TOROZ Reviews Star Wars: The Old Republic

I hate to be the bearer of violent agreement, but like most reports you may have read here at TOROZ and on other sites, I’m here to tell you SWTOR is a fun, immersive MMO. 

It’s not a disruptive game changer of an MMO, more a pleasant next step in MMO evolution. That’s not even a minor criticism because I wanted SWTOR to be just that – a great story-based MMO using similar mechanics to other well-known products. SWTOR achieves that in spades so I’m happy. That’s not to say there aren’t flaws / glitches / gaps that the final launch product may erase, but none of them fundamentally mar the experience SWTOR provides.

Onto some short disclaimers – this review is based on a short number of weeks playing the beta version released to the general testing program. During that time I played a Sith Inquisitor and Republic Smuggler up towards Level 10. In regard to any comparisons below to other MMOs, my primary experience in that area is World of Warcraft so I can’t comment much beyond that.

So with the glowing endorsements and guarded disclaimers aside, onto some details:

Interface

For those of you that have played an MMO, there’s not a lot to say here. SWTOR replicates a pretty tried and true user interface, with action bars, mini-map and some option menus at the top of screen.

The full map is one of the impressive improvements that’s evident up front. The reason I rate it highly is the ability to overlay key missions / vendors / trainers over the map in pretty much any configuration you like. This alone will reduce the need to go to third-party sites to find information, something that remains endemic in WoW.

The action bars themselves are standard mappings to keys or mouse, with all key mappings configurable to two different keys each. For those of you wanting to take screen shots of some of the graphical loveliness (more on that below), you can map a key to remove all of the user interface.

Gameplay

As far back as a year ago, some were expressing concerns over how fluid and realistic the gameplay would be – particularly in regard to character combat. I could probably be counted amongst that critical group back then, but I’m more than happy to say I no longer am. I like the feel of combat, whether it’s with a light saber or blaster. It’s not perfect but nor is it jarring – it just feels right.

Because of the story-driven basis of SWTOR, there are a lot of cut scenes but they never seem too intrusive or over-long. They have been merged in extremely well and I’m yet to have been impatient for one to end. Sure, rolling another toon and repeating them may be a different story, but that’s a somewhat unavoidable issue.

Graphics

Nothing is more subjective than views on graphics quality, so I’m purely going to make a comparison to WoW as it’s pretty damn unreasonable to expect SWTOR to be of equivalent quality to single player games. Using the WoW comparison, not surprisingly SWTOR comes out way on top given how old WoW’s graphic engine is.

There’s a lot of great visuals to absorb in the game and I still spend time sitting back and checking out my surroundings in detail. Most importantly, everything just has that Star Wars feel.

My only criticism is that some of the facial features and lip movements in the cut scenes leave a bit to be desired, although that may have been largely remedied by launch.

Story

Bioware have hinged everything on story with SWTOR, and essentially they have succeeded. Each class has its own very distinctive storylines and on the whole they involve some interesting branching conversations with NPCs.

The multi-choice responses to determine story progression are enjoyable although I remain to be convinced that the majority don’t lead to the same outcome. There are certainly key conversations where your choice has a direct impact but understandably that can’t occur with every quest – so with some conversations it can seem a little like a going-through-the-motions exercise.

Overall though, the story is the best I’ve seen in an MMO and definitely outstrips WoW in that regard, not least because of the voicing of all dialog – it certainly lends a lot of strength to the interactions.

Oceanic players’ concerns

For Oceanic players, there’s been the ongoing concern of lag given servers are based in the US. This is always a very subjective area, but my experience has been nothing but positive. I’ve never had lag that affected combat and ping times were never out of acceptable ranges for PvE. I’m not going to get into PvP as some people are much fussier than I am on what constitutes acceptable ping for that activity and I haven’t explored PvP as yet.

Sure, Oceanic servers would still be the ideal but there’s nothing to prevent you jumping into the game in the meantime.

Other aspects

A quick note to Mac users: I’m running SWTOR on an 18-month old iMac on Boot Camp and Windows 7, and it’s running beautifully as described above. If you’ve got a machine older than that then explore the system requirements closely, but otherwise your experience should be as flawless as mine.

Story spoilers: I really don’t like the Jar Jar Binks time travel quest line. Shame on you Bioware,

Conclusion

The Star Wars franchise had always given Bioware a head start in regards to MMO development, but it was a lead that would easily disappear if the game had significant flaws. Fortunately that hasn’t occurred and SWTOR is a polished, engaging and plain fun experience. There’s enough new stuff to interest a hardened MMO player for at least a few months and for the Star Wars enthusiast and new MMO player, there’s real long-term enjoyment to be had here.

If you’re burnt out with the whole MMO gaming approach then SWTOR is not necessarily going to turn you around, but for the large majority that’s not an issue. I’m fairly confident in saying that SWTOR is going to cause a large splash, both in attracting players from current MMOs as well as bringing in a significant cohort of new players.

The challenge for Bioware is managing those initial few days, weeks and months to prove SWTOR is a stayer. From my playing of the game, the foundations are solid and the weather is looking good for the foreseeable future.

Comments

  1. In regards to the lip/facial movement during cutscenes it was apparently only a bug from the last Beta build. People have said the previous builds did not have that same problem.

  2. Oh, God… not Jar Jar, damnit. Is there no escaping him in Star Wars?!

  3. Spot on review, played a guardian up to 16, and it seemed like your experiences were similar to mine. Having played plenty of mmo’s in my time, (including swg) the quests and cut scenes are really engaging. Not just a mission grab and go, but works well to develop your character light-dark and imp-reb. You’re right this isn’t a game changer but a good step up. And knowing how good Bioware is with QA really draws me to this game.

  4. Charles Thompson says:

    The keymaps were actually kind of problematic for me, seems you can’t remap certain keys? Trying to reprogram some of the number pad has the unwanted effect of altering the arrow keys as well. Character creator is surprisingly remedial, a big issue for a lot of players. Other than those two things, my experiences mirrored your review. Nicely written and fairly surmised.

    • Thanks Charles – really interesting point on the character creation as I thought it was a step up from my previous experience in WoW, but you’re right it could be a lot more customisable.

  5. Michael Barrett says:

    Hmm.. lots of cut scenes. Like BF3 every time you get to a sub goal it cut scenes that sux. I was looking forward to SWtor but after seeing how badly BF3 is put together I think I’ll wait until SWtor goes to the 9.99 rack at walmart.

    • max allred says:

      SWTOR and BF3 are two very different devs. One being Bioware the other being Dice EA has nothing to do with the development of these games. You should research before you make a comment especially one so easy to find out. Otherwise you misinform people and they end up being as dumb as you .

  6. Annoyed Reader says:

    Did you seriously just judge an entiregame on cutscene frequency? People like you are why we cant have nice things, like games that arent stupid.

    • Well of starters I didn’t judge the ‘entire’ game on the cut scenes – it was one of many aspects. Thanks for the non-constructive comment though 😉

    • TOR isn’t stupid, and if you’d play it you’d see that. Unless of course, you’re one of those die-hard WoW fans that can’t even consider enjoying another game. And he didn’t judge it just on cutscene frequency, he also did it on graphics, combat, and every thing else mentioned above. And you have to give BioWare props, they undertook one of the most ambitious sound recording jobs in the history of MMOs, if not games in general. That in itself is pretty darn cool. And since I know you’re going to ask, yes, I HAVE played TOR, and I do believe it is not only good, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.

  7. That’s not to say there aren’t flaws / glitches / gaps that the final launch product won’t be able to erase, but none of them fundamentally mar the experience SWTOR provides.

    I don’t understand, does this game have flaws, glitches, gaps and can the final launch product erase them?

  8. “In regard to any comparisons below to other MMOs, my primary experience in that area is World of Warcraft so I can’t comment much beyond that.”

    That’s like listening to a guy critique Ford who has only ever driven a Chevy. However, thanks for setting that expectation early so I didn’t have to waste my time reading your entire post.

  9. I have a MacBook Pro and Bootcamp running Windows 7. I’m currently invited to play the Beta this weekend, but it won’t launch the client for me. Did you have any problems launching? And if so, how did you fix it? I’ve pretty much given up trying to find a way. I have until tomorrow night, and I’ve sent 3 emails and called them twice. Still no answers. So, if you can help, please do. If not, great review, and I look forward to playing in December.

Trackbacks

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