One month. Wow, that was fast. Time is speeding up, man. Nothing beats keeping track of time like checking your MMO subs and finding out that the next billing cycle starts today. Calendars are so outdated and clearly not Web 2.0. In other words, my month of Star Wars Galaxies ends today – it’s actually been that long since I started.
But this post is not about me getting older by the minute. I haven’t had time to blog as much as I would have liked over the course of the month, but that’s how it goes sometimes. But I think that a summary of what the time in SWG has been like is in order. After all, I feel that I can now, at least partially, answer the question I asked a month ago – is Star Wars Galaxies really such a bad game as its reputation would have us believe?
I’ll break it up in two parts, the pros and the cons of the game, starting with the cons. I’ll also add a TL;DR at the end, in case you’re lazy or feel like flaming me no matter what I write. I aim to please.
Disclaimer: Do keep in mind that I only have a Jedi at level 39 and a trader at level cap (after a grueling grind). I have not experienced the game fully, including things like heroics and PvP.
Hit the jump to find out the good stuff!
All is not well in the world of Star Wars Galaxies, of course. After all, the game is six years old – even with the NGE-reset, there’s still a lot left from the “old” ways of doing MMOs. This is no World of Warcraft, people.
The PvE follows the “kill ten rats”-model. Even if the Legacy questline and the flavor texts of the missions try to hide it, there’s no escaping the fact that questing is filled with typical kill- and loot-quests. Kill 11 of these mobs, collect 8 pieces of loot from those enemies. Rinse, repeat, move on. I’ve quested my way through Tatooine and Naboo, and right now I’m fed up with the Legacy so I didn’t even bother starting on the part of the line that takes place on Correlia.
So far, there’s been very few missions that deviate from that norm – the only one I can think of is a racing mission, where you have to rush between waypoints on a vehicle of your choice. It was fun, but hardly enough to break the rather monotonous PvE-grind. Most quests follow the same formula as well, especially when you have to break into someone’s bunker, and can be very predictable – it’s easy to plan ahead, knowing which mobs to stay away from until you’re done with your current task.
There’s a lack of original content, at least when leveling. Haven’t I seen this bunker before on another planet? Haven’t I been inside a cave just like this already? Those are two questions you will ask yourself, many times. The only good thing is that structures like those can be quite difficult to navigate through, people obviously like to build their bunkers like mazes (no minotaur yet, but one day he will jump me from behind), so you at least learn how to find your way through them after a while (which, to me, would be a rather far-fetched pro). The overhead map is your best friend, trust me.
The game is old, which means the community is old, which means some things can be hard for a new player. While an old community, with players that’s been in the game for years, can be a good thing as well (I’ll get back to the community during the pros too), it’s hard as a new player to break into the game. Creating a new guild and finding members to build a city with can be really hard, finding your place as a trader and being able to make money is not an easy task. An entertainer or trader below level cap is completely worthless, who wants to get a buff from a level 50 ent when there is a level 90 standing right beside him/her?
Combat can be confusing, buggy and at times boring. Especially ranged combat got old really fast, while I do enjoy melee. Enemies move around,at least if they are armed with ranged weapons, but they look hilarious while they do – a friend, who I got to download a trial, said that their legs “moved like drumsticks”. Ranged felt like two people just standing there, shooting at each other and hoping to get the killing shot. Melee is better, but it’s still the rather typical MMO combat despite the “aiming” (which is similar to the one in Fallen Earth, but a bit better since you don’t have to tab out of it to loot for example).
Six years old and there’s still some silly bugs, like enemies that can’t be hit or doesn’t react, lag-issues, etc. There’s some really annoying rubber-banding from time to time, even though it’s not a major thing. There’s also some graphical issues, especially with volumetric shadows turned on – buildings outside the field of view have no shadows, for example. Pop-ups, especially from vegetation, are common.
This last con might be a bit controversial but for a new player it gets old rather quickly. While the community is great (see below), the more or less constant bitching about the NGE can become really annoying. I know I will never feel your pain, but some members of the community seem to have personal agendas against new players actually enjoying the game as it is today. Nothing is as good as it used to be, and everyone should be constantly reminded of it. Even I, who never played SWG back in “the day”, need to be told what a great game SWG used to be before SOE “destroyed it”.
With that said, I can understand how betrayed some players felt when the Combat Update and the NGE hit. How the changes were implemented without warning, how one patch changed the whole game. I perfectly understand how you feel, it must have been quite a shock. But it’s been four years, if you can’t let it go, fine. But don’t constantly complain about it in front of the new players – you’re not helping them, you’re not helping the game, and since a lot of you are still playing, you’re not helping yourself.
Those were the cons I’ve experienced so far. There are probably more, and I have no doubt that more will crop up the higher level you get too or the longer you play the game. But those are the most important problems I’ve had with SWG during the month. So let’s move on to the good parts, the ones that truly stands out. Believe it or not, despite the rumors being spread about the game from the people who still hold a grudge against SOE/LucasArts, there’s a whole bunch of pros.
In many ways, despite the NGE changing the game at the core, SWG is still a very unique MMO. To this day, it has sandbox features that I’ve never experienced in any other game. Love it or hate it, the game should get credit for a lot of daring design choices that the developers have taken and keep taking.
The sandbox features, such as player owned housing, is the best I’ve ever seen. Not only can you have your own house, that house is placed in the actual world. No instancing, no magic door that leads to thousands of apartments. It’s your house and anyone can stumble upon it. While exploring the world, you’ll see player owned houses everywhere, you’ll suddenly find a vendor in the middle of nowhere hawking ship parts or collectable items, placed there by another player. It’s an amazing system and because of it, the planets feel alive in a way no other game does, despite them being so large and often devoid of much detail.
The player created cities can be equally amazing. My guild is one of the largest on the server and our city is huge. The central square, right next to our own shuttle station, is lined with shops where you can find everything you need. We have a mall, a crafting house, a cantina and everything else you would ever need. It’s a popular spot, not only for members of the guild, but also for other people who come there to hang out, craft or shop.
The community is filled with good people. Despite the asshats mentioned above, most of the people who are still playing really enjoy the game and love seeing new faces. They are helpful, both when asking questions or helping out practically (my guild leader showered me with gifts, including a house and some starting out money). I’ve yet to be called a nub, despite, you know, being one. You will feel welcome.
Star Wars Galaxies is a very social game and depends a lot on interaction. Guilds work together to better their cities, people hang out in the cantinas to chat while getting entertainer buffs, there’s an advanced “storyteller” system for creating player driven events, some spots are always busy with people doing nothing but talking (at least on the more popular servers, there are reportedly some servers that still – even after the latest server merge – are ghost towns).
There’s so much to do. I keep losing track of leveling because I waste my time fixing up my house, planning my harvesters, foraging, hunting down collection items, looking at the sights, touring landmarks and different player cities, visiting shops, chatting with guild mates, crafting, doing space missions, creating chronicles…people keep telling me that the game doesn’t start until level 90, but I’m constantly busy as it is. The “end-game”, at least from the view of a level 39, seem to be enjoying the world and everything it offers. Not the common one-track gear treadmill of raiding or PvPing.
Space is awesome. It’s a whole different game with its own level progression, there’s a myriad of ships to fly and it’s twitch based. The vistas are impressive, looking down on Tatooine or Lok while shooting down rebel scum, and it can be much more challenging than MMOs usually gets. I’ve also had the opportunity to man a turret while another player sat in the pilot seat – true Star Wars style! Which brings me to another, important point…
It’s Star Wars, man. I know that some players don’t think it’s Star Warsy (love that expression) enough, with all the Jedi and mini-Ewok familars and stuff, but I think it’s just right. Compare it to The Old Republic, whose cartoony style and bright colors fit in with the modern version of Star Wars. SWG feels a lot more like the old trilogy, while including planets like Naboo and the disgusting Gungans seamlessly. It’s dark, it’s gritty, the Empire is evil in that Moff Tarkin-kinda way, there are pirates and scum everywhere.
I don’t dislike the graphical style of The Old Republic, I think it looks great. But I’m glad that SWG looks different. It fits the time frame of the game, between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. The architecture of the various planets looks great as well, like the impressive gates in Theed on Naboo or the massive skyscrapers on Correlia.
ENOUGH ALREADY, GET TO THE POINT
Right, sorry. I guess it’s easy to get carried away and ramble on about both pros and cons of a game you’re currently playing. So, how to summarize the whole experience?
First of all, to answer the question I started the whole experiment with – is Star Wars Galaxies really such a bad game as its reputation would have us believe? The answer? No.
I know, I know – it’s not what it used to be, pre-CU and pre-NGE. That doesn’t stop SWG from being a great game now too. Instead of the open class system it used to have, it now has nine distinct classes – but the classes plays differently, and the expertise trees allow for further customization. That’s not enough for everyone, especially not for the vets who remember how it used to be and can’t forgive the developers for doing what they did, but as a new player it is easier to see the game standing on its own terms instead of the memories of the glory days before the NGE changed everything.
Star Wars Galaxies has a lot of things going for it. If SOE would pump in a little more money and keep pushing for it (like the sudden appearance of SWG on Steam), it should be able to become more popular again. It’s hard to say exactly how many players it has right now, some servers being full and some being more or less empty, but I don’t think it’s as bad as some would have us believe. With Game Update 15, which will try to bring new life to the Galactic Civil War, it might also bring back old players while attracting some new people.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
As I said, billing is today. My original plan was to use the retail code I had and give SWG one month to find the answer above. So this is the crossroad, this is where I either keep playing or leave. After all, the 30 free days I had are suddenly over.
Honestly, I can’t see myself letting it go now. I’ve fallen madly in love with SWG. It’s an awesome MMO. I have so much left to see, so much to discover. I want to learn how everything works, how it fits together. I want to reach level 90, I want to try out PvP, I want to become an ace pilot and fly the coolest of ships. I want to set up a shop selling those ships and modules for them. Maybe then I will take a step back and realise that it’s all crap. Who knows?
I’m glad I decided to give it a try, to see for myself if the game deserved all the slack. If you’re interested, SOE offers a 14 day trial, which I heartily recommend you give a try. Even if you’re an old player that left during the CU or NGE, I’d recommend it. It has changed a lot since those days, after all it’s had four years to mature.
I’ll keep playing and blogging about it. I will still be myself, though, and probably keep bouncing between various MMOs. It seems like SOE has activated my EverQuest 2 account during December, for example. But now I have a new home, a house in the city of Prometheus on Tatooine’s moon Lok, from which to base my operations.
Despite its many faults, SWG is a wonderful MMO. It has matured a lot since the CU and NGE, has great sandbox features and a lot of stuff to do. I will keep playing it, and I hope that SOE gives it more attention in the future and allows it to take back a lot of the ground it lost when the NGE was introduced. If you haven’t tried it, check out the 14 day trial. If you left after the NGE, still check out the 14 day trial – it has changed a lot.