martes, 3 de enero de 2012 , Posted by admin at 3:38
Star Wars: The Old Republic – review
Star Wars: The Old Republic ... nobody mocks a Jedi Knight's dress sense and gets away with it
With free-to-play rivals grabbing headlines and World of Warcraft losing players, it's not been a great year for subscription-based MMOs. Which adds even more expectation to Bioware's first entry into the genre, not least as the most expensive multiplayer game yet developed.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is a semi sequel to the first two Knights of the Old Republic games, set before Episode 1 but drawing locations and characters from almost every planet in the Star Wars universe. Having only managed to get online with the full version on launch day (it's a long story – don't get me started!) I'm still coming to terms with a game that straddles several genres and is inciting heated debate in all of them.
If it's Star Wars that brought you here (and that surely accounts for a hefty chunk of SWTOR's initial audience) then you'll be mightily pleased with your destination. Bioware is clearly committed to ensuring that this IS Star Wars in cyberspace – from the glossy production values to the enormous cast of characters, cultures and technologies to the pretentious but excellently delivered dialogue.
The graphics are occasionally stunning – with long draw distances rendering outdoor and space locations particularly effective and, so far, relatively lag and glitch free – an achievement in itself for most MMOs.
When you get indoors things can feel a bit more generic at first but patience is the lucrative key here, and the developers have peppered your first 20 levels or so with regular standout cut-scenes, locations and surprises.
The backbone of SWTOR is obviously the quests, but this is underpinned by a uniquely complex and interactive single player storyline for an MMO. Even if you concentrate on these key Story Events, you're still in for a long haul before all the many twists and turns are revealed.
Add to this the sheer scale of the Star Wars universe, and you have an MMO that aspires to a level of freedom previously only attempted by space operas like Elite or Freelancer, with the added random element of real human interaction.
Most quests are prefaced by conversations and CG cut-scenes, ranging from the truly impressive (the game's opening sequence, for instance) to the formulaic and forgettable. Once you start skipping through these intros, what you're left with is the usual mix of "rescue" and "kill" quests – there's little in the way of unexpected gameplay challenges.
Admittedly, you can distract yourself with mini games like speed racing for credits – as seen in Knights of the Old Republic, but in gameplay terms SWTOR's Quest-based structure could not feel more conventional.
Your first key choice is whether to opt for the Light or Dark side of the Force, each with sharply divergent story-arcs. You then choose between four classes, making a total of eight main character/story types.
This is smaller than you might expect, although you can customise those classes to feature most of the familiar Star Wars races and a reasonable variety of shapes and sizes. Then it's down to the action, plunging you into one of the two main story arcs.
I chose the Jedi path, meaning most of the players I encountered were perhaps more prone to cooperation, although even here I was just as often challenged to duels as offered recruitment opportunities.
There is no lobby system. Instead, groups are easily formed in open play by inviting others to partake in your side quests (or vice versa). You also get your own NPC companion characters, who follow you around to help out in fights, negotiations and even earning credits – although they never match the value of a human teammate particularly when facing off against tough bosses or larger groups of enemies.
Which brings us to combat – your defining skill until you develop crafting to generate income by peaceful means. If you're expecting the high speed lightsaber battles of the cut-scenes, you may feel initially underwhelmed by SWTOR's fairly basic melee combat model – with just a couple of attacking strokes initially available to you and a rather cumbersome manual targeting system that plays havoc with the camera if you lose lock in the heat of battle.
However, though the combat never reaches SW "trilogy 2" levels of dexterity, things do improve quickly once you start upgrading your abilities and seeking out further Jedi training. More saber moves quickly appear as well as Force Powers, allowing you to repel enemies in groups, hurl objects and trigger lightning attacks.
And melee combat is not the only weapon in SWTOR's arsenal; once you earn the credits and experience to buy your own ship, massive multiplayer skirmishes in deep space beckon. It's certainly a powerful incentive to keep playing.
If all this talk of the single player experience bores you then Bioware has certainly not neglected fans of a more competitive multiplayer experience.
At the time of writing most of the Player vs Player servers were experiencing lengthy queues (something a maintenance update should address) but it certainly demonstrates their popularity, as do other game elements such as Flashpoints (dungeon-based Boss battles that can last up to an hour each), Flashpoints and Operations (huge raids).
One way or another, wannabe Player Killers will have plenty to fight about, both in-game and on the currently sparse official forums.
What I can confirm is that SWTOR more than justifies the box price, which includes the first month online. Whether it's a universe that delivers a constant flow of new surprises and challenges is something that will decide how long punters continue to shell out £8.99 month. But for me it's an impressively epic start.
• Game reviewed on PC
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