Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided

A life divided is more like it. Star Wars Galaxies, since being
initially introduced, has gained a love and hatred from fans on all
sides of the spectrum. I was strongly against buying it until it had a
chance to work it’s bugs out, add new content and be the game that Star
Wars fanatics have yearned for since Atari released The Empire Strikes
Back on it’s 2600 system over twenty some-odd years ago. SWG gives
players the ability to not only play in the House that Lucas built, but
to virtually live there too. Developers recognized early that if this
was to be a hit with it’s core audience, the die hard SW fans, it would
have to be massive, detailed and enguaging.

Sony Online Entertainment
and LucasArts have satisfied those needs, particularly necessary for a
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), but not wthout
flaws. As my geek moniker suggests, I am one of those fanatics. I know
more about the Star Wars universe than most should. I’m proud of that
knowledge and enjoy the rare occasion where I can use that section of
my brain. Since there is no real end, no specific objective an no one
telling me to stop acting like a dork, SWG works on a level that fans
like myself can really enjoy, despite it’s flaws. The community aspect
of this game is the real draw, and it’s saving grace. With a heavy
heart, I can honestly say that if you do not a Star Wars fan make, you
will not enjoy this game. As MMORPG’s go, Galaxies has nothing new to
offer. It’s tap is the license and it taps well.

Graphically speaking there are no
major revolutions in player or creature models, no real flare to speak
of, which causes me to wonder why such high requirements. a 64 meg
video card and a recommendation of 256megs of ram. At 64 and 512mb, my
computer still chugs, especially in areas of large groups of people.
Models are fairly simple, where details has been applied to the image
maps and textures. Faces especially are expressive and player
animations are more than abundant. Literally hundreds of social and
mood body language animations accompany each player as they traverse
the landscapes and converse with the locals. The sheer amount and
diversity of the models easily makes up for whats lacking here.
Playable characters include 8 species, 2 genders per species and
billions of combinations of hair styles, body types, clothing, etc.
NPC’s (non playable characters) take even more forms, including many
that should be familiar from the movies and expanded universe. More
droids than you can shake a bad motivator at and OH – the creatures.
I’ve been on 2 planets so far and have seen so many diverse creatures,
some wild, some domesticated pets. Rancor monsters, nunas, womp rats,
even the fabled krayt dragons can be found here, and that’s only
Tattooine! Building installments, weapons and miscellaneous terminals
round out what you’ll find. LucasArts has taken care to include nearly
every recognizable character and location. Yes, the cantina and all
it’s inhabitants are there. Even Watto’s shop, the Royal Palace of
Naboo and the abandoned Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Especially impressive
are the vistas, the environments and the landscapes. Stop and look as
your walking and you could be treated to a virtual sunset among the
reeds on Naboo, or a full moon on the sands outside of Mos Eisley.

I’ve yet to play any Star Wars based game that hasn’t
been recognized for it’s sound quality. Galaxies is no exception. The
familiar soundtrack is ever present and adapts to what’s happening on
screen. Blaster fire is authentic as are the little things, like a
mouse droid running between people’s feet or the ominous hum of a probe
droid getting too close. Characters have no audible dialogue, even
non-playable characters, but it’s not necessary and due to the
repetative nature of game missions, voices would get annoying. Often
even, ships can be heard passing over head and the low rumbling of
machinery can be heard in the larger cities. I take no issue with sound
design and find that
it helps to immerse you into the world.

Here’s where things
get a little rough. For the first week or so, all you’re going to be
doing is running from place to place, delivering goods from person to
person, earning XP (experience points). It’s boring, HIGHLY repetative
and frustrating. Certain professions, chosen as you create your
character, have destroy missions, which can be a good break, but still
repetetive. It takes forever to get anywhere on foot, and as of right
now, unless you’re going from city to city or planet to planet, walking
is all you will be doing. Fortunately SOE has placed an auto-run
feature. One button press in the direction that you’re pointed and
“we’re walkin, we’re walkin” until you press the key again. LucasArts
has promised the addition of vehicles and animal mounts in a future
upgrade, but no date has been announced. Gameplay consists of running
around completing tasks and earning XP for one of 6 professions. You
are given to the freedom to train in skills from another profession at
any time, allowing you to round off and combine to become a member of a
skilled elite profession. Don’t be fooled either, this isn’t a game
about running and gunning. Although Marksman and Brawler are two
options, even becoming an entertainer, such as a band member or dancer
are possibilities. Ultimately, it could be considered winning the game
by becoming a Jedi. Promised to be a possibility by developers, Jedi
whether padawan or knight, will be tough to come by, but included. It
has been said that becoming one with the Force could take a year of
playing. This prevents 2000 jedi running around one one server.
Becoming a Jedi Master is even possible, but so rare, one should never
assume they could reach that goal, since there is no laid path for the
jedi. There apparently is a formula for it, but it is a closely guarded
secret among developers and randomly changes based on your choices, so
don’t expect to hop on and start throwing force pushes or slicing
stormtroopers with your lightsabre on your first day….or month… or
year. Bugs and problems There are lots, but it seems that developers
are constantly working on them. I have problems running sometimes,
especially in battle. My player will stop and it takes a few presses of
the arrow key to get him goin again. In the meantime, my leg is getting
chewed on by some diseased frog. Enemies will frequently ‘warp’ in
front of you. Enemies are hard to target, especially when they are
moving. Not all of the keyboard commands work the way they’re supposed
to and the game crashes, not regularly, but enough to notice. In an
intelligent move, SOE and LA records a log when a crash does occur to
help determine what the problem was and automaticall sends the log as
you connect to the server again.

Hundreds more problems plague players,
but SOE is good about posting that they’ve recognized the problems and
fix them as they become apparent. It is a little disconcerting though,
that I paid 30 bucks for the game, and I’m paying 15 a month to
essentially be in a beta test. All in all It’s difficult really to
explain my want to play this thing 6 and 8 hours at a time. It is a
sort of addiction (ask my girlfriend), but I do understand a bit of it.
When I play Galaxies, I’m among friends. Even if they’ve chosen to play
as the Empire and you, a Rebel, they are still cohorts willing to help
you without ridiculing you on our knowledge of a fictional universe.
Star Wars fans can live out a fantasy they would not be able to
anywhere else, in the comforts of their own homes. It’s a community
that has it’s problems, just as any other does, but it IS close knit
and likes to have fun. Create a team, go after criminals, or take a
hunting party out to slay a dragon.

My recommendation? If you ARE a
fan, at least give it a shot, the first month’s subscription fees are
free. If you don’t like it, don’t continue, but do give it a chance.
Plus, once the space update takes off (no pun intended), everyone whose
ever wanted to buy an X-wing will be able to. C’mon! Who hasn’t wanted
to do that? Join me on Sunrunner server. Look me up, we’ll run a few
missions. Ch’ase Harbinger – out.

Christopher Kirkman

Christopher is an old school nerd: designer, animator, code monkey, writer, gamer and Star Wars geek. As owner and Editor-In-Chief of Media Geeks, he takes playing games and watching movies very seriously. You know, in between naps.

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