On a planet not so far away, the NDA was lifted from Star Wars The Old Republic. A blogger was given the task to check it out for the readers, and report back on it. After the command was given, he began to play as intensely as he was capable, and returned with his report.
This time no Bothan spies died to get the information, so stick around for his report, it’s a long one.
Let me do this by starting with the good things of the game, without giving any spoilers (unlike Beararms!). Right of the bat, I want start with the story of the game: it is magnificent! The player will feel immersed in the game; and that is accredited to the voice acting. Every character the player meets has a voice.
From the Jedi Master that sounds wise, to the Sith apprentice that sounds cocky. This is a fantastic thing for SW:TOR, because many players don’t read quest text, and won’t be immersed in the story surrounding the missions and lore. Though, when the player hears it, they will hear the anger or happiness in the NPC’s voice when they are speaking to the player. It makes for a wonderful storytelling experience.
But the voice acting is just one part. What makes the over-arcing story truly shine does not rely simply on the plethora of different voices, but the significant measure of decisions the player has to change the universe (literally!). Of course, the missions are pretty familiar to other MMO’s. You will have your generic “kill this droid”, “gather that droid’s optics”, and “talk to the droid over there”; but more often than not, when the player has done said mission, they will enter into conversation again, where they have choices on what to do next. Maybe the droid asks for mercy, where the player can choose what to do with it: kill it or forgive it and send it on its merry way?
In the end, the players will shape their own destiny. A decent example is that I played through the story segment twice, but one of the times I let someone stay alive, and the other time I killed him. In the storyline where I let him live, he came back later to save my ass; whereas in the storyline where I killed him off, of course wouldn’t be available to come along to help.
The Light Side / Dark Side concept will always be well received as a core mechanic of any Star Wars game, for it adds a deeper layer of morality, importance of decisions, and consequences of said decisions, granting the player a more satisfying playing experience when it comes to their character’s specific story.
However, the same mechanic gains more layers in SW:TOR, than it previously contained in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Using the same example from above, when I killed the character, I gained Dark Side points, but when I saved him, I gained Light Side points. Pretty standard stuff in Star Wars games that incorporate this mechanic. Now add on the layer of it being an MMO, and you have this: You save the man, and later he comes to help you, or your group, to give you an easier time in the game in a certain encounter or mission. You kill him, and you now face those same challenges without his help.
Then you add on the next layer: NPC AI reception of your decisions. Using again the same example; perhaps letting the guy go (giving me Light Side points) would later allow him to create a mass murder, causing people to resent me for not stopping him. Or, if I killed him, and he was seemingly innocent towards other NPCs, they fear me as being a powerful murder. How the AI perceives you, will influence further more the story and their willingness to offer services, missions, and help.
Now that you’ve read what I’ve found to be the good, the next question you might ask is: is there anything bad about the game? Sadly, I did find some things that I don’t particularly like. Such as the fact that its gameplay is a quite akin to World of Warcraft, which in a way is its blessing and its curse.
The blessing is on the lines of what Beararms mentioned, is that people will feel the familiarity to it, and rapidly pick everything up. The curse; when the player has already put in a massive amount of time into World of Warcraft, and is looking for a new experience, though Star Wars just isn’t their thing (Editor’s note: blaspheme!), they are more likely than not to promptly become just as bored with SW:TOR, as they were with World of Warcraft because of the considerable similarity the two titles share.
I can’t specifically declare how much of a problem this really is, as it differs for each player.
As a last side note: I thought the Sith race and the Miraluka had already died out? That’s at least how I remember it. Am I getting my timeline confused between SW:KoToR and SW:TOR? If anyone can enlighten me as to why they are in the game, I would appreciate it. I want to keep my Star Wars lore in check.
Remember: Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out December 20, 2011. You can pre-order here, and start playing up to 5 days early!
And don’t forget! Mordil and Beararms will be at their local midnight release, and will surely have content to share from their experience on LiveCast!