Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reviewing the Old Republic

I was lukewarm to Star Wars: The Old Republic in beta.  I started as a Jedi Consular and the storyline was meh. The graphics on the starting area were meh.  The cut scenes (ohgodtheendlesscutscenes) were pretty but everything else looked kind of, well, meh. Combat didn't do much for me. The skills seemed pretty generic. It felt very much like I'd listen to eight minutes of yap, then go kill five womp rats. Meh.

Then I switched from Republic to Empire and discovered an entirely different - and totally awesome - game.

The Jedi Consular starts out all good and do-the-right-thing and save-dudes-in-danger. I generally go with the paladin-esque gameplay in RPGs so I figured this would be right up my alley. I'm a Paragon in Mass Effect.  I'm the good guy in Dragon Age. I'm the Thief with a Heart of Gold in Skyrim (except for all that Dark Brotherhood stuff but I totally wore a mask the whole time so let's pretend it wasn't me). I was so bored I wanted to stab myself in the eye.

Sulaco, Hired Gun
By contrast, the Bounty Hunter starts out shooting people in the face for money. This storyline is infinitely more compelling. You're basically in the same scenario that got Han Solo in trouble - you're working for a Hutt and you don't like the way your employer is playing you. Unfortunately, it's the only game in town. You can go all out Boba Fett if you want to - there are many times where you have the option to stop with the conversating and start with the face blasting. Or you can go the "murdering people is just a job, not a vocation" route, which is what I've done. My cyborg Bounty Hunter, Sulaco, is polite, professional, and unpleasant when she's crossed. She doesn't kill anyone unless there's money in it - or unless they needed killin' - and sometimes this doesn't make her the most popular person, especially with the Sith.

Let's talk about the Sith. I really expected Bioware to soft-paw the Sith by having them do some faux-bad sort of things. Like, Sith kick puppies or they're mean to droids or they keep princesses locked in a Death Star. No. The Sith in Star Wars: The Old Republic are fucked up psychos. They make Darth Vader seem like a totally balanced, reasonable guy. The first Sith lord I met sent me to poison the water supply of a rebel slave camp to see how many weeks of agony it takes for the slaves to die - for the purpose of science, of course. I had to disrupt the operations of a rogue Sith lord who has been ripping the brains out of humans and putting them into droids. Another bounty hunter accidentally got caught up in a ring where Sith were hunting the inhabitants of Dromund Kaas for sport and he was too afraid to just quit the job so we had to murder them. Soft-paw indeed.

The Sith Enclave at Dromund Kaas
The Empire is a living, breathing thing in this game. Dromund Kaas, the capital of the Sith Empire, is a vibrant city. It was kind of weird to see residents of The Sith Empire sitting at a cafe talking and laughing. But you get the vibe that these are real people who just happen to live in an Imperial city. Well, until you see the soldiers corralling people or an Imperial agent threatens to make you disappear before making you an offer you really can't refuse. The culture of the city feels real and alive, and I almost want to kill the Republic for threatening our way of life. I mean, who are they to want to tear down this beautiful place?

That's the heart of this game. Star Wars: The Old Republic puts the RPG in MMORPG. It plays like Mass Effect or Dragon Age - you have to think about the kind of person you want to be when you're making your quest choices. That's something no MMO has ever had. When I come across a big area of mobs that I'm not certain I'll live through, I reach up to quick-save and realize, wait, this isn't an RPG. Sometimes, I'll wish I could save before I make a choice on the conversation wheel in case I don't like where it takes me. When your companion warns you to keep a low profile around the Imperial flunkies, you listen to her because she's right. It's not just stock companion noise. When you have the option to mouth off to one of the Sith, you hesitate for a moment and think, "Hmm, is this wise?" Never once in 13 years of playing MMOs have I ever even really needed to read the quest dialogue, let alone consider my answers carefully.

Bounty Hunter combat is a world of awesome. I took the tank spec, Powertech, and I love it. I fire my jetpack and rain death down on my enemies. I bust out the flame thrower and set dudes on fire. My jetpack-powered uppercut puts suckers on the ground. My companion and I take out gold elites with ease due to my tradeskilled armor and my orange shield. It's a lot of fun.

I highly recommend this game. It's a lot of fun and a very unique experience among MMOs. Most of all, it's quintessentially Star Wars. Bioware hit it out of the park in that regard. Go pick it up.
Pin It


  1. I am totally playing as well and like you went over to the Sith and found it much more interesting. I am an inquisitor and a nasty piece of work, and yes my Sith Master is one messed up psycho!! I also love the RP aspect of it and how you get to decided light or dark side. I love this game!!

  2. You are so right about the Sith. I dread very time my Agent has to report to the Sith Sanctum on Dromund Kaas. I love the role laying aspect. My Agent is very dark side but she does what she thinks is best for the Empire, which sometimes isn't the dark side choice (you can't question a corpse, for example).

  3. I love Imperial Agent! :) You feel like James Bond and treat Watcher 2 accordingly. My agent is male. Of course you have a companion following you around who is very handy in a fight. Trust me you want the humanoid companion with you not the droid. The droid will drive you insane, C3-P0 is quiet compared to that thing.

    In order of favoritism I would have to say Agent, Bounty Hunter, Trooper, Smuggler, Sith Warrior, Jedi Knight, Sith Inquisitor, Jedi Consular. A note on the Sith Inquisitor and Warrior, do NOT let any kids play them. I'm even hesitant on the Jedi due to the Flesh Eater storyline, they were imprisoning padawans!