As per this rather freeing post, the NDA has been lifted for Star Wars: The Old Republic. And now the tale can be told.
At the tail end of September, I was invited to the Beta; not the weekend beta, but the ongoing one. That came as one hell of a surprise to me, having officially given up on seeing a thing until (if I was LUCKY) a trial key or something along those lines came my way. I had no plans to purchase the game until I had some firsthand knowledge, no matter what the pregame hype might have. So when the email slapped that invite in, I did what anyone would have done: spent the night downloading the client.
For those in the know, I was in Squadron 238; there was also a Republic guild using that name which I joined with one of my characters, solely to get an idea of how the guild interface worked. I played all six character types, but I made the most progress playing a character I plan to play as one of my last choices in Live: the Trooper, who I named Jeskin. The one who got the least exposure for me was the Jedi Counselor. The highest level I got to was 16, the lowest never made it off the starter planet. I’ve gone through one character wipe: my current testing character is the OTHER one of my least-likely choices, the Bounty Hunter.
My logic there was simple: why spoil the game for the classes I most want to play in Live? All the same, I felt compelled to try as much as possible, because the point of this wasn’t to “enjoy” myself-although I did-but to help find bugs. And I did find bugs (the nature of which likely fall under the classification of “Still Under NDA”, and continue to be fixed as time goes one). But what I also found was a game I was enjoying.
My Trooper was Jeskin, and he was a kick-ass guy. I viewed him as an honorable warrior; if he had a scrap of Force Sensitivity, he’d probably been a good Jedi. He pissed off his commanding officers because he wasn’t willing to go to “victory at any cost”, and drew the line at outright murder. The game’s storyline gave these kind of choices, and I enjoyed making ’em. Another class I enjoyed was the Sith Inquisitor, Zhevan-or as I liked to think of him, “Darth Jerkass”. There’s something freeing about choosing the dialogue options that tend to be the biggest jerk. He mouthed off at his superiors even as he defied expectations. Stack the deck against him, eh? For the Sith who treated him properly (as in, the ones who weren’t jerks), he was respectful. Otherwise, I went after every option that was effectively “put down” city. I’m almost guaranteed to remake him on Live just to do it again.
RPers may be distraught to see just how tightly the TOR story holds them. I’ll be interested to see how the RP guilds handle this-after all, character origins are pretty set as the game progresses, but there’s enough wiggle room for pre-game careers. On the other hand: you’re starting at level one. You can only justify so much. Still, in spite of this, the stories are compelling (at least the parts I got to experience).
Crafting is pretty similar to most MMOs; you can pick three “professions”, one of which can be a crafting one. The others are mission professions (where your companion goes out to do stuff and hopefully come back with something useful) and harvesting professions. You can also reverse engineer some items (matching your crafting profession) in hopes of getting a better schematic to learn. (It ain’t easy.) Folks looking for deep complexity out of it might be out of luck. There’s also an “item modification” table, where some of your items can be altered by adding mods; this means a favored set of armor (maybe) can be upgraded as you go. Same with weapons. This does not appear to be the choice with ALL items, or even most. But you’re guaranteed to have at least one item (perhaps more) in the process of doing your class’s story.
Space combat…well, it is what it is. Reminds me, of all things, of the old arcade games of yesterday. It’s got that kind of feel to it; if you were hot stuff with Zaxxon, Defender, and the like, you might be able to adapt to this pretty easily. Then again, if you REMEMBER those games, your reflexes probably aren’t what they used to be…. It’s a minigame, honestly, but worth doing.
I didn’t do a lot of Flashpoints-the “dungeons” of the game-but I did get a chance to do one of them (I had spare time). It’s not a short process, and it STRONGLY encourages a good mix of the “holy trinity” (more’s the pity), and I’m told that the one I did is not representative of the others in the game-which is a bigger pity, because the first was damned fun. The nice thing about it (and with other missions you share with others) is that everyone in the group can make a conversation choice, and there is a weighted roll-off to see whose comment is used. This leads to social points, which apparently unlock other abilities and items in the game, but I can’t speak much on that one.
I’m leaving a lot out; I’m not a professional reviewer, and can’t compare the pros and cons of every class. But I can say I enjoyed playing each of them-even to the limited extent of some of them. I spent a lot of time solo here; I felt it might be a trick to group and bug things at the same time. But the times I grouped was rewarding.
Oh, and there is one caveat here: some of those mission objectives are world objectives, which means (to my disgust) there can and will be spawn camping. Not happy about that, but at least in the beta folks were willing to group up for spawns. I can see some considerable griefing ahead, though, and I hope that Bioware is paying attention to that prospect. I also can’t speak for the PvP side of things, since-as usual-I find that to be the least interesting part of the game. I can’t speak for the raid content either, for similar reasons AND the minor fact that I didn’t get near max level with anyone. That’s okay; I can accept that parts of the game are aimed to people other than me.
And as a final aside? I bought my preorder a week after starting beta testing. Guess that should say it all.