Yes, yes, it took me 10 years to finish KOTOR. Let’s get the bad out of the way. It’s not a mechanically exciting game. The pathfinding AI is frustratingly dumb. It’s no pushover, and sometimes the difficulty feels unfair. The last area is a serious slog through a mountain of Dark Jedi and Sith troopers and that is barely fun.
What keeps it moving is the setting and the story. Even though it’s set well before the Star Wars movies, it’s very clearly a Star Wars game. It starts with an exploding planet and runs through all kinds of Jedi/Sith/force nonsense. It’s got tons of different races, languages, cantinas, and smugglers. Those things KOTOR does very well. And the story is interesting, if a little simple. I had a major plot point spoiled for me years after the game had been out, but it was still worth experiencing for myself.
But I really only wanted to finish it so I could play KOTOR 2, which I’ve read tells a much better story and is an improved game despite some quirks. KOTOR on Steam crashed pretty frequently, which really impeded my progress and pretty much forced me to quicksave every 5 minutes. Here’s hoping KOTOR 2 goes better for me.
I got some wild notion that I wanted to play an MMO so I started up Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR is free-to-play and I’ve got quite a bit of experience in free-to-play MMOs. I’ve put quite a few hours into Champions Online and Star Trek Online. I also happen to play MMOs like they’re single-player games. I don’t group or guild.
I could compare features between the Cryptic MMOs and SWTOR, and what’s for free and what’s for pay, but I don’t find that very helpful. So what I will say is that SWTOR feels like it’s a demo of the subscriber game, whereas the Cryptic MMOs feel complete and if you want some bonus stuff, you could pay for it.
SWTOR specifically removes more than convenience features for free-to-play players. One of those convenience features is “sprint”, which simply lets you move faster between combat. Subscribers and former subscribers get it at level 1. Free-to-play members get it at level 10. It’s a little faster but not that much faster. But then I noticed that quests were withholding completion rewards from me for being a free player. That feels mean, right? “Hey, here’s what you could have gotten if you were a subscriber! But you’re not, piss off.”
I feel like that was a real turning point for me where I went from onboard despite penalties for being a free player, to not worth my time. I’m already playing it like a single-player game. Why not just go back and maybe finish KOTOR? And on top of slighting free players, the game feels tenuously Star Wars. I don’t know when it takes place in the Star Wars universe, but it feels more Star Wars-ish than Star Wars itself. It’s kind of a strange game.
But the bottom line is that other free MMOs have felt like I’m getting the commercial product, and that compelled me to put some money into them. SWTOR feels like a demo that’s pushing me towards buying it, and it doesn’t feel good.