Ruh Roh, Shaggy. 1Up has an article up about The Old Republic that people becoming super hyped about the game probably don’t want to hear. About a month ago, BioWare allowed select members of the press who aren’t currently in the heavily-NDA’ed beta check out Tython, which is the Jedi starting area. Well, 1Up came away not too impressed, especially compared to all the improvements that World of Warcraft has made over the last six years. He gives a very good argument that the game already feels four years out of date.
While EA and BioWare Austin have the horsepower needed to at least draw even with World of WarCraft though, what we’ve seen so far has been worryingly conventional — even generic — given the millions being poured into development. Take the opening areas around Tython, which Mike Nelson describes in his most recent preview as being “rudimentary” owing to their somewhat generic, grind-driven quest design. Running around killing a set number of “Flesh Raiders” in a relatively quiet village doesn’t seem particularly epic, but that’s the route BioWare Austin seems to be taking with the opening areas for the Jedi — what will surely be the most popular classes when The Old Republic is released.
It’s not quite as bad as standing around on Tatooine and watching a bounty hunter chase a pack of womp rats, which was a depressingly common sight in Star Wars Galaxies; but it does seem like a bit of a step down from newer areas found in Cataclysm. Over the years, Blizzard has gotten very good at disguising the grind in their opening areas; where Burning Crusade’s areas featured a swamp inhabited by a few monsters, Cataclysm had a full-on werewolf invasion, and so forth. The nuts and bolts aren’t so different from what they were back in the day, but Blizzard has made them shine with both a wide range of scenarios and the clever use of phasing.
You can disguise ancient “kill ten rats” quests with pretty voice acting all you want, but in the end of the day it’s still a kill/fetch quest. And that’s really what will prevent TOR from doing well in the long run. As the article later points out, just on name alone they’ll likely sell a ton of copies right out the gate, but having those people stay past the first free month and actually pay a monthly fee may be more challenging when faced with a game that’s already out of date compared to its main competition.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently in closed beta testing with a very heavy NDA preventing testers from revealing details about the game. It’s due out later this year.