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Customer Review

198 of 246 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 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:

The Good:
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.

The Bad:
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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Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 21, 2011 8:24:07 AM PST
Dungle says:
Good subjectively objective review ;)

It's good to see that for all the flaws you mentioned you are still drawn to the game. It's a habit of mine that I tend to look past any of the negative in light of all the positive. Regardless of what anyone might say, as long as you're having fun with it then it's still considered entertainment.

Posted on Dec 21, 2011 9:23:54 AM PST
Ser says:
If you haven't done so turning off Vsync might make the game go higher than 30FPS. Don't think it will but worth a shot.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2011 10:28:38 AM PST
Thanks for the advice. I actually did some tweaking in the Nvidia panel and got better results. Apparently I had some forced settings going on that was doubling up with in-game settings, or something. I'm hitting about 60fps average with full shadows and Vsync now, around 100fps with no shadows or vsync... but I am aware of issues with the shadows drawing more fps drag than they should (which is odd, since the shadows don't look all that great). So I have a much better experience now, but I do still think some optimization is needed. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2011 10:29:51 AM PST
Thanks for the positive feedback. I tend to agree. I think we gamers tend to rage on about issues too much, and fail to recognize what is good about a product. No game is perfect, and what it really all comes down to is whether it's fun or not. For me, for now, SW:ToR is a lot of fun. :)

Posted on Dec 21, 2011 11:37:05 AM PST
Very well written review, and I agree with some of the stuff here, the first planet or two is a bit linear and corridor ish, but it's something I don't mind personally.

As for the instanced world maps, I much prefer this method, as it's the best way to balance a few things. Is it lazy? yeah kinda, but I've had too many problems in MMOs where there aren't enough quest mobs, too many quest mobs, re spawning too slowly or re spawning WAY too quickly. I played one MMO where it took me 2 hours to find and kill 1 bear. out of 10. I stopped playing after that.

The Character Creation is lacking, but so is WoWs, and I don't really hear people complaining about WoWs at all (maybe they used to). As for Aions... that went to a level that was borderline ridiculous, and way too much. I like TORs, I don't have to spend 10 hours tweaking nose size.

And as you said, I don't think the misses or failures won't take away from the overall enjoyment of the game.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2011 6:46:36 PM PST
Craig B. says:
"The Character Creation is lacking, but so is WoWs, and I don't really hear people complaining about WoWs at all (maybe they used to)."

I use to hear some complaints about it, but don't anymore. I think mostly people have just forgotten about it and take the game as what it is, a pure combat game. You don't see people hanging out in taverns and the like. Even on role playing servers there isn't much role playing going on.

I've noticed that a lot of the people who were hoping for something else from this game mention SWG. I too played that game at one time, and was hoping for at least a few of the better elements from that game like player housing and good role playing tools. I've been playing LOTRO the past few months and have been enjoying it. It is also a theme park game, but they still have enough other elements to make it feel different than your standerd WoW formula game. I think one of it's coolest features is having instruments that you can play, and you can find songs, including modern songs on several websites. It has nothing to do with combat, yet people enjoy it. And the ambient noises in cities is amazing.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2011 10:06:20 AM PST
Problem is, that most asian MMO's worry way too much into avatars and graphics that end content lacking, huge example, Aion, FFXIV.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2011 7:04:33 AM PST
I couldn't agree more, Julieta. I just wish more American companies would learn to blend both. Here's hoping that ArcheAge breaks the mold, if it ever comes to NA!

Posted on Dec 23, 2011 8:55:20 AM PST
J. Williams says:
Excellent review!

As an old SWG vet, I am hesitant to buy this as it seems a bit dumbed down. Did you play SWG and if so, can you compare? SWG in it's glory was an amazing and deeply engrossing game which led me to believe that all future MMOs would be that deep and expansive but alas, that did not come to pass.

I haven't seen many reviews from folks who played the original Star Wars MMO.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2011 10:11:27 AM PST
I'm afraid I can't offer much comparative commentary between SWG and ToR. My experience with SWG was about 30 minutes long at launch, and the sad realization that my computer, at the time, was incapable of handling it. I walked into Mos Eisley, my screen froze, and I uninstalled with a frown. By the time I had the money to upgrade, the NGE debacle had occurred and I was warded off by the customer backlash. Other games and real life issues took precedence so I never got the chance to check it out again for myself.

From what I know of SWG, though, I doubt you will find ToR as deep and expansive. It doesn't consist of gigantic, persistent, open worlds. It doesn't include player housing, unless you count your personal ship instance. It doesn't include classes that function only as a roleplay/support tool. I have seen posts on the forums from old SWG aficionados, and they seem to have mixed reviews. Some embrace the new theme park style and have a blast, while others seem to lament the nostalgia of a form now largely lost to the genre.

ToR makes no attempt to be the new SWG. It is a story-driven RPG with MMO and Multiplayer elements tossed in. I think it is a lot of fun, but I'm not yet sure if it will ever feel like a "home" the way the old MMOs did.
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