Rumored to be the most expensive game ever made, The Old Republic is nothing if not big, promising limitless hours of massively multiplayer joy in return for nine quid a month (the first month is included in the £45 price, after which you're up for a monthly £8.99 sub).
Since it will still be dishing out fresh treats and foibles months from now, we’ll be updating our review regularly, and we’d also love to hear about your experiences so do post below. Meanwhile here’s what we think so far.
Let’s get the obvious comparison out of the way. The Old Republic borrows lots from World of Warcraft – it uses the same action button approach to combat and keeps you pressing forward by dangling new levels and loot in front of you like root vegetables held before a hungry donkey.
But it’s not just Warcraft at a Star Wars convention because, in an MMO first, BioWare’s game also features a compelling story. Or, to be accurate, eight stories as each character type follows their own path in an adventure set amid a cold war between the vicious Sith and goody two-shoes Republic that took place thousands of years before the original Star Wars movie.
What impresses is how consistent the quality of those stories is. Conversation after conversation comes with quality voice acting and a script that perfectly captures Star Wars’ balance of comedy and seriousness.
Players also influence the story by making dialogue choices similar to those in Mass Effect – you can choose the sentiment of a reply rather than an exact phrase. It’s too early to judge how much these decisions affect the story over the long term, but the narrative does a great job of making you feel like the star of this virtual world, rather than just a blank, mute character with no importance, which is how World of Warcraft often comes across.
But there’s so much more on offer. There’s the surprisingly enjoyable object crafting system, a galaxy to explore, the chance to form teams with other players and to assemble crews of non-player characters. And that’s before we even battle in the player vs player warzones or try the galactic sport, Huttball.
Those to whom massively multiplayer online games have never appealed will still struggle with the slightly detached combat that all such games contain, but with its mix of storytelling, refined Warcraftisms, and the biggest, most-loved franchise in existence, The Old Republic has the kind of recipe that MMO fans will find completely irresistible. Warcraft might finally have met its match.