Star Wars Galaxies: First Impressions
As Victor has been letting everyone know lately, Steam is currently putting on a massive sale which will end on July 4th. This was a deal far too good to pass up despite my not really having the financial stability to justify such purchases at the moment and so I found myself taking advantage of the big Star Wars package on offer. Every title in that package was highly desirable to me, chief among them being the Jedi Knight series and KotOR. Secreted away amongst the bevy of FPSes however was a little MMO by the name of Star Wars Galaxies, well known for its exceptional misstep in the release of its New Game Experience. Well now I had no excuse for ignoring this venerable title and so I took the plunge and am now going to give you my first impressions.
Right off the bat: fuck alarm klaxons! Seriously, when I first drop into a new game, especially an MMO, I like to take my time checking out all the various windows and mucking about with the game’s configuration. This becomes an exponentially more painful process when there are alarms going off and I’ve got C-3PO constantly nattering at me to get moving. Dear SOE, this is the worst MMO intro I have ever experienced, you should be ashamed.
Backing up a bit though, character creation was okay, you get to adjust your features with some sliders and it doesn’t look half bad. What’s strange though is that you choose the outfit that your character starts out with before adjusting your features and when it comes to working on your character’s body choosing a baggy outfit makes things a little difficult so I don’t see why we couldn’t have the outfit selection afterward so you can work on a simple canvas from the outset. It’s a minor nitpick I know, but the next one is a little less so. When it comes to choosing your race and class in MMOs there’s never quite as much information to help you along as you might want, some manage this better than others (LotRO has done the best job I’ve seen with WoW in a close second) but SWG tells you practically nothing about your options. The vagueness wouldn’t be so bad but they don’t even tell you what MMO role any of the classes fall into and that’s just sloppy.
The sloppiness follows through into the game proper as well with nothing really feeling like it has much in the way of polish. I’m generally pretty good at discerning what different systems in a game are supposed to be just from checking out the menus but in Star Wars Galaxies I’m almost completely lost. On top of that the controls just feel plain awful, I don’t know why it seems to difficult for MMO developers to present a competent control scheme from the outset (or even better, several competent schemes) but SOE and many other developers just can’t seem to manage it. A terrible control scheme is one of the first slights that can be levied against a game by new players so it simply boggles my mind as to why more time isn’t spent refining the controls and making it easy and clear how you can modify them and modify the game’s GUI.
The lack of polish doesn’t stop there however. I don’t know if this continues past the “tutorial” section but whenever you are given multiple quest rewards to choose from often you are given no indication as to what any of these items actually do and when you are given some information it is so bare minimum as to be almost useless. Also, if you engage in space combat you will find yourself quickly laden down with starship parts but for the life of me I can’t find a vendor for these things on Tansarii Station which means I have no way of getting rid of them outside of junking them outright. This is terrible design and if there really is no parts vendor available (who knows, maybe I’m just stupid and can’t find it) then one needs to be added or the drop rate for these parts (almost none of which can be used or are better than what you have already on your starfighter) needs to be dropped big time.
Which brings me to combat. Combat is… meh, just boring really. They try to pull off a pseudo-shooter system and it just feels clunky and unresponsive, so it’s a good thing that there has been absolutely no challenge so far. I’ve seen a few other games try to squeeze shooter gameplay into an RPG and it almost never works (I’m looking at you Fallout 3) but one where it was implemented to great effect was Tabula Rasa. Say what you will about that game’s myriad other faults, charging into battle with a trusty blaster at your side was a blast in that game and all I’ll say is that Star Wars Galaxies is no Tabula Rasa in that respect. You get a few different abilities (as a Smuggler anyways, I’m going to give some other Professions a shot in the near future) but none of them feel any different from one another outside of dealing different levels of damage. I’m not saying there are no special effects distinguishing them from one another, I’m just saying it’s not noticeable.
Space combat on the other hand is much, much worse. Take all the boring of ground combat and add in extended travel times to and from battles and a complete and utter lack of any combat options outside of firing your laser cannons. This lack of combat options became readily apparent in what I believe is the last of the starter pilot missions wherein you have to down a bunch of Black Sun ships then go after a specific target who is trying to escape. Because I have no maneuverability (none that matters anyways, such as doing sharp turns and loop-de-loops and the like), no alternate weapons, no defensive options (why can’t I angle my deflector shields?), and no boost ability (which I tried to add through some looted parts but was not able to) I just seem completely incapable of completing this mission. I can get through the normal enemies easily enough but when that specific target appears I HAVE to chase after it with minimal gain on him with tons of enemies on my tail or else he gets away and I fail, but if I do chase after him my rear shields and armour get demolished and there’s no way (that I can see) to enhance these characteristics in this starter zone (which you can’t return to once you leave). I know I have to be missing something here because this just plain fucking sucks.
So yeah, first impressions? Not so good, I can see why Star Wars Galaxies post-New Game Experience has earned the rep that it has. I’m not giving up though, I’ve still got the better part of a month in which to feel this game out, though I doubt I’ll be giving it much attention with so much else on my plate at the moment. I do still want to give the Tradesman, Entertainer, and of course the Jedi professions a shot and I definitely need to check out the housing system. Still, if you play or have played SWG and have any tips or what not that could improve this experience for me I’d love to hear them. Or if you just want to call me out for not knowing what the fuck I’m talking about that could be fun too.