Sooner than later Bioware's first attempt at an MMO Star Wars The Old republic will hit shelves to the delight of Star Wars and MMO fans alike. One visit to the forums of the games website will tell you that expectations are high for a Star Wars MMO that delivers an authentic Star Wars experience set in the rich history of the genre. Yet how quickly we forget or choose to ignore the existing Star Wars MMO Sony's Star Wars Galaxies. Granted Galaxies has had a rather sordid history including huge game changes that completely altered the way the game was played with out any announcement followed by a mass exodus of the core audience and web wide ridicule of Sony and the development team. Even with that though Galaxies has marched ever forward to the delight of some and the dismay of others. I originally was going to do a piece on how these games were different, but while doing my research I found that these games share more in common than they do in differences. So let's take a quick look at how the games are different as well as the same.
To best illustrate how these games are similar let's break down the key features of The Old Republic. Bioware hopes to entice players by allowing them to join the epic struggle between the forces of the Republic and the Sith Empire. Players can choose either side and have eight different character classes that they can play. The most popular will most likely be the force wielders like the Jedi Knight and the Sith Warrior. For those who are more inclined towards heavy weapons and armor there is the bounty hunter or the trooper. If a more behind the scenes approach is for you then you can always play the smuggler or the imperial spy. So basically what we're looking at here is an overabundance of cloak wearing, force using, light saber swatters trying to kill each other while a bunch of armor wearing heavy weapon toting bad asses try to kill them and all of the above being cheap shotted by the smuggler and spy. The Old Republic also offers the thrill of space combat for players to experience in true Star Wars fashion and the promise of player housing as well. Sounds good and you couldn't blame any Star Wars fan from being excited to play this game....but hold on a minute. Does not Star Wars Galaxies offer the same things? Epic Galactic conflict..check. Over abundance of lightsaber swatting force wielders.. check. Armored bad asses trying to kill the lightsaber swatters...check. Smugglers and spies killing from the shadows...check. Maybe galaxies is missing space combat...nope it has that to. Player housing...roger that.
So as you can see on paper these games share a lot in common. Which in all honesty I find to be very interesting. Think about this for as moment when Star Wars The Old Republic Launches there will be two MMOs on the market whose features on paper are almost identical with a Star Wars setting complete with iconic music sound effects and locations. To the outside eye this could seem rather redundant and one would wonder why Lucasarts would allow two MMOs under their name looking so similar to compete with one another. Maybe its because of Galaxies age or lackluster history, but if that was the case why not just let Sony develop a new Star Wars MMO? This is where the differences through few become so very important.
The way I see it Galaxies and The Old Republic differ in two areas; setting and story. Setting has been a big issue with Galaxies. It seems like it is trying to bring you the best of the movies at the expense of continuity. Star Wars Galaxies is set in between Episode 4 and 5 of the original trilogy the Jedi are all but extinct and if one is seen they are kill ed on sight. Originally there were no Jedi in Galaxies, but when they introduced them they changed the landscape of the game. There are now Jedi everywhere in a time period where there are supposed to be very few. Galaxies also launched as a sandbox so there really wasn't a whole lot of storyline there. Down the road when they launched the New Game Enhancements they tried to inject some story lines but it still seem to be disjointed with some story lines ending leaving you to wonder where to go next. The Old Republic on the other hand gets the luxury of using a setting that is talked about in books and games and is no where in the moves. This gives the developers a freedom to use any planets from the movies as well as planets from early lore as they are not constrained by events that happened in the movies. They were even smart enough to set it far enough away from their own games to keep themselves from becoming hand tied. The Old Republic also promises a very deep story for player to experience complete with dialogue choice that can affect the way the story unfolds to your character. A good story in an MMO is great for giving a player a sense of direction and helps keep one from having too much involuntary downtime.
When all is said and done I have to ask if there will be enough room for two different yet awfully similar Star Wars MMO's. Will one spell the doom for the other or will there be enough of an interested audience in both for them to happily coexist. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
And that's my 2 copper for this week. Will see you next week for part 2 in the series. You feedback in welcome below.
Until Next Time,