Okay. I think we can say with some certainty that The Old Republic is A Bit Good, judging by the fact that I uttered that very statement above while playing with my good buddy Jeff “Feenwager” Parsons tonight. This morning. Whatever.
As I said the other day, while the game does suffer from a few of the genre’s perpetual annoyances (having to traipse all the way back to a trainer to learn new skills is something MMOs should really move beyond, for one thing) it does a lot of things right. It’s balanced nicely for those players who want to play solo and just happen to “live” in the same world as other players. There are specifically-designed areas known as “Heroic Areas” which are light on story and heavy on fighting, ideal for pick-up groups. There are more lengthy multiplayer story-heavy missions known as Flashpoints. There is PvP. And pretty much everything can be played cooperatively if you so desire.
Some have argued that the writing perhaps isn’t up to BioWare’s usual tip-top standards, but when you consider the amount of content in this game even at launch, it’s perhaps not surprising. That said, the “dark side” options in dialogue (which can usually be interpreted as “snarky”) are often amusing. I’ll be interested to see if playing a dark-inclined Jedi will have any significant effect on the plot. It’s provoked some NPC comments so far, but I’m very early into my playthrough with said dark-inclined Jedi, so a lot remains to be seen.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the game is the fact that it’s encouraging people who aren’t huge fans of MMOs to give it a shot. Jeff, whom I mentioned above, is one. My buddy Edd, aka Roth, whom I used to play Final Fantasy XI with for a short period, is another. A good indicator of The Old Republic getting things “right” for me will be if these two stick around beyond the free month — and if other friends who typically shy away from the genre sign up, too. I hope they do, as these games are always more fun with friends.
The community I’ve encountered so far has been very friendly. With my “main” character on the European servers, I plumped for an RP (Roleplaying) server as this generally is populated with more pleasant types. I haven’t been disappointed so far — when asking for advice, people are usually happy to give it rather than inviting you to “Google it”. This is nice. Quite how long it will last, I don’t know — the game is still new, after all — but for now I’ll enjoy it.
The only thing I can see putting people off trying The Old Republic is the price. With so many free MMOs out there now, it’s hard to justify spending “full price” on a new one, plus a monthly subscription after the first month. But it’s effectively several BioWare games in one, along with a potential WoW-beater. And if that isn’t value for money, I’m not sure what is.