03/09/2012

SWTOR's Unique Appeal

In the past couple of days I've found myself thinking about what makes SWTOR so appealing to me, as I frequently struggle to explain it to people. Many features that I like about it are available in similar or equal quantity and quality in other games. While it matters that the general flavour of the game, the setting and character design appeal to me big time, that's not all there is to it. Saying that I like the voice acting is also true, but rings kind of hollow as far as explanations go.

The conclusion I eventually came to is that it probably all goes back to Dragon Age. As someone who only buys very few video games (one or two a year really), I'd never played any Bioware games before Dragon Age: Origins. It was my first ever single player RPG as well and as such left a very big impression on me. I loved how the interactions with the NPCs made the world come alive and how the different choices I got to make made me feel like I was actually roleplaying.

The only thing that made me sad was that it all had to end. There was replayability there alright - I was amazed when I found out about the many different permutations of the ending, depending on your character's sex and origin, and how you treated Alistair, Anora and Loghain - but it was lonely. I could share the details of my adventures with others on forums and in conversation, but in game our characters were forever trapped in their own alternate universes.

Also, combat kind of sucked. It's not that I ever hated it, but every time I went for another playthrough, my enthusiasm eventually fizzled out during one of the dungeon crawl sections, as killing darkspawn just felt like a tedious hurdle that I had to overcome in order to get to the next "interesting" bit (i.e. conversation / character development). I never managed to actually complete a second full playthrough of the first game for this reason. Dragon Age 2's combat may have been ridiculously easy and button mashy, but at least it allowed me to get to the bits that I liked more quickly and easily, and I actually did complete that one more than once.

Still, both games left me longing for some sort of multiplayer version of the experience, and preferably one without the tedious combat. Enter SWTOR!

Okay, so it's set in a completely different universe, but that's okay because it's another IP that I'm quite fond of. But otherwise it's all there, the stories and the memorable characters that make the world come alive. And this time, it's all happening a shared world, where once my characters are done with their private business, they can step out into the space station and embrace their friends. Combat? Pretty much copy and pasted from Burning Crusade era WoW, a.k.a. a sort of day-to-day gameplay that I liked for its own sake.

I never really thought about it like this before, but SWTOR basically filled a niche that I was actively longing for, and it filled it perfectly, not to mention at a good time (when I was growing really tired of WoW and the direction it was taking). I think I'd have a hard time going back to a more traditional MMO now.

4 comments :

  1. I'd never played any of Bioware's previous games, but I've got to say that the package of class stories, companion stories, choices, voice acting, etc means that I've more interest in trying single player games that offer those things than of ever picking up (or going back to) another MMO. SWTOR feels like a story more than any other MMO and that's something I find very appealing.

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    1. That does make me wonder how SWTOR will affect my perception of future single player RPGs by Bioware. I reckon that they'll still be worth it for the increased impact that your choices can have in a world inhabited only by yourself, but if the combat is sucky again... it will feel even suckier. :P

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  2. Although I'd played Baldur's Gate I and II (as well as about half of Neverwinter Nights before my computer crashed), I'd skipped most of Bioware's other titles. However, the strong story of the BG games compared to the lack of same in the Diablo I and II games made me a fan. That they used the D&D 2e ruleset (and 3e in NWN) also helped, having remembered the uneven story in the old Silver and Gold box D&D games.

    Still, I enjoy TOR probably more than I've any right to. I can't really put my finger on it either, although I do suspect community is a big part of it.

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    1. The community is certainly very nice. I feel that it's been diluted a bit since the server merges, but people still treat each other with respect.

      Only today I got a chuckle out of someone complaining about the lack of variety in warzones at the start of a Civil War match, but he got countered by someone saying how much they enjoyed the gameplay, and then people were suddenly talking about how they were looking forward to the new WZ in 1.4 and yay! There's definitely a lot of positive spirit there.

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