I’m always surprised when my plans in MMOs actually come to fruition.
I now bring you my thoughts on the class, its story, and the Republic.
On the consular:
Having played it all the way through, I’m still not getting why the buzz around the consular story is so negative. While it’s definitely nowhere near as spectacular as the agent story was, I still enjoyed myself quite a lot.
What I like most is how well they sold the class fantasy. The consular story is all about delving into ancient lore, healing the sick, and diplomacy. I’m not the biggest fan of the Jedi (even relative to my already lukewarm feelings toward Star Wars as a whole), but the consular story captures the essence of what it is to be a Jedi incredibly well.
It’s also a welcome change of pace from the more bombastic stories video games tend to focus on. Of course, the game mechanics still involve no end of combat, but story-wise, the consular story is far more focused on making peace rather than war.
I also thought it was very interesting to have so many diplomats and envoys on your ship, in addition to the usual companions, many of them compelling characters in their own right.
Though it does make me wonder where they were all staying, considering there are only two beds on the ship. Pity the poor soul bunking with Qyzen; he’s awfully spiky, and he’s cold-blooded, so you know he’d be a blanket-hog.
And once again I was struck by how very much SW:TOR does not feel like Star Wars to me. The names are the same, but the style of storytelling in this game bears no resemblance to the movies, and it’s almost hard to believe they’re nominally part of the same franchise.
Coming from me, that’s a compliment.
I do have a few complaints about the consular. One is that chapter three is by far the weakest. The unique class flavour is mostly thrown away for a very standard “save the world” story, and the one big twist is very easy to see coming.
Also, while the agent story easily could have stood alone as a solid game in its own right, the consular story does feel very much like a side-quest (albeit an unusually good one). It feels tangential to the main game, and not terribly important in the greater scheme of things.
Finally, the class itself just isn’t that fun to play. Button bloat is a big problem for SW:TOR in general, but the consular, at least as the sage sub-class, is an especially egregious case. How many different “throw sparklies for moderate damage” spells do I need? My agent had too many buttons, too, but at least they all flowed together into a natural and somewhat satisfying rotation. They all had a clear purpose within the greater whole. Sage is just playing whack-a-mole with a dozen barely distinguishable short cooldown abilities.
Companions were also at times a source of frustration.
The consular story once again had me frustrated by how slowly you unlock companions in SW:TOR. It took me an incredibly long time to unlock any companions I actually liked.
I also found it strange — though also somewhat amusing — how unbelievably out of place the first few consular companions are. I’m playing the game’s most peaceful and virtuous class, yet my first three companions are a fanatical lizard monster who hunts sentient beings for sport because he thinks life is a game and he’s trying to get the high score; a weird, creepy pervert who is accompanied everywhere by his self-aware holographic sex doll; and a homicidal, megalomaniacal terrorist.
Tharan makes my skin crawl, though. He comes across as the sort of guy who’s going to get caught installing hidden cameras in a middle school bathroom at some point. And Zenith just seems to be the Twi’lek version of Arcturus Mengsk. I can hear him giving the speech now:
“I will not be stopped. Not by you, or the Sith, or the Jedi, or anyone! I will rule Balmorra, or see it burned to ashes around me!”
Thankfully, they were just saving the best for last.
Felix is a pretty basic character, and his arc never really went anywhere, but he’s a likable enough guy, and he’ll always be welcome on my ship, no matter how scrambled his brains are.
Nadia, though, is the one who was worth the wait.
I gather Nadia is a character the community is somewhat divided on. I certainly grant her eagerness and naivete can at times be a little abrasive.
But in the end I was won over. Her joy and wonder are just too infectious. Surprisingly, even despite the severe limitations of an MMO, I’d rate Nadia as one of my favourite Bioware romances to date; it’s a sweet story, and it plays out well.
I particularly liked how in this case it was more a case of Nadia pursuing the player character than the other way around. Normally in Bioware romances the NPC doesn’t display any interest until the player does. It’s like a switch goes off in their head and suddenly they like you.
Which is of course exactly what happens, but the artificiality of it is painfully obvious. By making her the aggressor (for lack of a better term) in the relationship, Nadia comes across as a lot more real.
I also thought it was interesting how Nadia appeared in the story long before she became a companion. I am left to wonder why they couldn’t just make her a companion right away,* but at least it gives the player plenty of time to get to know her, even if they can’t adventure with her until near the end of the game.
*(I understand there’s nominally a story explanation for it, but it feels a bit flimsy.)
On the Republic:
I don’t like it.
Now, I’m not sure exactly why I find the Republic so uninteresting. Part of it is definitely that the moral choices are a lot easier. I really agonized over a lot of the Imperial choices, but bar a handful of exceptions, the Republic choices are usually between “do the obviously right thing” or “be a petty, evil prick for no reason.”
But even beyond that, the Republic just feels so colourless and bland. Maybe everyone is just so nice the faction doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’s how dorky their uniforms are. Maybe I just like British accents a little too much.
I may still play Republic classes, but it’s clear my heart lies with the Empire. And that’s pretty out surprising, because I never like playing the bad guy in games.
On the future:
Against all odds, I’m still enjoying SW:TOR, even if a few of the game’s bad habits are beginning to wear heavily on me — like the lengthy travel times enforced by its sometimes wonky quest flow, and its ludicrous over-abundance of trash mobs. I don’t see myself leaving it behind any time soon.
Right now I’m still thinking I’ll finish the inquisitor storyline at least before moving on to the expansion content. Maybe a few other classes, too — we’ll see. I do want to finish at least most of the class stories eventually, though I can’t guarantee my interest will last that long.
One thing in my favour is that nearly all my characters were created during a double XP event, meaning they’re all a fair bit ahead of the leveling curve. I can afford to skip quite a lot of the non-class content, which should keep things from being too much of a grind.
My plan is still to return to my agent whenever I finally move into the expansions, and I don’t currently expect to play any other characters after finishing their class stories, but we’ll see how it goes.
I may be taking more detours into other games along the way, as well. Right now I feel a strong, sudden call from a old flame… a wild frontier where a young Yukifyo woman can make a name for herself…
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By the way, I finally figured out the issue with images on my blog, so you should now once again be able to click screenshots for full-size versions. Which I certainly hope someone is going to do, since I am unjustifiably proud of my screenshoting skills.