Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic at PAX East

Unlike wine, this blog post isn't going to be any better after having been left to rot for two weeks in a dark cellar. It will merely be a blog post about SWTOR written two weeks after the fact. Included in this post are two cool videos I took, which I hope will be able to educate the uneducated masses about BioWare's forthcoming MMO adaption of its successful single-player RPG.

I'll start with my conclusion: BioWare has combined their Knights of the Old Republic RPG with World of Warcraft to make an MMO that will appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers. I didn't get the chance to play the game, but by watching it, I feel that the game will involve repeatedly killing the same enemy in the same way. The game will undoubtedly be successful, and I may play a trial version of SWTOR when it comes out, but I'm not interested in shelling $60 out to buy the game and then paying a monthly fee just so I can "swing my [lightsaber] and swing it again!"

Looking at the footage below, you'll see the player in a story instance with a group of people. They are marching down a dirt road trying to get to an Imperial base. Along that road, they are continually attacked by the same type of mob over and over again. To me, that's just boring. The players are in that instance to experience the story, yet instead they spend all their time attacking miscellaneous critters not related to the story at all. In addition to attacking the same mob, the style of attack seems pretty static, with the Jedi doing the same moves time and time again even though he has a skill bar full of what should be unique attacks. There are surely people who find this style of combat fun, but I don't want to pay a subscription fee to mash the 1-button on my keyboard for a few hours. To each his own, though.

In addition to watching some regular combat, I also happened to be present when BioWare did a public unveiling of their new space combat system (at which I managed to snatch a pretty cool Jedi hat). Space combat in an MMO seems like a novel idea, and could probably be very fun. However, I felt that SWTOR's space combat was somewhat lacking. It involves moving your mouse across the screen to direct in which direction your ship points, whilst it follows a linear path through a scripted space battle. You press one button to fire your lasers, and another to fire your missiles, and just try to blow stuff up. I feel that you can go to an arcade and pay a couple quarters for the exact same experience.

Where I feel that BioWare's new MMO will excel will be at everything that isn't MMO. The story will undoubtedly be superb - Knights of the Old Republic had a great story, and BioWare isn't the kind of company to let SWTOR's online status cause the sacrifice of a good story. BioWare's game will also be heavily voiced-over, which will be fantastic. I am a big fan of movies where you have to read very little text, and so I'm a big fan of games being made more into interactive movies than interactive novels. If there is a way to play SWTOR without having to pay a subscription fee (NOTE: BioWare hasn't yet announced if there will be such a fee), then I will certainly buy and play it if only for the story. However, I'm not interested in sending out recurring payments for a game that will involve me repeating everything I do to death.