SWTOR: This IS the game you’re looking for
Dark Side: Despite cosmetic differences, the play style of light and dark side counterparts is identical. This means that, although you may be interested to see how the story plays out for your counterpart, you will find yourself bored and frustrated having to level what amounts to an identical character. Also, upper level missions, groups, and Flashpoints are all heavily biased against close-quarters melee classes. Enemies frequently run across the screen, and you will be laboring to keep up. Guild Flashpoints of 16 players rarely include more than three close-quarters specialist, meaning Star Wars: The Old Republic is oddly bereft of actual Jedi and Sith.
Light Side: PvP is a constant good-natured contest, never dominated by a single class or spec for long. It yields serious dividends right from the start, so it’s frequently engaged in by means of a convenient application on your HUD. There are however no penalties for abstaining.
Dark Side: Admittedly you will find yourself lonely once you reach cap level if you don’t like group activities. That is, after all, the point of an MMO.
Light Side: The pet system is possibly the most innovative, engaging, and just plain fun concept I’ve seen implemented in an MMORPG before. As your story progresses, you find yourself enlisting the aid of NPC Companions. Each Companion accompanies you wherever you go, fights alongside you, and levels too. You upgrade their equipment as you go, just as you do yours, so each Companion you gain is able to fulfill a role in your party. This way, you’re rarely ever caught alone or flatfooted. These Companions have their own opinions, and based on how you react in conversations they will increase or decrease in affection points, which dictate just how hard they’re willing to fight for you. Also, and this is possibly the most genius bit here, they’re the ones who do tradeskills, not you. Each can be trained in three skills, normally two collecting and one crafting. And while you can collect materials for crafting as you go, you can send your Companions on collection missions whenever you feel like it. They’re gone for a few minutes, and when they return they may or may not be laden with goodies. Add to that the fact that they will go sell your vendor trash for you while you’re stuck out in the middle of the wilderness and they’re a dream come true. Other MMOs should seriously sit up and take notice.
Dark Side: None. It’s too freaking awesome for a dark side here.
Light Side: Each class has its own dedicated storyline which guides you from lowly noob to a god of Flashpoints (Group Instances) and PvP. These stories really help put you into the game, and succeed in helping get over the interminable grind of kill-this, return this, deliver this, lather, rinse, repeat.
Dark Side: Because each class has its own storyline, it’s not really possible to add new character classes, add new story missions, or do much more than add optional missions and top-end Flashpoints to enrich game experience. Zarex said, “SWTOR’s been in beta since day one. They spent a fortune on development, but they rushed it to meet their deadlines.” To that end, while you go through eight hours of patches, you’re not doing much more than adding to the cosmetics of the game. There have been no major additions or alterations to gameplay since SWTOR’s inception, and that stagnation is beginning to affect their player population. Zarex, and indeed much of A Wretched Hive, are very unhappy with changes that EA is forcing. They’ve recently consolidated their servers, and if you and your guild were on a server which no longer exists, you’re name has been deleted so you have to pick another one. Also, the ever-present danger than the Legacy system will begin to add usable gear is rearing its ugly head. MMO players who have been with SWTOR from the start (the loyal fanbase) are not adverse to new players joining on free trials or other gimmicks, but they take pride in their achievements. They have spent countless hours raiding Flashpoints and accumulating faction in PvP in order to be able to wear the best gear and carry the best titles. If a new player can log on, plunk down some cash, and be upgraded to the same level, the same gear, and the same accolades, it does the loyal players a terrible insult. And of those experienced players I interviewed, all of them will cancel their subscriptions instantly if EA does them this insult.