Publisher: Sony Online
Developer: Verant Interactive
Release Date: June 26, 2003
Buy 'STAR WARS GALAXIES: An Empire Divided': PC
There is no question about Star Wars’ status as one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of all time, with not only a successful series of movies but also a gauntlet of games, books, and toys. Any developer that takes on the weight to create a Star Wars game knows that firstly it has to be perfect, and secondly to screw it up is almost like marring a cultural icon. With that heavy burden and amidst much hype and anticipation Sony Online worked to bring the vibrant and ever-expanding Star Wars universe to the MMORPG world, and the results are stunning. Not only does it look like Star Wars with the characters, creatures, and cultures, but it also feels like Star Wars right from the get-go.
Any MMORPG is a huge world; the good ones are filled with immersive content, characters you can relate to and, above all else, addictive gameplay. With an MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe it goes without saying that the potential for exploration and interaction is immense and Galaxies definitely delivers. To take a small peek into why Galaxies lives up to both the hype and the fans lets look into the life of how your standard newcomer starts their journey into the game world.
Not unlike every other MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies has you create your avatar on the serve of your choice, but unlike every other MMORPG you have a huge amount of customization options right off the bat. Firstly you pick your race, which is made up of Twi’Leks, Wookies, Humans, Zabraks, Mon Calimarians, Rodians, Bothans, and Trandoshans. Other races are in the game of course, but are not playable at the time of writing. Once your race and gender is selected you are allowed to customize your character, everything from eye shape, eye size, weight, build, and height is configurable via a slider bar, but even from there you get more options such as how prominent your cheek bones are, how your eyebrows or lips are colored, or how wide, long, and thick your nose is.
After that you name your avatar and then pick your starting class, such as Marksman, Scout, Artisan, Entertainer, etc. While your initial class does determine what skills you start off with you can always cross train into other classes later on. Every character has limited amount of things they can learn in total but there’s nothing stopping you from being a Scout/Medic, Marksman/Artisan, or even a little bit of three or more classes.
Once the process is finished and your avatar has been created you are cast into the game as a refugee who was traveling through space on a travel vessel when an Imperial vessel, thinking your ship carried contraband, disabled the ship by turbolaser fire and tractor-beamed it in. Onboard the Imperial ship they find you aren’t guilty of any illegal activities after all, but rather than give you a ship in exchange for the blasted wreck you now own they give you a blaster and a free ticket to any starport of your choosing.
Among the places you can go in the game are planets such as Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant, and from there individual cities and locales such as Mos Eisley, Anchorhead, or even the secluded Jabba’s Palace. Every planet not only looks the part but also is vastly different from the others and contains different creatures and resources. Naboo is famous for it’s Gungans and swamplands, while Tatooine is a gigantic desert filled with mynocks and womp rats. There are other secluded planets in the game that are only accessible from certain starports and are meant for only the strongest of warriors. The Ewoks on Endor can be downright deadly and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Combat in Galaxies plays out like many other MMORPGs, simply pick your target and press or click attack. Galaxies adds a slight twist to the mix however in the form of movement and stance modifiers. A stationary, prone player will have near perfect accuracy with a blaster but will also be at the mercy of anyone with a melee attack, while a player running and firing away will be able to keep his or her distance but also will have horrible accuracy. The tools of the trade aren’t limited to just blasters however, melee weapons such as swords and axes among others make an appearance.
The question everyone has been asking about is what about becoming a Jedi? Much as it should be, not just anyone can become a Jedi and for the most part nobody even has a clue how to even start down the path. Sony Online has said that the path to become a Jedi will be a difficult one, so if you have the patience and intentions to become a Jedi you will be able to, but thankfully everyone and their brother won’t have their own Jedi character running around, diluting the game.
No MMORPG would be complete without a crafting system and Galaxies definitely does not disappoint. Every character has access to basic crafting skills depending on their chosen professions, but the most crafting options come with the Artisan professions. Every item you want to craft needs a certain amount of resources and certain types, which are broken down into subclass after subclass. Simply enough, at the top you have organics such as bone and meat, and inorganics such as metal, gas, and chemicals. From there the resources are broken down even further, metals and be aluminum, copper, steel, and iron, and even specific types thereof. The basic recipes are lenient on their requirements, such as the 8 organic and 8 inorganic to make your basic stimpak, but more advanced crafting recipes could call for very specific resources such as Abawa Carbonate ore.
Unlike many other MMORPGS, in Galaxies you will not find a single purely NPC salesman, period. Every single item in the game has been crafted by a player, the only exception being the occasional sword or helmet you loot from an enemy you have killed. Thus, the economy is Galaxies is not only huge but is also an integral part of the game. To facilitate such a large factor of the game every city has a Bazaar terminal, which is essentially the eBay of the game. For a small fee players can post items to sell for either an instant sale for a set price or hold an auction for a limited time. Items can be purchased or bid for from any Bazaar terminal in the galaxy but the item can only be picked up from a terminal at the city it was posted. However, with the Bazaar the trade off for it’s ease of use is its cost, anyone on the bazaar is purely out to make a buck and the prices reflect it. The other way to gain new items is to visit vending machines set up in people homes. Stocked by the owner, vending machines usually cater to a specific purpose or crowd. Basirve Resources or VeXeN’s Droids may be a long walk out of Mos Eisley and only provide raw materials or droids, but the prices won’t drain your bank account.
In Star Wars Galaxies you also have faction points, which go up and down depending on what you do and, more specifically, who you kill. Go on missions to kill Imperials and the Rebels will take notice, eventually allowing you to join their faction and take on Rebel missions. You can’t join every faction you can get faction points for, such as Jawas or Tuskan Raiders, but the more faction points you have of a side the less they will want to kill you when you find them during your travels.
A major selling part of Galaxies rests on not any facet of the game itself but rather the players within. The players you meet in Galaxies are unlike the players in other MMORPGs, you’ll find that not only nearly everyone is friendly and willing to lend a helping hand or share a bit of experience but many will even go out of their way to assist you, sprinting towards you with a stimpak in hand if you are at the mercy of a marauding Krayt dragon. With Star Wars Galaxies you really get the sense of community when surrounded by other players in a city or in a camp.
The graphics in Galaxies are a dual-edged blade, to say the least. The graphics look great for the most part, and you won’t find a more accurate representation of Star Wars anywhere. On the other hand, even the most powerful of rigs won’t see their framerates reach much higher than the mid 40s. The graphics can be adjusted to meet nearly any setup and will look just fine, but don’t expect to run the game maxed out unless you own a military-grade computer. Effects such as volumetric shadows, and realistic water effects are the stand out effects, but even effects such as the soft glow cast on a player’s face from a nearby blaster bolt subtly add to the visual experience.
As far as the audio goes, it’s Star Wars through and through. In combat one of the dramatic battle themes kick in, which sound like they were taken directly from one of the movies itself. Blasters all have that familiar sound when launching a streak of energy through the air, Wookies have their signature growls and roars, sunsets and sunrises are accompanied by a soft orchestral theme, and even the band in the cantina in Mos Eisley plays their songs just like in Episode IV. As a whole, this is probably the first Star Wars game to ever get the sound as close to perfection as it can get.
Star Wars Galaxies has been hyped to an insane degree and rabidly anticipated by scores of wannabe Rebels and Imperials. To sum it up in a nice bundle Star Wars Galaxies is exactly the game that everyone wanted this MMORPG to be. With the upcoming vehicle addon that will allow people to ride creatures, landspeeders, and pilot starcraft the Star Wars Galaxies universe can only get bigger. Fans of other MMORPGs such as Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot will be blown away by the sheer level of quality that has been set forth into the game, and Star Wars fans will love the fact that the game stays true to the established storyline and plot elements. All in all, Star Wars Galaxies is one of the best MMORPGs released, fusing a well thought-out MMORPG base with the biggest sci-fi franchise in history, creating a game that is compelling, immersive, and simply fun to play.
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