[Review] Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Come on. Who doesn’t want a personal wookie companion following them around?

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My excitement levels were at an all-time high when I first heard about Star Wars: The Old Republic. I would comb the web every day for new information, checking the gaming websites regularly for news and several other methods of obsessing. I had been waiting for some kind of sequel or successor to Knights of the Old Republic and it was finally becoming a reality.

Realistically, I knew that with my budget I wasn’t able to purchase this game and pay the monthly fee, but that didn’t stop me from following every piece of information. And thanks to my loyalty to the SWTOR website I was granted a seven-day free trial.

Unfortunately, I walked away from my whole experience feeling like I’ve played the same Bioware game before. I’ll admit my time with the game was a tad bit disappointing, compared to how they’ve been presenting the game as a unique, MMO experience.

SWTOR takes place 2000 years before the original Star Wars trilogy. Each class has their own specific storyline that they followed. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get around to all of them in the short amount of time I had with the game. I’ve only witnessed the stories of the Smuggler and the Jedi Consular.

The consular’s story takes place on the planet Tython, the world in which the Jedi Order was formed, as a newly appointed Padawan, while the Smuggler’s story finds him stranded on Ord Mantell.

Several of the games mechanics feel fairly recycled from World of WarCraft. The hotkeying, the resemblance of classes and receiving quests all work in the same manner as every other RPG I’ve ever played.

Quest retrieval is particularly standard RPG fair. Follow the marker for main quests; look out for random to people to talk to for side quests. The story driving the main quest kept me interested, making me want to go on to find out more about my storyline.

While I couldn’t play as every class, there has been chatter in certain forums stating certain classes have better story lines. So, depending on whom you play as it may or may not be an exceptionally enjoyable story.

While the stories themselves are enthralling, the mechanics running it were recycled. Bioware simply took the Mass Effect conversation wheel and threw it into the game. The application would be interesting if it weren’t for the fact that Bioware also implemented it into Dragon Age: Origins. Response outcomes are still the same, with your character’s personality lightly garnishing your responses with some style. This isn’t the “unique story-telling” mechanic we were told about. It’s been done, just not in an MMO

As for the side-quests it’s a simple matter of “take out this many troops” or “activate x-amount of computer terminals”. They seem more like chores rather than worthwhile quests, so I mostly avoided them. The only thing that kept me interested were the rewards I’d received. This included some decent new weapons or some improved armor that was always a nice addition to my inventory.

Combat runs much more smoothly, compared to cycling through a list of attacks and powers in KotOR. Laying both special attacks and powers onto hotkeys allowed me to quickly react to the ever-changing combat without accidently choosing the wrong ability. There is nothing more satisfying than taking out a whole squadron of enemies with a few simple moves.

The only thing that made me want to continue playing was the standard reason for most RPGs: improving your character. But this could be a nuisance sometimes. Leveling up occurs automatically and you are now limited to learning new skills and abilities from teachers or trainers, depending on your class. This means having to go out of your way to the nearest hub to learn and improve abilities. I see how this brings a sense of realism to the game, but I prefer being able to learn and apply my new skills on the spot.

Note: Harassing flesh raiders makes them upset. Who knew?

The animations are a far cry from the robotic back and forth KotOR had. Battles rarely pause, allowing for some pretty epic-looking fight scenes. Switching to a different target offers more realistic acrobatic animations rather than simply rotating a stagnant character in the enemy’s direction.  Ranged players are able to make use of cover in fire fights allowing you to take the time to plan out your attacks and it looks better than standing out in the open taking every blaster hit, like in KotOR.

I’ll admit while I wasn’t able to dig around every aspect and mechanic of the game, I found myself walking away from the game apathetically. It has its moments with thrilling combat and deep storylines that bring you into Bioware’s exceptional storytelling of the Star Wars universe.  Leveling still offer some fun and unique experiences, for your standard RPG fan as well, but all of the mechanics are recycled and dull, with uniqueness being rather absent from the game.

If you’re MMO fan I recommend picking it up for its usual RPG enjoyment. For Star Wars fans, having the massive Star Wars galaxy to explore and exceptional storylines at your disposal make this game worth checking out. Just don’t look for anything new or exciting here.

Senior Stiv also writes on his own blog “The Stick and the Button”. Check it out here

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