14 June 2011

Why I'm Not Very Excited About The Old Republic

Bioware's first foray into the dreaded lair of the MMORPGer is coming. It's a Triple A game company working with a Triple A intellectual property; in other words, a sure fire way to entertain the nerdling masses and make a few bucks. There has been plenty of hoopla, if hoopla we are to call it, pending the release of this potential behemoth and rightly so. The MMO dreadnaught would not be what it is were it not readily fueled by millions of gallons of crude hype imported each day from the supplies of the Persian Gulf States of the gaming media (Massively, MMORPG.com, and the like).

However, I am not at all excited or impressed by it.

In short, this ain't my first rodeo. Cranking up the production value, putting in some gratuitous voice acting, space combat, and Jedis is not enough to get me back on the hype train that has dropped me off in parts unknown and left me to straggle my way back home so very many times before. Here is a short list of reasons:


1) I'm not a very big Star Wars fan. Oh, I worshiped the 'holy trilogy' growing up and watched it countless times and nearly felt my little boy heart explode with joy when it was re-released in theaters in the '90s. That's about where it ended, though. The prequels were borderline unforgivable. I've heard it said that the reason why so many stalwarts hated the prequels was because we were no longer children and the likes of Jar Jar Binks and weepy young Anakin could find no purchase in the rocky places of our grown up hearts. I just thought they were shit films with inexcusably bad effects. So why should I care about a game that's set there any more than I would another random scifi universe?

2) It's Star Wars WoW. As far as I know (and please comment if I'm wrong) it follows a very similar mold to World of Warcraft: level, get skills, add traits to kind of customize your guy, run dungeons as a group, repeat.  It's no different from LotRO, WAR, Age of Conan, or any other WoW-esque MMO in terms of gameplay, even if it is highly polished and exceptionally well crafted. The main differences in all these games are the settings. Refer to #1 for more on that.

3) It's not visually appealing. I don't like the character models, landscapes, or armour/clothing. Yes, I am that shallow.

4) Space combat looks cool. Hey, how'd that get in there? Regardless of how cool it seems I won't be dropping $50+ and a monthly fee to find out when I can just play Freelancer again.

5) Bioware. I do not hate Bioware for any reasons but they are single-player RPG makers. They do this with gusto and could make a 5-star blockbuster RPG in their collective sleep (think Inception). But what they seem to be doing with TOR is making a multiplayer single-player RPG. It is a (mostly) linear story, voice acted, with group encounters. It's not progressing the MMOG as a genre, it's just making a really, really nice one that's more like a single-player game.

So there's my brief two cents. Who knows? TOR could wind up changing the way I think about life and parting the clouds and putting a bit of Ave Maria in my pocket but, from where I'm seeing things at present, it's just another flash in the MMO pan. I will, however, admit that it is a flashier flash than we typically see.

Edit: As an addendum, here are some impressions from PC Gamer that provide some justification for my post...
First up is a 17-hour session with the Bounty Hunter, and the reviewer has nice things to say about BioWare's story-telling prowess ... The lengthy piece touches on combat, grouping (which is described as quite awkward due to the narrative focus)...The author concludes that TOR is worth playing if you're into single-player storytelling. "If BioWare had sacrificed the story-driven aspect of their game, there wouldn't be much reason to play The Old Republic. Other MMOs have better combat models and more impressive worlds," the magazine says.
Source: Massively.com

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