Earlier this month, I was one of two million lucky gamers who got to get involved in the pre-launch open beta of Star Wars: The Old Republic. The newest venture from LucasArts and Bioware, ST: TOR is one of the most expensive video games in history. It is believed to have cost over $100 million dollars for development alone, and that’s not counting marketing, production, and other assorted expenses. It’s a costly gamble, but it seems like it is going to pay off.
When I quit playing World of Warcraft a couple of years ago, I swore I was done with WoW and MMORPGs in general. Yet, here I am, sucked back into another MMO once again. The difference, in this case, was BioWare’s emphasis on a single-player story in addition to multi-player questing. Rather than just getting told to kill a dozen womp rats, my particular characters (a Sith Inquisitor and a Republic Trooper, among others) were given a quest line. For the Inquisitor, it was becoming a true Sith. For my Trooper, it was becoming a member of an elite combat squad and proving myself to my fellow soldiers.
The difference between the two is that my character actually has a progression arc. It’s not just learning stuff and killing stuff, you feel as though your particular person is growing and changing and becoming more and more powerful until he or she becomes that epic character that every MMORPG character must be. Rather than simply grinding to max level, the class quest lines feel like an actual epic achievement. It’s a wonderful synthesis of single-player and MMO game, and so far I’m loving it.
Will the game be a WoW killer? No, I don’t think anything can kill WoW; however, I think this game can put a serious dent in WoW’s subscriber base here in the US and Europe, because it’s the sort of thing that disenfranchised raiders like myself can really get behind and enjoy.