Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review of Star Wars: the Old Republic

I got into the stress-test beta this past weekend, and I was really excited. I've been waiting to play this game since I first heard about it a year ago. I played Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic, and I enjoyed that game for what it was. Besides, I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and was really looking forward to a Star Wars MMO. I never played Galaxies. By the time I would have had a chance to try that game, word on the street was it was a stinking pile of poo, so I didn't bother.

I had some free time from school this past weekend, so I was able to devote a lot (i.e. way too much) time to SWTOR.

First, let me say I've never been so primed to LOVE a game. I was a little worried about my objectivity going in, figuring all Bioware had to do was phone it in, and I'd be hooked.

Second, let me say that my reaction to the game, in a word, is underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong, there were some good things about the game. The voice acting was a nice touch and is DEFINITELY a huge improvement over giving me paragraphs of quest text to read. I never read the damned quests in WoW. The quests in RIFT are interesting enough that I usually read them, but come on. When I want to read, I'll read a book, not play a video game. For everything there is a time and a place, you know?

I hate to say it, but overall, I'm very disappointed with this game. Maybe I was expecting too much. Bioware had me convinced that they were going to do something "different" with this game. I really thought it was going to be something more than a WoW clone with a Star Wars skin on it (and voice acting). Okay, let me back up a minute. That wasn't fair. A more fair way to say it is SWTOR is really KOTOR III, with just enough of an MMO "skin" on it that Bioware feels justified charging you $15 a month to play it. Seriously, it looks and feels and plays exactly like Knights of the Old Republic. 

Sure, the game has all the things that every OTHER Star Wars game has had since the good old X-Wing PC game back in the 90's: blaster sounds, light saber sounds, yadda yadda yadda. But after all the Star Wars games that have hit the market, it takes a bit more than that to impress me. 

For one thing, the entire game is on rails, not just the space combat. You're very limited as to where you can go in the world. Just because you can see something doesn't mean you can go there. You can't climb over rocks, hell you can't jump over or on top of rocks that don't even come up to your character's chest. Now a trooper in heavy armor, you might be able to convince me, but a Jedi? Come on! He's gettin' over those rocks!

I also found their "instances" annoying. There will be places in the world you just can't go because you're not the right class. They don't even try to make it seamless so it doesn't jar you out of the world. Stay away from the red light!

Not only does the world limit you as to where you can go (follow the dotted line sir!), but the story line does too. This story line put the LINE in linear man!  It wasn't until I'd played 10 levels that I got to a point in the story where I had any kind of a choice of where to go next. To me it seems to be betraying the very spirit of an MMORPG game to lead you by the nose like that. Even in WoW you had your noobie zones, but you could leave them if you wanted to. Not in SWTOR. If you ever wanna get off your starter planet, you have to go through all the quests first.

I also found the race selections to be lacking. The Star Wars universe is HUGE, and while I understand they can't reasonably offer all the races to play, I think they could have done better than 5 or so (and "cyborg" humans--aka humans with a few implants--don't count as a separate race in my book).

I also don't like the clunky class system. It just doesn't work for Star Wars. Being a WoW clone works for RIFT because they took everything that sucks in WoW and made it awesome. Bioware just copied from WoW and called it golden. The game would have been much better if it were more skill based, even more so that KOTOR was. Jedi (or sith) should not be limited to the type of lightsaber they used based on CLASS. Come on!

I also call fail on Bioware sticking with the tired old tank/heal/dps paradigm. I seem to remember them promising in their early promotional videos that they were going to break out of that box.... That whole paradigm is stupid to begin with. You might be able to convince me (if I happen to be REALLY drunk) that  a dumb animal can be enraged enough to attack only the most armored person in the group attacking it, but a sentient person? Come on! It was fine when EQ did it, because they were the first, and we had to start somewhere, but I think we can make our games a LITTLE smarter now.

I'm really disappointed with this game. Move along, nothing to see here. Nothing new anyway. If the game cost a one-time fee of $60 to play, it MIGHT be worth it. If it only cost $15 a month to play, it MIGHT be worth it for a month or two. But shell out $60 and then pay $15 a month? No way, not for the, at most, one or two months of play I might actually get out of it.

If you didn't get into the beta, and you're considering this game, do yourself a favor. Don't listen to all the hype. Wait till you can try it for free, or find a buddy who has it and try it for yourself before you spend your hard-earned cash on it.

Maybe I'll try it again after a few expansions, but for now, I'm giving it a pass.