When it comes to epic battles between fictional forces, I generally find myself siding with the good guys. If I were a Transformer, I'd be an Autobot. I'd join G.I. Joe before Cobra. I consider myself more of a Plant than a Zombie.
Time and time again I find my light side winning out over my dark side, heroic impulses I will probably never act on shouting down the evil intentions that weren't speaking that loudly to begin with.
So the fact that I find the Sith side of Star Wars: The Old Republic so attractive either means there's something wrong with me, or there's something wrong with the game.
Last week I vowed to attempt to get a character as high level as I possibly could in an attempt to devour as much of the Star Wars: The Old Republic experience as I could in the four weeks I gave myself to play prior to the upcoming review. I would skip cut scenes, hit the space bar to speed through mission dialogs, and take the most expedient path to level 50 as I possibly could.
Then I made the mistake of rolling another Bounty Hunter, my first since a brief dalliance with the class back in beta. Now I'm a level 21 Powertech stalking the back alleys of Nar Shaddaa and I can't see myself giving it up anytime soon.
The Bounty Hunter storyline is so rich and compelling that I couldn't bring myself to skip through it. The character I play is an up-and-coming player in the Bounty Hunter community, aiming for a shot at winning The Great Hunt, an annual contest that brings untold fame and fortune to the winner and death to the losers. Early on he earns the attention of a deadly enemy, the affection of an adorable cyborg hacker, and from there his legend is mine to grow.
From a pure story standpoint the Bounty Hunter is the most flexible of the Sith Empire characters, with no particular ties to either the dark lords of The Force or the Imperial government. He can be as dark and vile or as bright and shiny as you want him. His closest counterpart on the Republic side would be the Smuggler, though they don't exactly travel in the same circles, and those circles make all the difference in the galaxy.
Sith Side Up
At this point in my playing I've sampled each of the game's eight character classes, and the difference between the Republic characters and the Imperials is night-and-day. The Sith Empire is seedy, corrupt and destructive, so much so that it feeds on itself more than it does the Republic. There's intrigue around every corner, and just when you think you've finally figured out how the system works, a new twist is thrown in to keep you on your feet.
Even sticking to a strictly light side decision-making process as I have been with my new Bounty Hunter I've been witness to acts of desperation and depravity that would curl the toes of the sons and daughters of the Republic.
It just feels like BioWare enjoyed creating the Empire more than the Republic. It shows in every bit of writing for the Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor and Imperial Agent. All of the deception, cruelty, cowardice and backstabbing is crafted with just a hint of a devilish smirk.
In contrast, most of the Republic-side plot reads as if it was written by George Lucas. Recently written by George Lucas.
Suddenly Imperial domination of player-versus-player makes sense; they're just having more fun.
Look on the Bright Side
Now I'm not saying that the Republic isn't worth playing. After all, the official Kotaku guild is rocking the Republic on the Giradda the Hutt server, and I'm not planning on abandoning them any time soon. They're good fine people, always ready to lend a helping hand, lightsaber, or blaster.
My point is there is a distinctive difference between the two factions. There's nothing wrong with pursuing the heroic ideal. It's easy and uncomplicated, perfect for those first-time MMO players lured to the genre by the irresistible combination of BioWare and Star Wars.
I'm just saying that when they're done playing hero, come give the dark side a try. What they say is totally true: We do have cookies, and they're delicious.
So What Now?
Thus ends the fourth and final Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO log. All that's left now is for me to write up a somewhat cohesive review based on my experiences with the title -- look for that either at the end of this week or the beginning of the next -- and then I can transition from "journalists that plays because he has to" to "player that's just looking for a good time."
Until then, may the (dark side of the) Force be with you.
Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.