Since Star Wars: The Old Republic was running a free trial period over the weekend, I figured that there was very little for me to lose. Well, okay, there might be some financial cost involved if their marketing tactic does end up sucking me into the game, but that matters less than you might think. I mean, I played both KotOR games, and I'm actually kind of curious to see what exactly a story-driven MMO looks like.
Unfortunately for BioWare, the restrictions placed on the free trial are what I'm remembering right now. Could someone explain to me how I'm supposed to play a social game when I'm locked out of all the general chat channels and can only reply to other people's whispers rather than send my own?
I mean, there are specific quests that are designed to be undertaken by a group of people, which is kind of interesting. They could afford to make it a little clearer that "HEROIC 2+" means "group quest", because I feel like the game never bothered to try and explain that, but it wasn't too hard to determine. Thankfully I did so by realizing that the enemy corpses were higher level than I was (someone must have just recently cleared that area out), because if I had tried to fight it probably wouldn't have gone well.
Unfortunately, I then proceeded to turn around and ignore those quests for the rest of my time with the free trial. Mostly because I simply felt I had no way of effectively talking to people about possibly grouping up for those quests. I suppose "say" and "yell" weren't locked, but those are both location specific and not really used for group setup.
I mean, the game was fun. I like the conversation mechanics; obviously there are never enough options to precisely get across what I feel like my character wants to say, but that's always going to be a problem with this kind of game. As with any other Star Wars game, your choices affect your alignment as far as the light side or the dark side is concerned, although I think some of the choices are kind of strange.
It is possible to be light-aligned as an Empire player, and I presume the reverse (dark-aligned Republic) is also possible. Of course, this means that there have to be conversation options for that. In one quest, one character in particular appealed to me by saying that he was working for the Empire to ensure that they had sufficient medical supplies for the troops, in an effort to stop me from doing something, and I could tell him to screw it (dark side) or agree with him (light side). This presented a problem for my character, who is pretty strongly dark-aligned, but is that way because she believes in the Empire - she's patriotic, effectively. I found it interesting that the choice that would assist the Empire's military might - this is the Sith Empire, the evil horde of darkness we're talking about - ended up being tagged as a light side choice.
Anyway, combat itself was honestly nothing interesting. I've played MMOs before, and this didn't break any major ground there. It was interesting to have a cover mechanic that was pretty much central to the way my character fought, and it affected my actions mostly because I tried to sneak around and fight from cover... but in the end it boils down to slamming on the number keys as soon as abilities come off of cooldown.
Can't really say whether or not I'm going to buy into this or not, honestly. Since I stopped playing Dark Age of Camelot years ago, MMOs haven't really been a thing for me, and I think it's telling that the biggest lure for me in The Old Republic is the storyline - the one part of the game that relies the least on interacting with other players is what catches my attention. Everything that makes the game an MMO was either solidly average or effectively inaccessible to me... and if I want a single-player experience, there are plenty of options that don't involve handing money to BioWare every month.
It's a perfectly solid game, but with a game that I have to pay a monthly fee for, I don't know if that quite cuts it. We'll see whether or not being unable to play the game ends up being unendurable.