Star Wars: The Old Republic Review

Since the MMO genre first emerged, I’ve always wanted to make the jump to hyperspace and explore the Star Wars universe. Star Wars Galaxies, a 2003 MMORPG starring the universe from the acclaimed sci-fi franchise, was a major disappointment that left me feeling as if one of my biggest gaming dreams would never come to fruition. Then, a few years ago, BioWare announced the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Given my knowledge of Galaxies’ shortcomings, I was equally terrified the title could possibly turn out to be nothing but a major heap of bantha poodoo. After pouring hundreds of hours into the game, I’ve discovered that The Old Republic is powerful with the force, though it is still far from the game-changing MMO that many had pegged it for.

The biggest focus and innovation that The Old Republic has been looking to bring to the genre is that of story. With its fully-voiced cutscenes featured in every single quest and personal stories by class there is no doubt that Old Republic goes far above and beyond the wall-o’-text boxes featured prominently in every other MMO to date. Never before have I felt that my characters belong to an audibly emotive universe with thousands of others.

Behind the wonderful setup and execution of the game’s dialogue and quest set-up, the actual adventures themselves follow the same old routine of those that have come before. Either head into an instance/dungeon and fight to the boss at the end, or complete basic fetch or kill tasks for side-quests and bonuses. The result barely improves on the stagnant tradition of the MMO, baited by rewards of cutscenes at the important moments of the quests.

Nearly the same can be said for the game’s Flashpoints and Operations, which act as Old Republic’s raids. The difference here is that in some of these raids, the game’s dialogue system uses a dice-roll competition for speaking. These story moments don’t find their way into too many of these instances, but when they do it makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

Classes are much more malleable than the typical MMO archetypes, which allows the player to choose from two of the three holy trinity roles and a weaker secondary role thanks to easy respeccing; and yet a holy trinity is still required for combat to be effective. Space combat is a welcome addition and provides some spectacular visuals, but repainted scenes for multiple quests can drain out its longevity quickly. Crafting has been improved thanks to the addition of companions who perform tasks in the RPG background and combat foreground. The removal of an auto-attack may be at first disturbing, but is soon adjusted for by the basics of the other mechanics.

When my story came to a close and it was time to get in on some endgame, it actually became rapidly apparent that Ilum would not be a satisfactory option. Rewards from objective points only gave buffs that would grant rewards for killing other players, who on my PvE server were few and far between and normally in coordinated groups. Despite this World PvP letdown, The Old Republic’s structured PvP mode, Warzones, actually succeeds in being both addictive and fun.

The clear favorite for me was Huttball, a game that emphasized true teamwork and the intelligent use and timing of skills in order to navigate the hazardous playing field and score. The Alderaan Warzone is a standard capture and hold map, a staple of multiplayer, which can be just as enjoyable. It’s the game’s third Warzone though, the assault-style Voidstar, that becomes a depressing slaughterhouse with lopsided teams. The lack of a means to choose which of these three maps players would want to participate in can lead to excitement-draining assignments of one’s least-favorite Warzone over and over. Hopefully BioWare can eventually patch or fix up this issue.

Aesthetically The Old Republic shines amongst its genre brethren with a unique style that meshes both the realism of the films with the artistic twist of the cartoon Clone Wars series. It gives that retro Star Wars vibe while establishing a new identity. Though some strange glitches can hinder the experience – like tiny models and a lack of moving lips during dialogue scenes -when tallied against the hundreds of hours of content these gripes fall few and far between. Modern rigs will be able to run the game on high settings with no problems, while moderate ones should get away fine with a lowered detail.

The audio stacks up against the legendary scores of the movies because it’s Star Wars, of course it does. With pieces of several iconic tunes from the film mixed and woven into the game’s soundtrack, the music does a fine job of making the player feel like they’re questing about in the franchise’s universe. I personally got shivers every time I visited Tatooine and heard the blaring horns that had declared the first look at Mos Eisley in “A New Hope.” BioWare has also done an exceptional job of making the first ever fully voiced MMO, a task that some before would have thought impossible. Nothing helps immersion in a game this immense than hearing every line by every character spoken while even overhearing conversations from local NPCs. Some lines will be repeated on a few occasions, but given the amount of work needed to provide all of what is already present, it’s a forgivable offense.

While Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn’t reinvent the genre so much that it could possibly hold many non-MMO regulars for too long, it certainly pushes the genre in the right direction and brings veterans the changes they’ve been dying for. An amazing attention to detail in story, dialogue, and voice acting will have players engaged in almost every conversation. The actual combat and questing mechanics that follow and precede are similar enough to old MMO standards that the game can become monotonous and uninspiring in the later hours. Attention to detail in making the Star Wars universe feel more lived-in than any other in the genre to date and other minor innovations do aid to make The Old Republic one of the most solid MMOs to hit in recent years. Fans of the franchise and the genre should get an enjoyable experience with their time invested with the game, though for how long will be the true question.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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