I don’t see their faces anymore. I don’t care if they are good or evil. I don’t think that, in another life, we could be friends. All I can see are my people and those who have to be destroyed. If their names hang in red above their heads, they are my enemies and must die.
This is Star Wars: the Old Republic, and I’m talking about the eternal war between the between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire — the war between good and evil.
BioWare has managed something amazing. I actually care about my faction. I want the Republic to beat the Empire into the dust.
Hopefully, with lasers.
I’ve been an avid fan of massively multiplayer role-playing games for years, and I have never once experienced this sort of loyalty. Sure, when I first started enjoying World of Warcraft, I felt a vague animosity toward the other team. If you were Horde, you sort of didn’t like the Alliance and vice versa.
I started playing WOW on the Alliance side, and I did have a feeble fuck-the-Horde view because, you know, fuck those guys. This mild dislike ended the moment I switched to my troll character, however.
This is not the case with The Old Republic. My main character is a Republic smuggler. I spent 50 levels fighting the evil Sith. I saved Republic soldiers. I put a stop to the Empire’s attacks and did everything in my power to destroy my eternal enemy. If I saw a red lightsaber, I killed whomever was carrying it.
I didn’t really have an Empire alternate character until the Legacy patch came out, which added perks for having two characters. Picking the Bounty Hunter class, I started my journey to the dark side.
Something became very apparent, very quickly. I didn’t stop hating the Sith. These lightning-wielding jerks were still my enemies, even though they were technically my allies. Despite the fact that the Empire was paying me piles of credits, I did everything in my power to undermine its agenda. If it asked me to kill a bounty, I let my target live. If I was supposed to bring someone in alive, I killed him or her.
I’m a loyal citizen of the Republic, and I think I know why. In WOW and many other MMOs, each faction runs a lot of quests. Usually, they start with some unprejudiced, unaligned NPC asking any old player to collect 25 batwings for a batwing soufflé. You’re not likely to see this in SWTOR. If some wrinkly old Jedi asks you to collect tauntaun bladders for his light-side goulash, that goulash is most likely a potent recipe for the destruction of the Sith. Most of the quests given to the player tend to stick it to the enemy in some way or another.
Another reason for my loyalty is the lack of a powerful common enemy. In World of Warcraft you're usually faced with a giant evil force intending to destroy Azeroth. Some of these big bads are so terrifying and destructive that the Horde and the Alliance put aside their differences and work together. What do you do if a giant undead ice king raises an army to conquer the world? You call for a truce with your eternal enemies to take him down. Is a giant dragon terrorizing the skies? Work with the people you’ve been at war with for three real-time strategy games and one MMORPG. In the end, the "war" in World of Warcraft feels more like a lovers' spat.
Now, you also encounter common enemies in SWTOR, but you are fairly often fighting them to spite the other faction. If a player is asked to kill a bunch of zombie-like rakghouls, it’s most likely just to rile them up to attack the other side. You never have to set aside arms for the greater good.
After 50 levels working for one side, a person tends to find him or herself aligned to it. At least I certainly did. My loyalty isn’t born from a like or dislike of players from either faction. My feelings toward the people on both sides are about the same. I don’t hold a grudge toward the guy who wanted to shoot lightning out of his fingertips.
But when I log into Star Wars: The Old Republic, all I see are my people and those who must destroyed.