Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic -- This Is the Way the World Ends

   Do you like highly addictive substances? Would you like to have a second job that charges you 15 dollars a month for the sheer pleasure of working your ass off? If you answered "yes" to either of these questions than you are a moron -- oh, and you probably like MMO's too. In any case, you should know that a new life-sucking-incubus is on the march for our collective free time. This time the Demon's unholy name is "Star Wars: The Old Republic", and guess the fuck what? It's made by Bioware.

 Estrogen makes me buy shit I don't need. Also, Bioware.

That's right, assholes: the first Star Wars product made in the last 15 years that didn't sexually harass our collective culture was made by the same dipshits that are now intent on milking our wallet-teats till they can only sputter and spit out dry dollar bill dust. The best part: we will pay them; we have to. For many of us the Knights of The Old Republic was everything the shitty Star Wars prequels weren't: Star Wars.

Our generation sat together in those dark, damp, piss and puke scented theaters to just catch a glimpse at our Star Wars. If you were too young to witness the original trilogy, the prequels were an opportunity for us to finally claim our age's own myth. You see, the original trilogy was a statement about the era of the 80's. The late 70's and early 80's were dominated by the culture of a decaying zeitgeist and the films tended to reflect the mindset of that age. They were, for the most part, full of dark and gritty action imagery that portrayed an alternate morality that questioned whether the age-old cultural status quo that western society relied on was worth keeping around. The Star Wars films changed that.

Instead of criticizing the environment that the films were created in and comparing it to the state that the world was in at that time, Star Wars was set in a dark era that was evil for determinable reasons, and for the first time in what felt like forever, the heroes were honest to god good. Let's just say that Luke Skywalker never asked a Storm Trooper if he "felt lucky" while pointing a blaster at his helmet. No, these movies set a straight moral standard that had been seemingly lost for that era. Instead of glorifying a jaded and critical outlook on society, it took a proactive and classically "righteous" approach to the situation that the characters found themselves in. The movies preached redemption, faith in yourself, self-discipline and appreciation for those who are wiser than you.

Fast forward to the late 90's: we all piled up in theaters to see what we all subconsciously hoped would be a breath of fresh air from the world we spent everyday living in. We had been raised in a era that felt unreal. Commercialism was everywhere and political correctness had transformed our society into an egg-shell-walking pussy-bitch civilization. It's safe to say we needed something to refresh us. Instead we got....Well,

We got the symbol of our age.

Though it had seemed that all hope had been lost, we were finally blessed with a Star Wars that highlighted everything the prequels should have been: an epic morality tale that reminded us good and evil were more than abstract concepts and that made us feel excited to be witnessing an incredible struggle in awesome circumstances. And, to the surprise of us all, it came from a video game.

Unfortunately, this wasn't that game.

Now it seems that the game that reminded us of what Star Wars could be if it were put in the right hands has returned in the form of an MMORPG. MMO's, if you somehow have managed to remain in a state of blissful ignorance, are an insidious device that's sole purpose is to rob unsocial neck-bearded misanthropes of their non-earned 15$ a month -- that is why I consider them culturally enriching. Oh yeah, apparently people also get married through them.

 A very wise choice indeed.

 But despite my initial stigma with the genre, I have to say that The Old republic is actually pretty damn good. It's definitely good enough to warrant more play time but doesn't have same exceptional quality to put it in the same league as Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic. The reason it fell short can be chalked up to the nature of massively multiplayer games and their mechanics. It's impossible to have the same feeling of importance for your character in a MMO that you can have, say, in a tightly focused single player game.

"OK, so we're just gonna throw this flag in the air and whoever catches it will be the new protagonist."

It can't be said that Bioware didn't try, however. In fact, they tried around 200 million times. The reason why they failed wasn't because of lack of ambition or a divided development team; they failed their goal of a story-based Star Wars MMO because they tried to splice into a genre that they couldn't quite mesh with their game's intended story-based direction. Massively multiplayer games have a targeted fan base of people who spend their money and time trying to accomplish ridiculous amounts of nothing while pretending that they are accomplishing a whole lot of something. The target audience doesn't play to develop their character's story -- they see MMO's like World of Warcraft as a controlled Facebook-like environment where they can interact with others while being kept on a fairly entertaining set of roller coaster tracks. While the MMO genre could work with the KoTOR formula in theory, in practice it makes the world seem like a cross between a controlled environment like Disneyland and the fast paced and high loser ratio of Live Action Role Playing.

This is what I like to call "fantastically normal".

At the end of the day the game is still fantastic. The game is fast-paced at times and interesting at others. The voice acting quality is incredible and there is a whole hell of a lot of it. However, besides all the positives, it just doesn't live up to either the legacy of its namesake or its fore barer. Don't get me wrong, if you are looking into playing a MMO than this one is worth at least the initial price of admission. If you want an actual Star Wars experience that makes you relive the feeling of first seeing The Empire Strikes Back, well, you'll have to look somewhere else.

And probably not here either.


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