Sunday, December 25, 2011

My early impressions of The Old Republic

My early impressions of The Old Republic:

Yes indeed it is much like a fast food style experience, bright and shiny and all the while ones mouth is telling them "hey this tastes pretty good" but somehow one always knows better. With fast food one knows that even if they haven't been reading about the horrors of the industry for years and about how terribly unhealthy it all is and how filled with chemical junk it all is, they still sort of intuitively know that it isn't the best thing they could probably be consuming. That is sort of the whole experience with most MMOs in a nutshell. This game is like a nice sack o' Burger King or McDonalds ... some might be all to willing and excited to nom nom nom at the trough, others might be looking on with disdain. I think I"m somewhere in the middle.

For full disclosure on my video game feeding habits I have to admit that years past I've been hardcore and half-assed with my MMOing, admittedly mostly half-assed. Life, kids, school, job ... all at various times were far more important than some life draining game of an MMO. But I cite this experience, many hundreds ... if not honestly ... thousands of hours spent idling away on an MMO. From Ultima Online to World of Warcraft to Warhammer Online ... even a brief stint on Star Wars Galaxies. I don't see that time as wasted as I'd have just been watching TV for most of it honestly and a good portion of that time was spent during late night baby tending, etc. and with five kids ... that is a healthy amount of time let me tell you!

So this experience gives me I think at least "seasoned consumer" status when it comes to MMOs and just so far 9 or so days in on The Old Republic ... I'm already hitting the wall. The game is mostly good, but its very, very WoW like. If you liked WoW then this might be a selling point. Its like WoW 2.0 Star Wars edition. But if you didn't like WoW then this probably isn't a bonus. I was mixed on it, I had some wonderful times with WoW and alot of sort of strung out heroin addict times where I would ask myself why I was even doing this to myself. I learned from that in terms of MMOs and just quit when I hit that point with any game. Games are not worth playing if they aren't entertaining, fun, rewarding somehow. Here is where I will segue back to Star Wars The Old Republic.

In my eyes what I saw as the main selling point of this game ... STORY ... much in the same fashion that say Knights of the Old Republic delivered, this game delivers. However in this format, the MMO format, a great deal of time passes between the cool story elements in the game. During this time your doing all manner of typical housekeeping sorts of things, crafting, walking in endlessly large mall like areas (early game, later on you get yourself essentially a spiffy golf cart of a speeder ... which makes things a little better but not much). So at least to me anyway the story sort of loses something because of this. An hour of real time or days even, might pass between climactic story moments, so much so that you might have even forgotten what the heck the given quest/story element was all about. At many points I find myself just hitting the good or bad response and space barring through all the talking, just to hurry up to get back to the grind, that next level, piece of gear, etc. awaits. That is the focus of an MMO not the story. At least for me that is what it inevitably breaks down to. What story there is they did a great job on.

To be fair I like many things about this game and I'll quickly go through them here. The companion system is great, in this game everyone is a "pet class" you get a buddy to trudge around with you keeping you from getting over your head even when your playing solo. The companions will do crafting for you, sell your vender items off and generally the companions you get are complimentary to your class. I love how crafting works, one just sends companions to do most of it all and its running in the background while one is playing the game, for the most part anyway. For me not having to stop constantly to just do the crafting as one did in other games. The crafting seems genuinely useful and it is possible if one keeps the crafting leveled up as they go to actually make usable items WHILE your leveling, as opposed to say WoW where it always seemed like crafting was neigh on useless except for that 3 or 4 items at end game. Another nice thing are the four player instances and being able to que up anywhere for PVP, etc. etc. but those things are just game mechanics and most of them have been done long ago in other games.

There is little innovation or newness here this is not a next generation game, this is the culmination of current generation MMOs linked to the Star Wars franchise. Many people are all frothy about that and already declaring this the best video game .. that is VIDEO GAME not just MMO .. of all time. I wouldn't even call this the best MMO of all time personally, let alone the best of any video game .. EVER. But such nonsense is likely to be expected with fanboys uniting and loads of promotional money being shelled out. I think everyone from penny arcade to zero punctuation has received fat "promotional" fees to pimp this game. There are almost no honest reviews of it that I can find, etc. Honestly I haven't played enough to give this thing a comprehensive review of any kind.

Thus far its good, but its average good. Its just another take on the WoW model. Expect to spend huge amounts of time leveling, I mean its not insanely grind heavy (as is evidenced by the large number of level 50 players in the game already) but for the average player who has something of a life, its going to take a good month or two of pretty heavy play to ding 50.

Right now much of the game is clearly incomplete, and by that I don't mean the zones or the quest lines or anything, but there are only 3 battle grounds, there are no brackets with PVP at all. So your facing off at lvl 10 against level 50s. They do balanced hitpoints but your talent trees and shear ability levels can't be balanced. So unless you are higher level and have a good handle on your class and what it can do in PVP expect to get automatically torn in half in BGs. The space battles are a ship on rails, old school arcade kinda feel. I like them personally, but they don't present long term replayability, so clearly they are going to have to do alot of work on the space stuff. I'm assuming that long term they'll offer a "fighter based" PVP option of some kind where you fly around and play in key battles or something along those lines, something with a little more complexity to it.

The game is very, very young and the first major patch hasn't even been released so I don't want to be unfair to it, its not a bad game at all and I don't feel like I've wasted my time or money on it ... but if you haven't already taken the plunge and are on the fence about it, unless you have some compelling reason to jump in now ... I'd wait a few months the game is undoubtedly only going to be tightened/cleaned up by then. My honest just off the cuff rating of the game is perhaps a 7.5 out of 10 with a ton of room for improvement which given the nature of MMOs is likely to come over the next year or two. I'm sure this thing is designed for a five year life cycle. But even there this is perhaps my biggest criticism, this game is World of Warcraft-esq and its supposed to last another five years?? I don't think so. At present rate I'll be very bored with this game and done with it, but February.

Who knows though the game is young and I'm sure they have many unforeseen things planned so maybe by next fall I could be giving the game a 9 out of 10 time will tell. But right now they have alot of kinks to work out and its lack of really ground breaking new features sort of has me a little sad. The companion system I think is the main new addition to MMOs and the legacy stuff has potential to be so as well ... beyond that ... this is WoW .. EQ all over again.

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