Star Wars: The Old Republic has launched. Though there were the typical launch issues like a few scheduled downtimes that took several hours, the servers remain running and not on fire.
Now that hurdle has been passed, however, the game faces a larger one – longevity. Does the game have what it takes to last? I think so, and here’s why.
There’s A Story
This point is simultaneously the most shocking and most predictable – shocking because MMOs generally don’t have a good story, but predictable because this is a Bioware game, and that’s what the studio is known for.
All MMOs have a story, of course. The problem is that it’s generally not interesting. Each character in your typical MMO goes through the same story events, and the outcome is the same no matter what you do. Players catch on to this quickly, and stop caring. Questing becomes a grind.
With SW:TOR, it’s different. You have choices, and sometimes they’re difficult. What you choose not only impacts your collection of light or dark side points, but also can change plot points further down the road. There are still some boring side-quests, but the main quests are interesting and well written.
Better yet, every single class has its own story, and all the dialogue is voice-acted. Some players will probably re-roll constantly just to see the outcome of each separate tale.
Your Computer Can Play It
I won’t lie. SW:TOR is not a pretty game. It has a style that feels very Star Wars, but the graphics are technically quite simple. Polygon counts are low, texture resolutions are low, and even at its highest settings it looks like a game from several years ago.
That’s a bummer. Fortunately for Bioware and Electronic Arts, it doesn’t matter. People might check out a game for its graphics, but they don’t stay for them. And for a game like this, which is supposed to draw a dedicated audience, it’s more important to make sure that potential fans can play the game.
If you have a system with a discrete video card that was built within the last three years, you can probably play this game at medium to high detail. If it was built in the last five years, you can probably play at least on low. In the long run this will be to the game’s advantage.
Crafting Doesn’t Suck
Crafting is one of those things that are supposed to keep players engaged in the end-game, but rarely succeeds in doing so. Why? Because crafting isn’t fun. And why isn’t crafting fun? Because you have to stop doing everything else.
SW:TOR solves this problem with companions. Players gain their first companion at an early level, and will gain more over time. One companion can be deployed with the player to help in combat, but the rest stay back at the ship. Using an interface window, they can be tasked with all matter of crafting missions, building your overall crafting skill while you continue to quest, PvP, or trade on the auction house.
I’ll admit this is a cynical solution. Bioware recognized that sitting around and crafting isn’t fun, so rather than finding a way to make it fun, they simply made sure that players don’t have to sit around to do it. Still, it’s effective and opens up a new line of progression that many players simply don’t have the patience to pursue in other games.
There’s A Lot Of Things To Do
It’s a good thing that you don’t have to sit around in your ship to craft, because there are plenty of other fun things to do in the game.
I’ve already gone over the story and its related questing, which can keep players occupied for hundreds of hours. Beyond that, there’s PvP, which is a lot of fun and can be entered by level 10.
Unlike most MMOs, this game does not involve PvP brackets. Instead, low-level players are simply given comparable stats (but not comparable skills) to higher-level players. The result of this is that you can enjoy the arenas at any time without feeling insignificant. And since there is a large pool of players trying to enter an arena, you spend less time waiting.
There’s also raiding, of course, which is still a bit up in the air (not enough people have played it yet) but looks promising. And then there are the space combat missions, fun Starfox-like diversions that let players get their pew-pew on. The space combat quests are daily, and the rewards great.
It’s Star Wars!
Yep. It’s Star Wars.
That’s an important point. Not only because it brings in a lot of players at first, but also because it makes the game easy to remember. From this point on the game is “that Star Wars MMO,” which means that people looking for some sci-fi multiplayer action are likely to check it out.
World of Warcraft has recently been grasping at straws with its racial choices, choosing Pandas for its latest expansion. It’s hard to see Star Wars ever being in a similar situation. There’s the Wookies, the Rodian, the Bothans, the Mon Calamari – the list goes on and on.
Each new expansion will provide the chance to continue individual characters stories, as well – something Bioware already has experience doing with its Mass Effect and Dragon Age games.
Bioware has crafted another hit, and in typical style, have succeeded in a way that’s different from what many thought necessary. Rather than revamping MMO combat (a common complaint among old-school MMO players), Bioware has kept the combat familiar and molded everything else to its own preferences. The result is a game that I think people will be enjoying for many, many years to come.