[Warning: Some plot points of the Sith Inquisitor storyline are discussed.]
I have to confess that no MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) has ever convinced me to play for more than a month. I played ‘World of Warcraft’ a few years ago, and recently I tried DC Online Universe. The games are fine, but neither compelled me enough to invest countless hours of my life. I went into ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ with modest expectations. I knew the game had promise because it was developed by BioWare, the company behind the ‘Mass Effect’ and ‘Dragon Age’ games. When I played I was surprised because I was not expecting a vast world with stunning details, great music and sound effects, and a well-written story that has kept me captivated for hours.
If you haven’t played an MMORPG before or haven’t in a while, getting started is easy. After selecting your environment and server, you choose your allegiance—Jedi or Sith. The story takes place thousands of years before the films during the war between the Republic and the Sith Empire. After you pick a side, you select your class. There are eight classes, four for each faction. The Republic classes are Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, and Trooper; the Sith Empire classes are Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent, and Bounty Hunter. Next, you pick from eight species: Human, Twi’lek, Mirialan, Miraluka, Zabrak, Sith Pureblood, Rattataki, Chiss, and Cyborg. The class you choose affects which species are available to you. For example, you cannot be a Sith Pureblood Jedi Knight. The last steps are selecting your gender and customizing your character. Now you’re ready to play!
Each class has its own storyline, giving the game a very personal feel. Having multiple storylines adds to the game’s appeal because if you reach the level cap of 50 and finish your character’s story, you know creating a new character will give you different encounters.
My character is Devlora, a Twi’lek Sith Inquisitor, and my story began on the planet Korriban. Devlora has to survive the trials to become the apprentice to Lord Zash. Although you know the details about the Sith Inquisitor story, your game is likely to be different than mine. You can either plough through the main story or spend hours completing side quests.
The dialogue options shape your story; you can be a dark Jedi or a light Sith, and your decisions will open or close opportunities as you play. The most interesting aspect is your ability to make the game your own. You can play the entire time solo. I know one of the lures of an MMO is playing with others, but if you are new to MMOs, then having time to play alone helps you get accustomed to the controls and navigating the environment. I suggest occasionally playing in a group. There are a couple of difficult side quests that are easier in a group, and during a flashpoint, which is a quest for groups only, your group takes part in the same conversations, providing players with a unique experience within the game.
The writing is exceptional. The side quests don’t feel rudimentary or forced. You don’t have to suffer through endless fetch or escort quests. The content is diverse; so far I have scanned Sith to determine their purity, told a father the news of his son’s death, and got my fortune read after soaking a skull in blood. The quality of the writing is evident during the cutscenes and is enhanced by the superb voice acting.
Characters are voiced, even yours, and have distinct personalities. I ran through the same conversations a couple of times to see if the voice readings and character reactions were different, and they are. Your choices not only determine plot, but also how other characters react. An example from my story is when you go to someone to get a creature’s meal. The guy does not want to feed the creature. If you agree with him, the guy is calm and gives you an option to deal with the creature. If you disagree with him, he becomes agitated and angry, and your character’s tone and reactions respond to his unwillingness. Time and care was taken to craft a richly comprehensive story, and each story moment makes the game more engrossing and addictive.
The music and sound effects, which are from the films, and the visuals enrich this riveting game. The music swells during key fights and story moments. Hearing the lightsaber and blaster sounds makes the game feel very cinematic, as though you really are in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. The buildings, the ships, the characters’ looks, the jungles, the creatures, and the animation, are all gorgeously rendered. The game is a feast for the eyes and ears, and I realized this when I encountered my first fight. The action was rapid, continuous, and fluid, and when I heard the music punctuate the action, the game grabbed me and never let go.
‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ is a complete game; the writing, the visuals, the music, the plot, and the action come together to provide players a game that is enthralling and mesmerizing. I never thought an MMORPG could rapt my attention for more than a week, but SWTOR has me willing to pay the monthly subscription fee of $14.99 (you can sign up for three months for $41.97 and six months for $77.94) on top of the $59.99 price of the game.
If you have ever been curious about playing an MMO, this game is a great one to start playing. The story is your own, and you don’t have any pressure to play in a group. The controls are easy to understand, the loot is plentiful, and the map display helps you find your way and keep track of your missions.
The longest I’ve had to wait to get on my server is twenty minutes. BioWare has made a conscious effort to make SWTOR a pleasurable, non-stress inducing game to play. I have enjoyed every minute. And the same seems to be true for many others. According to a recent press release on SWTOR.com, the game has over a million subscribers with more joining every day, making it one of the fastest growing MMOs ever. If BioWare can keep the quality this high and consistent, which I’m positive they can, then ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ will be my MMO of choice for some time to come.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my guild and I are going to wreak havoc on some poor, pitiful Jedi.
Developer: BioWare. Publishers: LucasArts Entertainment, Electronic Arts. Platform: PC only. Rated T. Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy MMORPG. Release Date: December 20, 2011.