When I heard about Bioware’s 2011 release of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR), nostalgia consumed me and I immediately added it to my wish list. This holiday season, the game proved the shiniest toy under my tree.
SW:TOR puts the player in the center of conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire as they battle one another for preeminence in the galaxy. Aside from the epic battle, I most enjoy the variety of options for character creation. Players choose between the Republic and Sith factions, each containing four mirror classes: Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor, Trooper/Imperial Agent and Smuggler/Bounty Hunter. Players then select from among nine species, though some are restricted to certain factions and classes. Physical customization includes such intimate details as tattoos and scars.
The character customization that interested me the most involves light and dark side points, which are not restricted to one’s faction. In the films, a Sith represents the dark side, but in the game, a Sith may choose to follow the light. Likewise, a Jedi may turn to the dark side. Choices made during story conversations earn the player light and dark side points, which affect in-game items such as weapons. Instead of portraying a specific film or story character, these selections allow a player to experience Star Wars as his own stylized character.
It’s no surprise that gamers appreciate SW: TOR, because for the last 30 years players have reveled in the Star Wars franchise’s more than 100 video games. Parker Brothers developed the first Star Wars game in 1982 for the Atari 2600. The company based their game on the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, and players delighted in flying snowspeeders and attacking Imperial AT-AT walkers in the Battle of Hoth. A year later, Atari published Star Wars the arcade game. This vector-based game simulated the Death Star battle of A New Hope and featured digitized speech from the movie. A sequel arcade game, The Empire Strikes Back, simulated the Millennium Falcon’s asteroid chase and the Battle of Hoth.
Game companies continue to release popular Star Wars games of all genres—some that reflect the movies and others that incorporate the expanded universe. One of the most enduring, the Star Wars: X-Wing series first developed in 1993 by Totally Games, includes four games of space combat simulation as both X-Wing and TIE Fighter pilots. Nearly a decade later, the game Jedi Outcast gave players their first chance to battle with a lightsaber, a technique that continued and evolved in the 2006 game The Force Unleashed. Star Wars: Battlefront games, first released by Pandemic Studios and LucasArts in 2004, maintain a legacy of the most popular Star Wars shooting games, as players face off against enemies in both the prequel and original series eras.
Bioware, which developed SW:TOR, is no stranger to Star Wars games, either. In 2003, they released their highly engaging RPG Knights of the Old Republic, which takes place four centuries before the rise of the Galactic Empire and features a battle between a Sith army and the Republic. The company released a sequel, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lord, which takes place five years later when the Jedi have been all but destroyed by the Sith. My favorite holiday gift picks up the story after 300 years, as new conflicts arise across the galaxy.
Whether you’ve played all the Star Wars games ever produced or if this would be your first one, I highly recommend SW:TOR as a wonderful edition to this franchise. And while you’re playing, be on the lookout for a Mirialan Jedi Consular wielding a green double-bladed lightsaber. That just might be me.