Kill six Jawas: Star Wars The Old Republic Review

By Alexander Leach

I’m about three years clean of World of Warcraft, and I really need to stop referring to it like that. People are going to start to think that games really are as addictive as the outliers the media focuses on really are.

I will say that massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, do tend towards being habit-forming. They usually tend to provide just enough new content that’s just different enough that you don’t get immediately bored, coupled with a rewards system and a few minigames to break any monotony.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, the online sequel to the Knights of the Old Republic, is pretty much that, but it does it well.

The plot picks up about three hundred years after the second game; the Sith Empire is fully reestablished, and has formed a sizable power base that we just started to see in KOTOR 2. You can join either the Republic, home of the Jedi Order, smugglers, and armed troopers, and the Empire, featuring the lightning-throwing Sith, imperial spies, and jetpack-bearing bounty hunters.

If the classes seem familiar, that’s intentional. Every class in the game (and every of the two subclasses per class, in some cases) is based on a character from the six main Star Wars movies. While this is neat, it’s a bit unsettling for those who liked KOTOR because it was Star Wars without the influence of the prequels and expanded universe of novels. While I didn’t find Lucasart’s influence to be to forceful on the issue, I’m watching very carefully for midiclorians – for now, the Force is content to stay completely mystical (One interesting point; Jedi seem to insist on the Force being a spiritual discipline, while the Sith just go ‘whatever, it’s magic. Deal’ and then go summon ghosts. It’s rather neat and warrants an essay).

You’re getting pretty much what you expect from it; groups of enemies milling about, waiting to be killed to fulfill quest quotas. Although most of the missions in SWTOR are more about collecting things or traveling to specific locations, rather than just killing – the kill quota missions are usually bonus missions, associated with another mission. For example, if exploring a cave to find someone, you’ll get a bonus quest to kill monsters that live in the cave – which automatically completes once you’ve fulfilled the objective, granting you a large amount of experience and springboarding you along the levels. In another welcome change, Heroics (missions which can’t be done with one PC, like elite quests in WoW) are daily – they can be repeated once per day. While I almost never was around long enough to make use of them (and my server is particularly quiet, meaning few people around to group with) it makes it easy to level up and get high-quality gear.

In fact, it’s almost too easy.

What I’ve just described effectively multiplies the quest count several-fold. Nearly every mission has a bonus component that’s not that difficult to find and complete – most times, you complete it as you’re doing the main objective. In addition, the game’s main minigame – the ship combat, a pretty basic rail shooter that’s a fun distraction but with little sustainability – gives you money and experience, meaning you’re advancing as you go. It took me until level 43, seven levels from the maximum, to start getting missions on parity with my level, and I almost never did the heroic content. This ease to level takes some of the ‘grind’ (killing enemies over and over to advance your character) out of the game, but also makes things feel less than challenging.

The storylines are interesting, as they’re not what you’d expect in an MMO. Actual cutscenes are rampant, and each character class has its own storyline that takes it through each of the game’s worlds. Cutscenes use a wheel of dialogue options, and your character is fully voice-acted, similar to Mass Effect. Storyline quests are well-done; I’ve only played the Sith Inquisitor, but hunting down artifacts so that you can kill your treacherous master is quite awesome. You even get social points for doing them in a group, with each dialogue option giving points that…

…well, they don’t really do much of anything other than let you buy cool-looking upgradeable gear. Unless you’re on an RP-server (and this is a topic I’ll discuss another week) it’s really nothing too important to the game. The same goes for the light side/dark side morality system; aside from some mildy-interesting vanity gear and the signature red eyes and veiny-face of the Dark Side, you’re not getting much.

Other than that, it’s a fun game, if plagued by some profoundly irritating bugs. Several quests stopped working for me, requiring customer service help. There’s the evade bug that plagued me in World of Warcraft, where enemies will randomly become invincible and regenerate full health due to a flaw in the code that causes them to stop pursuing you when you run. A few features are not implemented, like Legacies.

If you’re sick of WoW and its obsession with Kung Fu Panda, and want something similar but with some very good flourishes, try this out.

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