When BioWare delivered my copy of their latest game last month they used some rather novel packing material: Razer's officially licensed Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming mouse and headset. I excitedly set the two packages aside and started playing the game.
A few days later I finally got back to the side of the couch to retrieve the sexy pair of PC peripherals, figuring I'd never get a better chance to test them out in their element than right now, when my work decreed I spend hours pretending to be a Star Wars character instead of cleaning the house or taking care of babies.
Now that I've spent three weeks with the snazzy $US140 mouse and $US130 headset, it's time for a little Force-feedback.
Yep, you read that right; these are some pricey peripherals, especially for devices aimed towards players of one specific game, but when a game is expected to be as big as Star Wars: The Old Republic is supposed to be a company like Razer is willing to take chances. These two aren't even the most expensive items in the line. The soon-to-be-released Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming keyboard integrates the same LCD touch panel technology as Razer's Blade laptop and retails for $US250, so we're definitely on the cheaper side of the Force, all things considered.
How to make an officially licensed Star Wars product: Start with a light grey plastic. Etch random geometric shapes on it. Cash cheques.
Razer could have easily taken any one of its gaming mice, slapped on some new plastic and called it a day. Instead, they... well they did exactly that, choosing their most expensive gaming mouse for the Star Wars treatment. This is a modified version of the Razer Naga Epic MMO gaming mouse, a device that retails for $US130, or $US10 less than the Star Wars version.
Now the Naga Epic MMO gaming mouse is a damn fine piece of equipment packed with stellar features. For one, it's a dual wired/wireless mouse. Plug in the wire and it's wired. Unhook it, and it's wireless. The glowing charge base looks especially pretty on your desk and the 12 programmable buttons on the left side of the mouse keep your MMO hotbar at the tip of your thumb. It's got three interchangeable right side panels for maximum comfort and its illumination can be set to random or any of 16 million colours. In my opinion it's well worth the asking price.
So the question we have to ask here is does the Star Wars version of the mouse bring $US10 more value to the mouse pad?
The answer depends on how big of a Star Wars fan you are. Most of the functionality of the Naga Epic remains intact, though the plastic is different and the two middle buttons are shaped a little differently. It doesn't come with the interchangeable side panels. Instead there's a glowing panel on the base of the mouse that can sport swappable Republic or Sith Empire symbols. It isn't quite a fair trade, but we'll call it that.
Essentially buy buying Razer's Star Wars gaming mouse, you're paying an extra $US10 for the Star Wars branding. If that bothers you, don't buy it. If it doesn't, then welcome to your new mouse.
It's a bit harder to classify the Razer Star Wars gaming headset, as it doesn't coincide with any particular existing product. It's a fresh design that integrates that etched light grey plastic with a hexagonal motif reminiscent of the wings of a TIE fighter. In fact, if you peek beyond the incredibly comfortable padded cloth ear cushions, you'll see what looks like a completely unnecessary Imperial pattern printed on the cloth covering the speakers proper. It's slightly silly, but a cute touch.
Like the gaming mouse, the Star Wars headset features a pair of interchangeable faction symbols, along with customisable glowing LED lighting so important in gaming headsets these days, because... because I say so. There is no way you'd be confused with a World of Warcraft player using this headset.
It's just as impressive on your head as it is sitting on your desk glowing cheerily. The 7.1 surround sound is crisp and clear, though the directional effect isn't quite as profound as it would be with a nicely configured set of speakers, of course and the boom mic, despite being stiff (I prefer adjustable) hasn't given me any trouble while chatting with friends in games or making Skype calls.
While it performs well and looks amazing, I still find $US129 a bit steep for what the Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming headset offers. Perhaps if it had a wireless option the price would make more sense; as it stands I'd have capped the product at around $US99.
But Wait, There's More
Purchase either the mouse or the headset and you receive a special bonus in-game item: the exclusive black and green weapon crystal. This modification allows players to change the colour of their blaster fire or lightsaber to black with a sickly green outline. Surely that's worth a little extra dough?
So far no one has commented on the colour at all. It's rather close to the black and yellow exclusive that came with certain versions of the game and only adds four endurance points, meaning players will outgrow it rather quickly.
The Final Midi-Chlorian Count
The Razer Star Wars: The Old Republic gaming mouse and headset are a pair of highly capable items priced slightly beyond similarly feature peripherals, likely due to licensing fees and such. You do not need these, but if you want them, you won't be disappointed.