Star Wars: The Old Republic Review

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Star Wars: The Old Republic Review

BioWare finally delivers an MMORPG that feels like an RPG.

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And soon it shall begin. Flame Wars Episode One: The Dissenting Opinion.

Edited for context: Haven't played it yet, my computers powerful but has a crappy graphics card so I'll need to get a new one first. But I've already seen enough to know that it's pissing people off for some reason or other. Mostly because it seems unpopular to give Bioware any credit these days.

I'm still on the fence. After what Drew Karpyshyn managed to do to Revan, I don't know if I want to mix Bioware with Star Wars anymore.

I was considering getting it, since I've just bought a new gaming pc. You sir, have made me come to a decision.

My next decision is figuring out which class to play, I guess.

Steve, so you know, your special TOR podcast convinced me that I should really pick this game up and join you guys. However, I'm apartment hunting right now, and know that if I got this game, I would devote every free minute I had to it. My resolution: find an apartment first, buy this game as a reward.

May the Force be with me.

On topic, though, I really enjoyed reading this review. Makes the game out to be very appealing from both a narrative and gameplay perspective while acknowledging its weaker points. Still can't wait to try it out for myself.

I pretty much agree with everything that was said here. But Bioware and EA are involved so I'll just sit back and wait for people to accuse the reviewer of being paid to give a good review or something along those lines.

Escapist members who are thinking of playing should search for ISIS (Republic) or ODIN (Empire) on the Hydian Way server, and join the user group.

Chapper:
snip

Marshall Honorof:
snip

Like you two! And in fact, you'll need one of us to invite you, so join the group and then the server, if you're so inclined.

Today I was made a Jedi Master. T'was cool.

Oro44:
I pretty much agree with everything that was said here. But Bioware and EA are involved so I'll just sit back and wait for people to accuse the reviewer of being paid to give a good review or something along those lines.

They slipped up (majorly) on Dragon Age 2, people are less forgiving when your previous track-record is so tight. (And to be honest, I'll eat my own face if that Dragon Age team gets its shit together for the 3rd on. "We're looking at Skyrim." Try looking at Dragon Age Origins, idiots.)

Funny thing. Ask me three years ago, and I would have said I like both Star Wars and Bioware. Nowadays, only Star Wars is on that list. Thanks EA.

The lag on servers is horrible and parts still feel very beta. Once people start reaching end content things will start getting stale.

Does it fix the need to grind and the repeated, fetch quests and kill x number of monkeys for a reward.

Still not sure about this one, everything you reviewed was leveling content, which seems pretty good from what I saw in the beta. Going to wait a few months and see how popular the endgame is.

SWTOR is probably the most divisive MMO since WoW in terms of how people are reacting to it, for some very good reasons. There's a lot more to the dissenting opinions than just 'haters gonna hate.'

That aside, I'll just pick up on one particular part of the review - the sense of playing a character rather than a collection of stats.

The problem I have with this in TOR is that I don't feel like I'm playing my character. I feel like I'm playing a character that Bioware have defined for me - kind of like Mass Effect. This feeling is massively reinforced when I arrive at a quest hub and see half a dozen other players wandering around with 'my' companion by their side.

SWTOR simply does not feel like an MMO to me. It feels like a single player game with optional multiplayer. Of course the endgame has raids, or whatever TOR calls them, but if they focus on group content and endgame for a while (and based on what we know of the first and second update schedule, they are) then what happens to your character story when all you get at 50 is a couple of dialog cutscenes in a raid every three months? As I've said before, I really can't see the people who come for the story staying for the raiding, and the harsh reality of MMO update schedules - even ones with EA's money behind them - is that you are very unlikely to see regular updates that offer lengthy and involving development of your character's personal story, let alone that of your companions.

Alright, I'm a big roleplayer in the traditional sense so this only really applies to me and those like me. I'm glad you enjoyed the game as it is, but I have many gripes with the "roleplaying" aspect you praise very highly.

First off, the roleplaying aspect is hindered by the fact that your character's "biography" and decisions are going to probably be the exact same as thousands of people, and very similar to many, many more.

The entire point of roleplaying in an MMO is the roleplay that occurs between players. You are clearly a single player RPG fan, which is why you said it caters to you, and that is perfectly fine!

For you.

For us, those who roleplay in multiplayer environments, it's actually more restricting and makes it even more difficult to roleplay, rather than aiding it.

Very limited character choices.

The aesthetics of all the races are pathetically similar.

The two opposing factions have carbon copy classes.

All of these things make this game much more difficult to roleplay on than on something like World of Warcraft.

The absolute, biggest flaw in roleplaying in multiplayer games are quests, NPCs and events that are shared with the entire game world. Every player is the hero. Every player is the villain. Every player is the "chosen one". This is severely limiting to those who truly roleplay!

What Bioware did was make a single player RPG, with multiplayer option. But is it really surprising? That's what Bioware does, and to expect anything different would be surprising. All in all, there is no denying the quality of content here and Bioware continues to prove they are one of the best single player RPG power houses in the world.

But a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game? Very, very lacking.

Just my two cents. Great review, by the way!

Edit:

Sixcess:
Snip

Aha, you beat me to the punch! I fully agree with you man, for slightly different reasons and worded differently but we share the same point!

Sixcess:
This feeling is massively reinforced when I arrive at a quest hub and see half a dozen other players wandering around with 'my' companion by their side.

How far have you gotten? That rapidly dispels.

Hmm, been on the fence for a while about getting it or not, even though I have played maybe 30-60 min as a Jedi Knight (or whatever you call the good guys). Now, this might just tip me over to getting it (once i get a new gaming pc and a job Q.Q)

But overall, good review, but as SteelStallion mentioned:

SteelStallion:
Alright, I'm a big roleplayer in the traditional sense so this only really applies to me and those like me. I'm glad you enjoyed the game as it is, but I have many gripes with the "roleplaying" aspect you praise very highly.

First off, the roleplaying aspect is hindered by the fact that your character's "biography" and decisions are going to probably be the exact same as thousands of people, and very similar to many, many more.

The entire point of roleplaying in an MMO is the roleplay that occurs between players. You are clearly a single player RPG fan, which is why you said it caters to you, and that is perfectly fine!

For you.

For us, those who roleplay in multiplayer environments, it's actually more restricting and makes it even more difficult to roleplay, rather than aiding it.

Very limited character choices.

The aesthetics of all the races are pathetically similar.

The two opposing factions have carbon copy classes.

All of these things make this game much more difficult to roleplay on than on something like World of Warcraft.

The absolute, biggest flaw in roleplaying in multiplayer games are quests, NPCs and events that are shared with the entire game world. Every player is the hero. Every player is the villain. Every player is the "chosen one". This is severely limiting to those who truly roleplay!

What Bioware did was make a single player RPG, with multiplayer option. But is it really surprising? That's what Bioware does, and to expect anything different would be surprising. All in all, there is no denying the quality of content here and Bioware continues to prove they are one of the best single player RPG power houses in the world.

But a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game? Very, very lacking.

^ might have to go with him on that.

Even though the argument of what is and isn't roleplaying is virtually impossible to be right or wrong on.I do contest that: "Suddenly, I'm not making choices based on the purely mechanical benefit to my character. Now I'm actually investing myself in the situations and making decisions based on my character's outlook. The sum total of those decisions creates a character biography that transcends the skills and equipment I've gained along the way. I mean, what's more meaningful: that my character has a lightsaber that boosts his strength or that he seduces (and allows himself to be seduced by) women in power? To me, that's real roleplaying and it's something that The Old Republic does better than any other MMO I've ever played."

isn't properly put into context. Sure, you have the ability to choose dialogue options, but in reality, the game is extremely linear. Zones are fairly small and aren't at all that open. Exception to maybe a few zones like Tattooine, most are just corridors with little valleys in them. Quests are motonous and similar to that of any other mmorpg on the market.

What SWTOR does best is also something that I find destroys the truly MMO feel of it. I give the writing and quest dialogue stellar points. If I wanted to play a single player, bioware rpg, this would be amazing. HOWEVER, it does destroy some aspects of the mutliplayer experience.

I know there is a major tenet of mmorpgs to make each and every player a heroic character in their world, however, more and more is that heroism granted than earned. Take the Agent class for example. After you do your Prologue quest you and you alone are given the sole task of infiltrating a terrorist network, responsible for violence to the Empire. Except...that it is you and about 5000 more Agents on the same exact quest line. I guess the Empire kind of had in mind a larger task force of Agents, in case you eventually fail and give up your subscription.

Not to mention a good 80%+ of the quests are solo-able. So in reality, the game doesn't require you, nor does it really foster you, to group up and form a community.

So there isn't much character development, as you are a living clone of the quest lines given to every other person in your class. What's worse, is that the quests make you feel like you are the powerful messiah like character, yet kind of takes it away with the linearity of the over-all game.

Take also for example the planets. Planets are so specialized to serving a particular range of levels, that virtually every player is going to follow the same exact path. Go from your newbie location, to the next tier area, which there is only one, then go to the next tier, which is only one, then the next, etc etc. The "choice" in where to go is limited.

Fundamentally we come to an age old question that comes even from D&D days:

How much of the story should players create themselves, and how much of the story should be given? It seems that with this MMO, the player's ability to make their own story, their own adventures, their own pursuits, is extremely limiting. The game holds your hand through each and every aspect.

I come back to my earlier point that it's greatest asset is also it's weakness. The extremely great but extremely limiting and narrow story line. Bioware does a great job at making a single player RPG, because it has a lot of experience with great storylines, but it's multiplayer it's lack luster. My character didn't have options. Outside aesthetic options that are ultimately mechanical (such as light/dark side) I still had to follow lock step with the rest of the player base throught the same exact corridors, same exact missions and quests, and the same exact planets. Like a massive narrow corridor with small rooms here and there, that is what SWTOR is.

For those of you that love Star Wars and want to experience a great RPG that you can, if you wish, sometimes, share with your friends or other people, SWTOR is great. However if you want a world you can live in, a world that you know is affected by you, a world where you can really explore, SWTOR is lack luster in that regard.

If one was to put this on a scale of Theme Park MMORPGs (-10 to 0) and Full Sandbox MMORPG (0-10) this would be a solid -7 on that scale.

Great SOLO Friendly MMO. Doubt many will stick around after they max out a few toons.

aww shii people already beat me to the punch.

"The Old Republic is the first MMO where that attitude actually seems to matter within the context of the game."

Ehh.. I think this is only true in the sense that TOR forces it on the player. Not that that's a bad thing, but pretty much every MMO out there allows for just as much RP as TOR does. In fact, I would say older MMOs pretty much stomp TOR in how much free form RP is actually allowed.

Oh, and yes I have to bring it up, but The Matrix Online still easily best defines an MMO that actually encouraged RP as more than just something to do on the side. In that game, the storyline wasn't necessarily fully formed ahead of time and did actually change based on it's RP community. Sorry, Mr. Butts but you're not only wrong about TOR being the first MMO to really support RP. It's definitely not the first, and it's also definitely not the best.

"While the space battles are the only serious shortcoming for The Old Republic"

What? Seems like you missed the 500ms delay, 1 raid end-game, complete focus in Republic story with complete disregard for empire story (all main characters in Empire dies, no main characters in republic dies), no AA, lack of high definition texture, overheat problems, constant FPS spikes, all races being same model with different colors (except twilek), only can pick "Anorexic, skinny, bodybuilder and obese" as models for male, and "small boobs, big boobs, tall with huge boobs and short with huge boobs" in female, broken PvP, exact copy of many WoW skills, lack of neutral rewards (yeah, only extreme light and extreme dark get item rewards), lack of addons, lack of customizable UI.

I'm not gonna put horrible support and terrible community as complaints, because they aren't really part of the game bioware made, and it's the game that's on review.

Serious, I played beta, and It felt great. But it deserves a 7.5/3.5 at most. The flaws are too big to ignore.

Woodsey:

Sixcess:
This feeling is massively reinforced when I arrive at a quest hub and see half a dozen other players wandering around with 'my' companion by their side.

How far have you gotten? That rapidly dispels.

First two worlds, and before anyone calls me out on jumping to premature conclusions, in every MMO I've ever played and loved the first 20 levels were where I started to love the game. If TOR gets better later on it takes an awfully long time to do so.

I can see how the companion thing would become somewhat less jarring once you have more to choose from, but that's only one reason I know The Old Republic is not for me. It's not a bad game, but it's very flawed as an MMO, with a horrible design philosophy behind it, and it pains me when people repeat Bioware's unjustified claim that it's the first MMO with a story that matters.

StriderShinryu:
"The Old Republic is the first MMO where that attitude actually seems to matter within the context of the game."

Ehh.. I think this is only true in the sense that TOR forces it on the player.

This.

It's a shame I stand firm in my decision to boycott EA's games (along with UbiSoft and Activision/Blizzard), the game sure looks pretty neat, but I think I won't be bored anytime soon, with 10+ MMOs installed in my HDD and tomorrow's release of Star Trek Online (seriously, thank God for F2P), I'm sure having a busy week, not to mention my daily dose of Skyrim.

From the Vid:

"Or the time when a powerful noble woman took you into her bed to thank you for killing her husband. The choices you make....... have real consequences that come back to you again and again."

... Did you catch some kind of std or space crabs?

Soviet Heavy:
I'm still on the fence. After what Drew Karpyshyn managed to do to Revan, I don't know if I want to mix Bioware with Star Wars anymore.

So...the book is a no-go then?

---

I'm passing on this one. My PC barely manages flash games at this point and I've never been a fan of the MMO. I think I can also say I'm passing this by to boycott EA and Origin but that would be a lie since I don't really care about either...well, Origin anyway.

I am tempted. So very, very tempted.

I like Bioware. I like the idea of a MMO that is, well... less MMO.

However, I do not like Star Wars (every time someone says "may the force be with you" my eyes want to roll clean out of their sockets) and I'm still not down with the whole subscription thing.

I want to play this game so bad. Not only because I am a MASSIVE star wars fan, my favorite avatar of all time is the one I have right now and I will never change it so that is my sign of star wars fanaticism. But I have a Mac and not a Windows computer. While I love Mac computers I want to get a Windows computer just for this.

Well this is all fine and dandy, but I still refuse to buy it until we get a free trial

As much as I'd love to try this out, subs/buying games isn't gonna happen for a poor (and cheap) bastard like me. As for the RP thing, couldn't really tell, but I've heard free-form RP in LotRO is pretty good. I got bored and made a character on the RP server and it's nice to run around and occasionally hear a snippet of some groups RP. Gives the world a more lived in feel.

Agree that the game is very fun in single player, hit lvl40 on my imperial agent and didn't feel like I grinded to get there, just enjoyed the story (class story quest lines varies in quality and taste...Find trooper story disappointing for example) and set my own pace.

Its also worth noting the pvp in this game is surprisingly well balanced for a launch mmo imo, i certainly enjoyed dabbling in warzones and one time in pvp me and 2 other lvl30s (twas on alderaan) got ganked by a lvl50 jedi decked in pvp gear and slain the ignonimous foe...TWICE.
Granted the guy for some reason was focusing the tank but hey, not our fault the guy played dumb.

Gotta echo what others are saying regarding restrictive rping in this game though, putting aside aspects like character bio and individuality and looking at the options we are given, we have a choice between 4 body types which might aswell just be 3 (who picks body type 4 except as a joke ffs? Though making a fat agile jedi gets tiresome surprisingly quickly) and average at best selection of faces and hair which is shared between npcs and players quickly result in a samey look (oh so thats what body type 4 is for...only npcs use those!).

Another problem is having your characters voice.
Why is this a problem? Well besides having to work with limited customization options, you have to remember your looks should match the voice you will have (a lot of the voices sound very young for example, so can't make someone who is later then mid 20s or it feels having older guy speak with a young mans voice). Now when you get a voice that matches what you had in mind, it does add to the immersion 10 times over, but this definitly limits the possible character builds if you want your character to have a voice that is believable for him/her.
And then when in group with other people of your class you all have the same voice... Its best keeping your group as diverse as possible if only for that.

Agente L:
complete focus in Republic story with complete disregard for empire story (all main characters in Empire dies, no main characters in republic dies)

Alas we Imperials will always get screwed unless it's an alternate universe setup :( Least they didn't portray the imperials as all moustache twirling villains and the republics as white knights of goodness.

watching hotkey cooldown is not a fault of the genre. its a dated mechanic that needs to be replaced.

Thats the only beef i had with the review.

Its too bad the game uses that super boring mechanic or else i would have played it.

p.s. god damn collect/kill count quests too.

Frankster:

Agente L:
complete focus in Republic story with complete disregard for empire story (all main characters in Empire dies, no main characters in republic dies)

Alas we Imperials will always get screwed unless it's an alternate universe setup :( Least they didn't portray the imperials as all moustache twirling villains and the republics as white knights of goodness. [/spoiler]

Yeah, but they could let SWTOR end in a draw, and event taking place AFTER it, in EU lore, that ends with empire getting destroyed and republic being victorious. But making it happen IN SWTOR? It's ridiculous.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me.

Space battles are the only short comings?!

Have you even looked at the graphics compared to the cutscenes and advertised screenshots?!

Here's a link to the forums, high resolution textures are not available for gameplay.
Only in cutscenes, they make a massive difference to the game.

They claim that the medium graphics setting in the game was a bug, and there's only supposed to be Low and High. Now they say high res textures were never meant to be in the game and it's all working as intended. yet all their footage and advertisement shows high res graphics for gameplay.

http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=175553

The thread has reached it's cap 5 times so far ( unto it's 6th thread now), that's thousands of posts and tens of thousands of veiws.

They're only adding AA in their 1.1 patch, although lord knows how it will run.

As many players have found that forcing AA upto x8 in the GPU drivers have increased performance along with forcing more "Level Of Detail" LOD in the drivers.

Sadly, even with all the user tweaks there are no high res graphics unless you're in a story cutscene. or unless you click the holo comunicator and you get high res for a split second.

Yet your character's companion is always in High Res and when you preview items on your companion, as opposed to your own character.

Shoggoth2588:

Soviet Heavy:
I'm still on the fence. After what Drew Karpyshyn managed to do to Revan, I don't know if I want to mix Bioware with Star Wars anymore.

So...the book is a no-go then?

---

I'm passing on this one. My PC barely manages flash games at this point and I've never been a fan of the MMO. I think I can also say I'm passing this by to boycott EA and Origin but that would be a lie since I don't really care about either...well, Origin anyway.

Avoid that book at all cost. which also means you should rightfully pass on the MMO as well.

I agree that the space combat could've been more engaging, but it's hardly a dealbreaker. I enjoy it alot more than I did any daily quests in WoW; especially the authentic music as you pewpew your way through the missions. Then again the same is true for every quest, flashpoint (instance), operation (raid) and PvP warzone I've looked at so far. I suppose that goes under the same category that was mentioned in the review - the graphics and the sound are incredibly engaging. You feel like your character's in the Star Wars universe. Everything fits, down to the music in the background.

The way crafting and companions work is also one thing that earns so many bonus points from me that Bioware would have to egg my house before I seriously started cutting off points on the score sheet. No more flying back to town to stand at the smith for half an hour. No more of that flow-breaking bullshit. You give your companions the job, and go about your business. On top of that they never feel like pets but important characters in your story. They voice their opinions, suggest things, do things you couldn't do if you had someone else along. They have their own quests - some more engaging than others, but they still do.

I, personally, haven't had a single technical problem since I started playing - at least nothing people have mentioned in this thread. Hit 50 on my Trooper Vanguard last week, and been happily tanking my way through both PvE and PvP. It's true that TOR has a very limited bit of endgame at the moment - but so did WoW. Such familiar places as Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley, Zul'Gurub and numerous others were not in the game on release.

(Take a look at http://www.wowwiki.com/Patches/1.x if you want a trip down Memory Lane)

MMO's so far have -ALL- added content in large updates. Even as I speak, the Old Republic is a few hours away from maintenance for patch 1.1 - which will add new content, fix numerous bugs and issues, and will add the oh-so-central AA (as I believe someone mentioned as a 'flaw', althoug granted that depends on just how highly you regard small changes in graphic quality). If you think TOR PvP is imbalanced, I hope and pray you never get sent back in time to play vanilla WoW PvP - actually, who am I kidding. It remains unbalanced to this day!

Everyone is free to view this as the opinion of a fanboy and dismiss it if they must, but I'm just so very bored with seeing the game put down on these forums for trivial and personal reasons (The top oen usually being OMG EA IS INVOLVED WITH IT). If it barely works, keeps crashing and/or you can't connect to any servers - sure. If you complain that there's not enough endgame six hours before the NEXT CONTENT PATCH IS BEING ADDED... Take a look in the mirror and think long and hard about what you're blabbing on about.

As a WoW, Warhammer Online, LotRO and Age of Conan player - I give TOR a good 8/10. (As with ALL MMO'S, future updates will no doubt raise that score)

Dunno if its just bad editing in the video, but werent all the areas just corridors with different color?

Ive been sceptical but hopeful towards this game, but sadly it just looks like your average MMO. Adding dialogue and story seems to make leveling much more bearable., but what about the end game content? As far as Ive heard, its pretty bad.

Might buy it when the price drops, and play it the one free month.

Agente L:
[

Yeah, but they could let SWTOR end in a draw, and event taking place AFTER it, in EU lore, that ends with empire getting destroyed and republic being victorious. But making it happen IN SWTOR? It's ridiculous.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me.

A draw would have been nice, if there is any sith empire that deserved to know victory over the republic for once in galactic history it would have been this one.

But "light" side must always prevail in star wars it seems, as annoying as it is (especially when light side in question is light only in name).

As for the KOTOR 2 retcon, just...Eugh. But my initial rage was little compared to

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