Are two faction wars good or bad for story?

I’ve just been reading the Massively interview with a SWTOR story writer. Some of the comments concur with a doubt I have of just how ‘fresh’ a main storyline can be if you base it heavily on a two faction war.

there’s very little interesting about a “war”, constantly battling the same enemy. Machineman87

This definitely chimes with my experience of SWTOR, I was rather bored of fighting Imperials by the time I reached the cap. Partly this is because the frequency of their use as ‘the enemy’ increased as my consular leveled up, but also because they were generally pretty lifeless and dumb opponents – just more grunt soldiers to massacre.

Combat is a constant in MMO gameplay, but I would say war as plot device is over-used. It can be exciting to come to a base under attack and to defend  it. However since neither side can ever win this war, it is hard to avoid the artificiality of the situation if it’s a central theme. I would say a story-led ‘flare-up’ between factions can work very well, including preludes, engagements and some sort of ending. But to have all out war without consequences isn’t so great – neither the Republic nor the Empire can actually win in any meaningful sense since the losing faction would be up in arms.


I could be equally critical of Blizzard’s decision to focus on Alliance vs Horde again in Mists rather than having some world threat to unite against. Sure for PVP enthusiasts it’s probably all about that anyway, but I played both factions, I loved playing my night elf Boomkin and my orc Warlock equally. As an PVE-focused altaholic having the two factions had a different meaning – it meant almost twice the content to play through as even where quest hubs were shared you often had variations in experience of them.

It’s interesting that Trion have moved away from this for now in Rift. The two factions still exist and there are still no-go areas  but we’re moving closer together as time goes on. So which is better, faction war or uniting against a common threat?


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5 Responses to Are two faction wars good or bad for story?

  1. tithian says:

    I find it interesting that you mentioned TOR, because people on the forums frequently request just the opposite: more faction warring. The raids specifically gets a bit of flak, because they are essentially what you’re asking for, common threats for both factions.

    I’m with you, though. The main reason I lost interest in WoW after MoP was announced was the fact that they went for the “faction war” approach and ditched the “main villain” theme.

  2. pkudude99 says:

    Uniting against a common threat, IMO. I loved EQ2 and how faction didn’t matter at all at 1st — you didn’t even die to opposing city guards, they just kicked you out. Group with anyone, talk with anyone……. to me that was the essence of an MMO — if you saw a player, you could play with them. Every other game i’ve played since that based itself on non-communicative factions has always irked me. Can only play with half-ish of the players I see, can’t talk to them, can’t be their friends….. bugged the crap out of me. I didn’t like that Rift was that way at launch either and am VERY happy that the devs returned to their EQ2 roots on factions now.

  3. Telwyn says:

    I mentioned ToR because it is so core to the game’s story, which I think is a bad thing.

    EQ2’s Norrath is a stellar example of a more nuanced setting. The fact that you can or at least could even switch sides through in-game quests is (was?) a fantastic freedom for players to have. As you state though, Pkudude, it’s not an overwhelming restriction on gameplay but more a background flavour element – this is how I see alignment / faction in RPGs in general. They shouldn’t be so absolute and certainly shouldn’t stop players playing together – that’s a very common and I think fundamental mistake made by so many MMOs.

    • pkudude99 says:

      For a long time I had 12 characters in EQ@, which was the limit for an All Access Pass. 10 of them were betrayed to the opposite city. I think 11 of those 12 are now betrayed, actually, since they changed it so you can betray at any level, rather than having to do it before level 17. But yeah….. I betrayed 10 characters under the original system that I kept, and 1 more dwarf cleric that I betrayed over to make it an inquisitor, but then deleted it instead. That was done when the character limit was 4, though, and I had 3 that I just didn’t want to lose (High Elf Shadowknight, Ogre Monk, Dark Elf Warlock), and a new concept for a race/class combo I wanted to try, and I just wasn’t “feeling it” on the cleric, so…. he was the one to go.

      Now you can betray at any level — it’s simply a short faction grind to swap over. Goes quick. An yeah, I loved it and wish EVERY mmo would copy it. If I want to play a Bahmi but have it in a Guardian guild with my Guardian friends in Rift, why can’t I do that? I’d do it in heatbeat if I could — Bahmi get the best animations in Rift, so I love playing that race most of all. but all my friends are Guardians, so I don’t have any Bahmi past level 30 and on different servers from my friends anyway. 😦

  4. Shintar says:

    I think a two-faction war can be boring if it’s all there is, but in my opinion it works well as a “setting”: living in a charged climate where you genuinely have to fear for your life because your opponent wants to wipe you out completely. Admittedly that only works if the factions’ enmity comes across as genuine, which I felt was increasingly not the case in WoW as Horde and Alliance were constantly teaming up under the banner of some neutral organisation to oppose a potentially world-ending threat, just to turn against each other again at the end over some ham-fisted plot twist (such a Garrosh being a jerk).

    In TOR, the levelling story is about things gradually heating up between Republic and Empire, which “sets the stage”, but a lot of the ongoing story has been about independent threats: Darth Malgus’s shot at independence, ancient Rakata forces, Hutts etc. I think it works. /shrug

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