Ah, yes, Star Wars Galaxies. What other MMORPG has ever inspired the kind of love and devotion that, years after its closure, continues to inspire forum threads and comment sections lamenting its demise? For many, Star Wars Galaxies was and will always be the MMORPG that blew the lid off the whole genre. A vast and intricate sandbox world that allowed you to truly become just another citizen of the Star Wars universe. Of course, you can't talk about Galaxies without also mentioning the controversial overhauls that eventually, as many will say, killed the magic that made Galaxies such a profound game to begin with. Almost a decade after launch, with its subscribers and long-time fans migrating en masse to other MMOs, Star Wars Galaxies finally shut down its servers for good. Star Wars Galaxies remains as one of the biggest tragedies of MMORPGs today. A beautiful yet flawed experience that was slowly gutted by updates that aimed to combat its complicated nature by swinging too far in the other direction.
Sadly, if you've arrived at this article eager to find a replacement for Star Wars Galaxies, I have some bad news for you: there is none. In many ways, what Galaxies did was truly unique, and the explosive popularity of World of Warcraft has seen the genre swing heavily in favor of more linear, less social MMORPGs. The good news is, however, that there are some games with similar aspirations that might be just what you're looking for—and even more on the horizon. Sandboxes are making a comeback, but we're going to have to be patient. In the meantime, here are some recommendations for games like Star Wars Galaxies.
Star Wars Galaxies Emulator
Emulators are an extraordinarily touchy legal subject but SWGEmu has managed to evade the hammer for quite some time. According to its developers, SWGEmu is a project designed to resurrect Galaxies from before the crippling New Game Experience and Combat Updates effectively ruined the game. While elements of it are certainly playable, this is a project that is no where near complete and you should absolutely know this before jumping in.
For starters, SWGEmu requires you to already own a copy of the discs in order to play. You can still find them on various sites like Ebay, but acquiring them is going to require a bit of effort. Secondly, SWGEmu is hardly going to be the Galaxies you remember—and not for lack of trying. While the various servers boast a pretty admirable population, the game itself is rather barebones, with many aspects of it left to be implemented. That said, if you're absolutely dying to play Star Wars Galaxies again, no matter what form it may take, this is the best bet. Just be warned: this is a volunteer-based project with a staggering amount of work left to do.
If you know me, you're familiar with how passionate I am about EVE Online—if only because it is one of the only sandboxes left in MMORPGs. While EVE Online might not boast the nostalgia and familiarity of the Star Wars franchise, its own brand of science fiction is just as immersive and fun to explore.
Unlike Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online takes place entirely in space. You'll pilot your ship around from star system to star system, engaging in billions of potential activities like salvaging, pirating, fighting, trading, hauling, mining, and much more. If Galaxies had you hooked because of its freedom, then EVE Online could be the perfect substitute. New Eden, the galaxy of EVE Online, is a massive collection of thousands of star systems. You are in charge of your fate in EVE, and whatever activity you might decide to pursue is up to you.
Like Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online is first and foremost a social game. Vast regions of space are conquered and owned by player-made alliances, and the feuds between them are, at times, cataclysmic. Furthermore, both games feature a player-driven economy. Just about everything in EVE Online is built or harvested from real players, and the intricate network of their relationships to one another is the kind of thing that could keep you up late at night just thinking contemplating its complexity.
If total freedom is what you're after, then EVE Online is a great place to start. Like Galaxies, it can be obtuse and difficult to understand, but the more time you invest in it, the more you'll never want to let it go.
One of the more unique aspects of Galaxies was the element of self-determination that allowed players to build their own cities and work to decide who governed over them. It provided a constant incentive in the form of a layered social system that required you to get to know and work with other players—especially if you had aspirations of governing over them. Pathfinder Online has elements of that system in its vast stretch of the Riverlands where players are free to congregate and form settlements as they choose.
I'll say this first: Pathfinder Online is very early in development and has already elected to charge a subscription fee to those wanting to play it. It's controversial. While I can't exactly recommend jumping into Pathfinder Online right now, it could be something worth playing one day and absolutely is worth keeping an eye on as it evolves.
From the ground up, Pathfinder Online is a sandbox in the purest sense. There is no set path for your character to go on, and, like Galaxies before its updates, character progression is incredibly complex. If you're thirsting for the type of game that makes social play a necessity, give Pathfinder Online a look and see if it might be something worth digging into more. It certainly makes a terrible first impression, but the very dedicated community is quick to defend its merits. For the right person, it might just be what you are looking for.
When I said above that no game will ever come close to recreating the feeling of Star Wars Galaxies, well, I kind of lied. There is a big red caveat here though: The Repopulation is on Steam's Early Access and, while initial opinions seem to be favorable, there is no guarantee that this game will ever deliver on many of its promises.
That said, there is a reason that The Repopulation and Star Wars Galaxies are often cited in the same sentence. Like the title suggests, you are one of the surviving humans tasked with rebuilding after being nearly made extinct. But where the two find common ground is in the deeply entrenched sandbox design that The Repopulation boasts. Like Galaxies, you are free to build your own home and work together with other players to create settlements and cities. You can even choose to go to war with one another if you're the kind that likes the idea of pushing humanity over the brink into non-existence. Even better, The Repopulation features non-linear character progression and a crafting system that could make your knees weak with its complicated web that ties each profession together, making teamwork a downright necessity to survival.
The great thing about the Repopulation is that, unlike others on this list, the game only costs around $20 (with frequent Steam sales) meaning you can jump in and find out for yourself with minimal upfront risk involved.
There was a time where it felt like ArcheAge couldn't go a week without blowing up over some new travesty that was causing the sandbox-themepark hybrid to crumble to dust. Fortunately, that time seems to have passed and ArcheAge seems to have finally settled somewhat, much to the relief of its dedicated fans.
But despite all the drama and controversial pay-to-win elements, ArcheAge still remains a pleasing mix of linear themepark design mixed with some truly epic sandbox elements. For the most part, the leveling process in ArcheAge is a rather boring grind, but once you reach the level cap the world opens up and you can begin to carve out your own existence on the open seas. That's right, the big catch of ArcheAge is the ability to build and sail a boat. Better even, ArcheAge has a robust crafting and gathering system that allows you to plant and harvest trees, raise livestock, and craft various materials into vehicles and trade packs that you can haul to market hubs and sell. Oh, and, like Star Wars, non-instanced player housing is pretty awesome too.
Player versus player combat is really at the heart of ArcheAge, however, and if you're looking to truly enjoy this somewhat unique game, you're going to have to embrace the fact that, eventually, someone will kill you. This is where some of those pay-to-win elements can become rather pesky. But regardless, if you can power through the tired leveling process, ArcheAge has some pretty interesting hooks to keep you invested.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Of course The Old Republic needed to make it on this list by virtue of being a Star Wars game alone. If you're unfamiliar, The Old Republic is nothing like Star Wars Galaxies, but I'm going to toss it in here just in case it wasn't the sandbox gameplay that had you invested but rather the idea of playing a character in a living, breathing Star Wars universe. If that's the case, The Old Republic has you covered.
Falling in line with more popular MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, The Old Republic is a seemingly run-of-the-mill game where you'll choose a class, gain experience points, level up, and run instanced dungeons for marginally better loot. Yeah, it's kind of boring in that regard.
However, what makes The Old Republic worth talking about is the story wrapped around the unremarkable gameplay. Borrowing inspiration from the singleplayer RPG series, Knights of the Old Republic, this Star Wars MMORPG has a massive emphasis on player choice and branching story paths. Just about every quest allows you to decide how you want to proceed, and the writing and characters involved are some of the best in the genre. Playing as a Sith is an incredibly rewarding experience as the decisions you make can be downright terrible. Each class has their own separate story and playing through each of them is worth the investment alone. If you like what you see beyond the class stories, expansion content is plentiful and adds even more things to experience.
Right now is the best time to play too, because The Old Republic has a 12x experience boost on story missions for subscribers. If you're willing to drop the $15 for one month of subscription, the experience boost will negate the need for tedious side quests or grinding, instead allowing you to power through to max level on the main story missions alone. After that, you're welcome to keep playing or move along to something else; either way, don't write off The Old Republic as just another Warcraft clone.
Galaxies was a truly unique game, no doubt about it. But if you're in the market for another romp in the sandbox, hopefully the suggestions above will put you in the right direction. If not, stay tuned because there are a more than a few on the horizon. If you've played the games above and have your own opinions, or if you have any suggestions of your own, let us know in the comments!