Saturday, September 4, 2010

PAX: "Star Wars: The Old Republic"

The Old Republic has always represented something to me. Call it a promise, or a wish, or just plain old hater's hope. You see, I've never been a fan of WoW, most MMOs can't hold my attention actually. I've played quite a few, some of them longer than others; Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, Eve, Guild Wars, City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings, DnD Online, Planetside, so many MMOs. Some have been good, some have been bad, others have been atrocious. They all though, have been excuses for busywork.

There are exceptions, Guild Wars and Planetside in particular were excuses to fight as a party, but MMOs have a horrible track record of being more about some random guy in a field sending me off to do his chores than about any grand adventure. If I wanted to be sent to do random chores and awarded with inexplicable inventory, I could just play Animal Crossing, and at least that way I'd be able to get T. Nook off my back.

The expectation for MMOs is not high. They are comrade games, meant to be played with a group of people you agree with, so as to make even the most mind-numbing task seem enjoyable. You laugh, you argue, you dick each other over, and everyone has a blast. This works with other genres as well, but MMOs thrive on this. When the player associates the game with good feelings instead of the friendly fun, they are now a customer for life. Wonder why your friend went from playing with only you to playing more without you than with you? Wonder why your significant other can choose the game over you? Well wonder no more.

So what is the promise of Star Wars the Old Republic? Story, that's what. Story that pulls the game together instead of leaving it as a jumbled mess of events that sort of make you do important things. The full extent of Bioware's dedication to this promise isn't known yet, won't be known for nearly a year when the game is released, but I have a dream. I want my stupid collection quest to only occur when it makes sense, if I'm collecting droid scraps, let it be to fix my ship so I can get off a rim world, if I'm killing krayt dragons, let it be to prove to my Sith master that I'm ready for my final trial.

This isn't rocket surgery, no gamer should need to lie to themselves to enjoy what their game requires. We should want to continue because we want to know what comes next. We should want the story to bloom around us.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, is not a WoW killer, I won't dub a game that anytime soon. I don't need it to do anything to WoW, I simply need it to survive long enough for me to play through it, 8 times maybe (once for each class).

The gameplay all looks particularly normal, the mechanics are not unique. There is space flight, but it is watered down. There is a cover system, but that is for two classes who both do it differently. This game is not unique under the hood, it is all about the surface here. The story, the presentation, this is supposed to be the deal sealer, and so far I am sealed.

Even as I first played it, as a huge Twi'lek scoundrel, I found myself killing a few random enemy soldiers and clicking on buildings that glowed slightly. The game may as well have told me to collect separatist helmets the way I was killing these guys. I had a reason though, I couldn't get off the planet unless the enemy forces had their scramblers destroyed. My character wanted off that rock, and I wanted to know where he was going. No need to read a stupid quest log, I heard my character say this, he wanted off and anyone who got in his way was going to eat a grenade.

There was the spine tingling difference.

The references to past games I love, the colorful and characterful presentation, these are all just bonuses. SW:TOR, keep it up and I'm on board for sure.

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