Star Wars: The Old Republic – An RPG veteran and MMO novice's impressions

I have a confession to make. I love Star Wars. I really do. I was raised on the original Trilogy. I wore out my VHS copies of them. I saw the special edition in theater. I saw the Prequels in theater. When I was a kid, every stick in the yard became a lightsaber for me and my friends to fight with. The movie Fanboys has essentially been my life (except I’ve never been to Vegas).  I love Star Wars.

Few things influenced my childhood as much as these

I also love RPGs. From the old-school Black Isle games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, to Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, to more recently Mass Effect and Skyrim, I really enjoy RPGs. I love getting immersed in a story with awesome characters and usually saving the world. Especially with games where you make the hero and can make the story unique to you. I love RPGs.

All you need is a good story and awesome characters

What do RPGs and Star Wars have to do with each other? If you saw the image at the top of the page, you’d know. Star Wars: The Old Republic, produced by Bioware’s capable hands. Prior to the Old Republic, I had not really played an MMO, not seriously. I played a couple weeks of WoW and EVE with my roommates in college, but got distracted like I usually do. I debated about getting TOR for a long time, and ultimately the Jedi in me won out.

After watching an opening cinematic that was probably better than the Prequels, it was time to make my virtual avatar. My first character was a blind Jedi. He was fun to play, but for curiosity’s sake I also made a smuggler who was probably part Borg. I wanted to see how the melee gameplay compared to ranged. I found myself enjoying the cover system the smuggler uses, as well as the story of the smuggler whose ship gets stolen right from under him. This was the character I ended up sticking with. Looking back, that really shouldn’t have been a surprise. I love playing rogues and thieves, and getting to play a Han Solo expy was too cool to pass up.

Only maybe part Borg

I can definitely see Bioware’s trademarks in The Old Republic. The dialogue wheel, the full voice acting, well written story, and NPCs could easily be lifted from Dragon Age or Mass Effect. I appreciate their efforts to make the story feel unique to your character, and to make you feel important, but when you approach a shop with a dozen other smugglers all dressed similarly, it tends to remind you that you’re just one of many.

The gameplay is good, and it works, but it reminds me too much of WoW or Knights of the Old Republic. The fetch quests, the “Kill X number of Y enemies in area Z”, and the “kill this tough evil person, I’m just a weak police man” quests that populate the quest log remind you that although this is Bioware and Star Wars, this is still an MMO filled with typical MMO fare. Some people have complained about the lack of an auto-attack feature, but after playing years of Diablo 2 and wearing out many mice, I didn’t find this to be an issue. The environments and graphics ranged from not bad to pretty good. The characters models failed to impress, but some of the areas like Coruscant’s Senate chamber looked rather good. However, even with graphical settings maxed, the game looks about the same as Knights of the Old Republic 2, which was last generation.

Knights 2 was a good game, just looks a little old

There are two other items, specific to MMOs that need to be addressed: the monthly charge and other players. Fifteen dollars a month to play a game is and isn’t a lot. Added up over the course of a year, it will cost $180 to play, $230 with the initial purchase. Depending on the person and hours of entertainment received, this may or may not be alot of money. For me, $230 to play one game is a lot. Sixty dollars for a new game isn’t cheap, let alone 230. And as far as other players go, I didn’t really encounter others much, other than a few small quests that require multiple people. The most common interaction I had with other players was when I had to kill X number of Y enemies in area Z and everyone was trying to get to Y. Kill-stealing, poaching, and camping at its finest.

Personally, I would have preferred The Old Republic to be Knights of the Old Republic 3. There are enough story lines left unfinished from the first two games that can be followed up on. A grand, epic single player game more akin to Mass Effect than World of Warcraft. Show us a beautiful universe with all the thing we love about Star Wars and let us be the masters of our story without the hassle of monthly fees or other players. Let us be the awesome hero, without a dozen clones behind us at the market.

So, sorry The Old Republic, but don’t call me, I’ll call you. It’s not you, it’s me. But still, don’t call.

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