Cheating on WoW: The Old Republic:
It’s that time again. Once again, I’ve taken a few days off World of Warcraft to play through the free trial of another MMO so I can report on it here. This time, the victim is Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Let me preface this by saying that I have a grudge against Bioware from when I bought Mass Effect, only to discover my computer is too modern to run it (seriously) and that the official company policy on the issue is, “Hey, good luck with that.” Also, I’ve never been a big Star Wars fan — not big on kids’ movies.
So the point I’m trying to make is that I did not want to like this game. But I have to grudgingly admit it’s not bad.
First of all, I have to say that SW:TOR has probably the best cinematics I’ve ever seen in a game. Not so much because of the graphics quality — though it is damn high — but more because of the length, emotion, and just general badassery and awesomeness.
For the record, that Jedi character also appeared in an earlier cinematic, and it was very interesting to see her transition from uncertain padawan to Sith-destroying force of nature. All I can say is: why the hell aren’t the real Star Wars movies this good?
Aside from that, though, SW:TOR really is just WoW with lightsabers. Which is both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive because WoW is a solid and polished game, as well as a winning formula. It’s a negative because, well, we already have a WoW. And it even has a few lightsabers.
I won’t bother listing all the ways the Old Republic is like WoW, because I’d be here all day, so I’ll just talk about the few significant differences.
The first is the lack of an auto-attack mechanic for any class. I liked this, and it gave the classes a slightly more dynamic feel, but it didn’t make as big a difference as you might expect. You only really notice it in the very early levels, where Warcraft classes might not have a full rotation yet. In the long run, it felt little different from playing one of WoW’s more labor-intensive classes, such as rogue.
The second is all the voice acting. One of my long-standing complaints with WoW is its stifling lack of voice work, so this is one part I thought I’d really like. But while I will say it’s an improvement, it didn’t make as big a difference as I expected.
The fact is, being told to collect ten bear asses is still being told to collect ten bear asses. Adding five minutes of voice work doesn’t make it epic. It just starts to feel tedious after a while, even for someone like me who cares about lore and immersion so much. Maybe the conversations for the simpler quests just should have been shorter.
SW:TOR and WoW are two extremes when it comes to voice acting, and while I do find myself leaning towards SW:TOR’s model, I’d sooner try to find a happy medium.
I’m not sure how to judge the story. The Jedi quests were quite dull most of the time, but the early quests on my Imperial agent character were very engaging and even had some real emotional gut-punches. Unfortunately, my incredibly short weekend trial ran out before I could finish that storyline.
The graphics for the Old Republic are very disappointing; I was expecting much more from such a recent game. They’re better than WoW’s — barely — but they also lack Warcraft’s cartoon stylization, so their low quality is much harder to ignore. And they still managed to give me a fair bit of lag on high settings.
The graphics were very buggy, too. I was particularly amused by the X-rated way my Jedi’s lightsaber jiggled in his hand all the time. How many sad, lonely nerds are making a pretty female Jedi just to watch the lightsaber jerk up and down in her hand as she runs?
Character customization, while again superior to WoW’s, was also underwhelming when compared with games like Rift and Aion. It’s also very distracting that every playable race is clearly using the same skeleton and animations and simply has slightly different skin tone and customization options.
I did enjoy my time in the Old Republic. Don’t get me wrong. The gameplay is pretty solid, aside from a bit too much travel time, and the combat is fun. The classes are good, and the two I tried offered very different but equally compelling playstyles and mechanics.
SW:TOR is a well-polished and fun game, and if you’re a big Star Wars fan, I’m sure you’ll love every second of it. Still, I couldn’t escape the feeling I was just playing WoW with a fresh coat of paint. Which is a feeling I’ve gotten from a lot of MMOs. No wonder people are so hyped about Guild Wars 2. Speaking of which…
Guild Wars 2 article:
I convinced WhatMMO to let me do some articles other than “top X” lists, so I started with an article on Guild Wars 2: Guild Wars 2: High Risk, High Reward. In it, I attempt to bring some sobering doubts to the hype surrounding the game, while at the same time acknowledging the risks being taken are a large part of what makes people so excited. It’s basically the same type of article I’d post on this blog.
I’m not really a Star Wars fan either, and I resisted trying it for the longest time. My guidies really had to twist my arm and be persistent in their efforts to get me there. Once I tried it though, I got hooked pretty fast.
I think part of the reason I am loving ToR so much is precisely *because* it is WoW with a new coat of paint. I didn’t have to learn a whole new way of doing the small things like movement, chatting, setting up action bars, adjusting keybinds … etc, which allowed me to jump right in and get sucked into the actual gameplay. The storylines once you get past the lower levels, especially that Imp Agent one that you started, are fantastic. The only thing I can’t comment on is end game experiences, since I haven’t gotten to 50 yet. :p
I suppose I could jump on the bandwagon and try a trial of SWToR but since I’ve never been a fan of SW it doesn’t really appeal to me so I’m guessing the “story” part wouldn’t make much sense.
I did read your GW2 article and although the game does sound interesting, the “F2P” and “micro-transactions” will keep me far, far away since I have come to hate and loathe these gaming business models.
Unfortunately, since this seems to be the way all of them headed I can see the day coming where I won’t have any games to play at all. 😀
Heh, you don’t need any prior knowledge to understand the story in Star Wars. Jedi = good, Sith = bad. There, you’re caught up.
I’m not too worried about the micro-transactions in GW2, largely because gear won’t be much of an issue, and there’s no grouping required for the vast majority of content. Other players can’t (theoretically) buy gear to make themselves better than you, and even if they could, no one’s going to reject you from a raid for not being geared enough, because the game doesn’t have raids.
So all the micro-transactions will mean is that wealthier players will have way more gold than me (which is already the case in WoW since I don’t play the AH) and more cosmetic rewards, similar to WoW’s sparkle ponies and disco lions. At least, that’s what I expect.
I could live with that but if they set up excessive barriers that can only be overcome with your credit card, that would make me quit.
Any game that requires a credit card to be handy while you’re playing isn’t a game for me.
I agree. I don’t get the feeling they’ll go that route, though. Everything else in their design philosophy goes against the annoying inconveniences we’ve come to expect from the MMO genre.
Still, I don’t blame anyone for feeling leery when they hear the term “micro-transactions.”
ToR seems to be lacking the thing that draws me into most the RPG types that I play, Magic. Sure, there’s the “force” and what seems to be lots of engineering type abilities but I like seeing magic bolts and fire falling from the sky. I know that blasters are essentially the same thing as a fireball, but i like my coat of paint in swords and magic style, not in blasters and lightsabres.
The Sith Sorcerers are .. well, sorcerers. They shoot lightning from their hands. But yeah, being sci-fi there is more weapon/tech type stuff than magic, but it’s still there.
I much prefer magic/fantasy to sci fi even though SW (the original at least) is based on mythology in a sci fi setting.
Is it just me or does everyone think Campbell’s “monomyth” whenever they hear “Star Wars?” 😀
I feel the same way. Fantasy always seemed more compelling to me than science fiction. Although Star Wars is really closer to fantasy than traditional sci-fi.
If nothing else, though, it lacks the vivid fantasy aesthetic. Instead of enchanted forests and mystical castles in the sky, we’re stuck with endless expenses of gray steel for environments. A problem made worse in SW:TOR’s case by its dull, unimaginative graphics.