How BioWare Sucked Me Into SWTOR

Over the years, I’ve taken my fair share of MMORPGs for a spin, but titles like EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and more recently, Rift, never quite managed to sink their hooks into me like they did so many millions of PC gamers out there. While playing in the early access period for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I realized why: the rewards never felt worth the grind. I came to this realization when I was awarded a fracking starship after sinking roughly 15 hours into my Bounty Hunter’s origin story in TOR, and, lo and behold, for the first time I think an MMO might have me hooked.

Before I go any further, let me admit that I am biased. When I was five years old, my grandfather took me to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and after only watching the original Star Wars on VHS, seeing Imperial Walkers, Han frozen in carbonite, and (major spoiler!) Vader reveal he’s Luke’s father — all on the big screen — little freckle-faced Mike Sharkey’s world was rocked. Without a doubt, BioWare has a leg up when it comes to convincing me to pay $15 a month to play its game.

However, as Sony Online Entertainment proved with Star Wars: Galaxies, simply setting a game in my favorite fantasy universe is not nearly enough. That brings me to one of The Old Republic’s primary strengths: storytelling. The Bounty Hunter origin tale, complete with devious Hutt gangsters, dangerous contracts, and roughish one-liners, is stellar. If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it’s like to be one of the galaxy’s most sought-after hired guns like Boba Fett, look no further than SWTOR.
During the recent beta, I was also able to play through a large chunk of the Jedi Consular’s origin world adventure, and it was also strong. Not necessarily my thing, but well written and well-paced, and I’m sure wannabe Jedi’s out there will be as gratified as this wannabe Bounty Hunter. No matter which class or faction you choose, though, what pushes SWTOR’s storytelling over the top is, without a doubt, the voice acting. It’s fantastic, and it does a terrific job fully immersing you into the various tales you find yourself tied up in.

Previous MMOs may have featured equally stellar stories, but beyond major characters, plot points, and CGI cutscenes, those stories had to be read within the game. For me, that meant glossing over block after block of quest-giving NPC text before tramping off to do nothing more than kill X amount of Y at point A on my map — and this is coming from a writer that loves devouring all forms of the written word. The story is meaty in SWTOR, and you’ll actually be able to sink your teeth into it thanks to the staggering amount of recorded dialogue. I can’t stress enough what a difference voice acting makes in SWTOR, particularly when you include BioWare’s trademark dialogue tree system and the element of choice. MMOs are all about creating your own unique character and living vicariously through them in a fantasy world. When you’re able to interact with other characters in that world through dialogue, and actually make choices in the words you use and decisions you make, it pulls you in like a tractor beam.

For example, and be warned that there are real spoilers ahead here, in the Bounty Hunter origin story, Nem’ro the Hutt hires you to bring him the head of a local leader that’s been stirring a revolt on Nal Hutta, a character aptly named Huttsbane. When you track down the target, he’s with a friend who offers you a deal: take the head of another fallen warrior and spare Huttsbane’s life. Nem’ro will never know the difference, the revolt is just, and Huttsbane is too important, the man pleads. As a player, you can choose to go along with the deal or kill Huttsbane. 

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