I was strong. I was cynical. I scoffed at all my friends who had such high hopes for The Old Republic. I even wrote an article bewailing Bioware’s trite adherence to the same old model of level grinding and loot grabbing.
So why is there this pre-order receipt on my credit card statement? What happened there? This is going beyond even subscribing, I bloody well paid 60 dollars just to access the game. 120 if you count buying it for my wife as well (and you better believe there would have been trouble had I not).
Well, as I’m writing this I’m waiting on the new build to download for this weekend’s continuing beta test. It’s my second go round, since I got my first taste two weeks back. Apparently I liked it.
I know I’ll probably regret this decision. On my previous foray I barely had the time to get one character past his prologue, never really experiencing the wider game. I’ve heard there are issues, like the space combat sucking. Then again, when Galaxies launched it didn’t even have spaceships and space combat. That’s the thing about MMOs, they’re living documents. If the subscriber support is there, and the people in charge are good, then things can always get better in a way most video games never do. I’m hoping that TOR won’t be another example of a robust beginning that suckers you in to buying before all the bells and whistles get yanked in favor of blandness (looking at you, Age of Conan). If SOE were running things I probably wouldn’t give it a chance, but this is Bioware. I’ve been a Bioware fanboy since the early 1990s and they’ve very rarely let me down, with even their worst efforts seeming more mediocre than truly bad.
What I’ve experienced so far, and the main reason I’m out 120 dollars, is that TOR is the most robust single-player experience I have ever encountered on an MMO. This is not in terms of environment interaction, where Age of Conan still stands as the pinnacle of characters being able to swim, dive underwater, and even climb, but in terms of storylines for your character class. If you’ve ever played Dragon Age: Origins, there is a lot of similarity here in terms of a unique prologue for your character selection. The cutscene dialogue is even altered in certain cases, such as whether or not your Sith acolyte happens to be non-human (“I can’t believe we’re letting YOUR kind into our ranks…”, etc.). And there’s a lot of dialogue cutscenes, with a lot of response choices that in some cases will take you down the Dark or Light path. The most interesting aspect is that you do have the option to make those choices independent of whether you chose the Sith or Republic factions, i.e. I was playing out a Sith Inquisitor that didn’t believe in torture. Bioware’s writers are also good enough to allow that to make sense and continue your story progression.
So if you’re a Bioware fan this single-player experience will seem very familiar to you, and also very satisfying. Later on you’ll even get that tried-and-true Bioware feature of NPC companions who tag along with you and have their own personalities and agendas, although this does represent the greatest immersion problem so far, the one that you have to try to ignore: on your tutorial world your unique, one-of-a-kind companion is also running around with everyone else of your class that you meet. They say later on you get the option to customize the appearance, but it’s right up there for me with “Now serving Chosen One #1338″.
Still, if you can get past that, then basically what I’ve been playing is Knights of the Old Republic 3, and that’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, because Bioware knows how to do Star Wars right… an art even its original creator has lost.
Also I’ll never get tired of one of those opening cutscenes where a Republic Trooper cold cocks a lightsaber-happy Sith with his blaster rifle. Flippy-flippy-flippy-WHAM. Warms my heart.
Here’s my money again, Bioware. I have (A New) Hope.