SWTOR: A Few Weeks Into The Game
Let me level with you right now, I haven’t wanted a game this badly for a few years – since Pokemon Sapphire came out, in fact. When I began playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I wasn’t disappointed. It has already exceeded a lot of my expectations, but if you’ve played Knights of the Old Republic and think that The Old Republic is anything like it, you’ll need to think again.
Like all good Star Wars nerd-kids I spent many hours fantasising about forging my own saga, dueling with lightsabers and using the Force. When Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic came along in 2003, many – like me – spent far too many hours developing their own Jedi characters. Star Wars: The Old Republic takes KotOR’s epic scope and pumps it full of steroids, allowing you to explore a truly massive galaxy. With The Old Republic, you feel as if you’re in your own Star Wars movie, free to choose your own path and (depending on your class) make friends with a Wookiee.
I started out in the game as a Jedi Knight (of course) and the first thing I noticed is the slow, challenging yet rewarding progress of Padawan training; you don’t get a lightsaber until you’ve earned it. This forces you to feel like a true initiate in the Jedi Order, as you pay your dues hacking, slashing and running errands.
At first, trekking from one area of the (vast) map to the other gets quite tiresome, but the quick-travel taxis eliminate this once you bind to certain areas. The views from your rail journey speeder are usually quite phenomenal, especially once you get to areas like Coruscant (more about this planet later).
As with any good Star Wars game, the combat feels great. It’s very different to KotOR as it’s not turn-based, instead relying on dice rolls to determine damage just like other games from the genre. The lightsaber duels fail to be as smooth, as the developers favoured a simpler hack ‘n’ slash type of melee combat. Game developers have not yet managed to capture the cinematic lightsaber duels seen in the movies, so this is forgiveable, and makes things run faster when you’re tired and want to reach an objective quickly with enemies in the way.
Levelling up is a slow process, and it took many downed flesh-raiders and Tython guardian robots to get up to a high enough level to beat the overall boss of the Tython storyline. You gain a lot of different combat moves as you level up, each with different DPS (damage-per-second) values. Completing side-quests however, gives you a disproportionately high XP reward, encouraging you to occasionally go off on a tangent and further explore the interesting worlds.
The side-quests themselves are quite tough and encourage you to find friends online to form groups, making it much easier and fun. The voice-acting in the cutscenes of these story quests are outstanding, and you feel like you’re talking to real people.
Graphically, the surroundings are lovely but surprisingly spec-hungry. Don’t be surprised if you have to turn down the graphics settings even on a brand new system. However, with settings turned right down, one can still play the game on a decent system at least a year old – it ran at about 25-30 FPS on a laptop. In player-crowded areas – for example the Jedi Temple on Tython – the lag can become very noticeable, as FPS sank to around 5 on the same system.
Remember first exploring Taris from KotOR? While it was a small explorable area, BioWare did an amazing job of making you feel like you were in an enormous city, as you could see speeders fly past against a booming cityscape. In The Old Republic, once again this experience is blown out of the water with Coruscant, the second planet for Jedi characters. An enhanced graphics engine and far-expanded explorable area make you say “wow” out loud many times as you walk around the planet, gawping like a tourist. It also makes quick-travelling from area to area an amazing experience each time.
Jake Neri, LucasArts Producer, told PC Gamer in their October 2010 issue that their goal was to “capture the most cinematic moments that we can create. We want players to get in and feel like they’re in the movies. It’s about highly cinematic, controlled combat moments…very heroic, action-packed, exciting, visceral and dangerous encounters that’ll make you pee your pants.” They have very much achieved this.
The Old Republic had a very hard act to follow with KoTOR, and my first impressions of the game confirm that (so far) it has lived up to this. This game is a beautiful, interesting and enlightening adventure into the Star Wars saga, and I look forward to writing more about it as I spend more time on it.
Stay tuned to GodisaGeek.com for more SWTOR experience articles, with our full review coming soon.