So confession my dear readers (all…four of you?). I almost forgot to write this article because I was playing the game it’s about. In fact it took Tophat to remind me that it was Friday! We talked a bit about the latest MMO to hit the market, The Old Republic. And I think I said something quite telling about the game in that conversation, without even thinking about it. When he asked me how the game was, I responded with “I’m enjoying the single player.” Wait, WHAT?! This is an MMO. Massive Multiplayer is in the genre. As it stands now though, the game seems very divided. It’s this division that makes it both a unique game in the MMO space, but one whose power to retain a player base for a long period of time is in question.
I referred to the Old Republic as single player because Bioware has done something I’ve never seen in an MMO before; you have a class quest and storyline that takes you all the way through to the level cap. It’s fully voice acted, you have NPC companions that will fight with you…alliances are made, people are murdered (by you or despite your efforts, depending on what side your on/how you play), and credits are earned. It’s fun and it’s engaging. And how could it not be? It’s Bioware! The Knights of the old Republic games were very good, not to mention Mass Effect and Dragon Age. We know these guys can tell a story. I’m playing a Jedi Guardian, following the path of light as much as I can, saving the universe from Sith and gangs and hive minded insects.
So what’s the problem? Well it’s that the part of the game I’m enjoying feels very much single player. The minute I try to engage in the MMO portion of the game is when I feel like the wheels come off a bit. The UI is meh at best if this were a single player game, but for running instances or group quests to an mmo vet like myself? Sorely lacking. Party frames cannot be moved, nor can the UI be scaled. I’m not a clicker, I keybind everything. As a point of reference, my World of Warcraft UI features a primary action bar with most of the abilities I use on it as invisible at all times. Having two HUGE bars at the bottom of the screen that cannot be resized feels frustrating and outdated. The lack of a looking for group style tool for group quests or flashpoints (instances) means that ye olde tradition of sitting in general chat and saying “LF healer and tank for Hammer Station” is commonplace.
I can hear you already, internet. Elrood, this isn’t World of Warcraft! This game is different so quit your whining about ooohhhh WoW does this better. Well, I disagree. I’m not asking the game to be a carbon copy of WoW in space. In fact, that’s the biggest knock I have against The Old Republic; it doesn’t seem to be trying innovate beyond the game being fully voice acted. This is tank/healing/dps and a standard MMO UI from the past. The WoW in space moniker is a tough one, but that’s exactly what it feels like to me. Except it’s not even WoW now from a system standpoint, it feels like WoW did back in vanilla.
There are things to like for sure. The voice acting ranges from average to excellent, with more leaning toward the excellent side. I find myself much more motivated to do the standard MMO style quests, such as collect 5 of this or kill 10 of that, when I’ve heard an NPC speak of the reasoning behind it instead of just looking at quest text. Bioware’s greatest strength has always been their storytelling and it’s in full force here. The companions my Jedi Knight has acquired (three so far) all have made me laugh out loud more than once. My young padawan may not be very Jedi like when she yells “eat lightsaber, JERK” as she hacks somebody to pieces, but damn it I love her for it. The Star Wars lore bits are also very well done, as the universe just FEELS like the movies (or better if you’re thinking about the prequels). Jawas stealing droids, oh you diminutive little rascals! I even saw a Jedi Master who was a uh….yoda. I have no idea with that race is called, but it was a fun thing to see. Lightsaber combat looks and sounds the part all the way. Space combat is fun as well, and is easily the most pleasant to look at part of the game. It’s no more than a diversion and serves no other game play purpose except to be a few daily quests, but the fact it’s in there at all I think is something to praise Bioware for. I’d like to see it expanded in the future.
So here’s my verdict, not on the game itself, this isn’t a review I haven’t played enough, but to anybody out there thinking about getting it. If you love Star Wars and are new to MMO’s, I think you’ll like this game. The clunky UI and key lacking features (LFG and dual spec being the two that hurt the most) won’t come in to play if one doesn’t know what they’re missing. If, like me, you love both Star Wars and MMO’s, I also recommend that this game finds its way on to your hard drive, with the caveat being it may not stay there forever considering the monthly fee. Bioware has promised many updates coming soon. I’m sure they are aware of the issues I discussed here. The voice acting is innovative, but they need to move quickly to catch the rest of the game up. Innovation in one area doesn’t help if the others are too far behind the times.