Mar 19 2012

Lost in Space: Adventures in the Old Republic

Published by at 12:00 pm under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

After a long deliberation process and probably a bit too much internal (and external) debate, I finally decided to take the plunge and get Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I’ve never been an MMO man myself, not because I have anything against the genre in particular, but more due to the fact that I have an addictive personality when it comes to games, and I was a bit afraid that in a few months I could be one of the news stories you see about the guy who died after playing World of Warcraft for 36 hours straight.

But I’m a bit more grown up now than I used to be, and I believed I could keep my compulsions in check. And I have, so far, and am ready to report my findings on my first stretch of playtime with the highest budgeted video game of all time.

I’ve got two characters right now, so that I may balance both the light and dark side of the force, and also experience different play styles between ranged and melee. Thus, I have a level 14 male Jedi Knight, and a level 11 female bounty hunter.

I don’t look nearly this cool.

Much of my criticism of this game might actually be issues with the MMO genre as a whole. As this is my first real experience with it, when I say something like, “This game is an endless series of fetch quests,” you might say, “well, that’s an MMO.” But that said, if SWTOR is truly trying to make a mark in the genre, doesn’t it need to break out of the typical MMO mold?

Bioware’s big push to make the game stand out over others in the genre was that they had finally created a new pillar in an MMO, story. Each and every quest you get for any of the characters is fully voiced, with both your character and the NPC having a few minute long conversation about whatever item you need to go find, or what baddie needs to be killed. It’s the most voicework that’s ever been done for a video game, and as top notch dialogue is Bioware’s signature (see Mass Effect), what could go wrong?

It’s a great effort to include story in an MMO, but in practice, it doesn’t work as the fundamentals of the game remain the same. It’s nice that you came up with a back story as to WHY exactly I need to find four power converters or kill ten vine cats, but there is literally no side-quest dialogue that’s interesting enough to care about or worth sitting around listening to. I tried to get into it, I really did. I let every conversation play out for about the first ten hours or so, but these NPC characters are just so one-note, and the quests so menial and pointless, it’s almost impossible not to end up pressing spacebar to skip your way through every side-quest conversation, thus negating all those hundreds of hours of voicework that the game is so proud of.

But *why* am I killing ten spider legged derp monsters?

The main quest isn’t much better. The only reason it’s worth listening to is because at least the characters you’re interacting with you’ll see again, and the overarching plot can be vaguely interesting. But for side-quests, this isn’t Mass Effect. These aren’t going to be recurring characters, and even if they were, I wouldn’t even recognize them if they came back, as you do about five side-quests for people every half hour. And the main plot? Again, it’s usually just go somewhere, flip some switches, kill some enemies, and return, just like every single side-quest, with no real distinction of depth or difficultly.

The game also has a strange moral choice system that attempts to shoehorn in more plot and character development. You would think your initial choice of choosing to be a member of the “good guys” (the Republic) or the “bad guys” (the Empire) would indicate which type of character you’re going to play, but with the additional choice system you can be a dick-ish Jedi or a Sith with a heart of gold if you really want to. But annoyingly, to make any real use out of the system you have to commit hard one way or the other, as certain items require different levels of “dark side” or “light side” to use. Therefore, my Jedi, who gains light side points for helping people and dark side points for flirting with girls, is stuck in neutral, and will never reap any benefit from his choices.

Fetch quests and binary moral choices wouldn’t be so bad if the path to them was at least interesting or challenging. But it’s not, it never is. You trudge through a landscape of pockets of enemies sitting out in the open, jam on a few number keys, and they die, then you move onto the next group. So far, I’ve enjoyed combat with my bounty hunter quite a bit more, as there are only so many fancy ways you can swing a lightsaber (or two of them). Meanwhile, shooting rockets, blasters and flamethrows is far more interesting, despite my complete lack of force powers. But that said, at least in the first 15 hours or so, there’s no real strategy to combat. Between my follower and myself, I can kill any enemy with a random selection of skills, and my bounty hunter has yet to even die once (unlike my Jedi, who has quite a bit more difficulty targeting people when they’re not all lined up twenty feet away from him).

Blastering appears to be the way to go.

The worst part of this however is how freaking fast enemies respawn. I know that this is an “MMO thing,” as if someone else was rampaging through an area before you, they’d leave no enemies for you to kill, but it gets to the point where it’s a bit ridiculous. You can enter a building, kill everything, and by the time you get your treasure and turn around to leave, every single bad guy has respawned. I’ve even had it where I was playing with my equipment in a room for about a minute, and a freaking sub-boss respawned right on top of me as I was doing so.





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14 responses so far

  • Diva D

    In general, the video game side of Star Wars has been feeling a bit lazy to me as of late. The Force Unleashed was a letdown, this apparently isn’t all that, and it just feels like they’ve started riding the Star Wars brand name and reputation instead of maintaining it.

    Because at the time, games like Rogue Squadron and Jedi Outcast were actually pretty awesome (at least I’d say they were). But the gap between those games and contemporary ones is way smaller than it oughta be.

  • Fatkook

    A PC game reveiwed by a so called game reveiwer that does not even have a decent graphics card = Irresponsible & not credible.

  • Akari

    I’ve been playing it on High with a computer that’s over 3 years old and don’t experience any frame rate or hitching issues. Only annoying tech-thing to me is the obnoxiously long load screen times when you go planets via your ship.

    I agree with a lot of the complaints in this review, but I was surprised to hear about the graphics issues such as missing textures or bad framerate. Just hasn’t been my experience on somewhat dated hardware.

  • mccullough

    The game is pretty much bad, its world of warcraft in space made by idiots. Go pick up Knights of the old republic 1 for original Xbox, that game is fun and good. I have a 50 trooper, a 33 shadow a 31 sentinel and a 22 sorcerer and im pretty tired of the game after 41 days.

    The story aspect is poorly done and doesnt interest me that much anyway. The trooper story act 2? yeah ive seen a new hope thanks. PvP is wildly imbalanced its like playing during seasons 5 and 6 in wotlk. The lack of cross realm grouping for instances means finding a dungeon run is just painful. The game on high looks almost the same as low, shadows is the biggest difference, which i will give them credit are really well done. Every dungeon i have managed to do has had at least 1 pull that breaks, usually its just trash but for instance i dont even bother with cademinu because the lost boss just kills the group at 50% by lighting all 4 rockets.

    Maybe in 3 months the game will be decent, but by then D3 will be out and theres a decent chance gw2 will be as well.

    Dont give up on MMOs most of them are stinkers but there are good ones

  • Amy

    Yeah, I know what you’re getting at. Every time WoW came out with a new expansion, people were ready. So ready that they crowded the areas and you had to do stake outs and be damn quick with that mouse in order to get the boss about to respawn. THAT was no fun. So, what did they do? They make the respawn rate faster. So fast that I’ve had to kill them more than once just to get my ass out of there. They pretty much dropped the 5 man quests, which were horrendous in WotLK, especially with the phasing in and out so that no one not on the quests could just help you out. But, I enjoy the grind a lot more than I enjoy the end content. In fact, none of my characters are as of yet Raid worthy, and I honestly don’t really even care that much. However monotonous it is to grind -especially when it’s the same area and quests for several characters, I still like it. And sometimes the stories/quest chains are good. And yet, I still don’t give a damn about reading them because I don’t know Warcraft history so none of it really makes any sense anyway. Maybe if I did, it would mean more to me.

  • http://thesepeoplearecrazy.us Tyler

    It’s interesting which part (if any) of an MMO will ultimately attract a player. For some it’s the questing. For other’s it’s pvp. People will agonize over spending a few talent points to perfect their character’s spec and others will stay up nights deciding the best strategy to kill a dungeon boss. Some people just want purple [epic] gear. I knew a guy who played WoW solely to play the auction house!

    Paul, it sounds like MMO questing isn’t your thing. SWTOR is unique in that it pays a lot of attention to the questing. All the voice acting, the illusion of choice, and companion affection aren’t the norm in MMOs. But if you just want to slice up some sand people or clear dungeons for loot or join a game of huttball, then who cares how much voice acting there might be.

    It sounds like you won’t quite make it through the grind to experience the endgame, and I’m guessing you haven’t done anything with guilds, pvp, crafting, or trading. And I don’t really blame you – who wants to suffer through 100+ hours of fetching to *see* if you like the other stuff.

  • AetherMcLoud

    This is one of the most biased and unprofessional reviews I’ve ever read. Can’t play the game on normal settings? What crappy PC is that?

    Also, the point about the sidequests: There are only 3 things RPG quests can do: Escort, Kill, Gather. The rest is story. So bitching about that you have to kill stuff in an RPG is simply pointless.

    Think hard about what you are doing in Mass Effect: You go somewhere, kill stuff, push some buttons, have cutscenes. Repeat ad absurdum.

  • Jeremy

    I pre-ordered, was in one beta test, got early start, played my Jedi Sage up to 33, my Jedi Guardian up to about the same, had a whole swag of alts… but after paying for an extra month, I quit.

    While my computer had no problems with the game, the game itself is dull. Until Tatooine, it’s all very repeating corridors and platforms and tunnels. And the side quests, as you say, are frustrating – several minutes of dialogue to just go somewhere, pick something up and come back? That sort of quest is a staple of MMOs but to pad it with so much cutscene?

    Even when you hit Tatooine, it’s not really worth exploring the “open worlds” as they… aren’t. While out questing I tried to skirt around a collection of enemies (to avoid having to fight through them to get to my objective) and hit an invisible wall – well, an area that if you continued going you’d lose health, much like open water in WoW. But at least WoW does that for open water. This was land. I wanted to just ride around on my speeder and check things out, but I kept being funneled into questing areas.

    Also, the instanced planets, stations and ship made for a very lonely experience. Bioware seem to have forgotten the “Multiplayer” part of MMO. While there were often other players around, most worlds did not feel “alive” with people. And if a guildie asked for help on another world, you’d have to spend a whole heap of time just getting to them – most of it in loading screens or dead, useless stations that existed only as a space to run through to get to another loading screen.

    In the end, to me, the game is not worth the $15/month they want us to pay to play it. Some people get fun out of it, and good for them, but I don’t think it’s worth it.

  • Sams

    I can agree with a lot of your criticism here but I’m still enjoying it a lot with 2 mates.

    Re story and fetch quests, that’s not just an MMO thing…Skyrim and Mass Effect both focus on that mechanic almost exclusively and both are broken by urgent storylines that are ‘end of the world plots’ then ask you to go and run errands for meaningless characters while technically the world should be burning around you. At least up to where I am in the old republic it feels like I’m simply existing and going about my own business with my class quest.

    The whole genre needs a shakeup. Until then I’ll continue enjoying the old republic until I’ve exhausted myself or it’s content.

    The only other MMOs I’ve tried are Dungeons and Dragons Online when it first came out which had superb dungeons and EVE online which I intend to return to and try properly.

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    Guys, to say the quests in a game like Mass Effect are comparable to the ones here is just flat out not true. And even if some objectives are the same, the level design, character interaction and story integration are leagues beyond what’s found here. Skyrim’s similarity? Perhaps, but that open world is a hundred times more gorgeous and rich than this one, which doesn’t allow for anything like true exploration. As I said, the inclusion of fetch quests alone don’t make for a bad game (I mentioned Borderlands as my example), but SWTOR feels stripped of all the other elements that make those games fun.

    I don’t care if you think I’m not “professional.” I’m just a guy who likes Star Wars who wanted to give this game a shot and try out a genre I’d mostly avoided. I’m quite glad I didn’t spend another decent sum of money on a graphics card just to play a slightly better looking version of SWTOR, because even if I had, it’s still the same game.

  • Mark Jr

    I’ve officially cancelled my subscription as of late (though I paid for the 6-month deal, so I’ve still got four months of play left) because the game has honestly gotten a little stale. I currently have a level 50 Jedi Guardian, and I absolutely LOVE the story (partly due to the many connections to the SW:TOR book series, especially Revan (your character is actually seen in a vision by a later companion, who was the main character of Revan)), and a swathe of alts, including a 30 Sorcerer. I don’t mind the questing, nor the mechanics, or really anything about this game, but it definitely feels like something is missing. I can’t put my finger on it, though.

    If Bioware had simply released a Mass Effect-style Star Wars game (which I’ve actually mentioned in wishful-thinking talks with friends), it could’ve done this game much more justice, graphics-wise, gameply-wise, and whatnot. While I’ll play out the last four months of my subscription, I probably won’t re-sub until either an expansion pack comes out, or perhaps a huge update (like the upcoming 1.2, though I think I’ll still be subed by then).

  • nanomano

    I would urge everyone who doesn’t like the repetitive mechanics of questing to look up guild wars 2…

  • fanofthegame

    This game is my thing. I always thought WoW was amazing and SWTOR topped it. I’m blown away.

  • fanofthegame

    Mind bottling

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