As soon as I hear John Williams’ iconic music playing over the log in screen, I’m instantly taken back to that first time I played Star Wars Galaxies. Having installed the 10-day trial from a demo disc packaged with a copy of PC Gamer magazine, the fifteen-year-old me could have had no possible idea of the impact that the game would have on my life. Back then I created a Human Commando – a character who would be my ‘main’ for the duration of my time on the live SWG servers. I always regretted choosing to be a Human when so many other much more interesting species were available. Over the years I created many alts – a Sullustan Structures Trader, an Ithorian Munitions Trader, and a Wookiee Entertainer. This time around I was going to choose another species which I had never played before – a Rodian. I made him blue with orange tresses (because if it looks good on movie posters it should look good on aliens too right?), and chose the ‘outdoorsman’ outfit option as I remembered that it was the only way to obtain that particular cosmetic item and I may want it somewhere down the line. As for my profession I chose to indulge my nostalgia and become a Commando.
When first thrown into the tutorial area of the game new characters are automatically set to the game’s FPS-style targeting mode. This twitch-based combat system was one of the ways the development team attempted to fasten the pace of the game as part of its 2005 New Game Enhancements revamp. Bolted onto a game which was built with a queue-based combat system in mind this new system generally worked like rubbish and a more generic style (but still optional) tab-targeting system was added not long after the NGE launched. As a new player back in 2005 I used the FPS-style system to get myself through most of the way to endgame before I was informed that the tab-targeting system was pretty much the only way to be combat viable. Having spent so many hours using that janky FPS targeting back in the day I felt a strong pang of nostalgia using it to blast away the first few targets in the tutorial. That feeling soon wore off however and it wasn’t long before I popped open the game’s options menu to set my controls and hotkeys the way they used to be. As with I’m sure every other MMORPG player on the planet the first thing I do when starting a new character in any game is to get the game looking and feeling right. UI elements should be positioned and locked in perfectly, and graphics options should be ramped all the way up and then back down again until things run buttery smooth (pretty enough for observing the scenery, but not at the cost of losing frames in combat).
SWG Legends‘ options menu is largely unchanged from the live game, but I do spot a couple of new additions. The original voice chat system has been removed (I don’t know of anybody who used it anyway) and an option for Discord integration has taken its place. Most interestingly however is the addition of a new vertical toolbar. This is an absolute boon for a game which has as many different commands as SWG. I’m still torn whether to dedicate it to buffs or emotes, but that’s a bridge I will cross when I come to it. As it is I have only a scant few combat commands anyway so it isn’t an issue of any particular immediacy. As for the graphics my mid-range system can handle them maxed-out with the exception of non-character shadows, which have always been horribly optimised and have never looked particularly good anyway so there’s no great loss in having them switched off apart from when taking the odd screenshot. I was also able to turn on the “show all object names” setting (essential for spotting items in the game’s Collection system), with little impact on my framerate except when in player houses. Whether this smooth laglessness is a product of just having a modern system or updates by the Legends team I’m unsure. For those wishing to push the game a little harder the game’s launcher has the option to install the ‘ILM’ mod which adds higher resolution textures, a more diverse selection of music, and new animations. Coupled with the recommended ReShader preset is doubtless makes the game look a lot more up-to-date, but for me personally it made the game feel just a little bit too different. A prescient reminder of the troubles which developers of long-running games face in trying to keep their game updated without losing its core essence. If you’re somebody who has never played Star Wars Galaxies before then I would absolutely recommend using ILM, but otherwise your mileage may vary (there are options to include only specific parts of the mod, and the whole thing is easily removed for those who wish to dabble).
From what I could tell the tutorial zone was unchanged from the live game, so after a good look around I boarded the Millennium Falcon and headed down to Mos Eisley where the real game begins. Upon hitting the ground I’m struck by the sheer number of players milling around. Being the starting point in the game, as well as being one of the most iconic locations from the movies, Mos Eisley was always SWG‘s main hub, but this was about as busy as I could ever remember it being on the live servers. I’m talking patch-day busy, but this was an average weeknight. With so many characters of varying levels milling about this also gave me a great opportunity to check out some of the new wearables that had been added to the server. Most players it seems however were wearing the old fan favourites. Mandalorian armour obviously being a popular choice right now, as well as Jedi robes, Nightsister style clothing and factional armour.
When players land in Mos Eisley they are instantly transitioned from the tutorial quest series to the ‘Legacy’ quest series. This is the main storyline for the game which carries all combat classes through to around level fifty. Aside from the odd interaction with a character from the movies, it is – like most MMO storylines – absolutely tedious stuff. Still, it’s the quickest and most efficient way of levelling up, so I decide to grit my teeth and press straight on with it. Before doing so I headed over to the cantina to pick up a buff from a player of the Entertainer profession. Yes, Star Wars Galaxies not only had (has?) dedicated crafting professions, but also a non-combat profession whose job it was to play music or dance in order to buff players (they also had ‘Image Designer’ skills, which is basically galactic cosmetic surgery). Some things never change and I wasn’t at all surprised to see the cantina full of scantily clad female Twi-lek’s writhing around. One male Wookiee Entertainer offered a little bit of variety so I decided to get my buff from him.
I remember the Legacy quests being a breeze back in 2005, so I was quite shocked to find myself being incapacitated as much as I was so early on in the game this time around. Having been used to playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game where it is almost impossible to die during the main class stories, I ran into combat in SWG Legends with the same “aggro everything and spam your specials” mindset. That didn’t work out so good for me. This means that (for now at least) I’m stuck drawing out one or two enemies at a time and waiting for my health and action bars to recover in-between before picking off the next ones. Not exactly an exciting prospect when faced with eighty more levels of fetch quests (the max level players can reach in SWG is ninety). Things are made even less exciting by the rewards gained through these quests – mostly buff items and the occasional new weapon which is the same weapon that you already have just with a different name and marginally better stats. Now I understand why handing the player new pieces of armour and weapons after every quest wouldn’t work in SWG; the dedicated crafting professions would be redundant were that the case. I really feel however that there are ways to make more exciting rewards available to players on these quests. The obvious solution is for questgivers to grant players schematics, thereby encouraging them to start interacting with crafters and becoming an active participant in the game’s complex player economy. Such a change would obviously require a decent chunk of development time, but I really feel that it would be worth it if they want to encourage non-veteran players to stick around.
With all my nay-saying regarding the Legacy quests however, it has led to my first spontaneous player interaction on Legends. One particular boss in an early dungeon is on a ten-minute respawn timer, so myself and another player – Sumas – grouped up to prevent the other from having to wait longer. A small interaction, but sometimes such things can lead to longer lasting things. Such was the case during my original SWG playthrough, where after grouping together with a random player to complete a quest when we were both around level fifty, a chance encounter some months later led to me being introduced into his guild wherein I made many more great friends. Back in Legends, as it would happen the very next evening I bumped into Sumas again, where we stopped and chatted for a while about the progress we had been making (I also showed him how he could claim a few rewards such as the Flash Speeder and Collectors Edition Goggles – pre-order items for boxed editions of SWG which the developers of Legends have helpfully made available to all). Sumas told me he was playing with his brother and was struggling not to pull too far ahead as his sibling was rerolling characters until one felt right. He hinted that he may reroll himself and it got me thinking whether I might bump into him again someday in some different guise.
Slewbacca and his pets: the Loth wolf, terantatek, and his favourite varasquactyl – affectionately named ‘Vernon’.
Later that evening, as I headed back to Mos Eisley to get rebuffed following a deserved deathblow for charging at a nest of Squills as if I were Rambo, I noticed something outside of the cantina which I hadn’t seen before. A level ninety character was running a macro which cycled through his many pets, and for a brief second I saw one which must have been new to SWG Legends – the Loth wolf. Despite being an animal lover I never dabbled in SWG‘s Beast Mastery system, but I knew for a fact that this was a new addition to the Legends server as the Loth wolf’s first appearance was in the Rebels animated series, which debuted long after SWG had sunsetted. As quick as I noticed this creature he was gone again so I hastily sent a private message to the owner in the hopes that he would give me a better look. Slewbacca, the Beast Master in control of these pets, was more than happy to show off not only his Loth wolf, but many of his other pets as well. This included his Terentatek – another new beast exclusive to the Legends server (he also informed me that a full list of the new pets added to Legends could be found on the SWG Pets website). After spending quite some time talking to Slewbacca – who was also a live veteran, but had been playing Legends for three years already – he asked me if I would be interested in joining the guild in which he was an Officer. This was an exciting prospect, and one which I was not expecting to be faced with so early on. Not wanting to rush into anything so serious so quickly I decided I would sleep on the idea.