For the bulk of my years up through the turn of the millennium, I was a Star Wars fan. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theatre was Return of the Jedi, and it instantly hooked me. For years, Star Wars-related gifts were staples at birthdays and Christmases. When the movies appeared on TV, I had to watch them, without question. In time I had practically memorized original trilogy, from scenery to words. I had a large cache of novels, from written adaptations of the movies to any Star Wars book that had been written up to that point. I had Star Wars posters and art books and games. I held my own in discussions with friends about Han, Luke, and Leia. Just like 8-year-olds and dinosaurs, I could rattle off the names of droids, ships, and bounty hunters with ease.
Topics: We return after a hiatus of a couple weeks with three co-hosts in tow, we talk about the future of Net Neutrality, a couple new Godzilla games, the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Minecraft in schools, and Round 2 of our Character Battle of the Century! (of…the…week) is up and ready for you to vote! Click here to download the episode.
Just like that, we’ve hit Incoductic’s dirty thirty. Joshua is back in proper form after a sudden outbreak of busy happened upon him and he had to step away from the mic and into the real world for a hot second. Joining him this week is his brother and fellow gamer, James B. Boss. Check out the sibling geek fest as they discuss Free Comic Book Day, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, gear up for the release of Godzilla, the upcoming Big Wow Comic Fest and cower and wince at how these two could not be mistaken for ANYTHING other than brothers. Also, feel free to marvel at James’ impression of Bane. Seriously, it’s pretty good.
Walk into the science fiction section of any bookstore these days, and Star Wars novels are a dime a dozen — and that’s not a terrible thing. It thrills me to no end to see all the different Star Wars titles that have been released in the past couple decades, from the Young Jedi Knight tween series of the 1990s to the recent The Old Republic books based on the Bioware MMORPG. It also pains me to see just how much catching up I have to do! Granted, I’m not the world best Star Wars fan when to comes to the novels – I have my own “expanded universe” preferences that don’t include much on the Old Republic or Clone Wars – so there are plenty of books that I’ve missed over the past several years. The choice of Star Wars books available to any fan these days is remarkable, but only recently have those choices boomed.
Most fans are probably familiar with the story that not many of the people involved with the original Star Wars movies thought they were going to be hits. When movies took off like roller coasters, the merchandising juggernaut eventually followed. By the early 80s, you couldn’t walk into someone’s house without stepping on a Star Wars action figure or seven. As great as this was for kids and Christmases to come (never mind the influence Star Wars had on merchandising and retail in general), it firmly placed the Star Wars universe in the realm of youth. This meant that most any expansions upon the universe, such as in and through books, were geared towards children. We had dozens of Star Wars picture books and coloring books, and they all sat quite comfortably in the known world of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Ladies and gentlemen, my time has come. I will end this chapter of my life and put it behind me for now. It was fun while it lasted, but there’s other places waiting for me. No, I’m not saying goodbye to GFN. I would be crazy to leave behind one of the few places on the Internet that can stand my presence, I’m talking about ending my time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was an unexpectedly fun trip, but I do have some points of critique for this title, so why don’t we put away our lightsabers, sit down at the cantina and talk about it while we enjoy a fight between some smugglers?
For this review, I will give three scores to SWTOR: gameplay, presentation and payment model. Each of these scores goes from one to ten, and each of them weighs equally when it comes to the final score. The reason why I score the payment model is because I believe that this plays a vital role in every F2P or B2P game. I will score it on its fairness, prices and how much it gets in the way of people who do not want to chip in a few dollar. A high score will be given if the game allows you to enjoy most of its content free of charge, while a low score is reserved for the games that hide essential features behind a payment wall or try to trick you into paying more than you want. With that said, let’s take a look at the gameplay.
If you played any contemporary MMORPG, you will find nothing new in SWTOR. It’s your run-off-the-mill MMORPG combat, with run-off-the-mill kill and gathering quests and run-off-the-mill NPC’s that you’ve already met in half a dozen other titles. Yeah, it’s fairly boring, but BioWare has done its best to add some depth to this classic gameplay by adding dialogue and ethic choices to it. I have to admit that most of the dialogue and voice-acting is of excellent quality, something you can expect from a BioWare title. However, I can only repeat my opinion about the dull Light Side / Dark Side options: they’re predictable, stereotypical and rarely morally or ethical challenging. Sometimes, they even feel forced, like the writers had to add a certain amount of them every 5000 words of dialogue. Luckily, the dialogues are used to push forward the story, which is different for every class. This gives the game a high amount of replayability, and considering you have access to every class as a free player, there’s a lot of story waiting for you. Still, the core of the game is nothing but the same old things, with a layer of really boring moral choices but neat personal stories. 6 out of 10 points for the gameplay.
I love the sound of lightsabers in the morning
Alright, the gameplay is nothing special, but the game wins a few points with its presentation. Before I get all fanboy about the music, let me say a few words about the visuals. I really love what BioWare has done here. The cartoony graphics really work in this title, and it’s good to see that BioWare didn’t go for the ultra-realistic look like those of Mass Effect or Dragon Age. The graphics look nice and colorful, even when you play the game on lower settings. Also, this style is timeless, as games like World of Warcraft show that it ages really well and will still look good in a few years. With that said, I have nothing but love for the sound and music of this game. If one thing about this game makes certain you know you’re in a Star Wars game, it’s the epic orchestra music and well-known sound effects. The sound of a swinging lightsaber or a shooting blaster puts you right into the mood, and with the support of the well-timed music, you feel like you’re starring in your very own Star Wars adventure. Kudos, BioWare, kudos. 8 out of 10 points!
Now it’s time for a really critical assessment, namely that of the payment options. SWTOR knows three payment tiers: Free, Preferred Status and Subscribers. As a Free player, you will be heavily restricted when it comes to total credits you can have in your purse, cargo space on your ship, the availability of traveling options and many other arbitrary things. Once you’ve spent five or more bucks on the Cartel store, you’re a Preferred player and some of the limits you’ve experienced are removed, but there’s still a lot hidden behind unlocks and a subscription. Subscribers just get everything, plus a monthly Cartel Coin stipend. Just take a look at the matrix for the full gist. Looking at that list and taking my own experiences into account, I have to say that SWTOR has one of the strictest and most limiting models I’ve seen. Sure, you can bypass many restrictions through the use of the in-game auction house or by spending at least a few bucks once in a while, but you will still feel that certain handicap when you’re not subscribed. The XP penalty, the restricted traveling options, the maximum amount of dungeon runs per week…it’s all these things that add up, and while they do not make the game unplayable for Free players, they will leave them with that sense of restriction. It’s a subtle feeling, but a feeling nonetheless. Compared to other models, I can only say that BioWare should relax their restrictions at least somewhat. I mean, come on…I gotta pay for action bars? 5 out of 10 points…
Adding all these scores, dividing them by three, the final score for SWTOR is a 6 (rounded down). No matter how much I was surprised by the good sides of the game, I still feel that there are superior F2P games out there. The gameplay is something you find in many other games, though the story gives it a special touch. The presentation is also fantastic, but the permanent feeling of being limited by the rather strict payment model takes away some of the fun. There’s hope though, since I see a lot of room for improvement and a company that is willing to take that. If EA and BioWare decide to undo a few of the restrictions and expand some of the gameplay elements, SWTOR could become a really strong contender on the F2P market. However, as it stands now, this game is only really interesting for fans of the franchise or people who are not in search of innovation.
This concludes my first No Fees Attached series. For now, I’ll just play whatever the heck I want, but you can bet your old-school consoles that I’ll be back doing another one of these. Now, I’m curious to hear from you. Do you agree with my final verdict? Did you enjoy my write-ups, or do you have some good feedback? Feel free to share it!
I’m the Chindividual, and it was an honor swinging a lightsaber in SWTOR!
How’s life there? I hope Dad isn’t still complaining about “them stupid Jedi’s snatchin’ ma boy”. Can’t do anything about a high amount of midichlorians, right? Plus, it’s not like I was of much use on the farm anyway.
I just wanted to tell you that I’m doing fine, considering the circumstances. I’m no longer a Padawan…yay! All it took to prove my worthiness was gathering a few holocrons, slaughter a few dozen Flesh Raiders and bring down a misguided Twi’lek who just wanted to save his people. I talked to the other Jedi about it, and things like these seem to be “Tuesday” around here. Whatever, I’m a true Jedi now, and that makes me a happy man!
On the downside, Master Yuon Par has fallen ill right after she made me a Jedi. Her colleagues on Tython can’t help her, so Qyzen Fess and I have made our way to Coruscant to find a cure. Who’s Qyzen? Well, that’s quite a story, but the gist of it is that he is a Trandoshan who thinks I’m the herald of his deity. Oh, you don’t know what a Trandoshan is. Well, in a nutshell: a reptile-dude that kills in honor of his god. He’s nice though, and he makes one hell of a soufflé.
Anyway, that’s all the time I got for now. Qyzen and I are heading into the bad districts of Coruscants now, to find another set of holocrons. What is it with Jedi and losing their fancy, external hard drives? Tell Dad I’ll be back to help him with the harvest in spring. I bet that my Force powers will make pulling crops out of the ground a lot easier.
Heya folks, welcome back to the next installment of No Fees Attached, where I play an F2P game you chose, and then come here on GFN to complain about how horrible it is. At least, that was my plan when you guys sent me into SWTOR, thinking that once my XP gain would drop and I could only run instances a certain number of times each week I would start to hate the game, but guess what…I don’t! Actually, I’m really enjoying my stay so far, and so you will be given the choice to extend my stay or try to send me into a title that I will despise. But more on that later, let’s dive into what I liked and didn’t like during this week’s activity in Star Wars: The Old Republic
As the little letter above indicates, I have made it to Coruscant, continuing the story of my chubby Consular. It’s a nice story, but I have to admit that it isn’t as cool as I hoped for (so far, at least). Still, playing the Consular is fun. I went for the Sage advanced class, focusing on the healing aspect of it. The reason for that? Well, let’s just call it the “once a healer, always a healer”-syndrome. I try to play a damage-dealer in every MMORPG, but I always fail. I guess I just love green numbers more than red ones…
Another reason to be a healer was my urge to do group content. Everyone knows that in an MMORPG that uses a group finder to assemble a team, you’ll get way faster into a dungeon when you’re either a tank or a healer, so it came of no surprise to me when I entered my first run of the Esseles “Flashpoint” just a minute after entering the queue. While mechanically Flashpoints do not differ from the classic dungeon runs, it’s nice to see the group dialogue options in action. Basically, when in a conversation with an NPC while in a group, all group members roll a virtual die after picking their conversation option. The player with the highest roll gets the word. Luckily, you do not get Light Side or Dark Side points for choices you didn’t make, but your group has to live with the consequences caused by them.
Running Flashpoints and continuing my story was pleasant, but I have to admit that it didn’t feel all that different from other MMORPG’s. Sure, actually talking with the guys that give you missions and send you out to fetch them five Rancor claws is nice, but often it just feels like a forced obstacle you have to pass before you get your quest. Sure, I want good dialogue in the main storyline, but why must I talk to every dude for every stupid fetch-quest? My space bar has been running long hours, skipping dialogue quite often.
The unnecessary talks with marginal characters is a just a minor annoyance, compared to the binary system of Light and Dark Side points. I know, the whole thing is a shtick of the Star Wars setting and every game that takes place in it, but the way it is integrated in this game is so…predictable. Nine out of ten Dark Side dialogue options make you a cruel douche who would murder puppies if he could, while the Light Side options make my character look like an angelic Mother Theresa with a lightsaber. There are almost no shades of grey in between these, and that makes it at least for me really bland and unattractive to choose either when it comes down to it. That’s really disappointing when you know that the minds of BioWare have been writing these options…
So that’s the good and bad of this week. You might wonder why I didn’t say anything about the F2P limitations. Well, there’s a simple reason for that: against all my expectations, the limitations are still not bother me. Sure, it sucks I have to wait a few more levels for my speeder and that it takes somewhat longer to level, but it doesn’t feel like my experience has been heavily influenced by it. Things can still change though, if you guys let me stay longer.
That’s right, this is the point where the voting takes place again. Having read all this, you are once again in charge of my fate: will I stay even longer in SWTOR, or should I dive into another game to tell you about it here on GFN? Maybe you want me to stay, but think I should check out the Sith Empire. That’s an option as well! In case you want me to stay, I will enhance my experience by getting the Preferred status, to see how much of a difference it makes. The poll’s open, so go ahead and vote below!