When me and my friends left World of Warcraft six months ago, we all agreed that we’d reunite when The Old Republic came out.
It isn’t that I’m a Star Wars fan. Far from it. But it was Bioware promising an expansive, new MMO. One with depth and story. Something that would be different, and yet familiar.
But time has not been kind to The Old Republic. The gameplay trailers don’t wow in the way the animated videos do. And by and large – the progression is the same as every MMO that has come before it. The Old Republic is a culmination of the best bits of games that have already been released – it isn’t new, or exciting, or different.
And of course, now Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World have shown that they are games willing and able to advance the formulas of the genre onward, rather than feel obliged to repeat the same mechanisms over and over again.
Games that give more control to players in terms of advancement. In terms of how to play. Guild Wars 2 lets you get better with weapons and learn skills by using them. The Secret World allows you the option to specialise and overcome certain aspects. Heck, even RIFT has shown that by giving classes control over their talent trees, by mixing and matching, there’s room for much experimentation and rarely are two people at the endgame built the same way. It’s nice.
I don’t wish to sound down on The Old Republic, because if you want an MMO that is polished and grounded deeply in Star Wars mythology, then it’s going to be perfect. But sadly, it seems to be falling into an old trap of just recycling the same old ideas over and over again.
Being different isn’t always popular, it is true, but then – Champions Online is a wonderful game, with a fantastic depth in terns of creating a hero and then tricking them out. You can follow a progressive path – or you can choose not to, and go freeform. Some don’t like having that amount of room to move. But it’s worked for the game, by and large, and is evidence that you don’t need to stay within the strict lines of an MMO to actually be one.
The more we see of TOR, the more I see a game grounded in the mistakes and errors of the past. I’m sure it will be brilliant. I’m sure it’ll make a lot of money. Oh, and I’m also sure it will cripple World of Warcraft.
But TOR isn’t the future of MMOs – it’s not daring enough. And so, I may play TOR. But I think, in the long term, my eyes are on Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World – games that are daring to break the mould again, games that don’t want to be confined in traditional stereotypes.
And hopefully, games which will stop people proclaiming that everyone needs to follow the example laid out by Blizzard – because I’m bored of playing WoW clones in different settings.
It really is time for something different. If I wanted WoW…
I’d still be playing it.