Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Old Republic - A Game worth Waiting for

I’m sure many of you have heard of the relatively new MMO from Bioware and EA called Star Wars the Old Republic. The game has been out for a little over a year now and I have longed to play it since day one. I made a fair attempt when it first came out running it on my then 4 year old laptop however even on lowest settings the graphics card just couldn’t handle the game’s level of detail. Determined to play anyway I started overclocking my laptop’s modest graphics card and managed to make the game playable, if extremely laggy. I made it to level 19 before I could take no more and decided to take a break from the game until such a time as I could put together a computer capable of running it. As those who read my last post now know, I finally completed that computer and naturally I wasted no time at all installing the game and beginning my adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

As it had been nearly a year since my last experience I decided to make a new character and come back to my old one later. I had initially regretted not going with my initial instinct and choosing Jedi Knight, so this time around I followed my gut. I’ve got to tell you I couldn’t be more pleased. It took a little while to get accustomed to the idea that my character has almost no ranged ability what-so-ever, but you quickly grow accustomed to that. It wasn’t long at all before I was hacking my way through hordes of enemies trying to save the people of the Star Wars galaxy from all manner of threats and growing more proficient as a character and a player through the whole thing.

The new computer is so much better in fact that I decided to run the game on highest settings which it is breezing through and I must say I’m very pleased with my experience thus far. I was always of the opinion that story was more important than graphics, but now that I’ve seen them at their best I do have to appreciate what they bring to the table.

The game itself is very well done of course. For me the intellectual property, story, and crafting system are what makes or breaks a game. World of Warcraft for instance has a great crafting system and a decent story, but having never played the Warcraft games I couldn’t get into the intellectual property and as such I got bored with it. Star Trek Online did a fantastic job with story (at least initially) and their space combat system was very well done. The crafting system however was appalling, not surprising considering that it was added after the fact and was completely superfluous (by the time you could craft something it wasn’t as good as what you already had) and the ground combat system was just as bad which really ruined it for me. The Old Republic however manages to avoid these pitfalls by focusing on what they do best. Naturally I love the IP; Star Wars is a great universe to play in no matter what kind of character you prefer to play. They give you the choice between playing for the Republic and the light side and the Sith Empire and the dark side, but that doesn’t mean you have to be all good or all bad. You can play the pragmatic hero if you’d like or the noble villain, whatever floats your boat is available. Moving on we have the story itself which in typical Bioware style is a branching story with multiple dialog options that will move it one way or another. Interestingly each story is custom tailored to the class and advanced class you’re playing which means that there are 24 fully developed stories that currently exist within the game and of course there’s no shortage of side quests for them either. Finally there’s the crafting system which I have to say is even better than the one in W.o.W. There are 6 different crafting skills and since you can only have one crafting skill per character that means to do it all you’ll need six different characters. However you can also choose gathering skills to collect the materials for your crafting skill and mission skills which help you to acquire the harder to find materials that let you make blue and purple items as well as occasionally grant you schematics for items you can’t otherwise learn to build. Naturally the crafting skills and their related gathering and mission skills are interrelated which generates the need to trade one craft for another thereby fostering a thriving virtual economy and a cooperative player experience.

The only downside to The Old Republic that I’ve come across so far is their subscription system. Presently the game is free to play, but as a free to play player you’ll end up being heavily restricted initially. You can always improve your lot by purchasing cartel coins to unlock extra features typically available only to subscribers or you could subscribe and get everything right away (including cartel coins to permanently unlock certain features in case you can’t remain a subscriber). Still if you really like the game, it’s not too much to ask that you support it in some way and I’m certainly happy to do my part here at the N3rd C0rn3r.