Star Wars and Bioware have reunited, together with an all new game pairing the excitement of an MMO style of gaming with the seemingly trademarked Bioware story engine but is that enough for the Casual gamer?
Let’s knock the obvious out of the way: The Old Republic (I refuse to call it SWTOR [swoh-tore]) is vast, beautiful, and a joy to look at. Sure, it’s not the most technically impressive game to be released within the last year, and the game looks nothing like the Uncharted series, but that’s okay. Given the chosen art style and and lush design of each world, it’s worth taking the time to check out the environment that’s not in your warpath to Battlemaster. Whether it’s the skyhigh view from atop the skyscrapers in Nar Shaddaa or the snow and frost covered mountains of Hoth, each planet has a treat for your explorers point of view.
This is where the game really shines. Combat overall is smooth, though not without problems in both PVE and PVP zones. At times, there’s noticable lag in large open-world PVP arenas where the volume of characters really hurts performance, but if you have an up to date CPU, you shouldn’t have a problem. Ignoring the noticeable balancing issues because those are just part of a massive MMOs growing pains, the only other major problems are certain skills not activating, or move queues not working properly. But according to Bioware, it’s already being addressed in upcoming patches.
There are plenty of skills for each class, some may even say too many, and even some PVP or PVE specific skills. If you’ve played World of Warcraft before, you’ll feel right at home with the skill trees, skill bars, and hot-keys. Just about every key mapped in The Old Republic is identical to layout in World of Warcraft. You even have battlegrounds or Warzones in which the Republic (the Pubs) faces off against the Empire (the Imps). As of right now, the Imps rule PVP, or at least they do on my server. As a casual gamer, this faction imbalance can cause serious buyers remorse. After hitting level 50, I’ve found myself not wanting to grind for gear anymore and wanting to ignore PVP altogether due to the Empire continuously handing me my rear on a platinum platter. NOTE By no means am I implying that the Republic is flat out worse than the Empire. The problem lies in the fact that the Empire simply outnumbers the Republic in both quantity and quality of players. To frequently are warzones being played with the Republic being down 2, 3, or sometimes 4 people and if someone does join in the middle of an on-going slaughterhouse, they’re likely to quit the PVP match altogether due to the absence of a quitters penalty.
If you’re a casual gamer, this is where your love for the game will grow. The story in The Old Republic is spectacular. There are actually 8 unique stories, 1 for each class, and as of this publication, I’ve journeyed through 3 of them and finished 1 of them. The stories are long, vast, and cover numerous planets and characters. You’ll fight Sith/Jedi, rakghouls, droids, troopers, officers, and dozens of other creatures you’ve never heard of before. Everything is voiced and only once or twice have I heard my character repeat a line of dialogue. Listening to quest givers talk about your objectives is much more involving then reading popup logs. However, the best part of the story, is joining up with your friends and beating the majority, if not all, of the quests together and experiencing each other’s unique stories at the same. There’s something quite special about being in conversation with 3 friends and seeing one of them pick the dark side choice, win the roll to be the speaker, and watch as he/she throws the quest-giver off the side of a cliff while your jaw remains dropped, wondering if the whole quest is now screwed. It’s beautiful as it is chaotic.
To add icing to the cake, Bioware has already shown that they are willing to expand on these group missions, known as Flashpoints, by releasing a new one in their latest patch for free. This is good news for the casual gamer as we’ll have less of a chance of feeling like we’ve done everything, even when we haven’t. Bioware knows how to tell stories, and it’s certainly true in The Old Republic. Each story is full of life and character, and certainly full of action and the whole thing is a perfectly paced package for those with little time on their hands.
This is a must buy for anyone who loves action/adventure stories, Star Wars or chaotic player vs player action videogames. It’s a relatively polished game that’s constantly getting more wax. Bioware has really hit a home run with their first MMO but more importantly, they hit a home run for the casual gamer. You choose how to play just like how you choose your side in the beginining of the game. You can either play religiously, grinding to 50, for PVP gear, for PVP wins, and increasing your Valor level (PVP level) or, you can take it easy and play through the story, which will also get you to level 50, sign up for Flashpoints and explore the world, all while not feeling like you’re getting passed along by everyone else. It’ s a great middle ground and something that I think will really serve Bioware well in the future as this property continues to grow.