Sunday, 27 November 2011

Star Wars - The Old Republic

So this weekend I've been really enjoying myself playing the beta for the Star Wars - The Old Republic. I thought I had better write my thoughts down here but before anyone sees it and starts bitching about what I've said - please bear in mind that this is not the thoughts of a female gamer, these are the thoughts of a terrible gamer who has only really ever played one game in any "serious" form and that is World of Warcraft. When WoW recently announced that their next expansion would be based around an awful panda race (which they actually "announced" as an april fools joke previously) I was deeply saddened. I have put (on and off) years into that game and it seemed like nothing could go wrong. Surely the fact that they used this idea to scare everyone as an april fools joke would point out to them how bad this next expansion is - I simply don't understand it. All I can think of is that they're either so sure that they could never fall from grace that it doesn't matter what they release, they will still rake the money in, or they are actually trying to scare their supporters away. When this was announced, I automatically started hoping that The Old Republic would be seriously good. I even announced to my guild that if I haven't already stopped playing by then, I will not be buying the panda expansion and I will not be playing once it had been released.

Please excuse me while I compare ToR to WoW but as I have already stated, it is not only the only MMO I have ever played, but the only "real" game I've ever put any effort into. This can easily be seen by looking at my Xbox live gamertag and noticing how little gamerscore I have, and then noting that the points I do have mostly came from fitness games on the kinect. So how does someone like that end up playing WoW? Well my lovely friends Becky and Becca from school were playing it and they got me into it. I really liked the idea of playing a game online. The way that Becca explained WoW to me was "It's easy, you just talk to this little man over here who will tell you to kill 10 bumheads and then return to him, that's all you have to do". So, in these terms, ToR is much the same, you go and kill so many bumheads or collect so many items and then go back and hand the mission in and claim a reward. Unlike WoW however, attached to every mission there is a cinematic which is not only interesting and fun to watch and help you enjoy the story, but there are a series of options for you to choose between as to how to react to the situation. Some of them even affect your allignment and will help you either go "light or dark". Because of this, you are in charge of how your game pans out and exactly the stance in which you want your character to take.

The next main difference is that each starting area depends on what class you choose instead of race, and as you level, you gain a companion who helps you on missions and who you build a relationship with over time. Each class gets their own companion and while it is an MMO and is designed to be played with other players, it also means that for the most part you can also play alone as well. I chose to play a Jedi Sage which is a healing class and having a big green lizard man helping me with lots of mobs really helped me to survive and get my missions done not just quick but actually enjoyably. These companions can also fill a role in a group if needed as well, for example I grouped up with 2 random guys to do a quest in a heroic area and one of us was able to use our companion as the 4th and final member of the group. I can imagine this being really handy if you can't find enough people for the task at hand. The choices that you make as you go on your missions affect your relationship with your companion and you can even win his affection by giving him gifts! I felt that this was another aspect that put ToR way above WoW. I can't remember the amount of times I have been stuck on a quest on WoW and either had to wait until a friend came to bail me out or just got fed up completely and logged out of the game completely. This mechanic should help with these issues a lot.

As for the storyline, as a person who has no interest in sci fi or Star Wars in the slightest I seriously doubted that I would enjoy the game at all. In fact the only reason I have been on the beta weekend is because my other half signed me up, unwillingly, for it. But so far the story has been really interesting and fun to play out, and actually, even at the very low levels has seemed quite "epic" which is something you just don't get on WoW. You literally have to go through tens and hundreds of "kill 10 of these" quests until you find something that you think, actually, that was fun and exciting on WoW. And of course all of the cinematics and engaging questions help to keep even people like me, who have as much of an attention span as a goldfish, interested and aware of exactly what is going on. And if you leave the game and come back to it later, you even get a "prologue" screen that gives you a run down of the last thing you were doing, just in case you forgot.

If I carry on writing I will be here for days, so we will keep it at those things that I feel, make the game so much better than I was expecting and what I have previously experienced in games. As a quick run down, the graphics are lovely, while still being cartoony are much less "crappy" than WoW's - probably because everything has been scaled much better and also there has been a hell of a lot of detail put into your surroundings. Even when I use my "meditation" spell, the light that comes off me lights up the room I'm in and also I can see the light shining off my companion. I'm sure the die hard Star Wars fans love it and that it is exactly how they would imagine it in their minds. I actually play on a crappy laptop and was worried that I wouldn't be able to play it - but it seems that I could not only run it but also with the graphics looking very nice still. The game was a little jumpy but it is in beta so I would expect that, and I didn't even get disconnected once. The community were really friendly and helpful but I assume again that it's because of it being a beta and everyone is excited because it's fresh and new!

I think the main reason why I have enjoyed it so much is because I have been getting increasingly bored and frustrated with WoW and ToR seems to have a fresh approach that while still playing an MMO, gives you a completely different playing experience. I don't think that any game could take players away from WoW but after the panda's were announced I am now really not so sure! I for one will not be going back to WoW once ToR is out because for the first time in ages I have been able to play a game for hours on end without getting bored. I would suggest that anyone who has been feeling tired of WoW as I have, should at least give ToR a go.

It has also made me consider what type of writing I would like to go into, and of course anyone who knows me knows that I 1) would love to have a career in writing no matter what sort of writing I was doing, and 2) really enjoy and excell in script writing. In fact my script writing tutor at uni even suggested to me that I should look into writing storylines and scripts for games and now I'm starting to feel like it would be something I would love to do and I am certainly going to look into it more.

I was hoping to post some screenshots but for some reason every time I tried to get some they ended up black?? My other half was having the same issue so I assume it was a bug that needed fixing while in beta. So because that failed, here is a picture of Yoda looking cute to make my blog look a bit more nerdy!

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