The Old Republic Going F2P

BioWare announced recently that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going free to play this Fall. Those playing for free will be able to experience everything that the game has to offer with very few limitations, while subscribers will enjoy additional content and a special currency used for redeeming premium items. Here’s a blurb from the official TOS site regarding the upcoming change. Continue reading

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The Secret World First Impressions

I’ve recently begun to experience what seems like burn out from MMOs. I suppose I’m starting to grow tired of having to group with four misfits in order to trudge through a thirty minute dungeon just to kill a dragon. This is why The Secret World is a literal breath of fire air. Sure I’ve dabbled in non-fantasy settings with Champions Online and The Old Republic, but The Secret World aims to be the most “real” MMO out there. This game is set in our actual world. There may be magic and monsters, but there’s also London and New York. Welcome to Earth, enjoy your stay. Continue reading

Star Wars – The Old Republic (Review)

I’m not a big Star Wars fan and I haven’t really enjoyed any Star Wars video game that I have played in the past. With that said, The Old Republic is without a doubt the most well designed MMORPG ever made and I’m enjoying my time with it so far.

After spending a good amount of time with the game, the overall detail and quality of the finished product is blindingly apparent to me. This isn’t another Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Aion, or even Rift. The Old Republic is a very noticeable step above them all in terms of how well made the game is. The surprising thing, however, is that The Old Republic is clearly better than World of Warcraft in terms of quality as well. Even if it doesn’t beat WoW in sales (though it could with Star Wars’ huge fanbase), it should still be regarded as the superior product.

Click to enlarge.

So what makes this the best MMORPG out there? Maybe the fact that it plays like a suprising infusion of Mass Effect and World of Warcraft. You could honestly sit back and play this MMORPG as a single player RPG strictly because the narrative and story telling are both so exceptional. There is actually a main quest in this game, one that is centered around the exploits of your character. To enforce this, there are phased areas throughout the world where only your character will be visible. The entrances of these phased areas are marked with green holographic barrier-like walls that you can walk through. Upon passing through one, you will be phased out of the persistent world containing hundreds of other players and will exist solely on your own (there is no loading to accomplish this). What purpose do these areas serve? Well, phased areas mosly contain important quest NPCs that you’ve been directed to kill among other things. This is a huge improvement over other MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft because, in The Old Republic, a phased area belongs to you and you alone, so any quest NPC you have to kill in a phased area wil be killed by you – not other players. I’m sure many people have terrifying memories of having to fight over quest mobs in World of Warcraft, such as the infamous Hogger in Elwynn Forest. This is no longer an issue.

Click to enlarge.

Interactions with NPCs are fully voiced and play out as they would in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, meaning there are moral responses for you to choose from when replying to NPCs. It’s a nice option to have which adds some much needed personality to our MMORPG characters for once. Because of this, my Jedi Knight is shaping up to be a very sympathetic guy who always wants to do the right thing for people. A lot of the moral choices I’m choosing are increasing my alignment and pushing me to the light side. Light side, you ask? Yes, there’s the light side and the dark side. Depending on how you play your character and how they respond to NPCs, their personality will develop and will inch towards either the light or dark side. Assist villagers and side with them on ethical issues and you will be pushed in the direction of the light side, but if you run around and choose the intimidating and rude dialogue options (which are quite likely to end up in the death of others around you) then expect to have your character slowly turn towards the dark side.

This all sounds a lot like a single player RPG, doesn’t it? That’s the best part, it’s not. At all. Instances (flashpoints) and raids (operations) are still around as well and are intensely story driven. When you’re not in phased areas for questing reasons, you’ll see plenty of other players running around completing their own quests, killing enemy mobs, and interacting with NPCs. The Old Republic contains everything that other MMORPGs do but beefs the experience up with the character development and narrative we’ve come to expect from single player RPGs. This really is a new level for RPGs. Yes the core gameplay is roughly the same, but the extra layer of single player RPG-esque goodness that Bioware has thrown into the formula has drastically improved how The Old Republic plays as an MMORPG.

Click to enlarge.

As far as character structure goes, all of the usuals are in such as individual gear slots, the ability to pick up trade skills (which rely on your companions to create items rather than yourself), mounts to increase your overall speed, and quite a bit more.

Another exceedingly strong point has to be the game’s presentation. The sound effects are all superb, making the act of slicing apart bandits and syndicate criminals with a lightsabre more satisfying than it has ever been! The game’s voice actors are also very talented as well, but would you expect any game that features the revered Jennifer Hale to have bad voicing? I don’t think so. There’s also the graphics which aren’t going to make any systems work overtime to render anything, but the game still looks a lot better than any other MMO out there. Any lush and forested planet is proof enough of that.

I would have liked to spend more time writing this out, but this is an MMO and, in 2012, we all know what they’re about. Big time sinks that are all about leveling, questing, and raiding. The Old Republic just does everything a little better than the competition and, in the end, that is what matters the most.

Final Score

9.2/10

Pros:
+ Beautiful cities, beautiful planets, beautiful everything.
+ General MMORPG formulas are executed better than they are in any competing MMOs.
+ Top of the line voice work all across the board.

Cons:
– Game can be very burdening if you have never played an MMO before.
– PvP could have been more developed.
– Singleplayer aspect may drive some away from cooperating with fellow players.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Video Impressions

I decided to pass on writing another article regarding my impressions with this game to instead bring you my thoughts in video form. In the following videos I basically just show a few basic things, make comparisons to World of Warcraft, and struggle to locate a turn in point for a quest.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Impressions (Part 1)

I’m not a big Star Wars fan and I haven’t really enjoyed any Star Wars video game that I have played in the past. With that said, The Old Republic is without a doubt the most well designed MMORPG ever made and I’m enjoying my time with it so far.

Despite the fact that I have only spent about four hours with the game, the overall detail and quality of the finished product is blindingly apparent to me. This isn’t another Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Aion, or even Rift. The Old Republic is a very noticeable step above them all in terms of how well made the game is. The surprising thing, however, is that The Old Republic is clearly better than World of Warcraft in terms of quality as well. Even if it doesn’t beat WoW (though it could with Star Wars’ huge fanbase), it should still be regarded as the superior product.

Click to enlarge.

So what makes this the best MMORPG out there? Maybe the fact that it plays like a suprising infusion of Mass Effect and World of Warcraft. You could honestly sit back and play this MMORPG as a single player RPG strictly because the narrative and story telling are both so exceptional. There is actually a main quest in this game, one that is centered around the exploits of your character. To enforce this, there are phased areas throughout the world where only your character will be visible. The entrances of these phased areas are marked with green holographic barrier-like walls that you can walk through. Upon passing through one, you will be phased out of the persistent world containing hundreds of other players and will exist solely on your own (there is no loading to accomplish this). What purpose do these areas serve? Well, phased areas mosly contain important quest NPCs that you’ve been directed to kill among other things. This is a huge improvement over other MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft because, in The Old Republic, a phased area belongs to you and you alone, so any quest NPC you have to kill in a phased area wil be killed by you – not other players. I’m sure many people have terrifying memories of having to fight over quest mobs in World of Warcraft, such as the infamous Hogger in Elwynn Forest. This is no longer an issue.

Interactions with NPCs are fully voiced and play out as they would in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, meaning there are moral responses for you to choose from when replying to NPCs. It’s a nice option to have which adds some much needed personality to our MMORPG characters for once. Because of this, my Jedi Knight is shaping up to be a very sympathetic guy who always wants to do the right thing for people. A lot of the moral choices I’m choosing are increasing my alignment and pushing me to the light side. Light side, you ask? Yes, there’s the light side and the dark side. Depending on how you play your character and how they respond to NPCs, their personality will develop and will inch towards either the light or dark side. Assist villagers and side with them on ethical issues and you will be pushed in the direction of the light side, but if you run around and choose the intimidating and rude dialogue options (which are quite likely to end up in the death of others around you) then expect to have your character slowly turn towards the dark side.

Click to enlarge.

This all sounds a lot like a single player RPG, doesn’t it? That’s the best part, it’s not. At all. Instances (flashpoints) and raids (operations) are still around, but I’m not at a high enough level to experience either yet. There are also group quests which I’m also yet to experience despite being level 7. When you’re not in phased areas for questing reasons, you’ll see plenty of other players running around completing their own quests, killing enemy mobs, and interacting with NPCs. The Old Republic contains everything that other MMORPGs do but beefs the experience up with the character development and narrative we’ve come to expect from single player RPGs. This really is a new level for RPGs. Yes the core gameplay is roughly the same, but the extra layer of single player RPG-esque goodness that Bioware has thrown into the formula has drastically improved how The Old Republic plays as an MMORPG.

I haven’t explored many classes yet and have only played Republic-side. I have a level 2 trooper who I made for a YouTube video (find it down below) and my level 7 Jedi Knight who is most certainly going to be my main. I didn’t play enough of the trooper to come to any conclusions at all (again, level 2), but from what I’ve seen of the Jedi Knight so far has impressed it. They appear to be a very speedy melee DPS class with a lot of options for closing the distance between the player and mobs as well as potentially decent crowd control potential.

I haven’t talked about much besides how The Old Republic has been infused with single player RPG elements and that’s because I simply haven’t played the game enough to comment on other things. I can say, however, that this game has all of the MMORPG mainstays such as quest hubs, travel points, AI companions, skill trainers, and more. This is an MMORPG with a lot of extra added oomph. I’ll write some more tomorrow or Friday but, so far, colour me impressed. This is a superb MMORPG!

The Sims Medieval (Review)

When I first heard of The Sims Medieval, I dismissed it as another pointless installment in the Sims series that EA was endlessly milking. Originally, I had no idea that this game supposedly boasted all sorts of new gameplay mechanics that drastically set it apart from its older household-themed siblings.

The Sims Medieval is, in short, the most refreshing entry in the Sims series since the original game. It expands upon and introduces many features, though it also seems to take a few steps back which prevents this from being the definitive life simulation game.

When you boot up Sims Medieval, you’re treated to the game’s very well put together presentation. Music sounds like it came straight out of a renaissance fair or cheesy fantasy movie, and the usual bright and happy blue menus from the previous Sims have been replaced with a lot of brown. Surprisingly, the brown actually works. It is a colourful and vibrant sort of brown, ff that even makes sense.

After beginning a new game from the main menu, you get to watch a clever little cinematic that tells you about the kingdom you’ll be inheriting and then, from there, you get to design your king or queen. Creating a sim in this game is exactly as it was in The Sims 3. When I say exactly as it was before, I mean it’s pretty much ripped straight out of the last game. You have your body and face sliders, voice tempo, clothing selections, and character traits. There’s a little bit less customization here than there was in The Sims 3, though. All clothing options are now full body costumes and outfits, so instead of manually choosing your shirt or pants, you are selecting one entire outfit. They can still be recoloured, which is a definite plus.

Feeding your sims is just as important as ever before.

The notable change in the sims editor for Sims Medieval is the traits. No longer do we just choose several personality traits, but rather just two and then a fatal flaw. The traits are what you’d expect to see (friendly, loves outdoors, etc.) but the fatal flaws add a new dimension to character personalities. It is required that all characters have one, and these fatal flaws range from being a chronic drunk to being blood thirsty and always wanting a fight.

When you finish making a monarch sim, you get to check out the kingdom you get to direct. You basically just start off with your castle, but as you progress you will be able to build many other buildings like barracks, a tavern, and even a wizard tower. In order to construct these buildings, you have to take on quests that award points required for developing your budding kingdom. Quests in a Sims game may sound a little awkward at first, but it works surprisingly well here. You cannot play the game without taking on a quest, and you must accept one from a pretty lengthy list before the game lets you control a sim. Quests can be just about anything you can imagine in a medieval setting. One quest has you trying to find a way to remove a bad luck curse from yourself while another has you going into a cave and forming an alliance with a crab monster. They are pretty varied and are often very fun to do.

Standard Sims gameplay from before is of course present. When you take on a quest, you have an infinite amount of time to complete it. If you don’t feel like working on whatever given quest you are on, you can simply lead your sim around and live out their life by eating gross sounding medieval meals, getting absolutely hammered by brewing alcohol, getting into fist fights and duels to the death, and much more. The interaction is the same here as it has always been in Sims games, meaning you are able to form friendships and relationships with other characters, and you will always have to pay close attention to your character’s mood to make sure they stay happy. In the past, we had to keep our sims happy by managing about eight different bars that represented energy, hunger, fun, atmosphere, and much more. There are only two now, energy and hunger. Culling so many of these bars from past games does this game a lot of good, as it was not uncommon to sometimes to feel overwhelmed when your sims were unhappy over several things at once in previous Sims titles. It is now fairly simple to keep sims happy, as all you have to do is make sure they get to eat and sleep.

All hero sims have their own unique abilities. For instance, the spy can poison drinks.

Their mood bar can still dip into the red if you’re not careful, however. Various actions can have a negative impact on your sim’s focus, which is a statistic that governs how your sim feels and how well they perform their duties. The higher a sim’s focus, the more happy and successful they will be. Focus can be increased by making your sims do good things such as bathing, eating, winning a fight, and getting married. Focus will decrease when sims get sick, are hurt from other sims or wild animals, and even when they are locked up in the stocks and bombarded in the face with eggs and tomatoes.

As your kingdom expands and you build new buildings, you will get to create hero sims. The monarch character was the first, but each building you add to your kingdom is managed by one as well. The tavern will grant you a bard sim, the smith gives you a blacksmith, and the cathedral gives you a priestly sim. You get to design each of these characters by yourself and then eventually use them on various quests. There are some quests that are specific to certain hero sims, such as one where the bard aspires to become a better writer so that they can impress people with their plays and poetry. Some quests will have you using two or more hero sims that you have created, which helps you build chemistry between the characters and feel like the sims in the kingdom really are working together to overcome problems.

Each hero sim has their own distinct style of gameplay as well beyond the standard eat, sleep, and have fun. For instance, the monarch sim can willingly arrest anyone without any consequences, the merchant sim can open their shop and sell wares, and the bard sim can play music to earn money and seek inspiration from other sims. Each and every single sim feels very unique once you check out what they can do, and it’s fun to try them all out.

It is worth nothing that you cannot actually construct any buildings in the way that you could design your own homes in previous Sims games. All buildings already have preset designs, it is just up to the player to furnish them and make them look unique. As far as customizing the interior of buildings go, Sims Medieval probably offers us the most options. There are loads of items to purchase, and the amount of options for painting your floors and walls is really impressive. So, while The Sims Medieval isn’t much of a playground for budding architects, I think that aspiring interior decorators will be very happy.

The kingdom map starts small, but players will end up with a very bustling empire.

The graphics in Sims Medieval are probably slightly better than they were in The Sims 3, but that is not saying much. The game has a very silly look to it and graphics junkies should probably look elsewhere if they are only looking to play a game that is very graphically advanced. The graphics in Sims Medieval aren’t top of the line, but they are certainly sufficient. At the very least, they will be an upgrade for Sims 3 players. The sound is also exactly what you would expect from a Sims game. Simlish, the language spoken by Sims, is of course here and is as interesting as ever to listen to. Environmental sounds, as well as those caused by sims going about their daily business, aren’t breaking any boundaries but certainly sound good enough. Keep in mind that the game is presented in a comical fashion, so neither the graphics nor the sound are meant to be realistic.

In the end, I would have to say that The Sims Medieval turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and I’m a little disappointed that it has flown under the radar of just about everyone, since nobody I know seemed to have even heard of this game except for one Sims junkie. This is certainly a Sims game and it should appeal to anyone who liked the previous games, but the added depth from questing and managing a kingdom is probably enough to lure in those who could never get into The Sims before. The medieval setting is also very interesting, and I think that anyone who likes fantasy settings could enjoy this game as well. This is certainly the most original Sims game to come along since the very first one was released eleven years ago.

Final Score

9/10