A long time ago in a galaxy far, far- nah. I won’t go there. George Lucas is a guy we all know. Creating one of the greatest series of all time, he went on to put his creation into comics, cartoons, video games, and more. There are a few Star Wars games out there, some great, some are the worst. When Bioware made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, it became a classic. Bioware thought they could take that success and put it into a MMO. Is it the World of Warcraft killer people want it to be or something that just falls flat?
You will see that I make many comparisons to World of Warcraft. How can I not? It’s a game that defied the MMO world, with many games trying to copy its success only to be met with failure. However, despite these comparisons, I would just like to point out that I am not against World of Warcraft or any other MMO mentioned in this preview. While WoW was once great, it is starting to show signs of age. People are dropping like flies in terms of subscriptions for WoW. Blizzard is putting out patch after patch to add new things to the game to keep people from leaving. I don’t have a current subscription to it, but from what I have read online, the new talent system and Pokémon-like pet fighting system are a laugh. Also, Kung-Fu Panda? It’s time to move on, and I think Star Wars: The Old Republic is a great replacement.
Star Wars: The Old Republic kicks off with a great cinematic, setting the stage for the game. For ones that don’t know, TOR takes place in a time of peace between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Empire, taking place 300 years after the Knights of the Old Republic and more then 3,500 years before the events of the films. The Jedi are held responsible for not stopping the Sith during the 28 year long Great Galactic War. The Jedi are now on Tython, where the Jedi Order was originally founded. The Sith are in control of Korriban, re-establishing a Sith Academy. The game starts there, with conflicts starting to arise. The story has been worked out by Bioware, Lucasarts, and Dark Horse Comics. Boy, is it a beauty.
Which one will you chose?
Now that the stage has been set, let’s get on with the it. The character creation in the beta wasn’t what I was hoping for. There are eight classes split between three groups. The groups consist of Bounty Hunters, Troopers, and of course, Jedi. Those groups are split between the obvious sides: Alliance or Empire. While the player can change the appearance of the characters, it seems to me like there should be more to choose from. There are the basics in terms of body shape, hair, eyes, etc. However, it should be like all the great Bioware games in terms of character creation. I wanted to be truly unique, set apart from everyone else. While I was playing, I noticed four people that looked just like me. Hair and everything. It could use some work.
The class I used was a Jedi Consort, which I leveled almost to 30.
SW: TOR features a story for each one of the classes. My Jedi Consort story in itself was set to rival some single-player games, especially with the way the quests are set up. I was a Padawan, starting in my lessons to become a Jedi. The first 10 levels or so teach you about the game. They finally converge everything you have learned into a single moment: getting your lightsaber. I felt so great after doing that.
While WoW bored me to death with just the wall of text when accepting quests, Bioware achieved more and put dialogue and speech options into each quest. The voice acting is top-notch, as expected when it comes to Bioware. While listening to the quest giver, you are given speech options to chose what happens. As with other Bioware games, certain answers give you points. These points decide where the story takes you, as well as certain items depending on which side you are on. It’s amazingly addictive, but if you already have a character of that class, you’ll probably want to skip through it all and just get the quest.
This is Balothy. She will kick your butt.
As stated above, each dialogue option has its effects. These effects impact the character on a massive level. Other characters in the game will react differently depending on what your choices are. It adds a lot more depth to the standard MMO. Some quests are funny. Some are sad. Some will make you want to go on a massive murdering spree to save a little girl. The quests offer a vast amount of variety to game. Dialogue options are on a timer. If someone in your group or yourself is taking too long, it will chose a option
In Rift, guild mates did all of the farming and stored items in a chest for the crafters to use. In World of Warcraft, we had the guild bank filled with materials from guild members or from raiding. In SWTOR, we have companions. I will say that companions take the grind out of crafting, while leaving the actual crafting up to you. While there are guilds in the game, companions still play a huge part in how you play. It’s a change from the pet system used in other games. Companions are your personal healer, tank, or damage dealer. They assist in your combat, your story, your crafting, and nearly every aspect of game play. While they are buggy at the moment, they are only minor problems with them. Mine disappeared for a few minutes only for me to find him glitched into a rock. Simple enough to fix, right?
Player vs. Environment:
Despite it being a MMO, I’m a fan of PvE. I hate being a lower level only to get slaughtered by one that is 20 levels higher then me. It’s beyond infuriating. Think of PvE as story mode. You get a full dose of storyline and focus on the tasks at hand without the worry if being killed from behind. Fights are somewhat bland, but that may be because the only thing active was flashpoints. While there are story-line quests, the standard fetch quests, and more, there are also instances. These instances are referred to flashpoints in the game. These can be done by yourself, but SWTOR does something different in terms of groups. It strongly encourages them, giving you social points depending on how well you are doing in the group and how many members are in that group. These points can be used for certain quests, as well as useable at vendors. It’s a great way to get players to be more social, but additional members aren’t required for these.
The flashpoints are some of the best parts in the game, pushing you to your limits. Flashpoints come in a variety of ways, such as traveling through giant space ships and giant deserts. Each requires a different approach, so it’s a sure fire way to keep the game from getting repetitive.
That scared me so much when it first showed up.
Player vs Player:
Player vs. Player in SWTOR is a thing of beauty. Arenas are officially a thing of the past. Personally, I never thought arenas were much fun. I did it mostly because I was bored of the same old stuff. What I saw in the world Illum was just epic and probably the greatest example I can offer. A battle was waging between the two sides, and it went on for the entire beta testing weekend. No side gave up. When someone had to log off or was just out of energy, they just got replaced by someone else ready for the battle. I joined in for a little bit, but got my butt handed to me in the form of a lightsaber to the face. It was just insane seeing blasters firing, lightsabers duking it out, and the Force throwing massive rocks at the enemies only for them to deflect them with a shield. It was glorious.The only other PvP I got into was by visiting Voidstar, which felt like Strand of the Ancients. The times and the way everyone worked brought a sense of urgency. It quickened my heartbeat, that’s for sure. PvP is back.
Despite some of the improvement the crafting needs, it’s a improvement over the crafting in WoW, as well as other MMO’s. There is now no need to go grind. You can use your companion to do the work for you. If you want it faster, you can go do it yourself. The choice is up to you.
The talent tree is something I can’t really go into. I’m not the biggest fan in terms of specifics. I just pick whatever looks good, but from what I can tell, it feels and looks great.
While WoW has so many key and mouse options, it can be overwhelming. That’s how I felt while playing that game. SWTOR is different. The buttons are found on the screen, requiring you to be a part of what you are doing rather then spamming a button. While there are spells/items attached to the number keys, that’s the furthest extent of it. Movement of your character is tied to a few simple keys. While WoW has things almost requires you to move the camera, SWTOR does the opposite. It helps you stay with the action on the screen, rather then fighting to see what’s going on. I can see that Bioware is trying to make this game more user friendly, and not have all of the advanced add-ons/macros that are required of hardcore gamers. However, macros would be a nice addition for those more hardcore about their MMO’s. The map is awesome, very detailed, and has filters to help you find what you're looking for. The map was a little buggy, but I’m sure it will be fixed by the time of final release.
World of Warcraft and Eve Online, upon first playing, felt very epic. The huge landscape, the cities, the music, all were enormously attention grabbing from the very start. The lore and world was just fantastic. SWTOR has that same effect. From the towering cities, to the open fields of wild animals, it leaves you with a sense of awe. The level design, in the very early levels, is almost flawless. Everything is just in the right spot and just feels great. It has had a lot of polish. It should be noted that in the early levels, everything feels very linear and straightforward. As you progress more, the worlds starts opening up, and by the end of it, you are left with worlds of a massive scope. It just takes some time. My only complaint in world design is that some of the cities could use a little work in terms of where everything is, as well as how the exploring feels. You get a speeder at level 25, but it feels like it should happen just a little bit earlier. The wait, however, is well worth it.
The graphics in SWTOR are probably its biggest talking point. While the beta I played was toned-down in terms of graphics for testing purposes, I did get a chance to see the higher quality gameplay, and it is stunning. It’s light years ahead of other MMO’s, such as World of Warcraft and Rift. They aren’t the most stunning graphics, especially when compared to Guild Wars 2 currently in development, but they still work well with the game. It has some of the realism that Bioware offers in it’s other games with a hint of cell-shading to make everything stand out. It works rather well.
The audio is also top notch, which is to be expected from a studio such as Bioware. The blasters and Jedi sound effects really take my breath away. The greatest thing in terms of audio, however, is the music. It’s some of the best I have heard in any game. The background constantly has music playing, with the same music rarely playing a second time. It just adds to the effect it has on the player, who is taken to another world.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is just mind blowing. While I’m not the biggest fan of MMOs, I have still played a few to compare them to SWTOR. It beats them in many ways, but still has flaws. I’m willing to overlook those flaws and give it a chance. Many would say that SWTOR is WoW in space, I don’t feel like it is. WoW got it right in setting up the base for a MMO. The way it works, the way you use the spells and weapons, the way the quests work, etc. However, Star Wars: The Old Republic stands on its own as something different. It’s worth giving it a shot.