Star Wars Galaxies: Starter Kit Review
By Adrienne Dudek |
Earlier this year the Galaxies community was rocked by a substantial (and somewhat surprising) combat upgrade. Now six months later the core game has undergone an even more comprehensive redesign and been reborn as Star Wars Galaxies: New Game Experience. Reasoning that they needed to make the game feel "more like Star Wars" the developers have offered up a more straightforward character system, a twitch-oriented combat system and an entirely new player experience. While doesn't re-review MMOs based on the cumulative effect of evolutionary changes, the profound differences in the New Game Experience have prompted us to evaluate the current state of the game.
The new game promises "improved character and profession development." When they say "improved" they really mean "simplified." There's a growing assumption across the industry that complex game mechanics or a multiplicity of options are somehow unrewarding. Believe it or not, some gamers actually crave complexity. Sadly, we're being squeezed out as companies seek to maximize player numbers and profits at the expense of depth and detail.
Where there were dozens of professions in the previous version of the game, the new experience folds them (and not always neatly -- sorry, creature handlers) into nine iconic professions, each of which is associated with a character from the films. While the new professions are tied closely to the more memorable characters from the films, the loss of the more specialized professions and the ability to mix and match skills to create hybrid characters makes the new characters feel a bit too generic.
It makes sense to offer players the chance to assume the role of familiar types from the films but having a universe where there are hundreds of Luke Skywalkers and Han Solos is pretty much the antithesis of roleplaying. Add in the preset ability advancement and there's even less to separate you from the other players in the game. Excluding racial or equipment bonuses, all similar character types of a similar level are going to have the same abilities. While it makes advancement idiot-proof, it also keeps you from feeling like you have any say in how your character grows.
To help them reevaluate their purpose in the new game, veteran players were allowed to reinvent their characters, translating experience in one of the original professions to one of the new professions. It's relatively simple to fit some of the profession types into the new system, but finding just the right fit for some of the elite professions is a little more difficult. On logging in for the first time, I wasn't sure if my master carbineer fit better as a spy, commando or bounty hunter. While each of those professions was appealing, none of them exactly fit my conception of the character I had been playing for two years.
Unfortunately, players can now choose Jedi as a starting profession. While this is the ultimate in wish fulfillment for most Star Wars fans, the scarcity of Jedi is so fundamental to the time period represented in the game that it seems to completely undercut the developers' claims that their main goal is "to make the game more like Star Wars." With Jedi flashing their sabers nearly everywhere you turn, the mystique and magic of the profession are completely gone. Perhaps worst of all, opening up the Jedi profession for all players is a huge "screw you" to the players who bothered to put forth the time and effort required to unlock the secret of playing Jedis under the old system.