Star Wars: The Old Republic (Close, but no credits)

A scene from the one of the cinematics that gave the game notoriety.

For years, the nightmares were endless. The obnoxious and difficult interface, the slap in the face to historical accuracy, and the nonexistent plot were just a few of the horrors. Although, I was able to remove Star Wars: Galaxies from my computer, I was unable to remove the terror from my soul. I had just gotten myself away from World of Warcraft, I was in middle school at the time. I was looking for a new MMO and one set in my beloved Star Wars universe seemed perfect at the time. I didn’t know how wrong I was. Seeing all the Jedi run around during the Galactic Civil War was very unsettling. The “Galactic Market”, Galaxies‘ form of an auction house was barren and difficult to use. I had heard good things about endgame content, but the grind process it took to get to that point was unbearable. It was heartbreaking to see that game limp along the way it did. I’d say the final shutdown in late 2011 was a mercy killing.

But back then, once I had left Galaxies and my Mon Calamari commander behind, I discovered Knights of the Old Republic, a series of games from Bioware set thousands of years before the movies. It was beautiful. Magnificent storytelling told a remarkable tale of redemption, character development was flawless, and combat was challenging. KOTOR I and II will always have a special place in my heart and on my hard drive. So over a year ago, when I heard that Bioware was collaborating with Lucasarts to develop a Star Wars MMO set during the Old Republic, I was ecstatic. I immediately made an account, subscribed the all the updates and news feeds, and waited patiently while I watched the game be put together. I wasn’t disappointed by Star Wars: The Old Republic, but I wasn’t completely blown away. If I had a small amount of excessive income (or any income at all for that matter), then I would have no problem subscribing. But when some of my friends began to give up on it, I had an empty starship, with the exception of my companions, and the sudden lack of social interaction that the game persists on and rewards you for, was the reason for my withdrawal. Unlike Galaxies though, I do miss The Old Republic, and here’s why…

Starting with character creation, it’s typical of what you see in most MMO’s. Pick a faction, pick a class, than pick a race. The classes are parallel across the two factions: The Republic has the trooper, the Jedi Knight, the Jedi Consular, and a smuggler. The Sith Empire has the bounty hunter, the Sith Warrior, the Sith Inquisitor, and the Imperial Agent. Essentially, you’ve got the melee class (Warrior/Knight), the Force-wielding/healing class (Consular/Inquisitor), the sneaky, cover-based ranged class (smuggler/Agent), and the big guns with the big firepower (trooper/bounty hunter). I chose a Sith Warrior. I went human, and ended up with essentially, an evil, younger Hugh Laurie. I made sure to turn off the effect that uglied up your Sith if he decided to go dark side. But c’mon, what Sith is light sided?

The game begins with the standard Star Wars rolling credit scene that gives some backstory to your character. My mouth was foaming the first time I went through this. Then you see a ship fly into whatever starter planet your class is beginning with, and then there you are, ready to begin. The first thing you notice is that, holy shit, this game is fully voiced. And when the standard for MMO’s is clicking on an NPC and then getting a scroll detailing what the person would tell you, or just simply telling you what to do, this deserves so much appreciation. During your first conversation, you’ll notice a hub that shows up similar to the one in the Mass Effect series that lets you determine responses. You essentially have three options: give an honorable, good-hearted answer, a neutral answer, or a malevolent/dick-like answer. Your answers, and thus, your decisions affect your alignment, which means that if you answer in an evil fashion, you’ll gain ranks in the dark side. These ranks affect the type of gear you can get from vendors that specialize in your alignment. I do not recommend going neutral, as you won’t have access to either side’s gear, and will be left at a serious disadvantage.

A group of Jedi and Republic soldiers

The quests themselves are also typical of what you see in an MMO: kill X many of these guys, kill these guys until X amount of this item drops, interact with this thing until X amount of bad guys show up and then kill them. But the way the cutscene prior to beginning the quest is put together makes you feel like each mercenary, droid, or Republic swine that you’re cutting down has impact in the galaxy. Speaking of cutting down enemies, combat flows wonderfully in this game, and looks magnificent. My warrior has a channeled move called “Ravage”, which is three strikes stringed together in a very elaborate fashion. There is nothing more satisfying than timing that strike so that the final strike is the killing blow. You’re also given a series of companions as you progress through the game, something that will give Knights of the Old Republic fans wet dreams. These guys will assist you in combat, hang around in your ship, chat with you when visiting cantinas, and can even be romanced, you dirty scoundrel.

They’re also there for the main quest line, a series of quests that starts right when the game begins, and usually relates to your class and a dangerous threat to the galaxy. Unless you’re a Sith like me, in which the story is your rise to power. Mwahahaha. Apart from this and a wide range of side quest, there are a ton of other things to do if you’re feeling social. There are heroic areas and flashpoints that require teamwork to get through, that award you with social points you can buy rewards with, as well as a good amount of experience and loot. They are similar to instances and dungeons from WoW, the only difference between the two are that heroic areas can be found throughout the galaxy, while flashpoints are located on your faction’s main fleet. PvP war zones are also available to play, and contain a ton of game types, including Huttball, a type of football involving a deadly obstacle course and even deadlier combatants: other players. You can really group up for any quest, and I highly recommend doing so, as the game rewards you for doing so, and incorporates this cool mechanic where all of you are involved in conversation and roll for who gets to talk. And if some of you are light side, and others are dark, you don’t get punished if the other alignment is the one that get chosen.

There’s so much else in this game that I didn’t even get to surface in this review. The space battle rail shooter that was pretty fun to play and was a nice change of pace from the rest of the game. The crafting system that sent your extra companions away to collect materials than put the goods together. The well put together Galactic Trading Market. The specialized classes. The cool armor sets. This really was a fantastic game. I think the reason I left wasn’t because the game was bad, there was very little wrong with the game. It was a combination of three things, I think: the fact that I was pretty much broke (well, not broke, but didn’t have enough additional funds to continue my subscription), I was attending college, giving me little time to actually play the game, and that my friends who had started playing with me had all left, either out of boredom or because they were going back to WoW. With my friends gone from the galaxy, all the cool social features that the game prided itself on I saw myself barely using. Kind of a shame if you think about it.

I’ve heard rumors that SWTOR might be going free-to-play, as almost all contenders to WoW’s throne end up. If that’t the case, I will definitely make my return, despite how many of my friends decide to come back. Hopefully, it being free might be enough reason for them. They are my scruffy-looking nerfherders after all.


1 Comment

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One response to “Star Wars: The Old Republic (Close, but no credits)

  1. I found this via reddit. I agree very much with the sentiment that SWTOR is a good game, with lots of great features. But I’ll be ending my sub next month and may well never come back. It did capture some of the grandeur of the KOTOR games (which I loved), but somehow there’s something missing.

    I too stayed longer than real life friends who had joined at the start, some left after only the first month. I do think the game actually lacks some fundamental social features, we can’t even sit down without looking like a slob for instance. I also think the game lacks breadth, it’s too focused on story-mode leveling and raid/pvp endgame. There’s no hobbies, no cooking profession, no customisation of our own starships. Take any feature you can think of and if it’s not directly focused on combat then it has been left out of the game (even the datacrons provide a stat bonus so you could argue they have a min/max purpose).

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