A new hopeStar Wars: The Old Republic is a monster of a game. Developed by BioWare, creator of the popular Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, as well as the excellent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the studio's first massively multiplayer online title is rumoured to have been the most expensive game ever created - and it shows.
We've sunk over 80 hours into the epic sci-fi adventure and feel as if we've barely scratched the surface. With so much content already available and many planned future updates, it's an MMO that fans will be playing for years, and one that offers the most credible threat to genre king World of Warcraft yet.
Choose your sideSet 1,000s of years before the rise of Darth Vader, when war between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire divides the galaxy, players can choose their character class from one of multiple classic roles including Jedi Knight, Sith Warrior, Bounty Hunter, Trooper and Imperial Agent. Keeping with BioWare tradition, The Old Republic is a story-driven adventure which gives players plenty of scope for defining a unique personal tale as they journey down the light or dark side of the Force through their in-game choices.
In most MMOs, quests can often feel like pointless errands, and while The Old Republic's are structurally no different, generally involving killing or collecting, each is book-ended with a plot with multiple outcomes, meaning every objective feels like it serves a purpose. It also means you can happily play the game on your own without succumbing to boredom.
Classes and CombatPlayers can assume one of a number of roles when it comes to combat, choosing to specialise in ranged or close attacks, or supporting other players with healing and buffs. The Old Republic uses a traditional click-to-activate ability system that's familiar but enjoyable to play, not least because of the excellent sci-fi animations and effects. Force powers can throw debris and heavy objects at enemies, foes can be fried with lightning or trapped with whirlwinds, while blaster blasts and lightsaber swings feel and sound just like they should.
The beautifully realised settings are a great part of the game's appeal too. Star Wars fans will love visiting recognisable planets like Hoth and Tatooine, as well as exploring more unfamiliar locations, which are filled with impressive architecture and convincing populations. While the game's initially linear, completing quests will see players gain access to their own starship, which can be piloted across the galaxy at will to uncover new planets and engage in a number of simple but fun space combat missions with enemy fighters.
FlashpointsOne of the strongest multiplayer elements of The Old Republic is Flashpoints, story-led missions that can only be completed in groups. An early Flashpoint called The Black Talon, which is playable with up to four players, sees teams attempt to seize control of a starship and ends with a battle against either a Jedi or a Sith Lord, representing your character's first encounter with a powerful enemy from the other side.
For those more interested in player versus player action, there are contested planets in neutral territory where Empire and Republic forces can face off between completing quests, with a series of scenario-based Warzones offering team-based objectives like capturing and retaining territory. These tend to favour the highest level players at present, but balancing issues will likely be alleviated over time as players of closer skill levels are grouped together more effectively.
The Force is strong with this oneWe'd estimate it takes a few 100 hours to level up a character to their maximum abilities, and many players will want to see how multiple class stories play out, so it's clear there's an absolutely massive amount of content and longevity on offer here. The Old Republic throws fans into a wonderfully immersive Star Wars universe and delivers confidently on both the single player and multiplayer gameplay fronts, and the best thing is there's still plenty of room for expanding areas like space combat and adding new features with future content updates.
+ Fantastically realised world.
+ 100s of hours of content.
+ Immersive story elements.
- Space combat could be further developed.
- A few bugs like broken quests typical of new MMOs.
- Early player versus player battles can be unbalanced.