In 2003, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic received numerous awards for one simple reason: it’s awesome. Released one year later, its sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic II – The Sith Lords, also proved a smashing success. It then came as little surprise that the folk at BioWare would get cracking on a third instalment. Eying the growing MMO market, they’ve made this one an online adventure: Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Set three hundred years after the events of The Sith Lords and three thousand years before The Phantom Menace, this new chapter in the Star Wars saga tells of an armed conflict between the Sith Empire and the Republic, defended by the Jedi Order. Even though Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMO with thousands of players, you really feel like your character is a special snowflake making a difference in the war. If you play as a Jedi, the game tells you it’s been generations since the Force has been as strong in a Padawan. If you’d rather help the Republic as a trooper, it casts you as the newest recruit in the Havoc Squad, the best special ops team in the galaxy. Sure, other players evolve in the same environment, but they’re not as cool as you are.
Star Wars: The Old Republic features eight classes, each with its own storyline: Jedis protect the weak and innocent; Sith lords scheme for personal power; bounty hunters, uh, hunt bounties; etc. If you enjoy role-playing, you’ll be hooked early on as each premise mistreats your character just enough to want revenge. Whether your master gets killed in front of your eyes, someone steals your ship, or a superior officer stabs you in the back, the part of you screaming for justice will compel you to play on, leading you from planet to planet all across the galaxy.
A number of iconic environments from the previous games as well as from the movies make their appearance. Fans of the franchise will delight at walking the familiar surfaces of Tatooine, Hoth, Nar Shaddaa, and Korriban. Brand new planets have been added too, like Voss and Belsavis. Each carries its own quest running parallel to your story. Side quests are also available if you feel your character needs a little help with experience, credits, or gear.
While exploring these worlds, you gain new allies who then accompany you on your journey. Unfortunately, your rapport with them doesn’t play as big a part as in the previous Old Republic games. Sure, you can have a relationship with one of the characters, and the conversations prove fun if a bit shallow, but members of your supporting cast rarely interact with one another. Aside from providing an extra quest or two, they largely function as glorified pets to help you in a fight. One might as well carry them in Pokéball.
On a related note, the biggest problem with Star Wars: The Old Republic lies in its combat engine. The interface is so poorly designed it almost ruins the entire game. To initiate a special ability and get the best results in terms of damage or healing, you have to spend most of the bout looking at the skill bar and buffs. Meanwhile, a spectacular fight is occurring, or so I presume because I was busy staring at the bottom of the screen. Patch 1.2 tries to fix this issue by allowing players to alter the disposition of various bars and stats, but it’s not enough. Hopefully, future patches will take a page off of World of Warcraft and have the information flash in the middle of the screen when needed.
A question comes to mind: why is Star Wars: The Old Republic an MMO? Sure, the game has got dungeons (called “flashpoints”) and raids (called “operations”), but nothing about them stands out from other entries in the genre. The Old Republic series is celebrated for its exciting plots. This latest instalment will prove no exception, but its storylines could have been incorporated into several single-player games, all better than this one. Once I’m done with every class campaign, I imagine I’ll be stopping my subscription, at least until new stories are made available.