Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Looking back on ToR

I've been thinking a bit about The Old Republic, a game that I really enjoyed playing, but feel no compulsion to go back to. I think it's just that the things I enjoyed about that game don't outweigh the annoyances.

Things I enjoyed:
Solo RP  I know choosing your response is mostly just an illusion of control over the situation, but I'm more than happy to suspend my disbelief. A lot of this comes from my developing a really strong attachment to my Bounty Hunter, Robe*, and enjoying playing out her character arc within everything else that's happening.

The combat  The design itself isn't quite at Blizzard's level of polish, but I found the mechanics to just feel really good. I think a lot of this is the result of the way even the single player game is mainly concerned with pulling groups of differently-powered mobs, giving the player the opportunity to strategise each pull; to choose which mob to CC, whether to use stuns or knockback or other control abilities, whether to AoE, kite or focus fire. The game also has many challenging but still solo-able elite mobs which require you to use all your tricks to defeat. [Contrast with the WoW single player game where every fight is identical. Debuff, dot, nuke, loot. Debuff, dot, nuke, loot.]

Space combat  First, let's get one thing straight-- this Starfox bullshit does not belong in an MMO. That said, I love the space combat to death and can't seem to care that it doesn't belong here. Maybe a lot of the fun comes from being able to extend my character in this direction, along with her awesome "Yeah I'm totally impractical but FUCK YOU" Bounty Hunter ship. They've succeeded in the dumbest way possible and made this minigame one of the highlights of the whole package.

Things I did not enjoy:
Quest system  Going to a new hub and picking up a whole mess of new quests is one of the things that Blizzard has long since abandoned as a design, but remains in this game. It's unreasonable for the game to expect me to keep more than one or two independent storylines in my head at once-- I'm only one guy. So to cope, I devolve into a mechanics-focussed "follow the map" mode, and when I arrive at my destination and the cut-scene starts, try to remember why I'm there. Towards the end of my levelling I actually skipped all quests except for my main story just to maintain some kind of narrative consistency. [All that space combat had more than made up for the XP I was missing]

Crafting  Yeah, they made it fun to do, but I was more than a bit perturbed at getting to max level and finding that the epic gun barrels I put so much time and money into personally R&D-ing are worse than the entry level PvP gear that you can buy for credits. At least I had fun. =|

Multiplayer  Story and RP are all great to keep the single-player game interesting-- it even works with two or three friends playing through for the first time, but FFS, stop shoving this bullshit in my face when I am in a group that has collectively seen the exact same story sequence around forty times now and just wants to play the game.

I suppose overall there's enough there worth pursuing. Especially considering I've run out of things to do in WoW. I'll be taking some time off work later in the month... I might resub again and see if I feel compelled to stay.

* Some stuff about my character: Robe is a diminutive female bounty hunter who grew up fighting, learned to take what she needed, never to trust anyone, and survived by doing whatever it took to be better than the other guy. She would tell you that she's not a nice person, but there is a sense of morality there somewhere, she's just become too used to ignoring it and taking the pragmatic option: usually the one that doesn't leave anyone around to get revenge. Her character arc became about learning to trust people as she gradually bonded with her new companions and had their morality rub off on her. [Don't judge me for the cliché. I'm still fairly new to the RP thing.] I especially like the end of the Bounty Hunter storyline, which had a quite explicit moral choice that was a very appropriate spearhead to Robe's story.

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