Star Wars The Old Republic, from Bioware and EA, is a massively multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) set in the Star Wars universe. It focuses on events 300 years after the two Knights of The Old Republic RPGs from Bioware and Obsidian and 3000 years before the Star Wars movies. But it differs from most other MMORPGs in that this is fully scripted and voiced, which does make a nice change.
The game begins with a nicely-rendered cut scene to introduce the story and the reason you’ll be fighting in a large MMO environment. Then it is on to your player character setup and customisation. You can choose between the Republic and Sith, with each side having four classes to choose from. I have several characters running around on both the Republic and Sith sides; each a different alien race. The game introduces players to alien races you may not have seen outside of the movies, but for the more knowledgable Star Wars fan, the extra races will be quite familiar from the expanded universe. You’re able to choose between Humans, Sith Pureblood, Cyborgs, Chiss, Miraluka (some of you may be familiar with this class if you played Knights of The Old Republic II), Mirialan, Rattataki, Twi’lek, Zabrak (Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace is a Zabrak) and the Cathar. Stylistically, they all look decent and feature some wonderful voice acting from some well-known game actors such as Grey DeLisle, Nolan North, Steve Blum, Cat Taber, and Jennifer Hale to name a few. Each character class has their own story origins which serve as the introduction to how to play the game and the character class you choose. Perhaps the best fun can be had playing as a Sith Sorcerer, or any of the trooper or bounty hunter classes. Actually, who am I kidding, I had the most satisfying experience as a Sith Sorcerer class. There is something fun about being the bad guy in the Star Wars universe – hell Boba Fett has a huge following among fans.
As you progress through the game, you acquire companions you can take on missions with you in support roles. Depending on how you level your player character, your choice in companions will help determine the outcome of most fights. So in some of the more difficult fights you may find that bringing along a companion that has healing abilities will be more useful if your player character is geared and levelled to deal damage, where as you may decide that a tank companion is better suited if you player is a healer. Companions are great for the most part and you can gain favour with them throughout the game, and also you can tick them off too if you chose actions that go against their beliefs. Companions can also be romanced too if you like. All your companions have their own personality which can be quite fun in the cut scenes when you’re interacting with other non-playable characters.
Gameplay, for the most part, is what you would expect from an RPG. You get a quest to go on and you go off to complete the goals for the quest and turn it in. Combat is realtime and damage is calculated based on your player’s own statistics and weapons statistics. Enemies range from easy to very challenging. If that isn’t enough for you, you are also presented with heroic quests that usually require two or more human players to accompany you. Some of these heroic missions can be completed with just you and your companion but for the most part, you will need a group of real people to help out. Heroic missions max out at four people in a group. But heroic missions are just the beginning – the game has an underlying story based on the struggle between both Sith and Republic factions and there are flashpoint missions (war zones, if you like) that you can play through. These flashpoints can have a large number of people and can be completely story-driven or just objective-based, capture the flag-style. In between these normal missions, you have space combat in the form of Space Missions for the Sith or Republic, and just recently, Starfighter Player versus Player war zones. And finally if that is not enough to keep you going, you also get daily missions which can be completed once every 24 hours. All of these mission accrue you medals for various factions which can be redeemed for better and rarer gear and personal transports. There are also well-known planets from the Star Wars universe and beyond that you get to visit, along with new worlds. Alderaan, Tatooine, Corellia and Hoth are four that would instantly ring a bell for film fans. Nar Shadda, Hutta, Korriban and Taris you may recognise if you have played previous Star Wars games, and then we’re introduced to Voss, Quesh, Belsavis and Dromund Kaas as new worlds to explore with new aliens to encounter.
You’ll find getting around in the game is achieved through speeder point, space ships and speeder mounts. Each map is quite large, so acquiring a speeder early may be the go. The best way to do this is to spend a little bit of real world cash for in-game cartel coins, which can then be used to unlock speeder mount piloting a lot earlier than you normally would.
As I mentioned above, you can obtain some rare items through the PvP medals, or if you like you can spend real world money for cartel coins and buy items and gear from the cartel market. Game subscribers receive 500 cartel coins free each month.
Graphically, the game is pleasing and has a Star Wars feel to it, with great Star Wars sounds you know from the films – sorry, no Gonk sounds that I know of though. The overall quality is not too bad for a game that needs to feed a lot of data back and forth between you and the servers, and server lag does not seem to be much of an issue on the North American server I have been playing on for a while now. The other great thing is if you have a good internet connection, a powerful PC and a 3D monitor, you can play the whole game in full 3D. Unfortunately for me, it always lags and my Tri-Def app never seems to render the 3D properly in this game.
Star Wars The Old Republic also features Guilds you can join and roleplay to your heart’s content – or you can join a guild for the purpose of joining raids or massive PvP war zones. Being in a guild is not a requirement to completing the game stories for each class but it does mean that it is easier to find help for heroic missions and flashpoints.
There are flaws in the gameplay, usually revolving around graphic glitches and getting stuck in rather stupid places. Sometimes, in space combat missions, the sound cuts out for no reason – at least in my experience. After two years on the market, major bugs are fixed quickly so overall the flaws usually do not hang around for long.
Star Wars The Old Republic has made EA and Bioware their money back, so we can expect the game to be around for quite some time. With Bioware happily adding improvements and more content quite frequently, along with the move to free-to-play, I can see this converting more of the declining WoW players looking for a more up-to-date experience.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, then this is a must-play as it is definitely a great game in this universe. If you’re not, you would still enjoy the game for its RPG elements because Bioware make decent RPGs, and most of the players you encounter in the game are rather friendly and helpful when you need them. I say give it a go as it is free-to-play if you want, so you have nothing to lose.
Star Wars the Old Republic is available now as free-to-play or as subscription on PC only from www.swtor.com along with the two expansion packs, Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Galactic Starfighter.