I'm Flip-Flopping On Star Wars: The Old Republic

My biggest problem now with

Star Wars: The Old Republic is that I recently switched my home computer to a Mac. This is a problem, because, several months after I first played it... years after it was first hyped.. I finally want to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, this December's PC-only massive Star Wars game.

All I needed to be converted, it seems, was to play the game a second time. From the beginning. It was as if I was playing a different game.

My first experience with the game was impaired by high expectations. I don't play massively multiplayer role-playing games. I'm not philosophically against games that join thousands (maybe millions!) of people together and just keep going and going with new adventures for months and years. I love video games too much to be against that idea of an infinite video game. I'm just against playing that game and nothing else, which is what getting enchanted with an MMO seems to mean.

I tried World of Warcraft for a weekend in 2007, had some fun, but ran away to save my time for real-life activities like playing video games that last less than infinite hours. I prefer my games to be liquids that fit into the containers of time I can allot to them. MMOs are some kind of gaseous form of video game, I take it. They seep in everywhere.

In the spring, I tried The Old Republic, cautiously wanting to believe the hype that this game, made by a company whose non-MMO games I enjoy, would be the gas-form video game for me. Within reason. I kind of didn't want it to be, either, because I enjoy playing other games. But if one could take over my life, even for just a month before I quit it, I'd let it be a Star Wars game made by BioWare. Their Knights of the Old Republic, after all, is my favourite role-playing game and maybe my favourite Star Wars game. Plus, I like good Star Wars (not the bad stuff, which I'm sure you'll agree with me; why do people like the bad stuff?)

My problem with The Old Republic last spring was that I was battling my way through a multiplayer flashpoint. These sections of the game are designed for a band of players to tackle together, marching through a linear series of battles that are shaped by a story. I was told I'd experience BioWare's signature storytelling and some fantastic MMO combat. Well, I experienced some BioWare-style storytelling for a few minutes before the combat began and then the game turned into the thing WoW was for me: a disorienting and aesthetically unappealing jumble on my monitor of characters, numbers, too many icons, chat windows and a whole lot of waiting for powers to cool down so I could use them again to take down enemies with long health bars. That isn't WoW, I reasoned. That must be what MMOs are. And if that's what they are, I can wait another four years.

Last week, I got my second shot at the game. I was wary. I walked up the third level of a big preview event for Old Republic publisher EA. They had PCs set up for those of us who wanted to play, well, it seemed like we could play anything in the game, from the start. That helped me get my head around the fact that there are eight possible main characters in the game and, if the EA reps are to be believed, they all have their own long storyline. Eight games in one. But that's quantity. I play for quality.

Of the eight possible lead characters, I decided to play as a Sith Inquisitor, a particular red female Twi'lek one. (That's Twi'lek, as in has a couple of tendril-link things cascading over head like someone traded Rapunzel's hair for two big slugs. You know, like the guy who hung out with Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.) I think her name was Sarbaox or something like that. I chose her because the text description for her back-story seemed to be the most interesting. She was some sort of slave who was trying to earn her way to be a Sith. Sounded good to me.

When you start The Old Republic, I realised, you're basically playing a single-player BioWare Star Wars role-playing game. Sold! You also don't have a bajillion icons crowding your screen and a flurry of party characters to worry about, which is good for people like me who fear MMOs. The first playable moments were fantastic. I've got my lady slave Sith-wannabe at the Sith academy. Her commanding officer is a complete jerk, disrespecting her, sending her on some dangerous training mission. And with that trademark BioWare dialogue wheel we first saw in their wonderful Mass Effect RPGs, I can make my Inquisitor lady mouth off to this guy.

I brought my heroine through her first few quests. She killed some giant bugs in a cave, murdered some bandits with Sith lightning and completed a blood trial for a guy named Spindrall.

The quests were fine. Nothing too great, nothing offensive. They were, more importantly, just the action between story I was finding myself caring about. I sent my Inquisitor back to her jerk trainer, a guy called Harkim who decided to tell my lady that she was filth. At least he didn't kill her, which he did to another trainee he didn't like. I got to choose more dialogue options and decided to threaten my trainer's life. Why not? No reason to be polite to a guy like that. That bit of dialogue happened in a story area of the game world, which I understand will stay uncluttered with other players. You're notified you are transitioning from a shared area of, say, a Sith academy, to a story area with a text alert. No load or transition, but a signal that it's narrative time.

Harkim sent my lady on her next task, to chat with a jailer. That guy was hanging out in another story area. He had a young, nervous man stretched on a rack. The young guy knew about a murder and it was time to get him to spill. My Twi'Lek was allowed to perform the interrogation, which unfolded as a series of dialogue-wheel choices ranging from nice positive-karma-improving actions to some evil stuff. I had her make the guy sing—something happy—which he did. It was a bad song. So then I had her fry him. He coughed up a name.

That whole thing was maybe the first 25 minutes of The Old Republic for one of eight characters. I played it solo, and, more importantly, I played it happily. That's when I turned to ask the EA rep a question I knew I wouldn't like the answer to. Is this for Mac, too? Nope.

I doubt I'm going to go in for a Windows PC for just one game, but I'm pleased to tell those who care about this game and BioWare that things are looking up. What I played had a very good mix of basic Star Wars action mixed with the kind of character-driven storytelling in BioWare games that's easy to get hooked on. I want to know what happens next to my heroine. I want to go through so many more decision points, mouthing off to jerk commanders, interrogating prisoners with just the right questions and who knows what else that this game might let me do.

I used to not like The Old Republic because it seemed like it might be just another MMO. That is, it might be one of those games that's just not for me.

Now I like The Old Republic, because it seems like it might be just another BioWare Star Wars role-playing game. That is, it might be one of those games that's just for me.


Comments

    Gee Stephen can't you get a pc and write it of on tax or something?I mean an editor or staff writer for a major gaming website really should have access to all formats.

    You could just install windows using bootcamp onto your mac so it would then actually be useful for something other than browsing the internet occasionally.

      haha +10 to the cheap mac-user stab :D

      Not entire sure how useful playing Star Wars is :D

      yep bootcamp is whats recommended for people who don't have a real computer

    I have to admit, I'm planning on playing this more for the story than the MMO parts. It looks amazing.

    Macs are not for gaming :/

    Real men forge their own tools :)

      real men use linux

    You're Sith now bro, just take someone else's who doesn't deserve it!

    Wow, just wow i expected a real reason at the end of the article for why he wasn't going to play it.

    It's not on Mac, god how hard is it to make a 50Gb partition for windows and SWTOR.

    Personally i enjoyed the game as a KOTOR title until we got to the first flashpoint and the trinity reared it's ugly head.

    I want Kotor 3 not another MMO with the trinity. The main reason i'm stoked for GW2 is the fact that i should be able to grab a group of any class's and complete content.

      What do you mean by the trinity? Needing at least 3 people or something like in the heroics? (I've not done any flashpoints yet)

        The trinity is the three major class-types: tank, healer, dps.

        To expand on what The Cracks said, the trinity is the classic MMORPG three role group dynamic. You've got someone to hold the attention of the enemies and take all the damage (the tank), you've got someone to keep everyone alive (the healer) and you've got someone to deal damage (the damage per second, aka, DPS).
        Normally a group requires multiple DPS, and in the big end-game content the groups are so large they require multiple tanks and healers, but the basic tank, healer, DPS combo is essentially unbeatable. It's essentially the Megazord of gameplay.

        The downside for a lot of people however is that this highly focused role based approach can find itself getting boring very quickly. It's easy for entire scenarios to become just a list of tank and spank bosses (tank and spank meaning the tank goes in, holds the boss still, the healer just stands there and heals and the DPS kills it, not a very interesting encounter).
        It can also be very restrictive to who can come along and play or how hard it is to make a group. My Warcraft guild for instance has a heap of people who want to come raid, but can't because all our DPS slots are full. Meanwhile every week we struggle to find a decent tank and healer.

        It isn't all doom and gloom though. Personally I love tanking. Of the three roles in the trinity you'll probably find one you like way more than the others. Veteran MMO players just get a bit sick of playing new games in the exact same way we've been playing for years. =P

        I'm not sure if that info is any use to you, but these sorts of 'I'm not an MMO player, but here are my thought on the MMO I just played...' articles tend to be full of people who don't know what a healer is. That's fair enough but it's hard to get the most out of these games without knowing that sort of stuff.

        All that said I was hoping that they'd just do the traditional co-op style grouping and just have more enemies with slightly higher health pools. The type where everyone just does their normal non-grouped jobs with a little more co-ordination and team work.

    Seriously, boot camp dude.

      What SASmusashi said, stop being a pussy and dual-boot that shit yo.

    having played the game on the weekend beta, (stupid NDA) the trinity isn't really the issue you would imagine. you can 2-man flashpoints (heroic dungeon instances) with companions (pets), it's harder, but it's doable.

    being limited by your group's mistakes or your gear is punishing in WoW. it's just not present in SWTOR, a healer can carry an average group just fine if the DPS knows the fight.

    so far, the MMORPG trinity with 4 players works at low and mid levels, end-game may be more harsh, but that relies more on how the healing/tanking gameplay is designed in operations/raids.

    something that comes to mind when running flashpoints is how pre-naxxramas and post-naxx changed the style of WoW's raid/dungeon experience. part of that was the forced gear upgrading, and some of that was the 'casual war',

    but 3 year old WoW's opening Lich King, and SWTOR as it plays now, is comparable.

    there's a lot more robots and jetpacks in SWTOR than WoW has access to, so i can't imagine it getting dull in a short amount of time. unless of course, WoW patch 4.5 adds in lightsabers, and really, who thinks that would happen.

    all of that said, i have a Mac.
    i'm not playing SWTOR on it, that would be silly.

    as for bootcamp, rebooting to play a game may be inconsiderate at times, but if you have a mac, and let's face it, you've likely acknowledged that you've willingly spent at least $900 more for the Mac experience, put another $500 into it for a decent 240gb SSD. the reboot times are worth it, and you can bootcamp like a champion.

    Most of the Steam games, are still 'wrapped games, as is the majority of new Mac games. admittedly, they do a nice job of integrating the installer, typically cider, but you can still update the wrapper for faster game performance if you want to do it yourself.

    after the retail SWTOR download client comes out, i believe people will know if it's Mac playable pretty soon afterwards.

    if WINE works, you will be able to install the game and run it inside CiderX, CXEx, or WineSkin, or just check it against http://portingteam.com/ and see how other mac gamers are doing.

    Or, you can wait for EA/bioware to buy a 'cider license, and throw it under EA's Mac store/Bus, but let's see how the game works when people have had the opportunity to test the game when it comes out.

    You can get away with mixed specs at lower levels, but by the time you hit around level 30 it's back to the same old MMO staple if you want to make it very far. That being said, outside of the raid equivalents you can pretty much play it as a single player game, albeit one with a bunch of other people running around at the same time. I suspect that there will be a reasonable portion of the player base doing just that, although I'm not sure how sustainable that is with the subscription model.

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