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Galactic Flyby: Star Wars Galaxies Restoration

Straight to lightspeed.

The Galactic Flyby is a new column where I’ll be weighing in with my hands-on impressions of Star Wars Galaxies’ rogue servers. Each month I’ll be dropping by a different server to check out the community and any unique content that the volunteer developer teams are offering to set themselves apart from the pack.

Naturally, with so many servers to choose from I won’t be able to fully integrate myself within each one. Still, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to shine a light on the hard work that the teams are putting into these projects, as well as help would-be galactic adventurers find a new home.

In this first Galactic Flyby, I’m checking out the Restoration server, which has just released its Publish 1.0 patch. Before this, Restoration had been operating in a kind-of public early-access state beginning in May 2021. Since then they’ve been busy ironing out bugs and laying out their plans for the future.

It has become clear over the past year and a bit that the team behind Restoration (which was known as Restoration 3 until the 1.0 patch) are creating this new server with long-term intentions. Seeing as some SWG private server and emulation projects already have years of content and community building under their belt, this seems like a wise choice. With so many well-established choices available, a simple fly-by-night effort just wouldn’t be able to gain a foothold in the way that a few disparate servers could back in the early days when SWGEmu first made their code public.

NPC City player housing in Mos Eisley on Tatooine in Star Wars Galaxies Restoration server
Like some other rogue servers, Restoration has implemented a system whereby players can purchase player housing in NPC cities. They call the system Etinoca Realty.

Before they had even launched, Restoration had placed their flag in the ground by way of a sleek, modern website and a professional approach to PR and social media. Where other servers feared to tread, the Restoration team gambled on a mainstream media push (1, 2) which gave them an air of legitimacy that others had shied away from so as not to awaken the sleeping beast which controls the Star Wars IP.

Upon launching the game, players of vanilla-SWG will note a new background image and music. Not uncommon among SWG rogue servers, but from the character creation process onwards there isn’t much that’s obviously new to Restoration at this point in its lifecycle.

While server-unique quest content and items have been promised down the line, Restoration‘s big USP is its core system changes. Most notable of all is the decision to use a combat system based upon the short-lived Combat Upgrade. At present Restoration is the only public server to have a version of this combat system operational, with most servers opting for either the pre-CU or NGE combat styles (ProjectSWG and CUEmu are two other teams working on CU-based rogue servers, though both are some ways off completion).

Three player characters in combat with rills on Tatooine in Star Wars Galaxies Restoration server
A couple of other players were kind enough to let me join their grinding party.

Having only been on the live servers for a handful of months back in 2005, the CU doesn’t really get much of a fair shake these days. At the time there was a significant backlash to the changes (although these paled in comparison to those that would come with the NGE later in the year), but in hindsight, many would agree that the changes were fair considering the rather unworkable state of the combat system which existed prior.

This sentiment is shared by the Restoration team, although they recognize that simply attempting to recreate that 2005 version of the game would have a very narrow appeal. Happily, as the server is built upon the NGE source code, the team have been able to build a CU experience around the myriad quality of life and content additions which came in the years after.

This makes the onboarding process a little more approachable than the vanilla pre-NGE experience, but there’s still a feeling of being thrown in at the deep end for those who aren’t used to SWG‘s sandbox gameplay and complex systems. A new tutorial is planned for a later update, and it would do well for player retention if newbies were funnelled into a more obvious progression track should they want it.

As expected, combat itself is far more comparable to the pre-CU than the NGE. Admittedly I didn’t make it anywhere close to having a fully-specced character, but the meat of the thing is apparent. It’s slow but requires more active participation than pre-CU combat. It’s less frantic and splashy than NGE combat but doesn’t have all the janky flailing of pre-CU. It’s clean, and it’s amenable to tactical gameplay and future balance passes. As a middle-ground, it’s understandable that some SWG veterans regard this as the best iteration of SWG‘s three combat systems. Is it fun to play though? Eh, not particularly, but SWG‘s greatest success was never in its moment-to-moment gameplay so much as the freedom that it gave its players.

Server Wide Progression terminal on Mustafar in Star Wars Galaxies Restoration server
The Server Wide Progression terminal on Mustafar offers numbers, but no clues as to what they are measuring.

Besides the combat changes, Restoration‘s other two major new systems are its Server Progression System, and Jedi unlocking process. At present, both are still too shrouded in mystery to be fairly judged.

The Server Progression System will see group raid content unlocked as various server-wide goals are met. Progress is tracked via a terminal which presently resides on Mustafar, but it offers no indication as to what is actually driving the unlocking process. While the idea is an interesting one which will make old content feel relevant again (these are the same Mustafar and Heroic instances which have been in the game since live), it’s hard to feel any shared sense of accomplishment if the means of achieving the goal isn’t apparent.

Restoration‘s Jedi unlock system is a similarly mysterious process. Although there are multiple prerequisites to gaining access to Force Sensitive skills, the one that the Resto team have been touting in the lead up to 1.0 is the Inciting Incident. The idea behind the Inciting Incident is that each character has a randomly generated epic event tied to their character. When the event is executed by the character it will unlock their latent Force sensitivity.

In theory this ‘happening’ should be thrilling – something which would truly fulfill Galaxies‘ promise of letting players “Experience the greatest saga ever told – yours”. I can’t say that I personally experienced my character’s Inciting Incident during my short time in Restoration, but it was ever present in my mind regardless of the fact that I’ve never had any interest in playing as a Jedi in Galaxies.

Of course, there are plenty of people who do want to be a Jedi, and as such there’s an active community on the Restoration Discord who have set to work trying to brute force the process. Those who have already had their Inciting Incident seem a little underwhelmed by the process, often with no real clue as to what triggered it. It may not be possible, but perhaps this could be alleviated by having some kind of short blurb appearing in a pop up box upon activation.

One example of an Inciting Incident that was given by the developers is “being close to death”. So a pop-up box might say something like “[player name] was beaten mercilessly by [enemy name] before a wave of mysterious energy pushed them to their feet again”.

Talus player city with garden in foreground and Emperor's Spire building in background on Star Wars Galaxies Restoration server
In their first post-1.0 patch, the team at Restoration implemented a new system for generating shadows. The game looks better than ever with no need for third-party tools or mods.

As a general rule though it’s probably preferential for Restoration to err on the side of vagueness and tweak accordingly rather than the other way around. What matters most is that everything on Restoration feels solid – you know you’re playing a complete, functionally sound game. With a year of bug bashing and backend tweaking behind it, the 1.0 milestone feels earned.

It’s for this reason (along with all the PR hoopla), that Restoration has launched with a fully-formed, vibrant community. I had a slight worry that without a server wipe before the 1.0 launch, new players would find themselves missing that joy of the ‘fresh server’ feeling. That the economy would already have been inflated and closed out to newbies, and all of the prime real estate would already be taken.

That simply isn’t the case. Instead, it feels as though a few intrepid frontiersmen have prepared the land for the wider population to flourish. Peppering the market with essential items such as speeders and houses, founding townships from which the mega-cities of tomorrow can be built, and preparing to welcome and train those looking to shoot, craft, or dance their way to living out their very own Star Wars fantasy.

Female Rodian player character advertising an event in Mos Eisley on Tatooine in Star Wars Galaxies Restoration server
Players are already setting up and advertising their own events.

SWG veterans may be a little underwhelmed by Restoration‘s 1.0 patch. The lack of ‘new things’ definitely works against it when there are plenty of established servers out there with heaps of new items to craft and quests to run. Perhaps it’s best that the server has launched without that carrot rushing players to the endgame though. What it is instead offering is a true ‘relaunch’ of the game, one with almost two decades of theorising out so much of the criticism which dogged it through its many live iterations.

What the team at Restoration have accomplished with their 1.0 patch is to build the foundations of a vision of the game which might just actually deliver on many of the promises that never reached actualization on the official servers.

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