This review of Star Wars: The old Republic will not discuss the latest expansions or the latest patches on what they specifically bring to the game, I will instead focus on a review of the whole game as it is today, and if you wish to dig deeper on changes over the last year read the article: A year past, looking back: Star Wars: The old Republic right here on your favorite gaming site.
You have eight classes in total to choose from when creating your character in SWTOR and all of them can later be specialized in two ways. I will not go any deeper into all the specialization, but it deserves mentioning that all classes have one DPS specialization and one which is either Tank or Healer. So if you are planning on playing DPS you are free to choose the class you want without worries. Each class has their own story through the game, which I will delve deeper into later on, and that story can be played different depending on if you play as a good guy or a bad guy. The factions of SWTOR are extremely self-explanatory if you have ever heard about Star Wars before, you have the republic and the empire. Choosing the evil empire does not mean you have to play evil, you can still play as a good sith assassin.
Even though many MMORPGs appearing the last couple of years have tried to move away from locked classes as The Secret World does or by leaving the holy trinity behind like Guild Wars 2 do, I like how SWTOR follows the original concept of a locked class where you specialization cannot be changed. I really think Bioware has made a good balance at what classes to choose from where they all have their unique touch. Like always when having two factions and PvP, the four classes on each side are very similar in the end, but there is still an illusion of difference there. Being an old Star Wars Galaxies player I will admit to missing many of the classes from the Star Wars universe as creature handler, musician, different fully fledged crafting classes etc. But I do think Bioware has done a pretty good job in incorporating classes most people love from the Star Wars sagas.
Story and quests
The story is really what SWTOR is all about and the only thing about the game which makes it stand out from other MMORPGs out there. Every class has its own story line which accordingly leads the player through every planet in the game. Each story is very unique and with the full voice-over it brings a very good single player experience to the player, even if you can run through the story with someone, it will still be your story and the other player will have to do the same quest gain for him, so it is very much a single player experience where a friend can help you.
Even the side quests in the game have a full voice over, and even if the majority of them are about kill X and\ or collecting Y, having an okay story behind them with a very good voice over makes them all playable at least ones. But if you decide to play as an alt in the same factions all side quest will be the same and therefore the illusion is broken and they really feel like a grind. Talking about grinding, the really fun and engaging personal class story takes a step back in my eyes when you cannot focus on those missions alone, leaving leveling trough other ways a must to do. Most of the class story missions go up at least one level between them creating a grind between them like most MMORPGs suffer from, and I wish they would have taken a bigger leap here making it possible to level trough the game while mostly if not only playing the story missions. I know this would make side quests in some terms obsolete, but they could offer some rewards which the story missions would not instead, making them fully optional. Now the game forces you leave the story and do a lot of other things in order to continue the story, which for me lowers the overall quality of the story.
Since Star Wars is set in space it feels natural that space should play a big part in SWTOR, and even though the space parts don’t measure at all to Star Wars Galaxies wide open space with a couple of classes only focusing on space in different areas, they are two completely different games where the latter is a sandbox and the former is a theme park MMORPG. Still, Bioware is really trying to get a good space feeling to the game where you now have two ways of flying around in outer space. The first which has existed since release is the on rails PvE missions. Here you can choose missions according to your level from the ship which you accumulate at around level 13, every class has its own ship but they all look the same within the class. The mission then is completely on rails where you shoot on enemy ships and try avoiding their lasers, and upon completion you are rewarded with a similar amount of experience points as you would have staying on a planet. I do like that these missions really feel like the space battles from the movies, where a lot is happening and it is directed in a good way. But I had really high hopes and feel very disappointed that we are not able to move more around and explore space, which of course would take away the film feeling but instead adding a role-playing feeling.
The other way in which we can move around in space is via this year’s addition of the space PvP in which we are actually free no navigate the instanced map however we like. Even though the maps are few and small we are here given the chance to be completely in control of our ship, and even though we have different ships representing different classes which we are free to modify with a myriad of different things ranging from crew members to shields. It is not the ship which we use in the rest of the game which I think is missing a golden opportunity for Bioware. If we instead of the new PvP ships had been given all the customization parts to our story ship and been given the chance to specialize it as it wore a second class for us, this new addition would have been great and something which could be bring disappointed players back.
Since I have already discussed the space PvP I will dedicate this section to the other two types of PvP found in SWTOR. The first is the open world PvP which has been scaled down since release, and now we have two way of killing other players outside of the instanced PvP maps. The first is via a special area on Tatooine where all whom enters get flagged for pvp, which by now is very dead. The other open PvP is via the PvP servers where you from time to time, especially in the higher level areas, encounter people from the other faction while doing PvE. While this as usual adds an extra level of excitement in MMORPG it happens very seldom and is not as fun as one would hope.
The other way to PvP in SWTOR is via their instanced PvP maps also called warzones. Here the two factions are pitted against one another in a couple of different game modes over a couple of maps whom all are locked too their game mode. Playing PvP gains you experience points in an okay rate making it possible to level your way from 10 to 55 only via PvP, and it gives you commendations with which you can buy PvP gear. I really do enjoy the variation in game modes in the game, from playing huttball where you must move a ball from the middle to the enemy’s side to storming a space cruiser in a true rush mode where every second counts. While I enjoy this variance I don’t enjoy how all game modes except huttball only have one map locked to them. I would really have loved to see all game modes in all maps similar to how online shooters are built. Since there is one map per game mode, the warzones really get repetitive way faster than if all maps where playable with all game modes.
While I think playing through the story with an alt character is in some way endgame too me, given the differences between the class story quests. But like all MMORPGs out there we have dungeons and raids, or as they are called in SWTOR; flashpoints and operations, and they are all now given with three difficulty levels. Like the rest of the game these all have full voice overs and a strong story background, making the first runs even more enjoyable. The flashpoints and operations outside of the story are very much your standard dungeons and raids. Where you are following a linear path encountering a lot of trash mobs and some few bosses which drops different tier of gears and commendation depending on what difficulty you are playing. And with most things in SWTOR they can feel very repetitive after a couple of runs.
SWTOR has a huge potential of being a great game, and in some cases Bioware manage to touch upon this potential, by creating a vast and interesting world which really gives you that special Star Wars feeling. But at the same time, they do miss out a lot on its potential and if you are not a Star Wars fan, SWTOR will feel like and plays like most MMORPGs out there, but with a slightly better script and full voice overs. One thing I have left outside this review is the free2play aspect, and while it deserves a mentioning, this review has been based on a subscription point of view, and if you would like to know more about what f2p players are missing out on, check out this link.
+ Great voice actors and full voice overs
+ Star Wars
- Single player game…
- …with grind
- Too linear