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Star Wars The Old Republic review

31. March, 2012Tags: MMO Blog, SWTOR
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Star Wars the Old Republic

Free to play MMORPG

Publisher: EA

Released: 2011

PLAY SWTOR FOR FREE

Star Wars: The Old Republic has had the biggest launch for an MMO in recent memory. There have been CGI trailers at games conventions and on the TV, advertisements in game shops and wherever geeks congregate and you’d probably be having to try pretty hard to avoid mention of it. Bioware, the company that brought the Star Wars universe to life so perfectly in RPG form for Knights of the Old Republic, have been given the reigns again, and they’ve proven themselves so incredibly capable in the past that it would be hard to believe their first MMO could be anything short of perfect.

SWTOR review

That’s the attitude I came to Star Wars The Old Republic with, a certainty that a certain amount of money and time could make the game at least extremely passable. Bioware are in a position that almost no other MMO developer are in – they have an amazing amount of funding and have had years to spend time perfecting the experience. If it wasn’t a pretty decent game I’d be more than surprised. As it happens, it’s better than a decent game and, if you don’t agree that they’re managed to move the genre forward in some areas, you’ll agree that they’re created a very fun game.

Stunning Opening Cut-Scene

Opening with an absolutely stunning cut-scene, The Old Republic sets the “Star Wars” scene immediately. The music, the characters, even the way the scenes are directed will instantly remind you of the films. It sets the scene of good versus evil within moments and even if you’re not a fan of the series, you’ll be up to date very quickly, as well as seeing some decent action into the bargain. Picking your allegiance, as part of the Republic or Sith, will start another action-filled cutscene, showing off some of the classes you’ll be able to choose from. This is a game you’ll want to keep playing thanks to the classes alone.

There are several classes to choose from, ranging from smugglers and bounty Hunters right through to Jedi knights and Sith warriors. Each class is a fairly broad approximation of a character from the movies so, if you can’t get enough of Han Solo, you can play as a smuggler and be greeted with the chance of being a similarly roguish personality. Once you’ve chosen your character, you can change the way he looks, The Old Republic is another game in which you can edit facial features quite a bit. I’m not saying you’ll be able to create a completely original character, but you won’t end up looking identical to everybody else.

Star Wars fans will feel at home

You’ll soon be dropped directly into the action and, if you’re a long-time Star Wars fan, you’ll feel right at home. Characters look familiar in a way that you’re not surprised they’re part of the universe, the music is done by LucasArts and at times it’s difficult to tell whether it’s directly out of the movie or not and even the general atmosphere feels very akin to the films. You have a game here that has been approved every step of the way by people who were involved in the films and it shows and benefits from that. If you were worried that this would just be an MMO set in the Star Wars universe, you shouldn’t be, this is very much a Star Wars game first and an MMO second.

In fact, for much of what I played I felt it could very much be a single player game. I spoke to non-player characters, choosing the attitude I wanted to convey (in a system you’ll instantly recognise if you’ve ever enjoyed a Bioware title in the past), and performed missions whilst only being vaguely aware that some of the people running around were being controlled by real people. Instead of dungeons, in which a team of us could fight monsters, those “instanced” moments led to cut scenes and story missions separate from anybody I didn’t choose to bring along. It’s a fantastic system that I haven’t seen before and, more than just “kill so many creatures,” truly makes me want to continue with the game.

Graphics

Graphically, The Old Republic is probably better than average but not so much that it leaves other games behind. You can see far into the distance, but actual objects – cages, buildings, enemies – appear slower than landscape objects, mountains and the like. It works quite well and I’m not sure if it’s something that I’ve seen done so well in the past or if it’s something that happens all the time and I just haven’t noticed it. The worlds are bright and colourful, as you’d expect from anything related to Star Wars, and there’s a surprising amount going on considering how well it runs on relatively low specs.

Fantastic Voice acting

One of the big sellers for The Old Republic was the voice acting and playing through I can see why. Coming from a predominantly console background, I’m often put off by MMOs because of their lack of a constant story. If I come across a mission in the average MMO, there’s a good chance that nothing at all is going to change because I do that mission. I’m going to kill so many of the same enemy and then I’m going to be given experience. The voices make it seem like a single player game, like you’re having an effect on the world. You’re not really, of course, everybody does the same missions, but it makes all the difference.

Battle

Battle is fairly standard. You have a set of moves laid out at the bottom and, when you come across enemies, you sit and watch as your character beats the hell out of an enemy. It’s standard in the MMORPG genre and The Old Republic doesn’t shake anything up all that much. What I’ll say about enemies, and again this isn’t something I’ve necessarily noticed in the same capacity before, is that they won’t just stand there waiting for you to kill them. I’ve seen enemies kneeling down, presumably washing themselves in the river, or leaning against a tree because they’re injured. It’s a nice touch and something that’s definitely noticeable when you’re used to enemies just milling about, looking bored.
And as nice as the battle animations are, because they do make for enjoyable viewing, they’re still just animations and you’ll spend much of your time tapping on the “1” key and hoping for the best. Still, it feels pretty exciting when you’re surrounded by enemies and you take them all out with epic looking force powers and light sabre skills. Still, it tends to get a little bit dry after a while and you find yourself looking forward to story sections rather than actually getting to those story sections.

Star Wars The Old Republic review

 

End-game

There are also people complaining about the end game coming a little sooner than expected. Bioware apparently didn’t expect people to get through the game as quickly as they did and, unsurprisingly, there were dedicated people who managed to get to the ending very, very quickly. If you’re one of those people who will play The Old Republic single-mindedly for the next few weeks, you’ll probably be disappointed by its length when compared with other MMOs. With that said, I’d quite happily play through each class’s story and, for the average player, that would probably be quite a bit of play time.
It’s also worth noting that you’re going to need to do a huge download if you want to play The Old Republic. We’re talking as much as 15-16 GB of data, much of that will probably be the voice work. I loved the characterisation (and hearing voice actors I recognised) so in hindsight the download probably wasn’t all that bad, but at the time it was rather frustrating. If you can leave your computer on overnight, I suggest doing that, otherwise prepare your download accordingly and expect not to play for a while after signing up. I think it took me a constant 10 hours to download at a little under a MB a second, to give you some idea of what’s going to happen.

Star Wars The Old Republic review

The conclusion:

The Old Republic is a game that some people would have loved to have hated. Those people will be disappointed because, if it isn’t a game that other developers should aspire to, it’s a game that is incredibly well made. For casual MMO gamers, there’s enough there that this could be your game of choice for a long time to come and I think with expansions on the way, even core fans will find themselves hard pushed to complain too much. My biggest fault is also the bit I appreciate the most: how well this game would play out in single player. With that said, it’s a fantastic game and one that I’m even considering subscribing to, that need to keep playing is perhaps the biggest compliment I can give it.

What do you think?


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