Let me go ahead and say this right up front, I am a lore nut. To me the idea of spending an evening surfing the pages of Wookieepedia to add even more knowledge to my arsenal is an evening well spent, so I am very interested in how lore is going to affect The Old Republic once it is released. And don’t kid yourself; it is going to affect how the MMO plays out, and not just through the story. Like it or not, lore is going to affect gameplay in this title. It’s impossible to get around it; the lore behind the Star Wars universe is too massive and too important to fans for Bioware to sweep it under the rug when making decisions about gameplay. At the end of the day lore will probably be trumped by gameplay, but if you think it is not going to be taken into account you are sadly mistaken.
I do not envy the developers at Bioware who are forced to strike a balance between lore and gameplay. All right I actually do envy them, but I’m just a massive geek like that. It is a monumental task. You can’t ignore lore when it comes to making this game, that would be impossible. Too many people know too much about the lore of the Star Wars universe for them to make stuff up as they go along. At the same time if the gameplay is not there then The Old Republic is doomed to fail. Luckily for Bioware SWTOR takes place during a time where little to no story has been developed within the Star Wars universe, which will allow them certain liberties when it comes to incorporating lore into the game. But if they ignore what has come before, or what will come in the future, they are going to have a bunch of angry fanboys and fangirls screaming about how “This would never have happened!” or “This makes no sense if you look at what happens here!” and so on and so forth. From what I have seen so far they are doing a pretty good job of pleasing both sides of the fanbase, but some of their decisions may not make sense to the average Star Wars fan. I plan to look at the game from a lore nut’s point of view, and hopefully give you a little insight into why certain decisions were made.
We can already see evidence of lore affecting a player’s choice when it comes to the very first decision in the game, choosing the class and species you will play as. This is particularly evident for the Empire classes. The Empire has two species that only they can choose, the Sith Purebloods and the Chiss, and both these species can only be played by one class each. Purebloods can only be Sith Warriors and Chiss can only be Imperial Agents, and for good reason. Let’s start by taking a look at the Purebloods. For those who don’t know these individuals are descendents of the original Sith species and are therefore considered to be of a higher class than most all other species within the Empire. Members of their species have an almost 100% chance of being Force sensitive, which is why you will not see them as Bounty Hunters or Imperial Agents in the Empire. But why can’t they be Sith Inquisitors? The answer lies within the story of the Sith Inquisitor class. This may be a slight spoiler for some, so don’t read on if you want to avoid it, but the Inquisitor character starts out as a slave who proved themselves worthy for Sith training. Because of this it makes absolutely no sense for a Pureblood to be a species choice for this class, a Pureblood would never be a slave within the Empire due to their heritage. It simply does not fit the lore of the species.
The Chiss have a similar issue, once again related to their culture. The Chiss government, known as the Chiss Ascendancy, is the heart of their culture. Everything the Chiss do is supposed to have the ultimate goal of improving the Ascendancy in some way, it drives the honor and discipline that is the backbone of their society. There have been a couple instances of a Chiss Force user, but it is an incredibly rare phenomenon. The reason behind this is that the Chiss have very little interaction with cultures and species outside of their own territory. The Chiss are very isolated; they rarely seek out new races and are incredibly defensive of their borders. While some Force sensitive Chiss probably do exist, as a species they have never taken the time to seek guidance from the Republic or the Sith Empire. As such they have not had a chance to meet anyone who could teach them to harness the power of the Force. Even if they had done so the Chiss are very wary of allowing outside forces to influence their culture, as a species it is unlikely that they would encourage the development of something as unpredictable as the Force. Their society is built upon hard discipline, strict adherence to rank and family, and collecting as much data as possible before taking action. The nature of the Force simply does not mesh well with the culture that the Chiss come from. These cultural ideals are why the Chiss are unable to be either of the Sith classes or a Bounty Hunter, it just doesn’t make sense for them. Not only is it incredibly rare for a Force Sensitive Chiss to receive any training, but it’s highly unlikely that a Chiss would abandon their culture and honor to seek personal riches or glory as a Bounty Hunter*.
These are only two examples, but you can bet there will be more decisions like these when it come to how Bioware molds the universe of The Old Republic. Perhaps you will be able to branch out as part of the oft hinted at but rarely discussed Legacy System, but that is unknown at this time. For now if you really want to play as a Chiss or a Pureblood you are stuck with a single class for each. Sure there are going to be people upset by this decision, but to ignore the lore in order to please some fans would anger just as many fans who want to see the history and lore of the Star Wars universe upheld by Bioware.
I will continue to look at how lore and gameplay will interact within The Old Republic and will bring you as much information as I can about why certain decisions and plot points are being made by the game designers, as well as background information on the various races, planets, and groups that will play a role in the game.. The Old Republic is looking to be the most ambitious Star Wars project ever conceived, let’s hope that both gameplay and lore fanatics can come together to experience the fantastic world Bioware is creating for us.
*I would like to note that during Gamescom a video surfaced that some believe portrays a Chiss Bounty Hunter. However, this has not been confirmed by Bioware. I personally think it makes no sense for a Chiss Bounty Hunter to be possible due to what I have stated here but I am keeping a lookout for information on this front.
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