Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t a resource hog, but it does require a respectable amount of graphics muscle to enjoy at its highest settings. Our testing shows that the game in its current state favors AMD cards, though it remains to be seen how much optimization AMD and Nvidia are able to put in before it goes live later this month.
At low detail settings you’ll want at least a Radeon HD 5770 or GeForce GTS 450 for smooth 1680x1050 frame rates. At high settings, even with 4x MSAA, the game doesn’t need much more, and a Radeon HD 5770/6770 or GeForce GTX 550 Ti can handle 1920x1080.
With texture transparency anti-aliasing enabled, this MMO is much more demanding. At 1920x1080, only AMD's Radeon HD 6970 was able to provide slightly more than a minimum of 30 FPS, although the GeForce GTX 570 was only a little behind.
When it comes to platform requirements, the game is much more forgiving. Really, any quad-core chip will suffice. Or, you could go with a dual-core processor running faster than 2.5 GHz.
What about the game itself? The question on everyone’s mind is: will it be compelling enough to take on World of Warcraft? While we think that Star Wars: The Old Republic is fantastic, its monthly fee is $15 (the same as Blizzard’s). If these were the only two MMOs around, we’d say that Bioware's new darling has a good chance of capturing big market share. However, the free-to-play model looks like the way of the future. Already, some premium games have gone free, including Lord Of The Rings Online, Age Of Conan, Need For Speed World, Vindictus, DC Universe Online, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Star Trek Online will be free in January of 2012, if you're a sci-fi buff looking for a no-cost MMO based on major IP. Even World Of Warcraft appears to be hemorrhaging more subscribers than usual between content updates, and it’s possible that players are being lured away by free, high-quality competition.
None of this takes anything away from Bioware's accomplishments in Star Wars: The Old Republic, mind you. But we do wonder how many more players this title would have attracted a year or two ago when free-to-play was synonymous with crappy Flash-based browser games.
Star Wars: The Old Republic offers a solid, fleshed-out single-player RPG experience to this MMO in the beloved Star Wars universe, but we don’t think it lives up to the hype. Frankly, we're not sure that anything could. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying this is a bad game. We think Bioware’s creation has the chops to pull a lot of people into its well-crafted web, but only time will tell if it has what it takes to keep them there, particularly when its subscription-based model is forced to compete against some impressive free-to-play titles.
Regardless, if you’re a fan of Star Wars and MMOs, you owe it to yourself to give Star Wars: The Old Republic a try, if only to play through all eight unique character classes.