Two of the MMORPGs I am currently playing have a particular breed of ‘operational base’ style hub in the latest expansion; namely World of Warcraft and Star Wars the Old Republic.
These hubs play a key role in the story and day-to-day player activities in both games. For WoW’s garrisons you build the hub up as a focal point for the expansion story and your character’s development . In Knights of the Fallen Empire the Alliance hub on the planet of Odessen is the end-game you reach, as the culmination of the current story arc.
Although there is a difference in when the hub unlocks there is a similar feel of utilitarian home to both as you play further into each expansion’s content. Both hubs are a source of daily quests, both offer the chance to develop a collection of followers or companions and both offer standard quest-hub services like mailbox, fast travel point etc.
The impact of these hubs on the play-through experience is different however. For the WoW garrison unlocking the basics and upgrades requires playing specific quest chains in certain zones in order. It also requires that you engage with the follower system enough to collect resources for upgrading the base. The garrison’s core role in the expansion does make for a repetitive journey through the expansion for alts, it’s hard to avoid playing a lot of the same content as a result.
In KotFE the hub is the end-game and does not feature until the end of a mid-length series of missions (chapters 1-8). So the story repetition comes front-loaded before you reach the repeatable hub gameplay. Bioware’s conversation-moral system gives some variance to the story playthrough I would imagine; my trooper has just hit level 60 so I’m about to embark on my second playthrough of this expansion. How repetitive you find the Alliance hub system probably comes down to individual play style preferences. I’m not intending to collect “all of the companions” on my first or subsequent characters so I guess I won’t find the hub phase of the expansion too repetitive. Some elements are common, the ‘contacts’ like Dr Oggorubb are common for all characters as a core element of the Alliance system. I’m not sure how mandatory developing influence with these non-playable contact characters is. But I will certainly be exercising choice with which companions I chose to unlock on which characters. For example I won’t bother to unlock Qyzen at all until I play my Sage through the expansion since he always played with Qyzen; my new Shadow is a blank slate (as an instant level 60) so he’s sticking with Koth Vortena.
From my perspective the success or failure of these hub-systems comes down to allowing me to pick and choose at least some of the content on successive playthroughs. I’d rather play the story and develop the hub on a few characters and to have some interesting choices to make along the way than spend months unlocking every last feature or quest on my main.
I feel like WoW’s garrison is good for two or three characters max before it all becomes too repetitive. Just getting to level 100 and unlocking the level 3 garrison on each is going to be enough for me to want to take a break from the game again. The followers are numerous and varied but they’re ultimately a very shallow system as there’s no real story attached beyond where you recruit a NPC you see during questing – usually that’s the end of their story though, there’s no follow-up or personal quests to give more development to that character.
KotFE may offer a bit more variety if I can truly pick and choose which contacts I do missions for and which companions I unlock. If nothing else there are several major choices to make during the play through of chapters 1-8 and I’m interested in seeing the alternatives as I repeat the story.