A new republic rises… Star Wars: The Old Republic review
OK, so let me be truthful from the start. When I heard that BioWare were working on a Knights of the Old Republic sequel, I “squee’ed” like a teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert. The previous 2 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games are classed in my top 20 games of all time, BioWare’s finest hour and easily the top 2 Star Wars games ever-made. So I feel I’m not alone when I write what we really wanted from BioWare wasn’t a Star Wars MMO, but another single-player RPG, Knights of the Old Republic style. I asked myself why they felt the need to mess with perfection by cramming jedis, wookies, smugglers, and sith lords into another boilerplate MMO?
They answer is simple; 12 million online players, who pay over $15 a month (World of Warcraft’s peak subscribers base). Ok even when you subtract all the 30-day trial players, the free-to-play crowd, and multi-month subscription discounts, BioWare and EA were still in to make a killing if the game worked. Some of you following the story of this game may remember that it came under fire last year by someone claiming to be an ex-BioWare employee, who called the game “a joke” and said it would be “one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA.” And who was not to believe this “ex-BioWare employee” story as the game had been in development for over 5 years…
So as I sat down readying myself to review this game, you may now understand some of my apprehensions about it.
The first thing I can honestly say about this game is that it’s probably the biggest game ever made and continues to grow as you read this. BioWare chiefs have always said that their ambition with this game was to deliver 8 new and unique class-based instalments of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, one per character class. (cue choffing) Most would consider this an impossible goal, as it strains the limits modern game development and can be shrugged off as more PR pleasantries. Yet, after nearly 150 hours of in-game time, using numerous classes and story arcs, I have to bow down before BioWare, because as far as I am concerned, they have actually done it.
As I said above, there are 8 classes to choose from: Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler and Trooper on the Republic side and Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter on the Empire side. Each has its own storyline that is entirely different from the other seven. Personally I’ve always be akin-d to a bit lightsaber slashing so I will be sticking with my Jedi Knight character as soon as I finishing writing this. Having played most of BioWare’s games I’m confident in saying that their trademark has always been high-end stories and in this game they have managed to pull off an MMO that has gorgeous cut-scenes, in-game voice acting and enthralling stories. No mean feat.
Every character you talk to with is fully voiced, from the main characters in your storyline to 2 wandering stormtrooper’s looking for those pesky droids. Even dialogue became mesmerising as, stealing from the Mass Effect franchise, a choice wheel pops up and you choose the tone of the response, with familiar Dark or Light Side points reward for specific choices. If you’re in a group of players, each player picks a response, and the game rolls a number for each player to determine who gets to actually speak in the cut scene. The game made my brief WoW addiction and character caring seem outdated as for once a game had me watching each and every cut scene as I became attached to how my characters narrative would play out.
Ok so enough about that, most of you will want to know how the game actually plays. Well, the most common phrase being used now is “WoW with lightsabers” and while some of that is true, it’s also false. WoW players will have a familiarity with the killing a certain number of things or gathering a certain number of items quests, combat harks back to the Knights of the Old Republic mechanics as each tap happens as you press it. So game feels less like a MMO and more like an action-orientated 3rd person game.
Even though the game is an MMO it can still be played solo as each class gets a group of companion characters that level the playing field by acting as the different combat functions, from tanks to healers to damage dealers. It’s a stroke of genius that will open the game up to people who aren’t as experienced or even interested in playing an MMO. Fear not MMO fanatics there are plenty of PvP elements and grouping quests to cure your MMO needs.
Two downsides to the game are the crafting element which seems to be limited to those who have played a MMO before and knows the ins and outs of this strange item making game play element. Finally the User Interface is horribly rigid in some instances and I can’t help but wish there were more options in it. For me a UI can be deal-breaker but in this case it’s a minor issue, but one can hope that BioWare will read this and fix the issue.
This game is astounding. The game is just plain massive and it’s not until digging into the game for a hundred or so hours that you start to appreciate just how damn much there is to be played here. The premise behind this game was ambitious to say the least but the fact that it is all incredibly damn good is borderline miraculous. Whether you’re a MMO expert or not this game is an experience that’s not to be missed.
If you want to know more about the game, check out the launch trailer below where members of the Star Wars: The Old Republic development team discuss the many facets of building the game, from bringing life to the epic stories for each class, to hand-crafting the numerous iconic worlds.