Star Wars: The Old Republic (Beta Test Review)

The wait is nearly over.  On December 20th, PC gamers will finally be able to get their hands on an official copy of the latest MMO (massive multiplayer online) title to hit store shelves; Star Wars: The Old Republic.  A few weeks back, I had the opportunity of being selected as a beta tester.  This past weeked, I managed to grab a few hours of adventure in a galaxy far, far away…

There are a handful of well known MMO’s out on the market today.  The most successful, however, would be none other than World of Warcraft.  The folks at Electronic Arts and Bioware hope to steal some of that online thunder by staking their claim in the land of MMO’s.  Originally slated as a single-player Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3, the developers soon realized the more lucrative and greater realm of possibilities with a massive multiplayer PC game.  Taking place 3,000 years before the Star Wars movies, you get to choose between either the Republic (good guys) or the Empire (not good guys).  Once you make your selection, you then choose your class, followed by your race.  Classes consist of Jedi Knights, Jedi Consulars, Smugglers, Rebel Troopers, Sith Warriors, Sith Inquisitors, Bounty Hunters and Imperial Officers.  You are then to select a race and not all races are available for each class.  The races range from Zabrak (think Darth Maul), Human, Twi’lek, Miraluka, Chiss, Cyborg, Rattataki, and Sith (the species, not the Dark Jedi), each with their own unique ability.  With a plethora of decisions at my disposal, I made three characters.  The first was that of a Sith-species Sith Inquisitor.  While you can also play as a Sith Warrior (focuses on saber combat), I chose the Inquisitor (focuses on Force abilities) as there’s something fascinating about electrocuting someone from the other end of the room with Force lightning.

I started off on the Sith homeworld of Korriban.  I found my quest work rather average, though still somewhat entertaining.  As an Inquisitor, you start off with three basic combat abilities; a single saber strike, a triple saber strike that utilizes Force points, and finally Force lightning.  Oddly enough, you’re entrusted with the ability to throw lightning but your melee weapon is a shock stick, not a lightsaber.  There were several side missions, but unfortunately, if I completed a main quest, any side quests within there were now null and void.  Hopefully it isn’t like this in the final cut.

Next I chose a Rebel Trooper.  My character was a cyborg and a rather boring one at that.  Combat options consisted of a a basic blaster rifle shot and a grenade toss.  Speaking with this guy was also less than spectacular.  While you’re usually presented with three response choices in a conversation, I found them unimpressive and the Trooper as a whole just plain boring.  So, after trading some blaster fire, I opted back for the Dark Side choosing an Imperial Officer of the Chiss race (think Grand Admiral Thrawn’s species).  When faced with an adversary, I was given the option of a basic blaster rifle shot and the ability to take cover.  Once behind cover, the Officer can engage his or her sniping abilities, which I found more fun than a barrell of monkeys.  In addition, the Officer utilizes the concept of espionage to drive this class, and overall,  I found it the most engaging of the three classes I played.  The downside was the frustrating zig-zag patterns many of my side quests involved.  It was like traveling from Cleveland to Chicago by way of Dallas.  Express travel is offered but only after you’ve discovered certain waypoints.  The presence of repeated enemies along the way didn’t help here either, though this class’s story and dialogue were still fun to run through.

The graphics were decent enough (never a strong point of MMO’s), but the voice acting was stellar.  If there was one aspect to be impressed with in this game, it was the different characters’ delivery.  Whether it was your own or the PC, the diaogue was intelligent and clear (save for the dumbed-down Trooper with vanilla conversational abilities).  So with that being said, here comes my inevitable comparison between The Old Republic (TOR) and World of Warcraft (WoW).  The graphics are better on TOR so the nod goes to Bioware’s creation in that category.  In addition, the stories are so much better in TOR than WoW.  However, don’t count out the Orcs and Dwarves just yet.  I found WoW more entertaining right out of the box.  The early quests and character building in WoW felt quicker and more enjoyable than TOR.  As I didn’t get beyond a level 5 character in TOR, it remains to be seen how much fun it will be to play as an advanced character.  Once I get that lightsaber, it may change my opinion of TOR.  In the end, I felt The Old Republic offered too few new twists to MMO gaming.  Honestly, it felt a lot like World of Warcraft with a Star Wars badge on it.  While you can choose servers of P vs. E (player versus environment), where you have to agree with another online character to fight one another, or P vs. P (player versus player), where you can attack any online body of an opposing faction, everything feels a lot like you’re in your own little world. This probably isn’t a good thing since the main concept of an MMO is to immerse you in a world with other live players.

I’ll pass on a buy of this title as it just didn’t light my fire.  I had high hopes for this game, especially since all the build-up and press it has received over the past couple of years.  The cinematics are stunning and are nearly worth the price of admission right there, but the game as a whole, well, maybe another day.



3 Responses to “Star Wars: The Old Republic (Beta Test Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Wow! After all that it did not live up to your expectations. I’m shocked 🙁

  2. Sean Ferguson

    I’ve been waiting years for this and I can’t wait. It just sucks that I need to upgrade my PC first to play it. I wish it was coming out for the 360.

  3. Gregg

    Yes, that’s a problem many will face with this game. You need a NASA computer to be able to play it.