You guys. YOU GUYS.
I am having so much fun with this game.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt this way about an MMO before. I stay up late just to spend time with it. I think about it all the time. I want to buy it chocolate and treat it right. ALL OF THE SONGS MAKE SENSE.
OK, enough with the silly romance cliches. In all seriousness, though, I am having a grand time with this game. Aside from the occasional foray into League of Legends or Minecraft, I’m not playing anything else. Wizardry Online has almost completely lost my interest, and it’s quickly become apparent that I really am just playing that game because my friends are playing it. Meanwhile, SW:TOR never fails to entertain. Part of me is even upset that I didn’t somehow find the money to pay for this when it came out. (Even though I know that would have been impossible at the time; and I was so burnt out on MMOs thanks to WoW that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.)
So what is it that has me so excited about this game? Most people would probably roll their eyes at my enthusiasm, since on paper there really aren’t many differences between SW:TOR and any other popular MMO, particularly WoW. I do everything in SW:TOR that I did in WoW–I go on fetch quests; I kill mobs of enemies in designated areas; I have skill trees; I have a gathering skill; I do Dailies; I spin and jump around like an idiot on PvP maps. Nothing about the bones of this game are unfamiliar to me. They just come with different, Star Wars-themed window dressing.
And yet…there’s a sense of connection with this game that I never got with WoW. I know that the Warcraft lore is actually quite extensive–trust me, I’ve seen the 800+ page compilations–but I never really cared. None of the characters seemed interesting to me. I never understood why everyone around me was so up in arms about Jaina Proudmoore, or why no one seemed to comprehend how stereotypical and uninteresting Arthas was. And these were the rare times when I was allowed to glimpse any lore at all.
And hey, let’s be honest! You’re usually punished for trying to understand WoW’s lore as you’re playing–party members would get impatient if you didn’t just accept a quest without reading it; the motivations and origins of raid bosses were rarely explained; any kind of speech or cut-scene was always loudly talked over in Vent. Hell, even a popular YouTuber named Jesse Cox often makes a point of “apologizing” for wanting to read every single quest text in WoW, because he’s a lore nerd and it’s important to him to understand why it is he’s doing what he’s doing. His fans? Well, they just tell him to hit “Accept” and hurry the fuck up.
But in SW:TOR, the lore is right there in your face. Not to mention, the baseline of it is something we’re all already familiar with–Jedi vs. Sith. In this day and age, who hasn’t seen at least a little bit of Star Wars? (Meanwhile, if you know the WoW lore backwards and forwards, you’re cast as some kind of fat, Cheetos-scarfing virgin nerd who lives in his mother’s basement.) More to the point–who hasn’t been moved or excited by Star Wars; even if it’s just a little bit? While the main plot points of the series aren’t anything special, you still care, because the characters (and the world) make you care. And SW:TOR is more of the same.
Instead of a boring, easily skipped box of text with an “Accept” button at the bottom, I get a cut-scene I get a figure, with real facial expressions and real pain or excitement in their voice. I get a person–or as close to a person as you can get in video games these days. I get to understand why it is that it’s important for me to go fetch Item A or kill Group B. And sometimes, I also piss these people off. I can lie to them, or be honest with them, and totally rock their world. There are tangible consequences to my actions. My choices matter.
For someone like me, who has a deep weakness for believable characters, accountability, and always knowing why–is it any wonder that SW:TOR is like fucking catnip?
As a bonus, the game is aware of itself. It knows that you’re going to have to hack your way through dozens of the same enemy over and over again until you get what you want–and it accommodates that by giving you “Bonus Quests”, the parameters of which can be fulfilled for extra EXP and rewards. Usually these are of the “Defeat 40 _____s”, the blank being filled in by whatever baddie it is you’re punishing with your lightsaber at the time. This feature delights me no end, because when I played WoW, I was constantly frustrated by how quickly I would meet the goal of “KIll ____ of ____!”, when I still had half an area to hack my way through. It was just a pointless, frustrating grind, and I hated it. But SW:TOR quietly and elegantly fixes this problem, making it so that I actually want to complete these little bonus quests, instead of avoiding them.
Need more proof that this game is amazing? One word: Flashpoints.
They are, essentially, the equivalent of WoW’s Dungeons, including a queue system you can join. (Can I take a moment to note how much I love automatic queue systems? They are a boon to people like me who don’t always know what the “chat lingo” means.) But instead of a boring, repetitive list of objectives, you get a miniature story event–with extra story on top. The first one I did was The Esseles, which I’m sure veterans of the game are familiar with. Essentially, you are on a ship traveling to Coruscant (which was required by my story-line quest) and shit goes down.
It was fun, fast-paced, and exciting. Once again, I actually cared about what I was doing. And can I just say, hats off to Bioware for their fascinating (and very satisfying) approach to cut-scenes and story amongst groups? You get to pick a dialogue option during cut-scenes, just like you do normally. But there’s a voting system underneath it that you barely see, which basically “nominates” who gets to speak next. Everyone generally gets a turn, though some do more than others if they’re saying what the group wants to say. (I believe there’s also a point system involved, but I’m not entirely sure how that works yet.)
For instance, my character is your typical goodie-two-shoes Jedi, but I was in a group with a lot of mercs. As a result, Verrayne didn’t get to speak as often as they did, simply because the group was a lot more brusque and money-focused than she is. And, if you think about it, that’s actually fairly realistic–the “odd one out” in groups rarely if ever gets a chance to speak, because the others are too busy overriding their input as they agree with each other.
Even better? If you don’t like Flashpoints, you don’t have to do them. (At least, not so far.) They’re totally optional. I can also imagine they’d be so much more fun if you were playing with friends, as opposed to me who is currently queuing with strangers. Even so, I can’t wait for my next one.
In fact, I can’t wait for my next everything–I’m Level 14 right now and am actually glad that Free to Play folks level more slowly than subs, because it’s going to give me a chance to do (and enjoy) every single quest I can get my hands on. Meanwhile, Past Mandaray is leveling her third toon in WoW and hating every second of it because grinding in WoW is fucking boring as shit. (Everyone knows it, and yet none of them seem anxious to do something about it. This always baffled me.)
So yeah. Long story short: Star Wars: The Old Republic kicks so much ass it isn’t even funny. At its core, I suppose you could say it’s just another MMO–but as long as it’s a fun MMO, who gives a flying fuck?
If anyone needs me, I’ll be dual-wielding some lightsabers and force-jumping into people’s faces. May the Force be with you.