By Eric Hill | Contributor Published: 04/30/2013 8:00 am EST
A theodicy is a defense of God; an attempt to prove He exists, or logical reasoning for His existence in spite of certain intellectual problems with that reality. It’s one of those newfangled philosophy words that many have heard and few want to remember. I’m clever, though, and I thought, “What words can I make up if I stick the suffix –dicy, which means defense, on other prefixes?” Thus was born TORdicy, a defense of The Old Republic, and that’s what I’m going to try to do right now.
So I started playing TOR when it came out in early 2012. It was the first MMO I had ever experienced, but I couldn’t really say I was happy about playing it. I had played Warcraft III, but not World of Warcraft, and my experience of the two games left me feeling like the latter weakened and obscured the former. I remember debating long into the night about the dreaded and evil dark lord known as MMO, whose shadowy power touched all worlds and story ideas, even giving birth to new ones that had terrible flying mechanics (Hi, Aeon). I hated the genre of gaming because it took complex, interesting gaming and watered it down into something generic, uncomplicated, and poorly written, all for the sake of milking the proverbial cash cow Blizzard had apparently found wandering in the gaming wastes years earlier. I admitted, at the time, that MMOs had done some fantastic things. WOW, for example, has a huge world to explore, and that can be amazing for those who do that sort of thing. The player-versus-player could be fun and interesting, too, or so I was told. Still, you can make a great PVP game without making a terrible PVE experience. Player-versus-environment should involve more than grinding for levels, a term that doesn’t even sound nice, and emptying stories and filling them with voided protagonists named LOLwut57@!-. Not that LOLwut57@!- would be poor name, mind you, but it’s a bit of a far cry from, say, Arthas Menethil.
But I like TOR and I like it despite my negative predisposition to the genre, so I think it’s worth defending from all the naysayers out there. So in order to make this TORdicy go smoothly, I’ll point out two criticisms of TOR that I’ve come across and respond to them in kind. Then I’ll note some reasons why I think TOR deserves credit and, if not the attention of your wallet, at least a nod of approval at being a decent, bearable MMO, which is all I really expect from an MMO anyway (har har).
1.) TOR is a carbon copy of WOW.
Well, of course TOR is a carbon copy of WOW. Is there really a reason it shouldn’t be? I mean, WOW set the mark for what MMOs should be in the current market; good luck finding a game out there that isn’t, in fact, a carbon copy of WOW in some way. Saying TOR fails because it’s like another game is like saying McDonalds and Burger King fail because they both give you fries and a feeling of hygienic paranoia. TOR represents a different flavor, not a completely new thing, and I don’t ever recall it promising to be different than WOW. In fact, the build up to its release looked a lot like WOW. Classes, quests, PVP battlegrounds; out of curiosity, what exactly looked different and novel in this ingredients list? Don’t get me wrong, Guildwars 2 and Eve Online look and act nothing like WOW, and good for them! There is absolutely nothing wrong with diversity in a gaming market, but I find it difficult to slight a game for following a pattern that has both been successfully proven and easy to recreate. TOR seems like it was meant to expose you to the Star Wars universe, not a new game type.
2.) TOR didn’t have enough endgame content and really hasn’t added enough in subsequent patches.
This is probably a fair criticism, but I’m not sure endgame content was the focus of the game. TOR is the spiritual successor of Knights of the Old Republic, an older RPG and probably some of the best Star Wars storytelling out there. Like those games, TOR focused on creating an environment for roleplay, giving you unique companions with personalized story missions. And I’m the only person completely impressed with the fact that the entire game is voice acted? I mean, even with recycled audio, that’s a fairly massive accomplishment, and it’s something that many other MMOs didn’t do. Sure, the conversations are pretty generic and typical, but the fact that you get to hear every character gives TOR a tonality that few other MMOs can match in their storytelling. Maybe TOR did lack endgame content, but with fifty levels of above par MMO storytelling, can you really complain? Maybe you can, but I think TOR deserves credit for what it gives you within the confines of what it was trying to accomplish. TOR’s storytelling is superior to many other MMOs, and I think it’s that way for a reason. Given the sheer amount of work put into making the story bearable, I think the amount of endgame content present at the end of TOR is acceptable. Perhaps it doesn’t appeal to the MMO die-hards who need to get that +50 mount or raid until their eyeballs drop out, but I’m an average, every day guy and, well, the amount of endgame content I got was what I expected from a recently released MMO.
I think TOR deserves some kind consideration for what it’s done. I’m not saying it doesn’t have problems. To the contrary, I think TOR has one the worst payment mentalities of any MMO out there. Their free-to-play is laughable and kind of an offense to anyone who played the game for a couple of months and wants to pick it back up for a little while. I’ve not done much with Cartel Coins, but an in-game currency that you pay actual money for might work in other game types, like Riot Games’ League of Legends, but it reeks of financial desperation in any case where it was added after subscribers dropped off. Even worse, I feel like Bioware has squandered the opportunity that TOR represents: a way to see the expansive Star Wars universe in a massive, bigger than ever before way. Think about it; the Star Wars universe consists of worlds like Kashyyyk, with trees bigger than houses and Mon Calamar, where there’s nothing but water as far as the eye can see. TOR should’ve been the Star Wars nerds’ wet dream, where you get to visit these places in a way never before seen, where standing next to a wroshyr tree is possible. Want to be a Wookiee Jedi standing next to a wroshyr tree? Sure, why not? Yet TOR doesn’t seem to give me that; they give me races that, while interesting, aren’t really iconic of the universe and worlds that, while iconic, are stale from overuse. How many times am I going to have to run around Tatooine before game developers realize sand dunes are not as impressive a landscape as they might think? Don’t even bother answering that question because I’m afraid to know the answer. Also, I want to be an Ithorian Jedi; is that so much to ask?
I will say that TOR, though, is one of the few MMOs that I’ve tried that actually puts in-depth thought into the way it conveys its story; if the game developers set out to recreate the tone of KOTOR in an MMO setting, then they succeeded. Sure, you still have to grind, but it’s quite possible to play TOR with minimal grind and focus on the story missions. You can’t do it entirely, but TOR at least learned from WOW how to make its grind more bearable. And you have companions. Guys, that’s kind of a colossal feat for an MMO, considering the fact that there are six for each class. And if that doesn’t get you, think about the voice acting, or the fact that you can call in a friend to help you in your story mission. Better yet, consider flashpoints and the fact that it only takes four people to run them. Everything TOR does seems designed around making PVE more viable and more entertaining for a solitary player that just wants to have a good time in his favorite fandom.
An avid gamer, cigar smoker, and addicted hat wearer, Eric is trapped in an online gaming universe that consists of DOTA 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Starcraft II. If you're reading this, send help.