Publisher: Electronic Arts, LucasArts
Release Date: 4/12/2012
Platform Reviewed: PC
Played with Controller or Mouse and Keyboard? Mouse and Keyboard
Time Played: 8 hours
Concept & Execution
Patch 1.2 brings decisive changes to the set-up of Star Wars: The Old Republic and alludes to the future direction of this young, but promising MMO. This major content patch saw a slew of basic bug-fixes and general clean-up, a rebalancing of the current class trees, additional story content, and most notably, introduced the much-hyped Legacy system. Additions to end-game content include a new flashpoint, a new operation, and a world-boss, giving capped players fresh content and, in the case of the flashpoint, picking up the threads of the last bit of story, giving players a chance to hunt down the mad-doctor responsible for the zombie-like Rakghoulsthat were introduced last patch. It’s good to see that BioWare is interested in keeping their capped players engaged, rolling out new content at a pretty respectable clip, and as ever, focusing heavily on their main strength: immersive story-telling. While the mechanics and basic game-play of Star Wars are all there, if anything is going to keep this MMO alive, it’s the story lines.
BioWare’s signature choice-based story-telling, brought to life via fully-voiced quest lines, is what differentiates TOR from other MMOs (particularly World of Warcraft) and holds people’s attention. Players who may not have had much interest in rolling alts in the past may make an exception for The Old Republic, if not only to witness BioWare’s exquisite narratives and help create a character with more depth and shape than the average blank-slate MMO avatar. With this focus in mind, the Legacy system is really quite brilliant. Legacy allows players to connect their characters in a much deeper and influential way than I’ve ever seen implemented in an MMO before. Once a character has cleared their first major story arc, the Legacy system is unlocked, allowing players special bonuses depending on what they’ve accomplished. As players level multiple characters, additional buffs and rewards are unlocked. The more completion, the better the perks. I’ll go over all the nuts and bolts in the mechanics section, but for now I want to focus mainly on the implications of the legacy system on the game as a whole.
If there already existed a focus on leveling alts over the end-game grind, the legacy system only zeroes in on that focus. Not only is there a base draw to see the other class storylines, but now the player whose focus was primarily end-game, pretty much has to level alts in order to unlock all the special buffs via the legacy system. This system is brilliant in that it entices both of the main play-styles. The alt-maker now feels vindicated in making multiple players and splitting his or her focus because it will be of benefit in the end. The single-character player must now go back and level alts if not only to strengthen his main by gaining access to all the buffs and upgrades available through Legacy.
Once players get a character to Legacy level, the Legacy window becomes available on the tool-bar. This is where you can track all of the crazy bonuses you’ve unlocked via character completion. The Legacy window includes three main tabs: Family Tree, Global Unlocks, and Coming Soon. The family tree functions as a lineage map for all your characters. Playing into the heavy story and role-playing based focus of this game, the family tree allows you to set the ancestry of your characters, if you wish. This creates a connection between your characters, a connection that you determine and control. Created characters no longer exist within a vacuum, separate from one another as they are in almost any other MMO, as BioWare strives to give players a greater personal connection with what they’ve created. It’s an interesting addition, and I’m anxious to see where they go with it. However, the real meat of the Legacy system is housed in Global Unlocks.
Global Unlocks breaks down further into four pages: Imperial Classes, Republic Classes, Races, and Other. The Imperial and Republic class windows have four sections, one for each class. They display the completion status for each, with special buffs and moves unlocking for various stages of story completion in every class. Each of the classes has a move that can be shared among all characters once unlocked. This means players can gain access to things like the Bounty-Hunter’s flamethrower or the Sith Warrior’s force choke on whatever character they wish, once available. Additionally, they show the completion status for each of the companion’s quest-lines for every character class. If you’re after all the buffs available here, prepare for full-completion for every class, in both factions, and what amounts to an enormous amount of playtime. The Race screen shows which of the races you have a capped character for. Once you’ve reached legacy status with a character of one race, you can now play that specific race for any and every class you play in the future. Other is a miscellaneous collection of buffs that are unlocked based on your Legacy level overall. Legacy level is not tied to a specific character, but is the culmination of all your characters. Some buffs unlock automatically and others, once unlocked, must then be purchased for what are usually enormous amounts of credits. The Legacy system provides a definite money-sink for a game that previously didn’t provide much use for credits. The Coming Soon tab shows a collection of tantalizing rewards that will be released in future updates. It includes upgrades that seek to stream-line gameplay, such as buffs to experience gains, increased affection gained with companions, and general movement speed increases.
Other additions of note beyond the Legacy system include a customizable UI and some character appearance options. The completely adjustable user interface is a breath of fresh air for me as an MMO player who is obsessed with screen organization. If you’ve ever played a game with a poor UI that can be easily fixed by just sliding some boxes around, you know my pain, and apparently BioWare does too. They’ve also given you the option to sync all your armor, making it the same color and avoiding the obvious, mix-matched look of the leveling character, further catering to OCD players everywhere. What I didn’t see, much to my own personal disappointment, is a dual-spec option which is something this game (as well as almost all MMOs, in my opinion) desperately needs. However, fret not, as BioWare has sworn its coming, they just haven’t said when.
The atmosphere of this game is a double-edged sword, something I simultaneously love and hate. The graphics are fantastic, with fully-formed realistic and unique landscapes, bright but not busy combat, and of course, plentiful quality cinematic sequences. But for what they get right, BioWare gets just as much wrong. While the wilds feel vast and complete, the towns and cities by comparison seem empty, unfinished, and hollow. The usual lack of other players on leveling worlds compared with the meager splattering of NPCs creates empty streets and a cheap illusion of city life. I remember how completely unimpressed I was upon first arriving at the Sith capital, on Dromund Kaas, thinking this is our capital city?Where is everybody? Plus the city itself was, while tall, quite tiny otherwise. It lacked the bustle a city should have, something I’ve seen done quite well in other MMOs, and something that remained unaddressed in the update. However, the capital city isn’t the hub for players anyway, that’s what the fleets are for. Still, even with more players running about, I’ve often found the fleet lacks the social quality that capital cities have in other games. Its nondescript identical hallways and lack of a physical place within a world that is disconnected by space makes it a place I venture to only for the few utilities that are unique to it. It’s not a place I ever linger, not like other cities in other games where I could hang out all day and goof around with my fellow players. And since patch 1.2 adds some of these utilities to your ship itself, there’s less of a reason to go there at all, except to search for instance groups if you’re lacking a guild.
The patch did see a lot of basic bug fixes in both graphics and navigating the game, which helps the immersive quality overall. There were also some cosmetic updates, such as additional speeder models and companion pets.
Overall, this is a fantastic MMO with real staying power in a field where many have fallen, but this recent patch has strengthened some real concerns I have with it. The Legacy system, intriguing as it is rich with opportunity, seems to have a very obvious ulterior purpose. It’s meant to force you to play all the classes, to sift through all the content. This effectively places the game’s greatest strength against it, turning what was a fresh take on questing into more of the same grind that every other MMO is plagued with. For players like myself who simply do not have that kind of time on their hands, this puts a high-end fully-capped character out of reach. Sure, I can cap a character, gear it up and be on par with everyone else, but if I want all the bells and whistles available to my fellow player, I’m going to have to go back, and I’m going to have to play. A lot. And with many more shiny new MMOs and other PC games on the horizon, I feel my interest in this title waning. I was looking over the awesome Legacy system with a friend, and he said something that pretty much sums up this game in total, “Wow, this almost makes me want to play again.” Almost. The legacy system, while a great addition to a very well-made game, will only really benefit the players who were already there, who were already invested in 100% completion. While its temptations may draw in some of us casual players from the fringes, the sheer feat of it is bound to turn others of us away. And turning away we are, apparently, as BioWare is offering obvious incentives for lapsed players’ return, offering me a free baby tauntaun companion pet if I sign up again, as well as letting me play for free for a week in order to see all the new additions. BioWare is also giving away thirty days free play-time for capped active players. While I can’t say enough good things about this MMO—it’s one of the best I’ve played—I worry about its future in this fickle, hyper-competitive field. Yet, BioWare continuously does right by its players, so only time will tell.
Total: 93/100 A