A Strong Force for Fun
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The many Star Wars games that have come out over the years have let us play many different people in that universe. We have been Jedi knights, rebel pilots, bounty hunters, planetary biologists, wartime strategists, imperial officers, trade federation droid handlers and just about everything else imaginable. But now LucasArts is letting us be something completely new - ourselves.
Well, you can be yourself if you want. Or you can be a Wookiee, Mon Calamari, Bothan, Rodian, Trandoshan, Twi'lek, Zabrak or simply a human completely different than yourself. The point is that the only massively multiplayer game devoted to the Star Wars universe puts the player in charge of their destiny.
There are several starting professions to choose from, though you can customize your character to a very large degree later in the game. For example, you can start life as an artisan, which is basically someone who builds stuff. Later on as you gain experience you can make yourself a weapon Smith or armor crafter, or give up on building all together and instead become a marksman. If your character has good enough mental skills, you can become both at the same time and more.
As with any technological multiplayer game, I was initially worried how they were going to handle high-powered weapons. If you look at the movies, you will know that it is pretty much one shot and one kill with blaster weapons. You don't much see someone like Han Solo with multiple blaster wounds running down a hallway trying to evade storm troopers. Main characters mostly don't get hit. So I was a bit worried that the game would become a giant shooter. But the developers have done a good balancing act here. Depending on your health, it takes several blasts to bring you or an opponent down. You certainly wont feel like weapons are anemic, but you won't worry about being alive one minute and dead the next either.
Player killing is also handled well. You can't attack other players most of the time. If you challenge someone to a duel and they accept, you will be able to fight, though I have been playing the game since it launched about two weeks ago and have yet to see more than one duel. It's not a very popular option, especially since there is not a lot of indication as to the level of your opponent. A six foot Wookiee with a blaster rifle and sunglasses might not be a match at all for your high-level Rodian scout. But there is little chance that you want to find that out.
Player killing also can occur later in the game when you decide to join either the rebellion or the empire, if you choose to do so. Once that occurs, you can track down major interstellar battles that occur at different places throughout the galaxy. These battle areas have different objectives, like destroying a power generator for instance. If that objective is achieved, or all opponents are wiped out, one side or the other is considered the victor. Empire characters can kill rebellion characters and vice verse in those circumstances.
The game world itself is incredibly beautiful. It kind of depends on where you are of course. Tatooine is basically just a desert, so it is not going to look as good as the lush greenery of Naboo or the industrial world of Corellia, but looks like you would expect it to look.
This beauty is complimented by excellent sound. You get all the awesome Star Wars music. Most of the time it plays in the background and you will hardly notice it, which is how you want theme music to behave.
There has been a lot of talk about Jedi in the game, but nobody can get a straight answer from the developers about how they work and how to become them. I asked and was told that it is a mysterious process, different for each player, and that we would not see any Jedi for several months. I am not even 100 percent sure that Jedi are actually in the game yet, but they say they are and though I have seen no evidence to this, I will believe them on this point. It is kind of annoying that people are paying $15 a month to play - the most expensive massively multiplayer RPG to date - and the developers are still keeping secrets from players. The skeptic in me wants to say that it's convenient for the developers to say "wait a couple of months and you just might become a Jedi," all the while taking $15 a month from people.
But, even without the promised Jedi, the game is a lot of fun to play. It is very much like most multiplayer games, meaning you need to do a lot of minor quests to gain experience and power as you develop your character. Basically that means you initially have access to two types of quests. You have the basic "FedEx" quest and the "Kill" quests. You need to deliver items for the FedEx quests and kill mostly rodents and stuff for the Kill quests. You are given money and experience for doing this.
Compared to other online games, Galaxies is actually very easy on the basis of upgrading your character. Making money is relatively easy, and you are given a respectable amount of experience for each creature killed, or each time you perform your job well. The trick is that there is a lot to spend your experience on, so even though you are earning a lot, you also have to spend a lot. I like this a lot better than the more stingy RPGs because it opens the world up for more player choice.
For example, you don't have to be a fighting character at all. You can become a performer, and gain experience by playing music in cantinas or dancing on grand stages. You can even get profession-related quests like a special "gig" where you are asked to perform at an event or in a certain club. And you can combine professions too. So you could start life out as a medic and then decide later that instead of living life in the hospital that you want to become a scout medic and explore or a combat medic and go fight.
The game does not force you to band together in groups, but rewards you for doing so. I had a lot of fun solo adventuring by myself out in the wild, but there were several areas like bandit camps and powerful animal lairs that were way out of my league. However, when I joined a large group of players, we were able to go into those areas and effectively fight. Plus, we were able to take on more difficult missions for higher pay. By myself I was making about 1,000 credits every day or so. In the group, I was able to make 4,000 credits in about 20 minutes of play.
Armed with my new money, I was able to buy a much better weapon from a player who had become a weapons maker. I got a good deal, and she was happy because she had a customer. It was funny because the person I bought the weapon from sold it to me for 50 credits and was thrilled when I gave her 60 and said to keep the change. What she did not know was that there was a guy on the other side of town selling an inferior weapon of the same type for 1,000. And I was thrilled to be able to role-play and find the best deal.
As multiplayer games go, this is one of the best. You have a lot of choices as to what you can become and how you want your character to develop. There are some notable things missing from the game currently, like player controlled vehicles, but when they are added in it will make the game all the more fun.
Is the game worth $15 a month? I would say that for me it would be. Because casual players can feel just as at home with the game, probably only as non-combat characters though, I think many people would probably answer the same way. Though there are a couple of areas that need improved, the game earns a 5 GiN Gem rating. For Star Wars fans it is a must-have no-brainer. Others will still find an enjoyable world with a lot of choices and a fair amount of role-playing.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.