My opinion on Star Wars: The Old Republic has evolved in the time I’ve been covering the game. I went from sky-high excitement when the project was announced, to completely bummed out for a variety of reasons (take your pick: space combat, purely humanoid races, no appearance tab, etc), to pretty excited (with tempered expectations). However, there’s one shortcoming of the game that’s peeved me for a good while now, but hasn’t really gotten much play in our weekly column: weapon restrictions.
Previously, I’ve touched upon the topic with regards to lightsabers, but this issue really applies to most of the game’s classes to varying extents. Briefly recapping on the lightsaber issue, I’ve found it particularly odd that the saber types are restricted not only on a per-class basis, but on a per Advanced Class basis. This is pretty silly in my opinion, though while I understand the why of it (technical reasons relating to animations), it doesn’t bug me any less.
As we’ve learned more and more about the game’s classes this issue has become more bothersome to me. I hate to bring up Star Wars Galaxies as an example, but the game’s analogues to Star Wars: The Old Republic classes, such as SWG’s Bounty Hunter (TOR’s Bounty Hunter) and Commando (TOR’s Trooper) stand out in particular here. This is mostly due to the fact that a lot of hay has been made about The Old Republic’s class design vision, and more specifically, fulfilling the fantasy of the iconic character a particular class is based on. This doesn’t apply to all classes, of course, but let’s take the Bounty Hunter for example here. The Bounty Hunter has been described as allowing you to fulfill the Boba Fett fantasy, yet outside of the gadgets and gizmos we are limited to either a single pistol or dual-wield pistols, which is really more of the Jango Fett fantasy, but I digress.
OK. So, what’s the big deal? Well, this decision to focus on a particular character’s fantasy seems to have really narrowed the bounty hunter experience down from a gameplay perspective. Bounty Hunters are notorious for being exceptional with a wide variety of weapons, and the diversity of bounty hunter characters in both the Expanded Universe and even the films illustrates that fact perfectly. For example, take Zam Wessell (or Aurra Sing) and her sniper rifle, Boba Fett and his EE-3 carbine, or even Jango Fett and his signature pistols. To its credit, Star Wars Galaxies got this part right. The Bounty Hunter profession itself was kind of a jack-of-all-trades on the weapon front, offering skills specific to pistol wielders, carbine wielders, and even specialized weaponry such as the lightning cannon. You could, of course, mix this with the weapon specific professions to really specialize if you wanted to. This allowed you to make your Bounty Hunter your own, instead of simply pretending to be Boba or Jango Fett, though you could certainly opt to go that route.
Now, I didn’t decide to choose the Star Wars Galaxies example as some kind of “Herp derp, but this isn’t like SWG!” argument. I realize Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t Star Wars Galaxies, and that’s fine. The issue is, it’s not really like most other contemporary MMOs in this regard either. While most classes in existing MMOs have weapon restrictions, they usually offer at least some level of diversity. Even a Rogue in World of Warcraft has several choices in the types of weapons he can use to do battle with, and each have their own pros and cons in different situations.
TOR’s Bounty Hunter simply highlights this issue best (outside of the Force Users). I did actually bring up this concern of mine to BioWare’s Daniel Erickson back in April when I flew out to San Francisco to play the game for a few days. He initially joked that the Bounty Hunter wields pistols because we never actually find out if Boba Fett’s carbine ever works in the films (you know, since it gets chopped in half before he can ever shoot it). Daniel was certainly receptive to the criticism though, and the current setup didn’t really sound set in stone based on his response (post-launch!). They very well could expand the kit available to The Old Republic’s classes if the feedback calls for it, and I’m glad to hear they are at least open to the notion.
I accept the fact BioWare had to make some concessions in order to get the “heroic combat” they’ve been striving for with The Old Republic right while also getting the game out before 2087, but I still can’t help being bugged by the shortcomings there. Does it bother you as well? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Share your thoughts in the comments below!