Despite the best laid plans of mice and me, the campaign game scheduled for Wednesday came to naught; my opponent got tied up at the last minute, and we weren't able to make it work. We've rescheduled for this week, so fingers crossed. Ordinarily, I'd sub in with a painting post, but there's been limited movement there as well. Part of the cause, frankly, is burn out and winter doldrums, but part is also this:
A bit of a departure from the usual purview of the blog today, but what the hey. I've been distracted of late from painting by the siren call of Star Wars Online: The Old Republic. I don't play video games much these days, but I've a soft spot for MMORPGs, and am very much of the Star Wars generation, so it was probably inevitable. When the game first came out, I managed to resist the lure (a six month old baby was occupying much of my attention), but the game recently went free-to-play, and those ads on Facebook finally found their mark (unlike FB's repeated attempts to interest me in a free pardon and mature-only dating).
The game is set thousands of years before the movies, in the golden age of the Old Republic, in the years immediately following a great war with the Sith empire. I'm only a few hours in, and have been mucking around with different characters in the low teens and a Bounty hunter alt, but I have to say, the game's got me hooked. From what I can gather, it's received mixed reviews, especially from the vocal, hard-core gamers, and honestly, I do get why; this game isn't for them. If your idea of fun is to power-grind your way to a level cap, manage twitchy ability sequences, and then spend every night running instances to get 'lite loot, this game isn't for you. On the other hand, if you like casual play, view the leveling process as something to experience and savor, enjoy mostly solo play with some pick-ups, and are a fan of Star Wars, you should have fun.
Graphics and core mechanics are, honestly, mediocre. LotRO has nicer graphics, for instance, and if you've played WoW, there's not a lot in SWOTOR that'll surprise you (at least in terms of mechanics). Despite that, I've stopped to enjoy the view on several occasions, and game-play is involved enough that I can't engage in combat when the kids are around. When my Jedi climbed a mountain to get his lightsaber, and the old theme music started building in the background, I felt like I was 6, and my dream of becoming a Jedi was finally coming true ;)
Where the game shines is in the way the story integrates with mechanics. There are mechanical rewards in game for doing stuff you automatically do (make quest choices, interact with other players, obtain companions / followers, etc), and the rewards affect the development of your character. This makes most choices in game significant, both mechanically and in terms of the overall story arc. While there's a pretty clear good guy / bad guy dynamic, the choices aren't always transparent; There's at least a couple of cases where I've made the "right" choice, but it hasn't been easy. Justice and compassion don't always fit easily. Works the other way too. While you can play a Sith as an over-the-top bad guy, there's plenty of room for more complexity and ambiguity in the character, and which choices are "light" or "dark" aren't always apparent.
There's also been some "hey, cool!"moments, like the first time I received a letter from a character in a long-completed story arc, to tell me how they're doing, and to say thanks, or from an old enemy, to roundly curse me for ruining them. Playing Sith has its own rewards ;). Doesn't seem like much, but just that was enough to cement the immersion of the game, which is really what any RPG is about.
$5 gets you a few credits on the "Cartel Market", which is where you'll find all the premium / exclusive gear and game options but it also unlocks some of the more irritating limits on free-to-play accounts. Worth it, even if only for the speed boost moving around. I don't think I'm able to play enough to warrant an actual subscription, but if you've ever wanted to try a MMORPG type game, or are simply a Star Wars fan, I earnestly recommend this game. It's made for casual players, and so far, is loads of fun.
In addition to 4 Jedi / Sith classes, there are also 4 "non-Force" classes, that seem to have distinct story arcs. They also have some fairly entertaining conversation choices, if Bounty hunter is any indication.
I imagine my usual pattern will hold, and after a week or two, once the novelty wears off, my engagement with this game will wane, and I'll get back to painting. For now, though, this is providing a welcome diversion, and I'd recommend it to any Star Wars fans out there. Hopefully things will get back on track, and I'll have a Maurice report for you later in the week. Until then, may the Force be with you. Always.