Having played Star Wars the Old Republic for a few months now, including all end game instances, I feel I’m qualified to give a review of the game. I’ve leveled multiple characters to the level cap in both factions and experiemented with pvp as well. The game does several things well and several things…um…not so well. This review includes comparisons to World of Warcraft as it is the benchmark for mmos at this point in time and it is a game I played for more than 3 years at the highest level. Away we go…
The game does a great job in making you feel invested in your character. The central part of questing focuses on your chosen class and its main questline, which manifests iself in several ‘Class Quests’ in each zone. These are slightly tougher than normal quests and ask you to not only defeat boss level enemies, but to decide their ultimate fate as well through the conversation wheel that has become a trademark of Bioware. You can occassionaly change the arc of your story permanently if you make a particular decision but for the most part things will play out according to script regardless of your light/dark aspirations. Side note: Playing a Sith Lord is a fiendish delight that shouldn’t be passed over just because you think you may not enjoy being evil. Think again!! Questing feels important and each planet you visit has its own main questline that runs parrallel to your class quest . Gaining access to your ship for the first time and scouring the galaxy for adventure with your entourage of companions is a unique experience and superceeds previous mmos in likeability and overall enjoyment. The immersive quality of leveling, especially with your first toon, is unmatched in the mmorpg genre.
There is an ebb and flow to questing and it isn’t without its slow points. I recommend queing for some pvp warzones or space combat missions as they offer great supplements to the leveling experience and offer equally great rewards. Heroic group quests on each planet are another divergence from the usual quest grind and is a fun way to meet players and see how other classes perform in a group setting. These are not only fun but will more often than not provide you with the best gear rewards for your level. That brings me to another point…
Whenever you complete a quest you will only be offered gear that benefits you or your companions. You aren’t guaranteed to get an upgrade, but you are guarenteed to be offered gear that contains stats for your specific class. This prevents confusion and is a lesson learned from other mmos. Because of this the player is less likely to seek out gear that won’t benefit their character.
Another strength is the undeniable authenticity. It looks, feels and sounds like Star Wars. If you loved the movies and think you might love living in that galaxy then this game will hook you very quickly. Above all else, this aspect of the game needed to be a homerun…and it is. If you can’t suspend disbelief in this manner then all is lost. It was the one thing I wondered about going into it and have been pleasantly surprised ever since I sarted playing.
The game is not without its shortcomings and I’d be remiss if I didn’t list some that are noteworthy. There are bugs in different quests and bugs that affect how your companions behave as well as when they can be summoned and when you have to manually summon them. There are class ability/spell bugs. The developers said outright that the crafting system needs some tweaking, especially the manner in which crafters lean new patterns for their chosen profession. I play a sith assassin as my main and one of the major damage abilites called maul does not always activate even though I’m positioned behind the enemy im attacking. Other classes have a few issues but nothing that would make someone stop playing. Some Bosses in ‘Flashpoints’, Swtor’s version of dungeons have some bugs that will wipe your group if a workaround is not employed.
Some quality of life shortcomings are the absence of UI customization and the absence of a mod community. Everyone is playing with the standard UI though Bioware announced that in patch 1.2 they will have some customization options available. There is no looking for group cue system in place which makes end game grouping a bit rough at times. If you play in prime time then you will probably not have trouble finding groups as LFG is being spammed on a pretty consistent basis depending on your server. If you’re the kind of player that takes initiative then you’ll be rewarded with some solid gear from hard mode flashpoints and they are a lot of fun to complete.
The strength of the game lies in its exceptional presentation and immersive quality. You’ll want to play often and experience the different strengths of each class, though you are somewhat limited with only 4 to choose from (in each faction) at luanch. If you’re a lore nut then you’ll be in paradise here as there is tons of it, everywhere. The codex menu that Bioware used in Mass Effect is alive and well in Swtor and there is plenty to delve into if that’s your thing. Every time you discover and area, kill a new type of beast or alien race or find an easter egg object you will receive an entry into your codex.
The only real weakness the game has is a lack of things to do at level cap. If you are the type of mmo player that doesn’t love doing daily quests for gear or waiting for groups to form for dungeons/flashpoints then you will be leveling a new character to keep you busy. I did this multiple times and it is my hunch that Bioware new that players would do this as the end game content, especially for pve is quite limited with 7 hard mode flashpoints and 2 operations (Swtor’s version of raids). I’ve completed them all on my main character and they are extremely fun and satisfying to complete. The good news is that with patch 1.2 comes more flashpoints and operations to tackle. But until then the hardcore pve player will be a bit starved for content. There are also no achievements to complete other than attaining rare titles in pve or pvp. This is a huge part of World of Warcraft’s success in my opinion and it offers the player a lot of extra exploration and challenges. It is my hope that the developers start rolling some achievements out in the not-so-distant future as it will only serve to bolster the player base and provide some much needed extracurricular activities.
In the end if you’re a fan of the gaming genre and a fan of the movies then you’ll be right at home and will be patient with the developers as they deal with an expanding player base and the incredibly difficult task of growing a game from launch. If you’re a hardcore mmo player then I’m not sure you will be able to twiddle your thumbs at level cap after devouring all the endgame content. I’d recommend the game on charm and potential because I think it’s a unique experience in the genre and the immersive quality of the player’s first leveling process is unmatched and miles better than its predecessors.