OXCGN’s Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Impression
An Epic Star Wars Adventure Awaits You!
©2011 Alex Hilton
The evil Sith were presumed to be extinct by the members of the Galactic Republic, only ruins and artifacts remaining to remind of their existence.
But they were wrong.
The Sith Order returned from the dead with force, taking over their original home planet Korriban with a swift and powerful strike.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is set during this turmoil where the Sith are rampaging through the galaxy and the Galactic Republic is belatedly trying to stop them.
Star Wars: The Old Republic Intro Video
I got my hands on the beta last weekend during the weekend stress test and I have to say, I’m impressed. The lack of major game-breaking bugs and the amount of polish is astounding.
I will be describing my experience and giving my impressions of the game in categories that fit the whole MMORPG genre, not just this game.
It is fitting to begin my impression at the same point the game does: creating your character.
When you create this virtual avatar that will be your source of enjoyment for the next few days… or weeks… or months… or maybe even years… There are a variety of options for your character.
Firstly will you serve the Galactic Republic or the Sith Empire? While this determines your starting point it does not determine your moral standing which is a brilliant move on the developers’ part. For example, if you are a Jedi, you do have opportunities to gain dark side points through being cruel and sinister.
Next you will be asked what class you want to be. There are really only four different types of classes as each class in one faction is similar to one in the other. For instance the Jedi Knight, aligned with the Galactic Republic, is similar to the Sith Warrior, part of the Sith Empire. Another example is that the Smuggler from the Galactic Republic is similar to the Imperial Agent who serves the Sith Empire.
Each class has its own unique storyline and are based on different planets so you are probably wondering: “since each class has its own zone won’t there be a lot of the same guys and girls wandering around?”
The answer is no.
There is a lot of character customisation options; you choose a species, ranging from a cyborg to the Zabrak, made famous by the horned, red-faced villain, Darth Maul. There are enough options within each species for each class on each server to have a diversity of characters.
Cinematic storytelling is the feature that will define this MMO as different from others. As Star Wars: The Old Republic advertises it greatly, this is where the game will ultimately succeed or fail.
And you won’t be disappointed, as Bioware’s long reputation for being very good at cinematic storytelling has once again been proven.
While I am not addicted to World of Warcraft (WoW), I have played other MMOs and the fully voiced cinematic storytelling in SW:The Old Republic adds a lot to the game. The blocks of text are gone and every conversation is voiced very well by over 900 voice actors.
The voice actors sometimes even had to hide their ‘Imperial’ accent when undercover during the Imperial Agent missions which shows the developers have put a lot of effort into making the voices have a diverse range.
The conversation options between characters is run much like other Bioware games such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age II: it uses the dial system where each option indicates the path the conversation will take and not the exact words. It also indicates if the choice will give light side or dark side points as well.
Even when you are in a group the conversations are done very well. Everyone chooses an option and the game random picks whoever actually gets to say their line, making the conversations unpredictable.
If there is an option to kill or let someone live, even if the game chooses a player who chooses to kill the person, you can still get light side points for choosing to let the person live which means that you aren’t punished if your friends are a little too trigger happy.
The cut-scenes that go with these conversations are choreographed well as the animations look realistic and there are rarely any mismatched words.
However that doesn’t mean that some cut-scenes aren’t awkward. I managed to find a pair of short shorts for my male character and equipped them. But this was a bad idea as when I got into a cut-scene I got a disturbing close-up of my character’s groin region in these really tight short shorts…
These cut-scenes (ok maybe not the last one) add a great Star Wars atmosphere as much of the music is either from the Star Wars films or the original Knights of the Old Republic games.
With the addition of the cinematic storytelling, the quests, a vital part of an MMORPG, seem better than they really are.
Ok, I might be being a bit harsh but I found that many of the quests I played were much like the ones found in other MMORPGs. However with the addition of voiced cut-scenes they are made more interesting as the back-story of the quest could be shown rather than told in a boring block of text.
The quests that you can participate in range from the usual fetch quests to difficult assassinations to daring rescues. There are also group quests available where you and your party can live out a frantic story together and use tactics to complete the objectives.
Each class has its own specific storyline to follow. For example the Sith Warrior’s aim at the start of the game is to pass the tests to receive his or her lightsaber. These tests range from clearing out an area to interrogating prisoners and deciding their fate.
The quests also intertwine with the world around them. The planet Ord Mantell is raging with war so the missions include assassinating high-level Imperial leaders and destroying communication jammers. One such mission is where snipers are killing refugees running from their war-torn hometowns and you are sent to kill them.
Your reward is a week’s pay which ends up being 50 credits and some stims. Consequently it is no wonder that the Republic is losing the war; the only soldiers that would join would be drug addicts!
The combat experience in Star Wars: The Old Republic differs depending on your class. Jedi Knights jump into combat while Sith Inquisitors use force powers such as force lightning to torture their opponents into submission. Smugglers use and create cover to fight behind and Bounty Hunters use flamethrowers and rocket launchers to collect their bounties.
As you can see each class has its own play style which means that it is more than likely that there will be a play style that fits every player.
Players use skills that they gain upon levelling up to defeat their opponents, however there is no auto-attack! This ended my life in one of my first battles, so be warned. This is the traditional way of doing MMORPG combat so I think that Bioware has played it safe in this regard and tried to perfect the areas where MMOs usually suffer.
However one thing that I like is that you progress through the levels at a good pace. It’s not so fast that the developers have to be constantly making enemies tougher but not so slow that you feel like it is a chore to level up.
Another thing that I like is that corpses that are able to be looted are advertised very well with a column of clearly visible light protruding from the body. This, coupled with an option to loot all the bodies at once, saves a lot of time while still giving the player a lot of loot. The light even changes colour when the equipment on the body is better than your own.
Star Wars: The Old Republic handles death in a very good way: when (not if!) you die you can choose to be revived at the location you died with reduced health or be transported back to the last medical station you visited. This is a good system because you really don’t get punished for dying, so if you accidentally walk into a high-level area you won’t lose much because of your mistake.
I’m lazy when it comes to walking long distances so I took advantage of this feature (don’t worry it’s not a bug) by trying to defeat every enemy in an area so I could go back to the last place I visited without having to walk there.
As you could probably guess, the main topic of conversation to do with this game is: “is it better than WoW?” I have seen many different opinions including: it is better than WoW, it is worse than WoW, it is the same as WoW and so on. The most common one I found was that people were comparing it to the original World of Warcraft that came out way back in 2004, rather than the one that is out now since World of Warcraft is losing subscriptions.
Overall Star Wars: The Old Republic feels like a traditional MMORPG that integrates cinematic storytelling and voicing into the MMO mix. This feature is implemented very well however, so it adds atmosphere to the conversations and the usual dull chore quests that MMOs are known for.
Also, it’s Star Wars.
Unfortunately there is no confirmed release date for Australians just yet so we will just have to wait and see what happens with this game rather than actually experience it.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is emblazoned with the Star Wars brand that uses fully voiced cinematic storytelling to immerse the player into the chaotic era of the Old Republic.
If you have any questions about the game, feel free to ask them in the comments section below!