Star Wars: The Old Republic “Final” Review – Part (3/3)
The holiday season no doubt has you wondering whether or not to pick up the latest Star Wars MMORPG. To help you with that decision, we’ve publishing a three-part Impressions series that offers the opinions of a few GameFront writers on Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The article that follows continues to explore the TOR’s mid-level experience. Each writer will present his take on Flashpoints, Warzones, and conclude with a final assessment of the game. Keep reading to find out what we thought!
Full disclosure: Played a Sith Warrior (Marauder) to Level 30
Previous MMO experience: WoW, RIFT, LotRO, DDO, WAR, and more.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game that has, quite honestly, surprised me. I played in the beta, and came away thinking that it would be a competent game, but a relatively uninspiring one. When the release date rolled around, I pulled on my reviewer’s hat and dove in, expecting much of the same. To my surprise, I found myself drawn into the game in a way that the beta didn’t prepare me for. Why? Well, let’s come back to that.
The first thing you should understand about The Old Republic is that it’s a Bioware RPG at heart. If you’ve played their games through the years, you’ll feel right at home here. In fact, the game feels like it could be a stellar singleplayer game much of the time. Sure, you can’t do the Heroic quests, Flashpoints, or PvP by yourself, but the vast majority of the game feels like you could strike out on your own and be just fine.
I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing, though. After all, MMOs are all about community and groups. The main reason I played World of Warcraft as long as I did was that I was playing with an amazingly fun group of people along the way, and they kept the game exciting for me far longer than WoW itself did. Hopefully, the higher level content in ToR will bring people together in the same way.
Graphically, ToR captures a great aesthetic “feel” of Star Wars. Dromann Kaas just feels like a Sith planet. It’s somehow “right.” I don’t know exactly how to enunciate it except to say that you’ll know when you see it. Unfortunately, there are a ton of questions right now about just what Bioware’s doing with the high-res textures. To be honest, I’m not even sure they know at this point. They need to return a high-res option to players, as being able to bring your rig to its knees is a time-honored rite of PC passage.
Gameplay in ToR is about what you would expect. You activate skills with the click of a button, and chain multiple skills together to take out enemies. One thing that may catch MMO veterans off guard is the lack of an auto-attack. This is important to note, especially early on when not pressing buttons leads to your character standing still and getting pummeled. The combat is actually fun, with lightsaber attacks intermingling with Force powers to create a wide array of options to utilize. Plus, you don’t have to make the lightsaber sounds with your mouth anymore.
One thing I really appreciated was the way leveling zones were broken into planets. The break to return to your ship, do a couple of space missions (more on these later), and then head off to the next planet was a welcome one. It makes much more sense than the dramatically different terrains of the zones in other MMOs being separated by an imaginary line on an in-game map. However, Tatooine is a place you will want off of before you’re done there. My Sith Warrior wanted off there so badly that he felt like Luke Skywalker.
Space missions. I’m actually kind of torn here. The space missions were a blast at first, even though they’re basically just third-person rail shooters. Unfortunately, it seems that the number of missions is extremely limited, and you end up doing them over and over if you want to amass fleet commendations. You’ll also want to spend some time and credits upgrading your ship if you want to be successful in space. The missions still kind of neat, but only if you limit them to just breaking up the time between planets.
I’m not a big PvPer in MMOs, but the PvP in ToR was actually enjoyable. Partly that’s because it was just generally fun, but it’s also partly due to the fact that it’s very rewarding. Even if you’re stuck on a bad team or just unlucky, you’ll still earn rewards and experience for your efforts.
Crafting is one of my favorite new systems in ToR, mostly because you don’t have to deal with any of the tedium involved in it. No longer will you spend hours standing at a workbench to craft items. That’s what your companions are for! Need a bunch of crafting materials? Send a companion on a run! The fact that crafted gear is actually quite good is a bonus, but removing the feeling of tedious grinding from crafting is a masterstroke for Bioware.
All of these things are a part of what makes up ToR, but we haven’t touched on the biggest element of the game just yet: Story. It’s the story that makes come alive, and that’s what’s drawn me further into it than I would have thought possible. Why? I can’t really put a finger on it. It could be the voice acting. Having every quest interaction voice acted puts a value on that time that you almost feel compelled to respect. It could be watching my character slowly morph into the powerful, Dark Side weilding Sith Lord that he’s becoming. It could be that I’m just a huge Star Wars fan.
Any of these could be the reason, but I’m going to go with this: the story is compelling. Chasing around the galaxy to eliminate threats to my Sith Master? It meshes so well with what we expect from the Star Wars universe that it’s almost frightening. Bioware has given all the Star Wars fans out there (and there are a lot of them) a chance to live and take part in one of their favorite fictional experiences. That’s a powerful thing, and not one that you should scoff at.
Overall, ToR does a lot of things right. Sure, there are bugs, glitches and the like. Every MMO has them at launch. The high-res texture issue and the responses to it are also big issues. However, these issues shouldn’t keep you from playing SWToR, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. It’s a technically competent game that runs pretty darn well on even older systems, and more importantly, it’s a lot of fun. It’s not going to re-imagine the way MMOs are played (except for the crafting changes, every MMO needs those), but it’s a great entry into the genre. It’s certainly going to be around for years to come, and will only get better as Bioware refines its systems. If you’re an MMO fan, or just a fan of Star Wars, odds are you’ll enjoy giving The Old Republic a try.