I’m going to go in a different direction with this post as not a huge amount has happened since my last one but I want to try and keep with my roughly one a week thing lest I lapse into one a month again, which would thus render this blog somewhat inept at the actual ‘blog’ part of the description. So as you may have gathered from the title this one is going to get just a wee bit nerdy so if that’s too much for you, run away now.
As a result of the restrictions on what we’re doing due to a combination of money and weather issues, finding ways to pass the time between working and sleeping have been getting a bit fraught since we don’t even have a TV here. However the internet shall provide, and so I finally cracked and bought myself Star Wars: The Old Republic which was released just before Christmas.
How will this help me pass the time beyond the usual 15-20 hour lifespan of your average video game? Well this is Star Wars second foray into the MMO genre – that’s Massively Multiplayer Online for the non-gamers out there – and Bioware’s first. Those familiar with MMO’s will know that that’s basically another way of saying “this shit never ends” so hey, at least there’s plenty to do!
You may be familiar with Bioware if you’ve ever played a game on a PC for the last twenty or so years as they are responsible for everything from the Baldur’s Gate series, to Jade Empire and the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, among others. Most importantly for this though, they were also responsible for the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic back in 2003.
Set 4,000 years before the films, this basically gave Bioware Carte Blanche to do whatever the smeg they wanted with the Star Wars canon knowing that it can all be nicely handwaved away in terms of its effects upon the films, barring a few bits of the Expanded Universe set around that era.
The Old Republic is itself set around 300 years after Knights, which gives it almost as much freedom as they originally had whilst keeping it close enough to their original title to allow them to pillage whatever they wanted for continuities sake. I could explain the setup to you, but really all you need to do is watch these absolutely fantastic mini-CGI movies created for the game.
Seriously, if these guys had made the new trilogy it would have been so much better. Anyway, the game borrows most heavily from World of Warcraft, whilst liberally stealing the best ideas from several other MMO’s and then adding a few of their own. The chief of which, that I’ve come across so far at least, are the Starfox-esque space combat sections which are awesome (though I suspect the novelty will wear off after a while) and also the decision to fully voice damned near every single piece of dialogue in the game.
“But Alex, what’s special about that? Most games have spoken dialogue!” yes non-existent reader, they do, but MMO’s tend not to do that due to the sheer amount of writing that goes into these things. You have to bear in mind that MMO’s are designed to last for years, and so to keep your attention they put in a lot of things to do. We’re talking entire libraries worth of text people. And Bioware have decided to voice almost all of it.
Technically we’re talking over 200,000 lines of spoken dialogue, and that’s just at launch. The thing with MMO’s they’re adding to them all the time, case in point Bioware have just added a bunch of new content to The Old Republic and it’s not even a month old! However they were determined to place a much larger focus on story than MMO’s usually do, and they felt that this went hand in hand with the increased production values that voice acting can provide.
And largely it kinda works. At the very start of the game you choose a side to go for, Republic or Imperial, and I went Imperial because WEE LIGHTNING.
The fun thing with voice acting for the Imperials is that they remembered that in American movies, all the bad guys are English, as was the case in Star Wars. So virtually everyone is rocking some dialect of English accent, and they’ve even branched out and stuck some Welsh and Scottish accents in there too because hey we’re all in the same place so we all must be pure fucking evil, right? It’s a nice touch though, and gels nicely with the movies. The quality of the voice acting is good, which is pretty handy when you’re hearing it all the damned time, and the sheer diversity of it is fantastic. After having played some games where the voice cast is so limited you have people literally talking to themselves in different bodies, I don’t think I’ve come across the same voice more than once or twice so far and the voices for your character are also pretty good.
So you get to choose four ‘classes’ based on what side you chose, conceived around the classic Star Wars archetypes. So after some deliberation I went with a Sith Inquisitor because WEE LIGHTNING!
It starts off brilliantly, with the classic Star Wars text crawl thats specifically about your character, and then you’re flung into the Universe to follow a story specifically crafted for that class of character. That means that this massive, bottomless game based around one of the most popular IP’s in the world has eight freakin’ individual storylines to work through if you wanna see it all. On top of that, there are all the companion characters you can pick up on your journey that join your ships crew, the lightside/darkside deviations in the storyline that can dramatically change the path and tone of your story, and probably all sorts of crap I haven’t even thought to write of yet. I know it’s a subscription game, which some people balk at, but seriously if you got this you’d never buy another game again. Well, probably.
What I’m getting at is that this is really good. So long as you like fairly formulaic RPG’s that go on and on and on and on and Ariston anyway. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it has a lot of fun playing around with the design. I dare say as I progress there will be things that will bug me, there certainly seem to be a few issues with the latter parts of the game so far, but the sheer breadth, diversity and quality of the game up to this moment in time more than make up for it. Chuck in the fact that it allows me to play with my friends back in Europe, and it provides a more interesting method of keeping in touch with people.
Oh and as a side note, that SOPA thing that’s been doing the rounds in the news a lot lately? Well if that had passed, I could have been sued into Oblivion just for half the links I put here, let alone the pictures, and then WordPress would be liable as well. A sobering thought.