Review by Jeff AKA Snoopy
"The Bioware MMORPG is more RPG than any before it!"
It was a huge gamble on the part of Bioware and EA, to release a new game based on the Knights of the Old Republic that is not a traditional Bioware RPG. Instead, they dipped their feet into the MMO pay to play universe dominated by World of Warcraft. Many pay service MMO's have tried, and most have become free to play since their initial launch. The Old Republic has the legs to stay for a long time, due mainly to taking the combat and game systems of WoW, but becoming one of the first MMO's with multiple deeply engrossing story lines.
This MMO thrives in an area most flounder in. The main focus of most MMO's have always been about getting people to end game content to get in story elements. It was thought that since the world has to be constant for everyone, it was impossible for an MMO to release a great single player story element until later in the game, where actions in large scale dungeons could be addressed by the game later with new patches. However, The Old Republic eschews this and makes the story matter. First, the single player story has great differences depending on what character you play, and what class. Each class has large differences in how they experience not just the first hours of the game, but from the beginning to the high end levels. Class based missions are aplenty, with many areas and stories unavailable to any other class. It prompts you to wonder, "What is behind the veil?" and want to play another class to see what is different on this planet, as a Trooper instead of a Jedi Knight. These stories are deeply engrossing, well written, and constant. Your actions as a level 5 character have ramifications as a level 45. The continuing story from the original KOTOR is there and addressed quite well. Quite frankly, even if I never had played with other people, I would find this game as a worthy single player campaign. Hell, I would suggest to anyone who normally isn't into playing MMO's, buy the game and maybe pay for a couple months to play through the story. Well worth it.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Some will go to town on TOR for being, with all due respect, a huge clone of WoW in many ways when it comes to the combat and gameplay. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery however, and rather than trying to alienate a HUGE audience who was starting to be tired of WoW, they used the template to form an MMO that plays really well. However, one of the biggest additions is entirely original for MMO's, though a mainstay of Bioware. The Companion system allows you to have a companion with you at all times (beyond when you're in groups, only 4 combatants are allowed). As a Jedi Knight, you get a tank companion early in the game. These companions do more than just fight with you (and just to say, they are quite competent), as you can set them to due resource missions, have them craft for you, or sell your junk. By level 20 I had 3 companions, so I could send 2 away (2 is the max) to do these missions, while I would have a third fight with me. There are Bioware-esque interactions and affection levels with these companions, each having their own story to tell. It adds a great amount of RPG story telling and a feeling of not being alone while doing your massive single player campaign.
The other major change from most MMO's is the inclusion of a dialog option. I won't lie, when it comes to WoW and DC Universe Online, Final Fantasy XI, etc. etc, I really didn't read mission text. I saw I was supposed to kill _____, or gather ______, and I moved on. However, the inclusion of dialog cannot be understated. At least for me, it makes me far more involved in missions. The ability to answer how you want, and in many cases change your mission in the middle to how you want, makes the story much more involved and puts you more in the moment. It isn't just a grind to end game anymore, as you are involved in how the missions evolve. It is a fantastic Bioware addition.
The other aspects of MMO's are there. Many different ways to craft items, alter your items (yes, different colored light sabers), collect resources, a functional auction system and mail system, etc. etc. I can think of few things that you would expect from something like WoW that is not present somehow. The interface is somewhat clunky in comparison to WoW, but it just takes a bit of getting used to. Any MMO person will have no trouble playing the game and playing it well. Newcomers should find it fairly easy and a good entry into MMO's.
TOR could have tried to get away a bit more from WoW, but it plays really well and you can't fault them for making a combat system that works.
Fully voice acted. Everything. I can't stress how important this concept is. I was shocked how much this voice acting brought me into the game. Combined with the dialog options, and it makes for a powerful "Just one more mission" moment. No longer is an MMO just a slog to End game, as I have loved the journey, in no small part due to the voice acting. Some of the voices aren't GREAT, but most are serviceable to quite good. The music feels like Williams without it being done by him. They got the music perfect, and the sounds of light sabers and blasters puts you firmly in the Star Wars universe.
The visuals cannot say the same thing. Many of the character models look really neat, but many of them also look downright silly. The game takes a middle road between the realism of the original Star Wars movies and the cartoonish look of the animated works. It treads the middle road decently, but facial hair is laughably bad, some of the worlds are bland and boring (some of them are amazing beautiful though), and there aren't many options to really personalize your character.
The game is set up to be run on modest rigs, and it does so fairly well. It has good options for higher end computers as well, but it will never reach the levels we were hoping from the cinematics that were being released prior to launch. The game is designed to be run by the majority, rather than the minority. The audio is amazing, but the visuals are only serviceable. It's GREAT at times, but very bland and boring at other times.
If you're an MMO fan, it's really a no brainer. The game will have staying power, it has been released more smoothly than any MMO before it, and Bioware has been quick to change and tweak things that are unbalanced. If you're not a Star Wars fan, I wouldn't recommend it. The most fun of the game is the immense and very fun single player campaign, with great Star Wars stories that we haven't seen since Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. It is a worthy successor to the KOTOR legacy, and if you're a fan of Star Wars or MMO's, it is simply a no brainer. If you're a fan of Star Wars, but not of MMO's (or a fan of MMO's and not Star Wars), I would still suggest you buy it and try it for a month.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/12/12
Game Release: Star Wars: The Old Republic (US, 12/20/11)
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