When I was invited to beta test a new game from Bioware called Star Wars: The Old Republic four years ago, I was both apprehensive and excited. I had never played a MMORPG before, but I’d played plenty of Star Wars games so I figured I was in for the same old thing—but even after a few days, I knew I was hooked on something special.
I’ve been playing SWTOR off an on since the beta and I can assure both players old and new that the game is still worth playing. There has been a fair amount of additions and improvements over the years, so even if you’ve hopped off the bandwagon pretty recently, you’ll probably be surprised what you find upon your return.
Of course, it’s not a perfect game—I find the crafting systems confusing, the servers are known to be buggy, and there’s a big population imbalance—but it’s a Star Wars game that will help you get your fix between your next viewing of The Force Awakens and the release of Rogue One. And if you find yourself in a galaxy far, far way, make sure you give me a holler!
It’s Star Wars at it’s best
Before we get down to all the little details, I just want to say that The Old Republic does an amazing job at capturing the awe and scale I’ve always loved about the Star Wars Universe. No matter your class, you get a sense of great galactic conflict, as well as how great your part is in shaping the story—while still being able to look around the worlds and feeling like just a small part. The game shows the best and worst of what the Star Wars Universe has to offer.
Three words: Free-to-play
That’s right—SWTOR is free-to-play (with a few limitations) all the way up to Level 50. That’s pretty amazing by MMORPG standards. And those few limitations I mentioned are pretty minimal. For the most part, non-subscribers will get to experience the game in exactly the same way as someone who pays every month.
SWTOR is breaking MMO barriers
Over the last 4 years, SWTOR has constantly tried to improve the game and add new and exciting elements. They’ve released four expansion packs of varying functions—Rise of the Hutt Cartel, for instance, was a story-based expansion that raised the level cap, while Galactic Starfighter introduced 12v12 space-based PvP combat on two maps—but their latest is poised to change the MMO game.
Knights of the Fallen Empire is basically a separate Bioware RPG hiding inside an MMO. I won’t give too much away story-wise, but the expansion is a solo story-focused look at what happens when the Jedi and the Sith aren’t the only games in town anymore. Every player, no matter what Class, will play the same story, gather new companions, and fight alongside their former enemies to defeat the powerful Eternal Empire. The expansion is only available to subscribers at the moment, but for $15 a month, you’ll basically be getting two games after the initial purchase. Former subscribers can also play through the first chapter as long as they sign up by January 7. With nine chapters already available and even more planned, Knights of the Fallen Empire might convince a lot of people to come back or start playing.
4. The differing Class storylines
The Old Republic features eight different classes and 11 different species. So you have a lot more variety than in previous Star Wars games, and really, a lot of MMOs. I’ve played a Jedi Knight, Sith Inquisitor, Smuggler, and Bounty Hunter, and the storyline missions could not be more different. While the Jedi seek to end the rule of the Sith Emperor, the Bounty Hunter travels the galaxy on the Great Hunt. Your allegiance also helps determine where you go and whom you can interact with, so even with missions on the same planets, your experience will be different from another Class. Of course, with eight classes to choose from, this game has a lot of replayablity, too.
All the diverse environments
Star Wars fans know that a galaxy far, far away is a large and filled with some incredible worlds and civilizations. The worlds featured in SWTOR—including Korriban, Tython, Coruscant, Alderaan, Tatooine, Dromund Kaas, Taris, Hoth, and Corellia—are not only big, but intricately different as well. From the culture and creatures to the architecture and lore, each world is a unique trip into the Star Wars Universe. Some of the side missions might feel the same (there are a LOT of “defeat x number of so-and-so” quests), but you’ll be doing them in totally distinctive environments.
It’s a Bioware game
I’m pretty partial to Bioware games, so I guess you can take this reason with a grain of salt. But seriously, the developers behind Dragon Age and Mass Effect—not to mention the greatest Star Wars game of all time, Knights of the Old Republic—imprinted a lot of their signature elements into this game.
So. Much. Dialogue.
Speaking of Bioware elements, The Old Republic has a ridiculous amount of dialogue. Much like in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect, our character and companions are all fully voiced (even the droid and alien companions), as well as all the NPC, quest givers, vendors, and enemies. In fact, the game holds a Guinness World Record for having the most voice acting of any entertainment project ever. SWTOR reportedly has over 200,000 lines of dialogue by more than 200 voice actors, which is no small feat—and all the performances are pretty good, too.
You get to be your heroes
OK, so your character is totally your creation, but you can still be the archetype of your Star Wars heroes. Players can be roguish smugglers with hearts of gold like Han Solo, smart and self-sufficient young Jedi’s like Rey, or even mysterious and dangerous bounty hunters like Boba Fett. For all of us who have dreamed of wielding a lightsaber or piloting our own spaceship, SWTOR helps immerse us in the lives we wish we were living.
It’s an information paradise
Our Disney overlords may have ruled that the massive Star Wars Expanded Universe is no longer canon, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t still out there. SWTOR also features a crazy amount of Codex entries about the people, places, and things you see in the games and the Star Wars world at large that you can delve into. The exact number is uncertain—the last tally in May 2011 clocked it in at more than 120,000 words—but you could definitely spend days combing through it.
There is something for everyone
Personally, I have always played videos games that offer a rich story and developed characters. And while I’m not alone, there are tons of people who could care less about story and just want to lightsaber some dudes. SWTOR’s main pull, as an MMO, is its story-based missions, but it also gives players the opportunity to delve into PvP fights, space combat, and group flashpoint missions. You can also band together with friends and fellow player on Heroic side missions, much like a lot of people did during their World of Warcraft days.
All the Star Wars music
The music of Star Wars is what has made the movies and, by extension, the games, so powerful. Tell me you didn’t tear up when you first heard the blast of music as the Star Wars title appeared on screen for The Force Awakens. SWTOR features many of the classic Star Wars sounds and the game engineers have done a good job with how they were placed. From the swell of battle music as you take on a legendary enemy to the soft tones as you’re speeder biking across the Tatooine desert, the soundtrack of the game really helps pull you into the world at large.