"The Force is Strong With This One"
One of the first purchases I ever made when I got the original Xbox along with a couple duke controllers, was a little game developed by Bioware called Knights of the Old Republic. I was only ten years old at the time and it came out during the prequel Star Wars era. That was my first Bioware game and was immediately blown away with how great it was. It had an amazingly crafted storyline, great gameplay and had one of the greatest twists in video gaming history. It set up so many personal milestones for me as it made me into the Star Wars fan I am today.
Eight years later, Bioware has returned to it’s roots since they moved on to make Jade Empire, Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. This time however, Bioware is imprinting what they’re well known for and putting it into an MMO. Before playing SWTOR, I would have told you that creating story driven MMO would have been impossible, but after five years in development and more than 100 hours of gameplay. Bioware Austin, has created something that MMO’s have never seen before and making it one of the best MMO’s on the market with great story telling, great gameplay and a remarkable amount of content that is perfect for any Star Wars fan.
In The Old Republic, there are eight classes you can choose from. On the Republic side, you can choose from Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler and Trooper on the Republic side and the Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter for the Empire. Most of the class’s balance out and all of the classes feel equally powerful. Never did I feel one class was overpowering and was stronger than the rest. What separates each class is that all have different story arks.
After playing the Jedi Consular in the Beta, I chose to play as the Imperial Agent when I got early access to mix things up. What I like so much about it is this feels like entirely new story material that I have never come across before. Sure it’s fun to be a Jedi or Sith, but we have already seen their back story in various games. Most of the classes in The Old Republic take lit bits from the movies, but The Imperial Agent is a different story and deals with Imperial politics and deals with covert missions. It’s what got me coming back to the Agent because of the new take on the Star Wars Universe.
One of many reasons the Imperial Agent is so appealing is because it never feels like your playing an MMO. The Old Republic is the first MMO that is truly a story driven and barrows many story elements used in Bioware games. One of the first things your going to notice right away, is that The Old Republic is the first fully voiced MMO. Nearly every NPC character in the game is fully voiced and highly compelling. Over 300 hundred actors were hired to portrayed more than 4,000 characters. It would have been acceptable for Bioware to take a shortcut and the voice acting be average, but all of it’s high quality. If you’re planning on playing the Jedi Consular, fan favorite and frequently used actor Nolan North, was hired to voice your class character. This all would have been lost if the cutscenes in the game weren’t spectacular. Thankfully, lessoned learned from previous Bioware help make it one of the best parts of the game.
Any time you need to say something, a Mass Effect pop up wheel and will guide to either the Dark or Light side. This is very reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic, as choosing one side will change your appearance and how people perceive you. These features aren't just for those who want to go solo. Anytime your working in a group in a quest and you start a conversation. By random the game rolls for who speaks out in your group, making the story more engaging.
The quest structure in The Old Republic is broken up into two, Main and side quests. Main quests are where are going to fine story quests built into your class. Side quests mostly revolve around doing fetch quests, which for the most are fun but can be boring for some. The Personal class storylines are a lot more involving and you can tell that a lot more went into developing the main quests rather than the side quests.
From the get go, you can tell more time was emphasis on developing the class quests in the game. Far too often, there are many great side quests that become very unforgettable because there is no follow up. A good example of this is a Revan quests on Dromund Kaas that is great for those who played the KOTOR saga. The quest is really satisfying and makes you keep on playing to find out more. After however, it simply just ends and you didn’t earn another quest to continue the progress you made. It's a real lost of opportunity and would have continued to give the game more content. Before I move on from the story component of the game. There are few problems with the presentation that restrict players considerably.
One of the first problems you’re going to notice right way is the character creator. Normally a character creator doesn’t have a big role in an MMO, but with SWTOR being the first story driven this is an exception. There is simply a lack of options to customize your character to your own personal liking. Now there are plenty options to customize, from eyes, scars, color and etc. But the most important characteristic like height and muscle tone were completely forgotten. There are only four body classes in the game. You can only choose between short and thin, normal, Tall and muscular or fat chubby person. This is it hurts the presentation for in-game cutscenes since your character is going to look the same as everyone else.
I have been following The Old Republic for five years and believed they could deliver on what they were promising. It’s in creditable that they managed to deliverer on what they promised. Even though it took Bioware Austin forever to develop the game, thankfully all the time spent made The Old Republic so great. Unlike recent Star Wars games, The Old Republic is by far the most complete game featuring an in-creditable story, in-creditable replayability and in-creditable gameplay.
Score: 9 Out of 10