It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most anticipated MMORPGs. It’s going to have it all: over 200 hours of gameplay unique to each class and your individual character choices; thousands of voiced-over characters to meet and interact with; an in-depth class system that allows you to branch off and determine your own role in the galaxy; and most importantly, it has a universe that has decades of rich history and tradition, coupled with a huge following. With the traditional films, fan films, and books exploring the many stories in the Star Wars universe, this story-driven massive-multiplayer online game from BioWare and LucasArts has the luxury of creating a game that takes place in an already well-established universe.
There is no doubt that the game will be fun, in the sense that you can explore an age when the war between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire was at it’s peak. Ever since the film, I have wanted to be a part of the Star Wars story. Now I get the chance to. I get the chance to be the smuggler I’ve always wanted to be. I can also be a Jedi, a Sith, a Bounty Hunter, or choose from an array of classes that BioWare has revealed to us. I will get a chance to battle the enemies I’ve seen in the movies and read in the books, along with friends.
Here in lies the problem. The story is there. The history is there. The traditional Star Wars classes are there. The epic soundtrack I’ve spent countless hours humming is there. Most importantly, is the gameplay there? Judging from the previews we’ve seen and the demos at E3, this is where Star Wars: The Old Republic fails to distinguish itself from other MMORPGs on the market, and it could ultimately hinder the overall STWOR experience.
Let’s take a look at the class system. It follows the basic structure of most MMORPGs. You create a character and follow the rules of that class system. You level up and upgrade your skills; and although some of those skills will be different than what other people choose (the class branches out into individual roles you can fill), it’s still the same thing that already exists. You will ultimately fill the individual role of tank, or damage dealer, or mage, or healer, or anything else you’ve already heard of, but with a Star Wars skin on it. Is that skin enough to make up for a class system that has already flooded the MMORPG market?
Now we have the combat which, from what we’ve seen, is a faster version of what we’re already used to. You use hotkeys to perform your skills, much like the traditional World of Warcraft. The only difference is the cooldowns seem much quicker making the combat appear quicker. Nothing new or different here.
At the end of the day, it’s a Star Wars game and I’m going to end up getting it, simply for the fact that I’m a fanboy and will try anything Star Wars related. I have no doubts that Star Wars: The Old Republic will take story-telling in MMORPGs to the next level. For that reason alone, I think I will spend countless hours on the game. 200+ hours of unique voiced-over gameplay is something we haven’t seen in an MMORPG yet, but we have seen this type of combat and leveling system, and that is the reason I fear it will get stale very quickly. While I do think story is important in a game, it’s the gameplay mechanics that Star Wars: The Old Republic is using that have been holding back the MMORPG genre from advancing to the next level.
I leave you with this final question. Are the Star Wars Universe, characters and story enough to make up for lack of innovative gameplay?