Choose My Adventure: Star Wars Galaxies wrap-up

Join me as I brave my way through lands unknown in an adventure dictated entirely by you, the Massively readers! Vote for everything from game played to character creation to ultimate goal and watch it unfold in a series of posts and galleries here on the site. Then, as our two months are up, we'll do it all over again in a new game!

This week I wrap up my time in Sony Online Entertainment's Star Wars Galaxies here on Choose My Adventure. From the basics of character creation onwards through the first steps in this familiar-yet-strange land and more, you all have had a chance to see some of the many things to do in this world. For those who are joining us late, our readers chose my locale, server, gender, race, tied on profession (class), and gave me great advice along the way. In this week's column I get a chance to sit down and record my overall impressions of what I've seen.

All caught up? Great! Join me behind the break as I look over my weeks spent in Star Wars Galaxies!
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Having grown up with the Star Wars movies, I was honestly prepared for this to fall pretty far short of what I'd loved back then. Let's face it, Star Wars Galaxies is pretty much the single most maligned game in all of the MMOGsphere. With that said, having put aside everything I knew of the game from long ago and looking at it fresh, I actually found it quite enjoyable. Ultimately, that's really the single largest problem this game faces in my opinion: the horrendously negative PR it continues to get from people who feel that they were screwed out of their favorite game and haven't stopped beating the crap out of that horse since.

With that said, the absolute best thing about this game is a strong counterpoint to the above -- there is an intensely passionate populace behind this game, as clearly evinced by the initial votes for Choose My Adventure. However, it's not just that. It's the care they take trying to help new people out -- even those who aren't writing about it for Massively.

Fair disclosure time: I rolled an unnamed alt to play, as a method of seeing just how much of what I experienced was a public face, and how much was the normal playerbase. While I didn't get a bankful of credits upon login and most of the in-game emails were from gold farmers (yes, even in SWG), I still managed to find a number of friendly people who answered my questions, attempted to roleplay with me, and offered to team up if we happened to be similar level and working on the same objectives. Having spent quite a lot of time hopping around in different MMOs, I have found that unfortunately it's not as common to find a welcoming group in most games as one might hope. However, I personally found the population of Starsider to be a largely helpful bunch.

With the greatest pros and cons to my eyes noted, here's a breakdown of my overall impressions:

The Good:
  • The Legacy quest arc and related side-quests you pick up from nearby NPCs as you go. While they employ the normal mechanics, they're quite well-written and keep the immersion going.
  • SPACE! As I mentioned last week, I've been waiting for a more off-the-rails space-flight shooter along the lines of Taikodom. After zooming around in Star Wars Galaxies, I now miss having a stick controller for flight sims. I may well have to invest in one, because that part of the game is really fun.
  • Sandboxy adventure-at-your-own-risk elements. Bored with following the story? Start wandering around. There's seven years' worth of people creating stuff in this game -- and a bunch of things that will kill you too!
  • Player housing (and crafted goods). More games need to offer housing and crafting this customizable. From huge, well-decorated cities that are laid-out perfectly to huddles of mish-mash houses, people have taken the raw materials and done some pretty amazing things with them.
  • Player-created chronicles. Sadly, this was one of the two things I didn't get to play with beyond the very basics, but for those who are into creating their own stories, the raw materials are there.
  • Roleplaying - While I didn't get to attend a large event, I did see more than enough "everyday RP" going on to make me aware of a solid community. It's easier to get involved in than you might think as everyone who roleplays generally has it clearly written over his (or her) head. Unless you're totally antisocial or into screaming obscenities at complete strangers, you'll likely find all manner of people to roleplay with.
The Bad:
  • The Lore. As interesting as the storyline is, there's a nagging realization that during the time-frame this game is set in, there wouldn't be craploads of Jedi and Sith running around. The roleplayers largely ignore it, but let's face it, this is perhaps the single greatest flaw in terms of design -- and the one I'll even give to SWG detractors as being dead-on. With that said, the people who made that decision had their own reasons, which we'll likely never fully understand. No amount of omgnerdrage will remove the Jedi, so you have to be willing to either think of the game as being set in some weird multiverse-type storyline where force-users breed like rabbits, or learn to ignore it.
  • Login server/disconnect weirdness. After several weeks of no issues whatsoever, I ran headlong into problems getting logged in, or getting timed out from the server. Since I'm obviously not at SOE's NOC, and I know precisely nothing about why it's not working properly, I'll simply say that it was surprising in a game this old to hit those types of problems. I do hope it gets fixed, though. Things like that seriously don't help a new player's impression of a game.
  • Once you're out of the tutorial, you're pretty much on your own. With more MMOs adopting simplified leveling curves, this is a biggie. Casual players will likely be unwilling to sink a great deal of time going outside of the game and reading FAQs and guides from the very start. Like it or not, players have gotten used to everything being handed to them, so many will pack up and move on to whatever game will enable them to get the most out of their time with the least amount of what I'd call "presearch" involved. That said, for those who like harder difficulty curves, this would be in the positive side of things, so this particular point is highly subjective. Personally, I found it disappointing that there wasn't more clear-cut information inside the game. I'll always take actually playing over reading through the FAQ, though.
  • Dated graphics. That said, the game is seven years old, so anyone expecting insanely high-end graphics needs to share what he's smoking with the rest of us. Still, a few more polygons here and there for terrain and buildings wouldn't hurt.
Ultimately, I'd say that Star Wars Galaxies is -- like certain other sandbox-based MMOs -- kind of like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Only with fewer guys in drag.

Now before anyone throws rocks at me for saying that, hear me out.

If you watch Rocky Horror by yourself, it's an OK film, but probably not something you'd ever go out of your way to watch again. Yet, when you add in a crowd of toast-flinging fans who dress up and act it out, suddenly you can understand why it's a cult classic. Depending on how your tastes run, you might pop by to see it a few more times, become a regular, or even join the cast.

The same holds true for Star Wars Galaxies. By itself, the game is interesting the first time you solo it, but once you've run through the basic story, that SWG icon is probably not going to jump off of the desktop at you. That said, if you take the time to mix in different experiences with the community that is in the game, you'll undoubtedly have a great deal more fun. Whether or not you make it into the cast of characters who show up week after week is, much like Rocky Horror, entirely up to you.

But the fun is there, if you're willing to open your mind and (as my friend who used to do Rocky Horror would say) "get some on you."
This article was originally published on Massively.