MMORPGs, for many, are like a slightly deranged on and off relationship. There’s passion, and there’s most certainly love; but at some point, boredom replaces excitement. Even worse, boredom then transforms into disdain. The only thing that really keeps you invested are the people you would disappoint if you called the whole thing off. Eventually though, you do. You are happy. You seek out new experiences and find that thrill again that you thought you lost. Years pass. Then, suddenly, a thought crosses your mind.
‘I miss it.’
And everything starts anew.
This, even though I must admit I may have dramaticised things a tiny little bit, sums up my experience with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Good old SWTOR. When the game originally launched, I was ready. Like a good little gamer-drone, I pre-ordered the game that was the last in a long line of games promising to be the WoW killer. It was enjoyable to play; immersing myself into the role of a ruthless Sith with force powers that sparkled on my screen like a modern RGB computer build captivated me. Unfortunately, once the game guided me to the conclusion of the – admittedly amazing – story of my character, there was only emptiness.
PvP was laggy and unbalanced. PvE end game content was sparse. Leveling another character right after level-capping my first one seemed repetitive. I wasn’t invested in a guild at that point either, and so I found myself stuck in an entertaining universe that seemed inappropriately empty. My unsub inevitably followed shortly after this realisation.
Fast forward to 2020. The world is in chaos, everyone wishes for this forsaken year to be over already. Participating in reality is at the very least stressful, and in the worst case scenario, deadly. But wait! Isn’t that a perfect opportunity to delve back into a virtual world? Absolutely! It isn’t like the MMORPG market gets flooded with new and awesome titles on a weekly basis; so in order to find the escapism that I crave, I decide to have a look at a couple of titles that might draw me in.
I cautiously take a look at World of Warcraft, but quickly decide that I’m not going to go down that road again. They still don’t have housing! Elder Scrolls Online perhaps? Well, it’s a good game, but also so serious. My old dark elf character barely ever cracked a smile. Final Fantasy XIV? I’m not falling for that one again, there’s a reason why I previously dubbed it ‘Fetch Quest Derailment Simulator XIV’. EVE Online is enticing, but that game’s ‘real money into in-game currency’ scheme killed any sort of motivation to progress a long time ago.
One title remains in my head. SWTOR. It’s Star Wars, and it’s not Disney. That’s a plus. Depending on the character you choose to play, it can be reasonably light-hearted. The narrative-driven quests may not be the most creative, but at least I get to pew pew to my heart’s content. Finally, whilst its free-to-play restrictions can be interpreted as pretty harsh, it’s most definitely not pay-to-win. Let’s do it then. Let’s delve back into one of the longest-running MMORPGs on the market, and see whether it is able to not only capture the magic of old, but keep an MMO veteran invested and excited for at least as long as it did the first time around. Maybe even longer? That’d be nice. I’ve been without a proper MMO home for some time now, and I’m ready to settle down.
Over the coming weeks – hopefully months – I will describe to you my journey within the world of SWTOR. The ups, the downs, the good, the bad, and obviously the ugly. This is the internet, after all, and ugly sells. I’d like to tell you about my interactions with the game’s community. Its mechanics. Its story. Its expansions. I’d like to give you as accurate a report as I possibly can to perhaps help you if you are in a similar situation as I am in. You know, the ‘I-love-MMORPGs-but-don’t-really-play-one-right-now-I-don’t-know-which-one-omg-I-can’t-decide’ kind of situation.
It would of course be unfair to leave you without an initial assessment of the situation. After having played the game for a little over two weeks now, I have decided to become a subscriber once more. Mostly because of the expectation that all the story-content they’ve added since I was gone will keep me occupied for a long time to come. SWTOR is a strange beast; it’s really a single-player RPG that stubbornly insists on being a proper MMORPG.
I want to believe that this will actually be an advantage. I may be able to occupy myself with the additional story that was added since 2011 for long enough that when the break-even point approaches – the point at which I will have played just as long as I did back when the game launched – I will not even be close to having exhausted the multiplayer options offered to me. There’s ‘Conquest’ now, a mode meant to bring guilds together to work towards a common goal. ‘Galactic Starfighter’ lets players compete against one another in space. There are new flashpoints (the game’s dungeons/instances). New operations. There’s just a lot to explore, and I’m very much looking forward to soaking it all in.
SWTOR, I’m ready for you. May this journey be a fruitful one, and may the force be with us all. Because looking at 2020, we could seriously use some.