Lifetap Volume 1, Issue 29 – Star Wars: Return of the Sardu
Today’s electrifying issue of Lifetap shares the shocking tale of Sardu’s return to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and how it has challenged his belief in methodical leveling practices in MMOs.
Ever since the announcement of the upcoming Shadow of Revan expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been itching to get back into the game. My most recent stint had been a brief period of squinting sideways at Galactic Strongholds in an attempt to determine if it might have been best to simply call that release Galactic Credit Sink instead.
SWTOR has always been one of those games that my characters are perpetually broke in. Some of this I would attribute to my natural tendency to be a very methodical leveler in MMOs. That essentially means I’m never in a rush to hit the level cap, so will take the time to slowly level up any additional advancement systems along with the standard XP curve.
Some games are also structured in such a way that the level design itself can be absorbing to the point of distraction. This is absolutely true of some planets in SWTOR, and I find great pleasure in carefully and methodically sweeping the entirety of the map before progressing onward.
This isn’t driven by any sense of being a completionist gamer. Achievement systems, for example, aren’t something I pay much mind to and could just as soon live without in 99% of MMOs or other games on the market. A few titles get it right by turning achievement points into a form of currency, or tether progression to somewhat meaningful character or account unlocks, but those titles do tend to be few and far between. Most seem to simply be a lazy design checkbox that has been engrained into the psyche of developers thanks to the dominance of consoles and the Almighty Steam.
You spent 5 minutes playing our game! Achievement unlocked! Congrats!
This kind of low-hanging fruit isn’t typically what I’m after in terms of progression, advancement, or whatever else you want to call it. I’m more the type who wants to scurry to the top of the tree, hang precariously from the branches, lick the bark and spit out the splinters.
Following Gunky’s retelling of his experiences with the current 12x XP boost to class missions in SWTOR I’ve been eyeballing the game launcher, and finally managed to dive back into the game this past week. At first I was a bit concerned that leveling so quickly would cause an instantaneous meltdown of the parts of my brain that enjoy steeper leveling curves, but was instead pleasantly surprised to find the exact opposite to be true.
Hyper-advancement does have its pitfalls, to be sure. Level-appropriate gear simply doesn’t come fast enough, and while you no longer have to worry about skill unlocks and upgrades sapping every credit you own, attempting to purchase mods while you advance most certainly will.
The nutty part is that I realized I’m completely fine with that. The higher I’ve leveled any fresh characters with the XP boost in effect, the more challenging the game becomes. And to me, that creates the type of golden gameplay sorely needed in the MMO industry these days. Solo leveling should be a challenge, and more difficult content shouldn’t always have to be tucked away behind group-only dungeon doors.
The other byproduct of advancing so quickly lies in its inherent linearity. It’s forced me to assess entire planets that I assumed I knew as well as the path from my office to the coffee maker in my kitchen from an entirely new perspective. I no longer have the crutch of simply stumbling blindly into the right gathering resources at the exact right level range. Instead, I have to remind myself where I need to go as I double back and work my way through crafting.
Likewise, I’ve found myself traveling along less obvious paths since I’m not following any breadcrumbs neatly laid out between outposts and quest hubs. A part of me has enjoyed this aspect most of all, as it aides in turning something assumed to be overly familiar into the exotic and new. This typically doesn’t kick in until after a major expansion release, but the team at BioWare has managed to provide a neat slice of freshness well in advance of Shadow of Revan; a feat which I enthusiastically applaud them for.
If I were to attribute an Achilles heel to the entire affair, it would be the release date for the expansion being far too close to the drop date for Dragon Age: Inquisition. You can bet your favorite can of beans that I’ll be all over that game like hot butter come release day. And while it’s still a ways off yet, I’m also eagerly anticipating another pending BioWare title, Shadow Realms. In fact, that particular title will be the focus of the next issue of Lifetap, so be sure to tune in later this week for Issue 30.
In the meantime, be sure to also keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming BlizzCon coverage as the teams from Ten Ton Hammer, Elitist Jerks, GGMaster and eSportsMax converge on the Anaheim Convention Center in force later this week.