Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - First Impressions (Part 1 - The Good)

Bioware - I had so many expectations going into this game.  I intentionally ignored the beta hoping that I wouldn't come into a world filled with nonsensical bugs and poor thought out mechanics.  But here we are.

I'm going to break this one up into three posts, divided by the usual review style.  This prevents a giant wall of text and shuts up people who have nothing better to do then complain about COMING TO MY BLOG TO READ THINGS, AND THEN READING THEM.  O.o

The Good

The general story line of all the characters flows well, and is clearly well thought out.  I still find myself skipping over filler, but I am genuinely intrigued at parts and find myself playing for 10-15 minutes longer then intended just to find out what happens next and hit a comfortable breaking point in the story.  While not terribly predictable, there are some parts that could've used a little more development.  In Particular, there are a few parts in one of the quest lines where I believe I won't be the only one that sits back and wonders how many hard narcotics were being used the night certain parts of the story were written. 

Combat flows well - but it's an ability/cool-down based system.  There is nothing even close to innovative about the combat in this game, and thankfully they managed to implement it well and spared me one more thing to complain about.

Graphically the game is a perfect blend of quality and performance - I'd rate the game a 7 out of 10; the character models and effects need work, but the environments are great and display themselves fluidly - and that's more important then it sounds, many gamers will be able to run this game well without the need to upgrade and/or replace their systems entirely.

The space combat (Yes, really).  I started gaming young, and I realize most of the audience for SWTOR is probably around ~18 years old, and therefor do not remember games like Rogue Squadron(1998) and its subsequent sequels which are nearly identical to the space combat you experience in SWTOR.  I was thrilled when I saw they chose to implement it this way - it works perfectly as an almost mini-game/break from the action of a typical MMORPG.  The rewards are on par and are well worth the brief missions (most are completed w/cut-scenes in less than five minutes - they're on timers).

The experience curve is excellent.  You'll spend an adequate amount of time leveling your character to 50 (the current max level).  I'm currently 30 hours into the game, and I'm sitting at level 25.  Granted, I did a bit of experimenting and exploring, but all in all, I mostly plowed through my quests with ease, and I'm barely half way to the maximum level.

The companion system is a very intriguing idea, but comes across as kind of a cop out and a borrowed mechanic from other games.  This is listed in the 'good' section because Bioware implemented it well, and built a game around it.  The system makes sense and operates fluidly - and I like it.  But in a way, it's also a major problem as it encourages players to solo content instead of group with other players (decreasing the social aspect of MMORPG's) and to an extent becomes cumbersome once you acquire 2-3 companions (of which you can only have one follow you around at a time).  You now also need to manage multiple sets of equipment, one for you, and one for each companion (or at a minimum one for you and your favorite companion.  That gets tedious, but that's a personal preference I suppose.  I'm leaving the loyalty section out of this, see the bad section in part two.

The trade skill system is a refreshing change from the norm.  In SWTOR, you don't actually craft anything, your companions do.  You pick three 'crew skills'; one to manufacture the goods, and two to gather materials.  Everything's done via a mostly well thought out menu, and you can assign any number of companions to undertake tasks at the same time.  One can be crafting light saber hilts while the other forages for power crystals - all the missions and crafting segments are done on timers, so you know exactly how long it'll take, and how much crafting an item, or gathering the material for that item will cost you.