Star Wars: The Old Republic Review Guide – The Rubescent Sabers In A Conflict Of A Lifetime

Star Wars: The Old Republic heralds the collective embrace of the mythical and metaphysical binding known as The Force to a reality of the galaxy which took 7 production years in the making. This binding element introduced in George Lucas’ acclaimed Star Wars franchise relives with Star Wars: The Old Republic in the hearts and decades of devoted fans that have waited in patience for a Star Wars Massively multiplayer online game that holds true to the genre in terms of tradition meets reinvention. While Star Wars: Galaxies aimed to do some of this, it largely missed out in terms of its difficulty, uneven balance of character development, and lastly a lack of true community features. All the hard efforts by developer BioWare, makers of the Knights Of The Old Republic and Mass Effect franchises, has determinately been envisaged in Star Wars: The Old Republic through a level which is redefining and a prescience of elements that utilize classical Massively multiplayer online (MMO) game genre staples and combines it with storyline that is similar to Star Wars: The Knights Of The Old Republic in its excellence of style, attention to unique elemental and metaphysical surroundings, and an environment that is designed as beautifully as it is filled with people of different cultures in the Galactic Arms and the fight between the Light and Dark.

 

Dates: 11/20 – 11/22 (12:00AM – 11:29PM)

Star Wars: The Old Republic has proven to be so vast and expansive, that this review promises to not just be one of the most conclusive reviews on the internet, but also one which is continually updated as needed and one which can serve as a brief guide to the vast expanse of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Star Wars is undeniably popular, and Star Wars: The Old Republic makes it clear that the queue times are something that are first to appear. Regardless of this, the game begins with no problems after a queue on the servers of 200 people. This approximately took 8.35 minutes for login, which is rather tiresome if accidentally disconnected during the game, but nothing that is not worth waiting for and something fans will not mind. The storyline of Star Wars: The Old Republic is immediately made translucent in terms of detail, and considering developer BioWare added this fourth main important staple that defines their MMO experience, it is something dozens of writers have clearly worked out on.

When I asked Dallas Dickinson (the game’s Director of Production) about why this specific time in Star Wars chronology was chosen, he simply said:

“Well, it makes sense. At first the team did struggle with trying to find a workable idea into the storyline, but it made sense that for many Jedi to be present, it would either be years before or years after the sequence of the films. The latter would only serve to hinder any sort of actual dogma, so we went for a prequel, where the end questions were.”

The fact is that everyone wants a lightsaber, but this made sense for the team at BioWare the most to write a MMO that is more of a prequel to a saga of massive scale and character depth already established.

Star Wars: The Old Republic begins at a time after the Great Galactic War, 3,500 years before the rise of Darth Vader, where the Sith Empire resurfaces but there is a definitive ceasefire between the two forces of the galaxy. The Great Galactic War has shown that the capture and Sacking of Coruscant is the last powerful move by the Sith in forcing the Republic in its coup de grâce and these rising tensions set off the various class storylines that BioWare crafted individually with many writers. With this level of storyline detail and believability in the lore, true Star Wars fans will not be disappointed in the offerings of this massive multiplayer online game looking to reshape storytelling in a journey where the player is key and not the leveling systems with grinding.

Dates: 11/23 – 11/26

It all begins with the subscription pricing model. This is where Electronic Arts have served to clearly confuse a lot of people, and something which needs to be elucidated. Subscription pricing models need to be added to an account on top of the Game Product Code, which is the actual physical game key with a 30 Day trial. You must use your credit card to add a subscription. Most people assumed that EA does not allow for anything else to avoid paying upfront without getting their full 30 days, but they allow Pre-Paid Game Time Code (60 days), should you not wish to add your credit card details – however this confirms you spend money on 60 extra days. Instead, the best option is to add a payment method (which we did not have to do) and in that way you can easily cancel before Day 30 (hopefully you do not for BioWare).

BioWare’s billing plan does not charge any amount on any payment method until whatever pre-paid/automatically redeemed time is used up, so this is the benefit in securing themselves from spammer accounts that signup just to spam their business on the text chats. One thing we received a lot of e-mails about was the following: “You have 29 days left.” If you get this message, it means you still get your full 30 days up until the hour you registered time. If you redeem at 9:00 PM PST, the game system will renew 30 days later at the same time (not by days or actual nights). Once this is all done – it is time to get into BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic with a game client. The game client is undeniably hefty with a supplemental download of 18.7 gigs, but the great scale of this MMO in terms of graphics at 18.7 GB for a massive world with even cards at 768MB video card RAM is great for medium-high settings, which is something we tested extensively and will not be detailed here.

The gameplay mechanism is the highlight of Star Wars: The Old Republic, creating one of the most memorable experiences for players and something which BioWare promised to take seriously with traditional elements inculcated. Creating the character is one of the main important steps in creating a storyline that is so uniquely specific to race and even class. After choosing a faction between the Sith Empire or Galactic Republic, Species and Classes are diverse and not overly complicated, which for a beginner makes the learning curve moderately easy of the Star Wars lore that takes place well in advance of Darth Vader. Species include: Human, Chiss, Cyborg, Twi’lek, Miraluka, Sith Pure Blood, Rattataki, Zabrak, and lastly Mirialan.

These Species choices are sometimes limited to certain classes, where not every species can be used for ever class and rightfully so. Each of the species comes with an inherent ability, one which becomes important later on in the starting abilities sector of the gameplay. Once class has been chosen, players set out on their own beginning planet and lore in the Star Wars: The Old Republic. Classes vary in terms of specific inherent talent trees and also the names between the two warring factions in terms of class organization. Galactic Republic comes with four classes, each more specific than the next and multivariate in roles. Essentially all classes can use damage, otherwise nothing would work, but there are classes more specific to damage/roles and better to suited to some than others. Jedi Consular is the force-sensitive user capable of Tank/Heal or DPS (Damage) roles in a group setting. The Jedi Knight serves as Tank/Damage or Pure Damage class with little tanking abilities and more for support and controller skills for larger enemy types while the improvisational Smuggler utilizes its Damage-only blaster role or the Heal/Damage role for backup support in any group setting. Similar to the Smuggler, the Heavy armor brute of the Trooper carries a variety of heavy cannon-based weapons to decimate foes or a sniper rifle for massive critical shots in the heat of the crossfire. On the Sith Empire side, the roles are similarly interchanged for the ruthless Bounty Hunter, the cunning Imperial Agent, the skillful Sith Inquisitor, and lastly the vengeful and raged Sith Warrior. No matter what class you choose, every class and its respective storyline combines with gameplay for a memorable journey that a lot of MMOs have missed out on in terms of content distribution and delivery.

The rampantly paced action-adventure in Star Wars: The Old Republic makes use of the central quest progression gameplay structure system which has a central dogma in storyline development, and accentuates the magnanimously created concept that storyline and MMO can finally combine with voice acting in full dialogue choices. Players are not only the actor of their own journey, but they are placed as their own director with the uniquely crafted cinematic directional cameras placed for every scene. Star Wars: The Old Republic quests all revolve around the realistic dream of actual people in a world that is beyond our own. The characters all have a story to tell, and this is something the developers must have paid meticulous attention to when creating worlds and areas with the various voice-actors and their respective dialogues. In the Mission Log, quests are added on a list, with colors and preferred level choices recommended to complete quests (orange being the hardest and grey being extremely easy). Should you happen to find yourself having missed a quest at level 10 and coming back to it at level 40, you will not get the same experience points, which is something that is just and fair. The leveling system itself is not a fast one like DC Universe Online or other MMOs, rather it is more similar to World of Warcraft if not a bit harder past level 30 with the maximum being 50. Players can advance not just by doing main quests, but also side-quests which are more than a combined 400+ objectives.

Quests themselves are the critical reward and storyline progressional element that every MMO seems to be missing in the way of read-only A to B quests, but with open-world and dynamic quest system with terrific voice acting, Star Wars: The Old Republic shows a remarkable difference in how much higher the game’s quality becomes when storyline quests are meaningful in choices, and moreover consequences with voice acting aside. In between quests, you get bonus quests for certain mobs for terrific Experience Points (XP) which are used to level up your characters. Quests can currently be done in groups with same-class players (provided an option under preferences is turned on) but only one person can help a person in his/her quest first, without the other person being able to help back in an already completed quest (this will probably be fixed). Quests will eventually require players to start on one planet, and branch out across the solar system in search for being the best they can be in their eventual path, whether it is Jedi, Sith, or Revanite. Quests for end-game in higher levels range on to two categories: Flashpoints (repeatable) and Operations, flashpoints being done before 50 in worlds at a time. Flashpoints are themselves story-driven action experiences with a group of four players, which places them against Champion or Elite mobs of the same level as them (much harder to kill even a few levels above for one player). There flashpoints also offer better rewards, and better loot drops similar to raids. Operations take place post-level 50 and involve 8-16 man objectives that involves a lot of teamwork and comes with their own sets of rewards. Tionese (Rank 1), Columi (Rank 2), and Rakata (Rank 3) gear are the highest Player versus Environment (PvE) sets available and require extensive operations.

Quests involve a very branched storyline dialogue option choice, and there are multiple and hundreds of points in the game which involve awarding players with Light Side points or Dark Side points. Nothing is exclusive in the ways of the Force. Light side players can be morally corrupt, whereas Dark Side players can be as morally adept as a Sith is willing to be without any killing. All of these play into ranks that are respectively termed as “Light Side X (I,II,III,IV) or Dark Side (I-IV). Not only do players get a mark that show who their character is but moreover what their character looks like dynamically, with their face becoming disconcertingly evil if bad.

As the missions progress, players will run along with Companions, which are people with their own stories, alignments, and capabilities of becoming corrupted, or just outright hating whoever they are with in terms of the player. Han Solo had Chewbacca, and Anakin Skywalker had Obi-Wan. Companion roles are filled with incredible variety, whether they are  flirtatious, combative or  just plain adventurous, they always find a way to add to the adventure and may not always agree with your choices. They all have a reason for being with the player, whether it is greed or just rallying for a cause. It is these motivations which add to the substance Star Wars: The Old Republic has to offer. Companions come with their own set of gear that can be handed down to them or fully equipped new gear as players see fit.

Star Wars: The Old Republic instantly feels like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II in its level of gameplay design and moreover combat utilization. Ground combat is perhaps the only element which feels a bit dated at times in Star Wars: The Old Republic, due to the point-click system with typical damage bars and what not over enemy display indicators, but then again this feels traditional and something that can be easily adapted to at the same time for veteran and new MMO players alike. Combats involve abilities that are given as “starting abilities” for each class and progressively advanced through levels. Every class has its own type of control system. Warriors have Rage costs while Inquisitors have Force Cost, while Troopers and Imperial Agents have ‘Ammo/Heat Costs respectively.’ This ability cost system is straightforward and though while not necessarily new or inventive, falls into the traditional classification of combat that Star Wars: The Old Republic wants to be known for in order to pull not just veteran players but new players that have played some MMO in the past.

Dates: 11/26 – 11/30

Space combat is also a bonus within Star Wars: The Old Republic, which includes daily space missions once players obtain their very own ship. Similar to Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic has kept ship customization rather meticulous in terms of modifications of ship parts and different types of ships as the storyline progresses per class. Fury, XS-Freighter, D5-Mantis, Defender, BT-7 Thunderclap, and the X-70B Phantom are all the included ships, with more to be announced in future DLC. In the times of the Great War, shipbuilders made many types of unique designs of not just ships but also various technological enhancements that can be obtained through in-game ship vendors or made by other players in the game that focus on making parts and modification enhancements including Shield Armor, Energy generators, and much more at different grades. Each grade corresponds with a certain mission that recommends specific armors. These ships can be taken on daily space missions for XP, where there are objectives which require destroying certain turrets or escorting someone based on the type of mission. These all vary per space type. Combat control feels natural, and with added expansions for missiles that can be bought along with EMP generators to make ships stronger and more hard to take down, the space combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic is quite the innovation.

Dates: 1/1/12 – 1/8/12

Star Wars: The Old Republic carries cohesiveness of the elements into its item design as part of the gameplay and questing structure. Rewards give not just items for players and their companions but other inventive materials and much more that can be used later as players progress. Items form the natural pillar of any MMO whether it is armor, relics, ship parts, companion-specific armor, weapons such as lightsabers, vibroblades, sniper rifles, double-bladed lightsabers, all of which are the natural introduction to gameplay progression.  The combat direction in Star Wars: The Old Republic is central to not only what your character wears in terms of armor, but also how well a character performs in his/her class and power set. Sith Marauders make use of dual-wield lightsabers, and Inquisitors use force powers which require great force-bearing light armor. Armor ratings are the core of your companion and yourself, you naturally can buy better items through commendation vendors that have a higher ‘Rank’ which is based upon certain factors if the item is moddable (Orange): Armoring, Mod, and Enhancement. These 3 form the basis of item modding in Star Wars: The Old Republic, which effects the following statistics (primary and secondary): Strength, Presence, Aim, Cunning, Endurance, Willpower, and Expertise. Extra stats that unlock as secondary stats include Alacrity, Accuracy Rating, Absorption, Critical Rating, Defense Rating, Force Power, Power, Shield, Tech Power, and Surge.  Alacrity currently seems to be a rate haste effect, whereas accuracy and adsorption and the rest are straightforward in how they absorb attack and deal critical damage. Different statistics become important for different classes at the primary level while secondary statistics improve overall gameplay performance.

There are no such things as rare items which you may find being sold for millions that is necessary, except for some exceptional gear which must be earned but it truly feels like there is a vast array of special items for any and every class. Star Wars: The Old Republic has created so many varying types of items for so many different classes and types of play-styles (stealth, mobile trooper, stationary mercenary, etc.) that it all feels undeniably just and equal in the end whether you are a level 10 or a level 50 compared to any other level 50 of the same class. No two players are alike and this sort of unmatched item variety has only been seen in the most established MMOs to date that have been out for years. Star Wars: The Old Republic has prevailed in establishing a critically solid and vast foundation that should take years to create within just a few days of its launch, a memorable encompassment that is indelible in game MMO development.

Crew Skills is one of the most important aspects of any character’s gameplay and involves the following chart to map out crew skills. Many crew skills exist for different aspects, most of which fall into one of three categories: crafting, mission, and scavenging. Players can only have one crafting mission at any time or devote themselves to a hybridization of either for monetary gain, or specificity in their types of production (armor materials, epic materials, etc.). Crew skills level up starting with 1/400, 1 being the minimum and 400 being maximum. Examples of crafting includes Armormech, Cybertech, Biochem while scavenging includes Bioanalysis, Treasure Hunting, and more. These crew skills can be leveled from the beginning, but takes extensive effort and moreover a lot of time and precision of planning between three skills to advance them to 400. This, along with a level cap requirement per tier for crafting makes crew skills something which not only takes a lot of time, but requires you to be at specific levels like it should. Crew skills are no cake walk, but when done they can be exciting. By level 50, most people should be half way in all their skills at the very least.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Player versus Player (PvP) mode is another aspect of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s game design, all of which with reward items that make a significant portion of PvP experience points reward system and specialized PvP armor-sets that is found in the universe. At the level of 10, players can gain access to Warfronts, essentially Star Wars: The Old Republic’s PvP battleground. Many classes come to merge here, but this is where the problem lies in some essential elements. The most glaring problem of PvP is not that the XP was recently ‘nerfed’ (lowered to make aspects harder) which results in lower XP, but more so the lack of variety and choice with combat PvP. Alderaan Civil War, Huttball, and the Voidstar are currently only 3 elements being offered for PvP, which if inventive would have been more significant. While the matches are well thought out, the lack of choice is a problem that should be expressed in way of a patch allowing players that want to play PvP modes the way they want to play it. This does, however, seem like a way for BioWare to make sure there are no dead modes that people avoid so it is arguable if this will be done. Class problems emerge when it comes primarily to PvP balance for certain classses but most noticeably two: Sith Marauder/Jedi Sentinel and Bounty Hunter. There is an enormous problem is the notion of the glass cannon that is essentially our level 50 Sith Marauder class. Complaints are rampant about this class in Star Wars: The Old Republic with  PvP mechanics exclusively for lack of abilities for crowd control aspects and moreover lower cooldowns for slow mobility effects. While being Bobba Fett is amazing, it is very clear from PvP currently that the Bounty Hunter class is going to be nerfed (Something we tested extensively in warfronts) as they are currently able to spec not into just all sorts of roles (DPS, Tanking, Hybrid etc), but it is currently the one class which has a number problem in its advantage for survivability and health alone; This is something which is certainly overpowered otherwise in its abilities.

These two significant outcries aside, Star Wars: The Old Republic PvP has one thing going for it that may garner mixed feelings from types of players: the ability to play with level 50 players without the need for artificial boundaries or bracketing. While we do not necessarily love the bracketing system as it would limit players from playing with their friends much later in the game, but there should at least be a devoted post-50 Bracket with better rewards for players. Rewards for PvP players include not just XP and Valor Points for ‘Valor Rank’, but also commendations of two types: Mercenary Tokens and Warzone Commendations. Players can then trade Warzone Commendations for Mercenary Commendations with a ratio of 1:3 (1 Warzone for 3 Mercenary Tokens) at the PvP vendor near the PvP quest terminal who also sells Champion Gear Bags. For each 200 Warzone Commendations and 200 Mercenary Commendations, players can purchase Champion Gear Bags that contains either 1 Centurion Commendation and 1 Unassembled Champion Piece (usable to purchase Champion gear) or 3 Centurion Commendations. This is all random chance. On top of this, players can gain Battlemaster bags by chance as well through daily PvP quests (which are 2 so the chances of full Battlemaster is difficult). Battlemaster Gear Bags contain Battlemaster equipment or Champion Commendations and can only be used with a maximum valor rank in PvP of 60. Currently, gear ranks with Centurion being the lowest, to Battlemaster coming ahead of the mid-selection and still intricate Champion armor. From the PvP terminal players can get some daily and weekly quests (only at level 50). Every single daily PvP mission completed will award players with either a Champion Gear Bag or a Battlemaster Gear Bag (your choice). When players complete weekly quests, they are awarded with 2 Champion Gear Bags and, depending on their daily PvP choice, another Battlemaster Gear Bag or a third Champion Gear Bag. All of these selections and the way they are attained has to be one of the best PvP types of rewards we have seen. Every effort is rewarded for end-game PvP content (or mid-game PvP even if you cannot open the Champion Bags). Hopefully, BioWare focuses more on improving PvP aspects and refining certain classes (Marauder and Bounty Hunter nerf) rather than changing their rewards system which provides a strong incentive for PvP.

Dates: 1/8/12 – 1/21/12

BioWare has just released patch 1.1 which features Rise of the Rakghouls and a PvP change of a bracket for post-50 players. There has definitely been a substantial change between the PvP mechanics when it comes to health, but anyone below 50 and hence below Battlemaster Gear is still around until they hit level 50, which will be quite a problem going up against veteran players that have established gear since Early Access. Currently, BioWare is planning a new warzone, warzone selection, guild banks, and hopefully upcoming buff to classes of the Marauder. We have yet to get the specifics on this buff but this was confirmed to us by BioWare. In addition to these PvP geared focus changes, BioWare has implemented a change in gear bags. Now, Battlemaster Gear Bags contain Battlemaster commendations, which is much more fulfilling for gear than rare equipment token drops. Regardless, the most common of this Battlemaster Bag dailies are the Champion Commendation drops. As for the 2 part storyline content we have played to with Rise of the Rakghouls, not much has changed. There are still significant PvP improvements BioWare has yet to make.

Dates: 1/21/12 – 2/08/12

BioWare has undeniably changed mechanics in terms of PVP both sub-level 50 and 50s PVP. Level 15s can easily compete with level 49’s, but there is a definite gap in PVP Expertise gear that remains to be seen. With the latest updates, BioWare has also favored elimination of the random number generator element in bags, notably only the Champion bags, which provides not just Centurion commendations but finally after a long request Champion commendations, closing a gap on newer 50s and older 50s that have been geared with Battlemaster focus. Ilum itself is a World PVP planet that is still exhibiting some sort of issues but has been patched to prevent gold farming. In any case, most of the hard modes and raid operations are extensive but sometimes can feel like much of an unnecessary grind, but one that is welcome when it comes to epic loot drops. In any case, this is the portion where we finally wrap up our exclusive Star Wars: The Old Republic Review in continuation with more details throughout the months in a semi-yearly column by one of our correspondents (more than likely yours truly) in covering this game which has brought the Star Wars universe into a reality that Star Wars Galaxies never could.

Dates: 11/01/2013 – 12/12/2013

BioWare  Austin is all about convergence, simplification, and amazing gameplay yet again with its expansion and elaboration of The Rise of the Hutt Cartel, the Cartel Market, and gameplay mechanics.  They have ousted horrible open-world PVP on Ilum, added tons of items onto packs which are not Pay To Win but Pay To Look (PTL) and have made elder game content something worth playing in the same traditional gear-progression formula but with added content.

At first there were Centurion Gearr /Champion Gear/ Battlemaster Gear which was removed during Patch 1.2 and replaced with Recruit / Battlemaster / War Hero. This was soon changed in 1.6 when Battlemaster was removed for just Recruit MK-2 and War Hero / Elite War Hero

Now the gear breakdown is this:

Conqueror / Obroan (simplified to 2 end-game gear).

Unranked  and Ranked PVP Gear

List of How To Get Gear / Armor Strength (in order of increasing armor type rating)

146 = Campaign / Classic Commendations (Story mode L50 flashpoints/Dailies)
150 = Hazmat / Dread Guard
154 = Conqueror (PVP)
156 = Artifact / Oricon
158 = Obroan (PVP)
162 = Black Market / Basic Comms – (L55 Flashpoints + Dailies)
165 = Arkanian / No Comms – L55 SM Ops
168 = Verpine / Underworld / Elite Commendations –  (L55 Flashpoint  with Group Finder Dailies or L55 Operations Tier 1 and Tier 2 8 Man Operations + Operations Weekly)
174 = Kell Dragon (L55 HM Operations Tier 1  ONLY (bosses drop) )
180 = Oriconian / Ultimate Commendations (L55 HM Operations all – along with Kell drop, L55 Storymode Weeklies or L55 SM 16 Man)
180 = Dread Forged (L55 Tier 2 Operation Drops only)

I'm all about one thing: reviews that are easy to understand and make sense of.

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