It's been over seven years now since Blizzard took over the MMORPG scene with World of Warcraft, and many developers have since tried to take their own slice of the pie. Many have enjoyed early success, but few were able to keep subscribers paying for any appreciable length of time. And now that WoW itself has lost something in the realm of two million subscribers (down from twelve at its peak), this seems to be a perfect time for a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic to come along and try to really deliver a finishing blow. (It's not going to happen, but it's the storyline that everyone's trying to talk about.)
Designed by a team of MMO-development veterans at BioWare's Austin, Texas-based studio, The Old Republic attempts to cover a lot of ground. First and foremost, it plays out as a sequel to the two Knights of the Old Republic games, but by moving to the massive multiplayer genre, it's also stretching to cover Star Wars Galaxies' failure and fix many of the things that game's developers did wrong - and with SWG's closing, it seems fitting for BioWare to court the old Sony Online game's playerbase. But even moreso, this game seems to be the best reason yet for players who are sick of World of Warcraft (but, presumably, not sick of MMORPGs) to finally ditch the seven-year-old standby and move over. The gameplay and combat start out very similar, that's for sure, so players will quickly wonder just why they're bothering, but I think there's just enough new content (and fresh outlooks on how people have fun in MMOs) to make The Old Republic a hit, if not a massive one like Blizzard's games have proven to be.
TOR is the first game of its type to have a full range of voice-acted dialogue, from each combination of player class and gender to nearly every NPC you could conceivably talk to. Thousands of lines of well-acted dialogue are included, but I have to say that after only a short while of playing along, my min-maxing MMO gamer quickly came out and before I knew it, I was skipping dialogue and making beelines for quest objectives - just like I would do with quest descriptions in WoW. Of course, there are occasional times when players really should be paying attention, as they can gain dark side or light side points for their actions in conversations. These result in unique light/dark side gear and other benefits, and while players can be a light-side Sith or a dark-side Jedi and won't be forced to switch sides permanently or the like, it does make for some awkward conversation options when players deviate from their chosen side's stereotypical or expected choices.