Or: Thoughts on the state of the game from the point of view of a returning player.

A long time ago (a few years back) in a Galaxy far, far away (not really), I played Star Wars Galaxies on a daily basis. I left shortly before the New Game Enhancements were rolled out, but after the Combat Upgrade; which means that I didn't suffer the shock of having my character's current skill set removed without warning and redesigned as a completely different class. For the record, my main character was a Master Teras Kasi Artist and Master Doctor, and was about halfway through the Aurilia Village quests to unlock my Jedi slot.

As Michael said previously in his Galaxies history lesson, what's past is past, and while I'm not the person to demand that Galaxies be rolled back to the 'good old days', I'm not going to deny that I enjoyed the game most before the Combat Upgrade. So, with the game's Fifth Anniversary having just passed, I decided to install the 14-day trial from the Galaxies website, give the game a try, and see what kind of state it's in just now.

Read on for my impressions of Galaxies, from the point of view of an ex-player, returning for the first time in years.

After downloading the trial files and waiting a day or two for things to patch up, I create my character and jump in. The character selection screen seems exactly the same, and offers powerful customisation tools. Indeed, it's only after going back to undo some bad choices that I realise just how powerful they are. If one were keeping score (which I'm not) then Galaxies is certainly ahead of World of Warcraft already. Thinking back to my last Star Wars RPG character, I decide to make my first character a Twi'lek, and allow the game to generate a name for me. Say hello to Etite Ilofu.

Next up is the Class Selection screen, and the first thing I knew I wasn't looking forward to. On launch, Galaxies was not a class-based game; instead you created your character, picked a basic profession, and started playing. If you fancied playing a sneaky, sniper-type character, then you would buy yourself a Blaster Rifle and go earn Rifle XP by killing stuff. At the same time as you were working on your Rifle XP though, you could still earn some Medic XP by healing injured players you came across, or some Scout XP by scavenging the corpses of the mobs you were killing. Hell, you didn't even need to pick up a weapon if you didn't want to, and you were free to respec into a completely different profession at any time.

As Galaxies was my first experience of MMOs, I had no clue that the idea had been done before, so I thought it was revolutionary. Not that gyrating my hips for sweaty aliens was my idea of fun, but it was good to know that I had the option. So, to see a game that previously had 24 professions in total (basic, elite and hybrid) available, reduced to just 9, is a little depressing.

Before picking a class, you can watch a short movie, previewing what each is capable of – some succeed better than others.

• The first thing I notice about the Jedi movie is its length, or lack thereof. Secondly, it shows an apparently Light-side Jedi using Force Lightning on a couple of Stormtroopers – I'm not sure Obi-Wan would approve of that.
• The Bounty Hunter promises much, and teases us with plenty of nods towards Boba Fett. Somehow I resist the Mandalorian's charms and continue clicking.
• The Smuggler movie shows a pair of Han and Chewie knock-offs (or maybe just badly-rendered versions) getting into an entanglement in a Cantina, followed by a quick scene of them standing stock still, firing blasters on full auto. This immediately reminds me of all the unsatisfying parts of the combat I remember from Galaxies. It does not bode well.
• The Officer movie leaves me distinctly unimpressed – being the shortest so far, and it appears the class consists of standing behind a Heavy Weapon guy and pointing a lot.
• The Commando movie shows more of that static combat – Rebels and Stormtroopers standing in one spot, trading blaster fire with gleeful abandon. Then the Commando, dressed ominously in black plate armour, glides in on his speeder bike. He chucks a grenade, then flamethrowers the Rebels to death. I think that means he's supposed to be a 'bad' guy.
• The Spy movie is up next, and hints as you being virtually invisible, and eventually becoming unstoppable. That apparently means you can crawl into bases, karate chop a couple of guards, then run away. Sounds about right, sneaky fethers.
• The Trader class is harder to get an impression of from the video. The class is split into four specialisations – Domestics, Structures, Munitions and Engineering, but no examples of how the class works are shown. The video also needs more Lando.
• 'When they fall, you rise to become a hero', promises the preview movie for the Medic class. More shots of static combat follow, and what looks like you providing an in-combat rez. The blurb for the class suggests you can apply diseases and poisons on enemies, if you specialise that way.
• The Entertainer movie is certainly the most enjoyable, with its Cantina band soundtrack and plenty of flashing lights and dancing avatars. Still, the thought of standing in one place all day, gyrating for strangers doesn't do it for me. Which probably explains why my career as a pole dancer never took off.

Still sticking with my Star Wars RPG character, I pick Jedi, with the intention of getting my feet on the path to the Dark Side as soon as Twi'lekly possible. Later on, I rolled up Commando and Trader characters as well.

I can't help but notice that five of the classes on offer mention Ranged Combat as a speciality, with a sixth (Commando) opting to have Heavy Weapons Combat instead – although that just seems like the Developers are fudging things a bit. This worries me, given that what I've seen of the ranged combat in the preview movies doesn't fill me with confidence. From what I remember of Galaxies, the ranged combat always felt very static and staid. Although your stance (standing, prone, crouched) dictated how well you hit your target, moving during combat seemed to have little effect on how well the enemy hit you. This meant that you found yourself frequently standing in one spot and shooting until someone died, preferably the other guy.

Return to Star Wars Galaxies Part Two - Tutorial, Tatooine & Combat.

This article was originally published on Massively.