196 of 244 people found the following review helpful
Good start, Okay Game, Some Flaws
, December 21, 2011
This review is from: Star Wars: The Old Republic - PC (Video Game)
First off, I would say a 3.5/5 is more accurate, or a 7/10.
I will try to be as subjectively objective as I can. This is no Asheron's Call, Ultima Online, or Shadowbane. It is as much a theme park game as every other "AAA" MMO to come out in recent years. It looms as a shadow over other titles, such as Age of Conan or Star Trek Online. It is supremely better than anything modern except for the one dated title that everyone likes to compare it to... I won't even bother saying it because we all know which one. Does it share elements to this grossly successful "other" title? Of course it does. Just like "it" did, The Old Republic has copied elements from what worked in other, successful MMO titles. Is it a clone or a copy? I would have to say maybe, but it is something new and refreshing in many other ways. It is a theme park MMO... and that type of MMO hasn't changed much since Everquest (except to remove that pesky sandbox, which many of us still lament). Is it the be-all, end-all MMO... of course not. It has many flaws to rival it's merits.
Here's my quick breakdown:
1. Voice Acting is Sufficient. You won't hear anything as well-done as the Mass Effect series, but it is adequate... and in places, pretty good. It does have some good people, and that's where it shines. Nolan North is in it quite a bit, which alone means there's some good voice acting. The diversity and acting quality of a lot of the rest, however, is merely "adequate".
2. Stories are Adequate. The story lines in this game won't compete with a half-decent novel, but they are as entertaining as your run-of-the-mill prime time show.
3. Group Questing is Actually Entertaining. I have always hated being in a group for questing in any other MMO. It's a penalty, curbing reward possibilities and just making everything take longer. The conversation and dialogue with NPC's makes grouping with a friend much more enjoyable.
4. Instancing is at least Well-Done. I hate instancing... with a passion. Something ought to be said, though, about the way it was done to be less immersion breaking here. Walking through a glimmering force field into a private instance with NO load screen is a step forward, to be sure. Note: this only refers to private/group instancing WITHIN a zone. See #3 below for more elaboration.
5. Art Quality is Good. Sure, the graphics aren't top-notch (see "The Bad"), but the environments are often beautiful nonetheless. You don't need Arkham City graphics to be pretty (Arkham City was beautifully ugly), and ToR shines here. Worlds like Taris and Nar Shadda offer stark changes in artwork that is easy to appreciate.
1. Character Creation is Severely Lacking for a Modern MMO. In the days of character models such as those in any Cryptic game, Aion, or even EvE's new generator, the customization in SW: ToR's character creation system is pretty much a joke. The mesh/textures on character models are also very "flat".
2. Engine is Poorly Optimized. There are many posts on the forums about bad FPS. Personally, I run an AMD x4 Phenom II Quad-Core 3.2ghz, 6gb Corsair RAM, and a GTX 580 (GTS250 for Physx, which doesn't apply here)... and I'm lucky to average 30fps on max settings (ironically the same average as people with far lesser systems). Considering the lack of technically advanced graphics, something is amiss here.
3. The first several worlds are very "corridor-ish". The worlds don't seem very big, there is little exploration at the onset of the game. You are funneled from point A to point B to completed objective H. They claimed an epic and huge feel to the game, but I'm afraid to say that I'm just not feeling it... at least not yet. Instancing might be well done WITHIN a zone, but the rest of the time I am still reminded that I'm going from one arena to the next. The fact that each zone exists as instanced copies also limits the big MMO feel. Many people act as apologists for developers, stating that they don't like waiting for mobs to spawn because people are camping. My opinion is this: the devs ought to create more than one or two mobs to avoid this, not 20 instanced copies of the entire map. MMO's used to be gigantic because they had to be, now they are tiny and save development money by just putting people in separate copies of the same zone. Some people might love small over-instanced maps, and more power to them. I don't.
4. It doesn't feel "alive" the way an MMO should. The only critters in the world are occasional HUGE monsters that are too busy grazing to attack. This seems like laziness, to me. NPC's and Enemy Mobs are always standing in one spot, doing the same thing over and over. The rare exception is a world boss that walks in a small circle. Everything just seems so... static.
5. Sometimes combat does seem clunky, sometime it doesn't. Most of the time I have fun with it, and I suspect a lot of people's issues stem from timing issues with abilities that can be corrected at some point. Still, fluid and responsive combat is a must in any modern MMO... and it's enough of a problem that I think it merits stating.
These are just my highlights. There are other issues I have, such as it not being sandbox (they always said it wouldn't be, so this was expected), and lack of immersion things like being able to sit in chairs or sit on the ground without looking constipated. I also found that the advertised flashpoint (Black Talon/Esseles) seems to be the only one that is as interactive and conversational, but I've only done the first four. Hammer Station and Athiss, the next two, are just your run-of-the-mill dungeon crawls. I found this rather disappointing as BT/Esseles are the most fun I've had in a "dungeon" in a very, very long time. Space combat is also underwhelming, and they have said they plan on doing something big with it later on... which is fine. None of the issues in this section are really enough to affect my rating for the game at launch, however I still thought I would add them for sake of full disclosure if you're on the fence about purchasing.
Despite the flaws, there are many good qualities here... so don't let the zero's, one's, and two's on metacritic dissuade you from trying the game. At the end of the day, I have fun when I log on... for now. I'm quite certain, having been in the beta since early on, that I will get my money's worth before I stop having fun. Give it a try. At the very least, it is a good base from which Bioware will, hopefully, build a worthy and successful MMO title that will last years.
Update 1/24/12: The patch that went live last night seems to have alleviated a good deal of my negative issue #5. That is, combat clunkiness. The issues were apparently something to do with input lag or ability timing. From what I garner from the official forums, which are tentative at best, this isn't a universal solution... but for most customers it seems to be much better (myself included).
Issue #2 regarding engine optimization also seems to have been alleviated somewhat for me. I did some NVidia tweaking and got much better results. However, with the belated inclusion of AA... many users are experiencing stark FPS drops (even with AA turned off). Shadows remain a tenuous affair, at best... and don't look very good to boot. Either way, I'm now averaging around 50-55fps with VSync on, with obviously higher results with VSync off. It is quite playable/enjoyable for me.
Final Update 3/22/12: After hitting max level and getting all the PvP gear I could want, and poking around with some of the PvE content and alt leveling, I lost my drive to log in. I just didn't look forward to it anymore... most of the negative things I've commented on here have taken their toll, and the positives are just not enough to keep me here. The game feels too narrow, too empty, too lifeless, and too simplistic. As a result, I have cancelled my subscription as of this date. Best of luck to those of you sticking around for longer. I am aware of the big upcoming patch, but even if it delivers on its promises... it still doesn't change the fundamental design issues that I do not enjoy. I might come back eventually, but I have no further plans to update this review if I do. I hope it stays something enjoyable for the rest of you for a long time to come!
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