Over the course of the last 48 hours, thousands of gamers were given access to an exclusive beta weekend event for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This MMO game has been in development by Edmonton, Alberta, Canada based BioWare since 2008 and next month it finally hits shelves. With the final bugs getting picked over with a fine tooth comb players have heavily tested this game, sending their own feedback for final edits to the game play…and Nerd Bastards was part of it all.
The game is set 300 years after the events set during the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series and more than 3,500 years before the events in the Star Wars films, plenty of space to form new story lines and expand on past history. You start the game by choosing to be either a Jedi, Sith Lord, alien, bounty hunter, 0r smuggler. As either the Chiss, Humans, Cyborgs, Miralukas, Mirialans, Rattatakis, Sith Purebloods, Twi’leks or Zabrak species (based on alignment) you’re placed right at the beginning of a new conflict between the Sith and the Jedi Knights.
Click the jump for everything from intergalactic races to game play.
*Note: Screen grabs we’re problematic (fuck me), so I just nabbed what I could from my iPhone camera. Deal with it.
Classes and Species
When the game begins, like most MMO’s one is presented with the character selection screen. This screen is familiar in every way to all other MMO’s where multiple characters are possible; the characters already created are displayed and selectable, showing a three dimensional render of the character and their gear.
If one elects to create a new character, one is presented with a screen that allows you to select your faction. Once that is selected, a movie cut scene is presented that displays the point of view of the state of the galaxy from that faction’s perspective, along with battle scenes, music, and the like. When this completes, one is presented with the character creation screen.
The ability to customize is more then a bit lacking. At your starting point you pick your species, class and can only customize your head (cannot modify eyes, hair, face..etc) and body type. Bit of a bummer really. Even your armor and weapons are the same at the beginning of every class. Everything else is eventually gonna cost you some credits, or you’ll pick up along the way.
The only real variety for your character is who do you want to be? Best thing to do is hit random and get into the universe.
Game Mechanics and Questing
The Guys at BioWare did a great job making things easy for any non-MMO player to get into, with short-cuts to things like your inventory and your map already bound to places on your keyboard. I did need a few minutes to adjust on how to play. If a guy like me, who’s never played an MMO, you’re tempted to point and click with your mouse. You’ll quickly realize that everything is done with commands from you’re keyboard. It’s very easy to adapt to, but more on that in the next section.
The staple of the MMO game is the quest, where you or your group can go on after random objectives. In the case of The Old Republic your main quests vary by character, but each quest continues the storyline of the class you choose earlier. BioWare didn’t just make this a “finish a few quests and your done” kind of of MMO either. In our time as the Jedi Knight, it took a few hours before ever being given a lightsaber to fight with. All we had was a practice sword until something better came along. What a drag. There are side quests to complete as well, but unless you finish the main quest your story will not progress. All of the storyline quests for your class have cut scenes associated with them, which of course include the response rose where one can respond the way they wish to. Some of the side quests include such cut scenes and dialog, but not all of them. Regardless, the voice acting and sound effects were spot on.
Graphics and User-Interface
Fast travel will get you anywhere on the current planet your on, but in order to get that you need to discover the droid in each new location. That means walking…lots of walking (Lord of the Rings type walking). It’s a bit of a stumble for a game considering the speeder bikes and the ability to fly your own space ship. I was unable to test this out this, but yes, you can personalize your very own ship and travel from planet to planet and have few space battles along the way.
One part of the user interface you’ll have to get used to is attacking. Like I said earlier, instead of clicking left or right on your mouse every attack, you have a stroke on your keyboard (Again, I’m a MMO newbie. I don’t know this stuff). From every melee attack, blaster shot, right down to using health items requires a number. Nearly every key has a purpose, Maps are easy enough to come by (M) and things like your inventory (I) and guild (G) are just as easy to bring up or change. It sounds overwhelming, but you’ll learn on your feet.
Chatting with your fellow allies or the random player on the map is a simple method of pressing enter, typing what you want and hitting enter again. Don’t bother cursing though, those naughty words will be filtered out. One of the highlights of SWTOR is the social point system among NPC’s (Non-playable characters), granting you “light” or “dark” points based on your decision. Answering in a hostile or pacifist way can change how others see you later on in your campaign. The chat with NPC’s is a standard response rose, (similar to the system in the Mass Effect series) pick an answer and it branches out into a new stream of dialogue, possibly changing your storyline.
Later on in the game you get your own companion. Companions will vary based on class and species and will come in a pinch when needed, but you’ll need to talk strategy whenever possible. Your tactics will change based on who you pick. While a powerhouse fighter may whip some galactic booty, they also attract a hell of a lot more enemies. That’s not going to bode well if you play a distance game, so choose wisely when it comes to choosing your own “Chewbacca”. The funnest part is you can choose to get involved and have your character befriend companions (or romance them), ignore them, treat them like shit to the point where they love you or hate you.
I only played all 20 hours (I’m human. I need to eat, sleep and shit), which is very little compared to the scope of the game (You can log upwards to 170+ hours). Regardless, I experienced enough glitches, bugs, lags and freezes that would test even master Yoda’s patience. Being this was a Beta, it’s hard to tell what of these issues will be resolved and what will remain. The graphics themselves were not on par with many other MMO games being released soon. The character and NPC models are not as detailed as one would expect from a 2011 era game. The character creation process was to be desired. Beyond that, there is very little to complain about.
Should you purchase Star Wars: The Old Republic? That decision is really up to you, no manner of Jedi mind tricks can decide for you. As for myself, this was simply a really fun game to play. It looks like Star Wars, but plays like WoW (or so I’ve heard it compared). It’s engaging, interesting, with the right blend of gameplay.The story is some of the most well-put-together scripts I’ve seen in a game. Keep in mind though, this is monthly subscription game (you gotta pay), but if you’re a big enough fan of Star Wars you’ll pay out to travel the universe while sitting on your butt.
When Star Wars: The Old Republic is released December 20th I sure as Sith will be in line for a copy, This is a definite Nerd Bastards buy.