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Star Wars: The Old Republic Editorial: Some Concerns about The Old Republic

By Michael Bitton on February 12, 2010

It’s been just over seven months since my somewhat controversial take on Star Wars: The Old Republic’s potential class roster, so I’d say I’m a bit overdue in taking another look at the game and where it stands today. Before I get into that, though, some context is necessary, mainly, I’m “That Guy,” the guy that Scott Jennings referred to in a recent column on Star Trek Online, only I’m “That Guy” for Star Wars. A self admitted Star Wars geek, nerd, or even fanboy if you want to get dirty.

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I spent my teenage years reading Star Wars novels, designing and playing on Star Wars MUDs, and watching the films a ton. Having played text-based MUDs for years, which offered the benefit of visualizing things in my mind, like a book, I never really saw the draw in dropping 15 bucks a month to play in what I felt was a vastly inferior experience. At least back when EverQuest was king, MMOGs were essentially just graphical MUDs. It wasn’t until Star Wars Galaxies that I felt absolutely compelled to dive into the pool.

Why was all of this context necessary? Because like many of you out there, I was quite burnt throughout the whole Star Wars Galaxies fiasco, and am clinging eagerly to the hope that BioWare will treat the IP right with the second take of a Star Wars MMOG. Of course, BioWare has the benefit of the doubt, given their storied history, and while the trickle of information has been slow, some things have been alarming to me as a Star Wars geek, as “that guy.” While many veterans of the MMOG genre are debating whether or not Star Wars: The Old Republic even qualifies as an MMOG, or whether it will resemble a traditional MMOG, more important to me than all of that is a simple question:

Will it resemble Star Wars?

For me, games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed are absolute blasphemy. If you enjoyed that game, most of what I’ll be saying here might very well go over your head. The mantra throughout the game’s development was “kicking ass with The Force.” Each and every time I read this rattled off in an interview or heard it in a video, I could only react by shaking my head or facepalming. Watching the main character yank a Star Destroyer out of the sky using The Force really sealed the deal for me never wanting to touch the game.

So what’s getting under my skin about The Old Republic? Well, let’s start with my aforementioned controversial class roster article. While many users derided me for writing such a “ridiculous” article, I turned out to be right, which is actually bittersweet for me. For one, I was grilled for postulating that we might see a Jedi Consular serving as our backline healer, which has, well, turned out to be true. Some users were downright convinced I was crazy, since, well, we weren’t going to have healers, right? You might be looking for an “I told you so!” here, but even as I said then, I only observed this as a possibility due to the precedent found in the Knights of the Old Republic games, and I would actually be quite disappointed if it turned out to be true. Most of my more thoughtful or creative ideas (as well as your own) turned out to be false, while the more logical and less interesting ones turned out to be true.

We now have eight classes, four of which are force users, which I honestly feel was a bit of a waste. What could be done with four that could not be done with two? Do you really need four classes to tell their stories or accomplish their gameplay goals? Different storylines could fork off based on specialization choices. Sure, I’ve got some nitpicks, such as calling the warrior Jedi class the Jedi Knight (which is a rank) as opposed to the Jedi Guardian, which would be more appropriate. Another fear of mine since the announcement of these classes is the constant depiction of the Sith Inquisitor and Jedi Consular wielding double-bladed lightsabers. This makes absolutely no sense, as the double-bladed lightsaber is both incredibly hard to master, and also quite rare. The use of such a lightsaber was actually frowned upon by the Jedi Council, no less! Yet it appears to be, perhaps exclusively, available to the Sith Inquisitor and Consular.

For those of you who were unfamiliar with my boring lesson in lightsaber history, you might be wondering then, why would BioWare make such a curious choice? Wouldn’t the double-bladed lightsaber be more fitting with the Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior? It seems fairly obvious, right? My theory is actually quite simple. As I mentioned in my “Twelve Possible Classes” piece, there would likely be a Sith Lord-type class for MMOG players who aren’t necessarily interested in Star Wars, but want to get their ranged nuking on in BioWare’s new MMOG, and I feel the choice of lightsaber type goes hand in hand here. In order to accomplish the task of creating that “mage” feeling, the nuker/priest Force classes will have the option of wielding double-bladed lightsabers because they are the closest analogue to a traditional mage’s staff.

While I can’t say definitively whether or not this is true, or if double-bladed lightsabers would also be available to our force wielding warrior classes, the point isn’t really the specific example, but more that they are illustrative of an alarming trend for the more diehard Star Wars fans looking forward to this game. While I am a Star Wars geek, I do understand that gameplay trumps continuity and every single IP-based project makes these sorts of errors. It is simply puzzling when they are unnecessary. It would be tragic, for example, if the Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior ended up only being formidable opponents while in a single or dual wielding configuration, yet their more contemplative counterparts could specialize in being absolute masters of one of the most difficult types of lightsabers to wield. And this seems to be a likely outcome. After all, if both can specialize in these lightsaber forms, what is the purpose of having the option on the Inquisitor or Consular? Why the overlap?

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