Like some of you, I got to participate in the Star Wars: The Old Republic stress test during this past weekend. It was actually the second stress test I partook in, however I wasn’t able to commit much time to it during the first run so I decided to hold my tongue until I had a bit more experience with the game. I only got to level 11 on my Republic Trooper over this last weekend, but I feel I learned enough from the game to let you all know my opinion.
I’d like to preface this article with two points of interest. The first and most important is that while I try to remain unbiased towards new games I personally do not like MMOs. I quit WoW back when it was still in vanilla and I never found much in the others I tried such as City of Heroes and DCUO.
I have two main problems with the genre. The first is with the promise of reward through time commitment. I’ve heard friends say things such as “well of course it isn’t fun, you’re only level 10. The real game starts around level 40/50/60/70/80.” Personally, I would like for my game to be fun right now. I understand the reward that comes with raising yourself from the dregs of n00bdom to riding atop your proud war-mount whilst showering gold coins upon the less fortunate, but I’m both lazy IRL and in game. I’d rather have a constant quality game play experience instead of hoping that “it gets better”. Furthermore, I have an underlying fear that if I did spend all that time to get to level n, it would end up being the same game regardless. I’d rather not take the risk.
“After 6 months, I’m finally max level. What do we do now?” “What do you mean? Now we can play the game!”
Secondly, I have a problem with the genre’s level of obligation. It’s something I thought of when I noticed that most of these games don’t have a pause feature. You’re in there. It’s happening around you at all times. You have to play.
The concept transcends to the general state of mind that I call “one more thing”. You’re in an area, might as well finish that last quest. Well, now that it’s done you may as well turn it in. You’re only 2,000 xp from a new level. You may as well grind for a bit to ding (do they still say “ding”? It’s been a while). Better just fly to the nearest city and buy your new powers. Might as well check the auction house. Before you know it, you just spent an additional three hours playing a game you were hoping to spend another ten minutes on. Sure, you can consider that scenario a bit of hyperbole but it has probably happened to you. The genre is based around its vastness. You have the ability to stop whenever you like, yet you seldom do because everything seems so quick in relation to how many hours you have (and will) spend on the game.
My second preface point is a bit more on topic. I just want to point out and commend the people of EA and Bioware for the outstanding cinematics in this game (that can be seen here, here and here). While I was a little disappointed that they used the supposed trailers as in game content, I cannot deny that they are just gorgeous at 1080p. I also find it slightly disheartening that with three trailers totaling less than fifteen minutes these fine folks were able to create more interesting and likeable characters than Lucas was able to do over the course of the entire prequel trilogy. Half of them didn’t even talk. If Lucas is still planning on making episodes VII through IX, I beg him to just let these folks do all the work. They are able to make your product better than you. Deal with it.
As beautiful as this game is, nothing can wash clean the stink of Jar Jar Binks.
I suppose I should talk about the game now, huh?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone when I say that this game is strikingly similar to World of Warcraft. WoW quickly became the standard of what an MMO should be and TOR isn’t trying to innovate. You get your quests. You kill your enemies. You collect items. You see your trainer. You envy those who are higher level and have cooler things than you. They are definitely using Blizzard’s juggernaut as a strong foundation.
There are some differences though. Most notable are the in-game cut scenes for every single conversation. Each one is voiced over—rather well I should add—and allows the player to interact via the now-standard karma wheel. Choosing what to say allows you to alter the course of the game and gain force points, light or dark, which will gain you access to different items/quests. This gives the MMO a very Mass Effect feel, which I can’t say is a bad thing.
The cut scenes and character interaction allow for a much more enveloping story, which is something I felt vanilla WoW lacked. I found myself genuinely interested in some of the characters and I felt the need to turn in the next quest not to simply get it done, but to see what happens next. The daunting knowledge that each class has a separate storyline makes me fearful for all of those devotees who will roll multiple characters to obtain the full story.
There are things I don’t like about the game aside from my basic distaste for the genre. I think that the John Williams music is loud, over-played, and a bit too epic for what is happening. I know it’s a set part of the franchise to have Hollywood-style overtures and blaring wind instruments, but I never enjoyed it in the movies and it works even less during game play.
I also have a few problems with the group aspect of the game. Outside of my general hate for other people, my main issue is the initiation of group conversations. During the previously mentioned cut scene interactions, there is this awkward loading time where you need to wait for your fellow players to select their two cents. It’s not unbearable by any means but it does slow things down just enough for you to think, “well this is annoying”.
So having played through roughly 10 hours of the game over two weekends, will I still be purchasing The Old Republic on day one? I sure am. Despite my feelings for MMOs, this game has enough of a single player experience with a engaging story line to make me want more.
Are people who currently play World of Warcraft going to want this game? If they like Star Wars I can’t see why they wouldn’t. Even at my most cynical the best I can do is say that this game is exactly like World of Warcraft.
What’s not to like about that? If you’re itching for new content in WoW, there are literally 50 new levels of fresh quests to play through. I feel like that should draw quite a crowd on its own.
Are you new to MMOs but are interested because of the Star Wars logo? You’ll probably have a good time. The story and karma aspects are enough to allow for an experience very similar to a single player game, only with a bunch of assholes running about trying to kill the NPCs before you.