With how quickly MMORPGs pop onto the scene and subsequently disappear, it’s somewhat hard to give an accurate review immediately after launch. With MMOs, you not only have to review the initial content and accessibility, but you also need to keep going back to it after content updates and such, in order to keep people informed of the viability of the product. With that being said, I’ve spent the better part of the past month playing the hell out of the Old Republic so that I could get a really accurate feel of the game before writing this. While I’ve touched on some of the things I’ll bring up here in other posts, this should be more than enough to give you a full picture of the game. Also, while I see people making comparisons to this game and World of Warcraft – I have never played WoW, so you won’t hear any of that here (though I may make references to Galaxies).
The first thing you have to bring up when talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic, is how masterfully crafted each of the individual story lines are. Each story could have been sold as an individual single player game, and people would have been happy about it – that’s just how good they all are. Not only is the writing superb, but the fact that Bioware chose to make EVERYTHING in the game be presented with full voice is just something you don’t expect from an MMORPG. Yes, everything from major cut scenes, to every mission (even the few “fetch and gather” missions), to idle NPC chatter is all voiced, so you don’t have to worry about reading text; the only caveat to that is that when someone speaks in an alien tongue. Then there are subtitles to tell you what they’re saying, but even those parts are fully voiced – albeit in the alien’s language.
The graphics in the game are also pretty much spot on, and on par with every other of Bioware’s single player RPG experiences. The cut scenes and cinematics are brilliant, even the things you see constantly like when you land your ship on a planet don’t ever really get old to watch because of how nice they look (although if you’re in a hurry you can skip them with a space bar press). There were only a few times when I noticed some sprites that looked off – in the Cadimimu Flashpoint, at one point you fight a Wookie with a flamethrower, and he spawns some tiny creatures to attack (I don’t know what race they are) – those ads looked like my son’s “Mighty Beanz”. Other than those however, everything else I took in looked exactly as it should.
I have to say that after coming from Galaxies, I found the initial planetary exploration to be lacking – but that was before I reached Tatooine. Most of the starting two planets are relatively small in comparison to what I was used to, but Tatooine actually felt extremely vast. The size of the Dune Sea was incredibly intimidating just by itself. While I still think Galaxies had larger worlds with more to explore (sadly, there’s no POI’s in The Old Republic), the worlds in The Old Republic look better, and feel more fleshed out; until you get into the “cities” that is. For whatever reason, the areas that should have the most NPC population in them feel incredibly sparse. Walking into the seat of the Empire, you would expect (in my opinion) to see people milling about all over the place, and that just isn’t the case. Maybe they’re just trying to save resources so that more people can play – but it makes you feel like one of tens in a city, instead of one of hundreds or thousands.
The combat in The Old Republic feels like standard fare for an MMO, but it works exceptionally well – especially PvP. Those who knew me in Galaxies knew that I always ran around in “overt” status because I love to PvP (hence the reason I played Lineage 2 for so long). Now I joined a PvE server because I wanted to be able to have a break and get enough data for the review, but in my opinion that made the PvP even better. There was no griefing or anything like that – only people who wanted to be involved in the PvP. Warzones are a great way to introduce people to PvP as well. They are essentially instanced arenas where you have a specific goal (and killing actually isn’t the primary goal). There’s my least favorite – Hutt Ball, where two teams fight over a ball, and try to get it into their team’s scoring zone. It’s kind of like a mix of football and soccer, with booby traps all over the place. It’s also the only game where Republic and Imperial players can both end up on the same team. It’s my least favorite , though because it’s the one that has the least amount of strategy (at least if you play in a public group).
Then there’s the Voidstar, which is a heck of a lot of fun. At first the Imperial players are defending, and the Republic players are attacking. There are two doors that need bombs planted on them (planting one on either will do) for the Republic forces to proceed in the level, and once planted they take twenty seconds to detonate. There’s then two more sets of doors (same process), before a player can recover the datacore. Once that is done, the sides switch, and the Imperial players have to BEAT the time set by the Republic team. It’s great because it really focuses on teamwork, and strategy is needed. The final Warzone (for now), and my undeniable favorite one to play, is the Alderaan Civil War. If you’ve ever played Battlefield 2042 then this may seem familiar: each side spawns in a drop ship and have to take a craft (speeder) to the planetary surface. Once there, you need to take over three gun batteries in order to have them fire on the opposing side’s drop ship (and stop them from firing on yours). This Warzone relies HEAVILY on strategy and communication so that you know where you need to go when you spawn in order to be the most effective. Whichever Warzone you play though, PvP is a heck of a lot of fun here.
Combat and PvP is all well and good for your average MMO, but what about something for those that don’t want to be out there fighting? In Galaxies there was a large number of crafting professions that one could take up (I myself tried my hand at being a chef after getting a rare Mandalorian wine recipe), and the crafting there was deep to the level of insanity – so how well is it in The Old Republic? To put it simply, it is both shallow and deep. Let me try and clear that up a bit here – it takes all of maybe two days to max out your crafting and gathering skills leading to my saying it’s somewhat shallow, however the things you can make in the end and how you go about getting schematics and such is pretty deep. To start with you pick three “crew skills” (you can drop any you pick to learn more at any time, though you lose all progress in a dropped skill) – these are classified as crafting skills (makes stuff – duh), gathering skills (gets you the materials to make stuff), and mission skills (gets materials, and schematics). You can send your companions (when you get them) away for X amount of time to perform one of these skills and bring you back something from them. That much is all pretty cut and dry, but it’s the actual crafting that’s not. When you craft something, you have a chance to have a critical success, upping the level of the item (or getting s fancy word like “prototype” added to it). When you disassemble something you have the chance to learn a schematic for the next level item, so you’re constantly making things and disassembling them to try and better yourself. I’ve seen some people create some pretty amazing gear, and I can only guess how much better it will get with time. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get super deep into it yet as I was playing so many characters, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to getting into soon.
There is also the space combat, which seems like a mixed bag for most people. Unlike Galaxies which used a “twitch” system (think Wing Commander), The Old Republic presents us with an experience that could best be described as an “on rails” shooter. It’s very much like the Starfox games, wherein you have a third person view of your ship, and you can move it around, shoot, and do barrel rolls. It’s a really fun way to take a break from quests, but it can be really rewarding in its own right. I literally leveled from twenty to thirty on one character by doing nothing but space missions and PvP missions (they reset daily), because of the tremendous experience rewards they give. The only thing that got to me, was that when I thought I unlocked more missions, I ended up just playing harder difficulty versions of the same things I was doing before (no, scenery change doesn’t count as a new mission) – other than that though, if you liked the Starfox games you’ll like this. Even if you don’t like it, the great part is that it’s totally optional, and you’re not going to miss out on any story at all by not doing the battles.
As in EVERY MMORPG worth anything, guilds are also a huge part of The Old Republic. I was lucky enough to get into a very good guild (Alea Iacta Est or AIE for short), but really there are NO shortages of viable guilds in this game (at least not on my server). The guilds have a member cap or 500 (I think that’s what it is), which leads large guilds like AIE to have more than one guild – luckily the chat system is extremely flexible, and a large guild can make one channel for everyone to join for cross guild chatting. I wish there was a way to password protect this, but as of now there’s not (again, not that I know of – if I’m wrong please let me know), although I suppose there isn’t a reason yet because you’re not competing against your own faction (not YET, but that is supposedly coming). The guild system in general might be a bit barren right now, but Bioware has talked a number of upgrades that are in the works – things like Capital Ships! This will certainly be an area that I watch for in future write ups.
The thing that causes every MMO to either live or die, is the amount of content added to keep players happy, and the support of the dev team to patch bugs and glitches, and a Star Wars MMO is no exception to the rule (even though Galaxies still had some glitches when it closed that it did when it was in beta. To that end, Bioware has already been outstanding – putting out patches the day after big bugs have been found and reported, and announcing a ton of new content to start rolling out later this month. It will be really interesting to me to see it Bioware keeps this pace up, but I’m extremely hopeful from what I’ve seen so far.
The Bottom Line: This has to be one of (if not THE) best MMO launches I’ve ever seen – the game is sublimely deep and robust, with enough of a dramatic and cinematic presentation to enable it to stand alongside of Bioware’s other single player offerings. In my opinion, Bioware has come out and shown again that they are after the title of “Kings of the Western RPG”, and they’re damn well close to getting it.
- The cinematic scenes are phenomenally good to the point of being able to be in a single player AAA title
- Not just one, not two, but a whopping SIXTEEN fully voiced stories, each running 30+ hours long
- More than enough content for a newly released MMO
- So…much…walking (at least until level 25). You’ll be begging for a speeder by then.
- The worlds feel strangely empty, especially in large cities where you would expect people
- The game unloads all of its textures when you Alt-Tab out, and it can be kind of irritating
You can pick up Star Wars: The Old Republic from Amazon for $59.95, and you can look me up on my main character on the Keller’s Void server, named Caldaron Al’Uthra