It has been a year since Star Wars: The Old Republic’s list of recurring in-game events received an update in the form of Dantooine Pirate Incursion. This week, Bioware has added another event into the list: All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally, that runs until 7th July and then shall return in regular intervals.
The event takes the players back to Dantooine and afterwards to two other worlds: Tatooine and Onderon.
The Good Things
One must first and foremost praise the decision to make something else than just another event where majority of the content revolves around “go there and kill X pirates/rakghouls/what-have-you”. To center the entire thing around swoop racing was a bold move, but it was a step in the right direction.
Swoop racing is effectively a mini-game, but I don’t think that is a problem. Players do not race on their own swoop bikes, but bikes of three specific factions. Another innovation is that you do not receive reputation with the swoopers as a whole, but with each faction separately. To get reputation with the Blatant Beks (an obvious nod to KOTOR’s Hidden Beks), you must complete your courses while causing lots of explosions on the track to please their fans. Horizon’s Razor values speed, and the Pit Screamers want you to show off on your bike, performing acrobatic stunts as you drive.
It was a great idea to further utilise otherwise underused planets (besides Tatooine). Onderon, with its late-story content, is open only to a fraction of players, and Dantooine is essentially empty outside the Pirate event.
What makes the event more than just a minigame pastime is that each of the factions has its own backstory and as you advance in reputation with them, you gain the access to other quests that may take you to completely different planets.
The Bad Things
The swoop racing event unfortunately suffers from some problems first-time events always have. The apparent overcrowding of first days is hardly surprising, as are some bugs that however should get fixed for the event’s next return.
What could be considered problematic is the control of the bike, which starts moving immediately after it’s sat on. Granted, left to its devices, it usually brings the player against an obstacle placed near the starting line probably precisely for this purpose, and the race starts only after the player reaches the starting line. However, all this could have been done more neatly. The current arrangement nearly screams “this was the simplest way to program it without needing to edit the existing framework of the game”.
Actual clumsiness is the way the course objectives are displayed. The players have no chance to check them in peace before the race starts. They are displayed for half a second only the moment the course starts, and from then on, the player has to glance at the objective tracker – something you don’t want to do while in the middle of the track. The fact that objectives could not be displayed after mounting, during the time the bike is on its way to the start line, again smells of “the program didn’t allow this, and rather than risking changing anything, we just built on top of the existing framework”.
Again – after having raced multiple times, players will likely know the objectives by heart. But there were neater ways to do this.
Bioware also made one huge blunder: they did not include a small planet target for the weekly conquest, explaining it by saying that the event takes place across three planets, ergo by completing it, the players automatically get conquest points for each. They did not take into account that for small guilds, this makes no difference, and it led to a huge outcry among small-guild players. Hopefully then this oversight will be fixed in the future.
Lazy Job Better Than No Work At All
Aside from actual problems, one could always talk about things that “could have been done better”. More actual dialogue, including the player character. Prettier bikes (large part of them are essentially old speeders with new colours). Better rewards.
If one wanted to be nasty, one could say that the whole event is a show of how to produce new content with minimum work. Take swoop tracks and slam them into the existing landscape. Make almost all of the NPCs aliens and add the “KOTOR interface” so you don’t have to dub the dialogue (this is nothing new ever since first Alliance alerts). Take a Tau Idair/Malgus poster, add some graffiti on top of it and present it as a new decoration.
I am not calling this a lazy work, however. A somehow shoddy event is much better than no event at all, and let’s face it, in the past months, the game studios were not exactly in the position to perform some massive operations. This is also not SWTOR’s primary content. We know that the work on new story content has been underway for a long time, and if during the same time, someone in Bioware was able to come up with this “patch” (in the literal sense of the word) to give the players something new to entertain them while they are waiting for the actual, big thing, then I say, thank you, developers!
Variety For The Win
It is good to see that Bioware continues to think about ways to keep the game fresh. Recurring weekly events are one of the ways to do it, especially as they are available to all players regardless of level, story progress, guild affiliation etc. With the rising amount of events, the time between two rotations of the same event grows longer, which is both a good and a bad thing. The bad part is that players that desire to build up their reputation from the event have to wait longer. I daresay, however, that all the positives outweigh this one negative – events that are more spread out remain fresh and the gameplay feels more variable.
Despite some of its visible shortcomings, the addendum of the new event is a good thing. The variety of activities All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally offers places it on par with the Dantooine event and far above the rather streamlined content of the Gree or Rakghoul events.
So perhaps we can hope for a space-themed event next – or, if we look at other “minigames” from KOTOR, how about an actual Pazaak tournament event next year?
And perhaps, now that EA seems to have gotten into releasing new narrowly-specialised games with flight simulator that is SW: Squadrons, someone might get inspired by the All Worlds Ultimate Swoop Rally and make a Podracing-themed stand-alone videogame.