“The Old Republic” calls to mind many different feelings for people. For some, it’s modern Star Wars “done right,” with all of its action and original trilogy archetypes. It’s the anti-Prequel, prequel. Despite its roots in comic books and tabletop RPGs, other fans grimace at the mention of the era, with its oftentimes edgy imagery and “(video)gamification” of the Force: reducing the light and dark side to a point meter.
Although most of the stories set in The Old Republic have been folded into the Legends banner, the era lives on in the form of an online role-playing game, simply called Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). I enjoy massively multiplayer online RPGs (or just ‘MMOs’ if you’re nasty), and played SWTOR when it launched in December of 2011. I enjoyed it for a few months in the same way I’ve enjoyed other Old Republic content, which is “kinda.”
But recently, like many characters in Star Wars itself, I’ve been interested in the history of the galaxy. The Jedi, The Sith, The Old Republic, and the MMO that released 8 years ago, is still updated today, but seems to be absent from most Star Wars discourse….
About two weeks ago, on a whim, I installed SWTOR on my PC, spent twenty minutes trying to remember what email I used for my account over half a decade ago, and finally created a new character. I went with a Sith Marauder- a sassy goth named Hargah (inspired by the village where most of Ari Aster’s brilliant film Midsommar is set).
In the 14 hours I’ve played over the past couple of weeks, I have a few major takeaways:
- The game is alive and well.
Almost everywhere I go I see players chatting, questing, and watching cutscenes (more on that in a bit). Also, SWTOR is still receiving large-scale support from developer Bioware (a new story / post-game update is scheduled to release on October 22nd).
- It’s super accessible.
SWTOR is free to play, meaning you can download the client and start playing for no cost whatsoever. Of course, there are ways to spend money (a $15/month subscription grants you many perks, and you can purchase plenty of quality of life boosts in the in-game store), but new players can access dozens of hours of content without ever busting out their debit card. Also, hate people but love gatherings? It’s cool, you don’t *have* to group up with randos to advance the narrative. You can even hide general chat so all those other players just exist in the periphery of *your* Star Wars story.
- The story is good (even if you’re not).
While the overarching tale of Jedi vs Sith armies, bounty hunters, smugglers, and galactic politics may not be everyone’s cup of caf, the player agency means you are actually role-playing your part in the story. In nearly every interaction with an NPC (computer-controlled character), you can choose how you react. I’ve been playing my Sith character pretty straight, making mostly the evil choices (which, in dialogue, are often chock-full of dark humor), but occasionally the “dark side” choice will feel so nihilistic, honor-less, or unnecessary that I’ll opt against it. I’m sure there are tallies and gameplay repercussions for this, but I’m not as interested in those systems as I am playing what feels like an authentic Star Wars experience, and the game allows me the freedom to do that.
Adding to the experience is the overall production quality, which is still impressive today. Nearly all dialogue is fully-voiced (by a veritable who’s who of voice actors), and while the in-game cutscenes are sometimes stiff (things have come a long way since 2011!), they are dense, plentiful, and contain excellent lip-synching. Finally, the writing is top-tier Bioware: clever, thoughtful, poignant, but also concise and brisk- not unlike the writing in the films.
I’ve really enjoyed my return to The Old Republic: it’s been an enlightening glimpse into a living and dynamic part of Star Wars that had been somewhat off my radar for the past few years. I’m grateful that this space still exists and look forward to continuing my rude Sith adventures in this active corner of the Star Wars galaxy.