad to see things get pared down. I’m not quite back to needing just two action bars, but I am close.
I don’t think more buttons makes the experience of playing the game more fun. Many of the abilities added over the years felt redundant or were simply extra things to keep track of during a fight without making combat more visually or rotationally interesting. Now, players willing to interact with the updated skill trees will find they can enhance their abilities in new ways. There are some new buttons, but many of the most interesting choices in the skill trees cause old abilities to function a little differently, often enhancing our ability to heal or attack a single target or groups of enemies.
Many of the abilities added in previous expansions are still options in the skill trees, but players might not be able to add everything to their repertoire that they want. The focus of this cull has been on defensive abilities, which even the most jaded player must admit have gotten out of hand over the last couple of expansions. We all love to cheese mechanics, but all that cheddar was starting to trivialize some encounters and cause significant class imbalances.
In my opinion, for most classes, the paring down of skills hasn’t been a big deal since the available options make it clear which are useful in one type of encounter, and which are a better choice for another. This isn’t quite true for all classes, however. Juggernaut and Guardians and Commandos and Mercenaries have to make a tough choice between abilities that had become popular parts of both classes’ tool kits. I feel for those players, and I agree with the notion that being forced to opt out of at least one skill that had come to be integral to their play doesn’t feel great.
LotS or Less?
I don’t think SWTOR’s user interface has aged well, and is rooted in a style well over a decade old, so I fully understand the desire to spruce it up. Over the past couple of years Bioware has updated parts of the UI, and the 7.0 changes are meant to make it more responsive with a cleaner, modern aesthetic. I am mostly fine with the new look, but it does clash with the older UI elements that are still in play, suggesting that this upgrade project is ongoing. And that’s basically the rub. Legacy of the Sith can come across less like a finished product than a work in progress.
The unfinished aspect of Legacy that stings me the most is the lack of weapons in the Outfit Designer. Right now, the gear we are collecting does not have removable mods. Since we’re at the start of the fresh gearing cycle, this doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to mod gear I’m just going to replace anyway, and thanks to the Outfit Designer its appearance doesn’t matter either. However, the weapons are we earn at level 80 also do not have removable mods, so to remain current we must use those weapons.
Jokes about Space Barbie aside, I’ve rarely if ever met anyone who doesn’t care how their characters look. We all want our avatars to look cool or ridiculous or bad-ass or sexy or funny. A big part of that are the weapons we choose to wield, whether they’re beloved quest rewards, hard won trophies from operations or PVP or even just a swanky prize bought from the GTN.
I understand that integrating weapons into the Outfit Designer comes with extra layers of complications that armor sets lack, but it truly sucks that for the first time since launch, we will have no say in what lightsabers and blasters we use. I also know it is expected that weapons will be included in the designer in the next major update, but I cannot defend the decision to force non-modable weapons on us until then.
So where do I land on all this? To be honest, I had a feeling that 7.0’s story content would be about the scope that we got, so I am not disappointed. I truly enjoyed Manaan and thought the events on Elom were thrilling. Do I want more? I always want more! I hope Legacy of the Sith kicks into high gear in the coming months. There are epic narratives circling around the galaxy, and I want to see where they go in as full and exciting ways as possible.
I am also very happy that I get to play my favorite character in a new role. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new skill tree choices work, and that Loadouts let me quickly swap skills and roles at the click of a button is pretty darn cool.
The good folks at Bioware have said that they want SWTOR’s tenth year to be an anniversary to remember. So I intend to hold them to that, and I hope they succeed!
Next week, come back for part two of my first impressions of Legacy of the Sith, in which I discuss the fantastically impressive cinematic Disorder, the events in the flashpoint The Ruins of Nul, and what it might mean for the past and future of SWTOR. There will be significantly less hand-wringing, I promise. I can’t say the same about potential flights of fanciful speculation.