Star Wars: The Old Republic is the new MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) from Bioware, the developer responsible for such games as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I was a big fan of World of Warcraft back in the day, so I’ve always been interested in trying out a new MMO. As I’m also a big Star Wars fan, this game was perfect for me! In this ‘First Impressions’ series I’m going to be taking a look at each of the different aspects of the game – starting here with Story.
Story is probably the key area which sets SWTOR apart from every other game in the genre. Quests are fully voice acted and you constantly have to choose your character’s response from a Mass Effect style dialogue wheel of options. That’s right – your character has a voice. There are 8 unique main stories to choose from here, four on the Republic side and four on the Empire side; Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, Trooper, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter, Imperial Agent. Most of these classes are inspired by characters from the movies – Jedi Knight is Luke Skywalker; Sith Warrior is Darth Vader. Each class has its own distinct story and each has both male and female character options. I’ve played through the Prologue and first Chapter of the Sith Warrior story, and I will return to it in more detail in a separate post on that class.
90% of the quests in the game are voice acted – which is a huge improvement over reading through reams of text in a quest log. I really can’t overstate how brilliant the voice acted story-line is. The few issues I’ve had with the voice acting so far are alien chatter and repeated phrases. Many of the aliens you encounter who speak an alien language will stop talking after only a couple of seconds, leaving you to read through the subtitles in silence; it’s a bit disconcerting. Your character also seems to have a stock set of phrases that they will whip out to answer miscellaneous side-quest questions. I’ve lost count of the number of times my Sith Warrior has said, “There won’t be a heart left beating.” Now, this is normally a very applicable response, but it can make side-quests feel more side-quest-y.
Generally speaking, these conversations serve to make questing much more enjoyable and much less of a grind. Some of the side-quests, however, are still just flat out boring (There are evil droids. Go kill 8 evil droids.) and I found myself skipping through these conversations as quickly as I could. I wanted to move on to the main story ASAP. On the other hand, some side-quests are highly engaging – there are quite a few that deal with Revan and his legacy, which will interest anyone who has played the previous Knights of the Old Republic games. Each planet has its own self-contained story arc (e.g. suppressing a republic rebellion), and many planets even have a special “bonus series” of missions that are opened up once you’ve done everything else. These bonus series are quite nice if you want to see more of a planet that you particularly enjoyed.
Once you get past the first planet, your character’s main quest will comprise roughly 20% of the story. The rest is side-quests, available to all classes on your faction. This limits replay value quite significantly as you will be retreading previously covered ground 80% of the time on your new character. Luckily, conversations will be slightly different depending on your class – my Sith Warrior, for example, is constantly treated with total respect and deference by the Imperial Army, whereas a Bounty Hunter will tend to be looked down on as a gun for hire – and there are plenty of significant light-side and dark-side choices which can send missions in opposing directions. I would actually recommend playing one character on the Republic and one on the Empire so that you get two completely fresh stories.
The characters’ starting worlds are especially impressive. There are 4 starting worlds: Korriban for Sith Warriors and Sith Inquisitors; Hutta for Bounty Hunters and Imperial Agents; Ord Mantell for Troopers and Smugglers; and Tythos for Jedi Knights and Jedi Consulars. Each of these worlds has a very distinct feel and aesthetic. These worlds are much heavier on main story than further ones and they have very tightly structured questing arcs. At the time of writing, these are also the most highly populated zones, which lends itself to many grouping opportunities. I highly recommend that anyone who is playing the game should try out each of these worlds as they provide some of the highest quality content in the game.
Companion characters play a very large role in the story as well. You will meet new companions at fairly regular intervals during your main quest. These companions are typically highly involved in your missions on a particular planet and you will get to know them well before they join up with you. Companions will respond positively or negatively to your choices in conversation and you will gain or lose affection respectively. I’ve found that this actually makes conversations much more interesting as your chosen companion will be constantly providing feedback on what you choose to say. Unfortunately, companions rarely say anything directly during most quests. However, raising each companions’ affection rating will unlock special companion conversations and missions. These are very well written and help flesh out these characters even more.
Story also functions well in the MMO sense – i.e. when playing with other people. Conversations can be undertaken as a group, and each player will roll the dice to determine whose answer is the one used. In the case of a light/dark-side decision, players are rewarded for their own choice, not for the choice of the winning roll (Though you still watch the winning roll’s choice). There are plenty of quests in the game which are specifically designed for groups called “Heroic” quests. These are a fun way to socialize and play together and you even earn “social points”, which can be used to buy certain items, for doing so. There are also special dungeons called “Flashpoints” and these incorporate story and conversations as well. The first flashpoint for each faction is especially strong story-wise, and can be done with a group of two to boot.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with Story in The Old Republic. I’m honestly really excited to try out the story of each class – it’s that good. I’m intrigued to see how far the current version of the game will take you, and what will be covered in expansions (there is great potential here). Stay tuned for more articles on this game in the coming weeks!