Completely new to MMOs, Nick gives his thoughts on the recently released Star Wars: The Old Republic after getting some solid hours logged.
All-out galactic war looms over the head of every being in existence, and politically neutral world Nar Shaddaa brims with the kind of chaotic power balance that can only be bought, bribed and bullied by gangsters like the Hutt family. Donning his cloak, hands ever-grazing his twin lightsabers, Sith Warrior Udun prowls the hovering metropolis, a harsh neon glow illuminating his red tattooed skin. Then he kills 10 droids. Then he kills 20 insects. Then he disables 5 computers, with a bonus mission to kill 10 droids.
As someone who values the little free time I do have in my day, I’d always sworn to myself that I wouldn’t be wooed by the loot-whoring, dungeon-raiding, part game, part full-time job that is the massively multiplayer online game. Yet here I am, rounding my 50th hour of Bioware’s recent epic, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m carrying out the same monotonous tasks known by fans of every other MMO, thinly veiled by new Lucasarts toy opportunities and a sleek conversation system, with no end in sight. Why did I do it, you may ask? The answer is simple: Because it’s Star Wars.
As in the Mass Effect series (but magnified in this case), the combat in this game is not what interests me. In fact, I hate the combat and find it a chore to run around pressing strings of number keys to make my “Marauder” flail his lightsaber around wildly. The game pays no attention to portraying a ‘realistic’ or visually compelling Star Wars fight. I suppose this is a trapping of MMOs in general, but it doesn’t make the bulk of my missions any less boring for a fan of ‘twitch,’ ‘stylish,’ or ‘tactical espionage’ schools of action.
What keep me coming back are the conversations and story threads, which are fully voiced, and have been consistently interesting so far. Systems in place for light-dark actions and how they affect you or your companions are brilliant, and decisions have a sobering amount of weight when there is no ability to load a quicksave. Talking in groups is always fun, as each person has the ability to contribute, though your group’s actions can never affect your personal light-dark meter. If I buddy up with someone of a different build and join him for a class-exclusive mission, I can still participate in his battles and watch him make decisions in his cutscenes, giving a taste of just how different the game could have been should I have chosen another path.
Space combat felt refreshingly polished when I first gained the ability to use my ship, but daily missions with limited variety ensured that these became more chore than treat very quickly. There are also several UI wrinkles that need ironing before I’m completely satisfied with the way I go about my day as a Sith, but I expect these will be patched in the coming months.
When I was waiting for this game to come out, I wanted to subscribe for a few months, beat the storylines I wanted to see, and move on to the rest of my ‘unfinished games’ stack. I can see now that this game is designed to prevent this, and I am likely to never see the end of even my current character’s storyline. I hear that this game implements a healthy amount of changes on the typical MMO formula, but I can’t comment on that. All I know is, after playing for a considerable amount of time, I can definitely recommend this game to fellow Star Wars fans. If the lightsaber combat isn’t as exciting as most Star Wars properties portray it, the universe and storylines definitely make up for this shortcoming. I feel like I’m in a living, breathing world where I am the star, even when there are 15 other high-level Sith Warriors crowded around a guy I’m talking to, all there for the same mission.
Nick Hawryluk is the co-pruducer, director and editor of Press Play the Webseries. He also runs and contributes articles to the Press Play website.