But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Bad Guys Please!

This is a rant that's mostly about "same old Star Wars game." By that I mean Star Wars games tend to all have similar stories and situations, with one or two brilliant exceptions. If you didn’t follow the link here from 1up.com, follow this link there to know what I’m talking about, or it really won’t make any sense. This post is not linked, and really only exists because the 1up.com yak page has a 1000-char limit. Seriously. Who does that? On with the show.

Why are we hearing about "imperial agents" and seeing screenshots of what look very much like clone troopers? Is this The Old Republic, or the Dawn of the Empire? In the KOTOR games, Sith troops were vaguely reminiscent of imperial stormtroopers, but their armor was silver and they had Cobra Commander-ish helmets. They looked just enough like the boys in white that they were immediately identifiable as the bad guys. That screenshot of a Mandalorian getting hit with force lightning looks pretty much like an episode 3 clone trooper to me.

If I missed a memo somewhere, please excuse my ignorance, but if these things make it into the final product as is, I'm gonna be pretty pissed. I'll still play it, just like I still play Force Unleashed on my Wii, even though the levels are painfully linear and half of them (literally, every other level) are the same level over and over again. But as a die-hard Star Wars geek, I'm already pretty pissed.

I read some of the info on the game, and I get that it's the Sith Empire, and not Palpatine's Empire. So can we call them "Sith Agents?" Please? Better yet can we call it the "Sith Dominion," or better still the "Sith Kingdom?" Since it's not technically an empire, is it too much to ask that we don't call it one? There's no Sith emperor. There's a Dark Lord. For every practical purpose, it's a theocracy. The supreme pontiff of the Sith religion is also the supreme ruler of the Sith government.

And I get that those are Mandalorian warriors. So can we make them look like their armor was designed three thousand years before Vader's stormtroopers, rather than looking like a rough cut of that finished product? What's wrong with the armor from KOTOR? It looks just enough like the Stormtrooper armor that you can kinda see how the one inspired the other, without looking like it was backward-engineered.

Can we please stop using Star Wars as a creative crutch and come up with something original for me to swing a lightsaber at? If it's not KOTOR's "sith empire," who's silver-clad troopers look mostly like stormtroopers, but not quite, then it's Jedi Academy's "Imperial Remnant" with actual stormtroopers and absolutely no new ideas (see fifteen-year-old comics for Marka Ragnos).

And now TOR has imperial agents and Mandalorian warriors, that look just like Imperial officers and... well... Stormtroopers. Again.

Look, I'm all for getting away from classic Star Wars and playing a character that doesn't have a lightsaber (I too mourn the loss of SWG), but Can I have some new bad guys please? I've killed enough stormtroopers and Imperial officers to fill a large space station (or perhaps a small moon). How about something new? Or at least something that looks like it's new.

And how about a new story while we're at it. Is this only the fourth time we'll be fighting a war of liberation against a vastly superior empire? Let's count. There was the Galactic Civil War (the original trilogy), the Yuuzhan Vong invasion (New Jedi Order series), The Jedi Civil War (KOTOR)... That's three, and TOR makes four. And those aren't all in video games, I know. But we've had so many games that focus on the timeline of the original trilogy that any game that doesn't really needs to not be about a war of liberation.

That's what was (WAS) great about SWG. Nothing was at stake. The rebellion wasn't going to succeed or fail based on my actions. I wasn't a hero: just another soldier. When every player's a hero, what fun is there? When everyone's pointedly nothing special, then you make yourself a hero. Hopefully, TOR will take at least a few notes from pre-Smiley SWG.

I won't even get into what I think of the cartoon graphics. Clone Wars is a fun show, but it's just for kids. If that's what they want people to think of this game, they're off to a good start.

Speaking of visuals, this game is looking more and more like it was styled after the movies than anything else. Am I really supposed to believe that after three thousand years, droids will still need to be as large as people, lightsabers will still be... exactly the same, and there still won't be any such thing as blaster-proof armor? Here on Earth, we've miniaturized robots, made swords all but obsolete and have nearly figured out bulletproof armor. Three thousand years ago, we had neither robots nor bullets (and by that I mean firearms, not slings with rocks), and swords were mostly just metal clubs. We also no longer have most of the religions that were around three thousand years ago, while Jedi pervade every era of Star Wars. My understanding is that we have Roger Evoy to thank for this particular infestation of anachronism.

Now I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll quit the Star Wars rant and get on to the BioWare rant.

I'm as excited as the next guy that there's another Star Wars MMO in the works. I loved SWG (before Guy Smiley killed it), and I loved KOTOR. I've since been disappointed with BioWare's work. I've played KOTOR twice on purpose, and have been duped into playing it twice more, in the guise of BioWare's more recent titles.

Mass Effect was fun at first, but got boring after about three days. I'm actually dreading the sequel. Dragon Age has a great story, but absolutely nothing new as far as gameplay is concerned. I've had more fun playing Dragon Age: Journeys, the online flash game than I have with Dragon Age: Origins. They're basically the same game. For a flash game, it's freakin' awesome. For a full-blown PC title with a fifty-dollar price tag, it's a huge disappointment. It's basically Neverwinter with a facelift.

I hope against hope That The Old Republic is not just "BioWare Game 7: Kotor Online." I really want to love BioWare again, but they seem incapable of innovation. Steal some Blizzard employees. Hire somebody who hated KOTOR. Just do something different for God's sake. Dragon Age really and truly is a fun game, but it's the same game as KOTOR and Neverwinter, which detracts greatly from it's appeal, and makes me lose some faith in the potential awesomeness of TOR.

And are we going to have fifteen companions with a max party size of three again? From a gaming standpoint, this makes sense. From a storytelling standpoint, it makes none. I've got no problem only having two companions with me per mission. But you chose them for me, and tell me a good story that explains why I have who I have. Alistair won't go into Redcliff because of his history. Fine. Morrigan won't go because there are too many Chantrymen. Fine. That leaves me with Sten, Leliana, and my trusty Mutt. One thing that can be said for "BioWare game": there's no such thing as a bad party. They design the characters so that any combination can be successful.

In Mass Effect, there was no logical reason I shouldn't walk around with a six-person party all the time. It makes no sense to leave half my team on the ship when I'm heading into an inevitable firefight where one more gun could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Ditto EVERY OTHER GAME. Where three lightsabers are good, six are better.

Wow. When I sat down five hours ago to write this, I thought it was just going to be "want different bad guys please!" Well, I guess that's what a bottle of Blackstone and the internet at my fingertips gets me.

Here’s hoping this game really is about the Old Republic, and not the Elderly Republic.

Flame on.

PS As a side note: Please tell me we're not still calling "force push," "force pull," "choke," and "throw my lightsaber" four separate powers that need to be levelled-up individually. It's all telekinesis. If I can push a dude across the room, I can also pull him back, squeeze his throat, and throw my lightsaber at him, all with equal skill. That's just been my biggest beef with Star Wars games since Jedi Knight, and it's really beginning to wear on me. As far as I'm concerned, Force Unleashed featured two force powers: telekinesis and lightning.

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