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Star Wars: The Old Republic

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Bioware
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - Many (MMO)
Genre: MMORPG/ Online/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Bioware's newest MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, brings the Star Wars universe to your favorite gaming rig, but you'll have to make your own Nerf-herder or water-farmer, as the game is set in the events that take place a few thousand years before Luke and Leia were born. That means pretty much the only character you can expect to recognize would be the Sarlacc on Tatooine and, at the risk of being a speciest, I'll say that all Sarlacc's look pretty much the same to me.

The environments are well-detailed and ambient sounds are used effectively, bringing the uniquely hyperthematic planets of Star Wars to life. You will get to explore Coruscant, a planet that is nothing but city and the desert planet of Tatooine, for example. Mind you, although vast visuals do a good job of conveying a vast expanse, your map will give away the fact that you're not able to cover the entire planet. On Coruscant, for example, the paths taken by the flying taxi cabs are quite circuitous, giving the appearance of having gone a greater distance. Watching your map as you fly, however, will show that the twists and turns don't actually get you all that far from where you were. Currently, there are 17 planets represented in The Old Republic: Tython, Korriban, Hutta, Ord Mantell, Coruscant, Balmorra, Alderaan, Tatooine, Dromund Kaas, Taris, Belsavis, Voss, Hoth, Nar Shaddaa, Corellia, Ilum and Quesh. For those who don't recognize these names but are familiar with the movies, Tatooine is where Luke Skywalker grew up with his Uncle and where the Cantina was located. Corellia is the planet that made the Millennium Falcon (It is a highly modified YT-1300 Corellian Light Freighter). Hoth is the ice planet from Empire Strikes Back and Alderaan was Princess Leia's home planet and is the first planet to be destroyed by the Death Star. I am hoping that as updates are released, additional locations are added to the game. The forest moon of Endor, for example, or Kashyyyk, the Wookie's home planet.

A lot of attention was given to getting the look and feel right, from the environments and characters to the starships, but what really sets The Old Republic apart has got to be the sound. The music is well done, but the dialogue is throughout the game. Whether you're receiving or completing a quest, interrogating an NPC or simply talking to a crew member, all discussion is fully voiced. This is pretty astounding when you play, but its absence is much more resounding if you happen to play another game without it. Fully voiced gameplay makes everything else seem... silly.


Gameplay:

Bioware's "Story-Driven MMO" might sound hokey at first (any MMO has a story, right?) - but once you start playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, this makes more sense. While you're playing with a large number of people running around you, the story is tailored to you, making it feel more like a standard story-driven RPG in the early levels... at least until you want to save your game and are snapped back into the everything-is-going-on-in-real-time reality, where there are no "saved games."

You will start by choosing from either the Sith Empire or the Republic. From there, you choose from four different classes, depending on your allegiance. Empire has Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter, whereas the Republic has Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler and Trooper. All of the playable species are humanoids, and some, such as the Sith Pureblood, are only available for one allegiance (in this case, the Sith Empire). The available playable species are: Human, Twi'lek, Mirialan, Miraluka, Zabrak, Sith Pureblood, Rattataki, Chiss and Cyborg. You can also choose for your character to be male or female. There are a reasonable number of customizations that can be made to your character's appearance, allowing you to give your character a fairly unique appearance. Mind you, the equipment used in-game will also change your character's appearance, so you can jazz up your character later, through the use of cool gear.

The gameplay in The Old Republic, from a technical standpoint, is much like that of other MMOs, with an action bar and corresponding hot keys used to activate buffs and actions. At first, this seemed a bit strange for a space opera, with blasters being fired, due to the slight lag when firing off an action. For some reason, this never bothered me with dungeon crawls, but slap a blaster on my hip and now it seems slow. After playing for a short bit, however, this feeling went away, leaving me simply enjoying running around in the Star Wars universe.

Additionally, when you get a companion, there is an action bar for them, as well, allowing you to give them general directions, such as guard or remain passive, or tell them to use a specific attack against your selected target. This action bar can either stack under your normal action bar, or you can send it off to the bottom left-hand corner, under your companion's picture, in an abbreviated form. Note that this circular picture area in the bottom left can be used to send your companion away (should you desire to go it alone for a while) and can be used to summon your companion back to you, if you realize you could use a little assistance.


Difficulty:

The thing to remember in The Old Republic is that this is an MMO. You don't need to do everything yourself. It's alright - heck - recommended that you join forces with others to take on stronger enemies. In fact, doing so will earn you "Social" points, an actual currency in the game. Certain areas are specifically intended for groups and will even warn you that you should get a group together if you try to enter the area by yourself.

Now, for those who don't like the social aspects so much - or for those times when your friends aren't online or you can't quickly get a group together, Old Republic has Companions. As you play through the game, you will build up the size of your in-game crew. As you build your crew, you can choose to take any one of your crew members with you as a companion, to help you fight as you're running around working on completing missions. For example, as a Smuggler, your first companion is a fighter similar to a Trooper, but when you recover your stolen ship, the ship's droid becomes another crew member and you can choose to have them serve as your companion, if you prefer. Mind you, this protocol droid is no fighter, but I found mine was a pretty good healer, allowing me to take on larger groups, myself.

Whether you fight with a group or go it alone, bear in mind that the mission levels greatly affect the difficulty; One mission that J.R.Nip and I were unable to beat without our companions (after several attempts) became laughably easy for each of us to accomplish separately, once we had each leveled up a few levels. So, if you can't complete something after trying several times, consider putting it off for later, once you've got another level under your belt.

One tip on difficulty: your gear gets damaged as you use it. As it gets damaged, it becomes less and less effective. For this reason, you'll want to stop by vendors frequently and get all of your gear repaired. If you take enough damage for your character to actually die, you'll need to heal up and reapply any buffs you have, but remember that your gear is taking damage, as well. If you're dying multiple times when fighting the same enemy, you're going to want to keep an eye on your gear and take a break to go get it repaired, if necessary.


Game Mechanics:

The first ten levels basically serve as a tutorial to get you familiar with the game, while advancing your story and helping to set a rich background for your character. When you get to about your 20th level (give or take, depending on how many side missions you play), you will get a starship and your second crew member... and the ability to travel to planets besides just the starting planets and Coruscant. You also get the ability to participate in space battles.

One interesting feature of Old Republic is the morality system, a.k.a. the light side/dark side meter. Different choices will either award you light side points or dark side points. These decisions can cause small changes in dialogue at later points, but primarily, your light side or dark side score grants you the ability to use certain gear. Sadly, there is no benefit to trying to remain neutral, so choosing to roleplay a character that way will merely keep you from being able to use light side or dark side gear.

Far and away, the most amazing thing about Star Wars: The Old Republic is the fact that all in-game dialogue is fully voiced. This is something that simply must be experienced to be fully appreciated.

The downside to The Old Republic is the security. There is a free app for iPhone or Android that is supposed to generate security key codes for you to help you keep your account extra safe. In fact, just for using the security key feature, you will gain access to a special in-game vendor. So, I thought I'd try it out. If you have an iPhone, maybe it will work for you, but when I tried the Android version, it was, quite simply, busted. After reading up on it, however, that might be a good thing, because I read that you can only pair one security key up with your account and, should something go wrong (such as having to re-download the app), you can have major problems. Personally, I didn't ever actually use the security key code generator app (not successfully, anyway), but I'm sitting here, as of this writing, locked out of my account because I can't figure out the answer to a security question and, although I had to set up several, it won't advance to another one for me. That leaves me with a wait ahead of me of undefined length of time to get that resolved.

If you're a fan of Star Wars and you've ever wanted to wield a lightsaber or a blaster, I highly recommend Star Wars: The Old Republic. My advice is to get the game, use a strong password, record your security answers somewhere safe that you can get to them and just avoid the security key generator.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Processor:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz or better

Operating System:

  • Windows XP Service Pack 3 or later

RAM:

  • Windows XP: 1.5GB RAM
  • Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB RAM

Note: PCs using a built-in graphical chipset are recommended to have 2GB of RAM.

Star Wars: The Old Republic requires a video card that has a minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM as well as support for Shader 3.0 or better. Examples include:

  • ATI X1800 or better
  • nVidia 7800 or better
  • Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better

DVD-ROM drive - 8x speed or better (required for installation from physical editions only)

Internet connection required to play.
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon(tm) II X2 220 Processor 2.80 GHz, 4 GB dual-channel DDR3, ASUS Mainboard, CoolerMaster 850watt power supply, Dual boot: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit / Windows XP Home Edition (played in Windows 7), Graphics: ATI Radeon 3000 (on motherboard) / XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB graphics card, Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, 750 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive, Logitech Gaming Mouse G700, Logitech Gaming Keyboard G105 for Modern Warfare 3, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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