I want to introduce you to a game. It’s a fast-paced Star Wars RPG, in which occasionally other players wander past you. It’s got lightsabers and space combat and Jedi houses and bounty hunters and, if you go full dark side, you can fire lightning from your fingertips.
It’s called Star Wars: The Old Republic, and thanks to a series of changes, it’s no longer the ugly stepchild of the MMORPG world. It’s actually quite good.
The Old Republic has always struggled with inherent contradictions. It’s an MMORPG in the mould of World of Warcraft and Everquest, and inevitably, that means quests in which you kill 10 of a thing and then 10 more of a thing. It means a levelling curve that slows and slows as you reach maximum levels. It’s also a Bioware game. Bioware games are known for their sweeping storylines, platonic or romantic relationships, heroic sacrifice and moral choices.
The two are not necessarily compatible.
The original design left The Old Republic in awkward place. There were good storylines for each class in the game. Play as an Imperial Officer and you find yourself butting up against the maniacal Sith that run the Empire. Join the Great Hunt as a bounty hunter. Do well meaning but basically inept Jedi stuff. But they were layered way too thinly across too much filler. Too much: kill all these, then these, then retrieve 30 of these.
In a recent patch, subscribers to the game have been granted an absurd bonus: XP rewarded from story quests (i.e., the good stuff) has been increased by, a frankly absurd, 12 times. The intention: players no longer have to do any filler to reach the maximum level.
It’s hilarious. Now players level at the speed of Diablo: a steady and relentless stream of dings. New equipment and abilities come thick and fast: the best levelling rewards are generally earned by playing story missions. Quality of life improvements make the game even faster: all travel points are unlocked from the start, so there’s no faffing around trying to work out where to go.
It really is fast: I went from level 1 to level 12 in my new Republic Trooper character in the blink of an eye. And it’s fun: with a decent-ish storyline propelling you along you find time in The Old Republic absolutely flies.
There’s a couple of downsides. To enjoy this boost you’ll need to subscribe to the game. And second: this is only temporary, as Bioware move towards their next expansion pack. Frankly, I think they should keep it going forever. Because, finally, I feel like SWTOR is worth recommending.
You can read more on why we think Star Wars: The Old Republic is worth a play in the 10 best MMORPGs on PC.