Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided Review
A short while after the game's release, there's a lot of breadth to Star Wars Galaxies, but there isn't a lot of depth.
Galaxies does a fairly good job of pointing you in the right direction. There's an optional step-by-step tutorial that walks you through the game's complex interface and explains your character's key abilities using clear voice-over and pop-up help screens. The game comes with a nearly-200-page manual that also makes for pretty good reference material. The interface itself, though it takes a few hours to get used to (especially when trying to figure out skills like surveying and crafting), is very powerful. You can easily locate and set waypoints to any area of interest near your character. Looking for the cantina in Mos Espa? Need to find the nearest city on Naboo? The interface puts all this information just a few keystrokes away. So, if you're a veteran of other online RPGs, you'll be pleased to know that the days of wandering through towns looking for shops and shouting for healers are gone with Star Wars Galaxies.
Speaking of shops, part of the reason you won't be looking for shops in Galaxies is because there basically aren't any, other than a few junk dealers, who mostly refuse to buy any of your stuff anyway. Instead, the game has a player-driven economy that's accessible through bazaar terminals, which let you bid on items put up for auction by other players, instantly buy items put up for sale, or post your own sales or auctions, or through player-made vendors, which perform similar transactions. There's currently a rather limited variety of goods available, as brawlers and marksmen are relegated to just a few basic types of weapons and armor, while other categories have no items posted for sale at all.
It's possible that players just haven't advanced far enough to get to some of the better items and equipment yet, but it's more likely that Star Wars Galaxies just doesn't have a ton of real content in it at this point. So as you kill the thousandth womp rat or dance the rhythm dance for the thousandth time, you may find yourself wondering what the eventual goal of all your efforts will be. After all, the world of the game is very vast, but feels quite empty. One option is to side with either the rebel alliance or the empire, and you can take on missions for either side, though currently, there isn't a clear rebel vs. empire conflict at work. LucasArts promises that story events will unfold over the life of the game, however.
In any event, the big question with Galaxies and with all online RPGs is: Are these games supposed to be fun, entertaining, and rewarding in and of themselves, or are you yourself supposed to provide the fun by role-playing a unique character and really getting into the whole experience? The answer is the former, because it's much harder to really get into a game when it isn't fun, entertaining, and rewarding by itself. Galaxies isn't all these things to all its players, at least not yet, even if it gives a good first impression, thanks to its impressive visuals, authentic Star Wars music and sound effects, and seeming depth of play. As mentioned, core features such as player-run cities and player-owned mounts and vehicles still aren't in the game. Players have yet to discover any way to harness the power of the Force in the game, leading many to believe that it's yet another feature still in the works. What is Galaxies today? A better-looking version of EverQuest with a better interface but far, far less content. The game also has plenty of noticeable bugs, though thankfully most of these are superficial or just mildly annoying. The thing that EverQuest still has on most other online RPGs is its very rich variety of content and its deep high-level combat system. Other games, like Dark Age of Camelot, also offer complex player vs. player gameplay at high levels, though player vs. player combat in Galaxies is relegated only to consensual duels and some rebel vs. empire skirmishes for the moment.
Galaxies does look great, though it demands powerful hardware. Its towns are already highly populated, and in them, system performance, even on top-of-the-line machines, can slow to a crawl. Other than that, the game does look like Star Wars, and the numerous starting locations look convincingly like their theatrical counterparts, or at least like part of the same universe. The player characters are detailed and look good, and you'll see plenty of other recognizable Star Wars creatures as you walk about town and explore the gameworld, as shuttles and imperial fighters and such go flying across the sky. The audio in Galaxies is also quite good, featuring a dynamic musical score based on John Williams' orchestral themes for the films, as well as plenty of Star Wars-style sound effects. The sounds themselves aren't all that great, since as with other online RPGs, most creatures and enemies just emit the same grunt over and over. But Galaxies certainly does offer some impressive production values overall.
A short while after the game's release, there's a lot of breadth to Star Wars Galaxies, but there isn't a lot of depth. The novelty of the online RPG genre has worn off for many people, who are no longer content to merely get online and chat with other players (especially to the tune of $14.99 a month, in Galaxies' case--a higher monthly cost than any other online RPG to date). In terms of actual gameplay, Galaxies doesn't offer much that veterans of the genre haven't seen before, and these players will pick up on the game's relative lack of content faster than others will. Meanwhile, those hoping that Galaxies will be the game to get them into online RPGs will probably be disappointed to find that the gameplay is generally slow and uneventful, and that once the novelty of the Star Wars setting wears off--and it probably will--there isn't much of interest to be found in the game at this point. Star Wars Galaxies isn't necessarily a disappointment, depending on what you expected of it. It's a solid starting point for a game that will hopefully mature and improve quickly, but until it does, it's mostly recommendable only to those for whom the Star Wars setting alone is a sufficient draw.
- Player Reviews: 322
- Game Universe:
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer (GBC, N64, DC, MAC),
- Star Wars: Yoda Stories (PC, GBC),
- Star Wars: Demolition (DC, PS),
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC, GC, XBOX, MAC),
- Star Wars: Starfighter (PC, PS2),
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (PS2, XBOX),
- Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (PS2, GC),
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (GC, PS2, XBOX),
- Star Wars Galaxies (PS2, XBOX)
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players: