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The Old Republic is feeling old already

Oooohhhh Bioware. I love you guys, I really do. Between Knights of the old Republic 1 and 2, the Mass Effect Series, and Dragon Age, I’ve never had a bad time playing your games. As a huge Star Wars fan, I was super excited to see you were working on another game set in that universe. When I realized it was an MMO, I grew a little concerned.

Bioware’s track record is insanely awesome single player experiences. MMO’s are a different beast, but Bioware came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. These CGI trailers are well known by now, but take another view (or, if you haven’t watched these, wtf is wrong with you START CLICKING), I’ll wait!

So lets be honest: These are the best Star Wars movies released in the last 10 years. I watch these and I get excited for a game that could capture any of the magic those trailers have. Tophat made the point to me in a conversation recently that he applauded both Kotor games and the Old Republic for setting themselves so far removed time-line wise from any of the Star Wars movies. In doing so, Bioware could take the awesome universe but not be bound by any of the rules the movies threw out there. I agree with this point 100 percent. I was ready to sell my soul to Bioware, and really felt like this could be the proverbial “World of Warcraft killer”.

So while I had heard snippets about the game proper, other than watching the trailers, I hadn’t really researched it that much. So I dove into Bioware’s site for the game, excited to learn what awesomely awesome amazing things were in store for us nerds.

What I found made me concerned. And a little sad.  The following is a summary of a specialization type for the Sith Warrior class directly from Biowares official website for the game:

Sith who train in the stalwart arts of the Juggernaut boast unrivaled stamina in battle. Through diligence and clarity, the Juggernaut shapes the Force to his will to become nearly invulnerable. Damage that would destroy others is shrugged off, and futility fills the Juggernaut’s foes with doubt and despair. Protecting their allies and punishing their adversaries, they charge into the thick of any fray, and take the brunt of the assault and are even able to drain the energy of their enemies to further strengthen their resolve

Now, those of you reading this probably fall into two camps. The first camp reads the above summary and probably says, “That sounds awesome! How is that sad, Elrood? You freaking shrug off attacks that would destroy lesser beings, like ewoks! I can’t wait to sith Juggernaut my way around the battlefield, watching fools cower in fear as their puny attacks do nothing while I relentlessly pursue them to the edges of space and BEYOND.”

First of all, calm down camp number one. Give camp number two a chance to talk, jeez. The second camp, of which I am a part of, react like this:

“Unrivaled stamina eh? I wonder how much less damage I will do than everybody else since I’ll have the most hitpoints. Protecting your allies sounds well and good, and looks cool in the movies, but I’ve been down this road before. It’s standing in one place and hoping the healers don’t let you die. Its making one mistake and having the whole group die.”

Anybody who has played WoW knows exactly like what I’m talking about. Tanking always sounds cool in theory! But dps (damage dealing classes for those not in the know, DPS stands for “damage per second) is where the fun is at.

So ok, lets browse the site a bit more. One summary of a class we haven’t seen actually playable can’t tell us the whole story.

Scarier than it should be

Oh no, talent trees. Again, for those who aren’t WoW veterans, these look very very similar to the class skill structure over there. As I read through the game information out there, it all sounds THE SAME. I’ve played this game before. The Star Wars layer on top of it certainly adds something, and I appreciate that Bioware is on record as wanting almost all of the game to be fully voice acted, with Mass Effect style dialogue system to boot. That is a step in the right direction. However, the way combat works within the group dynamic appears to be the same as it ever was.

As I sit here and write this, I realize I want more. I love WoW to death. I consider it the pinnacle of what the traditional MMO system can probably achieve. However, if Bioware seriously wants to usurp Blizzard from the MMO throne, they can’t do it by copying them. If the goal is to get a good chunk of the 11 million people playing WoW to switch to the Old Republic for good, trying to beat Blizzard at their own game is not the answer. Even if they do it slightly better, it would take more for people who have devoted years at this point to their main WoW character to abandon that game for another that is basically the same with a different graphics engine and story. (I am of the opinion that is basically impossible to play two fully fleshed out MMO’s at the same time, I’m interested if any of you readers actually do this).

So that, of course, begs the question. Whats the game changer? How do you make an MMO without tanks, healers, and dps? How do you make the endgame not rely on grouping up with many other people to take on increasingly huge foes? I don’t have a definitive answer to that question. As it stands, I don’t think anybody does, because we’ve never seen a hugely successful MMO that breaks that mold.

To be fair to Bioware, even as a WoW nerd, I will try this game. The Star Wars mythos is a powerful thing and will attract a great many people. I was just hoping for something different. An MMO done in such a way that we’ve never seen before, that makes us wonder why nobody came up with it previously. I realize nobody has even PLAYED this game yet, so I could look back at this article and laugh at how wrong I was when the game comes out. I hope I do. But early signs point to more of the same, and I was hoping for more. Bioware is better than the direction they appear to be going.

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3 Responses

  1. As a recovering MMO addict (never played WoW, but I was all about Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call 1 & 2, Everquest, Vanguard, and Guild Wars), this game causes me great concern: I enjoy having something of a life now and take pride in being a productive member of society. I can kiss all that goodbye on release day.
    Star Wars + Bioware + MMO = I must have this game, regardless of the reviews. Beyond all the hype, I assumed that this game would be nothing more than a typical MMO, with perhaps a few new twists, and Star Wars Old Republic awesomeness slapped on top. Anything more is just gravy.

  2. Did you play any of the MMO’s you listed at the same time? Consider my mind boggled if you did! I’ll be right there with you on release day for Old Republic, I’m just hoping it offers something different on a genre level than what we’ve seen before.

  3. No way. I agree that it’s nearly impossible to legitimately play more than one MMO at a time. They are too much of a time sink. Anytime I’ve been into them, they rule your free time.

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