The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.
[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]
Game: SWTOR or Star Wars: The Old Republic is an immersive MMORPG within a vast and detailed SF/fantasy galaxy based in the Star Wars universe.
Release Date: NA: December 20, 2011; EU: December 20, 2011; AU: March 1, 2012
Genre/gameplay mechanics: open world; action-adventure; high production values; ten playable species – with restrictions; eight classes – four Galactic Republic & four Sith Empire; two subclasses per class; unique interactive fully-voiced storyline for each class; great companion system – five per class with own skills and story; class-based starships; planetary exploration; optional warzones and open-world PvP. Tons of extra features like space combat/missions, crafting, strongholds (housing), etc. FTP with restrictions + sub + cash shop.
Setting: SWTOR is set 300 years after the events in Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and more than 3000 years before the events in the movie, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace as a time of tenuous peace seems about to vanish across numerous planets, many controlled by other species and factions than the principal combatants, the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire.
Storytelling: Expansive and immersive. Players are thrust into a galaxy where the Jedi Order and the Republic are struggling to maintain control of the core worlds after yet another war while the Sith plot their downfall and the expansion of the new Empire. The conflict opens on many fronts and across many planets, where native factions are engaged in political struggles or civil war. Each of the eight classes has a three-act storyline, against a background arc, that progresses as the character levels up. Players’ choices permanently open or close storylines and affect players’ non-player character (NPC) companions. All class storylines converge in the expansions.
Releases + Expansions – six expansions with last two changing companion system:
- Rise of the Hutt Cartel – April 14, 2013: The expansion is centred on the planet Makeb and the rising threat of the Hutt Cartel. The campaign is fully voiced. The level cap was raised to 55, with the levelling from 50 onwards centred on Makeb
- Galactic Starfighter – February 4, 2014: introduced 12v12 space-based PvP combat on two maps, with 2 ‘capture-the-flag’ combat missions. Three stock starfighters were made available – a scout, a strike fighter, and a gunship.
- Galactic Strongholds – October 14, 2014: introduced player housing and flagships for guilds.
- Shadow of Revan – December 9, 2014: centred on the Order of Revan seeking to establish a new galactic order, led by the reborn Revan himself. The campaign raised the level cap to 60 and takes place on two new worlds: Rishi, a tropical pirate haven on the edge of the galaxy, and Yavin 4.
- Knights of the Fallen Empire – October 27, 2015: with the emergence of a new threat from another Empire, the storyline departed from the original Jedi v Sith conflict. New companions available to all classes replaced the old class-based ones, although they are slowly returning – for everyone. The level cap rose to 65.
- Knights of the Eternal Throne – December 2, 2016: continuing from KOTFE expansion, KOTET focuses on defeating Empress Vaylin and the Eternal Empire. The level cap rose to 70.
Formats: Microsoft Windows
- 1977 – The Star Wars franchise began in 1977 with the release of the film Star Wars (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope in 1981), followed by the successful sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983); these three films constitute the original Star Wars A prequel trilogy was released between 1999 and 2005, which received mixed reactions from both critics and fans. A sequel trilogy began in 2015 with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continued in 2017 with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
- 1934+1936 – Flash Gordon is a 1936 science fiction film serial. Shown in 13 chapters, it was the first screen adventure for the comic-strip character Flash Gordon that was invented by Alex Raymond only two years earlier in 1934. Originally, George Lucas wanted to adapt the Flash Gordon space adventure comics and serials into his own films, having been fascinated by them since he was young. In 1979, he said, “I especially loved the Flash Gordon serials… Of course, I realize now how crude and badly done they were … loving them that much when they were so awful, I began to wonder what would happen if they were done really well”.
- 1920s – 1940s – Nazi era parallels include: The stormtroopers share a name with the Nazi stormtroopers (see also Sturmabteilung). Imperial officers’ uniforms resemble some historical German uniforms of World War II and the political and security officers of the Empire resemble the black-clad SS down to the imitation silver death’s head insignia on their officer’s caps. World War II terms were used for names in Star Wars. Lucas himself has drawn parallels between Palpatine and his rise to power to historical dictators such as Adolf Hitler plus Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Other historical comparisons include the plot climax of Revenge of the Sith being modelled after the fall of the democratic Roman Republic (27 BC) and the formation of the empire.
Adaptations set in the SWTOR universe, include:
- Chronicle Books released The Art and Making of Star Wars: The Old Republic in November 2011, which chronicles the creation of the game and includes concept artwork and interviews with the development team. The book was written by former Star Wars Insider editor Frank Parisi and BioWare writing director Daniel Erickson.
- Comics – An internet comic titled Threat of Peace, produced by Dark Horse and written by The Old Republic developer Rob Chestney offers backstory to the game. The story spans ten years from the signing of the Treaty of Coruscant to the events that start the game. A second internet comic titled Blood of the Empire is set 25 years before the Treaty of Coruscant and offers readers a new perspective on the events leading up to the start of The Old Republic.
- Novels – A 256-page novel called Deceived was released by Del Rey on March 22, 2011. This story, by Paul S. Kemp, tells of Darth Malgus, the Sith Lord responsible for the sacking of Coruscant. Another novel written by Sean Williams called Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance was published on July 21, 2010. Drew Karpyshyn wrote a novel titled Revan, published on November 15, 2011. It features Revan, revealing his fate after the Knights of the Old Republic Karpyshyn wrote another novel, The Old Republic: Annihilation, that was released on November 13, 2012.
Recommendation: SWTOR has received generally positive reviews from critics, with a score of 85 on Metacritic and an 83.87% on GameRankings. PC Gamer gave a 93/100, praising the story, voice acting, and the amount of content available. Gamespy gave a review of 4/5, praising the storylines and companion system but criticising the “standard kill and fetch” quests. GameSpot gave the game 8.0/10, saying “[The Old Republic] isn’t the next step in online role-playing games. Instead, it’s a highly entertaining refinement of what has come before it. The game has received a 9.0/10 “Amazing” rating from IGN.com. The final verdict of MMOs.com was “Good” There is an extensive community although player numbers are falling in the face of newer games and some problems – as below.
4.47 Stars: My partner and I have played SWTOR extensively, completing all eight class stories and every expansion except the Starfighter one, as we ‘suck’ at space combat, and the latest one. The settings feel realistic from an SF angle and the story-lines were excellent with some classes more memorable than others, plus some favourite companions – like ‘the bug guy’. Gameplay was good, although there are a lot of skills and the crafting can be a slog. Great fun playing the class stories, but from there the game gets repetitive as each class begins to follow a similar line. Then, we lost our companions and when they came back – one-by-one and not all – our relationships were minimal. I have two ‘instant’ level 70 characters, but only one that started at the beginning. Will she ever get to 70?
- Setting: 4.75*
- Storyline: 4.6*
- Gameplay: 4.5*
- Entertainment: 4*
- Genesis: 4*
Alternative ‘S’ thoughts:
S is also for Shawshank Redemption as in the 1994 movie and also Stephen King’s 1982 novella. The movie is in my top five of all-time. No game.
+ ‘S’ Games played: Star Trek Online and Shaiya.
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