I am a Star Wars geek. Star Wars, at one time, was my baby sitter. Well, figuratively at least. I was born in 1973 and according to my parents saw the original 1977 film 17 times. That’s a lot of theater time for a 4 year old. I don’t collect original figures in their package and I don’t read every Star Wars book that comes out; though Michael A. Stackpole, Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson have gotten copious amounts of book sales off of me. Oh, for the record, Han shot first and Lucas needs to keep his paws off. So with all that Star Wars geekness running through my veins do I find the upcoming Star Wars MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), as a lackluster event?
This is going to be a hard question to answer. Not because I don’t know the answer but because I know my wife is going to take it the wrong way. Let me start with the game that defined the world in which SWTOR is set. Bioware released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) back in 2003. Normally I am not a console RPG player but as an obligate Star Wars geek and fan of Baldur’s Gate I gave it a play . I loved it. The setting was undeniably Star Wars. The game play was unique and fun. The story was, quite simply, one of the best Star Wars stories to have been told.
I became a fan of Bioware thanks to KOTOR. A fan in the sense that what they produce is worthy of purchase because they produced it even if the material might not normally be something I would enjoy. Pixar, Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman and David Weber are about the only other people or companies on that list.
So when Jade Empire (JE) came out in 2005 I asked for it for Christmas and my wife bought it for me. I played it and loved it as much as I loved KOTOR. My enthusiasm for the game was such that even my wife gave it a try. She liked it and completed it. But here is the start of the pattern which is why this is hard to explain.
Mass Effect (ME) came out in 2009. It, too, scored a spot on my Christmas list. It, too, was purchased by wife. Unfortunately ME did not engross me in the same manner as JE and KOTOR. I found the story’s pacing was glacial. A score of hours just to get through the introduction.
Even worse was that the cinematography (for lack of a better word) was horrible. Dialog scenes where the camera angles were sometimes poor. Characters who did not retain the same pose from one camera angle to the next. Crossed arms in a close-up to arms at their side on a long shot. It was just a total immersion killer.
All of that might have been forgivable except the combat was horribly balanced. Dozens of encounters which could be completed without thought then a hellishly hard, party wiping encounter which took loads of luck and many reloads to complete. In short, boring and frustrating but never engaging.
I didn’t like ME. I tried twice to play it. Neither time could I get much past the initial exploration stage. I have never finished it nor do I intend to ever play it again. Not something that I’ve really admitted to my wife because, frankly, who wants to tell their loved one that they disliked a gift they requested?
Dragon Age: Origins (DAO) came out in 2010. My wife, remembering my enthusiasm for KOTOR and JE while being ignorant of my displeasure with ME purchased DAO as a gift for me. DAO suffers from the exact same problems as ME, just more so. The characters constantly change state between camera angles but now they also can change appearance. The story is even slower. Combat is the same dull/frustrating combination except now the frustrating fights aren’t reserved for the end of a subplot. Rather they are now throw-away sub-missions which pit my party against multiple groups of mobs which each can wipe my party without loads of luck and reloads. Much like ME, I have not gotten far in DAO and have zero interest in going any further.
I want to like ME. I want to like DAO. I want to experience the stories Bioware has put together in those games because it is those stories that people are raving about in reviews and blogs. But I just can’t because I have come to loathe the vehicle they have constructed to tell those stories. I loathe the pacing. I loathe the combat. I loathe the glitches. It just all irritates me to no end.
It irritates me so much that Bioware no longer is a company whose products I purchase solely because they have produced them. In fact, it is coming close to the opposite. Bioware has quickly become a company whose products I have to be convinced to try. Case in point? ME2. I have no desire to play the game. Not even as a rental.
I know my wife meant well and I certainly don’t blame her for Bioware’s horrible track record of late. But after buying DAO for me (I didn’t ask for it as ME put me off Bioware games on its own) she kept asking me if I liked the game in that worried “I hope I didn’t screw up” tone. 😦 So, love, when you read this, trust me, you didn’t know and it’s ok, you bought me Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld which more than makes up for Bioware’s mess. 🙂
Which brings us to SWTOR. All of the previews and interviews surrounding SWTOR have Bioware billing it as an MMO designed much in the same style as ME and DAO. Imagine being the person who wrote the above paragraphs about KOTOR, ME and DAO and getting that news about a Star Wars MMO set in the KOTOR universe. Ouch, right? Talk about a love and hate relationship.
I love MMOs. I loved KOTOR. But they are trying to bring in pretty much everything that set my teeth-a-gnashing from ME and DAO. I know why they would want to play those up. The sales figures of ME and DAO don’t lie, those are highly popular games. I know I’m on the fringe when it comes to my experience with those games. No doubt I’ll be there on opening day, by Star Wars geek blood will not allow anything less. But until then my experiences with ME/DAO means I just can’t muster more than passing interest in SWTOR.