Varied planets, voluptuous women and manly men, all decked out in the finest armor and gear running about in a museum of animated mannequins doing mundane things to trick you that life truly exists in The Old Republic. People run up to captains, bartenders and droids, collecting their individual bounties, uninterested in one another as they play out their individual stories and lives. This is Star Wars The Old Republic at a glance – a single player’s dream in MMORPG form.
If you want Star Wars Galaxies level of communication, interaction and cyber, you will be very disappointed in this game. The MMO aspect is similar to Guild Wars in that you pick and choose when and where you play with others and you could do fine without ever saying a word to anyone else. People who lamented Bioware’s choice to go with an MMO instead of a single player KOTOR sequel could buy this game, run out the story with all 8 archetypes and be more than fulfilled with the game as a genuine addition to the Knights of The Old Republic saga. The remnants of Revan are talked about, quested and reminded of in this game and it ties in very well with the former titles.
This does not mean that you cannot treat SWTOR like an average MMORPG however… If your idea of fun is spamming “LFG” while killing 100 Pirates on Hutta in order to grind out a level or 2 then you can very much do that just like an Everquest or a World of Warcraft. For people interested in the story, the world and the lore however – playing through your character’s story is encouraged as it yields the most experience and necessary toys (speeder, spacecraft, companions, etc.) in order to enjoy the game at the top level.
Graphics and Sound: A Multicultural Galaxy of Simplicity
When I was invited to beta test SWTOR for a bit before launch it took me some time to get used to the simplified character designs and world. It reminded me very much of the wonderful Clone Wars animated series (though a bit less blocky), but it was far removed from the realistic looking games that I had been playing (Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, etc.) This initially took some time to get used to since I am the kind of player that normally takes an hour on character creation to make the toon look as close to my real self as possible.
This was my first gripe with the game as it only gives you about 20 preset faces to choose from. When I created my Imperial Agent and picked a somewhat similar looking guy to myself, I noticed that the voice wasn’t the familiar deep, anime version that games tend to lean towards for a protagonist. No, my guy sounded like a slick James Bond type and it took some time to get used to him sounding that way but after a while it began to dawn on me how well done the dialogue in SWTOR really was.
Trust me, once you play SWTOR you will never want to play an MMORPG that forces you to read the NPC speech again.
My secret agent man was able to be everything I wanted him to be… a whoring, gun-toting, anarchist with no loyalty to the Empire outside of cashing their checks at the end of a successful mission.
As with anything Star Wars the crowning achievement besides the visuals (which this game will win no awards on) has to be the soundtrack and SWTOR delivers. The battle music in SWTOR is very reminiscent of the prequel episodes of Star Wars and with the arrival to every planet I was greeted with a memorable melody to accompany the mood.
The naughty music of Hutt-run Nar Shaddaa, the peaceful melody on Hoth and the anxious music of Dromund Kaas are some that come to mind since eventually the music attaches itself to memories of getting ganked by Republic PvPers or being ripped off by an NPC in my story.
The cities include the busy speeder sounds that you heard during the Coruscant scenes in Star Wars Episode II and when you visit the Hutt version of Las Vegas (Nar Shaddaa) you feel very much like you’re in the corrupt, gang-run, sin city of the galaxy.
The sounds absolutely make this game but anyone used to Star Wars will not be surprised by this.
Annoying Bugs and Queue Times
One of the most annoying issues I have found with SWTOR (specifically on my agent) has been bugs that disrupt an otherwise smooth gameplay experience. As an agent one of the most important features that we have is to “take cover”. When in cover we have the advantage of using LOS (Line of Sight) to pick off our enemies with a sniper rifle and duck incoming shots, lightning and saber tosses. One bug that occurs a lot for me has been my agent’s inability to see bosses right in front of him during key shootouts – it’s a pretty major issue which should be fixed sooner than later.
Another major issue was when Bioware limited the size of the servers that were opened for us pre-launch players so that the retail buyers would choose empty servers as opposed to the already heavy ones that we occupied.
This may seem genius on paper but it screwed the players who got in early, leading to wait times of up to an hour at times to be able to play. This was game breaking for a ton of people who lacked my patience. Just imagine being in a group that took you over 30 minutes to pull together and crashing to desktop only to relaunch and be stuck in a queue of 20 minutes. This was a very rough patch for people who had played the game heavily for days leading up to the 20th of December (launch day).
8+ Iconic Stories of Standard Bioware Faire
As I alluded to in the first few paragraphs, SWTOR allows me to play my agent the way I wish him to be played – as a money driven, James Bond of outer space. The story that Bioware provides for him progresses you so well through the game that you never feel like skipping his tale to grind out levels the traditional MMO way. The twists and turns in the career of my agent is like a movie as it plays out and as I accomplished certain things, made key decisions and defeated my marks, the world adjusted to me.
Every character class has his/her own tale to play out in a series of Chapters in TOR. New players are given companions throughout their adventure which can be servants, partners, lovers and even spouses. Think of it as Mass Effect with a Star Wars skin in terms of relating to companions and gaining loyalty, respect and love. There is so much to do besides the story however that the drawback to this is that you may end up out-leveling the missions by spending too much time PVPing, raiding or piloting – which gives massive experience as well.
People expected Star Wars: The Old Republic to come into the MMORPG genre and bring about a huge change in gaming dynamics than the current king (World of Warcraft). This was not the case and people who fooled themselves into believing this were turned away uttering bull like “WoW Clone” or “WoW with lightsabers”. These people aren’t far off the mark when it comes to the actual game mechanics but SWTOR has found a way to make single player gamers fit in with the MMO hogs and coexist happily. This to me is a huge step in the right direction for MMO’s.
One of the downside of MMORPG’s in the past for me has been the need to guild up or spam “LFG” in order to progress. I can recall the early days of Everquest 2 when this was necessary and it made for guilds with needy members that made the guild master’s job a nightmare at times. That build of game would never win over a person who was content playing a game like KOTOR which allowed him/her to logout once they were done with their playtime for the night.
I have played most of my characters solo and outside of groups and absolutely love the independence. SWTOR allows you to only choose a group if that is your style of gameplay, it isn’t mandated like other MMOs (not counting the fabulous Guild Wars).
In closing I will say that this is an extremely fun game for lovers of Star Wars lore and those of you like myself who quit MMO games for the very reasons that I outlined above. SWTOR has been a breath of fresh air and a fun distraction for this Star Wars fan.