Star Wars: The Old Republic: PC Performance, Benchmarked

The Old Republic: A Little Backstory

Star Wars: The Old Republic is based on the most revered science-fiction franchise to ever influence pop culture, and Bioware is probably the most esteemed RPG developer on the planet. You might already be assuming that Star Wars: The Old Republic, (LucasArts’ latest, and Bioware's first MMO), will be an instant hit when it’s released on December 20th, 2011.

Then again, the LucasArts/Sony Interactive combo sounded unbeatable back in 2003 when Star Wars: Galaxies was released. That game will be shut down five days before The Old Republic is opened up to the players. The lesson here is that great intellectual property and a solid developer do not guarantee success.

In A Couple Weeks, On The Planet Earth…

With this in mind, we spent some time with Star Wars: The Old Republic in order to see if it justifies such enormous expectations. Will this be the MMO that takes the genre to another level? Is it good enough to challenge the heretofore untouchable World Of Warcraft? The answer is a resounding maybe, with a ton of caveats.

A vibroblade just doesn't have the sex appeal of a real lightsaber

Let’s start with the game universe. Bioware released the original Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic single-player RPG in 2003. That game is set some 4000 years prior to the movie timeline we all know and love. This brilliant setting gave developers the flexibility to create their own Jedi/Sith lore, free to deviate from the continuity imposed by Lucas' movies. There was plenty of force to go around in the old republic days, so it’s only natural that there are copious amounts of both Jedi and Sith. Of course, there were also a lot of smugglers, imperial agents, troopers, and bounty hunters, so, in this game, players can choose from any of eight different professions.

Although it's set in the past, the art direction is obviously rooted in Star Wars. It's easy to distinguish the ancient equivalent of an R2 unit or TIE fighter. The visual style goes more for cartoon than realism, similar to the original Knights Of The Old Republic.

The Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs? The parsec is a unit of length. That's like saying I went to the corner store and back in less than two miles.

Let’s start with what the game does right. Missions and progression are crafted in true Bioware style. All dialogue is spoken. Responses affect not only your character’s attributes, but also how your NPC associates feel about you. Character abilities are fantastic. Your avatar is swept up in important matters that can affect the fate of the universe. I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic offers some of the finest single-player experiences seen from an MMO. Yes, that’s plural. There are eight professions (four per faction) that have their own, unique storylines.

That's not to say the same story is told from eight different perspectives. Rather, the dialogue, locations, and progression are usually unique depending on the profession you’re playing. It’s an impressive undertaking with a mountain of content, and Bioware should be commended for the effort it put into extending this game's playability.

Biggest. Holocron. Evar.

The game worlds give you the impression that some locations are colossal, although a lot of that might be smoke and mirrors. On Coruscant, for example, flying taxis take you between areas, suggesting a sprawling cityscape. However, the playable zones are a tiny fraction of that space. It's perhaps more important that the game feels huge, befitting a galaxy-wide Star Wars experience.

Flashbacks from The Fifth Element

So, what’s wrong with the game? My biggest pet peeve is colossal levels with empty space between mission points. You’re going to spend a fair chunk of time simply getting from one spot to another, and while the world looks great, it’s not particularly interesting to travel through. If that’s the worst thing to say about the game, you might think it's darned near perfect. However, I don’t think it lives up to the expectation built up around it. We can't substantiate any claim that it'll turn the MMO world upside-down or draw away World Of Warcraft players in significant numbers.

A city the size of a planet, and not a single rest room to be found

Nevertheless, we know there will still be countless gamers interested in the title, and we're sure you'd like to see how this one runs on your hardware configuration. That's the purpose of this exercise, after all.

  • hpglow
    Tom's you get bought out by Best of Media, and now the news is a couple days old and stale, we get anoying pop-ups over what we are reading every 3 pages or so, and there are very few cards in this write up. Why do I keep coming here to read stuff? I'm just going to take you guys out of my queue of reads every day you need to go back to what made you profitable.
  • Looks like my GTX 460 will handle the game fine. Playing in the tester weekend beta really made me look forward to playing the game.
  • jellico
    Ran the game on very high, max viewing distance with:
    Radeon HD 5850

    I played with high settings and a 3/4 viewing distance with:
    Core 2 Duo e840
    Nvidia GTS 8800

    I played with with a mixture of low and medium settings and 40% viewing distance with:
    i5 - 750
    Radeon HD 4670

    So clearly, a better video card (even an older one) is more important than a top-end processor.

    This is a great game! Every quest and NPC interaction has voice-overs which greatly add to the dimension of the game. The intro movies are the best I've seen of any game, ever!
  • hokkdawg
    I just KNEW this game wouldn't live up to the hype. It has a great single player RPG component, but it really doesn't need to be an MMO. It's like LOTRO - that game is great when sold as a single RPG to play offline, or even with P2P multiplayer. But as an MMO? Totally not worth the monthly fees. Time will tell with SW:TOR, but it sounds like the single player is the primary selling point...and the venture into MMO territory is nothing but a ploy to rake in more income from monthly fees...
  • hardstylerz
    So people were fine about the performance of this game but complained about the performance of crysis? which looks a million times better than this...The game looks worse than world of warcraft and yet runs like absolute crap. I smell another ploy to push up sales for graphics cards. YOu can't be serious about the performance of this game. Even skyrim looks better and plays better despite being a console port.
  • lunyone
    Well I might be interested, but at $15/month I'm not that interested.
  • As a subscription based game, BioWare can continually add content, and it doesn't hurt to be able to group with people for tough encounters or just because you enjoy it.
  • SirGCal
    I was on the beta. Thought my system is a bit overkill (OCd 1100T & 6970), it ran like butter with everything maxed and the AA trick activated.

    Still, I'm excited for release. I had a lot of fun in the beta and world PVP seems interesting without being annoying (though time will tell when the whole public gets ahold of it). You can solo much of it, but there are mini-raids starting at level 10 (or flashpoints I think they were called)...

    The stories were just... wow... Sometimes they went a bit weak but they were always so detailed. I can say that this wouldn't be nearly as good as a single-player RPG. Lots of social aspects going on. But it's also not a grind like any other MMO I've done... Never once did I feel the grind of 'go kill 20 of these, bring the eye. go kill another 20, bring the teeth (why didn't they tell me last time).' Infact, kill X anything was a very rarity accept for a bonus xp aspect of which you nearly always doubled before finishing anyhow.

    The big question is; "Will it have a good end-game"... Cause if not (and we didn't get to test that far), then long-term playability will be very limited... But again, we'll see that very soon...
  • Will I lag with a low end graphics card in lets say a city or an instance? What would u recommend the minimum graphics to do such things and have a good experience?
  • Yargnit
    Perfect timing, I've been trying to decide between a 6950 and 560ti for a new SWTOR rig to get for Xmas. Wish you had tested these specific cards, but this certianly helps still. I've always prefered Nvidia's cause of better drivers, but this makes it real hard to take a 560ti over a 6950.

    Just wish you ran a 1gb/2gb card test. I've seen SWTOR eat tons of memory (2.7GB) & I wonder if video RAM is the same way.