One-Sided Interaction: SWTOR vs Guild WARS 2

You knew it was coming, assuming you’ve been craving to the most heinous and base of desires, which is reading this column. You knew that, given my love of both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, this column was coming. The compare - contrast column. Sort of. It’s actually a little more interesting than that.

I’ve had the same thought about both games, ‘Wow, I’d play this as a single-player game,’ but wanted to more closely examine that aspect in each game, as it is a bit different in each one.

I don’t enjoy ‘people,’ especially ‘online people,’ yet I really like social aspects in MMOs. Sort of. I like fighting alongside other live players, but I don’t want to discuss their guild, their extensive game knowledge, or their limited spelling abilities. I’m always happy to sidle up next to you, kill the hell out of something, but then I want to slink away, leaving you and the other townsfolk wondering who that ‘mysterious stranger’ was and why he was kneeling by each and every corpse, looking for crafting materials.

Where Guild Wars 2 encourages multiple ‘single players’ in an area by having dynamic events and shitloads of respawns, SWTOR discourages it. I’ve often been toe-tapping waiting for a horde of angry Mandalorians to materialize out of thin air so that I can get on with my ‘kill 10 angry Mandalorians’ quest. ALSO, and this is the ‘duh’ aspect for me, GW2 credits multiple players for enemy kills, whereas SWTOR will lock it down to a single player. If you’re not going to respawn fast, at least let five people get credit for killing one enemy.

The most interesting contrast, though, has been the storytelling in each game.

Bioware are the self-annointed kings of storytelling in the industry¬†[Editors note: That’s debatable- Mike] , and for good reason. No one can touch them when it comes to telling a gripping interactive tale. They’re great at both enabling choice in a story AND giving the illusion of having choice be meaningful in a story. They’ve stumbled, somewhat, in recent years, as they’ve begun catering to a wider (dumber) audience, but their games are still far more enjoyable than most (though I think CD Projekt Red has already unseated them as ‘the best,’ but that’s a different column.)

ArenaNet, known mostly for Guild Wars, and well, Guild Wars, have told decent stories, but they seem to take a more wholistic approach to building a game, and I think, in the MMO space, that’s probably a better approach. It seems as though ArenaNet architected out systems with ‘fun’ and ‘ease of use’ in mind, then wrapped their overall designs around those systems, including story. One can see many refinements from the first Guild Wars, as well as whole new systems and approaches implemented. Bioware, it seems, merged some of their existing systems with their own iterations of popular MMO systems that are used in other games, but shoehorned much of that into the classic Bioware storytelling model, for better or for worse. Where systems are laid bare in GW2, Bioware tried to wrap everything in story, and thus tried to obfuscate the systems somewhat. The jury’s still out on much of this, as MMOs tend to be living, breathing games.

As much as I love story, I wonder if Bioware tried to solve a problem that wasn’t there. Every sidequest in SWTOR is fully voice-acted, but many still feel kinda like bullshit. They still have the ‘bitch, I’m trying to save the galaxy, and you want me to chase off a few vermin from your fucking hovel?!’ kinda feel to them. In GW2, every side quest still has an ‘excuse’ built in by an NPC, but it’s just text, and can still suffer from the same ‘motherfucker, are you kidding?’ feel, but … ah, but GW2 is still new. I remember thinking of SWTOR as nearly flawless in the first few months of release.

Presentation is drastically different in the two games. This is where I really do love both. Where SWTOR is sweeping, cinematic, choice-driven, and very dramatic, GW2 is highly stylized, on-rails, and much more economic in presentation. They’re wholly different, and often feel like a breath of fresh air when compared to the other. If you’ve played a recent Bioware game, you know what I’m talking about in terms of SWTOR’s presentation, especially in terms of ‘cut scenes’ and dialogue. Take Mass Effect 3, make it ugly as hell, paint some KotOR on it, and there ya go. Guild Wars 2 is highly stylized and amazingly beautiful. I keep trying to say that GW2 doesn’t offer the scope that SWTOR does, but it’s just not true. They’re just different.

One area in which I think GW2 really offers an example of which SWTOR should take note is ‘areas.’ GW2 just always feels ‘alive,’ as well as ‘inviting.’ SWTOR’s environments can feel too daunting and too much like a single-player open world game, which is a nice way of saying ‘kinda dead’ or at least, like a video game. GW2 almost has a ‘carnival’ feel to it much of the time, while SWTOR sticks to its Bioware roots. I say ‘carnival,’ because I always feel like that just around every corner is a fun event going on. There’s always something to jump into, and it always involves other players. A carnival feel would not suit the tone that SWTOR sets for much of the game. It’s not lighthearted, while GW2 definitely is (at least for the Asura.) Much of SWTOR can be spent in intense isolation, with players taking turns on ‘rides,’ rather than seamlessly working together and then apart and then together again, as happens in GW2.

What I’ve found, though, and this is from an RPG-lover’s perspective, is that each game scratches a different itch. I absolutely love the Bioware storytelling model, and SWTOR presents it on a HUGE stage, and playing with others is never required. Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, can also be played single-player, but feels much more like a playground. Either way, I love each one for being a distinct approach on telling stories that can be enjoyed on a HUGE scale, and I really hope each one gets to grow for many years.

What I’m curious to see is how each one evolves over the years. SWTOR going F2P is potentially troubling, but we’ll see. Guild Wars 2 will be interesting to watch, as there’s never anything else out on the market quite like the current iteration of the Guild Wars franchise, and that’s one of the reasons I love it.

What say you? Do you play either one, or both? How important is the single-player story in an MMO to you? What’s the best example you’ve ever seen?

In Other News …

I’ve been eyeballing getting an Ouya when it comes out, and possibly developing an Ouya version of what I’m working on. Possibly. I haven’t played around much with the Android SDK, but Java is Java, so … we’ll see. I’m kinda over the whole console thing, with the exception of the occasional console-exclusive.

I’m still trying to find that one iOS game that will rule them all. I want either a good adventure game or a good RPG that isn’t a shit port of a better PC version. I’m still searching … help, if you can.

I’ve really been avoiding promotional stuff for ‘Dishonored.’ I’m hyped for that game based purely on its pedigree and a single PC Gamer preview from a year or two ago. I’m trying not to overhype it for myself.

I’m curious to see if the ‘Borderlands 2’ release has any impact on the Guild Wars 2 server population. I know that sounds stupid, but I think both games tap into similar folks. I think fans of both games are fairly discriminating, thoughtful types. I don’t think it’s a 100% thing, but Borderlands 2 will be the first big ‘thinking gamer’ release after GW2. And, PLEASE, Gearbox, don’t give us PC gamers a shit shovelware port like last time. PLEASE.

It’s going to be a very slow holiday season for me, in terms of game purchases, and I am so pumped about that. Nothing warms my heart like the thought of being able to really take my time with particular games. Most of ‘my’ games get bumped to the early spring now, which spreads things out for me. My favorite releases always get pushed to that ‘second Christmas’ window in Jan-March, as their repsective publishers fear that their sales will be cannibalized by the sequel-factory mouth-breather games. March has become my new Christmas, and that’s totally cool.

I diss on Call of Duty quite a bit, but the design approach by the two teams that are now relegated to tag-team gang-banging the franchise have adopted an iterative Madden-esque approach, and it’s just boring. I remember when ‘Call of Duty’ was this hot new take on the WWII thing that was plaguing first-person shooters about a decade ago, and it was exciting. I’m really, really looking forward to what Respawn Entertainment does for its first release.

I’m also absolutely ACHING ALL FUCKING OVER to see something new from CD Projekt Red. They are my new favorite studio, having unseated Bioware after what happened with Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 2&3 and what CD Projekt Red achieved with ‘The Witcher 2.’ If you haven’t played it, it is a finely crafted game that better fuses mechanics and storytelling than any other game ever. You should probably play it.

Thanks for reading!

-Blaine

Buy my book!

The Filthy Writer: Self-Indulgence Manifested(personal blog)

Untitled Gaming (gaming blog)

  1. dylanrutter reblogged this from galaxynextdoor and added:
    It was a tough choice for me, but I think GW2 comes out on top
  2. cyberh3at reblogged this from galaxynextdoor
  3. neural-entropy said: I love the review, but Id just like to point out that SWTOR had the biggest plot holes of anything related to the star wars franchise
  4. galaxynextdoor posted this
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