What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “MMO”? World of Warcraft? Everquest? Guild Wars? How about Star Wars: Galaxies or Rift? Well, let’s add one more to that list, Star Wars: The Old Republic (or SWTOR, for the rest of the article). After having played it for the last 2 weeks, I have to say, I do not want to clump it in with the rest of those mentioned. To me, SWTOR feels like a true sequel to Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR), that fancy little RPG that Bioware created some 8 years ago. It does feel like an MMO in many regards, but for the most part, I feel like I am playing a single player game with some co-op elements thrown in (which is a good thing, trust me on that).
Because reviewing an MMO is very difficult due to a LOT of content, I feel I this review will be a little non-traditional in a sense of what I liked and disliked about it and not talking so much about features in detail. I encourage you to make the decision to buy it based on your own preferences and if you feel so inclined, based on what I say from here on. I also feel you should research the game on your own to determine whether or not you feel you want to dedicate your time and $50 or so for the game, plus $15/month subscription to playing this game (or play at a friend’s house first, that’s generally what I do).
To start it off, what I really liked about SWTOR. For one, Bioware’s execution of an MMO. They did what most companies cannot seem to grasp, immersion. When you play an MMO, you should feel as if you are immersed into your character and the story surrounding the game. Bioware recognized this and created an experience that caters to you. Bioware spent the last 4 years or so creating a cinematic, story driven experience so that the players don’t feel as if they are only doing quests to get to the end game.
On that note, my second like would have to be the story. SWTOR takes place 300 years after KotOR 2, and roughly 3,500 years before the Galactic Republic’s forming (aka the movies). The story and the planets you visit give you many opportunities to explore the Star Wars universe while learning the follow-ups of what occurred in the previous games. Because of this, I like to consider SWTOR as a KotOR 3, so to speak. The story adds immersion for two reasons: one, every NPC has dialogue which is rare to see in an MMO of this size; and two, your character speaks in relation to the Mass Effect-type dialogue wheel that has become ever so popular.
When you are partied with some friends (or strangers) and you come across dialogue options, each person “rolls” for their option to be the dialogue changer. For example, if my friend and I came across the option to kill someone or spare them, I could choose the dark side option of killing the person while my friend chooses to spare them for light side points, and we will get a random roll. Whoever wins the role will decide that person’s fate and each player will get the points they asked for, but the dialogue can only go one way, so in that sense you are still able to go light/dark as to your preference, and it can add some humor if you argue your choice with your friend.
My third like would have to be the way they set up the professions and companions. For once, you do not have to go out, farm items, and take time out of leveling to work your professions, that is what companions are for. What I tend to do is tell them to go on a mission, and they will bring back materials that I need to craft items, which is very nice. Of course there will be instances where you can actually go get the items, but for the most part it is much faster to just pay some credits and have your companion run out and complete your errands. The other thing that I absolutely love are the companions themselves. They have their own little back story much like all Bioware games and they fight along side you. This becomes very helpful especially when you are stressed and don’t want to deal with many enemies, just sick your companion on them.
But with every good thing, there has to be some downsides. For one, I am not too happy with the amount of running around. I know this is typical of most MMO and RPG games, but I feel like the running takes more time than it does to quest, which is not good. At level 25, you can pay an insane amount of credits to buy your “mount” and that increases speed by 90%, which helps immensely. This is a little easier when the quests you have direct you towards your next area so you can get the taxi point, which is a nice fast travel type of option. That is a rather small dislike, but a dislike nonetheless.
My second dislike is rather minor as well, and that would be the cost of skills. I am not at endgame yet, but currently at level 28, I am spending about 10k, if not more, per ability. That could seem like nothing, but after spending 40k on a mount at 25 and then only having about 20k remaining, gaining about 5-10k per level, things aren’t adding up enough. I feel Bioware should lower the costs by about 25-50% just so we actually have enough credits to buy abilities. Again, a minor dislike, but something I feel could be changed.
My third and final dislike that I can think of at the moment would be the grouping. It is nice to play with others, but I feel that Bioware could and probably should mimic World of Warcraft by adding a Looking for Group interface that pairs you with other people for instances (called Flashpoints). Luckily for me, I have a guild of buddies who have been playing for the past 2-3 years in Warcraft, so we don’t need to get a lot of people. Again, a small dislike, and something that could be fixed or added in the future. That is the glory of an MMO, things can be changed and improved over the course of time (look at World of Warcraft for instance).
All in all, I would highly recommend this game. It is a very beautiful, cinematic, and overall fun experience that no MMO to date has given me. The fact Bioware made it fully voiced and gave you the option to play it alone or with friends is probably one of the best things that they could have done. While I do not have the exact numbers, I have heard this has sold at least 2 million copies, which is amazing for an MMO launch. I am glad Bioware has continued to prove they know how to make a great game and I am looking forward to endgame and future expansions.
Quite obviously, Star Wars: The Old Republic is available now. You can purchase it just about anywhere including EA’s Origin gaming service. The game costs $50 for the Standard Edition, $80 for the Digital Deluxe Edition which includes some in-game goodies, and as of this writing there are some Collector’s Editions still out there priced at $150.
Disclaimer: This review was based on roughly two weeks of playing time. I have played everything that I could play up to level 30, including a few playthroughs in space combat, PvP, PvE, Flashpoints, co-op, and other features. I also purchased the Collector’s Edition, you can find my unboxing pictures below. I would highly recommend you to research this game before purchasing, after all, there is no worse feeling that plopping down money on an MMO that you dislike. The SWTOR wiki is a great place to find information as well as the actual SWTOR website should you go researching for a possible purchase. If you have any questions, PLEASE send it in the comments and I would be happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge. If you really wanna chat or give me any suggestions for future articles or article improvements, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.