One month of Star Wars Galaxies – the summary

Big, hungry, not very cuddly.

Big, hungry, not very cuddly. Soon to cut into pieces with my lightsaber.

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 Calendars are so outdated and clearly not Web 2.0.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 agois 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!

THE CONS

RiKali, my Jedi, at level 39.

Ri'Kali, my Jedi. The helmet is only for appearance, a system that works really well in SWG.

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.

A player made museum in A New Haven, Naboo.

A player made museum in A New Haven, Naboo.

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.

THE PROS

Tugg Back, my trader (crafter). If you get the reference, you are probably Swedish and around 30 years old.

Tugg Back, my trader (crafter). If you get the "Tugg Back"-reference, you are probably Swedish and around 30 years old.

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.

Theed, the capital of Naboo.

Theed, the capital of Naboo.

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?

A player made museum I found in the city A New Haven.

My first house, in the city of A New Haven on Naboo.

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.

TL;DR-VERSION

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.

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28 comments

  1. Lukane says:

    I recently resubbed to SWG myself. After taking a long tour through many different MMO’s, I needed something with some depth and maturity.

    I agree with you on all points. The game is a little old. The quests are boring. A new player can sometimes feel extremely lonely.

    However, I’m loving it. I don’t feel like I’m in a race with everyone on the server. I built my house last night. I feel like I can do whatever I want, and there is plenty to do. I played it before the NGE and now after. It’s a different game, but I don’t believe that it’s “broken.”

    Thanks for the honest review. I’ll probably stay with SWG until TOR comes out.

    By the way, what server are you on?

    • Petter says:

      “A different game” sums it up pretty well. :) Glad you’re enjoying it too. In case you missed my comment below, I’m on Europe-FarStar. It’s a good place, lots of people around.

  2. Longasc says:

    This was an amazing review. I wonder if you are right and SWG gets badmouthed by its own community, players who actually do not know it at all, and SOE themselves, too. They seem to give crap about marketing it. EQ2 – got it ever promoted besides with the boobs of Antonia Bayle and Lucan d’Lere’s blank evil stare? SWG still seems to suffer from the NGE wound, it is a real trauma – something for sociologists researching MMO culture, and a lesson for game design and the marketing department as well.

    My ideal MMO scenario would be a “medieval power metal fantasy”. Basically, George R.R. Martin meets Hammerfall or something like that. ;) So yeah, I am not so much enticed by Star Wars, even more so after George Lucas deconstructed Darth Vader as a troubled teenager and there was no Han Solo equivalent in the new trilogy.

    Medieval culture put an emphasis on the principle of eye-witness. People had to see believe. I also accept screenshots.

    Please show me some X-Wing and Turret action!

    P.S.: Let’s team up in Guild Wars 2 in 2011/12… I plan to slay you with neverending reminiscences of the glorious GW1 past…

    • Petter says:

      Ha ha! I still plan to team up with you in Guild Wars 1, when I find the time and can tear myself away from space missions and decorating my house…

  3. Fuzzy says:

    First you tease me with Ryzom, and now you dangle SWG in my face. *shakes fist*

  4. Petter says:

    He he, thanks guys. I’ll get you a better reply later. :) Lukane, I’m on Europe-Farstar.

  5. Jaffy says:

    Thanks for the blog on your SWG experience. It was interesting for me as a long time SWG player (never un-subbed in 6 years) to see life from a new players perspective. No other mmo I have trialled comes close to SWG’s depth in crafting, housing, atmosphere and the sense of ‘grubbyness’ that the original Star Wars movies had.
    I would disagree with your friends comment about the game begining once your level 90, yes there are more things open to you to do once your 90 such as heroics and PvP but SWG also has the feeling of openness that if you feel like doing something that is below your level you still go and do it anyway, just to be rewarded with the atmosphere of ‘I’m in the Star Wars universe and I decide to go do this just because I can’
    For example, go to Fort Tusken, Go on a corvette run (just like the opening of ‘A New Hope Movie’), Go kill Krayt Dragons, Whizz up into Space, Go Space mining (Yep a whole mini game of mining asteroids!) etc etc.
    One tip I would give is use all 8 of your character slots, create 2 characters on 4 of the servers (choose your server by distance for best pings). Choose different professions on the servers. I have done that and it keeps things fresh and interesting as I can decide what profession I fancy playing when I am logging in. Then you get to experience the trials and tribulations of each profession, getting the resources for your trader, getting the right weapons for your commando, the saber schems and resources for your jedi, doing content only Smugglers can do. Each profession has interesting traits about them. Doing this also gets you visiting the forum Profession pages which is also a must if you want to get the most out of your gameplay.

    • Petter says:

      I agree completely, there’s so much to do except the usual leveling grind. But isn’t keeping characters on four different servers a bit of a chore? I’m usually a one-server kind of guy, I’ve even considered getting a second account to have two new character slots on my current server. But perhaps that’s a good advice – especially if I start an entertainer somewhere.

      Any good tricks for making that work in a good way?

      • Jaffy says:

        I wouldn’t describe it as a chore but it can be a bit tricky to remember where you put something on the servers you don’t play on much :)

        Just as an example of how multi chars can enhance your gameplay:
        I wanted to keep my Bounty hunting on a separate server to the one I mainly play on (Farstar is where I consider my main server). So I made a BH and a Medic on Infinity.
        That got me involved in trying to get good gear for my BH to make me competative to take my player marks down, it also got me into a guild that was just for BH. The medic was able to apply buffs to my BH and so was a nice ‘Support’ character.
        At the same time I was playing with a character on Chimaera server that was a small time trader experiencing the struggles of starting a business and gathering resources. He was a bio engineer and is now a Smuggler and I have enjoyed doing the Smuggler content and the special combat moves of the Smuggler make it fun to play.

        The chars don’t need any real commitment, they can be create and forget if you want. They will get publish gifts and email opt in gifts which can be useful. For instance most of my chars have the ‘Favour of the Elders’ buff which they would not have if they were not created at the time of the CU.

        I guess the bottom line is if you are the kind of person that would find it distracting to have other chars showing on your sign in screen then don’t do it, but if you can handle that there is no real downside to it. You can tick a box when you create a char to skip tutorial once you have done the tutorial once.

        An Entertainer is always welcome on any server. So I would recommend that as an easy to create and level up char, you can even AFK level it up using flourish macros if you wish. Set an entertainers expertise in the combat page, get some armour and a knuckler weapon and you can do some nice PvE content.

        Officers and medics can buff your second character on that server (a quick logout, switch char, log in lets you keep a char in the world long enough to buff it). But they take a while to grind up, there are shortcuts to leveling but they require a second account really.

        As far as having a second account goes then without a doubt it lets you be more independant. But if you can get ent buffs and med buffs when you need them then it isn’t a priority. I have a few accounts I have created in the past and usually have a second account subbed for around 3 months out of 12. You have got a great guild in Unity and Ziso is a great ambassador for the game. I would think you can normally get an ent buff through your guild and often there are medic buff bots in Mos Eisley or key locations.

      • Petter says:

        Yeah, Unity and Ziso are great – I love the guild and the people in it. Feel free to add my Jedi to your friends list by the way and say hi in game as well. :)

        A lot of good advice there, I will have to think about it. I’ve wanted to see what Starsider is like, so I might create an ent there just to hang out in the cantinas and do some dancing. Might be a fun thing to do. I’ll see. But I am usually a one server kind of guy, using my various alts to support each other. So it might be a bit weird to spread them out like that.

  6. KillTrash says:

    Very good review, Petter, and as a post CU/NGE player, my opinions pretty much mirror yours.

    The world is awesome, it is Star Warsy enough to me and you put it just right, it feels like the old trilogy. There are so many things to do that are really well fleshed out, like crafting, housing, entertaining, creature handling (awesome imo!), space missions… There are a lot to do just before you hit level 90.

    My cons are pretty much what you mentioned as well. What sort of killed it for me was combat. It does feel very boring and the animations seem like they are fast forwarding a movie. It’s quite funny the first time you see it, when you start shooting another ranged target and it starts running around with their legs moving so quickly! It gets old really fast.

    I played SWG for the first time sometime early next year. Played for a few months and quit. This year I made a comeback with a friend that was trying it for the first time and we end up playing for a couple more months together. He was in love with the world and all the pros that you mentioned as well. He was not very happy with combat either and the way things moved, but he still had a blast, specially with crafting and space missions.

    I still have it installed on my PC. I always think about resubbing for another month as there are many things in the game I love and are done just right. Things you don’t find nowadays in any other game. I also recommend anyone to give the trial a run, specially if you are a Star Wars fan and combat is not all you are looking for in an MMO. It’s quite an experience.

    • Petter says:

      Yeah, I just got started with the beast mastery, doing some runs with my Jedi – which is hardly the ideal class for keeping a combat pet. I hope to make pets for my house and perhaps, at some point, a mount or two. I guess I’ll get back to it at some point.

      Do let me know if you decide to re-sub and perhaps I will take Jaffy’s advice above and start characters on another server (unless you already happen to play on mine).

  7. Blue Kae says:

    Nice write-up, you almost make me want to resubscribe, but I’ve already got too many (three) MMO’s that I’m splitting my time between. The only real surprise to me was that there are still players in-game complaining about the NGE and CU. I’d assumed that most players who hated the game shift had left the game, I can’t begin to understand the mindset of a person who continues to play a game for years that they profess to hate.

    • Petter says:

      Nope, they are still around – both in the game and on the forums. It’s all rather sad, but the NGE was a big deal for a lot of people. It’s just too bad for new players that the bitter ones don’t move on or just try to enjoy the game as it is.

  8. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    It’s funny the power of a blog post that can make a not-so-good game look like it actually is. But, this is a nice write-up with an unbiased approach. I will continue to read and enjoy your adventures in SWG.

    • Petter says:

      Isn’t that a bit unfair? I do think the game is good and just has an undeserved bad rep. I have no doubt that the people above me felt the way they express above before I wrote this entry – it’s not like this blog has converted anyone yet.

  9. Fuzzy says:

    Maybe it’s not really a not-so-good game (woo double negatives)… it just happens to get a lot of negative criticism from some very opinionated folks reminiscing about the good old days :)

  10. Das Efri says:

    I came into this game last year with some friends who had started on day one and were giving it another try. Three weeks after that they’d buggered off to the Warhammer beta but I’d been hooked. Rerolled on Starsider and came to realize that I’ve never even heard of a game so conducive to just sitting down and hanging out with friends when you’re feeling burned out on blasting random stuff. Even in the short time I’ve been around I’ve seen huge improvements made for players new and old alike.

    One of the most significant of these is how the profession respec count decays on the first of each month. You can now change your class without starting from scratch without running up a huge credit sink. If you do it once a month or less it’s actually free.

    Between the freedom offered and events run by members of the community I doubt I’ll stop playing anytime soon. Last I looked TOR isn’t going to have anything like entertainers or player housing

    • Petter says:

      No, I don’t expect TOR to have many sandbox features at all. We’ll just have to wait and see, but I guess they will be going all out on the theme park kind of game, with the voice overs and heavy reliance on storytelling. If we’re lucky, they will at least include some of it – I really like the KOTOR era.

      The character respec is a really cool feature, I was thinking about trying it out and respec my Jedi to medic to start doing more beast experiments. It’s a cool thing to offer the players.

      • xXJayeDuBXx says:

        One reason SWG lives on after TOR is released will be because of its sandbox gameplay. I’m sure that there will be those who just like the freedom of progressing their way and not be into the story driven theme park.

      • Petter says:

        Very much agreed – the two games seem to be completely different and cater to different audiences, even though TOR will of course steal players that are only there for the license.

  11. [...] There is a great MMO/Gaming blog called Don’t Fear the Reaper. and he recently reviewed Star Wars Galaxies after playing for 30 days. He reports Pros and Cons of the game. Below is his Pros, but find his whole review here. [...]

  12. Kasoe says:

    very nice review, i think you did a good job of describing the pros and cons

    my only real question is what MMO does not have quest design based on go here kill 10 rats

    now im not saying that SWG does a good job with this but even the worlds “most popular”MMO uses this quest design

  13. seJ-LeFrew says:

    Hey,
    This was an excellent review of the game in its entirety. Non biased, taking a step back to consider each element of the game. You have pointed out ever pro and con that I think keeps me coming back/taking breaks. I have played SWG back since launch, I have quit more than I have fingers and toes but yet for some reason I continue to come back. I don’t have all the fancy items, I don’t have a gabillion credits but I personally love Star Wars, Star Wars oh and Star Wars Galaxies. I come back for all the pro’s that you had listed in your blog. I recently returned after almost a years break and I have to be honest I have been taking it slowly, I am enjoying the collections, decorating my house and just messin round leveling my first Jedi. Well I wanted to share my thanks for your blog and hope you continue to enjoy the game as you appear you are now!

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