Having played World of Warcraft off and on (mostly on) for the past seven years, I thought this comparison might be fun. A couple of things to note as I write. My highest level character in The Old Republic is 12 and has only explored as far as Dromund Kaas but this comparison is not going to compare endgame content.
Yes, I realise that Star Wars The Old Republic isn’t actually launched until 20th December (tomorrow, at time of writing) but I’ve had early game access due to pre-ordering.
Questing is questing and irrespective of the game, falls into kill, collect or grind categories. Go fetch ten of these. Kill six of those. Bring me that object and so on. The major difference is that you have to read about it in WoW whereas you’re told what to do in SWTOR.
Now because I can read faster than someone can say the same thing this means that questing is that much faster in World of Warcraft.
The trade off though, is that with the multiple dialogue choices (there are always at least two choices), you become more involved in the story.
SWTOR also offers bonus quests out in the field usually when you kill something. You then get a bonus quest to kill a few more of the same type and when you’re done, the quest auto-completes. The disadvantage with this is that if the area has been cleared of mobs as happens when an area is busy then the quest could be missed.
WoW has something similar with items that drop from mobs that start quests. If the mob has been killed or the item is not a guaranteed drop, then you miss out. It doesn’t really make all that much difference other than from a completeness point of view.
In conclusion neither game has the better method here.
I’m not even going to attempt to compare. WoW’s engine is old and whilst the polygon count of the original models is low compared to the newer Cataclysm models, the original cartoon look and feel has not aged.
SWTORs engine is obviously newer. It has also gone for a non-realistic look which should preventing aging but only time will tell.
When WoW was first launched, I could go from Teldrassil all the way down the Kalimdor continent without a single loading screen. I’d only encounter a loading screen when going across to the Eastern Kingdoms or into an instance.
The same can’t be said of SWTOR. Going from Korriban to the Imperial Fleet gives a loading screen. Going to different levels within the fleet requires a loading screen. From the fleet to Dromund Kaas..argh! You get the idea. I assume there is a technical reason for this but I’m sure it could be handled better.
Warcraft wins this round.
Map, chat window, action bars. These are staples of any MMO. The major difference is that WoW’s default layout with one bar at the bottom that contained the first twelve quick slots as well as all the system stuff such as log, character window, spell book et al was fairly subtle.
SWTOR’s is actually fairly in your face because that’s where the player and target frames are complete with buffs are placed. Furthermore, the system stuff is placed in quite a large bar at the top of the screen.
For some odd reason, the chat is placed in the upper left hand corner which means that it’s quite easy to miss something unless you’re paying attention. Yes, the frame can be moved but not really. Bottom right corner is your pet / companion frame and bottom right is the mini-map.
On the positive side, sidebars are available as is quest tracking, neither of which were available for Warcraft’s launch.
I have no idea if SWTOR’s UI is mod-able or not, but I really hope so.
I’m going to give this round to Warcraft simple because of the more-intrusive UI that SWTOR has.
Warcraft wins this instantly. Why? Because when I roll a mage in Warcraft I know that I’m rolling a mage. A caster DPS class. When I get to level 10 I can then specialise in what type of mage I want to be; arcane, fire or frost. Different schools of magic necessitating slightly different play styles but still I’m playing a ranged caster class. And if I want to switch from Arcane to Frost, I can.
Not so much in SWTOR. In SWTOR you pick a base class which only bears some superficial resemblance to the class choice presented to you at level 10. For example, I started out as a Sith Inquisitor, a lightly armoured class with both melee and ranged skills. At level ten I get the choice of choosing between a melee tank / DPS or caster healer / DPS which necessitate two completely different play styles. Oh, and the choice is irreversible. Once a choice is made then the talent trees are presented. Confusing and unnecessarily complicated to me. You have to know what you want to play in ten levels time and base your base class on that.
The closest WoW ever came to that used to be for hunters who didn’t get a pet until level 10. Or perhaps druids who started out as casters and didn’t get cat form until level 20.
This is what playing games is all about. How much fun are they? Warcraft is a lot of fun and is so varied even with limited play time. Do you want to quest? Levelling? PvP? Do a dungeon or perhaps level one of your professions? Maybe just hang in a capital or go exploring? (Not mentioning achievements because they weren’t in WoW at launch). Warcraft offers so much that it’s the rare player that gets to see it and do it all. Even after seven years, I still haven’t.
Granted, I’ve not being playing SWTOR for that long but that sense of fun is there. Just bringing out my double bladed lightsaber has me grinning like an idiot. As does the sheer sarcasm of some of the responses of my character. And what I said just about WoW? SWTOR has all that, too.
What I’d like to see in WoW that SWTOR has:
Area loot. This feature is a huge win. No more looting every. single. freaking. mob. One click and done.
Lightsabers! Kidding! (mostly).
Less clown like armour. Granted that Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm has done something about this for the later levels, the early levels now need to be looked at. My Inquisitor in SWTOR is only level 12 but already looks pretty cool in items that match and actually look nice.
Actually, that’s about it. Warcraft pretty much has everything in place that I like.
What I’d like to see in SWTOR that WoW has:
A combat log. Seriously, how could this be missed? Fly text is just not the same.
The natural follow on to a combat log is target dummies.
City guards / NPC that point out where places and people of interest are such as banks, auction houses, class and profession trainers and points a waypoint on the minimap to be followed.
Speech bubbles. This actually makes quite a big difference when talking to players in close proximity.
Loot indicators for resources. Trying to find a green biosample on the green ground is not the easiest thing.
Screen shot folder. I could well be doing this wrong, but when I hit Print Screen, I’d like the system to preserve screen shot. Doesn’t seem to be happening.
Transmogrification. Yes, I know that it’s only just come into WoW but re-skinning armour is a very nice perk.
Despite Warcraft winning some of the rounds mentioned above in the end, they matter little. Warcraft has been around for seven years and with Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be running out of steam soon. Furthermore, with that length of time it has been polished and has had so many improvements introduced with free content patches and paid expansions.
Star Wars The old Republic is just starting on its journey and has gotten a lot right and in some aspects has more than WoW did when it was launched. I’d like to see SWTOR follow the same path that Warcraft did with free content patches and paid expansions. It certainly has a lot of potential.
Neither game is better than the other. I could say that I like playing WoW because of one reason and also say that I like playing SWTOR because of a completely different reason. Inevitably though, I (barely) have time for one game so it remains to be seen which one wins out. The older but more familiar fantasy or the younger upstart sci-fi.
Where to find me:
World of Warcraft main: Ashwai, Night Elf Mage. Argent Dawn (EU).
My main used to be Wai, Night Elf Rogue. Argent Dawn (EU). Whilst I still have that character, she’s effectively retired now.
Star Wars The Old Republic main: Wai, Sith Assassin (Inquisitor advanced class). The Progenitor (EU).