Publisher: Electronic Arts
So we’re here at last. The final part of our colossal review for Star Wars: The Old Republic, as the judgment on BioWare’s MMORPG from Dealspwn is almost upon us. If you’re late to the party be sure to catch up by checking out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
Player Vs Player combat has become a large part of any MMORPG, and considering it was going to be a key part of the storyline (in case you have been living under a rock since birth, Imperials and the Republic don’t get on well in most social situations) it was important that the BioWare get the content for PvP nailed right. Unfortunately, the launch has not been kind to this area of the game thanks to some rather glaring errors, along with some hastily deployed patches causing more problems than they solve (*COUGH*Ilum*COUGH*) and class balancing issues, especially in regards to incapacitation moves and their ability to create “stun-locks” on players (although some will argue that is the nature of the beast in PvP.)
However, the ground work for a solid PvP system is there, with three different game-type modes available initially from level 10 onwards. While I have yet to test out the open world encounters, the drop-in PvP matches are generally well implimented, with modes that most players of online games should recognise.
The Alderaan battleground provides a King of the Hill game type, where players are tasked with capturing three turrets which will shoot down the opposing team’s dropship. The more turrets on your side, the greater the damage dealt, with the first team to have their ship’s armour to fall to zero the loser. The Second battleground, set on a starship called the Voidstar, uses the template of a Stopwatch game mode. Taking turns between being the attacker and defender, three sets of double doors stand between the attackers and their objective of a datacore. Once the attackers are successful or if the timer runs out, the teams switch side and the new attackers must try and beat the previous time.
The third mode, Huttball, provides something a little different. A cross between a Rugby match and Gladiators (but with less John Anderson and more Hutts) the mode tasks the two sides with capturing a ball and attempting to cross a goal line, all the while attempting to kill each other. With the addition of environmental hazards dotted around the arena, and running commentary of the on-going action, I found it to be a lot of fun, and I must admit it is my clear favourite of the PvP modes.
Depending on the outcome of match, players are awarded credits, Valour points and PvP commendations, as well as a small amount of experience points. While the XP gain is nowhere near as good as playing the PvE content it is a nice addition that allows players to have a change of pace every now and again without sacrificing progression entirely (and is certainly possible to level to 50 if you have the drive to do so.) In a similar manner to how Social points work in regards to conversations, Valor Points unlock additional titles and vendor items to buy, as well as granting the player with the highest total of Valor points on a side with the position of team leader during matches.
My biggest grievance with PvP overall is with the lack of indication how long you will be waiting in a queue, leaving players in the dark as to when they can jump in the action. Any sort of information, be it an estimated timer or place in the queue, would have been welcome. On top of this, some player may be disappointed by the inability to choose a specific battleground, as well at a lack of notification of which random battleground they will be sent to. Upon reflection though, this is probably an understandable move by BioWare to ensure that certain battleground are not over subscribed to, avoiding wait times from increasing further.
Overall, I think the PvP options currently available are fun when the teams are balanced, although there is still work to be done before it can realise its full potential.
Okay then, enough of the analysis and discussion; Is Star Wars: The Old Republic as a whole a fun and ground-breaking MMORPG worthy of your attention, your time, and (perhaps more importantly) your money? In my opinion, there is enough content here to keep all players happy on the road to level 50, with plenty of quests to complete and a huge storyline to progress through. While there are Operations to work towards once reaching maximum level (something we have had to unfortunately skip in our review) PvP in its current state has proven to be a mixed bag, meaning if you don't find it enjoyable you have little option but to roll a new character. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as each class story is worth doing not only for the experience, but to work towards the Legacy progression which will reportedly provide bonuses across all a players characters on a player's chosen server.
The lack of functionality to edit the User Interface, and perhaps the implementation of the UI in general (see my remarks about the Galactic Market browser in Part 4) is perhaps my greatest issue with the game overall, but this will reportedly be rectified in the next big content update. It will be a welcome addition to the game, as the UI, while tolerable, is far too large in its current state. The borders for quest tracking, toolbars and the mini-map will overlap each other when the screen is overpopulated, especially in the case of PvP content when game-mode-specific information appears. While you can turn off quest tracking and the chat box, these reappear during area transitions (annoyingly) so I am looking forward to being able to reorganise the UI to my own specifications.
If you remove the story elements of the game, this isn't really that different to World of Warcraft at a core level, but I would not suggest that this is a bad thing. The familiarity of the mechanics allows the focus on storytelling to shine through with ease, and the addition of full voice-overs for the missions really does make a difference to the level of immersion (and yes, Nolan North and his glorious every-man voice is in there, obviously.) That said, the optimisation of the game engine does need work, and those of you who cannot do without a smooth experience may want to hold off initially. At the end of the day though, the “Star Wars” name will draw in the crowd whether you like the franchise or not, and fans of the Sci-Fi series should get a thrill out of being able to explore what I consider the better end of the history. In terms of making it feel like that galaxy, far, far away, BioWare have got it spot on.
- Class Storylines are huge and entertaining.
- Excellent use of the Star Wars licence across all areas of content.
- Advanced Classes and Skill Tree combinations allow players plenty of freedom.
- Optimisation is less than desirable at launch.
- PvP issues are slightly disruptive to the mode.
- User Interface functionality needs improving across the board.
The Short Version: It may well be a bumpy ride in terms of performance, and it is by no means a flawless experience, but overall BioWare has provided a grand alternative in the MMORPG landscape. The storytelling ability combined with traditional MMO mechanics provide a platform from which the game can grow, and while everything may not be to everyone’s tastes there are enough gameplay options to provide distractions from the levelling grind. Let’s hope that the promises of regular substantial content are met, because the Force is strong with this one.