Star Wars: The Old Republic – PC
Platform: Personal Computer
Publisher: Electronic Arts, Lucasarts
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Genre: Massive multiplayer online role-playing game
Nerd Rating: 7
Reviewed by Flagostomos
Oh boy, this game. This game has so much going on, not just from a gameplay perspective, that it’s difficult to write a review and not have any personal bias in it. The Old Republic (hereon out referred to as TOR), was meant to be a World of Warcraft killer; an epic adventure like WoW that promised the amazing background of the Star Wars universe with the great storytelling skills that we had come to know of Bioware. This game had so much hype leading up to the days it was released.
It first came on the scene on June 1, 2009, when the epic trailer “Deceived” was shown to the public at E3. If you haven’t watched the trailer, I highly recommend that you do so. It is amazing, one of the only instances in which I would use the word “epic”. For the budget they spent on the game, I wish they had made three movies just in that style of cinematic. This trailer is one of the instances in which “your brain knows one thing but your heart wants something different” takes over. We all know in our heads exactly what the gameplay of any MMORPG will be. We know it. It hasn’t changed since well World of Warcraft came on the scene. But for some reason, I think all of us had a dream in our hearts that the game would be as epic as the cinematic.
Well, it just wasn’t.
The gameplay is as cookie-cutter as any MMORGP is. You start by making a character, with the ability to customize species and overall appearance of the character. I like the fact that we get access to playing a wide variety of Star Wars species, but I’m sorry, it’s exactly the same as World of Warcraft just with Star Wars. If you’re a fanboy I can see how this would be a good thing, but from a purely logistics point of view, why would I trade out WoW just for Star Wars? The game had better do something truly unique to make me want to change. Let’s get into that more.
There are four different classes, and even though they change the name and abilities across the two factions, they essentially do the same thing. Each class is then divided one step further upon reaching level 10, when you define what roll you take in the group. The various classes are as listed:
Jedi Knight – Later with option of becoming a Jedi Sentinel (DPS) or Jedi Guardian (Tank/DPS). It’s pretty much Wow’s Warrior class.
Jedi Consular – Later with Option of becoming a Jedi Shadow (DPS/half tank) or Jedi Sage (Healer). It’s kind of the Paladin/Mage of WoW.
Trooper – Later with option of becoming a Vanguard or (Tank/DPS) or Commando (Healer/DPS). The vanguard is like WoW’s Shaman, and the Commando is kind of a Druid.
Smuggler – Later with option of becoming a Gunslinger (DPS) or Scoundrel (DPS/Healing). The gunslinger is kind of the rogue equivalent, with the scoundrel being a “Shadow Priest”. (Laugh).
The Sith classes are as follows, and they essentially mirror the Republic Classes:
Sith Warrior – Becoming a Juggernaut (Tank or DPS) or Marauder (DPS).
Sith Inquisitor – Becoming an Assassin (DPS/half tank) or Sorcerer (Healer).
Bounty Hunter – Becoming a mercenary (Tank/DPS) or Powertech (Healer/DPS).
Imperial Agent – Becoming a Operative (DPS) or Sniper (DPS/Healing).
It’s kind of an interesting play on the previously set in place classes that the original two Knights of the Old Republic game had set in place. However, it really is just a cover up for the various roles that you play in an MMO group.
The second biggest thing about class selection, is it decides what story line you will follow. There are four major stories for Republic, four for the Sith side, and they follow the main class you select at the beginning of the game. This was what was supposed to set TOR aside from other MMOs, and we will touch upon this in the story section.
Once the game starts however, you quickly become aware that the game is your typical MMO. This person gives you a quest, you complete said quest, and you get more quests. The quests range from killing things, killing things and looting their corpse, deliveries, or simply just talking to other NPCs. I truly hate to say it, but it is as cookie cutter as it can get. I understand this is an MMO, but they touted before the game was released that it would not be this way. They lied.
The combat suffers the same fate. I remember specifically one video at an E3 where the guy was saying that combat isn’t as simple as hitting a macro, but that is exactly what combat is. It’s an MMO for crying out loud there isn’t much variation they could have done.
Once you complete the basic set of quests and reach level 10, the game has you move on to the next area. Just like in any other MMO, you are gradually led by the hand from place to place, picking up quests along the way that help you to level, until you complete the objectives for that area and move on. In the case of TOR, at least there’s story specific things you have to complete on each planet that you visit. It helps alleviate the grind at least a little.
You also pick up a ship, but this is no more than a central hub to talk to your companions. Before I continue, let’s talk companions. This is something TOR did right, and keeping in style of KOTOR. You pick up various companions that fulfill all the roles that the main classes do. Sometimes you need a little extra healing? Use your healer companion. Sometimes you need some DPS. Use the DPS companion. You can talk and interact with them to make them like you better, and every class even has a romance option with one of their companions. It’s a nice touch, and you will find that you are more invested in the character interactions than the main story.
Companions also learn “Crew Skills” which are a different if not uninteresting take on crafting in this game. You can learn what are essentially two gathering techniques, and a crafting technique. Just like in any other MMO, these things do not become useful until endgame, so you will be grinding levels on Crew Skills all the way to max level.
The ship also lets you travel to different planets, as you are a character traversing the galaxy to the end of your class. It’s no different than WoW’s different regions however, just with the Star Wars element thrown in.
Instances are present in what TOR calls “Flashpoints”. It’s a repeatable mission, usually involving some aspect of the War between Sith and Republic, that lets you get good drops and good experience. Most of the time, you will have to forcefully remove yourself from your current line of questing to go do them however, and they simply are not worth your time. If you’re a subscriber you will pick up good drops in heroics anyways.
This brings me to the last point I want to touch on: the free-to-play aspect of this game. When it became evident that TOR would not be the WoW killer it promised it would be, EA decided to make it free-to-play. Many MMOs these days have to rely on micro-transactions to stay alive. You can still be a subscriber and enjoy all the benefits, but the game is completable without ever spending a dime. You will just have a lot of boring grinding making less than half the experience possible, have a snails pace run, and be barred from the best pickups and abilities. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I cut back my subscriber account and went free to play. At least they give you perks because you were once a subscriber.
The story is what Bioware said would set TOR apart from any other MMO. I wanted to play each class through to the end to see all the stories, but by playing with other friends I was able to see most of the class stories just playing my main characters. Let me tell you, the only story worth a damn is the Jedi Knight and Sith Assassin story. These follow the popular storyline that was set up in KOTOR 1 and 2, and the Revan book.
I would have to give major spoilers to go into further detail about class stories, but let me tell you they are as bland as some of the worst Star Wars fan fiction you have ever read. I will reiterate that most of the time, you will become more engrossed in the companion side stories than the main story. How could a game that promised so much fail to deliver on such a large scale?
The controls are standard MMO “mouse and keyboard”. You have toolbars and hotkeys you can assign for your most used abilities, but at the end of the day, combat comes down to four or five main actions. It’s an MMO, there’s not much else to say. I will say that they actually made jumping necessary in this game to pickup some secret items, and the jumping is as horrible as all MMO jumping. It’s just now trying to use that jumping in a platforming situation. Uh, what? Why would they ever do that?
The graphics are actually pretty good. This game though, I swear it eats up your computers resources. My friend recently custom built an awesome gaming PC and could play this game on max settings with no slow down. On max settings the environments look fantastic. However, for myself, I was playing on my aging gaming laptop. The game still looked okay but I had issues with slowdown and full on lag at times.
The audio is also really good. Popular Star Wars tracks are woven into the story very well, with mood music setting the scene a lot of times. It’s very similar in fashion to what KOTOR did. The voice acting is also really good. Jennifer Hale will always be one of my most favorite voice actresses so it’s great to see her back.
I was having a really hard time deciding what I wanted to put here. Being an MMO with almost limitless play options, this game by itself could provide you with a new GAMEPLAY experience every time you play it, but the sad truth of the matter is that the story itself isn’t enough to bring you back for the other characters. There isn’t a lot of endgame content, and the space battles and even recently added multiplayer space battles just don’t do anything to entice you to keep playing once you get one character to max level. This is why it’s difficult for me. A good MMO has to have good endgame content. Sure the grind gets you going and such, but it’s the endgame content that keeps real MMO players around. And it’s just not there.
You could play all 8 classes, and each of the specialized class for each of the main 8 classes. That gives you 16 different characters you could have. But what’s the point? That’s exactly the question I ask myself every time I think, “Maybe I want to play TOR today.”
Gameplay: It’s an MMO. 8
Story: 9 for the two main classes, 5 for the others
Controls: It’s an MMO, 7
Graphics/Audio: Depends on the PC you have, but I’ll give it an 8
Replayability: I’m sorry TOR, 5.
TOR is not a bad MMO. In fact, if you have never played an MMO and want to get into the genre, I would recommend this game as my number two pick. But WoW just cannot be beat still to this day for a good MMO. And with the last expansion they made it more accessible to new players. The lackluster story that didn’t deliver as promised, the cookie-cutter gameplay and lack of end game content just has TOR leaving you desiring more. Taken for what it is, it’s a solid entry into the MMO universe, but sadly too little, too late.
If you didn’t pick up in the tone of this review, I had such high hopes for this game. I so badly wanted a Star Wars game to dethrone my beloved WoW. I gave up WoW because I couldn’t maintain a real life and keep playing it, so I wanted something a casual MMO and Star Wars fan could enjoy. And it didn’t deliver as promised. For the budget they could have made Kotor 3, 4, 5 an 6, or trilogy of movies in the cinematic style of the opening. And those are games or movies I would enjoy without any doubt.
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