I still remember the day a while back that my friend showed me images of Star Wars: The Old Republic in its youth. It was just concept art, really and I said to him “Man, I hope they don’t screw this up!” For a while I was very skeptical of this title. I just knew something would go wrong with it. More information kept coming out. I knew if I gave SWTOR my heart, it would inevitably become broken. Often times we hype ourselves up so much only to be disappointed. I tried so hard not to get wrapped up in it but on that fateful day in 2008 it happened. This of course was due in part to the fact that I decided to sign up for the SWTOR beta, but against my better judgement, I began to get excited. Each month passed and I gradually became more and more excited and curious about this new MMO. Bioware generally makes decent to excellent games right? They did KOTOR which was fantastic, right? How could they possibly ruin SWTOR? I was drinking the Kool-aid, and man did I drink a lot of it. I soon became almost cultist-like with the amount of pro-SWTOR propaganda that would come spilling out of my mouth. My expectations were so high. Too high one might say. Many of my friends tried to pull me back to earth, tried so hard to make sure I wouldn’t be hurt. I commend them for trying, but it didn’t work. I was higher than a donkey in space (What the hell does that even mean?!) There has been a lot of hype for SWTOR from a lot of different sources too, so it’d be easy for someone to be pulled in like I was. The big question is, did SWTOR meet my expectations?
Awww Yeah! Work that pole!
I must first point out that with any MMORPG, it is difficult to truly give it a definite score for the game’s entirety. MMORPG’s are never actually complete because in the weeks, months, and years after launch these games evolve so much. I would like the reader to understand that this review is based on everything I have experienced. Now that we have that cleared up, let us begin shall we?
Let’s start at the beginning, character creation. Your first task is to choose your allegiance and class. The Republic has access to the Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, and the Trooper. The Sith Empire has access to the Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, the Imperial Agent, and the Bounty Hunter. Each class branches off into two advanced classes you can choose from. From there you get skill trees that further specialize your character’s play style. Then you get to pick your race from various famous Star Wars races. At that point it is time to decide how you will look. This is probably one of the weakest parts of the game. The customization options are good enough to get a decent result and are more detailed than some games, but ultimately it feels a little lacking. I personally would have liked to see more playable race combinations.
I love this quest!
Once you have a carefully and well thought out name selected, like “Darthfacemelter,” you can hit the play button.Your story begins! WHOA WHOA WHOA HOLD THE PHONE?! Did you just say story?! Why in the world would an MMORPG have a story?! Aren’t MMOs just a big race to the end so we can all get our E-peens huge by raiding 9 days a week?! Well sir, I am glad you asked. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, each class has a detailed story filled with all sorts of great moments. SWTOR is different from many other MMOs, especially in this way. The game is very story driven. This is accomplished beautifully with tons and tons and tons of cut scenes filled with voice acting. They aren’t just cut scenes though, because you are given choices for how your character can respond. These responses ultimately affect your character physically.
I will attempt to explain how the Player Versus Environment content works in a simplified manner. You approach an NPC that is offering up a quest. You are then given a cut scene where the NPC gives you details of what is going on. You then react accordingly. Let’s pretend this is a mission to go to a droid factory and destroy the power generators. Obviously you want to get some experience points and some loot. Upon accepting the quest you are then to head on your way. Along the way, you will run into enemies. Upon killing one, you will notice next to your quest tracker that a bonus quest has appeared. It seems you now must kill 15 more of these things. Well, you are going that way anyway, and these things WILL attack you, so hey awesome! Free bonus EXP right? While in the droid factory you may find some other quests, but for this example you don’t. Once you get to the power generators you click on the flashy thing like you’d expect. Then another cut scene begins. A frightened man runs up and explains if you destroy the generators it will release toxins into the river that will kill the fish which is a local village’s food source. You are then given a choice: Either destroy the generators and poison a people’s food source and receive dark side points, or find some alternative way to deal with the situation so that you do not harm these people and receive light side points. The choice is YOURS! These points aren’t just there on your stat sheet either. The more you get, the higher rank in that side you get. For example, my Bounty Hunter is considered Rank II Dark Side. In fact a neat feature is that the dark side has actually corrupted him to where his skin has gone pale, dark circles under his eyes, and he has scorch marks around the corner of his lips. I assume something else happens for light side, but it’s probably silly. There is an option to turn these effects off, but why would you do that? The questing doesn’t feel like typical questing where you click the person, a box of text pops up, look at the rewards, and then just hit accept. No, it actually wraps you into the world of the game and you feel involved. There are some that complain that you can’t skip the cut scenes and just power through, but maybe just maybe this isn’t the game for you. Some of these quests are more difficult and require a group. These are called heroic quests, and can be quite fun. This also shows off how Bioware encourages grouping. In a group during these cut scenes, everyone gets to pick something to say. Once all the choices are picked a die is rolled and the highest actually gets to speak. During these grouped cut scenes you earn social points which you can redeem for all sorts of great items later. Also, don’t freak out because some goody two shoes decides to save the day and be all light side. Even though his roll won, you will still get dark side points if you chose a dark side choice. The other form of grouping are Flashpoints, which are pretty much dungeons. Many of them are filled with story rich cut scenes, while several others just turn you loose to get to working together.
Sure, killing off AI can be fun and rewarding, but sometimes you just gotta beat another player’s ass. Well, SWTOR is no slouch when it comes to PVP. It begins with the Warzones. Currently there are three, each with a different play style. First you have Battle for Alderaan which is your typical capture point type. In this mode, you are to capture three turrets to have them fire at the enemy ships in orbit. The second is Void Star, which is an attacker/defender type. One team has a door in three areas to destroy to get to a computer console. They can plant bombs on the doors, but the defenders can disarm them. Once the attacker team completes the objective, the defenders get a shot at attacking, but they only get the amount of time it took the attackers. Then comes my favorite. ARE YOU READY FOR SOME HUTTBALL?! Huttball is the newest intergalactic sport that takes two teams. These two teams must compete to gain control of a ball. Once they gain control they must cross the other team’s goal with it. At first you’re thinking “So it’s like capture the flag?” Well partially right, except you can pass the ball! Which also means you can intercept the ball! All the while an announcer is calling the plays! The ball carrier is slowed down, so it takes a lot of team work and good passing to score. If that wasn’t enough, the Huttball field is filled with hazards like flame thrower panels and acid pools. That’s not all. Huttball is the only Warzone that can have the same faction playing against each other! That’s right, Sith vs Sith, Republic vs Republic, and of course the standard Sith vs Republic. This greatly increases the player pool. By doing Warzones you get credits, experience, valor (which is your pvp level) and accommodations which are used to purchase pvp gear. Also a neat thing is that at the end of each match you can vote for someone as MVP. Each vote they get gives them more accommodations. The actual fighting in pvp seems very balanced so far. It’s obvious that Bioware cares about pvp because they have done a neat thing, and everyone gets this little bar under their health. You will notice it filling every time they are affected by crowd control. Once it’s full, they become immune to all CC affects for a short period of time. It gives you something to pay attention to so you don’t pop your stuns when you know it won’t work.
As you level up in your class story, you eventually get your first of many companions. Companions follow you around and support you. Depending on their “class” they can heal you or just help you kill stuff. They also like to sit in on your conversations and react to things you say. If they enjoy the way you make your choices, you may be able to score some virtual nookie from them. These companions can be outfitted just like you would your own character. They can also fill a spot if your group is in a bind. While they are not as good as player, they can often still prove useful. You will also notice that they aren’t complete morons just running around doing whatever. Their AI is actually pretty decent, as they know when to heal you and when not to shoot. I would say though that the companions’ most important tasks are the crew skills.
Crew Skills are SWTOR’s wacky way of naming their crafting system. You get three crafting skills. Typically you get one that makes stuff, like Armstech which makes weapons. Then you get two gathering skills. The best part is that ultimately you don’t have to do any of it! Sick of gathering materials all day? Well, just send your companion to do it! That’s right, you can put your companions to work by sending them on gathering missions and even telling them what stuff to make with it. Upon making an item you can reverse engineer it to get parts back. While doing this there is a chance to discover a better version of the thing you just made. This gives the crafting system a little more depth.
Speaking of items, one of the coolest things I have seen in an MMO is the modding system. Let’s say you get this really awesome piece of armor. In a typical game you’d have to replace it with some crappy purple robe because it has better stats. In SWTOR, they have certain pieces of equipment that you can mod. If you have one of these pieces and like the way you look, you can just mod it! What am I talking about by saying mod it? Well, modable armor has a few mod slots in it. These slots can be filled with armor plating, mod kits, and other enhancements. As long as you keep the mods upgraded, you can keep looking badass! The coolest thing that makes so much sense is that you can take the mods out (for a moderate price) and keep them. Essentially this means you can have multiple modable armor sets and just swap out the mods whenever you wanna change your look. There are some versions of this type of system in other games, but not nearly as great as this! It’s so user friendly and makes sense in lor as well as in game play.
Not only do you get access to your own companions, you get your own ship. These ships are used for you to travel to different planets, as well as to give your unused companions a place to hang out. These ships aren’t just for show either. You can also go on space missions and fight in epic space battles. There has been talk about the on-rails nature of the space battles. Well, you know what game is an on-rails space shooter? Star Fox! Panzer Dragoon! These games are great fun! The space battles in SWTOR are just as good if you ask me. You are also able to upgrade your ship’s weapons, armor, and shields.
The game play appears at first to be what some would call “tab targeting.” Well, most MMOs are. That’d be like calling Mario games an “A to jump” platformer. There is no auto-attack which is nice, keeps you in the action as you use your epic feeling abilities. Bioware had a vision to make everyone feel epic, and I think it was fulfilled. Right from the start you get some decent abilities that make you feel like what you are playing. From there the abilities get better and more specialized depending on which route you go. There are the typical skill trees that you use to put points in.
This is all accompanied by a great soundtrack filled with new and classic Star Wars tunes. The music goes great with the graphical look of the game. Environments look amazing as do the character models and creatures.
[review title=”Star Wars: The Old Republic” pros=”Very Polished! Great Game Play, Great art style, great voice acting, great PvE, Great PvP, Great story. The Game FEELS like Star Wars. The planets get bigger and bigger and feel very alive. You feel EPIC as you play.” cons=”The character customization can be limiting.” verdict=”I have played a lot of MMORPGs. I have been playing them for over ten years now. I can honestly say that SWTOR is the best one I have ever played. The thing that excites me even more is the future of it. Bioware has already hinted at some great things they have planned. (Capital ships for guilds?! YES PLEASE) There is so much potential for great updates and expansions. New Races! New Planets! New Story! Star Wars is a rich universe and this game can really bank off of that. It really has that great Star Wars feel which is very important.” score=100]