The Old Republic: First Impressions
Thursday night my brother calls me up to inform me that on complete accident he purchased two copies of The Old Republic, a game I know he was personally looking forward to (he was both a huge Star Wars and World of Warcraft fan, I guess I see the appeal). I had just about decided I wouldn’t be getting the game for the same reasons I decided to stay away from World of Warcraft. He informed me that he’d be giving the game to me immediately as a Christmas gift and wanted me to get on it as soon as possible. I reluctantly accepted and began a weekend of getting as much time as I could into Bioware’s new title.
1) Combat still feels like an any other MMO
That is to say, it has that bizarre feel where none of your moves totally connect and mouse-clicks feel a little inconsequential. This is familiar territory for any MMO fan, because there are numerous dicerolls going on and there is a need to wait for cool-downs on each attack. Typically my eyes are half on the battle and half on the skill and health bar at the bottom, where most of the real action takes place. Contrasted with single player experiences, where each click has immediate feedback and where cool-downs are usually hidden, its a little odd to get used to. But once my brain adjusted I felt very much at home. If MMOs are unfamiliar territory for you, I recommend trying some of Bioware’s previous titles, such as Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic, which have a very similar feel in terms of combat.
2) The whole game actually feels like any other MMO
It quickly becomes apparently (especially if you have a WoW friend nearby) just how similar this game is to just about every other MMO out there. Bioware did not seek to reinvent the wheel and I think that’s fine, but I believe its worth noting. You’ll find all of the stuff you’d find in other MMOs from instances to mounts to skill trees, slotted weapons and armor, even beginner worlds and general grind areas for new players. How Bioware did all of these things differently almost feels meaningless to discuss as you will easily adjust to it. Its what Bioware has added to the experience that really stands out…
3) Old Republic makes storytelling compelling and interesting
My limited MMO experience has usually lead to me just skipping through the dialog of most NPCs to get to the next gather or kill X-amount quest. Its a typical fashion that while the games offer some deep lore and stories, they end up being presented in tiny text windows that are dominated by your inventory screen. Usually this means those windows would be closed without consequence. Bioware however, rips their patented dialog gameplay straight from their other games and transplants it in the place you would usually see said text window pop-ups. It makes the whole experience so much more involved that I daresay it may become a new standard in the MMO world (one that won’t be easily replicated).
4) Companions are excellent additions, especially for solo questers
Probably the most striking addition to the MMO formula is another Bioware staple – companion characters. Not the real-life players you may team up with in an MMO, but NPC players that will follow you around and often are an integral part of the story. I haven’t spent much time with any one character yet, but I hear that later down the road there will be the typical Bioware companion decision, where you must decide to keep a companion or not. Its very welcome especially if you are looking to solo quest since it gives you a valuable tank character.
5) Roleplaying with friends is hilarious
One of the caveats of bringing rich story-telling to a multiplayer experience is that you must somehow decide who is calling the shots in the conversations with NPCs. SWTOR does this with a dice-rolling system that gives whoever rolls the highest the response to a dialog. Its sort of cool at times, but much more hilarious when people pick a dialog way outside of the norm. When my friends and I were about to receive a quest, I won a roll for the dialog that said “Not my problem”, which made my friends reel. We still received the quest, but it was a great laugh and far outside what my character usually said.
So there you go! The Old Republic does indeed have its flaws, its similarities and its great new additions when compared to the likes of WoW and other MMOs, but the whole package so far is pretty fantastic. I look forward to playing more, although I fear greatly for the time I’d like to spend on other great games. Check back for more Old Republic news and articles to come!