SWTOR: An MMORPG Newcomer’s View
I’m going to lay this down up front, the only MMORPG I’ve ever played at this point, is DC Universe Online. Even if that counts (and, amongst friends and colleagues, the general consensus is that it probably doesn’t), I didn’t play it very much. But like plenty of others, the Star Wars licence piqued my interest in Star Wars: The Old Republic, so much so that it felt time to finally get into the murky world of MMO’s and chase the next “Ding!” – and with BioWare’s name attached to it, surely this would be the gateway drug to end all gateway drugs?
Right out of the gate, knowing nothing about the way MMORPGs work – or indeed, play out – the game feels a little overwhelming. Thankfully though, we have a guild for SWTOR here at GodisaGeek so I at least knew which server to pick and roughly what kind of character to go for. On top of that, I always tend to veer towards healing in multiplayer titles, so with a little bit of research (thanks to the official SWTOR site and some google searching) I decided upon the Sage path of a Jedi Consular.
Thankfully, SWTOR doesn’t seem to hold your hand too much, offering up plenty for the newcomer like myself, whilst not seeming like it would be annoying to a veteran of the genre. The first ten levels probably fly by for someone who is a regular to the world of MMORPG’s, but to me, it felt a steady increase in abilities and knowledge – which is hugely important from my perspective, as it meant I never ended up panicking, wondering what I was supposed to do.
Indeed, I felt right at home pretty quickly and this is where the BioWare effect comes into play. At heart, SWTOR has a distinct BioWare feel about it. As you’d expect, there is plenty of back-story and the questing (whilst sometimes boiling down to arbitrary fetch quests) has the same care and attention to it as the main story. At first, seeing the game was a huge 20GB of data (which requires patching quite often, it is being supported very well so far it would seem) seemed ridiculous to me, but upon realising the volume of dialogue that had been recorded – with multiple options each time – that 20GB almost seems too little.
That gets me onto the next point, this game is huge. Exploring a flashpoint recently with fellow guild members brought this fact home, and in all honesty left me wondering if I’d ever have the time to dedicate that the game warranted, nay deserved. Like most things, SWTOR is best enjoyed with friends, and the dice-roll story dialogue moments can lead to some genuinely funny moments; I was left wondering if the dice-rolls varied enough, could we literally bewilder this poor soul wanting our help…”Kill them all”, “Jedi do not Kill”, “KILL THEM ALL!!”.
Level 10 appears to be where the game starts properly, and at that moment – if you’re a newcomer like me – it does get a little scary. There are so many options and paths to choose from and the game doesn’t really want to let you hang around to make them. I’d already chosen my path (thanks to the aforementioned research) so I knew what I was going to do, but it really can’t be stated enough; at level 10 there’s an awful lot going on.
The story is exciting and interesting, the visuals look pretty nice, the voice work is good (Nolan North in my character’s case) and when you team up with people it works really well. What more could you ask for? When all is said and done, my first 10 levels have been hugely enjoyable and there’s no doubting that a game like SWTOR could utterly consume you, but I’m left wondering if I’m enjoying it because it’s Star Wars, or because it’s BioWare, or indeed because I actually enjoy the genre of game?
Either way, at under £10 a month I’ll probably keep going and see if I can find the answer to these questions; that’s the Jedi way, right? Never give up!