For me, Star Wars: The Old Republic has exceeded expectations. Any doubters out there can say what they want but it has for this gamer. It’s had a very smooth launch; it plays well and has enough to do in it to keep me interested. If I get bored with leveling I go play PvP. If I get bored with PvP I go play space missions, and I’m always bossing around my companions for crafting. Overall it’s a good solid game. There is one area however that I feel like Bioware has gone too far, Voice Acting. There are elements of voice acting that I do love in the game and having VO in your main class story line is fantastic. However I do think Bioware should have been more strategic in their placement and not used it in every quest.
Here is my argument. There are certain side quests in Balmorra that open up once you basically finish the main quest line on the planet. Then you are about to get to your ship and there is some Imperial shmo standing in the space port with a quest. Ok, I thought, I’ll bite, what does this guy want? Once I clicked on him, it was all over, he launched me into a bonus quest phase on the planet that seemed to last forever. I played through it but it was at this point that I thought the voice acting had gone too far.
I love the voice acting in my story line. I also like it with my companions and when working through some information on a new planet. All of these work very well. The time that it starts to get to me is when I am doing random side quests around the planet and the voice acting just kicks in for five minutes. I can skip it, sure, but it feels almost like I’m cheating myself out of content. It takes me less time to rescue some Imperial troops that are stranded out in the junk yard than it does to have the Sergeant tell me to do it.
I do not need a five minute cut scene for every single side quest. It just takes too long, and on or about Level 20 on Balmorra I just stopped caring. It is the one point in the game that I feel is a real time-sink. Random Imperial Officer greets me, “Greetings My Lord, we are so glad you are here. We have this problem with a bunch of Jawa Rebels.” Ok great… and your ace Imperial Storm Trooper units cannot kill a bunch of Jawas? So I get to kill them for you. I understand that you need these quests to give players something to do and to keep them engaged.
I get that. But what I don’t get is the time it takes to give out these smaller side quests using the cut scenes. I may sound crazy, but I almost wish all these little side quests were given via the terminals that litter the landscape here or there. Cut out the NPCs and give me the damn goals. So I take the quest, I go out and slaughter jawas, I come back and get the: “Thank God you are here My Lord, you saved us from the Jawa Threat!” Here are some boots for you. I start to think hurray, boots… that are no where near as good as the ones I have, and I didn’t need a full breakdown of the jawa movements in the area. It all seems like too much for these smaller quests to have such heavy voice acting. Not everything is so important, and VO doesn’t do a good job masking it.
Now on the flip side of this, I do love the voice acting of my main class quests and storyline. I think the dialogue is cool and the story is what drives my character to go out and complete all the other stuff. This is where I think the voice acting and story for Bioware really come into their stride and accomplish the goals of the company to stay focused on story. Playing Dark Side, I like making the choices in the game that impact my character’s journey. This part of the game is pitch-perfect and a great step for MMOs to take.
In the end I guess I would say that if Star Wars does have an expansion planned for the future they can learn from this lesson and not stuff it to the brim with endless dialogue. There are only so many times a Star Wars character can say “I have a bad feeling about this.” If they can cut down on the heavy dialogue in the side missions and invest more into the story and voice acting in the character-driven missions I think it would be the perfect balance in the game. But again, woe as I am to admit it, at least I have the spacebar to help me. For now I think Bioware gets credit for bringing top quality voice acting and cinematics into the MMO genre as they do with their other games. However, I think it should be used more strategically and not with every NPC who gives you a pointless little side quest.