With much trepidation I ventured out to Gamestop on my lunch break and looked at the game case for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It had been out for a few weeks and had been getting good reviews. I had given up on World of Warcraft for the second time in my life earlier in the year. Knowing my rabid addiction to the previous Star Wars MMORPG, Galaxies, I wondered if I could moderate myself and not fall hopelessly addicted. Maybe some of the negative things people were saying about the game would turn me off. After all, it IS a Bioware game, a developer I have disliked for a long time. Only one way to find out, play it for myself. So home I went, after sending a picture of the game to Weasel to make him jealous.
I was wrong on all fronts. I am addicted, and the game is pretty damn great.
Almost too good, as if I have to take back everything negative I have ever said about Bioware. I think I have narrowed the reason why down to this – story. Everyone knows Bioware writes a good story – Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Dragon Age. The problem I had was that I did not want to read it. The dialog trees which equated to walls of text took me out of the story. I’m playing a video game. If I wanted to read I’d pick up a book or at the very least listen to one read to me on my ipod (my laziness knows no bounds). What Bioware did for SWTOR was the perfect solution – voice overs. Everything is voiced in this game, every quest, every reward, every interaction with your companions, everything. So much so, in fact, that Star Wars the Old Republic is in the Guinness World Records as having the most lines of recorded dialogue ever. 200,000 lines – more than any motion picture, let alone video game. I don’t even mind having to read subtitles for an alien language when someone is voicing it for me at the same time. Weird.
Now that I didn’t have to read everything that a NPC says to me, I concentrated on the story line, and my character. What a story it is. I have just finished Act I of the game, essentially completing the main story quests for my character, a Jedi Knight Guardian (tank). From the double agents to the evil Sith lords, I loved every second of it. Even the back stories of my two main companions, an astromech droid named T7 and a Jedi Padawan named Kira. As for what happens in Acts II and III, check back with me in a couple months. That is if I don’t get lost in the story lines of one of the eight other classes when I start a new character.
SWTOR is an RPG at its heart. Bioware repeatedly said during the development process that they were bringing story to the MMORPG, not just making a clone of other MMOs (WoW). I had no doubt that they would get the RPG part right, that’s what Bioware does. The MMO part is what I was worried about – multiplayer (co-op), player vs player (pvp), chat, etc. Things that other MMOs take for granted were new to Bioware. After a pretty flawless launch (save for some long wait times to login early on), I can report all of the ‘MMO’ parts are working well. There are things that need to be tweaked, primarily in the pvp sections, maybe make the economy a little more robust, a ‘looking for group’ menu, etc. But these things will get better, as the game gets patched and updated weekly, and as players level their characters.
As with all combat in SWTOR (quests, pvp, heroics, space) any xp you get levels your character, ship, and companions at the same time. This makes leveling simple and fun. You can basically do whatever you want. If you choose to skip all side missions and just do your main quests, you can do it. Make up for the loss in xp with pvp or space missions. The game is flexible in that respect.
The game is made up of planets that are designed for certain character levels, currently about 17 planets. Once you get your ship, you are free to travel to any of them, but obviously you will be spending time on planets appropriate for your level. I think the travel is pretty cool in this game. I like the idea of hopping in your ship, bringing up the galaxy map, and traveling to a spaceport on any planet you like, hopping out and starting quests. Early days of Star Wars Galaxies was all based on fast travel between planets (also from spaceports). Something about getting in your own ship first makes it cooler. There is a central hub in the game called the fleet. It is essentially a bunch of space stations/ships that have nearly any vendor/trainer/NPC you will ever need.
I have played many MMOs – Dark Ages of Camelot, WoW, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes, Guild Wars to name a few. Is this game WoW with a Star Wars skin over it? Not in the least bit. Yes, there are the standard fetch quests, kill x number of these quests, etc. These are in most RPGs, standard fare. Loot grinders will be in heaven. But Star Wars: The Old Republic has some things that are different from any other MMORPG – the companion system, the combat, the way gear and upgrading your gear is handled, and the detailed and varied story. You will see aspects of many other games in there as well, and Bioware would be stupid not to learn from other MMO successes. While SWTOR may not be a revolutionary game, it most certainly is an evolutionary game, there are many many things that the game does very well, a lot of them new. Looting multiple mobs at once! Hello?! Where have you been all my life?
I know I haven’t mentioned a lot of the details of the game, but there is too much to mention. The only thing I can say is if you have been thinking about getting this game, do it. Use the free month subscription and try it out. Just make sure you have a lot of spare time and say goodbye to your significant other beforehand. If you do join up, look up the Space Pimps guild on the Sith Wyrm server. Tell them JD sent ya.