Friday, December 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Review

: Review : Aaron M. :
It’s finally here!  The long awaited MMO from Bioware The Old Republic.  Fans of the films and culture have a new way of exploring the Star Wars universe.  Bioware, which is well known for many of it’s other RPG games such as Mass Effect and the original Kights of the Old Republic games for the Xbox bring their amazing ability to tell an expansive story and quality game play to an all new MMO.  What separates this game from other’s in the ever growing market of MMO’s nowadays is that all quests are fully voice acted, not just main story lines but all of them.  Separate lines of dialogue for each response, light side, dark side, or neutral.  More on that later though.

The hardest part in reviewing an MMO is that there is often so much content that it would take months to write a full fledged review on the main story line, quests, crafting, various game play elements and so on, that I have gotten opinions from multiple people that I have played with in game and talked to outside of.  Personally at the time of this review I have made it to level 20 with my Sith Maurauder.  The other people who I have asked for have played both dark side and light side and are at further paths along their main stories and higher ranks then I have yet to achieve.  So I will relate their findings here as well.

The Old Republic’s structure would be closer to an MMO like WOW rather then Star Wars Galaxies or say Second Life.  Obviously for those who have grown up with the Star Wars universe know all about the conflicts between the Empire and the Republic.  After you choose your side you will pick your class which will determine which main story line you will partake in.

Once you reach level 10 you have an important decision to make.  As each class gets a choice between two advanced classes to become.  For example the Sith Warrior class turns into the Sith Marauder or the Sith Juggernaut.  The Marauder is a duel lightsaber wielding specialist and does quick strikes to take down enemies while the Juggernaut is more of a tank, absorbing damage and using a double bladed lightsaber. (Think Darth Maul)  You have to make these decisions about what advanced class you want to play pretty early on and you are unable to change your advanced class without starting over so make sure you know what you want to do before you start.
Something those familiar with other MMO’s will likely notice early on is that you can’t just run from one side of the world to the other.  This is Star Wars, where you often deal with civilized areas and even though you may be sent out into the wilds to kill monsters, the area’s of interest on an entire expansive planet is where you’ll be spending your time.  The Old Republic is divided by planets and ships.  Even though it fits into the Star Wars universe I couldn’t help but feel a little disjointed at times.  You can’t visit any planet you want to early on, (At level 16 I’d only been to two of them but have already been given clues in dialogue I’ll be leaving again shortly.) You are limited to your choice of planets pretty much by level you currently are.  Even though you could go to a planet later on for a level 50 you wouldn’t be much more then meals on wheels for the local inhabitants.

As for quest structure they are your typical MMO sort with going and killing a certain NPC then reporting back or killing X number of enemies while obtaining Y number of items.  Many times during quests though these gathering or killing a certain amount of something will be regarded as a bonus objective that has no outcome on the quest overall but is good for extra XP.  Although because of the dialogue based structure before, during, and after quests you get to make choices on the outcome of what happens.  Like say when you run into a choice of saving the lives of slaves put into droid bodies or sending the droids to the empire to put to work and be experimented on it makes doing some of these tasks a little more involving and seem to have more meaning.  Playing as a class such as a Bounty Hunter it felt natural to be doing jobs for money and not really on defining whether I was light side or dark side where as during other classes I would stick to their affiliation while questing.  There is plenty of lore spread amongst the quests as well but while some quests have a good arc to them other ones simply ended just when it seemed as though they were going to lead to something significant.  It’s kind of a let down at times.

Just like other MMO’s you are able to craft items and even modify gear and weapons with mods to help improve them.  Don’t like that red lightsaber you found because your a Jedi?  Find and mod it with a different color crystal when you find it.  Just know that they are rare.  The rarest of all of them being the Purple one.  So all of you Mace Windau wanna-be’s will have your work cut out for you hunting one down.

One thing that really gets to me about all Star Wars games and not just this one has to do with their deal with how lightsaber’s are used.  Lightsabers are kind of the godly weapon of the universe that with one quick swipe will turn you into sliced salami.  In these games it’s more like your hitting someone with a glowing wiffel bat.  You character will swing and hit someone but their life lowers slowly as if there’s an invisible sheild.  They could have represented something like this in one way or another to mke a little more sense but I understand as from a game play stand point why this is so.
As for Space travel, which you do in fact get your own ship to travel the galaxy and take part in space battles, this is where I find there is the most room for improvement.  While you don’t get to just fly around free flight and space battles are made up of on rails shooting.  Although Bioware has stated that they have big plans for the future of this portion of the game so improvements are being planned which is a good thing to note.

Solo play for The Old Republic is one to be desired in other MMO’s because it introduces Companions. The companions though offer a nice change from the “pets” that other MMO’s always offer.  Yeah they helped you in battles as well but Companions are more then that.  You can choose what you want your companions to do for you.  Your Crew Abilities which you can choose 1 from each of a set of 3 different Crew Skills. Gathering, Crafting, and Mission.  You are able to send your companions off to gather materials for you instead of you having to go out and find all the parts you need to craft that amazing piece of armor or weapon you want.  Just have your companion go out find the pieces and then craft it for you and sell your junk.  You can even send them out to complete simple missions for you as well.  It’s something I found very intriguing when playing this game and I think it offers a lot to the game.  For example once you become a Darth or a Master for the Jedi you can take on your own Padawan.

Heroic area’s are the dungeons in other MMO’s that require anywhere from 2 or more people in a group and often have higher level and numerous more enemies but not quite as tough as those in Flashpoints which I’ll talk about in a minute. Heroic area’s can consist of anything from killing monsters or stopping an invading army for example.  When you accept a mission for a group the word Heroic+”x” number of players will show up letting you know that is a group quest similar to WoW and other MMO’s.  Although TOR will let you know with a quick flash of text that you are entering an area for groups that way you know if you wander into one of these area’s you better have your guard up or at least a bunch of medpacs.

If your someone who loves raiding and going into dungeons with your fellow guild mates then The Old Republic won’t disappoint.  Flashpoints are TOR’s version of this and require multiple players to get through alive in order to battle the elite baddy’s you’ll be facing.  These can often reward players with much better loot and rewards than you would get on a solo mission.  The first one you encounter as a dark side player has to do with leaving your home planet of and heading to Dramund Kaas which is for players between 10 and above.  Your ship, The Black Talon, will come under attack as you run into a rebel ship who will try and board you.  After you have successfully done that you shall return the favor taking down the Rebel Ship and killing your first Jedi as a group.  Flashpoints serve more as end game content for those who wish to continue playing their character after they have reached level 50.  Bioware also promises new Flashpoints will be added as time goes on.

If you are a PvP (Player vs Player) The Old Republic has plenty of content and war zones for you to take part in.  Along with side games like Hutt-Ball and others.  The one thing I didn’t like about the PvP aspect is that in order to be truly effective in these zones your better off buying gear from a PvP weapons and armor seller as opposed to being able to just use your PvE (Player vs Environment) equipment.  

Server queue times and bugs are part of any new MMO taking the world by storm.  Players getting stuck in odd places, player’s flying through a chess board in space when textures fail to load, waiting for an open spot in a server for up to a half an hour.  Over the last week and a half personally I have had to wait for maybe a total of 5 minutes in queues and only noticed one game breaking glitch that was easily solved by logging out and logging back in.  Although even with these almost all news reporting sites covering this game have agreed that this is one of the smoothest MMO launches in the history of MMO’s.  Mostly having to do with Bioware’s open beta and overall quality we’ve seen in previous games. 

Bioware also has been doing a good job with small patches on nearly a daily basis and 1.01 just being released on Tuesday to fix some major bugs and do more to help balancing issues.  It will be nice to see when more servers are added and existing ones expanded on. 

Over all the graphics, User Interface, and sound may not 100% perfect or the latest and greatest but the game does look good and feel good as well.  As time goes on Bioware has promised to allow users more customization to their UI for players.  The music is a slight undertone through most of the game but heightens during battle to give you that epic Star Wars feel.  The story lines and voice acting are spot on in Bioware fashion and if you play this game and realize just how much dialogue went into making it, it’s truly an amazing feat and will more then likely become a standard in future MMO’s for which I have to give Bioware props for taking on such an ambitious and tedious piece of work to make it possible.

All in all it’s obvious that Bioware poured it’s heart and soul into The Old Republic and is a great addition to the MMO world.  Now all it takes is for the community to keep playing and investing time and Bioware to do their part listening to their subscribers and adding endgame content until they are ready to release a new expansion pack down the line.  The way different classes play, story lines that are fun and intuitive and Bioware learning what works and doesn’t from other MMO’s that came before it (such as the ill fated Star Wars Galaxies) I see The Old Republic making it without much of an issue.

Final Score 8.5 out of 10.
Comment below and tell us your SWTOR stories and what you think of this new MMO from Bioware.

1 comment:

  1. I had guessed that it would end up getting around an 8. Although hopefully through time and a few patches things will bring it up to 9ish quality.