Rin Plays: Star Wars: The Old Republic

There are certain points in one’s life where you get grandiose ideas about where your life is going, what you’ll be doing, and what you need to do to get there. Points where the world becomes your oyster, and all you need to do is pluck the pearl of opportunity. Points where all of this is laid in front of you… but then you devote yourself to a time-devouring game and you lose an entire week in the blink of an eye. Guess which point this post is about.

SWTOR BannerAnyone who talks with me on a semi-daily basis knows that I’ve given my current life away to an otherworldly force called SWTOR—that’s Star Wars: The Old Republic for those who haven’t been typing “swtor” into their search bar what seems like every half hour. I’m actually kind of surprised that I got into the game as much as I did. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Star Wars, and even after reading through some of the lore, I still can’t remember shit besides my hazy recollection of The Empire Strikes Back (which was the best film out of all of them). But then again, this game has more than just the ‘verse going for it and is one of the best “free to play” MMOs available right now. I’ll explain the quotation marks later on.

As I said, I know very little about either Star Wars lore or its timeline of events, but from the “about” page I can make the assumption that this game takes place before any of the movies. As someone that wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the intricacies of the extended universe, I’m rather grateful for this. The Jedi and the Republic (see: good guys) have just suffered a huge defeat at the hands of the Sith and the Empire (see: bad guys), and are in the middle of rebuilding the Jedi order and the ravaged planets.

That’s all the background we get, and honestly that’s all you need before jumping into the game. Usually—and I say this as someone who’s played her fair share of MMOs—story has no importance with these kinds of games. Sure, you can read the small quest blurbs that NPCs give out, but who really cares? In the end, it’s just about the grind. Where it would have been simple to have SWTOR use the same tired formula, this game makes its players care about the story unfolding in front of them in an interesting, immersive manner. When a player chooses one of the eight classes—in familiar mage, tank, warrior, and ranger divisions, Republic and Empire getting their own interpretation of each—in addition to unique skills, they’re also getting their own unique story. “How does SWTOR achieve this?” you may be asking. Allow me to educate you.  While each character does have typical, similar grinding quests, there are enclosed areas on the map where only a specific class (or those partied with said specific class) can enter, giving the player plot progression unique to their own character.

Why yes, my Smuggler is awesome. Thanks for noticing

Why yes, my Smuggler is awesome. Thanks for noticing.

Additionally, there are two other aspects that set SWTOR apart from other MMOs. First is the fact that you get to pick what your character says. Yes, the character that you made has its own voice. From this, you can make your character an asshole or a goodie-goodie, whether it be by the quests you choose to do or the dialogue options you make in-game. There’s no need to keep this character progression to meta-headcanoning either: no matter whether your character is from the Republic or Empire, you can choose to be light side or dark side. I love this especially because it allows for a much wider range of thoughts concerning either side. Just because one is Sith doesn’t mean you have to be immoral and unlikable, just as being a Jedi doesn’t automatically mean you’re perfect and good. To be completely honest, I think the movies failed to show this in any aspect, so I’m glad for it here.

Secondly, if you’re like me and hate grouping with other people to do quests, fret not! SWTOR gives each player a whole cast of characters who come along with you and can even party with you! Sure, you can only use one of them at a time, but let me tell you that sometimes a couple extra hit points can be the difference between finishing a quest and grinding for hours to complete the same quest. The companions aren’t just around to be portable meat shields either: you can talk with them and find out their own pasts. You can befriend your companions and even romance some of them. (Also, doing so gives you stat boosts, so there’s still a reason even if you’re a heathen who doesn’t appreciate getting to know characters.)

Outside of aspects that directly influence your character specifically, this game does a fantastic job of giving screen time to all the aliens inhabiting this universe. Sometimes sci-fi games and stories that feature alien races as well as humans tend to linger upon purely human aspects. That’s kind of boring. Many of the communities and cultures that make the Star Wars franchise so great have their own clear importance in the galaxy, so I appreciate that the devs didn’t decide to sweep that all under the metaphorical rug.

Furthermore, Star Wars (at least in terms of the films) has been criticized as having unfair representation for the women living in its verse. Outside of the princesses, women were typically shown as slaves or dancers—women used merely for looks or plot convenience without their own motivations. SWTOR brings to the table a whole battalion of women who fight, who scheme, who rescue others: the list goes on, but it truly shows that women do have a place in this universe outside of a Hutt’s leash.

The graphics are gorgeous: players reap many rewards from failed P2Ps

The graphics are gorgeous: players reap many rewards from failed P2Ps.

I know it sounds like I’m just gushing about the game—let’s be real, I am—but not all is well and good. From all this extensive detail, it should come as no surprise that SWTOR started out as a subscription-based MMO, that is to say, pay to play. Even though the game is touted as being ‘free to play’, what EA/Bioware mean is ‘free to play if you don’t like having nice things’. For example, there are ten species you can play as, but only three you can play as someone who plays for free. You can unlock the other classes without paying real money, but that involves either some intense leveling or some intense money hoarding. Even then, species unlock on a server basis, so if you unlock, say, a Pureblood Sith on one server, it doesn’t carry over to another server even if you’re using the same account. That’s total bullshit. They also charge for things that should be free, like the ability to hide helmets or an extra skill bar. Additionally, when finishing a quest, they show you your rewards and quite often there are rewards that they don’t forget to mention that are only available to paying subscribers. Dick move. Even though it’s F2P now, it’s so so obvious that the two companies yearn for SWTOR‘s days as a P2P, and I really wouldn’t have a problem with it (they deserve the financial support) if they didn’t do it in such annoying ways.

Gameplay-wise, there are a few issues with casting times and inconvenient lag. Sometimes, even if I mash on the keyboard, certain attacks just don’t register. It’s nothing wrong with my keyboard—I’ve tested it—the game just decides, well, this time I’m not going to do any fancy attacks. It’s not really an issue usually (if you’re following the story quest, you’re never under-leveled), but when fighting a difficult enemy it can get me killed.  Also, if you’re expecting a mod to give a shit about what you’re doing, I wouldn’t hold my breath. From my time wandering through the forums, I’ve never seen a game with less active customer service. Since this game is being supported by both EA and Bioware—two big name companies—such treatment is inexcusable. However—and we’re back to the praising—if you do have an issue, fellow players will certainly help you out. In other words, I’ve never seen as nice (or at least ‘not as terrible as the rest of MMOs’) a player base as the ones of SWTOR. Sure, there’s your usual jackoffs, but overall everyone is really chill. It’s nice to see that.

If you’re willing to hand over several hours of your life, I’d definitely recommend giving Star Wars: The Old Republic a try. It’s less MMO and more actual video game—Bioware’s influence is terribly apparent. Terrible in a good way. Terrible in the way where you’ll start playing, look down at the time a little bit later and realize six hours have gone by. Even if you don’t really care for the Star Wars universe, playing will give you a new understanding and a new respect for the legacy. Now if you’ll excuse me, my smuggler’s got a con artist to shoot.

Gotta jet!

Gotta jet!

This entry was posted in Geek, Internet, opinion, Reviews, Star Wars, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , by Tsunderin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.

5 thoughts on “Rin Plays: Star Wars: The Old Republic

  1. Glad to hear you’re enjoying this game! I got totally sucked into it between early access in December 2011 and June 2013. I got all my classes up to level 50 and finished their story arcs, except my Sith Warrior. I don’t know either how I spent so much time in this game, especially as while a huge Star Wars fan, I never got into MMO before. I stopped playing last summer, and not sure I’ll get back into it, even if I have the itch to every once in a while. I find it interesting that you point out the female representations in it. I actually published an eBook about this topic last Fall, because female characters including in video games are one of my big interests.

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