Video Game Thoughts: Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a 2011 massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Bioware for the PC. By the time this game came out, I was well invested in World of Warcraft. Like most other massively multiplayer online games, I hoped it failed so World of Warcraft would keep all the players. In online games like this more players is always better. The Old Republic did end up having trouble. After only eight or nine months, they were struggling to pay the bills with the low number of subscribers. They announced they would transition the game to a free-to-play model. That caught my attention. They took a while to reveal the details.

I got too excited and downloaded the game for the free 10 day trial. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I had a lot of fun. I planned to see the stories for each of the eight character classes. I even subscribed a couple weeks before the free-to-play mode came out. The free mode had several limitations I was not ready to accept. I also found out players could buy unlocks for many of the limitations from the online store and resell them to free players in the game’s trading system. Many of the prices players charged for these unlocks were higher than the money limit for free players. I decided to subscribe to avoid that limit, buy all the unlocks, then unsubscribe, using the unlocks to keep playing through the class stories relatively pain free.

I estimated it would take me about six months to get all the in-game money I needed. After around five months, I had finished buying all the unlocks from other players. In that time I leveled the four Republic classes to the level cap. With the remaining month I started leveling professions on my first character. I thought it was awesome how I could unlock better versions of each recipe by salvaging the items made by them. The rest of the month my one goal was to unlock all those extra recipes. I thought it would be cool to level up a “twinked” character. That is a character that has the best or near best items at every level. This proved to be way too tedious. The odds got really low for the higher level recipes. With my subscription ending soon, those odds would go even lower. There was no unlock to boost those odds either.

After my subscription ended, I was a little nervous because other players were having bugs with the unlocks sometimes not working. Free players had no access to customer service, so they had no way to recoup the lost item and the in-game money it cost to buy it. Luckily, all the unlock items worked for me with no bugs. I abandoned my plans to get all the recipes and started to level-up the four Empire classes to see their stories. While the early planets were pretty fun, I just found it too boring when I got to the higher level planets. Even though I was playing a different side, it felt like too many quests were the same thing I did on the Republic side. I succeeded in getting one of the Empire characters to the level cap and saw that story. I couldn’t stand leveling up any more characters though. I took a break from the game.

In the months that followed, I would think of having fun seeing the stories for the remaining characters. Then I would think of the same boring leveling, and it killed the thought. Eventually, I gave up that plan and just watched the stories on YouTube from players that had recorded them. I think the problem with the leveling was that the four Empire classes were mirrors of the four Republic classes. I had already learned all the game mechanics with the Republic classes. The only thing I cared about on the Empire side was the stories, but they were too spread out for me to keep leveling to see them. I think it could have been better if they made the enemies have fewer health points. That way a quest would be completed in five minutes instead of fifteen minutes. I think that is how World of Warcraft got around this. Players just completed quests so much faster, it rarely felt tedious.

I still kept watch of The Old Republic for several months just in case they might improve things, but they never did. It seemed Bioware had a habit of releasing content and then moving on to new content. They never got to polishing existing content like Blizzard Entertainment did. The leveling up was just as slow years later as when the game first released. Occasionally, they would have a special holiday that granted higher experience numbers to players. Faster leveling-up allowed players to skip some quests, but I wanted to do all the quests. I just wanted them to be faster. The odds to unlock new recipes were also just as bad. I guess the overall problem was Bioware trying to make the perfect Star Wars game that would cater to all Star Wars fans. That was an impossible goal. No company could ever do that.

I can’t write about this game without also saying a few words on its predecessors. I never played Knights of the Old Republic II, but I did play the original. It was a much better game than this massively multiplayer online game. That’s just my preference though. I always prefer single player to online games. I would have preferred a proper sequel than what they did with The Old Republic. I got my money’s worth with the game, but I can’t imagine ever going back to it like I did countless times with Knights of the Old Republic.

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