Star Wars the Old Republic: JediAn entire race of blind humanoids? Maybe I should learn the lore for them. Oh well, my Jedi is ready to get his training....
Star Wars the Old Republic: Admit itYou saw the picture and immediately heard the fanfare music in your head....
Star Wars the Old Republic: GameplayThe Old Republic players like most other MMOs. As long as this is not your first game, you should be able to pick it up quickly....
Star Wars: The Old Republic also known as TOR or SWTOR, is the first MMO attempt from the hugely popular developers at Bioware Studios. Based on the iconic Star Wars franchise and the best-selling The Old Republic titles, Star Wars: The Old Republic has all the ingredients to be one of the greatest MMORPG games ever to grace the internet.
The most discussed aspect of Star Wars: The Old Republic is the unique approach to the story. Unlike typical MMORPG games where story takes a back seat to grind and gear, Star Wars: The Old Republic delivers its story on the forefront of the game, offering players an immersive experience unlike anything seen in today's MMO titles. There's a large variety of classes in the game, each of which have their own progressive story that can be completed alone or with friends. Each quest, from major story plots to simple experience-based quests, are fully voiced using a wide range of talented actors.
Like The Old Republic console titles, Star Wars: The Old Republic allows players to define their role in the universe using the unique Light and Dark side system. Players are able to join either the Sith or Jedi at character creation, but their actions define who they become as they progress. You will be faced with hundreds of decisions on your journey to master the force, with each decision having the potential to drastically affect your personal story and the game world. Dark side players are able to be persuaded to renounced their sins, while the Light side can also be tempted to switch over to the Sith.
Star Wars: The Old Republic takes the much loved features from the original Old Republic titles and merges them perfectly with exciting an innovative MMORPG mechanics. A thrilling story line, a huge variety of classes and some of the most fast-paced Jedi combat ever seen makes Star Wars: The Old Republic one of the best MMORPG titles available on the market.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is definitely a game that differs from other MMO's, and though that might sometimes be a bad thing, it does not really work against it in this case. Of course, that is not to say that the game is completely polished and flawless—quite the opposite, in fact. Like any other game, Star Wars: The Old Republic features its own set of pros and cons.
The first, and perhaps most important, pro on the list is its unique storylines. All other MMOs generally feature the same goal, and some might even offer a few unique quests for, let's say, the first five levels of the game depending on your race. However, Star Wars: The Old Republic takes it ten steps further and offers you a fully unique story and goal for every class. For example, the Smuggler tries to take revenge on a thief who gave him the once over, chasing him around the galaxy until one final moment, while the Sith Warrior works to become true Sith after he is called upon to Korriban for the proper training as he later becomes Darth Baras' apprentice, and the Imperial Agent ends up in a complicated web of undercover missions as he is assigned throughout the game. All in all, they definitely went all out to create unique experiences that don't make you want to immediately skip all of the dialog each time you play it through as somebody new.
Leveling is also pretty balanced in the game. As it is explained in further detail later on, each class has the proper set of skills that allows them to hold their own when it comes to fighting enemies in the environment.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few cons that come with this game. For one, many journalists and gamers speculated that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be free to play, and it would certainly be the wise choice if it ever wanted to knock Warcraft out of the park. However, not only did it come with a subscription fee, but it was equal to that of Warcraft, giving no incentive for WoW players to stick with SWTOR.
Even if there were the monetary incentive, PvP and the endgame are completely broken. There is absolutely no sense of balance when it comes to PvP, and though it wouldn't actually be fair to say that the endgame is broken, it is safe to say that there really just is nothing to do once you reach the level cap. All of the endgame content can be completed during level 48, so there is nearly no point in finishing other than to see how your story ends, and even that does not absoutely require being level 50.
Finally, the biggest problem with TOR is that it is broken in general, thanks to incredibly poor optimization. Bioware is not new to PC gaming, especially considering how very well the Mass Effect series and other Star Wars games play on the PC, so there is absolutely no excuse with regard to why Star Wars: The Old Republic is so broken even on the higher-end computers. On the average computer, it can take upwards of five minutes to even load the image, and sometimes it can take a few minutes before you gain control of your character. Let's not even get started on the ten minutes it takes to load the textures at times, or the hour it takes for the memory to fully adopt the game so that it does not stutter as you traverse the world.
If there is one thing that most games still don't know how to do correctly, it's get good character customization. Maybe it's due to space limitations in some cases, but MMOs usually don't have a good range of customization in that field anyway, so it's a nice breath of fresh air to see a range of options on the Star Wars: The Old Republic character creation page. Naturally, each of the exact customization options available depends on the chosen species; for example, the Sith Pureblood can customize their face jewelry while Cyborgs get to pick which areas of the face feature the robot parts.
The character models themselves look great, but NPCs in the world sometimes do not fully utilize the different character options the game offers. It's not uncommon to see one fair-skinned NPC offering you missions on one planet, but then travel across the galaxy to see the exact same model but with slightly tanner skin. Even though there are quite a few NPCs to find throughout the world, it still seems like Bioware could have tried a little harder in making the character models a little more unique.
This is also a bit true with the world environment. For the most part, it certainly is the Star Wars galaxy, and though it probably is not possible to make drastic changes, some probably could have been made to make some worlds a little less boring. After all, it is a few thousand years prior to the events in the world Star Wars fans know.
The major cities are decent enough, but it's actually kind of difficult to really see the detail that it has to offer because of how poorly optimized Star Wars: The Old Republic is. Even with a higher end PC, there have been a high abundance of complaints about stuttering and textures taking ages to load. In other words, it'd probably be hard to tell how decent the inner cities are even with a supercomputer trying to figure out the poor optimization.
Similar to the character models, the gear is modeled rather well too. Though whether one likes an outfit or not ultimately depends on personal taste, but the gear does actually look well detailed and fits the characters properly, so no complaints on that end. The only problem the gear models face is, much like the NPC model choices, sometimes very similar as you progress through the levels. For example, an item picked up during the lower end of level ten might look well, but it could also be the visual carbon copy of another one on the higher end of the 40s; the only thing different are the higher stats and a different color to coat it.
If you were not paying attention while someone else was playing this game, you might easily mistake this for one of the classic movies. Indeed, some of the classic tracks are missing, such as the endearing cantina band, though there is the classic theme song at the beginning of the story. During important story missions and epic fights, there's always a great ambient thanks to the songs composed by a group of various individuals.
Two of the names that stand out the most in the list of credited composers has to be Mark Griskey and Lennie Moore. The former has previously worked with Bioware and LucasArts to bring great scores for other titles like Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords. As for the latter, this is the first time he has worked with the pair on composing Star Wars scores, though his previous works include Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Magic the Gathering: Duel of the Planeswalkers.
As for the actual sound effects, everything is there too; every attack with the lightsaber has the appropriate sound, and every pull of the trigger on the blaster is met with proper tone. In other words, the sound designers for Star Wars: The Old Republic really seem to have put plenty of effort into make each of the weapons in the game sound like they really were designed in the Star Wars universe. Of course, you could really not expect much less from Lucas himself; he tends to take it upon himself to make sure everything is done right.
The voice acting is one part of sound that tends to be a little iffy. While you do have some of the voice actors whose names are practically synonymous with video games, such as Jennifer Hale, Steve Blum and Nolan North, there are quite a few who both do their voice acting job very well and some who probably should not have been billed right out of acting class, so to speak. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that not all of the writing is the greatest, which brings us to the next point of this SWTOR review.
MMOs probably will not ever be the greatest source of thrilling gameplay, at least not as far as quests (or missions as they are referred to in TOR) are concerned. For the most part, they are always going to consist of fetching materials, killing guys and talking to other guys. However, there is one positive thing; TOR does not fall into the habits of other MMOs by making you read some boring text, instead providing cutscenes that really let you get involved and immersed with the story and all of the side quests, complete with conversation options much like the Mass Effect series.
The story itself is also pretty good depending on the class you play as. Each of the eight classes feature their own unique storyline in three acts, and it seems like each one had a separate writer crafting it for them. This seems like it would be a bad idea since all of the stories can have varying quality, and perhaps they do to some degree. In particular, the storyline for the Smugger (Republic side) was obviously given to one of the B-writers on Team Bioware. It seems like the tried way too hard to emulate Han Solo, the smuggler on the Republic side of the movies; this is made obvious by the smooth-talking lines and elusions to numerous one night stands with a variety of women.
The story itself on the Smuggler's side is pretty poor too; your character is on this long-winded chase after a guy who cheats him, all while happening to meet up with numerous of his ex-lovers who all either want to help him out or are trying to ambush him. Very... coincidental? Meanwhile, other main stories—especially for the Sith Warrior—are all polished and provide great immersion as you truly feel one with your created character.
The other side missions in the game offer the same level of immersion, and most of them seem like they were actually compiled by some of the real writing team, so you won't be left wanting after watching a cutscene. The only thing that would be nice about it is if the NPCs were a little more clear about which missions were designed for a party rather than being done solo, even if it were as simple as suggesting that one man might not be able to do it, or perhaps mentioning that gathering a group would be the best option. That is more of a personal issue, though, and perhaps it would break the immersion too much for others if they did take that route.
Most of the romance storylines are also well written, with the exception of the options the Smuggler gets. Each of these offer various missions that lead from getting to know one another to general interest and all the way to proposing marriage and ruling whatever side of the galaxy together as partners. The only problem is a lack of options in choosing your romantic partner; though you only do get about five real companions, it would still be nice to have more than the one or two options there are currently, though Bioware has stated that they fully intend to expand the options for alternative lifestyles.
When you are fighting the environmental enemies, there are usually perfectly fine ways to use the various skills in your slots, no matter what kind of combat you require. For example, the Imperial Bounty Hunter does well to take cover and shoot at range while the Jedi Knight has his own unique skills to hold his own in close range combat.
All in all, there is good balance when you fight against the environment, and whatever area you are lacking in can be properly filled by your companion, even if he or she is not explicitly designed to fill that role. For example, the first companion the Sith Warrior receives is a rogue who still makes for a decent—albeit a bit of a weak one—tank as that class cannot handle taking on too much damage either at first, unless you become a Juggernaut rather than the Marauder. Basically, that means the leveling is good.
The leveling works well especially because there is no need to grind through after coming across more difficult enemies in other areas; in fact, by following each of the missions in the world, even skipping the ones that require that you party up, you can find yourself overleveled once you reach the next area. This also means you can safely skip over the Flashpoint instances; they are more of a time-sucker than anything else, taking two or three hours to complete for the same amount of experience you would achieve in an hour blowing through the story.
Unfortunately, the balance really does not carry over to the PvP side of things. The skills each class gets is great for leveling, and many of them are also great for destroying other players, but the primary issue with balance is a complete absence of protection from these skills. To bring up another Sith Warrior example, there are several classes that can kite you or slow down your movement, and you have one move that breaks this effect and one other one that charges in for the kill. However, that class you're playing against likely has a second attack that can push you back, and then they merely need to shoot you to death before your cooldown ever ticks down to zero. Though the currency you receive for PvP Warzones helps you get superior items even for PvE, it really doesn't seem worth it unless you are the Smuggler or the Imperial Bounty Hunter. As a melee class, then forget about it.
As for developing character: It seems like an outdated system, having to place leveled points into specific trees to create the best combination. Personally, it seems like a considerably better system to just get a new skill once you level up instead of having to place a point just to get another percentage of health. If you already have 1000 health, getting another percent just means you are going to have 1010 health instead. Hooray? Maybe other games have spoiled it, but it does seem a little tried and done; it's not really developing your character if the same build is used to make the “best” there is.
Right off the bat, Star Wars: The Old Republic does one thing that truly sets it apart from all of the other MMOs out there; it offers interactive cutscenes instead of making you read incredibly boring text that is also a bit too small for the average gamer to feel comfortable reading. That is one thing that really sets it apart, and many of its players appreciate it as it makes for a more immersive story rather than just a small text box. The fact that your character also has a polished voice actor instead of just customized grunts or complete, solemn silence makes it all that much more exciting to play as well.
Outside of the fact that it is the only MMO set in the Star Wars universe, its interactive cutscenes and completely unique storylines per class are all that are truly different for Star Wars: The Old Republic. That, of course, and the fact that you can engage in space combat once you receive your spaceship by level 16. By interacting with the speaker in the captain's room, it is possible to obtain daily space combat missions that earn you a special type of currency exclusively for the appropriate vendor on the Imperial or Republic Fleet, which can be exchanged for a pilot's outfit, better gear or better equipment for your spaceship. As long as you work with the daily space missions before they turn grey in the mission log, then it will net you quite a bit of experience points rather than the bare few that you obtain for completing them directly without quests.
In space combat, you control the ship with the mouse and are essentially tasked with defeating spaceships or space stations, sometimes while protecting and escorting another smaller ship, while also using the mouse button to navigate away from obstacles. Should your spaceship take on too much damage, you explode into a million particles but can somehow repeat the mission from the beginning. If you have the minimum required equipment and are good enough at aiming with your cursor, it is incredibly easy to complete these missions well in advance of the timer, making it a very boring mission by the time you complete all of the objectives.
It is safe to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic offers a level of immersion that other MMOs just have not figured out how to achieve, and it seems like the unique storylines and interactive cutscenes are largely the reason for this. If it were not for the poor writing with certain classes, and if it were not for the poor optimization of the software itself, it seems like TOR really could have blown up MMOs as we know it, perhaps even changing the way they work in general. With the right polishing, it could have been the one to kill World of Warcraft, but it made too many mistakes along the way.
Those who truly enjoy the lore that Star Wars brings definitely can find plenty of fun in Star Wars: The Old Republic since it does implement the lore well and it really is everything that a Star Wars game should be, even considering the fact that it is thousands of years behind the times of the movies. It is an incredibly fun game while you are leveling up, and though there is not much to be had once it comes time to play the endgame, chances are that a true Star Wars fan will get their money's worth just by completing all eight storylines.
In conclusion, Star Wars: The Old Republic really could have been something special, and in some ways, it really was. Unfortunately, it just gets bogged down by optimization problems and a complete absence of care once you reach the endgame.
Our score: 7 / 10
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