Star Wars: The Old Republic Captures My Attention

Right, it’s been just about a month since I last posted, and there’s a couple of reasons for that:

1)      I’m pretty busy with work, college work, applying for a job and the job application training for students that I lead.

2)      I started playing SW:TOR with a couple of friends

Yes, I know … after spending the better part of 5 years on World of Warcraft I went and started playing another MMO. I promise I won’t get crazy addicted to this one … maybe.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is a very enjoyable game really, despite what the recent internet chatter is implying. Below Is an account of my impressions after a couple of weeks of gameplay. Keep in mind that this is my opinion and does not represent anything else but that.

Alright, I fired up the game and downloaded the patches. First thing I had to do was put the graphic settings on very low. Frankly, that’s not normal. Granted my pc isn’t great, I know, but it should at least be capable of running the game on medium. I have extremely long load times (everyone seems to have that for some planets). This appears to be a problem that some players have despite the quality of their rig.

                       

So, I made myself a Pureblooded Sith Warrior (advanced class is Marauder – Favourite of the month apparently) and started my trials on Korriban to become a true Sith complete with red Lightsaber, Force Choke and a seething hate for everything alien or Republic. The story missions are awesome. The class story sucks you in right away and the trademark BioWare speech choices are flawless. It’s almost a direct copy of the Mass Effect speech system really. The only problem I really have is that I just can’t be arsed to watch every single cutscene for every single quest (no matter how short those quests might be). If you watch everything you’ll ‘lose’ hours of your day. Don’t get me wrong though, I like it but sometimes I’d prefer the good ol’ quest text.

Furthermore, as I advanced in levels I was and still am baffled by the extremely large amount of cash sinks in the game. You have to pay for extra bag space, mounts, repairs, legacy rewards, respecs, skills and lots more. Skills especially get insanely expensive for the cash flow you receive around level 25. An augmented item on the Galactic Trade Network will easily set you back 250 000 credits. Level 50 mount skill is also around 250k, not counting the mount itself. One of my friends said that BioWare overrated the potential in-game economy, and I reckon he’s right.

Finally, the PvP is great fun, it has to be said. There’s basically 4 warzones – the usual really; 2 warzones where you cap and defend bases, a Strand Of The Ancients-type warzone and a Capture the Flag warzone in the form of Huttball. Which warzone you get is completely random which is great, no more abandoned battlegrounds like sometimes happened to me in WoW.

Also, there are only 2 level brackets: Pre-50 and 50. Pre-50 everything is peachy and I felt like a goddamn battering ram playing my Marauder. But once I hit level 50 I only encountered fully equipped PvP steam trains and all I could do felt like hitting them over the head with my limp red noodle (read: Red Lightsaber). The difference is mind-boggling and very sudden. But, that is not a flow only this game has. Truly, I have no idea how to fix an issue like that other than give some basic PvP gear to every fresh level 50.

In summary, it’s a good game if you’re able to look past the (many) flaws like I did. I’m having a lot of fun for my money and in the end that’s all I really care about. I don’t sit around whining and crying in trade chat, and if you are doing just that you should really go play a different game because you’re ruining my fun, you asshat!

Niels Van Hellemont

PS: May 4th is Star Wars day so May The 4th Be With You!

30 Day Game Challenge # 27 – Game I Can’t Wait For

Well, the only game that had me sitting on the edge of my chair so far (that hasn’t been released in the meantime .. *ahem* Skyrim) is Star wars: The Old Republic. BioWare’s new MMO has me so excited because I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, BioWare and MMO’s. After I quit WoW I need something new to fill the void, and to get my mind off of real life stuff for a while.

I have faith that The Old Republic (TOR) will do that, and deliver a very enjoyable experience where I can reconnect with friends from other games. Sith, here I come!

Alright, watch the footage below and join us tomorrow for day 28!

/Niels

30 Day Game Challenge # 11 – Game From My Favourite Developer

Ah my favourite developer, another easy one! The developer that I’m most fond of is Bioware. They released so many good games, but the one I chose for this challenge is Mass Effect 1. Mass Effect is such a great game, the mix between shooter and rpg is just perfect for me. It’s more rpg than shooter, as opposed to Mass Effect 2, but that suits me just fine. There are some flaws however, for instance with the inventory system but that’s something I can look past. BioWare did such a great job with the story and concept that I was absolutely compelled to play all the way through to the end to see how Commander Shepard would fare against the Reaper threat. I wasn’t disappointed to say the least!

Watch the trailer below and join us tomorrow for day 12!

PS: I played the male, standard Shepard and not a FemShep. Sorry!

PPS: It’s my birthday!

/Niels

20 December Is A Bad Release Date For Star Wars: TOR

Just recently BioWare finally gave us a release date for their highly anticipated story-driven MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. Turns out the game will be released on 20 December is the US and 22 December in Europe.

Now, I believe this is a terrible date to release a game such as this. There’s 2 distinct reasons for this, 1 is personal and the other is more business/marketing related. let’s start with the business aspect here.

I can understand that even a successful developer such as BioWare can’t pass up on the boost that a holiday release can give to a game. Though, releasing a title such as this so close to Christmas seems like a mistake to me. The end of the years is traditionally packed with triple-A games and 2011 is no different. There’s Skyrim, MW3 and the likes. I’m guessing that a lot of RPG fans will still be spending most of their time playing Skyrim, thus it seems like they won’t have a lot of time to invest into an MMO. It might be a good idea to have it close-by for the weeks after Christmas.

Besides, are we even sure that the game is polished enough by 20 December? An MMO is never finished, but it seems to me that they’re pushing hard to make that holiday release, and that might be at the expense of higher quality.

The other reason why I think this is a bad date to release TOR is because I’m a student. Being a student in Belgium means that you’ll have exams in january, which means that I HAVE to study during the Christmas holidays. I’m not sure when the exams are in other countries, but the last thing I need around Christmas is a game that I’m dying to play lying next to my on my desk while I’m trying to study.

Besides my concerns here, I have no doubt that the game will sell incredibly well because of a pretty effective marketing strategy and the high anticipation amongst avid MMO players.

What do you think about the 20 December release date? Good, bad or are you indifferent? Let me know in the comment section!

/Niels

Pre-Played: Star Wars – The Old Republic

Since the success of World of Warcraft everyone wants a piece of the MMO cake. The alliance between EA, BioWare and LucasArts is taking a shot at pushing WoW off the MMO throne with their upcoming game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m here to tell you a bit more about this highly anticipated game.

Even though developer BioWare doesn’t have any experience in making an MMO, their resumé is more than impressive enough to set some high expectations. Since Baldur’s Gate, the developer has been the authority in the field of western RPGs. Just think of their recent success with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. BioWare isn’t quite ready to hand over their title as lead developer in this field. Their other Star Wars project Knights of the Old Republic is still appearing on more than one ‘best of’ lists. Is it any surprise that this game serves as the basis for BioWare’s newest Star Wars game?

Own story

Star Wars: The Old Republic is set to take place 300 years after Knights of the Old Republic, a couple millenia before the events of the movies. There is a temporary ‘peace’ between the Jedi and the Sith, but a new conflict is about to start. In The Old Republic players will be able to choose one of two sides to witness the story from the perspective of one of eight available classes. This makes for 8 different storylines, that intersect at certain points, but who are different enough to encourage the player to try out different classes.

The story will be quite expansive, as we’ve come to expect from BioWare. It looks like The Old Republic will have more to offer than just missions where a certain number of enemies has to be defeated. Like those dreaded kill quests in the original WoW … Kill 50 of these, and then 30 of those! Anyway, back to The Old Republic. The storytelling will be reinforced by the fully voice acted dialogues of both the NPC’s and the players. Dialogue plays a major role in the outcome of quests. It’s even possible to have a conversation between the quest giver and the different player, where each player chooses a dialogue option and the game randomly calls upon a player to speak.

Specialisation

An MMO like The Old Republic needs more than just a good story though. That’s why the game will offer more than sufficient possibilities to alter a character to your own taste. For this, there are many options, like choosing your race (human or otherwise), the before mentioned 8 classes and 1 of 2 specialisations for each class. A class in itself only offers a base for the skills of your character, whereas the specialisations is for well … specializing.

The Sith inquisitor, for example, is one of the Sith classes that uses the force. The first specialisation, the Sorcerer, is based on the emperor from the movies. The Sorcerer can give support at range by using lightning. The Assassin, which is based on Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace (Episode 1), is a melee-oriented fighter and uses a double-edged light saber (or whatever that’s called). Even though classes share traits and walk through the same storyline, the specialisations make for more than enough diversity which in turn makes the game have 16 more or less different playstyles. Look below for a list of each side’s classes:

The Jedi

The Sith

 

 

Trooper

Bounty Hunter

Vanguard

Commando

Powertech

Mercenary

Smuggler

Sith Warrior

Gunslinger

Scoundrel

Juggernaut

Marauder

Jedi Knight

Imperial Agent

Guardian

Sentinel

Operative

Sniper

Jedi Consular

Sith Inquisitor

Sage

Shadow

Assassin

Sorcerer

Flying and exploring

Next to the quests on the many planets in The Old Republic universe, space battles also play a major role in the game. Even though it’s completely optional, every player has access to his or her own spaceship. This ship can also be adapted although it’s not clear to me in what way. What is clear, however, is the fact that there is a possibility to explore different worlds in your ship. Of course, you’ll occasionally have to navigate through an asteroid field now and then.

Although it’s always hard to predict if an MMO has any chance for success, the quality of The Old Republic is not to be underestimated. BioWare’s way of telling a story is unique and is suited for an MMO, on top of that the game looks beautiful, especially in comparison with other MMO’s. Star Wars: The Old Republic could be the gold egg everyone has been waiting for since the arrival of World of Warcraft. Beneath all those fancy cutscenes and dialogues it’s a good old-fashioned MMO. The Old Republic will be released on the PC somewhere in 2011.

Watch the trailer below for a little teaser of epicness yet to come.

A game from BioWare in the Star Wars universe with all the awesome music and lore? This is one game I’m willing to pay top dollar for! What do you think of it? Let me know in the comment section below and be sure to follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook!

/Niels

Hands-on – Dragon Age II

Dragon Age: Origins, an instant RPG-classic that was released over a year ago. The spicy gameplay and story kept many a gamer entertained for weeks, if not months. Dragon Age II brings us the long awaited sequel to the game. Question is, can Bioware match the sucess of Dragon Age: Origins? Simple answer? Yes. Keep reading if you want to know why.

Before I write anything else on the subject I’ll just say that I know the game has been out for a while now. But, I only just found the time to play through the game properly and gather my thoughts and criticism. Alright, let’s get this on then.

Since the release of the first Dragon Age countless sidepoducts and acessoires have been released. Just about anything you can think of really, ranging from DLC, an expansion, books, comics, action figures and an anime series meant to still the hunger for the world of Ferelden. But a new game is what we’ve really been waiting for isn’t it?

In Dragon Age II you start your RPG-life, just like in the first game, as one of the 3 classes (mage, warrior or rogue). Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses and you’ll be able to gain certain skills and develop powers during the game. Nothing new there as that’s pretty generic for an RPG. What is noticeable though is the sheer beauty of the game. Suffice to say that, from a graphics point of view, the game is looking awesome. The somewhat ragged, creepty warrior I created could literally be customised in a 1000 different ways.
The promise of visual beauty that is made during the creation of your character is being kept during the further course of the game. The mystical cities, the darker nature environments and the medieval illustrations on the load screens all contribute to a certain atmosphere.
Now, wipe the drool of your chin and let’s talk about the story. You start your adventure as a refugee, Hawke, that is trying to get to Kirkwall to start a new life. During the first period in Kirkwall, you’re confronted with violence, xenofobia and prejudice. All topics that are less exclusive to a fantasy universe than we’d all hope. Next, the player follows Hawke in his violence, intrigues and greed filled life. Hawke will grow to become on of the most powerful figures of his time. Next to the main storyline, you can also complete all kinds of side quests that reward you with cash, items and experience. Again, pretty generic for an RPG.
Special about the story is that Hawke’s story is told after the events, giving the illusion of being a story in a story. This is a reference to tales like the medieval ‘The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer. Such references to litarature and art of a darker past contribute to the very realistic fantasyworld in which the game takes place.

While you wander around, talk with your travel companions and random people on the street you’ll make items, potions. Furthermore you’ll be looking for hidden entrances and chop up a couple of armies of thugs, monsters and other malevolent folk. The stronger you get the more amazing your abilities get. My warrior could churn out pretty nice combo’s on those filthy enemies after just a couple of levels. Especially as a mage you’ll be drooling over the destructive power of your spells.

The more seasoned gamers among us will find the combat a little bit too easy, especially when compared to the first Dragon Age which was pretty difficult. Easier fights make for faster progression and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it makes the game more accessible for the less experienced players. Nevertheless, this game will keep you busy for around 50 hours which is respectable in a world filled with 6 hour single player games.

The movie ‘The Godfather II’ is often referenced to as an example that a sequel can be better than the original. I wouldn’t go that far with Dragon Age II, but the game can at least stand next to Dragon Age: Origins without being ashamed. Bioware delivered another masterpiece (surprise! /sarcasm off). This game definately gets my approvel and I recommend playing it if you’re a fan of RPG’s.

/Niels

Love Is A Game – And Like Love, Don’t Be A Dick About It

Some Thoughts on the Dragon Age II Romance Controversies by Joe “Shadon1010” Dillon.

Relationships are funny things. Sometimes they’re stupid. Sometimes they last a lifetime. Sometimes they end in heartbreak. Sometimes they end after fifteen seconds of the okie cokie, if you know what I mean. But suffice to say that everyone who walks this earth has their own spin on relationships, that is, on both their perspectives towards being with someone and their anecdotal experiences; I certainly have plenty to say about both of those.

Romance and relationships have featured in Bioware games as far back as when I started playing them with Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic. Certainly they’ve cropped up in other gaming media since then but it’s pretty much a given that in Bioware games your player character is able to engage in romantic overtures or downright bow-chicka-wow-wow if you so want.

So it comes as no surprise then in Dragon Age II (hereon referred to as DA II), Bioware’s latest work and the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins, that your character, Hawke, can engage in romance and sex without you resorting to fanfiction.net, Notepad and perverse drunken fantasies. But what’s fascinating is that the player base of DA II, at least in certain circles inside that strata of gamers, made a significant outcry against the romance options. The first group complained that there was no catering to the straight gamer in the available romances, the second that the gay, lesbian and bi relationships denigrated homosexual gamers. It’s quite a rare occurrence when writing a work of fiction that you manage to piss off opposing camps at the same time and I feel sorry for David Gaider, lead writer of DA II, imaging his reaction to this controversy to be so dumbstruck even a Picard strength facepalm would not have been sufficient.

Let me establish my credentials here. I have played the game through twice, firstly as a Male Hawke who romanced Isabella, the face that crashed a thousand ships, then as a Female Hawke with Fenris, the elven Sephiroth expy with a monopoly in having a chip on one’s shoulder. I have not pursued any of the homosexual relationships, although my reasons are not out of any dislike of said sexuality, rather simply because Isabella and Fenris fit my conceptions of how I played each of my characters. Male Hawke was a rogue with a wild side but a good heart, Female Hawke was a mage who was attracted to someone who had prejudice against them as Fenris did. Simple as that.

A particular sticking point I recall being brought up more than once is that during his quests, Anders, the wannabe Che Guevara of mages, actually comes onto your character irrespective of their gender or overt sexuality. If you then turn him down, he gets a bit miffed and you earn rivalry points. That was the point of contention, that Anders disliked you for rejecting him.

Allow me a moment to be blunt here. Anders is acting like, you know, many people would when they are turned down by someone they attracted to, which is hurt, which in turn is like a fucking human being. What did you expect him to do, go “Oh, cool. Talk to you later, got a revolution to plan. White Riot, I wanna riot…”? Heaven forbid we have a character who is written three dimensionally here.

I think the problem though lies in the fact that the romance is tied into the friendship/rivalry disposition, an ironically two dimensional in game measure of a companion’s disposition towards Hawke. That measure is quantitative in that it is based on a number range of, I assume, +100 to -100 for friendship and rivalry respectively. Romance of any sort is qualitative and based on feelings and contexts. While potentially you could say that on a scale of 1 – 10 your love for someone is a 9, you can’t use the same scale to say why you love them.

Therefore, lumping in this rejection to the rivalry system suggests it to be part of the whole feeling of how your companion sees your Hawke. Yet if you think about it, Anders resentment towards you being rejected because you’ve got a thing for white hair and pointy ears and Anders disliking you because you think Jedi, I mean, mages are all scum are different things. Summing up a character’s dislike or like of your Hawke on a glorified sliding scale seems rather simplistic and, if I’m honest, unnecessary. Good writing and dialogue should be able to convey a character’s opinion on you, not a blue or red grinding bar.

The problem with the “straight gamers” crowd was apparently also with Anders overt coming on to your character and the fact that the romance options for the straight Hawke among us are limited to the queen of STDs and grand pirate wench Isabella or the meek, fragile sometimes downright annoying Merryl. Indeed, when I was playing through with Male Hawke, I thought “let’s see if I can romance Aveline” (I imagine some of you were thinking more along the lines of “let’s see if I can penetrate her armour, you know what I’m saying, HOOOOO YEAH”)

Yet, Aveline, as the first companion Hawke meets and a truly loyal, not screwed up and relatively normal individual, is, best I’m aware, uninterested in your affection. Indeed, Aveline might just be in my opinion the most alive character in Bioware’s works because she seems to have a goddamn life outside of working with Hawke. She seeks her own relationship with a guardsman, in an admittedly hilariously incompetent but somewhat touching way, and they end up married. And despite me hitting every “I ❤ you” dialogue option available she was simply not interested, and that was after I made sure I hadn’t equipped the Belt of Eternal Chastity or the Ring of the Religious Wackjob Coven on her.

I’m not sure if others had a bone to pick about this, but initially this peeved me off. Why place the romance option there if it wasn’t possible to romance Aveline? Then it hit me. That is just sometimes how things go with romance and love, which is to say, unrequited. That out of the three women available for you to try your luck with (Bethany doesn’t count you sick sick fuckers) she is most normal and mentally stable is a daring move on the writer’s part. That frustration you might have felt when stuck between picking The Whore of Bablyon meets Jack Sparrow or that sappy bumbling idiotic Welsh elven pixie? That is just a recreation of what you might feel in real life when frustrated by your own feelings and romantic emotions.

Essentially, DA II’s romance options are just that, options. Were it up to me I would de-incentivise the romances by not having an achievement tied into getting your Ron Jeremy on with the man/woman of your choosing. As I recall, Jade Empire had lesbian, gay and bi romance options and yet I have no memory of any similar controversy. But that was before the achievement age, and I wonder if some gamers who have been firebombing David Gaider’s inbox felt their brains fizzle at the lack of straight options when grinding for their achievement points.

As I said, that frustration? That might just be how real life works. Your circle of friends may not have any one attractive to you. You may desire someone who has no reciprocal interest in you. That is life. And if any of these people complaining on the internet about DA II’s romances didn’t pick up on that, well, that’s a shame. I personally was never aware it was a crime to try and make fictional characters act like real people. Sure, DA II is a fantasy, but when was the last time you conquered a lusty double-d maiden with flowing golden locks and rouge lips by slaying an evil beast in a real life bar as opposed to an RPG?

I thought not. Although when the cosplay train comes to town, that might change. Until then, be thankful for good writing, difficult choices and characters who seem alive. But never forget, it’s still a game, and that’s no excuse to troll. Save that for HotOrNot.com.

– Joe “Shadon1010” Dillon is a wannabe writer, gamer, drunkard and incomprehensible lunatic. His favourite chat up line is to try and roll d20.