Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NN REVIEW: Star Wars: The Old Republic (First Impressions)

Do you remember the first time you ever watched a Star Wars movie? I do. I was about 6 or 7 years old and I watched A New Hope with my parents in our living room. They gave me a toy Millennium Falcon to play with before the movie started and I was flying it around backwards because I thought the big blue part was the front. Then the movie began and I remember being completely awestruck from beginning to end. Never before had I so badly wanted to live in a fantasy world. The idea of flying my own ship, traveling from planet to planet, wielding a lightsaber or blaster and saving the galaxy became something that would forever be one of my dearest fantasies. Well, with Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware has fashioned an experience that honors the things that make Star Wars great and offers the most in depth, realistic Star Wars experience we have ever seen.

I stepped out of my space cruiser and ventured onto the remote, swampish planet of Hutta. Rarecandy, a cyborg bounty hunter who somewhat resembled Anakin had been born and I was ready to wreak havoc on anyone who got in my way of attaining credits. The main storyline quickly unfolded before me as I fought to gain the sponsorship of the local Hutt for something called The Great Hunt. A tournament where a bounty hunter could earn eternal glory and riches by being both the hunter and the hunted. Immediately the revelation that SWTOR is completely voice acted sank in and the gravity of that statement took hold. I have played WoW for about six years and the idea that a game even close to that size could feature voice acting not just for the main story line, but for each and every side quest is something that I still cannot fathom. Also, it's not cheaply done! Sometimes in Skyrim the voice acting would be somewhat cheesy or clearly the same voice as another character, but the range of behaviors, voices and emotions from the people in SWTOR is almost too much to comprehend.

One of my first quests sent me to fetch a woman's son from her husband who had kidnapped the boy. All this loving mother wanted was for her son to be shipped off to the Sith academy so he could be trained in the dark side of the force. She had credits to offer, so I asked no questions. Upon tracking down the husband and son I discovered that the father had in fact been to the Sith academy as a youth and was lucky enough to escape. In an attempt to free his son from the torture and probable death that the academy entailed, he begged me to allow them to escape the planet and lie to his wife that I had convinced him to send his son to the academy. As his lifeless body fell to the ground, I told his son to run home to mommy where he would be shipped off to become a Sith. Then I felt something that very few games, much less an MMO have ever caused me to feel...confliction and remorse. But it was too late for Rarecandy, I decided at that moment I would do whatever earned me the most credits and whatever sent me down the dark side. Now my character is level 25 and as he delves deeper into the darkness, his face begins to show signs of shadows and black veins creeping in from beneath. I am becoming evil to the core.

Upon completing the first planet I had reached level 10 and I chose between being a Mercenary who could focus on either dealing damage or healing or being a Powertech who focused on dealing damage or tanking. I chose the side of Mercenary and was presented with three talent trees to choose from while leveling up. The system is straight forward and easy to understand so it's simple to build your character to play the way you desire. There are 4 classes to choose from (Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor, Trooper/Bounty Hunter or Smuggler/Imperial Agent) and each class offers two, more specific designations to choose from at level 10 which results in basically 8 different classes to play. Obviously the Sith and Jedi are the most popular but there are still a respectable amount of Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, Imperial Agents and such running around. Each class offers a unique type of gameplay and everyone should have no trouble finding a class and specification that fits their play style.

Then there are the planets. Each a respectable size offering a good amount of quests and people to interact with and each with a unique, intriguing environment to truly make you feel like you're on a different planet. You can use your own private ship (which acts as a place to rest, do space missions and even store items) to travel from destination to destination and this is one of the things that makes it feel the most like you are in the world of Star Wars. When you choose a planet to visit you access your ship's holographic map to select a new destination. Upon making your selection, you look out of the cockpit window as you turn away from the planet you are leaving and blast into hyperspace towards the next location. As you come out of your blue tunnel of awesomeness, the next planet materializes in front of you and it really feels like you've experienced what travel in the world of Star Wars would be like. It's the little things like this that Bioware didn't need to put in the game but they make you stop and marvel at the depth and realization that this world offers.

This is starting to get pretty long so I'll wrap it up. Like I said earlier I'm only level 25 so I have a long way to go before I've even experienced a majority of what the game has to offer. Leveling does take a while and it seems like getting to level 50 will eventually take some patience and we may tire of listening to dialogue for each and every quest. I've yet to try the PvP but from what I've heard it's pretty fun but still lacking in player participation from the Republic side at times. Some of the servers are full and at times you may experience a wait time before you can log on but expect this to go away as more servers are created and current servers' maximum capacities are raised.

I can't stress enough to you how great SWTOR truly is. It's the Star Wars game that we have wanted for so long and it finally feels like we may have a lasting environment that we can be swept into for years. The implications of how the game can be expanded are encouraging and the fact that a majority of player complaints are all issues that can be easily fixed in the future is something I think Bioware should be extremely proud of. So if you haven't already, get out there and start your adventure in one of the greatest video games we've had in a long, long time.


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