Review: Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was released in 03 and received high critical acclaim, not only did it attract Star Wars fans but it appealed to fans of the RPG genre as well. Knights of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, launched in 05, expanded upon the game and the universe but unfortunately had some content taken out before its release. Regardless, both games were lauded by fans and reviewers alike, and Knights of the Old Republic is one of the most recognizable RPG franchises out there. After a long withdrawal, players questioned if there would even be a KOTOR 3, which was highly desired due to unexplained parts of the story revolving around the game’s main characters. Bioware dropped a bombshell on players when they announced that instead of making a traditional sequel, they were  going to make an MMO. The announcement was met with many mixed reactions, but now that the game has released, how does it hold up? Does it stick to it’s roots? Is it a World of WarCraft killer? Is it worth the price? Read on to find out, younglings!

 The Plot

The Old Republic takes place hundreds of years later after the KOTOR games: the Sith have emerged along with the Empire and have started a war with the Republic. Lightside, Darkside, you know the deal, but where The Old Republic does something special is with its approach to the main quests that you’ll be playing through with the class of your choosing. It’s like 8 games in one; each class has a story complete with voice acting, cutscenes and a variety of planets and locales. For example: as a smuggler, my ship is shot down on Ord Mantell due to the fight taking place between the Republic and Empire. I meet up with some guys named Skavak and Corso Riggs. I won’t tell you too much, but one thing leads to another and your ship gets stolen. Corso becomes a very Mass Effect-like companion and joins you on your journey to retrieve what’s yours and get revenge. It of course escalates and gets even better, the writing is very well done. Each of the classes really is its own experience. The story quests can be played with friends as well, so you can see what trials your Jedi or Commando friends are going though. The storytelling is one of The Old Republic‘s strong points and keeps you interested, but how does the gameplay fair?

 The Gameplay

Gamers who are familiar with MMO’s can jump in quickly. The mini-map, quest log and the hot keys for your skills are all on your hud. The Old Republic‘s approach to combat in an MMO is refreshing; the action is quick and explosive. It lets the player have more control over their character by allowing you to attack manually, similar to Dragon Age 2 in way. The game is fairly strategic; I found myself plotting how to use my skills in an effective combination to quickly end my foes, which I’ve never really done in a massive online game. For example, as a smuggler I came across a group of enemies, and I knew that using the thermal grenade skill would not only do area of effect damage, it would send an enemy flying Utilizing this to my advantage, I was able to send an enemy falling to his death while softening up the other targets. I then rolled into cover and blinded my foes with a flash grenade, buying me time to use my charging blast skill to finish them off. Making good use of your skills can be a game changer, especially in PvP, which is a whole other story in itself.

In PvP (Player vs. Player), there are different war zones with different goals. In one of the battlegrounds, players fight over three gun turrets on the map; capturing and recapturing these three points is key to shooting down the opposition’s star-ship, giving you the win. Another war zone can be compared to Battlefield‘s Rush game type, where the attacking team must break through the defending team’s control points to achieve victory. There’s also a capture the flag type game with a sports twist: players on each team must grab a ball in the center of the map and run it over to the enemies goal point, passing the ball to allies and navigating  deadly traps. The list of cool things goes on with The Old Republic‘s competitive features. Backhanding Sith, killing them and rolling into cover to avoid blaster fire is excellent, and this type of action/presentation livens up a genre known not to have the strongest or most exciting gameplay.

Questing works how you would imagine. You go to the location and do what’s required of you. The game does put a cool spin on things by allowing you to make harsh decisions and interact with other characters. The conversation system seen in other Bioware games makes it’s way into The Old Republic: the things you say and do can have an impact on how your companions and others think of you. If quests are shared with other players, they can actually jump in on the discussions, really adding to the immersion that you’re in this thing as a group. There are flashpoints and heroics which are essentially dungeon runs meant to be played with others These can be very challenging but offer good rewards giving you an incentive to do them . Once quests are completed, you can choose a reward like weapons, armor or crafting items or there’s things called commendations you may earn. Commendations can be used for special vendors that sell special items, giving you the edge in future conflicts. Crafting weapons is simple: you go to a work bench and drag and drop the parts you wish to equip to improve your weapons or armor. The Old Republics quests are full of intrigue, adventure, are plentiful and have kept me busy instead of having to go through the boring process of grinding.

The Old Republic opens up big time once you’ve got your own ship. There are star-ship battles in which you can participate which, now don’t laugh, are very similar to Lego Star Wars space battle sequences. The space battles are incredibly cinematic, fun to play and you get good experience from completing the quests and the bonus objectives within them. Earning your ship just doesn’t grant you access to these missions though; on your ship you have your own storage, crafting stations, and of course your companions hang out on board. Talking to the crew you’ve gathered is interesting; you learn their views on the current events going on and of their history. Depending upon what you say you can improve or worsen your relationship with them and can even give them gifts to win their affection. Your companions can also be customized; their facial appearance, armor and weapons can all be modified to your liking. This allows you to have a tank or a Damage per Second character if you’re playing alone and don’t want to hunt down party members.

 The Atmosphere

The atmosphere in The Old Republic is spectacular. Going from ruined and desolate places like Taris to the thriving massive criminal underworld Nar Shadda is truly epic. The Old Republic’s storytelling is top notch and gives you the sense of an actual conflict taking place. Everything from the scale of the environments to the scenery, the action going on around you, the different life forms running around and  the musical score really packs on and creates a very memorable experience. As a huge Star Wars, geek I was very impressed with its presentation. The cartoonish style may seem odd at first, but it will grow on to you, plus the graphical quality is great for an MMO. Bioware put work into this game, and it shows. This is why in my book they’re one of the best developers out there. The Old Republic keeps true to KOTOR and is a true Star Wars experience.

 The Verdict

The Old Republic sets out to do something new, and I believe it succeeds with flying colors. Bringing more of the action genre to the MMO style works well, and I feel like this is a step forward for massive online gaming. I highly recommend the game if you’re willing to dish out the monthly fee, which is one of the major drawbacks. The Old Republic gets 4 of 5 stars. Star Wars fans should rejoice, seeing as how this is probably the only current entry into the franchise’s games that respects the material.

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