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The Singleplayer MMO Cometh

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Star Wars: The Old Republic is an on and off game for me. I tend to play it for a couple months or weeks at a time before I take a break. Due in part to my sporadic play and compulsion to complete all side content while leveling, I’ve only managed to complete a couple of class stories over the years.

When BioWare first made 12X XP for class stories available, you’d think I would have jumped at the chance to make some headway in knocking out the rest of those stories, but instead, I actually stayed away because I didn’t want to skip the side content and figured I wouldn’t be able to find groups for heroic quests while the bonus was live. It wasn’t a huge deal, since the bonus XP would only run for a relatively short period of time. More recently, BioWare announced that 12X XP would be coming back and will run for an extended period into the fall.  The SWTOR itch happened to be hitting me at the time and I wasn’t going to wait around for almost an entire year to play again. Ultimately, I ended up playing some classes with the 12X boost and to my surprise I found the game a whole lot more enjoyable overall.

12X class experience made SWTOR play like a single player game. The game finally felt like it lived up to the “eight KOTORs” BioWare originally advertised when played this way. This is ironic to me, as I recall one of the most vocal debates going on here at MMORPG.com when I first started out was centered on how Star Wars: The Old Republic was a single player MMO. I pushed back at the time in a number of columns and even in my review because it frankly wasn’t true. Sure, you’d need to break away from your group for a little bit a few times each planet, but by and large, SWTOR played like any other MMO out there. The vast majority of the quests could be done in groups, there were heroic quests aplenty, and you had the requisite dungeons, raids, and so on.  Now though? If you want to play SWTOR as a single player game, it’s truly possible. In fact, BioWare is emphasizing this going forward. Is that so bad? Well, yes and no.

The last expansion released for SWTOR was Shadow of Revan, a largely single player affair. As it would turn out, SoR’s design served to foreshadow a major shift in BioWare’s approach to future story content. The next expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, will focus primarily on adding tons of new story content, which is great, because that content is a huge draw. The catch is that BioWare has been publicly signaling a streamlining of the existing 1-60 content and that the new story content in Knights of the Fallen Empire will also take place in personal story instances, like Shadow of Revan. This doesn’t mean that BioWare will be leaving out the “MMO bits” as it calls them, but it’s clear that things are changing. I still fully expect there to be new raids, flashpoints, and warzones, but these items appear to be sidelined in favor of a renewed focus on story.

The more I think about it, the more I feel the new setup is starting to sound like a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I enjoy being able to quickly get around planets and focus on my own personal story. Having to redo the same sidequests over and over truly did hold me back from committing to taking a new class through the game. I’m also incredibly excited for the game’s story to continue in Knights of the Fallen Empire. It’s the first time in years that Star Wars: The Old Republic feels like it’s truly moving forward and I can’t wait to see where it goes and adventure with companions old and new. On the other hand, I’m saddened as I now realize that I won’t be able to experience that story with my friend, who has duoed with me through everything so far. I’ve been reading similar concerns from other players with regards to Shadow of Revan and Knights of the Fallen Empire, so I do hope that BioWare has something in store for the more social types out there.  If not, BioWare may be carving out an odd niche in a genre that is typically more focused on social play.

What do you think of BioWare’s new approach to Star Wars: The Old Republic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB