Reviews: Star Wars The Old Republic
Actually a good game—-but easy to see why it failed.
I've heard a lot of bad rap about this game, from the TORTANIC memes to the fact that it failed as a MMO. I admit that I tried it to see just how bad it is and actually excepted an unpleasant experience that would make me quit in about a week—-I was surprised that it wasn't bad as the internet and the press claims it to be, but not a truly innovative product either. what I got was an "interesting" case. Turns out the game itself was pretty good, but the accusations against it were justified. The storyline and class quests were interesting. The companions were fun to have around, the graphics were good and so were the instances/flashpoints. I am a prefered status player and the content isn't that restrictive, and you can do most of the quests in the vanilla game. However, at the same time, most of the accusations against it were justified, especially from a MMO standpoint. The problem with SWTOR is that it tries to be both a single player game AND a World of Warcraft-style MMO that wants to kill World of Warcraft at the same time. This game has been in development in some form or another in 7 years—-since then, many p2p MM Os tried to repackage the World of Warcraft model with neater graphics, but failed —it is clear the developers didn't pay attention to this. A major problem is that The Single player content dosen't mesh with the MMO content. Why the hell should you go to a class trainer to improve yourselves in the Force? Furthermore, Bioware thinks they can use the class quests to keep people around for a lng time, but since A LOT of people Play the Game, Skip the Story, everyone simply space bared all the dialog options, so no one will value the effort in the storyline, and all the twinks and power levelers got to the top fairly quickly. There wasn't simply enough endgame content to offset this. Also I really HATE the Foundry mission, not spoiling anything but take a look at who the final boss is and how that goes against canon, I think most people, even the fans do too. They could have decided to take all the features and concepts and make this into KOTOR 3 with all the good singleplayer content, they could have also made a decent MMO that wouldn't draw so much flak without the Singleplayer stuff, or do both games, or release SWTOR as f2p from the Get-go. But they didn't, they wanted to kill World of Warcraft, they failed spectacularly, and the game suffers for it.
Review of the Trooper Arc
The main focus of this review is towards the Republic Trooper's Story arc. Although there are multiple ways to play that can change one's outlook on the story, I decided to go with the choices I'd most likely make in the given scenarios despite being limited and take the F 2 P male (somewhat LS) Commando Battle Medic Path. The Trooper Arc requires a bit of patience, as you start off as nothing more than a rifle-toting greenhorn with light armor and limited moves, but to compensate the trooper story hits the ground running from the start. There's no need to worry about feeling rushed though, as this is an MMO and you can spend an indefinite span of time completing sidequests to level up. Act I slows the pace down somewhat and focuses more on the trooper building their squad after getting promoted for their actions in the Intro while dealing with a group of high-priority traitors. I won't say much more for fear of spoilers but I must say this act improves considerably as it reaches its end. The end choices are well-thought out, especially with updates that had been made. Act II focuses on the trooper gaining more squadmates to build their team to its maximum potential and take on a high-risk covert op, completing important operations in the process. A lot of the worlds in this act are rather ugly in this reviewer's opinion but I digress. This is probably the longest part of the arc and feels like it drags on longer than it should. Act III starts picking itself up once again as the fragile ceasefire between the Republic and the Empire has been broken. The trooper finds themselves faced against one of the Empire's most dangerous and brilliant tacticians, who employs a variety of strategies to try and weaken the Republic and defeat your team, which by this point is one of the Republic's most renown units. I personally find the ending anticlimactic, but that's all I'm going to say. The overall Trooper Arc isn't the most creative story, but it's great for those who love running around with heavy weapons, blowing stuff up, killing people and saving the day. The gameplay as a commando feels like a hybrid between a TF 2 Heavy and Medic with a hint of Demoman. The companions sometimes seem unlikeable, but I found myself getting used to them over time. To conclude, the trooper arc gets the job done, but it's not perfect.
A Look at the Agent and Operative Healer
Agent's story, often touted as TOR's best, does have flaws. Act 1's pretty dull until the ending—though the ending confrontation is fantastic. Act 2's a lot better, hooking you right off the start, and Act 3 is similar. I'd give Act 2 the most praise, though Act 3 comes close. 2's a bit more personal: I can't say too much about it, but the Agent ends up essentially trapped for most of it, and throwing off the shackles comes with a real sense of triumph. Choices-wise, Agent's one of the most rich. Other classes may give you a Light or Dark path (Warrior), but Agent provides a nuanced approach. Act 1 has 3 to 4 different endings, and the actual ending is similarly rich. There's a real sense of character building, and genuine consequences appear—e.g. one person spared unlocks a new possible very different ending. Each companion fits with a different kind of Agent: Lokin, the pragmatic; Vector, the saintly diplomat; Ensign, the nice patriot; and Kaliyo, James Bond driving downtown in a tank. Ensign's my least favourite, but Lokin and Vector's friendship warms the heart and Vector's honesty works well in contrast to other characters. An ironically human character for a man hooked to an insect Hive Mind. A main problem is that Kaliyo, while someone given an interesting mystery feeling to, is the only companion until half-way into the game, and she's not a good fit for a lot of Agents. Supporting characters are nice: "Keeper" (as first called) is a surprisingly warm figure despite some actions, and Watcher X is fascinating. Darth Jadus ends up one of my favourite characters, and not just in TOR. His daughter ends up a "shockingly" sympathetic figure, though one you learn to treat much like active dynamite. Operative's playstyle is fun enough, with tricks, stealth, a sleep dart, and elements ensuring you've won the fight before it's already started, if you wish to fight at all—lovely stealth. But doing this in group content's easier said than done. Played right in PvE, the Operative healer can be essentially immortal, with constant healing, an Evasion and Shield skill, and an option to exit a battle with stealth. But for all your tricks, group content does not have much variation, and solo content can also feel boring, especially against heavy-hitters: you take damage and just heal as your companion attacks.
A Star Wars Painted MMO
So The Old Republic is actually a pretty good game. But its problems are deep seated and fundamental to the way the game was designed, making it a fraction of what it should have been. Ultimately the game was designed with no central goal. No-one sat down and asked what a Star Wars MMO should be and how it should feel like. They sat down to make an MMO, noted that World Of Warcraft is indeed an MMO and assumed that must be how you have to make one. The problems kicked in -10 seconds before gameplay actually started. Started character creation, signed up for the roleplay server*, figured out a rough character outline and backstory...-and wait a minute 'special'? Predefined background? The story is a Only You Can Save Mankind affair makes no sense for an MMO. Instead of embracing the massively multiplayer concept and telling a story about how you and thousands of others are giving everything they have to fight the sith threat, it requires us to pretend that no-one else is playing the game at all, because they are The Chosen Ones too. The lightsaber all the Jedi consulars are holding? The first lightsaber in history. So the story doesn't mesh with the MMO. But the cracks aren't just there. The MMO doesn't mesh with the lore. This is a Star Wars game where you can play a dark side Jedi or a light side sith but there's no chance of changing sides. No matter how many puppies you kick, you will be kicking them in the name of all that is good. The gameplay doesn't mesh with the setting. Force powers feel indistinguishable from generic sprint or 'hit them harder abilties'. What's stunning is, even Knights Of The Old Republic handled combat and force powers better than this. It was boring, but at least it wasn't boring and felt absolutely nothing like the sort of thing a jedi or a stormtrooper or a bounty hunter would do. It's hard to believe when tapping into the interconnected power that controls all life involves going to a skill trainer and giving him some money. Every design decision of the game wasn't based on 'how can this feel like the Star Wars universe' or even 'how should this work in a massively multiplayer online game' but on what the competitors were doing
Bounty Hunter Story
This review is for the Hunter story in The Old Republic. For clarity's sake, my character was (mostly) LS, a Powertech tank, and female. I found the Hunter's playstyle very appealing, with fun and visually-interesting skills that toss and drag opponents around. There's also satisfaction in shrugging off piles of blaster fire to perform a Street Fighter uppercut on an opponent. From a gameplay perspective, the class is probably my favorite. Act I is very well done. It portrays the character's growth from Young Gun to experienced professional well, and the overarching plot of revenge and induction into the Mandalorians was great. I also appreciate the Mandalorians' portrayal here. I came in disliking their Holier Than Thou moments in the EU, but these were fine. The individual hunts were mostly average here, but the overall story was great. Act II, unfortunately, brings that story to a screeching halt. There is no real plot here, save for Quesh, just three worlds' worth of doing your job. It's a shame, because the individual hunts were the strongest in the game. Act III was good. It has a strong overarching story beyond "hunt some dudes," Tormen is an interesting frenemy, and it kicks off with a great plot twist that also communicates a genuine theme about the pain even a mostly-moral Punch Clock Villain like the LS hunter creates. The individual hunts were weakest here, but the explosive climax made up for it. The companions were mostly well done. Mako made for a good best friend, though I felt her personal story could use more resolution than it had. Gault was... there, but he could be funny at times, and otherwise quite adequate. Torian was a fine character, and I enjoyed his romance arc. It managed to be sweet without dipping too deeply into the well of Bioware Romance cliches that I don't truly mind but still find recognizable. Blizz was a Keet jawa with a rocket launcher, and that's so awesome I don't even care that my build made him almost useless. Skadge can die in a ditch. Easily the worst thing about the story, the weakest companion I've met so far, and the ONLY companion in any story I didn't bother approval grinding to learn about. Finally, the hunter herself had great voice acting, with plenty of possible roleplaying. Probably my favorite story in the game so far, and highly recommended.
Good, but could have been so much more
I have a very weird relationship with TOR. On the one hand, it's a major step forward in MM Os as far as narrative, setting, story, and a handful of other things goes. On the other hand, a lot of it feels rehashed from previous success stories like World Of Warcraft, and there's a general sense of incompleteness in the air. First, the good:
- It has a plot, and it's actually pretty good. Each class gets their own storyline, which range from great (Agent, Trooper) to just meh (Consular, Bounty Hunter). There's also a metaplot that advances through the storyline, and each Flashpoint and Operation has a reason to exist besides loot.
- Space Combat is a bit of a mixed bag, but I liked it, and thus it's going on this list.
- The Flashpoints are some of the very best Instances I've seen in an MMO in a long time. While there are still a few duds, there are plenty of very well-designed and executed runs to make parties fight for survival AND have fun doing it.
- The Legacy System is a genuinely good idea (albeit not fully executed yet), and since the game is designed to be run through multiple times, the upcoming bonuses in 1.3 will be a definite help.
- PVP just sucks. There's no way around it. If your class doesn't use a blaster, prepare to die. Queue times can drag forever, and the four maps altogether are just dull. Open world is restricted to only a few places outside of a PVP server, and virtually nobody ever goes to those spots to begin with.
- The gameplay is very, very similar to WOW. I won't say it's exactly the same, because there are a few differences, but overall it feels like reskinning your Night Elf into a Sith.
- There are still a lot of bugs and performance issues. Alderaan and Belsavis are almost unplayable if you don't have a decent enough rig, graphical glitches are frequent, and there are still some serious bugs with abilities and conversations. It doesn't help that the graphics aren't too impressive to begin with.
Great game with flaws
So, Star Wars: The Old Republic. This is an incredibly fun game FOR ME. The reason I say this, it's because, first of all, I enjoy Alts. If you like playing alts, then this game will make you smile, because you have eight different classes, each with their own storyline, voice acting, romances, and each have their own specific feel. For instance, when I play the Republic Trooper, my character feels so much different from my Bounty Hunter, even though they have the same gameplay, it's how the NP Cs treat you, and how your character treat others. Second, I like PVP. Old Republic has THE most fun PVP I have ever played. Now, bear with me, this is a personal review, the reason I like it so much is how strategy and knowing your class will reward you and your allies. For instance, if you are a Tank, and you protect your healers (through a special skill called "Guard", that you put a shield into one ally and then absorb his damage) you not only get Medals (that increases your PVP rewards), but also helps the team survives far more. Not only that, each Warzone need good strategies to win, for instance, Alderaan, a Arathi Basin look a like depends on the players stopping the enemy from capturing the nodes, while also allowing allies to cap it, how do we do this? First, we can kill as many enemies as possible in the middle node, then, the tanks and stunners go to the "spawn" point of the enemy and keep then there, so one of us can cap the middle node without interrupts. I know some games also have this, but the classes are so well thought, that knowing how each work makes a BIG difference. Now, one thing that I truly dislike about this game is the supposed "story based" dungeons. I disagree, though they have some cutscenes, the most story based dungeon I've played are the Black Talon, Esseles, Maelstrom Prison, Foundry, False Emperor. They truly shine, because they are so well done, you can see those villains and enemies and say "Wow, I want to kill them", also they have very memorable fights and interesting cutscenes. But the rest are AWFUL. They are like W Ow dungeons, and they do not deliver the "Story" feel that it should be. Neither does the Raids, only the last enemy of the first one makes my character feel like part of an awesome fight. The game to 1-50 is awesome. Specially if you choose the right voiced class.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of SWTOR
First off, let me say that if you don't like Ko To R I (or two for that matter), or Mass Effect, you will not be a fan of this game. And if you didn't like Star Fox (64, not the crappy ones) you won't like space combat. Its almost EXACTLY the same as Star Fox in execution, which to me is not a bad thing, but YMMV. The Good: You care about quests and NP Cs in this game much, much more then you do in other MM Os. The full blow voice acting really brings the game to life, and you will find yourself going back and doing quests that are fairly worthless to you JUST BECAUSE THE LITTLE GIRL ASKED YOU. It is much, much more meaningful to have a quest giver tell you their story then have to read it (or like most MMO players, skip). Companions are great, and you will find yourself swaying toward choices you know they will like. They are not the brightest in combat, but they are worth at least 1 stupid player. Combat is not a radical departure from the norm, but its very action packed and hectic compared to many MM Os. And the writing is good, and so are the class stories, but this is a Bioware game so no bonus points. The Bad: AH is very, very clumsy to use, travel is a pain at low levels, and at times things can be rather vague and confusing as to where to go next. The guild mechanic is fairly clunky, and doesn't really do anything other then put you in a special chat channel. Players will have to find reasons to be part of a guild. The Ugly: This game is not kind to older machines, at all. If you don't have at least a decent computer, you can forget about this game. PVP is... Obviously not what things are balanced around. Crafting is so hands off, it almost feels like an after thought. Yes, having your companions do it is nice, but its so easy to level and its so automated that really, you can set up an auto clicker, AFK, and come back with max crafting and good stuff. Its kinda nice, but again, if you like hands on crafting, this will disappoint. TLDR; A very, very good game. Its dramaticly different then the MM Os I have played (Lo TRO, World Of Warcraft, Runescape, Maple Story) and I really enjoy it. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or Ko To R, or is looking for a new Star Wars MMO.