Star Wars: The Old Republic PreviewPublisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC Exclusive
Bioware has made a lot of noise about how it has infused a series of deep, immersive, epic stories into its upcoming long-ago and far-away MMO – and how those stories set The Old Republic apart from any other MMO. The stories that The Old Republic tell will keep players engaged and involved in a genre which all too often comes down to collecting nerf livers and skipping dialog text.
Well, supposedly, anyway. Our opinion of The Old Republic, formed over two solid days of playing, is that it’s one of the most boring titles we’ve ever had to endure. It’s plain and staid and deathly dull. It’s both exactly the same as every other MMO we've played, but at the same time so much worse because it promises so much more.
The first problem is that none of the story mechanics that Bioware is so keen to talk about genuinely change the shape of the game away from the now-standard MMO template. Each class and character has a unique story, but functionally you’ll still spend all your time collecting or destroying arbitrarily chosen items. It’s not even like Bioware has gone to great efforts to hide it either – we saw plenty of missions which involved objectives like ‘Destroy turrets alpha and beta’ or ‘Kill five Imperial snipers’.
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All in all, it hardly paints a convincing picture of a galaxy in turmoil and, from what we’ve seen, the stories aren’t interesting on an individual basis either. That’s partly because you know that there aren’t any real individuals – a quest may be written to address only you, but the streets are still thronged with players cycling the same quests – but it’s also because the stories are entirely flavourless. Throughout 48 hours-worth of play we didn’t see a single interesting or believably animated character; merely sock puppets with semi-decent voice acting.
In a way, the uncanny valley starts to pose a problem too, as The Old Republic is clearly a game of two parts right from the off. The first part involves talking to real humans, the other part involves talking to fake humans. The more you play, the more fake the latter seem due to constant comparison to The Real Deal.
Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer
The plotlines that we saw wouldn’t have been gripping even if they had been populated with Oscar-winning actors, however. Cast in the role of a bounty hunter, our class-specific tale revolved around an event called The Great Hunt – a supposedly secret bounty hunter championship which everyone we met was incongruously aware of. Sponsorship is expensive, however, so the first arc of the quest involved trying to impress the local Hutt ganglord.
Normally this wouldn’t be an ‘arc’ per se, it would be a single event. It would be a case of going to the Hutt in question, agreeing to take on a difficult mission to prove yourself, completing it and then moving on. Bioware has stayed close to the MMO template though, padding this portion out so that what would have normally take an hour or so in a standard RPG now takes an entire day of play. The local Jabba stand-in always
has one more errand to offer you.
It quickly gets duller than a foam lightsaber, even with dozens of bounty hunters running around in a chaotic bid for not-Jabba’s attention.