Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting a lot of reviews the last few days, and I’ve been able to spend a few hours with it myself. My life right now is such that no matter what I do, I feel guilty that I’m not doing something else, and I’m sure that’s tainted my enjoyment of the game somewhat – but all the same, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about it, and I wanted to capture some of them.
I frickin’ love this game.
You could argue that all Bioware did is cash in on a much-beloved franchise, co-opt its life-long fans and milk them as its own personal cash cow. I say, if that’s what they did, more power to them, because they actually did it right. In a very real sense, the accusation is completely true. I probably wouldn’t love the game nearly as much if it wasn’t for the Star Wars branding: it’s basically a spruced-up version of vanilla WoW, complete with the 31-point talent trees and the gear grind. I quit WoW for a reason, and that comparison is not lost on me. But it is Star Wars branded, and branded damn well.
Nothing has the power to evoke pure excitement in me like the hum of an igniting lightsaber. That noise can instantaneously transform me into an enthralled eight-year-old, and in TOR, they nailed it. The clashing of lightsabers, the weird alien tongues, the explosion of blaster fire – all perfect. The graphics are gorgeous too, of course – my Jedi Sentinel’s robe flows behind her like a swirling, threatening mystery – but the sound effects are what truly transport me.
A few years ago I was over at a friend’s house for D&D;, and a few other players had shown up before me. The host had just gotten a copy of whatever the latest iteration of the original Star Wars trilogy was at the time, and Return of the Jedi was playing as I walked into the living room. Three male players were lounging on the furniture, eyes riveted to the scene on the TV, which all of them had seen countless times before: Luke Skywalker, hiding in the shadows between the pillars, insisting that he would never give in to Vader’s demands that he join the dark side. As I looked up to take in the scene, I felt a grin break across my face. I glanced back down at one of the other viewers, and he was grinning back at me. So were the other two people. All four of us, sitting in front of the TV, grinning at each other like idiots.
This is the power Star Wars has over most men of my generation.
The power is further demonstrated by the series’ seemingly endless capacity to be forgiven its sins. It took me about five years before I was willing to admit that Episode I was really pretty bad. I still haven’t been able to fault Episode III any of its shortcomings, and I love me some Ewoks. I don’t have a lot of patience for Expanded Universe stuff – I think a lot of it is really dumb, actually, especially the Yuzhon Vong and the ysalamiri – and the last Star Wars MMO, Sony Online Entertainment’s Star Wars: Galaxies, didn’t allow you to play a Jedi when it launched, for fuck’s sake. (See previous comment about the hum of igniting lightsabers to understand why this was a problem for me)
But none of that matters. I have friends who have derided the setting endlessly, declared that is absolute shit, even sworn it off – and they still swooned when they heard about the new game. Every new iteration of the setting is a new, unique claim on the inner eight-year-old who would kill to have his own, real lightsaber, and no matter how many screw-ups there are along the way, that eight-year-old will always give the new thing a chance to get it right.
I am pleased to say, TOR gets it right. Thank you, Bioware. You made my year.