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Game Info:

Star Wars The Old Republic 
Developed by: Bioware
Published by: Electronic Arts/ Lucas Arts
Release Date: Dec. 20, 2011
Available on:  PC
Genre:  MMORPG
Modes:  Multi Player World Online
ESRB: Teen
MSRP: $59.99

For the past eight years, the Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming community has been dominated by World of Warcraft. MMO’s, where numerous people log into the same server, are played on PC’s where worlds continue even when other players have logged off. However, World of Warcraft has some new competition. 

The release of Bioware’s Star Wars the Old Republic threatens to end that domination.   Bioware, the company also behind the Dragon Age series, Warhammer Online, and Dark Age of Camelot.  Bioware teamed up with LucasArts, the creators of the Star Wars games, to create this blockbuster gaming hit.  However, if you are expecting the fun loving child friendly atmosphere of the prequel movies, you will be disappointed. 

Star Wars the Old Republic is an MMO based in the world created by George Lucas in the 1970’s. This game takes place thousands of years before the Star Wars saga.  There is a stressed peace between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic.  The Jedi have relocated to the planet of Tython and the Sith control the planet of Korriban.  The game begins 10 years later as new conflicts between the two develop.  Players must choose a side; fight for the evil Empire or the Galactic Republic.

Highlights:

Strong Points: The graphics, quest system, storyline and user interface.
Weak Points: Severe lag.
Moral Warnings: Players on the dark side are rewarded for immoral and unethical decisions. 

The game is very immersive and captivating early on.  After a comprehensive character creation section that features: 9 races, and 8 classes, the player reads his own personal story.  The story is written in yellow text, scrolls from the bottom, and fades away in the distance.  The next few minutes show several shorts that show you how your character got to the place they are.  As soon as the shorts are over, you are given your first quest, which plunges you deep into the conflict between the Empire and the Republic.

Depending on which class and side you choose, there is a loosely laid out path before you. As the player moves through the world they are offered quests.  Most quests can be completed solo.  There are several quests where assistance from others is necessary.  The questing system and combat difficulty is easier than many of the MMO’s out there.  Several quests give you a moral dilemma that you have to pick a side on.  There are specific items in the world that can only be used by people with a high moral standing or negative moral standing.  Depending on how the player chooses, some quest lines will become closed off and others will open up.  Each quest begins and ends with a voice over and short CGI film.

The questing system brings the character along at a fairly rapid rate.  Earning money and rewards are very level appropriate by using the quest system alone.  Unlike many MMO’s the rewards for the quests are not outdated or pointless by the time you receive them.   It does happen occasionally in SWTOR.  However, if you keep up with the available side quests, occasional group quests, and class storyline, you should never have to buy gear from the merchants.   The questing system and the mapping system are integrated. The mapping system is very comprehensive.  As you discover new areas the map opens up to show everything nearby. Quests are marked by glowing icons on the map giving you a clear direction where to go all the time.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 20/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 2/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 76%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6.75/10

As your character completes quests and levels up, they are rewarded with two unique items.  First, is a companion that travels with you, keeps you healed and helps you fight your enemies.  You can also send your companion to do mundane tasks like sell to merchants, and craft items.  The second item you get is a starship.  The Star Wars Universe is never complete without space combat. There are several space missions which immerse your character in space combat.  True to the movies, combat immerses you directly into the action.

The real shining points of the game are the visual detail in the graphics and user interface.  The level of detail in characters, armor, and buildings really brings the Star Wars world to life.  Every dent and scratch in the armor, every facial movement is captivating. There have been very few games that have had a complete “Wow!” factor to them.  I have been playing MMO’s a long time and it is rare that game scenery or architecture will make me say “Wow!”. There have been a few times that I have experienced that in this game. It had me wanting to buy a projector to play it full size on the wall.  The user interface is easy to figure out with standard movement controlled by the W S A D keys and the ability bar activated by the number keys or by a click of the mouse.  Everything you need is readily available on the screen but it doesn't feel cluttered.

As fantastic as this game is and the potential it has, there are some downsides.  Several people in game including myself have experienced severe lag.  The screen should move fluidly, without interruption.  In SWTOR lag spikes where the screen stops moving or becomes choppy like a slide show are occasional occurrences.  There can be a lot of reasons not related to Bioware which can cause this.  I logged on to several other MMO’s with the same computer, same internet connection and experienced no lag.

The next area of concern is the age of individuals who should play this game.  It is rated T for teen. As a parent I would have some concerns about the moral dilemmas presented with some of the quests.  Quests on both sides of the conflict offer rewards for unethical actions and different rewards for moral reactions.  Some of the in game items in the game can only be used by people with a negative moral standing, or a positive moral standing.  Once a character is started down one path they are generally encouraged to stay on that path. Receiving rewards for killing a parent in front of their child in game is something I would want a teen to refrain from.  In my opinion the game should be rated M for Mature due to the moral storylines associated with your character.

The final area of concern is the customer service.  The customer service, either via email, message board, or phone, is lacking. Email requests take several days for a response.  Forums are usually the fastest way to get a response, but aren’t very helpful.  Getting assistance on the phone is the least helpful method.  

The Old Republic is currently being billed as the most expensive video game ever created.  Bioware has invested $150 to $200 million dollars in the creation of the game.  The cost to the consumer is anywhere from $59.99 for the regular edition or $149.99 for the collector’s edition.  The regular edition only comes with the game.  The collector’s edition comes with a Darth Malgus statue, map, and seven additional digital items.  Monthly play is an additional $15, but the first month is free.  My prediction is SWTOR and WoW will share the MMO throne for the next year.  After that Wow will continue its downward slide and SWTOR will have the throne for itself.  I will probably wait until Secret World comes out in June before I make the decision whether to invest a lot of time in SWTOR.

--Andy Johnson

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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