Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I'm looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic



    I am really looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic. In fact, I'm looking forward to it with the same level of anticipation I would be looking forward to Knights of the Old Republic 3. Mostly because it will be that (more on that later, though).

    I like Bioware, they pretty consistently hit all the high marks whenever they release an RPG. I like Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age 2, Dragon Age: Awakenings, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Baldur's Gate, and so on. I haven't played Jade Empire yet but it's on the list of things I want to get around to.Above them all, however, is Knights of the Old Republic.

    I'll do a review of Knights of the Old Republic 2 someday but I actually go against the majority opinion in that, underrated classic or not, it wasn't a very good game. Knights of the Old Republic, however, was just candy for the brain. It was the closest thing to the original trilogy ever released for the Star Wars Expanded Universe and remains probably my single favorite video game of all time.

    The storyline of Darth Revan, Darth Malak, Bastilla, and Carth hits all the emotional high notes of Star Wars for me. Some of it was derivative but I was willing to overlook the Millennium Falcon and Stormtrooper rip-offs to appreciate the greater whole. It was a tragedy Bioware didn't get to make a proper sequel to the game.



    KOTOR was pretty much the basis for Mass Effect and Dragon Age so I'm confident all of the elements I like about these three games are going to be transplanted to SWTOR. Still, it never hurts to be cautious about these sorts of things. I've been keeping up with all the news about SWTOR and am going to explain exactly what I am looking forward to most.

    1:] The Morality System: This is something I know some people loathe. However, I think a Morality System is integral to the Star Wars universe. Luke must choose whether to rule the galaxy with the Sith or save the universe and his father. Han Solo must choose between the Rebellion and his life as an outlaw. These are the sorts of choices that made the Original Trilogy’s characterization meaningful.

    One thing which intrigues me is the SWTOR Morality System isn't going to affect your status as a Sith or Jedi. In the film it's a pretty consistent line. Darth Vader and Count Dooku are Jedi up until they fell and became Sith. As soon as they became evil, they joined with Palpatine despite having every reason to hate him.

    In SWTOR, though, you can have a Dark Jedi who passionately hates the Sith or a Sith "seduced by the Light Side of the Force.” Some people might resent this distinction but I think it's a pretty cool idea and fans have been dying to play "Bright Sith" for decades.

    2:] Giving the Empire back its strike: Poor Imperials. Yeah, they're stock Nazis and not exactly dripping with deep characterization. However, the Empire has gone through a large amount of Villain Decay over the years. The Star Wars Expanded Universe is guilty for 90% of this due to its re-hashing of the Original Trilogy.

    The Sith Empire, as depicted in SWTOR, is group that has managed to grind over 50% of the Republic and is fully capable of smashing the rest down. They’ve obviously fought for their victory and deserve what gains they’ve made.

    Note: I don't approve when bad guys get easy victories. I felt cheated when Darth Krayt was handed the galaxy in the Star Wars: Legacy comic book series. Darth Cadeus was worse, basically conquering the universe in a day and a half. If you don’t get those references, you didn’t miss much.

    Here, the Sith Emperor and his Sith Council have obviously fought for their position as rulers of half the galaxy and I respect them for it. A hero is only as good as his villains and it seems like the Sith are going to be excellent ones.

    3:] Justifying 3,000+ Jedi and Sith in the setting: Star Wars: Galaxies made a game effort at trying to be THE Star Wars MMORPG. I could do a whole article about why it didn't but I think one of its biggest problems was the way it handled the Jedi. Being set in the Original Trilogy era, there were only supposed to be two Jedi left in the universe (Yoda and Obi-Wan).

    Player characters start as Jedi and couldn’t become them without jumping through a lot of hoops. When that was changed, there were hundreds of lightsaber-wielding folk running around when Vader was supposed to have annihilated them all.

    Here, in the Pre-Pre Prequel Era, thousands of Jedi and Sith can exist without contradicting canon. Better still, you can be the Luke Skywalker of the Era (i.e. the Big Hero) without feeling like the Empire will survive until the Battle of Endor.

    4:] Fully voiced NPCs: One of the things I have a problem with in Multiplayer Online games is the fact that they do not usually develop their NPCs very well. World of Warcraft is one of the few exceptions and comparing any games to their runaway success is an invitation to disaster. After all, most MMORPGs don’t have the kind of resources WOW has.

    The fact that Bioware is going to the elaborate length of voicing all of its NPCs means that they’re undoubtedly going to have a LOT more personality than you typically see in these games. It may take up a lot of space but I’m anxious to see how it works out.

    5:] Muggles can kick ass: One thing I’ve always suspected is that Jango Fett could kill 90% of the generic Jedi we see in the movies. It’s just his misfortune he ended up fighting Obi Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu.

    Likewise, I think Han Solo is as cool (or cooler) than Luke Skywalker. The fact the non-Force Using classes in the game (Bounty Hunters, Imperial Agents, Smugglers, and Troopers) will be able to fight the setting’s mystical classes is a big appeal. 

    I don’t like the treatment of force users as gods and individual heroism is increased when both sides have tough opponents to face.

    6:] The chance to play the Empire and Sith: I love playing the bad guy, especially anti-heroes. One of my favorite flight simulators was TIE fighter and we never got a sequel to that – perhaps because it glamorized a group of Space Nazis. The Sith Empire is a much more interesting creature than the stock villains of the films, offering a glimpse into the kind of society that would have been created had Palpatine and Vader had a century to adjust galactic society.

    I'm definitely going bad for this game.

    7:] Romance: Romance is a controversial subject in video games, mostly because peoples level of immersion varies tremendously. For example, I’m married to a real life woman and have no desire to date Princess Leia. However, I love imagining my characters going on to have happy endings with NPCs in the games I play. 

    Bioware has an excellent track record with these games so I’ll be looking forward to see what sort of characters they have now. I’m actually on the fence over whether I’m going to be a Sith Warrior or a Sith Inquisitor based on the characters I romance.

    8:] A fully fleshed-out story: Stories in MMORPG usually don’t blow people away. Sometimes, there’s awesome stories like the Fall of Arthas and the rise of the Lich King. More often, the stories consist of “Go forth and kill six snow moose.” I’m hoping for a lot more from Bioware and from what I’ve seen, it’ll be far more intricate. I’m not expecting Shakespeare but if they can keep to the quality of their other RPG games – I’m game.

    9:] Replay Value: One thing which is both a strength and a weakness is you can’t do the majority of the game’s adventure content as a single class. This is disappointing to me, on one level, because I actually am quite fond of having one character that can do everything. However, overall, I salute Bioware’s effort to make every class’ experience unique. I don’t know if I’ll play all eight classes but I am glad the option exists.

    10:] World-Building: One thing that I applaud Bioware for is the fact they’re obviously going all out in building this universe. Just go to their website and look at the amount of lore they’ve created for the setting. The amount of attention to detail I’ve seen from timelines to NPCs really impresses me. This really could be the most important thing to happen to Star Wars’ Expanded Universe since the Prequels.

    So, I’ll see you all at the launch!

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