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Star Wars Galaxies: Trials of Obi-Wan

Lava lava laffs...

Like many of you we've been waiting to see the molten planet that would explain Darth Vader's need for a bondage suit since we first saw Star Wars back in 1977.

Lucas and co. did a great job bringing it to life on the silver screen with Episode III. But would it work as a setting within an MMORPG? Why not introduce Hoth as a new planet? Or Dagobah?

When this third expansion was announced for Star Wars Galaxies we had mixed feelings. Did we really want to go to Mustafar?

"We're doomed"

Well, for starters, it certainly looks the part, boasting some of the best visuals to grace Star Wars Galaxies. For example, the environmental lighting is excellent - both inside and out - with some nice bump mapping, blackened skies, a lovely looking heat haze effect and some dangerous-looking lava flows that erupt so often they seem to be alive. It all adds up to creating a hugely atmospheric environment, with a real sense of darkness, foreboding and doom captured magnificently. A better rendition of the hateful planet within a game you simply couldn't wish for.

It's not all just for show either. The molten magma is actually harmful to your character, as you'd expect. Just a few steps into lava and you burst into flames. Then die. You can get around pretty easily using standard transports but at some point you'll have to ride on your newly supplied Lava Flea. It's a bit slow - and has a face only a mother could love - but it gets the job done safely.

Not only is the environment extremely hazardous, the new creatures indigenous to the planet are pretty damn lethal - especially if you're a low level combat character. Attacks seem to be constant from the likes of Xandacs and Blistmoks. Wandering around the place without a high level combat chaperone will see you cloning faster than Anakin turned to the dark side.

"Adventure. Hrrrmph. Excitement..."

Where'd you dig up that old fossil?

The quests themselves are good. Really good. They're varied, many are split into multiple sub-missions and some have a few nasty surprises in store. They also give more background to Mustafar, and tie-in the old planet with the game's current timeline far better than the Rage of the Wookiees expansion did. You can choose different paths for some, with different rewards as a consequence. Most importantly, they make sense and they're fun.

Some dungeons are instanced, or require an amount of time to pass before being entered again, which is good news as it gives everyone a fair crack at completing quests. Criminally, however, some quest-specific NPCs are not instanced and spawn on a timer. There's nothing... NOTHING, more infuriating than sitting around for two hours waiting for a character to kill, only to have another group turn up late and claim the kill, and then proceed to camp the site waiting for the next spawn in order to farm loot (while throwing out weak insults about our mothers, inevitably). Hopefully, this will be less of an issue as the weeks go on and people aren't so desperate and/or greedy to get the loot as they are in the first few days of play.

The mission rewards are unique within the game and add something new, even if it's not always useful to your particular character. A weapon that only a Master Bounty Hunter can use is certainly nice to look at but useless to a dancer, for example. Some items are non-trade, and others need to be bio-linked to you so that only you can use them. There are new buff crystals, new decorative items and shiny new weapons. Jedi get new robes and a 'lava crystal' for their light sabers. Crafters get some new schematics. Entertainers... well, they get a new dance, a couple of props and a new song.

That's the Spirit!

The crash site of an Old Republic cruiser starts off a series of quests.

Of course it wouldn't be called 'Trials of Obi-Wan' if it didn't include the eponymous Jedi, now would it? Obi does make an appearance of course - at the spot where he cuts off Anakin's arm and legs - as the blue-glowy ghost of his Alec Guinness self. While you don't have to be a Jedi character to get a visit from the old guy, you can only take on his quests after a set number of quite challenging missions have already been completed.

Galaxies has, of late, made it harder to play solo, and many of these missions require even hardened players to group up with others in order to succeed. This is now essential with some of the quests and the general difficulty of enemies in the expansion requiring a full group, although Obi-Wan's last mission does separate you from your friends to face the challenge alone.

"I can feel your anger..."

The natives are restless.

While Kashyyk really felt like it was more of a giant 'theme park' within the game, Mustafar feels a lot more like the original planets, although there are, annoyingly, still some invisible walls present for seemingly no other reason than to make your questing take just that little bit longer.

While unfortunately there is no space zone around Mustafar, and ergo no new space content, you can still get hold of a version of Dash Rendar's YT-2400 ship from the N64's 'Shadows of the Empire' to fly. And in a rather more convoluted move, the 4,000 year-old droid from Knights of the Old Republic HK-47 makes an appearance, too. But that's not all. Other goodies are also included. Those that pre-ordered the expansion [waves!] have been playing it for a week already and got an exclusive transport in the form of the Skiff, which is the only vehicle that can hold eight people.

The add-on also increases the number of starships and vehicles you can store in your datapad and a beautiful bunker house is also given as a bonus.

But is it enough? As a low combat-level character, you simply can't do enough on the planet to justify spending $35. Extra storage, a flea and a house hardly makes up for the content you'll be missing out on. Knock three points off the score if you're in an entertainer profession, if your combat level is below 65 or, indeed, if you have no friends.

So it boils down to this: the expansion is aimed squarely at the high-level ground-based combat players, and is a solid addition of content for them. That only this one group of players is catered to fully though only serves to alienate those left behind and devalues the offering overall.

7 / 10

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