OVER THE PAST DECADE, the MMO genre has gone from niche geek fare to being as mainstream as Halo. There's big money in this market, and there are few things George Lucas loves more than comically large sacks of cash.
Thus we have Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's not the first Star Wars MMO—in 2003, Sony Online Entertainment launched the now-defunct Star Wars Galaxies—but unlike past efforts, Old Republic developer BioWare (of Mass Effect fame) actually seems to know what it's doing.
Of course, by "seems to know what it's doing," I mean "is willing to swipe design tenets from Blizzard Entertainment at every turn." With few exceptions, The Old Republic plays exactly like World of Warcraft with decidedly Star Wars-esque sights and sounds. Can you blame them, though? World of Warcraft has been so dominant in the MMO space since its 2004 launch, its closest competitors barely attract a fraction as many players.
This obvious comparison to Blizzard's game is a pretty shining compliment, but unfortunately, The Old Republic doesn't quite live up to its inspiration in the area where it counts most: polish.
Call it post-launch hiccups if you'd like, but a full month after release, players are still complaining of rampant lag, game-breaking bugs, and broken quests. This happens with every MMO (and The Old Republic is far from the worst offender), but those players coming to the game from World of Warcraft may be disappointed by The Old Republic's rough edges.
On the other hand, The Old Republic does an excellent job of pandering to its fans: If you dream of hunting bounties on Tatooine or dueling a Sith master, this is the game for you. The quest system offers a nice balance between cinematic cutscenes and story-driven missions, and while the danger of running into a glitch is omnipresent, when the game works, it's as apt at telling a Star Wars tale as any of the films.
In time, I have faith that The Old Republic will offer a brilliant experience for Star Wars fans—but until the game's bugs are wiped out, MMO fans will still be better served by spending their days in Blizzard's world.