Star Wars: The Old Republic Review in Progress
Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally upon us. After years of teasers and trailers, everyone finally gets to jump in, choose their side, and live out their epic Star Wars story.
If anything's for certain, MMO's require a lot of dedication, which means in order to give a full review, I'm going to need some time to truly see everything that this massive game has to offer. I'll be periodically updating my progress, as well as giving my thoughts on the various aspects of the game.
I actually had quite a lot of hands-on time with SWTOR, having had access to previous betas, as well as the early access, in which I fully exhausted my days to level as fast as I could. At those times, getting into the game was a quick process. However, as the game was nearing its launch day, queue times plagued almost every server, to the point where people had to wait hours just to be able to create their character. Though it really isn't a negative point on the game itself, it does however show that Bioware possibly needed way more servers in order to accommodate the massive amounts of people trying to log in.
One fairly disappointing aspect is the lack of some truly iconic Star Wars races. Aside from the complete lack of Wookies, you can't play as Rodians or Togrutas. You have access to Humans, Cyborgs, Chiss, Twi'leks, Sith Purebloods, Zabraks, Miralukas, Mirialans, and Rattataki. It sounds like a lot, but not every race has access to each class. I'm willing to bet that Bioware is saving some of the previously mentioned races for inevitable expansion packs. There isn't a whole lot of customization either, aside from a few sliders that automatically change your characters appearance, instead of letting you tweak individual parameters. Still, it at least ensures that your character will look mostly bad ass, instead of some deformed-looking creature.
Each side, Empire or Republic, has access to four classes each. Republic can wield the lightsaber as a Jedi Consular or Jedi Knight, use a blaster as a Smuggler, or lay on the heavy artillery as a Trooper. The Empire has access to the deadly Sith Warrior or Sith Inquisitor, take on the role of a Bounty Hunter, or the cover-based Imperial Agent. What's more is that each of these classes branch out to two separate classes, or Specializations, that thankfully play very different from each other. For example the Sith Warrior can turn into a Sith Marauder that wields two lightsabers but wears medium armor (essentially a DPS character), or he can turn into a Sith Juggernaut, a heavy armor wearing class that only wields one lightsaber. This essentially brings the class total number to 16. Each specialization also has three trees that further distinguish your style of play. The Marauder gets two different types of dps (damage over time and burst) and a third tree that the Juggernaut shares. The Juggernaut has a dps tree and a tank (defense) tree.
I myself started out as a Sith Warrior. I was originally going to play Republic, but through the pressure of my peers, I went Empire. Much to my relief, I was still able to play as a good guy, even though I was on the side of the Empire. This is something that's synonymous with Bioware games--a system that lets players affect their morality by choosing various responses. The same goes for SWTOR, and surprisingly, it opens up some interesting story moments throughout your adventure. But I'll come back to that a little later.
As my human Sith Warrior, I started off on the red planet of Korriban. The game eases players in, ensuring that you're comfortable with how this game plays. Once you start adventuring, you'll notice that this is far from the usual MMO experience. In some ways you could call SWTOR a game-changer. It is so unlike any MMO you've ever played, that it's a breath of fresh air knowing that you're part of a storyline that you're actually going to care about. If there is anything that I can attest to, it's growing incredibly bored, really fast when playing previous MMO's. Not once did I read quest descriptions, not once did I care about what I picked up from my fallen enemies.
It was a grind, simple as that.
This is probably one of the more important aspects of SWTOR, the fact that nothing feels like a grind. Sure there are tons of sidequests, but each of them feels like a part of the story, or equally as important. You still might have to go kill a few things to collect their insides, but then it can turn out the person who you wanted to turn them into, wants to make a poison out of them, and you have a choice to either give it to them, or turn it into one of their associates who will alter them in a way to make the poison non-lethal. This is not an exact example, but scenarios like this will definitely come up a lot. And to think, things like this aren't even related to your main quest.
Each class has varied and drastically different storylines, though you will be traveling alongside each other to the same planets. This is a smart decision which allows for different classes to still be able to pair up with each other, even as they progress through their different storylines.
One of the biggest reasons for the 20GB install size is the voice acting. I'm not going to beat around the bush, it's really good. Not only is each NPC that offers quests fully voiced, your character has a voice of his own, which is by far one of the most unique things to an MMO. You can't change your character's voice, so it won't always fit the look you decide to give them, but it adds a layer of personality to your online self--a personality that was previously only shown by the gear you wore and the emotes you performed.
Bioware brought over yet another staple from their RPGs--companions. This was one of the more curious things that I just couldn't comprehend how they would work in a persistent online world, filled with tons of other people, but alas, companions happen to be one of the most useful things in the MMO. Throughout your travels, you'll come across various NPC's that you'll start questing for and eventually gain as trusted companions. If you've played KotOR, then you'll know exactly how this system works. They walk with you, aid you in battle, provide healing capabilities (if they have them), and help you with crafting. What's great is that they often can substitute the need of having to look for another player, as they're able to help out with fairly tough quest objectives. You can only have one companion summoned at a time however, so don't expect to be running a four-player instance with three of your companions at your side.
In our next Review in Progress, I'll go over crafting, spaceships and space battles, talent trees, and PVP content that's sure to get your blood boiling.