Friday, February 7, 2014

SWTOR vs Guild Wars 2

Recently I've gotten back into playing a couple of games that I'd dropped for a while: Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), and Guild Wars 2. Both are MMORPGs, and both have strengths and weaknesses that result in very different play experience.

Starting with SWTOR, the graphics are excellent. When you're fighting as a Jedi Knight or a Sith Warrior, you can see all the parries and strikes, and it does an excellent job of making you feel like you're actually fighting with a lightsaber. That's one of my favorite aspects of the gameplay: Force leaping into battle, and slashing foes apart with that distinctive lightsaber sound echoing in my ears. Guild Wars 2 doesn't really have anything to quite match that moment. Battling as a Republic Trooper, or really, any class other than the Force wielding classes, doesn't quite match that moment either. There's a great deal of standing around and shooting, with the occasional grenade toss. It's still fun of course, but it's not a lightsaber. The graphics of Guild Wars 2 are also pretty good, but I feel that the graphics for SWTOR are more detailed, and give a better feeling of action.

The gameplay in general is hard to compare. It's almost like the old cliche of apples and oranges. SWTOR has multiple abilities you gain as you level up, some of them only usable under specific trigger situations (such as an opponent being stunned). GW2 has fewer abilities to manage at any one time, and every ability can be used at any time, but some are more useful under specific situations. In SWTOR there is no active dodging, where you hit a button to deliberately dodge. In GW2, that becomes an important part of gameplay at higher levels, and even to extent at lower levels. And so on.

In truth, SWTOR has one big advantage: personal story and character development. Each class has it's own storyline that you go through as you play through the game. As you're playing, you get to make choices that determine whether you are, for instance, a Jedi who is basically a goody-goody willing to help out anyone in need without pay, or a Jedi that more than flirts with the Dark Side, demanding payment for services while being cruel to enemies. The basic outline of the story remains the same regardless, but you still end up feeling like there's an actual personality to your character, one that you've helped shape.

For example, take my Sith Warrior character. Early on in his story, I was making mostly Dark Side choices (there's a point system that tracks how much of the Light or Dark you have), but was still throwing in some Light Side choices. As time has gone on though, I've been making more Dark Side choices in conversations, resulting in him having a more bloodthirsty personality that always takes the most lethal option available. I've decided this is because of the growing influence of the Dark Side, as he lets his hatred flow.

Guild Wars 2 also has a personal story, based on your race, rather than your class. There are elements of the story that you get to choose when initially creating the character, but during the actual gameplay there's very little that allows you to develop your character's personality. My necromancer, for example, is one that I'd want to play kind of dark and gothic, but in the cutscenes for  her story she comes across as rather light, almost bubbly at times. There are no conversation choices to be made, thus I have no influence over her personality. There's supposed to be a mechanic that differentiates your character by giving one of three personality traits (Ferocity, Dignity, and Charm) that you can use in some conversations, but the impact of this seems to be. . . nothing, honestly. It doesn't seem to result in anything being different.

However, Guild Wars 2 has a big advantage over SWTOR in the form of just how socially friendly it encourages players to be with other players. In SWTOR, if I see another player in a difficult fight, I could jump in to try and help, but I'll get nothing for it. No experience, and no loot. In Guild Wars 2, I'll get just as much experience and loot as I would've had I done the fight alone, just as much as the other player gets. Both games have resource nodes that let you gather materials for the crafting systems, but in SWTOR if a player gets the materials, that node is then empty for a while. This makes it a competitive case of whoever gets there first wins. In GW2, there's no such competition, as gathering from a node leaves it empty for you, but not for other players. So it's cool to help out other players, and you don't have to feel a sense of competition with the other players (except in pvp, which I'm not gonna bother talking about).

So which game do I prefer? Frankly, it depends. It entirely depends on what I happen to be in the mood for on any particular day. These are just a few thoughts on comparisons between the games.

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