Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Grand Experiment

I know I have been a little bit quiet about Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) of late. I have been playing it for just over a month now, and it has been something of a roller coaster of an experience. Overall, I have to say that I actually really dig the game itself, and I am very curious about how the story will play out.


I have come to realize I am not in it for the long haul. SWTOR is my first experience with a massively multiplayer online game (MMO). Even though I tried to ignore that quiet little voice in the back of my mind as I followed the game's development and then tried the beta and then started the game proper, I have always known that there was a chance I just wouldn't turn out to be an MMO kind of girl. I think I thought if I hoped hard enough, I would be able to enjoy that aspect of the game, or that I would be pleasantly surprised to discover I really actually enjoyed it. Sadly, I don't.

As I said, I really do dig this game. If it was a single-player game it would have skyrocketed right up to my top three favorite games of all time, beating out Mass Effect to take its place with Dragon Age and Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. The gameplay is pretty solid. Some of my initial concerns from the beta quickly started to make sense once I got the hang of how all of the pieces fit together. The story is amazing, the voice cast is incredible, and the setting is, of course, perfectly Star Wars. Hell, I even actually enjoy the space combat missions. That came as an incredible surprise, let me tell you. I normally loathe the driving/flying portions I am forced to endure in any RPG. 

My ship, the Defender, is pretty snazzy too. Not quite the Normandy but no small shakes.

I think it is safe to say that everything I don't like about this game can directly be attributed to it being an MMO. Now, if I had a regular guild of people I know, in real life, who had a gaming schedule that coincided with mine, that I could go through the game with together? I might not dislike the multiplayer aspect so much. Then again, it might still drive me nuts, there's no telling. In an matter, I don't have such a group. More often than not if I want to do a heroic area quest (I have already given up on flashpoints), I have to send out a message in general chat to see if anyone is up for joining me. This is, quite literally, a crapshoot. Occasionally, I'll find myself in a group that turns out to be a lot of fun, we work well together and get a little bit of nice chat in the process. Usually, I end up with a disjointed group of people and for some reason we can't seem to coordinate our attacks. Sometimes we try to remedy this using chat and can't because they keep using traditional MMO shortcut speak and I have no idea what they are saying to me. Bleah. It is also not uncommon that I'll be ready to do a heroic area and there are no biters at all. I find it incredibly frustrating.

But the heroics are optional, more or less, and I could get by without dealing with that. Yesterday I looked at my quest list, and the closest quest to my position was a heroic. I thought about sending out a message to see if anyone was up for it, thought about it some more, and then just removed the quest from my list. I instantly felt better about the game. I can't avoid other players completely though. I can't even tell you how many times I've arrived in an area to do a solo quest and three other people got there right before I did, meaning my objective enemy or item is already dead/used and I have to stand around waiting for respawns. Sometimes I'll be in the middle of fighting an enemy blocking my objective, and another player will just run up, use the objective, and run off. Or players will stand around in the middle of an area I need to be doing something in, totally in my way. So there's that. Occasionally it works out to my advantage, in that someone will be trying to tackle the same boss I need to get and will see me and invite me to group with them, and then we both have an easier fight. But that is pretty rare, most of the people are either jerks or just oblivious to everyone else. 

Also, this game just feels like work to me a lot of the time. I now completely understand the term "grinding." There is so much to do, and there are so many quests, that I also don't really feel like I have the luxury of just exploring the worlds. I keep fearing I will fall behind. I mean, right now I am level 32 and I have only received two of my five companions (one of which is a droid and as cool as he is, he isn't much in the way of a conversationalist), and I haven't even finished Act One of the game. Also, I looked up my one potential love interest, and he has a seventies porn 'stache. Not cool. I get that it has to be a broader story and that it is designed to be played for, well, years, not weeks. But that just makes it feel like a never ending slog when I stop to think about it. When a game doesn't feel like fun anymore, I don't really see the point in continuing to play it.

So, my hope that I would end up loving this game despite (maybe even because of) the fact that it is an MMO has turned out to be in vain. This makes me a bit sad, I'll admit. Like I said, I am really curious about the endgame and the outcome of the story. I don't think I'm gonna get to find out how that plays out. I'm going to continue playing this game (on the days when it feels like fun and not work) for at least another month. The demo for Mass Effect 3 drops on Valentine's Day, and I am going to take a break to play that. Then, I will either renew my account for one more month and get as far as I can before ME3's March 6 release date, or I am going to cancel it then and finish my two active Dragon Age games while I wait for my new game to release. But until then I am going to get as far as I can in the story and try to forget that there are other players unless I really feel like doing a heroic area or unless my friend is online and on the same planet as me. (Though, by "forgetting" the other players, I do not mean to say that I will be a discourteous player.)

Now let me say for the record: this is not meant to be a complaint-fest. I do think SWTOR is a really awesome game. Also, from what I can tell, it is a really awesome MMO. The complaints I have seen about that aspect of it (largely in comparison to World of Warcraft) are almost all about things that Bioware has flat out said that they are working on addressing/fixing/updating in future game patches. It's just that I, personally, am, as it turns out, really not cut out to play an MMO. It doesn't fit my gaming style or my life right now. Maybe one day that will change. I am not sure I could bring myself to cancel my account if it meant deleting my character entirely, which thankfully it doesn't.

To end on a positive note, here are some of the things about the game I have found amusing of late:

Nar Shaddaa seems to have an abundance of TARDISes. Tell me that's not a Timelord transportation device, I dare you.
Someone at Bioware must be a fan of the Doctor, is all I'm saying.

That's my companion Kira and her wonderfully ridiculous hat that she picked up on Tatooine. I love this hat. I am never
letting her take it off. EVER. 
Alderaan has flying fish (upper right-hand corner) all over the place. This one is wearing a saddle, suggesting that on
Alderaan, people ride their flying fish. How is that not awesome?

Despite a lot of griping I have seen on various places in the internet, I also do not feel that this game tramples all over the canon of either of the Knights of the Old Republic games. I have really been digging the random references to the other game that I have come across. I feel like, yeah, it's been a few hundred years, and stuff has changed, but that doesn't mean that the events of the other games didn't happen.

Also, there is a whole set of gear called Mabari. Mabaris are the breed of hounds from Dragon Age. Picking up some Mabari loot never ceases to make me smile (even if I have yet to find any I can/would wear). 

So it's not all bad. It really isn't. It's just not me


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