Star Wars: The Old Republic Review
Not many MMORPGs can go up against the all-powerful World of Warcraft and live, yet we’ve a sneaking suspicion Star Wars: The Old Republic will hold its own, for a few reasons.
Having George Lucas’ cash consuming space cow fighting tooth, nail and lightsaber in its corner can’t hurt. BioWare are behind it too, and they’ve managed to amass (effect) a pretty big following of their own.
Most importantly though, The Old Republic is good. Very good.
The Old Republic is set 300 years after the events of Knights Of The Old Republic, meaning it’s still about 3000 years before Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader.
As is customary, it’s a time of great conflict, the evil Sith and gallant Republic constantly trying to best each other. This is where you – and millions of others – come in.
There are 8 classes to choose in The Old Republic, split between the two factions. Additionally, once you level up enough, your character can specialise in one of two advanced skill trees pertaining to their class, giving you plenty of options.
Obviously there are Jedi and Sith classes, as everyone wants to muck about with their lightsaber, but you can also let your trigger finger loose with Bounty Hunters, Smugglers and Troopers. No meddling from George here, you’ll definitely be shooting first.
Here’s our Sith Warrior in an intense battle. She gets into these quite a bit.
Naturally, each class has a variety of different abilities. Jedi Consulars will use the force to strike opponents down with great vengeance, while Sith Warriors slash first and ask questions later. A favourite is definitely the dirty Smuggler, prone to stunning opponents with a curt boot to the ‘bacta containers.’
Most impressively though, each class has its own unique plot arc, meaning you’ll be weeping tears of exasperation once you figure out just how many hours you could actually sink into this gaping sarlaac pit of a game.
The number of places to explore is staggering too, ranging from the arid, oppressive Sith planet of Korriban to the fecund Jedi training area on Tython, to winter wampa wonderland Hoth.
People used to MMOs will find everything reassuringly familiar, as they kill for experience, loot corpses, run errands for thankless task masters and sell purloined items to merchants in exchange for goodies and credits. To mix things up, companions will join your quest and fight alongside you.
They’ll also clear your inventory of looted items at your behest, nipping off for a few moments before returning with even more lovely credits, doubtless satisfying your inner oligarch.
By beating tougher enemies and completing objectives meanwhile, you’ll earn commendations that you can trade in for even better swag. Crafting is dealt with interestingly here too, as rather than questing relentlessly for specific items, you can send your lackeys on their own missions for a price, and they’ll return later with what you asked for. Lovely guys.
So far so massively multiplayer, but by featuring a large dollop of BioWare’s single player savvy, The Old Republic stands out completely. The story elements are a huge cut above the genre standard, and only the most cynical won’t take pleasure in forging their own monomyth.
BioWare succeeded wonderfully at evoking a grand atmosphere in The Old Republic, as this ominous shot shows.
Some of the side-quests feel like filler, but main quests are chock full of the twists, turns and betrayals you’d associate with the series. The conversation system prevalent in Mass Effect makes an appearance too, replete with dark/light side choices.
Excellently, you’re not hampered by your alliances, so you can be a pleasant Sith or a cheeky Jedi should you so desire. It’s all wonderfully involving, and only the sight of some mangy cur called DarthBieber420 jumping around will remind you it isn’t a single player.
Additionally, you’ll unlock Starfox-style space combat missions, where you guide your ship along a fixed path, slinking through enemy fire and blasting everything you see. They’re short, but they’re a nice deviation from the main game.
However, make no mistake, this is an MMO, and BioWare has included ‘Heroic’ quests that will have you reaching towards the chat box, grudgingly asking fellow marauders ‘HELP.’ These encounters are designed for groups of two or more, and you’ll get better item drops for partaking.
They’re not compulsory, but they’re a nice incentive not to be a nobby-no-friends. There are also Flashpoints, areas that also require teams in order to be bested.
They can be visited repeatedly, farmed, and needless to say, friendships, guilds and maybe even marriages will be founded through these dungeon crawls.
BioWare are well aware though, that some of you aren’t benevolent beings, and have included PvP Warzones – unlocked after level 10 – that let you unleash the ‘Rancor’ within. There are 3 different modes to play and in which to be a pain in the backside.
Though there are more graphically intensive games, The Old Republic really does look lovely and crisp.
Alderaan involves you battling over laser turrets in order to blast the opposing team’s supply ship down, while Huttball is just a technicolour, ultraviolent version of American football.
Voidstar meanwhile is an attack and defend map. Despite feeling unbalanced, they’re all chaotic exercises in trash talking fun. However, it wouldn’t be remiss to say that the PvP elements are secondary to the experiences of the main quest.
There are niggles. Like other MMOs, the game is prone to glitching out and lagging occasionally. It also takes too long revealing how truly grand it is as well. You’ll likely feel your interest temporarily flagging as you run through the same areas for the first bundle of hours.
Things really get going once you escape the starter planet and explore the rest of the galaxy though, as well as some familiar Star Wars locations, so it’s absolutely worth sticking with. But it’s a shame there’s some initial chaff to grind through.
In the end though, The Old Republic is a triumph. It’s an immersive, life-sapping experience that will swallow up hours like they’re seconds. It’s also unmistakably Star Wars. From the glorious soundtrack to the distinctive aesthetic, it just oozes Lucas.
When you factor in the replayability, successful merging of MMO and single player elements and sheer scale, it’s even more enticing. This is essential for those bitten by the MMO bug, as well as those who’ve spent more than half an hour wondering how Hutts use the toilet.