So Syp has, in a post mostly about GW2, related his feelings that the Imperial Agent storyline was the best one for SWTOR. My reaction was basically this:
And this being the internet, we can’t let anything go unchallenged like that. So I stated my disagreement. And he replied: “The general consensus is that the IA story is the best in the game.” Now I was all like:
I can’t speak to the consensus. I’m not sure anyone can to be honest, but I can tell you from my perspective, the IA story was a terrible bit of dime novel trash. My brother put it best, its a really bad Bond knockoff (more on this later).
You may wonder about my qualifications on this matter. Well, I played in a group that consisted of a Bounty Hunter, a Sith Warrior, and an Imperial Agent, and we all did one another’s storylines. And none of us thought the IA story was worth anything. Furthermore, I’m halfway through the Sorcerer storyline, and its better than the IA one as well.
But then, anyone can say “I like it better” also. So let me give you a few concrete reasons why the IA storyline is crap. Minor spoilers follow this point. I say minor because in a story that literally has no twists, I’m not sure there is anything to spoil for you.
Exhibit A: Monologuing
The Act 1 villain monologues his entire evil plan to you and then knocks you out. Apparently he hits you so hard you forget everything. Sadly, you the player do not forget. And you are forced to spend the next twenty levels yelling at the screen as legions of NPC’s wonder “whodunnit.” The crazy thing is that when you finally catch up to said villain and confront him – he freaking monologues you again. I got it the first time chucklehead, can we get on with it?
Exhibit B: Spying is for Losers
At one point, we are in a facility, supposedly sneaking around and doing agent-y things. Stealth is of the essence! Which is clearly why I am running through the halls grenading and shooting everything that moves. My sister in law pointed out that only James Bond could fulfill “Make sure nobody knows it was you” type orders by killing every living being even remotely connected with the location, further cementing my brother’s observations.
Exhibit C: Random Sex
Yes, it happens. And the weird thing is it happens for no good reason. Like, you might think I would seduce somebody to get information from them or to get them to change sides. Instead we did the nasty after all that went down. Apparently I was rewarding her? Or I was just bored. I can’t be judgmental really, I was at least as bored as my character was.
Exhibit D: Remember When You Had To Pretend You Didn’t Know?
Now you have to pretend you don’t have control over your character. Because you were given some chemo/hypno programming to force you to do what the bad guys want you to. Which…is fine, because that’s how you gain their trust anyway. Only now I have to not play the character and my dialogue choices are randomly transformed into something else, because screw you, that’s why.
Exhibit E: Surprise! He’s A Jedi!
The Act 2 villain that is. I think this is supposed to be a twist given the dialogue options, but, since he is dressed as a damn Jedi and hints strongly that he has Force powers, nobody is surprised but your character. And he’s so bored at this point he can only muster a mild sense of “meh.”
Now, just to be fair, none of this may completely be Alex Freed’s fault. Maybe they altered things to fit within the game or realized when crunch time came that they just couldn’t pull off his vision of an Iain Bank’s novel. That link may be broken now that the forums have been redone, but what Freed said in that reply to me on the forums was that “Bank’s novels, and Use of Weapons in particular” were models and inspirations for the IA storyline.
Now compare all that, and what I have said with, say…the Trooper storyline. Where you get a great twist from the jump to set up an ongoing storyline. I can’t agree that the IA story is the best in any relative way, and I’m also not convinced its good in an absolute or self-referential manner as well.