Alright boys and girls, it’s time to talk about something that’s very near and dear to me. Is it my family? My friends? That cute girl over I saw over there? No, but it is something that’s taking up a fairly large chunk of my present social life. It’s Star Wars, or more precisely, Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare’s first entry into the massively multiplayer market.
I have to say that I’ve been anticipating this game for quite a while now, even got a new rig set up for this game (but keep that under your hat, writing it off as a ‘business expense’), and had the Collector’s Edition on pre-order (the galaxy map is currently framed up on the wall next to the desk for easy reference). On top of that I also got my hands on a copy of the Explorer’s Guide. So with the mini fridge stocked with soda and energy drinks, plus bags of chips and an array of other snacks within easy reaching distance, I take my first step into a galaxy far far away.
After the initial install, it’s time to decide; Republic or Empire. Now that’s a tough one, but in the end, I decided to go Empire and as a card carrying member of the Mandalorian Mercs, I’m totally going with bounty hunter as my first pick for classes. Now I am sitting back and enjoying the opening cinematic as the Star War’s trademark text crawls.
The following is an account of leveling up from one to ten, which took roughly about a day or so. As soon as I landed down on the planet of Hutta (which puts the scum in scum and villainy) my character was introduced as a promising participant to the ‘Great Hunt’ (a sort of winner takes all bounty hunting contest). My first objective is to build up enough of a rep as a badass bounty hunter to attract the attention of a local Hutt crimelord who feels it’s in his best interest to sponsor me (apparently you can’t just sign up for the ‘Great Hunt’ like signing up for the company’s soft ball team).
So begins my first missions in the Old Republic which included hunting down a bounty on a quickdraw (or should I say not so quick) champion by the name of Vexx, bailing out the kid brother of a fella by the name of Lew Brell, and dealing with the wayward force sensitive son of Gianna (who reminded me of one of those beauty contestant stage mothers but with the Sith).
Finally after running all over Hutta, I was finally able to wrangle up an audience with Nem’ro the Hutt. As a certain famous smuggler taught us, remember to always flatter a hutt, you’ll go a long way. I will say this, Nem’ro does run a pretty tight ship and his Twi’lek secretary is a hot little number.
As I progressed through the storyline it looks like there’s another contestant of the ‘Great Hunt’ whose strategy is to pick off other potential contestants before the actual competition starts. At one point the hunter becomes the hunted, even when a rodian (who I’m pretty sure could be from the same gene pool of old Greedo) decides to test me. Once again I take a page from that old smuggler’s handbook and shot first (always shoot first). But with credits on the line, it really didn’t surprise me that much that Nem’ro tries to double cross me at the last minute. Looks like I’m going to have to do a bit more fighting if I want to secure that sponsorship for the ‘Great Hunt’. I don’t want to spoil too much of the game for you eager beaver fans out there, so I’ll leave it off here for now.
After my first run through from level one through ten it did not surprise me that Star Wars: the Old Republic shattered MMO sales and won MSNBC’s ‘Best Multiplayer Game of 2012’. Since the game’s launch on December 20th, over a million players have spent well over sixty million hours online playing SWTOR. Now that my friends is pretty damn impressive.
Players are able to choose whether they want to join the Republic (lightside) or the Empire (darkside), but through their own personal playthrough of the game, they will be able to choose between lightside or darkside decisions. From there they’ll be able to choose between four classes in each faction, which for the Republic are the Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight, Smuggler, or Trooper. For the Empire, the choices are the Bounty Hunter, Imperial Agent, Sith Inquisitor, or Sith Warrior. Players will also be able to have the choice of playing a wide array of species such as humans, cyborgs, chiss, miraluka, mirialan, rattataki, sith purebloods, twi’lek, or zabrak.
That’s quite a lot of choices for character creation right there. And on top of that around level ten or so players will able to progress deeper into their classes and into advance classes. A prime example would be the bounty hunter who can either advance into the DPS healing mercenary or the DPS beefy tank the power tech.
Appearance wise, items such as armor and weapons have a small degree of customizing, so players will have fun with that. Players will also be able to choose from three different professions once they run through their starting planets. There’s a wide array of professions such as salvaging (kinda like mining) to slicing (Star Wars version of hacking). And for those players who like to solo, BioWare acknowledges you and provides you with a companion character who’ll stick by your side who can tank, provide dps, or even heal you when you’re feeling like exploring the galaxy on your own.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty and into the game play. Star Wars: the Old Republic ‘s combat system is quite solid to say the least. While there’s no real surprises if you’ve played other MMOs because of the multiple classes and on top of that the advanced classes it makes for an enjoyable time whether you’re blasting holes in your foes, slashing them down with a lightsaber, or just plain blowing them up. In the beginning BioWare announced that they’re looking to deliver a complex and compelling single player storyline and now with the end product on the table I got to say they did not disappoint. With each choice I make from letting a NPC live or being a smart ass it leaves me wondering what would’ve happen if I chosen one of the other options. Because of things like this I know I’ll more likely than not run make another character and run through the storyline to see what would have happened instead.
Also instead of having to grind through endless hours BioWare has actually made crafting a fun thing to do. Because you can set your companion on most of the crafting tasks you’re actually spending more time playing the actual game rather than sitting there mining over and over or crafting stacks after stacks of junk just to get that rating up. When crafting an item players might be even able to critical their item and create some even more powerful than they’re originally expecting.
The graphics in the game are just top notch and BioWare I just got to say you’ve delivered what you promised. Bravo! Everything from the cut scenes and the cinematics are just spot on, there were points where I wanted to pop some fresh popcorn and sit back and watch it as a movie. Players could really feel the vastness of planets such as Tattooine. Plus having a fully voiced game really helps too. BioWare really put in the effort in getting talents such as David Hayter (Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid) as the male Jedi Knight to Jennifer Hale (Female Shepard from Mass Effect) for the female trooper.
I’m still not too sure on my stance on starship fighting quite yet. Best I could describe it is an on the rails shooter type of game much like the Starfox games. Players will be in a third person view of your ship as you can move it about, shoot at things, and yes…do barrel rolls. It’s a fun little side thing to play around with between quests. Plus they do provide experience rewards through regular missions and daily PVP missions.
For those looking for some PVP (player vs player) action you got quite a bit to choose from. There’s everything from Hutt Ball, a PVP based game where players work as a team in a sort of space football (American) type of game where positioning and crowd control is as important as the environmental hazards (trust me falling into lava is not a good thing). Or maybe you’re looking for more of a capture the flag based PVP? Then check out the Alderaan Civil War where the Republic and the Empire contest each other for supremacy. Players are spawned inside a drop ship and then take a speeder down to the planet where they need take over three gun batteries which will fire on enemy ships. When in control of the gun batteries players will then have to defend it. Strategy and communication is paramount when it comes to this zone. Now for players who enjoy working together and want some raid action you got the Flashpoints which are structured instances filled with beastly bosses and fat loot to pillage.
For those of you new to the whole MMO experience then hop on board to the ground level for a fun filled ride in a universe ruled by blasters and lightsabers. And for the more veteran MMOer the complex storyline with multiple options should be more than enough to keep your eyes glued to your computer screen and have you play through characters over characters. The soundtrack is just audio candy for you and captures the epic feel of the Star Wars franchise. And to a certain other big time MMO game out there all I got to say is “Look out! There’s a new kid in town.”. Back at E3 last year during the Star Wars: Old Republic demo BioWare described their four pillars in gaming with the forth being story and now as I run across the galaxy I can you that they were not kidding there. If anything story has to be the biggest impact I’ve felt during my time playing through of the game, pretty much every choice I made effected what happened to my character.
My only complaint so far for this game is the almost daily patches. Which is understandable for a new game such as this, but it just leaves me sitting here for hours on end, clicking the refresh button on the server status site (Yah, I know I have a problem, but I don’t care! This is freakin’ Star Wars!). At least they’re scheduled during the times most people aren’t on (except for me). Star Wars: The Old Republic has been a very enjoyable experience and I look forward to more adventures in that galaxy far far away. Hope to see you online someday!