Is The Old Republic better as Single-Player or MMO?
I’m putting some extensive time into The Old Republic, my most serious playthrough right now is on a Jedi Sage at level 22. A far cry from the max level of 50 and admittedly I could probably be much further if it weren’t for all those pesky friends and family I saw over the holidays. The thing that keeps on nagging me, however, is if The Old Republic should be played from a single-player perspective or with other people.
The real trouble I’m having is that the game almost seems hell-bent on discouraging me from playing with those I want to. One of the inherent problems with MMO games is that it is very easy to fall into a disparity of levels and completed missions with your real-life friends playing alongside. I personally have a lot of time commitments, other games to play, naps to take and generally other things to do that may not always correspond with when my friends decide to jump on for a few hours. Over time that means they will inevitably end up at higher levels than myself or at just later stages of the game in terms of story.
Its a frustrating situation to deal with, because this is a multiplayer game and I want to play it with friends. However, I can see that Bioware dealt with this situation at least in part with its flashpoint and heroic quest system, which allows players to replay missions once per day where a group is needed. This at least encourages friends to gather and play through some of the more intense parts of the game together.
The real issue is with the primary flow of the game, the normal line of quests and especially the class-specific quests that can generally only be appreciated by one person at a time. There is an option for those of a different class to join in another player’s story quests, but the reward to those players is little and it nearly feels frowned upon by the creators. What this results in is long stretches of time where I find it much easier to play on my own than with a party whose quests may go in completely different directions from my own.
This is compounded by Bioware’s signature dialog system. I personally like to play with friends on Skype, which means that often we are talking over important dialog in the game. This eventually resulted in me turning on the subtitles for dialog scenes so that I can still read what is happening if my friends become too loud. What I’m trying to say here is that this system wasn’t designed for co-op, even if there are a few neat tricks with dialog rolling, its designed for a solo player who finds the story engaging and interesting and who wants to role-play a dialog their way.
Whether the game is better played alone or with friends I can say is a case-by-case situation. Story quests feel much better played without friends around or even piping in your ear through Skype, so it seems like the main portion of the game is better as single-player. However, the game also has a large amount of (very fun) missions that require groups of friends to tackle. This is also when the co-op dialog system can cause some hilarious interactions as you and your friends fight to respond with the most ridiculous options. I personally love that, but anyone with an ear for narrative may want to group with randoms who may want to actually listen to the story.
Its tough to vote one way or the other, but I believe Bioware’s creation caters very well to both worlds.