Was anyone else excited about SW: TOR? I was. I had only heard about the game about a month or so before launch, so I missed the beta. How that happened was beyond me. My theory is I was buried too deep in World of Warcraft. I was truly excited to see an MMO launch and be part of that crusty, snobbish club that exists in every MMO who can say: "I was here at the beginning." Two months into Bioware's new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic and two max level characters later, I have yet to be fully disenchanted with the game. Does it have bugs? Yes. Do I have pet peeves about certain unmentioned, unimplemented features? Absolutely. Do I miss the overworld feeling and being able to fly from zone to zone on a dragon? A bit. Do I regret jumping ship from WoW? Not even a little.
The Old Republic's overall user interface is similiar to other big name MMOs, so veterans of the genre won't feel like they're playing a whole new game. It adds a few features that I call innovative, if not frustrating at times. The crafting system, for example, is done by companions, rather than the actual player. Missions, aka quests, are given in fully voiced cutscenes with conversation options ala Mass Effect. The graphics are great and the planets diverse, though the questing through them is railed. Companions are entertaining and mostly witty, with the exception of a few of the Trooper ones. Overall I am satisfied with many of the solo-play features and experiences I encountered.
This being said, I'm still not completely convinced its a 'new' MMO. It doesn't add terribly much to the genre, the questing system aside. I find the lack of social interaction versatility (try adding a friend when they're offline), guild support (no guild bank, guild features), unfinished features (ahem, legacy?), abundant loading screens, lack of interface customization (supposed to be coming, eventually), poor customer service, no support for role-play, and a few of the player versus player issues (stun diminishing return, mainly) a step backwards from where Blizzard, Trion, and others have pushed the genre to. In returning to MMO roots though, Bioware did away with the dungeon and raid queue, a feature that killed my WoW experience.
Make no mistake, even with my complaints about The Old Republic, I am having a blast playing it with new guildies, old WoW friends, and even some IRL friends. The class storylines are engaging, the multiplayer conversations entertaining and saving the galaxy personally never gets old. If you don't mind the word 'eventually', and consistent bugs then come play. If not, wait a few months, but definitely try it out sometime. The game has a ton of potential, and it's just up to Bioware and Lucasarts to make sure it's fulfilled.
I suppose I'd better put this into numbers, I was supposed to be reviewing the game, after all.
Story- 9.5 Excellent. I was blown away with the wrap up on my knight's class quest, and many of the chain missions per planet were engaging.
Graphics-9.0 Being able to see for miles, facial expressions, and the ability animations were all pros in my book. Character customization is fantastic, even if the race models are all the same with different skin tone/heads (twi'lek, zabrak, pureblood sith).
Gameplay-7.5 A clunky user interface, social interface, and PVP system without diminishing returns can be extremely frustrating. Loading screens are a way of life, and there are definitely bugs that make certain parts of the game situationally unplayable. A pro is the easy to use keybind system, although mine seem to reset when they override a UI shortcut (i.e., "\" automatically opens the window for submitting a support ticket).
Sound-8 The music is basically reworkings of John William's movie themes. The sound effects are Star Wars-y. Abilities have some unique effects: Adrenaline Rush on Troopers having a heart beat sound effect coupled with them, an abiity of the Imperial Agent has an audible snicker. That snicker usually means death. Many emotes are missing sound to them (e.g., no /joke, no /laugh, no /roar).
Lasting Appeal- 8.5 There isn't really endgame player versus player content, other than out-gearing everyone in the level 50 bracket. Player versus enemy has ops, and nightmare mode ops, which are exactly like raiding from what I understand, but with Star Wars. The class questlines are definitely worth rolling alts, especially so once the Legacy system is revealed. There are a ton of extras, from stat upgrades via hidden Datacrons to world PVP and dailies on Ilum.
Review by Emily Neeley.