The Old Republic!

The massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game thing never really interested me. Blizzard’s fantasyscape never captured my imagination to the point where I felt the urge to fight the Horde as an overpowered midget. I could never justify the ongoing payments for a game that seems so repetitive and lacks zazz.

Eve Online has the Z factor but it looks so daunting and user-unfriendly that it would be like working another job only you’re paying your employer. Hmm.

And then Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced and I instantly renounced my hatred of subscription fees. It’s finally here … well, sort of. Local servers aren’t online yet but we can play on the American internetz, yay.

 

What the hell as an Aluminum Falcon?

 

Imagine playing Knights of the Old Republic except for the rest of your life! Never played KOTOR? You roleplay as an archetypal character from the Star Wars universe—set many, many centuries before the movie A New Hope. If you’ve always wanted to kick it like Boba then experiment with the bounty hunter’s gadgets or if shaping your destiny with the Force is more inspiring then forge yourself a lightsaber. Or you can just find the biggest blaster and shoot things.

The Star Wars universe is polarised. Good, bad; Jedi. Sith. Each side has four unique classes that range from gun slingers to troopers to healers to melee fanatics. That’s eight different classes with eight special stories. Your in-game decisions also accrue light and dark side points to represent your path so you could play as a nasty Jedi if you really wanted to.

 Surprisingly, Sith and Jedi characters can work together to complete common goals or even help each other conquer character-specific missions. Teamwork is rewarded with social points and sharing the dialogue sequences is always entertaining. An automatic dice roll will determine who gets to speak on behalf of the group. If you’re a goodie-goodie, for example, and your mate murders innocent engineers to gain dark side points … so long as you chose the light side option you will receive the points you wanted.

I was concerned that the leading choice would dominate your in-game preference, but that concern has been abated. If you’re playing with a couple of people you will notice a bit of lag between dialogue choices, but that’s not always a bad thing. Whenever I’m using a taxi or a speeder bike to fast travel I always use those opportunities to grab a drink or take a quick break. I’m not a slave to the game …

To be able to play as a team you really do need to stick to the same character level as your mates. Things get frustrating when you play catch up. Grind takes the form of bonus missions, picking fights with local baddies in baddie-designated areas. I haven’t played for long so this kind of grind isn’t frustrating yet.

 

That’s no moon

 

Story progression is very linear. You start on a basic planet, learn the basics, get a feel for your story arc and then you move on to the next planet to finish your next shopping list. Rinse and repeat.

The planets and the landscapes, like the graphics, are exquisite … for an MMORPG. Fat’imaFatFat, the obese Twilek, started his journey on Tython and then progressed to Coruscant. There is so much left to explore and Fat’imaFatFat doesn’t have his own starship yet!

I’m keen to try more of the heroic missions and flashpoints (raids) where the real challenges are. As a healer, my job is to keep my tank and DPS dudes alive. Recently I made a big mistake. My mates were doing fine. While I was watching their red health bars I was surprised that they weren’t taking any damage until I glanced at my own hit points—before I had time to target myself and cast Benevolence—I was waiting for respawn.

 

Putting the pwn in PvP

 

PvP servers are fun. Many duels, I have lost. There are PvP games that you can participate in too, but the higher-tier players seem to dominate. Despite that, the house mates and I held enough turret objectives to obliterate our opponent’s ship-thing.

I’ll give the PvP thing a miss until I’ve accomplished more with my Jedi sage. The story-heavy adventures elsewhere are more interesting to me as a player.

Is there tactical merit in PvP or does having a higher level avatar make all the difference? Obviously if your team is a balanced and coherent force to reckon with you would think that lower-level forces would be able to rip through a less-organised team of random level 50s. I haven’t played enough to be able to see if tactics beat attacking spam.

 

Who’s scruffy lookin?

 

So far my TOR experience has been mostly positive. The game is very addictive. Eight hours zipped by the other day without my noticing (even though there’s a clock to the lower right corner of the screen!). The only major drag is the down time for server maintenance and patches and the occasional waiting to get into a server (30 minutes isn’t too bad, at least I can play the other neglected games such as MW3 and BF3).

It’s too early to tell whether TOR is worth the additional $15 a month. From what I’ve read there are guilds of level 50 players who are devouring all of the brand new content. Where do these people find the time? Ah well, I have medkits to craft and Justicars to thrash.

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