A long time ago, and not that far away; Bioware announced their plans to release the third installment of the Knights of the Old Republic in the format of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game! Not going to lie; I was a little heartbroken at first. MMO’s seem to be a hit-or-miss in general. In fact, rarely has any MMO been capable of drawing a significant audience to sustain its needs before succumbing and turning into a free-to-play bastardized version of itself. Even World of Warcraft, arguably the most popular MMO and the one in which all newcomers seemed to be weighed against, has taken a step in the free-to-play grounds. With Old Republic, a mere handful of days away from release, can it survive in a world where MMO’s seem to rise and fall within a year of their release? To be honest, I truly think it can. I was lucky enough to be brought in on the beta trials of The Old Republic and from the minimal experience I’ve had with the game I do believe this will be the new big MMO.
Bioware is well known for releasing some of the better role-playing games in the west. From the first installment of Knights of the Old Republic series, to their own created titles such as Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and their fantasy adventure Dragon Age! The developing company has always been boasted for their storytelling prowess and in-depth worlds. When it comes to MMO’s, this is something that is greatly needed! The stories in most of these games can feel rushed and very impersonal. Conan and DC Universe Online were two of the few games that managed to include an engaging story line as well as provide the much needed intense gameplay and PvP experience. Sadly, these games quickly fell under the radar and have already faded into the black. So was Bioware able to deliver not only a solid MMO, but a solid stand alone game?
Holy hell, yes!
The story feels like it’s a continuation of the previous games, you just have the added benefit of being able to play with your friends at the same time. Conversations with NPC’s are fully voiced, and the dialogue options are exactly like those from Mass Effect 2. Each Class has their own core story that can be completed by themselves. Also, for the most part, quests can be completed alone. Finally, an MMO that doesn’t force you to form groups. Yet, the way this game functions groups only make the gaming experience that much better! The dialogue system is unparallel to any previous and makes player interaction incredibly unique. When a group enters a conversation, you have a roll off whenever the players have a response choice. Whoever has the highest role takes the lead and their dialogue choice is played. Because of this, groups actually interact together while questing in dialogue, providing a realistic feel to grouping for quests. No longer are you just simultaneously doing the quests together with each player entering their own dialogue. Now you converse as a group with the NPC’s. Of course, you’ll have to choose your party wisely as someone in your party can drastically change the flow of the conversation! You may be playing a peace loving Jedi, but if your ally is a sly smuggler with no sense of right or wrong, blood can be shed altering the route of the quest entirely. Another cool thing, if you happen to be separated from your party when they start dialogue, you can send over a Holo of your character!
Story aside, the game still holds a strong combat system which is critical for any game. Fans of World of Warcraft will find the combat and leveling system quite similar. Combat is almost exactly the same as the KOTOR games. Your attacks are all done via the pressing of a tab on the screen; however, unlike those games, the layout makes this task that much easier. Characters still have a health bar and stamina/force points depending on their class. The only major difference is cool-down timers for some abilities. You really feel quite active in combat, with certain abilities almost stacking. It looks badass and it makes you feel like a truly epic Star Wars character! For the most part, the classes are well balanced, although as of Beta it does seem that ranged classes have a slight upper hand. This is probably due to the fact that they went a bit overboard trying to balance standard classes with Jedi/Sith classes. Still, everyone has a fighting chance.
Each faction has four parallel classes representing their unique style. The Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior are a combat based force class that focuses more on lightsaber combat and defensive force abilities. The Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor are a support class that focuses on Force healing techniques and offensive force abilities. The Smuggler/Imperial Agent are a ranged class that focuses on dealing heavy damage. The Smuggler and Agent also have the added benefit of being able to take cover in combat, a really nifty trick. Finally, the Trooper/Bounty Hunter are a tank class capable of dealing and taking heavy damage. On top of the standard eight classes, each class has two specialty classes in which the player can bridge off into.
I know I’ve said a lot of positive things, but the list keeps going on! Players will be able to recruit several companions throughout the story to join them in their fight! These NPC’s will go into battle with you one at a time, and furthermore you can send them on independent missions that are tied to your profession/resource gather fields. No more tedious hunting or harvesting! Well, maybe a bit, but it’s much easier. With Old Republic, you actually send your companions out to do missions to retrieve items and gain skill! Oh, and each player gets a ship; and yes, there is space combat!
With so many positives, I’m hard pressed to find anything about this game to gripe about! If I had to choose though, I would say too many aspects look like they were taken directly from the Clone Wars. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s all I can muster up. Then there is a PvP, which resembles Battlefront to some aspects. Opposing teams are transported to a battlefield, where they will have to capture and hold anti-air towers that are targeting the opposing team’s ship. It’s a fun alternative to the regular field PvP, and adds a real nice flavor to the game play.
Old Republic honestly is breaking boundaries in the MMO genre and is set to define what an amazing MMO is! Finally there is a new contender to push World of Warcraft out of the limelight and set the bar for all future online games. If you haven’t already pre-ordered the game, do it now! If you do, you can actually gain early access to the servers as soon as December 13th. Old republic will hit shelves on December 20th, giving you plenty of time to decide whether or not you’ll fight for Justice with the Republic, or side with the Sith and try to shape the Galaxy in your image! See you on the battlefield!