I’m not going to use the next few hundred words to tell you that Star Wars: The Old Republic is a bad game. It’s really not. But it is an MMO, and I feel that the natural growth pattern for many gamers will see them at some point no longer wanting to spend their time doing the things that MMOs want them to do.
I should probably mention that I suffered with a fairly severe World of Warcraft addiction for about a year back in 2008. I also dabbled in Age of Conan, dipped my toes into Aion, and even spent some time in Lord of the Rings Online. So I know full well the nature of the modern MMORPG. Things are going to be grindy, slow, and often monotonous.
But that’s okay, because WoW in particular was able to deliver a sort of satisfaction that no other game has ever been able to match, for me. Other gamers with no first-hand experience of the WoW-factor would question me, failing to understand why I would spend hours upon hours repeating similar quests, doing the same raids with the same people, over and over, and forever searching for new gear just so I could eventually replace it with more new gear, and on, and on, and on.
Now, after three years of being clean, my time with WoW feels like a blurry memory. Having left the world of Azeroth, I have been able to explore many beautiful new fictional lands, met new intriguing characters, and exercised different parts of my gaming faculties, from taking part in the rigorous leagues that StarCraft II has to offer, to brutal online battlegrounds where I’ve killed thousands upon thousands of other keyboard warriors in the likes of Battlefield 3, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Call of Duty 4, Crysis 2 and more, to narrative-driven masterpieces such as BioShock, Dragon Age, Braid, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Portal 2, and literally dozens more.
I’d not have played most of those games if I had never stopped playing World of Warcraft. It’s the kind of game that when you’re in really deep, other games feel pointless and bland, and more importantly, a distraction from what you should be spending your gaming hours doing: grinding for gold/gear/XP.
Is Star Wars: The Old Republic the same? I don’t know because I got out at level 20, and WoW in comparison only really took hold of my senses after about level 40.
What I did realize, playing from level 1 to 20, is that despite BioWare doing its best to dress The Old Republic up as something more than another “fetch-quest” MMORPG with its voiced characters and genuinely interesting storylines, the game remains, at its heart, an MMORPG, and the basic fundamental game design is no different to any other MMORPG. The kicker is that in terms of raw gameplay, the MMO formula is just not that much fun, at least not for the first 50 hours. And I don’t have 50 hours to pour into something before it becomes rewarding, at least not something that is supposed to be entertainment.
I spoke to other friends who were far ahead of me in The Old Republic, and they assured me that things would pick up later on. That the repetition would cease, and the game would grow into something far more rewarding, something that could even rival my time with World of Warcraft.
Unfortunately, all that did was scare me, and make me look at it this way:
Worst case scenario: I would continue pouring hours into the game, not enjoying it, and eventually hit the level cap and quit.
Best case scenario: I would pour many hours into the game, and it would gradually grow into something I felt passionate about. As a successful MMO, it would monopolise the time I have available for video games, and possibly border on something resembling a serious addiction.
As soon as I made this realization, I cancelled my subscription. Quite simply, when it comes to video games, I don’t want to have to pour 50 hours into a title before I start enjoying it, and when I do enjoy a game, I don’t want to enjoy it so much that I stop playing other games.