For those of you who don’t know, Star Wars: The Old Republic is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game that launched in late 2011 – less than a year before George sold the franchise to Disney. It was announced in 2008, three years after the release of Obsidian’s Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and five years after the original Knights of the Old Republic game’s launch.
The game takes place more than two-and-a-half millennia before Darth Bane establishes the Rule of Two and more than thirty-six hundred years before the Battle of Yavin. That is to say, there were countless legions of Sith during the Old Republic. During this era, the Sith had its own Empire, and the game surrounds the conflict between the Republic and the Sith Empire. If you thought Emperor Palpatine was evil from the movies, just wait until you find out what the Sith Emperor is capable of!
If you love Star Wars, you will love this game: it’s loaded with lore! And although a decent amount of the lore has to be read, the game is filled with so many cutscenes and voice-acted interactions with NPCs. In fact, the game holds the Guinness World Record for having the most lines of voice-acted dialogue in the history of voice over projects, let alone video games. And that record was won while only factoring in the content that existed when the game launched. At its release, SWTOR had over 200,000 voice-acted lines of dialogue. An absolutely insane number! Now, nearly a decade and dozens of content updates later, that number has surely gone up by a significant degree. Unsurprisingly, the game cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, and despite this, it sadly didn’t do as well as EA had hoped upon its release. But the game that was released in 2011 is very different from the game as it exists in 2020.
For starters, the game is now free-to-play. One of the biggest advantages of the game being free-to-play is that you can play it with your friends who wouldn’t otherwise be willing to try it since they don’t want to spend money. The game has also gotten much more casual-friendly. Leveling up is no longer the excessive time-sink that it once was. The expansions and continued release of content – especially story content – is one of the largest appeals of the game. It’s what I love about the game most. You get invested in the game as the game invests in you, the player. Unlike other Star Wars games, this game evolves over many years: it keeps changing and improving. EA’s Battlefront II is officially done with adding new content after only 2.5 years, and only the Resurrection DLC contained new story content. Fortunately, the servers are still online and will be for years to come. But nothing new will be added. That’s why SWTOR has such a dedicated fan-base. Because something new is always in the works. The developers constantly earn your loyalty to the game through content updates that span years. There’s always more to come, and there’s always something you haven’t done yet since the game is so massive. There are so many different places to explore: some planets are familiar like Tatooine, Coruscant, and Hoth, while others such as Voss and Zakuul offer fresh, new experiences in the Star Wars universe. The game is so far removed from the films, and you get to see cool ships, planets, and technologies that you haven’t seen before. You get to explore the noble world of Alderaan – thousands of years before the Death Star annihilates it in A New Hope. In that same film, Leia lies to Grand Moff Tarkin by claiming that the Rebel Base is on Dantooine. We never see Dantooine in the films, but in SWTOR, you can make a lightspeed jump to Dantooine! Remember in Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo talked about an encounter he had with a bounty hunter on a planet called Ord Mantell? Well, you can check that one out in-game, too! These planets, atmospheres, and environments are jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially on higher graphics settings. But the game looks great on lower graphics settings, too, and most modern PCs can handle running the game, even many laptops. The game is, after all, more than eight-and-a-half years old, and improvements in computer hardware over the past eight years have rapidly evolved. You can even give the game a go on a Mac if you download Windows 10 onto it via bootcamp. The game also has so many options for customizing your heads-up display, settings, and keybindings so that you can play the game in whatever way makes you most comfortable.
The Old Republic is a very unique era of Star Wars that has thus far, sadly, been neglected by Disney’s canon. Unfortunately, Disney canon’s “The High Republic” is only hundreds of years before the films, not thousands. That means that there are only two sith at a time during this era, unlike the legions of Sith that existed during The Old Republic. (Unless Disney retcons the Rule of Two – which wouldn’t make much sense since it’s explicitly brought up in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars). If you want to learn more about how the Sith went from having armies to being just a master and an apprentice, I would highly recommend the Darth Bane trilogy. It’s my favorite Star Wars novel trilogy of all time. Anyways, it will be interesting to see what villains take the place of Sith in The High Republic. Obviously, there will still be two true Sith during this era, but my point stands that more villains are needed since those Sith would be hiding in the shadows, concealing their existence. Regardless, we won’t find out more about that until 2021. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait that long for new story content for SWTOR, which is expected at some point within the next few months (despite COVID). Most recently, the developers at Bioware added swoop racing to the game, which originated as a mini-game in the original KOTOR game back in 2003.
The free-to-play base game has 8 unique class stories: Sith Inquisitor, Sith Warrior, Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, Imperial Agent, and Republic Trooper. You get to choose a faction when you create a character – either Republic or Imperial. The Jedi, Trooper, and Smuggler are aligned with the Republic and the Sith, Bounty Hunter, and Agent are aligned with the Sith Empire. But just because you’re a Jedi doesn’t mean you have to make Jedi choices. The game lets you be a Dark Jedi if you so desire – a Jedi who’s fallen to the dark side. You can also play as a Sith who embraces the light side of the force. You can also be a pacifist agent or warmongering trooper. In short, you don’t have to play as “a good guy” if you choose Pub or be “a bad guy” if you choose Imp.
All of the class stories are amazing and you meet so many unique characters who accompany you. These characters are called companions. Each class story has five unique companions that you meet over the course of your journey through the main story. Make sure to talk to your companions at rest zones to learn more about them and their backstories. Some even give you special companion missions, and you can even romance some of them. And, if you play your cards right, you get to marry them.
Smuggler Story: If your favorite character from the films is Han Solo, you should definitely make your first toon a smuggler. The smuggler class story runs a lot of parallels with Han Solo’s story from the original trilogy – especially if you select a male character (because of a particular companion romance option). There’s also another Smuggler companion that represents fan service done right.
Bounty Hunter Story: The Bounty Hunter class story has become a more popular choice since the release of The Mandalorian on Disney+. If you love that show and want to learn more about Mandalorian culture before Mando returns this fall for season 2, then this is the way.
Republic Trooper: For the Republic! This class is the choice of Republic patriots, and people who simply love wielding a giant laser minigun. The story is focused on the military aspect of the Star Wars universe. If your favorite story arcs from The Clone Wars were the ones that followed the lives of Clone Troopers, you should definitely give the Republic Trooper a shot.
Imperial Agent: This might come as a surprise, but the Imperial Agent is often considered the best of the eight class stories. If you ever wondered what it was like to do the Empire’s dirty work, this is your chance. The story is unique because it has multiple endings, depending on the choices you make throughout your journey. If you like a good story with plenty of surprises, twists, and turns, then the Imperial Agent is the way to go.
Jedi Consular: If you enjoyed the diplomacy and galactic political maneuvering from the Prequels, and also enjoy wielding a lightsaber, then you will love this class story. The Consular story is for the stoics, for those whose favorite characters are Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda. If you want to be the glue that holds the fragile Republic together, then you’ll feel right at home with the Consular.
Sith Inquisitor: If you’re intrigued by ancient Sith legends and force spells, jump forth and dive into the depths of the dark side of the force with the Sith Inquisitor story. You get to rediscover long-lost Sith secrets and explore the true power of the dark side.
Jedi Knight: If you played the Knights of the Old Republic and/or Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and are disappointed that KOTOR III never happened, you’re in luck. The Jedi Knight story is considered by many to be KOTOR III. In most cases, when people challenge the prospect of the Agent being the best story, the Jedi Knight is what they argue takes the cake. You get one of the best romances the game has to offer (as a male toon – I’m sure the female equivalent is great, too). If you plan on playing the Expansions, the timeline will make the most sense if you play through as a Jedi Knight – especially pertaining to the content involving the Sith Emperor such as Shadow of Revan, Rise of the Emperor, Knights of the Eternal Throne, and Knights of the Fallen Empire.
Sith Warrior: If you want to learn more about the Sith ruling the Empire, or you simply enjoy causing mayhem with a red lightsaber, check out the Sith Warrior. The story is engaging, and it contains a fantastic romance (as a male). One of the coolest parts of being a Sith Warrior is that you can bring your apprentice to the dark side or light side, depending on the choices you make in the game.
Each class has two advanced classes and each advanced class lets you choose one of three disciplines. As a Sith Warrior, for example, you get to choose one of two advanced classes: either a Sith Marauder or a Sith Juggernaut. Each advanced class has its perks. Sith Marauders, for instance, get access to dual-wield lightsabers and deal higher numbers in damage-per-second (DPS). This is extremely useful for player-versus-environment (PvE) settings – meaning when you’re not playing against real people, but Sith Marauders have downsides, too. In player-versus-player (PvP) combat, a skilled Marauder would have difficulty fighting against an equally skilled Juggernaut. No matter which of the three Marauder-specific disciplines gets chosen, the Marauder will always be a DPS player. A Sith Juggernaut, however, can choose the Immortal discipline, which is a Tank discipline, not a DPS one. The game has 8 classes, 16 advanced classes, and 48 unique disciplines. The extensive diversity and variation in gameplay and combat styles add to the replayability of the game.
One of the best parts of SWTOR is its post-launch content. The Rise of the Hutt Cartel & Shadow of Revan expansions are now free-to-play for all players. Furthermore, you get all of the expansions permanently unlocked on your account by just subscribing for a single month. Fans of the original Knights of the Old Republic video game (and comics) will be interested in the Shadow of Revan expansion, which takes place roughly 300 years after the events of the original KOTOR. If you want to know more about the relationship between KOTOR I/II and SWTOR, I would encourage you to check out the Revan novel. But if you don’t have time for that, you can also find a fan-film on YouTube largely-based off of the novel. Also, if you play as a Jedi Knight in SWTOR, the novel (and movie) offers more insight to the backstory of one of your companions. However, the movie might be difficult to follow without having read or listened to the book.
The Knights of the Eternal Throne and Knights of the Fallen Empire expansions are beyond incredible: imagine Game of Thrones meets Star Wars. The production value is clearly very high, and the story is phenomenally told. The Rise of the Emperor expansion is both brilliant and horrifying at the same time. It really brings the Sith Emperor’s true nature to light. Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a breath of fresh air from the Sith-Jedi, Imp-Pub conflicts. Makeb is a beautiful planet, and dealing with the Hutts is as intense as ever. Jedi Under Siege and Onslaught really bring post-launch SWTOR back to the game’s roots: we meet characters new and old, one of whom was long-thought dead. There are many other expansions and content updates that I’d love to talk about, but I’d be here for hours. One other content update that needs mentioning is the Cartel Market. Fortunately, the microtransaction system is cosmetic only – nothing you can buy will put you at an unfair advantage in PvP combat.
The game has recently surpassed over one billion dollars in revenue, so you may be wondering why you never (or rarely) hear about the game on the official Star Wars social media pages. I believe that it’s because the game isn’t a part of Disney’s canon. The game came out before Disney bought Star Wars, and a contract was signed regarding SWTOR, meaning that Disney can’t simply dismiss it the way they did for the rest of the original Star Wars canon – Filoni’s Clone Wars excluded. The nature of an MMORPG is to exist for years upon years, often decades (like World of Warcraft). Thus, when Disney said the Expanded Universe was to be discontinued in 2014 to make way for their new canon, they couldn’t simply cancel SWTOR – especially after hundreds of millions of dollars had been poured into the game’s development and advertising. In essence, SWTOR’s story updates are the lifeline that keeps the Expanded Universe’s continuation alive. The only other exception to this was Marvel’s Star Wars #108 from 2019, which was a one-shot comic book in the style and spirit of their original 107-issue-long Star Wars series which went on from 1977 through 1986. SWTOR being labeled “Legends” by Disney has not stopped the developers at Bioware from pouring their hearts and souls into this game. The devs say they have big plans for the ten year anniversary of SWTOR’s launch in 2021, and I can’t wait to see what treats they have in store for us.