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Star Wars: The Old Republic [Levels 1-10]: A Long, Long... Long Time Ago: The Early Years...

Company: Bioware

A long, long...
really long time ago, in
a galaxy no further away
than your trusty gaming rig...

A Long Time Ago, It Was...

Bioware has brought their "A" game with Star Wares: The Old Republic. The environments and scenarios are very Star Wars, with planets and races that will be familiar to Star Wars fans who are familiar with the Old Republic from canon sources beyond the movies, such as the Knights of the Old Republic games and the series of books that cover that era. Those who are only familiar with the movies, be warned: you're not going to see Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader or Princess Leia in The Old Republic, as the game takes place around 3,500 years before they would be born. This is even years (and years and years) before Yoda would enter the picture.

The game's presentation is very well done, from the models and environment to the sound effects throughout the game. All of the interactions with NPCs are fully voiced - and the voicework is pretty good, at that. This requires a staggering amount of voice recording to be done, but really adds to the game.

A Story-Driven MMO...

I have played a number of MMORPGs as well as story-driven RPGs, but wasn't quite prepared for what Bioware has described as a story-driven MMO. Specifically, the early gameplay (especially in the first ten levels) features an excessive amount of interaction with NPCs, with interactive discussions that are treated much like those in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, with a multiple choice interface that allows you to select the general intent of your response, but then actually uses a different line that shares that intent. The major difference here is that you can't simply save your game in an extra slot and then load your saved game if you don't like the decision you made. You can't "save your game" when you're playing an MMO and, quite frankly, it's never even occurred to me as an option before, but with Old Republic feeling so much like a story-driven RPG, I found myself wanting to save my progress several times. Mind you, the story-driven aspect doesn't necessarily change after the first ten levels, but with longer missions (quests / dungeons / flashpoints), there's more action between the interactive discussions. Even then, however, there will be some interactive discussions with certain NPCs during these quests, so I haven't seen Old Republic stray from the story-driven MMO feel, so far.

Every Good Adventurer Deserves a Travel Companion...

The gameplay in the first ten levels serves as a tutorial and does a good job of familiarizing the player with the basics of gameplay, as well as providing a pretty good feel for the state of war between the Republic and the Imperials, as well as the Jedi and Sith's part in the conflict. OR, at least, enough to prepare you for what lies ahead. Around the time that you get past the tenth level, an NPC known as a "Companion Character" will join your party (or, in this case, your "Crew"). Over time, you will gain additional Companions, until you have a crew of at least five, but by that time, you'll also have your own starship and be able to travel from planet to planet... or so I've read.

Even with just one Companion, however, you will find that they can be great assistance in fights, helping to distract your enemies or just helping to whittle them down; since there's no such thing as friendly fire, it never hurts to have a friend when blaster fire starts flying.

In addition to helping out in battles, however, Companions can serve more purposes. Specifically, they were designed to not only help you out in battles, but to assist you with other tasks that you might not want to do yourself. If you fill up your inventory but don't want to trek back to the nearest vendor to sell your loot, you can dispatch your Companion to take care of that task for you. They will take your items, making room in your inventory, and disappear for a bit, then, when done, will return to you. As you learn to craft items or to scavenge for raw materials (a set of skills you learn after reaching Level 10), you can assign these mundane tasks to your Crew members, as well. Further, they will continue to work on these tasks while you're outside of the game, so it makes sense to assign tasks to your Crew members right before you end a game session, so the next time you play (as long as enough time has gone by), those tasks will be complete.

Words Of Advice...

I was surprised to see the amount of out-of-channel interaction that the folks at The Old Republic provide. For one, there's an online Player Guide that does a pretty good job of showcasing anything you need to know to get you going in the game. There's also the Holonet, an online encyclopedia for all things Star Wars: The Old Republic on their website. However, the thing I found really interesting was that, upon reaching level 10, I received an email advising me on what to do next. After level 10, you can choose a specialization, which is a further refinement of your class. My primary character, Geck'o, for example, was a Mirialan Smuggler. When I chose a specialization, I had the option of either choosing to become a Gunslinger or a Scoundrel. Although the Scoundrel's field-medic abilities did have its allure, I chose to become a Gunslinger because I'd been trying to figure out how to get their dual-wielding ability since I first saw a character using two blasters at once. The email was a nice touch; I felt that it was a little hand-holding, but it mainly pointed me to the Player's Guide's Advanced Play section, and I investigated the things that interested me once I got there.

Rank and File...

As with most RPGs, both MMO and singleplayer, your first choices are all about who you are going to play. The two factions in Star Wars: The Old Republic are The Sith Empire and The Galactic Republic, and each side has their classes with their own purposes. Both sides have Force-wielding classes, both have military types and both have classes that, while not officially associated with either government, have particular slants one way or the other.

At first glance, it would look like the two sets of classes are evenly matched when it comes to skills, and while both have, essentially, a magic-user class (the Jedi Consular and the Sith Inquisitor), the other classes differ quite a lot. For the Empire, the Sith Warrior can specialize into either a DPS or a tank class, while what would appear to be the Republic equivalent, Jedi Knight is pretty much all DPS. The Republic's tank comes in the form of the Trooper class while the Imperial Agent will stick to the shadows a bit more as it refines its sniping abilities.

The last pair of classes, Smuggler and Bounty Hunter, are both in the grey areas. Both do what they do for the money, but where Bounty Hunters can choose to be either better long-ranged attackers or tech-powered tanks, Smugglers can choose to either deal out a bit more damage or heal their teammates.


Since the first 10 levels are Star Wars: The Old Republic's introduction and tutorial, the various classes start off on different worlds, and you are pretty much stuck there until you have completed the main story missions for that world. These particular worlds are the training grounds for your characters, and they are each designed to give you a good feel for how the character's skill sets feel. For Troopers and Smugglers, you are thrown into the middle of an Ord Mantell battleground while Jedi classes start off on the new homeworld of the Order, Tython. Similarly, both Sith classes work through their own trials on their homeworld of Korriban while the Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent classes start off in the underworld of Hutta, but these are only the first of over a dozen worlds the game will let you explore once you really get into the game and get your own ship.

But alas, that is beyond the first 10 levels of the characters and we will talk about those aspects more in our next installment of this game's coverage...

-GameVortex Staff, GameVortex Communications

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