Holding Patterns

Once in a while (well, it seems more frequently of late), I reach a point where I don’t have much to comment on.

It happens for a variety of reasons.  For Star Trek Online, it has to do with the fact that their business model (or perhaps more accurate to say how they implement it) continues to irritate me.  The whole introduction of the tier-6 starship thing probably was one of the things that really killed my enthusiasm for that game.  I did the Delta Rising thing, and the story was pretty good, and it allowed me to let my primary Klingon character shine; but I haven’t been motivated enough to really finish the story with my primary Starfleet or Romulan characters.  A new executive producer’s been named, but enough of the old names are still in positions (readers of this blog will know of one, at least, who continues to keep my contempt and still has his job) that make me figure that things aren’t going to get better.  This fetish they have of removing old content and putting in less to do so is another of those irritations that makes me throw my hands up in frustration.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has a different issue.  With the completion of the eight class stories in the game, I find my motivation to log in has dwindled substantially.  Certainly, I could go ahead and work on getting all the companion stories done by trying to buy up lots of gifts to increase their affection, but that’s eight times five plus one companions to deal with.  (Admittedly, some are already maxed out due to game play, but I don’t have the info with me right now.)  And there’s always unlocking the remaining rooms in the Coruscant and Kaas strongholds.  The big issue, of course, is that I’ve pretty much deliberately ignored the new content because of the way the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion was treated, and have chosen to wait and see if Bioware/EA does the same thing with Shadow of Revan.

Champions Online has a different issue than either of the above.  As it holds barely above maintenance mode (it still gets lockboxes, and the occasional bit of content…each year…), one would think there’s not much to do.  And there’s a certain truth to that.  Of course, given what happens in their sister game of STO, one could make an argument that less development means less chance to royally screw over the players of CO.  But what CO does still have over the other two is the vast amounts of customization.

This is not to say that STO or TOR have no customization.  But getting real here.  TOR has eight classes, each of which has two advanced classes, and each of those advanced classes have three “disciplines” (which used to be more complex, but the devs trashed it for “simpler”).  That’s not a bad bit of complexity to work with, right?  Even with that simplification, there’s enough difference in gameplay to make three smugglers different from each other, for example.  And STO?  It started with three professions, and three styles of ship (although the style of ship depended greatly on the faction; Starfleet got science ships, while the Klingons got the Birds of Prey raiders), and customization came by the way of use of kits, which gave the captain assorted ground abilities.  Lately, though, things have improved there.  (That’s right-I won’t ignore giving credit where it’s due.)  Kits, formerly just a set of abilities, are now containers for separate abilities which can be slotted into it.  This opens things up a whole lot, allowing a different “kit spec” to suit a situation.  Delta Rising also brought “captain specializations” which tend to be a post-50 sort of deal (although I’m not 100 percent sure; this is the problem with using high level characters instead of new ones.  I should experiment sometime…).  That’s still in its infancy, but we’ve already got Command and Intelligence specialties, plus a couple of secondary specialties.

The point is, though, that CO puts both in the shade.  You’ve got your basic classes in STO and TOR, and they can be tweaked to play different from others, but CO-at least for a subscription or a purchased freeform slot-allows characters who can literally do anything.  Want a weapon master who uses guns, bows, swords, and unarmed attacks?  You can do that.  Want a character who uses fire and ice?  You can do that.  Want a super-strong gadgeteer?  You can do that.  STO and TOR have pretty impressive options to work with, but CO has far, far more.  It’s a pity that PWE/Cryptic hasn’t put more into that game, particularly with how big super-heroes are these days in the mainstream.  (Of course, I could say the same about another company and another super-heroic property laid to rest, too…those idiots….)

That’s probably why I’ve spent more time in the last month in CO than in the other two games.  And it’s probably why I still look back fondly at games like City of Heroes (multiple archetypes with multiple powersets with multiple choices within those powersets) and Star Wars Galaxies (well, pre-CU, where you could skill-train anything up to a limit of max points; and changing them was as simple as unlearning skills and playing the game with new ones).  Having that wide variety of choices…that helps keep me interested.

I do expect at some point, though-and probably not too far ahead-that I’ll gravitate back to STO or TOR and spend more time there, and CO will fade to the background just as the others have for now.  The variety of choice applies to games themselves, too.

Next time, I’ll probably remark on just what kind of characters in CO I’ve been working on lately.


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