Impressions of the The Old Republic Beta

The Old Republic is one of the most hyped games of the year, and after spending a weekend with the beta, I had the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about for myself. Because I’ve always been one to eat from the buffet table rather than commit to ordering a single meal, I created a half dozen characters, but sank most of my time into a Sith Marauder that I quested up to level 12.

My background: I’ve tried a couple dozen MMOs over the past decade, but my interest in any particular game tends to die once I hit the mid-level grind. I’m partial to sci-fi settings, since fantasy is overdone, and I’m a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy — the prequels grievously wounded my interest in the franchise.

The Setting

The Old Republic takes place thousands of years before Darth Vader, in a period more akin to the prequel movies than the classics. “Stormtroopers” are good guys*, the Galactic Empire is still the Galactic Republic, and practitioners of the Force are so common that anyone who can’t telekinetically lift a stone seems like a buck-toothed yokel.

(*They’re not actually stormtroopers, but the Galactic Republic troopers are the spiritual ancestors of the stormtroopers.)

While I’m not a fan of this older setting, it lends itself better to an MMO framework than the classic Star Wars setting, which would have seen such interesting class options as “dumbass clone stormtrooper,” “Ewok muppet,” and “no, we can’t have half a million Jedi running around; it goes against canon.” Fortunately, Bioware knows we love classic Star Wars and has injected TOR with old-school SW flavor in the form of Han Solo-like smugglers, Bobba Fett-style bounty hunters, and Vader-esque Sith warriors. They also didn’t skimp on the cool concepts introduced in the prequels, like dual-bladed lightsabers and Force-powered combat maneuvers.

At its most basic, the game’s premise is as follows: the Jedi Order believed the Sith were extinct; they were wrong. Way wrong. In fact, the Sith were the complete opposite of extinct — their numbers became so huge that they staged a full-scale invasion that currently has the Galactic Republic (good guys) and the Sith Empire (jerks with an unhealthy obsession with the color red)
evenly matched in ongoing hostilities.

Apparently, during the entirety of the time the Sith were rebuilding their empire, no one on the Jedi Council ever felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if a million Sith were gearing up to kick some major ass. You can hand wave this plot hole away by saying that the Sith used the Force to hide their presence, but it’s the Star Wars equivalent of “a wizard did it.”

That said, it’s not too hard a pill to swallow, given that Star Wars has never truly been science fiction, but science fantasy. Midi-chlorians notwithstanding, the Force is basically magic, morality is black and white (or red and blue/green, as it were), and all that sword fighting speaks for itself. Star Wars manages to capture the correct ratio of Science Fiction to Fantasy to cater to a wide audience, strategically avoiding the “hard sci-fi” that — much to my chagrin — alienates most demographics.

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8 Comments on Impressions of the The Old Republic Beta

Luther

On December 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

I take it you have never played final fantasy 11? It had the best story telling of any mmo made that i know of with full cut scenes and even CG at times like getting access to a brand new zone from an expansion, it never had the voice acting you are correct about that, this game here is the first mmo to have full voice acting but not the first to do in-depth story telling / story progression into endgame content.

I’m interested in trying out Starwars tho, thanks for the review.

Luther

On December 1, 2011 at 3:32 am

O yeah a quick note, we had to wait for people to finish cut-scenes all the time in ff11, it was never an issue for us, so we’ll have to see if people are more inpatient then they used to be in 2004 or just different player base.

Aids

On December 1, 2011 at 6:02 am

Like all new MMO’s people are more so on the extreme/zealot level of things. Either it’s the best thing ever or no it’s crap and should be sent to the trash.

People should turn the damn internet off and stop being little whiny es. Not all games that come out have to be the holy grail. You can just enjoy and play games for what they are instead of giving everyone else a damn headache.

josh

On December 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

Played the beta and as a long time WoW player I have to say it was fun, the Story was interesting, the quest were fun, the game play was good. As with any MMO you are going to be grinding, you are going to have to learn how new things work and you gotta get that rep up, if you don’t like that then MMOs are not for you.

Will Star wars be the next WoW, I don’t really think we will see anyone take that title for a very long time, but will Star Wars take a good chunk of people away from WoW, yes it will happen. There are a lot of unhappy WoW players and even more that are just bored of the game, Star Wars will be a nice change of pace.

David

On December 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

Agree with this article.

@Aids: No one is forcing you to listen…

zach

On December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I thought the beta was an extremely fun change of pace and I cant wait to see how the game end. But that’s just me.

Nozyspy

On December 2, 2011 at 12:39 am

I also played the beta and hugely enjoyed it, though it is not a sandbox game like Star Wars Galaxies, it is more like KotOr Online.

And a note to the reviewer; the Republic Troops are more like ancestors to the Clone Troopers, the Sith Empire has its own troops that are the visual ancestors to the Stormtroopers. ;)

And a not to all WoW players that come to this game, this is science fiction dammit, it is Star Wars, force powers are NOT ‘cast’. If you are going to play a sci fi themed game, make sure you familiarise yourself with the terms first, instead of bringing all the WoW fantasy jibberish over! =P

Nozy

CHoedy

On December 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

@ Luther

FF11 is a ing joke.