It sure is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, might even be the best place in the galaxy if you’re into that kind of stuff. Mos Eisley is hardly pretty, a bunch of yellow houses crammed together around a crashed spaceship, but I doubt anyone goes there for the magnificent view. Come to think of it, I doubt anyone goes anywhere on Tatooine for the sightseeing.
Let’s not pretend that Star Wars: Galaxies is an especially pretty game. It’s not. It’s old, after all – 6 years is a long time. Tatooine is just as depressing as a desert planet is supposed to be – the only things you’ll see if you travel by land between Mos Eisley and Anchorhead are some banthas and a couple of player built houses, sharing the bleak and sandy landscape. The only other features are hills and ravines, none of them especially detailed. No “gasp, look at that thing!”-moments to be found.
What the game does have, though, is ambiance. Compared to a lot of modern MMOs, Tatooine feels like an actual planet. Not only because of the large, expansive areas filled with absolutely bloody nothing, but because the mood and atmosphere conveys a strange feeling of realism. The houses outside of town have been placed there by players, not everywhere you look or go is designed to fit a quest or a lore purpose. You can see and hear spaceships passing above your head, you have to buy a ticket for the shuttle between the various ports. It’s all in the details, without designing the environment so hard that it becomes stale.
It’s a desert planet, it’s supposed to be stale.
I gasp when I look up and see two Star Destroyers hovering somewhere high above me, probably right outside the atmosphere. I feel dwarfed. When a sand storm hits Mos Eisley I first contemplate if it’s my speakers that have gone haywire or if it’s the wind. It’s not until I get inside that I realise that it’s the weather, it feels like I’m taking cover to get away from a potential lethal weather hazard that would probably stuff up my speeder’s engine and wreak havoc on the moving parts of my blaster rifle if I had remained outdoors.
Mos Eisley, this wretched hive of scum and villainy. My bounty hunter fits right in. Nobody seems to like me, but they have no choice but to hire my services anyway. I don’t care, I’m just looking forward to getting off this piece of sandy rock.
Ambiance. That’s the key. No matter if I will write off Star Wars: Galaxies as outdated garbage or embrace it like a marvelous MMO when I reach the end of my 30 day subscription, I will at least give it that.