There's no score at the end of this review. Even though we've been playing The Old Republic for 30 hours (and counting), giving a definitive verdict is basically impossible at this stage. But what we can do is tell you whether it's worth playing it or not.
Even if you've never played an MMO before, or fear the very idea of them, you might be surprised by BioWare's take on the genre. We'll be playing the game all over the Christmas break, so will return in January with a score. For now, here's what we think.
People play MMOs for a lot of different reasons. Some are compelled by loot and leveling, others by playing the numbers and exploiting the system. Some are in it for PVP, others for raiding with friends.
But nobody plays an MMO because they want to get immersed in a rich story - and that's where Star Wars: The Old Republic comes in. It's everything you expect from a modern online RPG, but with a few crucial differences: the addition of a meaningful plot arc for each class, moral choices and full voice acting.
The game weighs in at a lumbering 25gb, and it's clear why within minutes of playing. Every quest, no matter how inconsequential, has a number of dialogue options, and every character - including your own - has a voice. The quality of the writing and acting varies, but it gives you one important thing: motivation.
In other MMOs, quests often feel like pointless errands. The Old Republic's are, structurally, no different, but by book-ending each one with a plot with multiple outcomes, every objective - no matter how mundane - feels like it serves a purpose.
The dialogue system is pure BioWare; think Mass Effect or Dragon Age. As you talk to NPCs you're given three ways to respond, each of which steers the conversation in a different direction. Your choices also affect your standing with the light and dark sides of the Force, which fans of the Knights of the Old Republic games will appreciate.
Don't expect a quest system that completely rewrites the MMO rule book. It's still essentially killing and collecting, but the story really does bring it to life. Quests often have humorous or unexpected outcomes, and the class-specific missions offer a constant, running story that's genuinely compelling. It also means you can comfortably play the game solo without being numbed by boredom.
Convnience is another thing The Old Republic brings to the table. Whether it's something as simple as the 'area loot' option, which automatically loots all nearby fallen enemies at once, or the ability to send your companions on errands, like collecting materials or crafting items. There's still busywork, but less of it - and if you really don't want to delegate to your crew, you can do it all yourself.
But let's rewind. Your first, and most important, choice is what class you're going to be - and whether you'll side with the Republic (the good guys), or the Empire (the not-good guys). Here's a breakdown of the classes for each side, and the different types of gameplay each one offers.
First up, the Sith Empire.
Starting planet Korriban | Advanced classes Sith Assassin, Sith Sorcerer | Races Human, Rattataki, Sith, Twi'lek, Zabrak | Personal ship Fury-class Imperial Interceptor
Basically a mage. They can use lightsabers, but their specialisation is in the Force. They can fry enemies with powerful lightning, trap enemies in whirlwinds and sacrifice their companion for a health boost.
Starting planet Korriban | Advanced classes Sith Marauder, Sith Juggernaut | Races Cyborg, Human, Sith, Zabrak | Personal ship Fury-class Imperial Interceptor
The Empire's tanks. They're best at wading into groups of enemies with their lightsabers, protected by heavy armour. They can also dual-wield lightsabers if they opt for the Marauder advanced class.
Starting planet Hutta | Advanced classes Operative, Sniper| Races Chiss, Cyborg, Human, Rattataki, Zabrak | Personal ship X-70B Phantom
These guys use tech and stealth to defeat enemies. They can take cover, use portable shields, and score critical hits by sniping. Later, they're able to poison foes and use bots to increase health regen.
Starting planet Hutta | Advanced classes Powertech, Mercenary | Races Chiss, Cyborg, Human, Rattataki, Zabrak | Personal ship D5-Mantis Patrol Craft
Bounty Hunters also favour tech, but combine it with brute strength and heavy weapons. They can torch enemies with flamethrowers, toss wide area explosives and fly with their trademark jetpack.