h1

SWTOR Beta Test: The Obligatory General Impressions Mega-Post

November 18, 2011

The time has finally come — you know, where I start assaulting you all, my poor readers, with my impressions of Star Wars: The Old Republic from general testing over the last five months, now that the NDA for testing has been lifted.

I do have plans to expand upon much of the following in future posts (as if only one gargantuan wall-of-text won’t be enough, right?) But there are quite a few thoughts I do want to toss up on here first. I took a bunch of notes throughout my testing experience, which are a mess right now and which I should really try to consolidate into something coherent. While I love the game and had a lot of fun testing, much of this ended up being the basis for the “constructive criticism” I offered up during feedback, so hopefully this impression piece will come across fair and balanced. I aim to be completely honest.

Overall Thoughts

You’ll probably hear this a lot, but it’s true — the first thing that came to my mind when I first played SWTOR was “Knights of the Old Republic Online”. That is, if I was forced to reduce my description of the game to a diminutive label. I don’t like to, but if I must.

I get the feeling that BioWare determined their target audience early on, and that was how they approached the game. What I mean is, this is an extremely linear MMO and it is never going to be anything but a theme park, so if you are into sandbox type games, it is not for you. Likewise, if you loved KOTOR and came to this expecting to recapture exactly the same single-player experience, it also won’t be for you. Despite what you might hear, SWTOR is a massively multiplayer online game. You can play this solo, but if you want to get the most of it, at some point you’ll have to interact with other people.

I think too many people will expect this to be an revolution and the next step in how MMO games are made, but if so, you’ll be disappointed. SWTOR is simply another iteration of the MMO, taking many things that work and making them better, but it’s by no means a complete redesign of the MMO philosophy. BioWare set their sights on one thing and went about to do that one thing very well — and that’s story. The focus isn’t so much on gameplay, but on the interaction behind it.

Now, with all those caveats out of the way, I’ll say this — I’m a gamer of fairly flexible tastes, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with this game. Despite some nitpicky issues I had, in general my overall view of SWTOR is extremely positive.

Character Creation

I’m happy to say I found it adequate, though customization options are still not as robust as I would like. APB or Age of Conan this is definitely not, but there will still be plenty of choices available for you to fiddle around with to make the chance of you running into someone else looking exactly the same as you very, very slim. You can also have apostrophes and hyphens in your character name — a small, trivial detail, but it made me happy nonetheless.

UI

Not a big fan, personally. But then again, I was coming off from playing Rift (which came with a highly customizable and flexible UI right out of the box) and for a couple months this year, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (whose UI I modded up the wazoo). While I played, I yearned for more action bars and a way to move my modules around, and other little things like see-target-of-target. For now, it serves its purposes though, and I give it that it’s very neat and clean.

Advanced Classes

Each class branches off into two paths, and you choose one to follow once you reach level 10 or so. Your Advanced Class is a permanent choice that then determines your role for the rest of the game. I tested both ACs for the Trooper class, and I’m pleased to say the two paths offer up very different and varied styles of play. As a Vanguard, I also wasn’t only limited to defense and tanking; I could also choose to be more damage-oriented if I wanted. Same deal for the healing-capable Commando. It depends on how you allocate your skill points, and this part can easily be respecced.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been praising SWTOR for the flexibility in their class roles — that is, the astute and observant player can quickly access a situation — say, in a flashpoint — and offer whatever support is needed despite the role they’ve been invited to play. You can be the DPS Jedi Guardian but still be a halfway decent tank on the fly, if it was suddenly required of you. The “hybrid” ACs enjoy this perk. I find the two that lack this advantage, however, are the straight-DPS Gunslinger and Jedi Sentinel, and I hope in the future BioWare will give them more utility in group play.

Combat

If you’re an MMO veteran, I’m sad to say you probably won’t find combat during the first 10 or so levels very exciting at all. To be fair, BioWare no doubt calibrated difficulty and complexity to balance the experience for gamers of all backgrounds, and to be honest, I would rather them err on the side of caution than risk frustrating newcomers to the MMO genre. So the bad news is, combat doesn’t feel “heroic” right off the bat, and some might even find it boring.

The good news, however, is that as you level up, the combat gets a lot more interesting. By the mid 20s, I was really getting into it. And by 50, I was having a ton of fun. The XS Freighter Fly-Over FTW.

After you choose your Advanced Class, more abilities become available to you. A lot of them play off each other, and depending on the points you allocate to your skill trees, you can start to vary your strategy a little depending on the situation. Say, your tank’s health is low and your healer needs some time to catch up? My Gunslinger, even as a ranged DPS, never passed up the chance to run up to a mob just to kick him in the balls. It buys the group a few seconds, and while I was in melee range anyway, here’s a blaster whip and a cheap shot to the face too! A smuggler never wastes a good opportunity.

Crafting

It’s very…interesting. For better or worse, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced a crafting system like this. The great thing is, you can order your companions to do the grunt work for you, and so I can be happily questing to my heart’s desire while 3-4 crew skills are ticking away (at higher levels). Of course, this also means the process is less hands-on.

I’m generally not big on crafting in most MMOs, however, and in SWTOR I have to say I’m still not seeing a great incentive to do it, other than the fact I can keep working on it while I do my usual leveling. Plus, mission crew skills eat up your credits really, really quickly, so it’s something I still might want to save for later when I’m all leveled up.

Questing

Your class has a main story line, but there are also general planet quests that everyone else can get.

Class quests are the cream of the crop. These are integrated into your story, and this is where the innovation is, and what makes SWTOR so unique. Here, the choices you make will determine whether you are, say, praised by your commanding officer (in my Trooper’s case, this was General Garza), or get majorly chewed out by her (and boy, can she be a real nag). These quests are crafted to your class story, so they often turn out to be the more interesting, humorous, impactful ones.

Then there are the general planet quests, which I have to admit are similar to those in any other themepark MMO — but on steroids. Voiceover and cinematography makes these otherwise mundane quests so much more immersive. Unlike other MMOs where I have to read a wall of text, I never had to force myself to focus on a quest in SWTOR. It just happened effortlessly and naturally, because the objectives are always delivered with context and emotion. I actually cared about the reasons why I had to rescue 5 nexu pups from the dirty pirates, or salvage some poor refugees’ lost belongings. And at the end if I get to make a light side/dark side choice out of it, SCORE!

On top of these, there are also the “Bonus quests” which are almost always of your kill-ten-rats variety. They are scattered everywhere, and pop up around the same area where you are doing your quests. But they are labeled “bonus” and hence are completely optional. Often, you’ll find you are doing it and completing it while working on the main objective anyway. It’s extra experience, and no harm to you if you find you can’t stomach the grinding and decide to skip them. You’ll probably want to skip them anyway, if you find you are in danger of outleveling content.

Interesting thing I observed though — as much as you hear complaining about the tediousness of kill-ten-rats quests, every single group I’ve ever played with in beta always insisted on completing the bonus — even after the main objective was done. Never underestimate the desire for more XP, or how deeply the instinct is ingrained in us to be completionists, whether you hate KTR quests or not.

Dark Side/Light Side

Not all decisions are black and white, which I was surprised to see. Some definitely are — but it also greatly depends on whether or not you want to roleplay your character, and if so, what class you choose.

I will say one thing though — going full dark side is freaking tough. Nothing makes you feel more like a bag of crap than screwing over a group of orphans, so congratulations to you if you can find it in yourself to soldier on through the tears or berating you get from your quest giver afterward.

Planets

In a word, they are HUGE. So huge, you will be crying tears of joy by the time you get to buy your first speeder. Quest indicators on the map are almost a necessity; otherwise, the game is so big you’d never be able to figure out where to go.

They are also gorgeous. Even wastelands like Tatooine and Hoth are places of beauty, and BioWare has captured the atmosphere of these and other Star Wars planets very well. Other, lesser known planets like Belsavis and Voss are also given the same detailed treatment. Every planet from Nar Shaddaa to Corellia has its own unique charm. There’s plenty to explore, especially if you’re into hunting down datacrons. Most of them you won’t come across while playing, the majority will be off the beaten path and you really have to poke around the entire planet to find them. And that’s the easy part! Then you have to figure out how to get to them…

PvP

I admit, I didn’t do a lot of PvP, other than a warzone here and there. I did play on a PvE test server, however, and so that’s probably why my opportunities to engage in fighting other players were minimal.

Still, my beta guildmates who were involved in a lot more PvP had much to say, and one who has a lot of experience and enjoys PvP gameplay immensely thought it was lacking in SWTOR compared to most other MMOs. To quote him, “3 warzones and 2 open world PvP areas makes SWTOR PvP worse than Warhammer which was head and shoulders above SWTOR PvP.”

I’m no expert, but from the handful of times I’ve PvPed in SWTOR, I would also have to admit it’s nothing very special.

Space combat

Didn’t like it. Well, okay, maybe “didn’t like” is too strong a term. Let’s just say I didn’t “feel it”. I test it once every build, and never really go back to it. BioWare has made many changes and improvements to it over the past few months, but I came to the conclusion very quickly that it just wasn’t my thing.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s great for what it is — a little side-game designed to be a fun distraction to the main game. While it’s on rails, it’s also fast-paced and quite challenging (but you can upgrade your ship to help with that). If you feel like varying your activities a little, you can always jump in, grab some space combat action, jump out. The problem is, I enjoyed my class story and the planet quests way too much, and often that was what I’d rather do. To be honest, this to me is a good thing — it’s what I call a “happy problem”.

Grouping

There were concerns that “story-mode” would make players feel like playing a single-player game, but I really didn’t get that feeling. On top of group quests and flashpoints, BioWare has added a lot of features that really encourage grouping. I just adore the social rank feature, for one. Being in a group conversation and involving yourself in “convo-loot” rolls will rack you up social points. Get enough social points, you gain social ranks. With social ranks, you buy social gear and goods. I came across a Jedi Consular one time decked in a full Leia gold-slave-bikini outfit, and it was awesome. Yep, social gear. So fans of vanity and cosmetic items will probably like this. Not to mention being in conversations with others is a lot more fun than expected.

Doing a CLASS quest with someone else can get a little tedious though. The most you get to be is a spectator, watching your friend go through their cutscenes. It’s almost like living their story vicariously through them, so if you don’t want spoilers, take this time to grab a drink or take a bio break.

Flashpoints

Most impressed I have ever been with an MMO’s instances. Still, not all FPs in SWTOR were designed equally, that’s my feeling, but I do have a few favorites — Esseles, Maelstrom, etc. It’s not so much the boss fights and the combat (though, as I’ve alluded to before, that can be quite interesting in a full group) than the execution and presentation. The FP isn’t just another instance you zone into and clear, it’s a self-contained story you become personally involved in. The ones I liked best were the ones that also gave you a ton of opportunities to make light side/dark side decisions.

Meanwhile, things are constantly happening around you, like exploding consoles or crashing ships. It’s an environment that’s hectic and alive, made even better by high production values — graphics, sound, cutscenes, cinematography, music, etc.

Another reason to do FPs — for the stories that are part of the game world. In your mid-30s, there’s a couple great FPs that shouldn’t be missed, and I won’t say anything more because it’s a big ginormous spoiler, but those who enjoy Old Republic lore will be very pleased.

Companions

They are a joy to have around! I was initially worried about seeing a ton of other Corso Riggs or Bowdaars running around the world ruining my immersion, but honestly, after a while that just fades into the background. It almost becomes like seeing someone else with the same combat pet, which is sort of what they are but also so much more.

You end up with five companions (not including your ship droid) by the end of your class story line, and classes don’t all receive them at the same point in the story/on the same planets. Each has different skills, and you are free to switch them in and out depending on what your situation calls for.

With most conversations you’ll have a chance to gain affection with your companions. I like how gaining it is easier than losing it, i.e. I often receive 15-20 points when I do something my companion approves of, but when I don’t I only lose 1 point (unless I really piss them off, in which case I can lose hundreds, but you see it coming a mile away). They each have their own history and personalities, and become a big part of your character’s life. You can please them or you can mess with their heads. In the case of Vette, my Sith Warrior kept the slave collar on her and generously zapped her with it all the way into the mid-20s. She never did warm up to me, as you can imagine.

Romances with your companions are also possible, and I heard from several of my buddies they even got to marry theirs at high levels (my husband wasn’t too pleased to hear that). Corso and I never got to that point, but we did become a “couple”.

Story

I saved the best for last. This is where BioWare’s forte is, and what they have accomplished here is phenomenal. And looking around, that seems to be the general consensus.

I was sucked into my class story right from the start, and it just gets better and better the deeper you get into the game. You’ll probably hear me say this again and again over the next week — but I can’t get over how well done my Smuggler’s class story was, from level 1 all the way to level 50. As in, I wished I knew the names of the writers for my Smuggler’s story, so I can send them each a personal thank you note telling them how much they have enriched my MMO experience. They made me laugh. They made me rage. They made me giggle with girlish glee, they made me gasp in surprise and ask out loud “Holy crap, did that actually happen?!”

You should have seen me freaking out to my guildies in guild chat when I was around the mid-40s, going, “OMG OMG OMG the best thing ever just happened to my Smuggler but dammit I can’t tell you because it will spoil!”

Much more on this topic in the future, but all I’ll say now is this: kudos BioWare, you have officially proven that story truly does matter.

Hope you enjoyed.

50 comments

  1. Awesome write up! And as your guildmate you did a fantastic job covering all your bases!

    And I think your opinions on each topic are just about the same as mine, and many other testers.

    My quick rundown:

    Companions: They rock, you can upgrade their gear and you get multiple companions. They can tank, heal and DPS.

    Story: Unlike any MMO I have played, you really get involved!

    Flashpoints (A flashy name for Dungeon or Instance): They are fun and yield great loot. A great way to get to know your guildmates or PUG members.

    Space Combat: I did it once and dont bother with it again. Its more of a mini-game than a big part of the game. Some love it and others hate it, it will be up to you to decide!

    Planets: huge and beautiful!

    Combat: same as most MMO’s, but the abilites are cool and unique, especially since your companions have their owns spells and abilities.

    Character Creation: All the races are “humanlike” which to me goes against everything “star wars”. No cool alien races. Feels like BioWare was a little slack on this part.

    PvP: Dont get me started. You would think with all the developers from other MMO’s working on this that the PvP would be vast and unique, but its not. Its most like WoW and worse than Warhammer. I expected more from anything with the Star Wars name, and so far PvP is a side show.

    Travel: You would think getting your own ship would be cool, and it is in the beginning, but its tedious and time consuming to get to your ship and travel to other planets.

    Final Thoughts:

    If you love PvE, a great story and cool environment, this game is for you!

    If you are a die hard PvPer, you will be disappointed.

    *The last build has not been released, so the above items are subject to change, I remain hopeful about many of the things I dislike so far.


    • Hey, DU, great input. Thanks for your insights on PvP especially, since I know you did a lot more of that than I did.

      Funny, I had the same frustrations re: travel. Also hate the fact that every time you need to visit your ship you have to go off planet before you zone into it.


  2. > they made me gasp in surprise and ask out loud “Holy crap, did that actually happen?!”

    This, right here. I got to one of those in my Weekender IA playthrough. I went into my weekend with the intention of hitting all the empire basic classes just to get a feel for all the mechanics. I ended up wanting to just play my IA as far as possible for the story. Especially after the first big “Oh no they di’int!” event.

    My big question is do the class quests tie together at all? IE, this big event in my IA story, is it reflected in other class stories?

    Actually, do the ACs have separate stories? IE, do we have 8 per side or do ACs share stories with the each other (Operative/Sniper, etc) for a total of 4?


    • No, class stories don’t appear to tie in together, which is a shame because that would have been really awesome.

      And no, one story for one class, both ACs of that class gets the same one.

      Speaking of this, however, I just want to add I notice variations in the conversation choices depending on whether you play male or female, human or alien, or if you initiate conversations in solo or in a group. There are definitely little things like that in play here.


      • I didn’t see that being as I had female aliens as my toons all the time. However I presumed it was the case. Loved having my IA get snarky every time someone let their inner xenophobe slip. BH didn’t care, she was in it for the creds.

        I soooo want to get my wife to play this but she doesn’t want to touch it until launch. And even then I think only because I’m playing. I didn’t get to try any of the group-conversation stuff and I really, really, really want to do that.


      • Oh gawd, what I discovered, was that some incredible moments of hilarity can also come out of group conversations.

        I think there was a bug during the weekend where the convo-loot rolls weren’t exactly as random as BioWare claimed. It was 3 of us in a flashpoint, and it was me and this other guy winning ALL the rolls. My husband joined me that night because he was a weekender, and he won only 1 at the beginning. The other guy and I were playing dark side, and my husband was playing light side, and towards the end during the big FP finale we started joking around, like, hey, watch the very last huge dark side/light side decision will be the one he’ll win.

        LO and BEHOLD, he won the friggin roll! I was like, OMG I can’t believe that happened. I’ve never laughed so hard playing an instance.


      • One of the convo-wheel glitches I encountered had to do with human responses on a non-human toon.


  3. I agree with DU, great write-up. I have questions, but I should’ve taken notes, So I’ll ask them another time, maybe. I may just decide to find out for myself.

    I will say this, to anyone expecting Warhammer-like PvP: Wha? Warhammer was a PvP game with a little PvE tacked on. This is the exact opposite. I hope for the PvPers that their combat improves. I also hope it doesn’t ever affect my PvE balancing the way it has in too many other games.


    • “I will say this, to anyone expecting Warhammer-like PvP: Wha? Warhammer was a PvP game with a little PvE tacked on. This is the exact opposite.”

      I couldnt have stated that any better Rowan!


    • I think, as DU said, with such an impressive team of developers with PvP work in their background being involved with this game, people expected a lot more. I personally wouldn’t say the PvP is horrible, but it’s far from amazing.

      I would say…adequate. And improvements would be more than welcome.


  4. The entire time I was reading that post the music from when Han Solo flies through the asteroids in Empire Strikes back was running through my head. Probably your enthusiastic tone being subconsciously translated for me. In any case, glad to hear you have been digging it so hard.

    Hope that it runs at least as well as Rift for me when I get to try it. Seeing whether my rig runs it well next weekend is all that stands between me preordering the digital deluxe edition.


    • If your computer runs Rift, it should run SWTOR just fine. People even say if you’re concerned your rig is too outdated that if it runs WoW it can run TOR, albeit your graphics and performance may suffer a bit.

      All the best!


  5. What happens to the story when you hit level cap? Anything?


    • Your story “ends” at level 50. All loose ends tied up, I was hailed for my achievements, etc. I put that in quotations though, because no doubt the story can always be added to through updates/expansions, etc.

      After 50, I presume the player will move on to the endgame content. Unfortunately, there was no endgame in the build for me to test at the time, and I literally hit 50 a day before the build went down anyway so I wouldn’t have had the time. I did, however, run around and explored Ilum, which I think is an endgame/pvp planet.


  6. I really hated my sith inquisitors first companion, not sure why he was melee since when you’re starting out an inquisitor has a lot of melee skills. And his personality just did not jive with how i was playing the character, not to mention i just didn’t like what he had to add to the conversation.

    On the other hand i completely agree with your take on companions, quests, dark/light points.


    • I really liked the first Sith Inquisitor companion. He is able to taunt, so he could at least keep some of the mobs at bay. But I played my Inquisitor as a ranged caster and I was also very dark. Khem likes the dark options and for you to give him things to kill. :)


      • Yes, sometimes the companions can be more useful depending on your AC choice! If not, you can always opt to use another companion later on that more complements your character.


    • Some of the companions can be really annoying, yes. They don’t always match up with your playstyle, that’s for sure. Speaking of which, I don’t think I my healing dude until the 40s, as my last companion…and as a gunslinger, he could have come in handy earlier. But oh well.

      How they jive with you I think depends on a lot of factors. I really wanted to romance my Trooper’s companion, for example, but I was playing dark side and he’s “good” so all I did was piss him off! XD

      On the other hand, my Smuggler who played light side got uber points with the romance companion. But as a smuggler, I also got to flirt with a lot of other people, and so he was always jealous and trying to ruin my sex live.


  7. I really dig this write up. Since you’ve been in the beta for months, I was hoping your post on SWTOR’s inner workings would be comprehensive – that certainly seems to be the case here.

    I really can’t put into words how much I enjoyed my beta weekend. I went in cautious, and came out friggin amazed at how involved I became in the story. It was easy to sink your teeth into, and felt wholly satisfying. I didn’t get my fem Smuggler to 50, but reading this post makes me feel like I should stick with her to the end. I will say that, unlike you, I couldn’t bring myself to keep Vette under my thumb for too long. She may be sassy, but she is also like a friendly little snowflake. A friendly, greedy little gold-digging snowflake… But I did use the Sith social ability more times than I care to admit on her. *whistle*

    On the subject of PvP, honestly, I agree with Rowan. When you balance your PvP and try to tack those same mechanics onto PvE, bad things happen. I too hope BioWare sticks to one balancing act, but maybe adds some variance in warzone content. Ask your friend what would be on his wishlist for PvP in SWTOR.

    Again on the subject of PvP, I do wonder how the size of the beta affects the playability – or maybe I should say “enjoyability” – of the PvP experience in SWTOR. I don’t even want to think about how Huttball is right now with disorganized pugs, Huttball being such a tactics intensive warzone. Like any football-esque sport, if you have a bunch of people together on a team that doesn’t know how to function together, many of whom also do not know the rules, it quickly turns into a fiasco. Football only becomes good when you have people assigned to their roles, with tactics set up. I imagine Huttball functions much the same way.

    I think I know which flashpoints you were referring to with your “In your mid-30s, there’s a couple great FPs that shouldn’t be missed” statement. I won’t spoil them, either – but I will say they certainly do add a new layer to the lore of The Old Republic era.

    I’ve never tried to do a class quest with anyone, probably for the reasons you described (it’s mine, and I guess I’m just a little selfish that way). But I did enjoy the grouping. After I got over the initial annoyance of not being able to simply queue up for the content, I found I actually enjoyed questing with people I could befriend afterward and possibly keep in touch with (which, btw, is another brilliant function in SWTOR – the ability to add people to your friends list after you run content with them.). Yes, it does take a little longer when you have to wait for people to catch up to you, but that sacrifice in time really gives you back some awesome in-server interaction that you just don’t get when you can just simply queue up content and run it with people on another server you’ll probably never see again.

    In any case, no more hijacking.lol

    Like I said, excellent write up. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as the pics. I hope to take some of my own now that I have no fear of an NDA. The next weekend test is next Friday, and I intend to be there with my new rig, a nice tall glass of some beverage and, possibly, a turkey sandwich.

    I can’t wait to get back on Iron Citadel and own people…


    • Heh heh, I was playing uber-evil Sith Warrior, and I was a female anyway, so not like I have the incentive to be nice to Vette like the people who played male SWs who might have wanted to get into her pants! LOL

      Speaking of PvP and balance, I honestly hope BioWare never goes down the arena route…at least, not without serious consideration and extensive planning. It is not fun to have your PvE mechanics affected simply by what they might do to the PvP game, and I’m sure it’s just as frustrating for PvPers.

      Don’t even get me started on the hilarious stories from Huttball! I think out of all warzones, that one requires the most “knowledge”…as in, you really need to know the rules to be able to win. I’ve heard of players not knowing how to pass the ball, or even running the ball into their own endzone.

      Haha. funny how you are so overprotective with your story. But don’t worry, the other person just watches, and they can fight battles with you, but they can’t affect your choices in any way. In fact, it’s kinda fun when you know someone is watching your story. I crack up sometimes at the choices the other person makes, and I hope I can entertain the other person just as well with what I do.

      I’ll be taking more pics now too. I didn’t go crazy with it over the last few months and didn’t take any videos at all, since it’s technically against the NDA. Our guild didn’t even do vent. I did treat myself to a few screenshots though, and kept them tucked away in my folders.


  8. So great to hear about the Smuggler story being so awesome, as that is going to be my first class. I am wondering though if a healing-specced Smuggler can heal groups well, perhaps you will touch on this in your Smuggler post.


    • Yes, a healing specc’ed scoundrel can definitely heal groups, and heal them well! A guildie of mine in beta also rocked the charts healing as a smuggler in PvP. They can definitely hold their own in the heals department.


  9. I hope you continue to enjoy SWTOR for many years to come!


  10. Thanks for sharing the write up! I only got to the first couple of General Garza quests and I managed to piss her off by not following orders. :P

    Also, thanks for not spoiling the story. I’m really looking forward to this experience and I appreciate your input. One note though: I will definitely be schooling the space combat. I’m my groups pro-pilot in games. Seriously, I can out fly my friends in STO while flying a cruiser when they’re in escorts. :D I’m also the long time veteran of flying X-Wings, so I can’t resist more space combat.

    I hope I get to play with you one day!


    • There’s something about Garza, she’s just so fun to piss off sometimes >:)

      And noooo, no spoilers here. After playing, I totally understand how the SWTOR story is something people will want to experience first hand. It’s just very entertaining.

      You’ll probably like space combat then. It does offer its own challenges and style of fun. If I hadn’t been constantly driven to do my class quest line to see what happens next, I may have done more space stuff.


  11. Man I’ve been waiting awhile to read this. We’ve chatted about the game a few times but its nice to see it all in one big o’ wall-o-text.

    I started testing again because I’ll be damned if I let game mechanics stop me from playing with everyone. With that said however I do have a few small issues. PvP being the big one. Yes the ‘fight club’ area has been announced for Tatooine, and I think that’s a great idea, but for a game with the awesome powers of Mythic + BioWare combined I’m still expecting more to be done on the PvP front.

    Its not bad, I actually like that 10-50s are all queued together, that prevents your level from being an inhibitor of having fun with friends. What we have now is okay (love me some Huttball), but surely BioWare must agree they can do more. Sate my Bloodlust!!

    That, and I’m so, so, disappointed with Space-Combat. I know its a side thing but I still can’t help but feel it would be amazing if redesigned at a later time to a fully fleshed out feature.

    On a happier note, while the combat isn’t anything to write home about BioWare’s story and companions are. While some of the story is very cliche (Lookin’ at you Trooper introduction), there are many “Oh SHI- moments” and “WOW” moments throughout what little bit of the game I’ve tested.

    I just love the Companions though. Everytime T7 chirps to me I can’t help but smile, he adds a whole new layer to the game for me, even without actual English dialog. (And I haven’t even gotten to his actual Storyline/Quests yet, I just love that Droid :D)


    • Playing with friends is the best part of MMOs :) I’ve gone and played MMOs that I was okay with but wasn’t crazy about, just because my buddies were there too. Rift, for example. And well, with time you saw how much I actually enjoyed the game.

      I hope PvP will improve at launch, and some of it might just come with a lot more people being involved in it. BioWare just needs to give PvPers and non-PvPers alike more incentive to participate.

      And I can see space combat being expanded in the future, but for now it serves its purpose as a side mini game, I suppose. I know I wasn’t so positive about it in my write up, but I have to say if you don’t feel like questing or if you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the game, space combat is the perfect activity. It’s fast and fun.


  12. BW had to give and lift NDA while I was in Vegas at Minecon.

    I’m going to give my two cents in PvP. I’m a hardcore PvPer, coming from Darkfall and Age of Conan. I love open world PvP in TOR. I also very much enjoy Alderaan warzone. I’d like Huttball if I were better at passing, which leads me to my next point.

    I think a lot of people are frustrated with TOR PvP in beta because they require coordination and strategy that is almost impossible without voice comm like Ventrillo. I think come launch when guilds are on vent, PvP will become much more enjoyable. We as a guild identified others during test who we were sure were on voice services during warzone. It is frustrating to lose however once everyone is on xn even playing field I think some opinions will change.

    PVP can be improved. We need several more warzones. However I don’t agree at all that PvP feels tacked on.


    • OMG! Last time I post from my phone! Sorry for the errors! ;) Delete post if you wish. Damn autocorrect!


      • Right now, I can’t imagine how PvP can feel satisfying when you are pretty much at the mercy of pugs. There is no premade, no coordination – that I am aware of -, just people thrown together running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I think this belief is probably why I steered clear of PvP in my beta weekend. I just don’t see how these warzones can be anything more than a fiasco until people learn the mechanics, and groups can be formed who know each other, and have a strategy.


    • Oh definitely, warzones in SWTOR require knowledge of the rules and some strategy. Huttball especially. I’ve seen the Republic lose so many times not being of lack of skill, but because people don’t know how to do things like pass the ball or they run the wrong way to score the point against themselves.

      And yes to more warzones…


  13. Wanna hear the most depressing thing ever? So while i’m expecting no beta time, and putting my resources into moving into this brand new house, badaboom, i finally get some internet up *albeit it, shite wireless aircard net* and i get into my inbox just for crits and giggles since EVERYONE AND THEIR MAMA has been gettin into beta weekend……lo and behold….i had an invite for last weekend…..i cried myself to sleep, and i’m still crying like frickin 3 days later, i WONDER if i can A> Still get into THIS weekends and B> actually play the game with this ancient 2007 P.O.S. i calla desktop computer, oh much less the connection, sign me up for suicide watch :(.

    Aside from that, your write up was everything i expected and more, and for the record, definitely worth waiting an entire summer JUST to get to this point :)


    • Aww noes…hopefully you will still get to play. Might be pushing it on your computer, but I know the devs kept their specs on the low side so it can be handled by many types of rigs. The game might not look too hot, but a 2007 desktop does have a good chance of running it.

      And yes, it’s amazing isn’t it, after so long the game has finally opened up and we will be seeing launch in less than a month! :D


  14. Great article,

    Love how you tell your own experience and not giving away spoilers.

    I guess i’ll be lost in space soon :-)


    • I try not to give away spoilers, and if I do I always post a warning…for a game like SWTOR, I think it’s going to be important :D


  15. Awesome writeup! It was fun to see screens of Sha’Lanni Steeltoes in action! (Even if you were covering up Nadea in the last one!)

    I won’t go into too much personal detail about the finer points of the game. What I will say is that I have been testing for a year now, and in all that time, with all those character wipes and re rolls and the myriad of bugs and half finished content, I have yet to get bored to the point that I just don’t want to play anymore. I might get tired of a class (on my sixth playthrough of it), but I never seem to be able to keep myself away.

    If it perfect? No, it’s not. It has a lot of flaws, and shortcoming, and things I feel they will regret come live. Space combat feels tacked on. PvP is shallow. Crafting is not as immersive as those weaned on SWG will want. But once you step back, and look at the whole game – once you can see the forest instead of the trees – it’s an amazing game and experience.

    Let me also say about the things that aren’t very good right now. I have had the good fortune to see this game evolve over the last year, and one thing I am confident in is that the developers are listening, and making changes based on community feedback. There are a handful of things I could point out that are in game now, which the developers originally said they would not do. But we wanted it, we asked repeatedly, and they did the right thing. Space, PvP, crafting – it might not be what we want. But it will continue to evolve to change based on community feedback, and I imagine within 6 months we will see a lot of patches, expansions and updates that will make all these systems worlds better. In the meantime, just relax and enjoy the ride!


    • I hear you about the replayability…I have yet to get bored either. I played both the smuggler and trooper multiple times and each time I try something different like dark side/light side and get to see new things.

      I agree with you the overall picture — and I hope readers realize despite the nitpicky things I have to say, I look at the whole game and I have to say BioWare has achieved something great. At launch, I hope to see some of the little things get hammered out, like bugs and minor glitches, because those things if anything are what might discourage prospective players. Like, I don’t care if I don’t enjoy a certain feature, but I do ask that it works! :)


  16. [...] long, and it is interesting. If like me, you haven’t had the chance to play SWTOR yet; then this is where you need to start. You’ll be better informed and better prepared to begin your [...]


  17. Appreciate the write up and all the various point of view. Since i’ve always remained neutral and never much a die hard fan of SW i’ve just kept a certain expectation looking at the game. I’ll probably have to re-read the post again, though at this point i get the feeling that its more like WoW (theme park) and nothing that really revolutionary though some improvements at the MMO level. I’m still waiting and hoping for the next advancement in MMO games.

    I might try the game eventually at some point…..maybe in being openminded! But in all honesty from what i have read here and in other places as the opinions are all over the net now the NDA is lifted, i’m not really swayed emotionally in any real direction to make a choice on a game that i’ve had neutral feelings towards for some time. I’m still stuck at neutral and i guess that probably means i’m likely not to make any decision whatsoever for a while. Nothing lost or gained in my expectations really of the game, after all i’m just neutral.


    • The only things I would say are “different”, “innovative” and “revolutionary” are the story, companions, and conversations and all that good stuff about “story matters”. There are some other creative stuff thrown in there that I’ve never seen before, but those are the biggies. Basically it’s what BW has always marketed, and I don’t think they ever claimed to be taking the game far beyond that. They stuck to their strengths, and they do what they do very well indeed.


  18. [...] MMO Gamer Chick writes a very thorough preview and explains why she loved it, but also notes that it isn’t a revolutionary game. I’m a gamer of fairly flexible tastes, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with this game. Despite some nitpicky issues I had, in general my overall view of SWTOR is extremely positive. […] as you level up, the combat gets a lot more interesting. By the mid 20s, I was really getting into it. And by 50, I was having a ton of fun. [Planets] are HUGE. So huge, you will be crying tears of joy by the time you get to buy your first speeder. Quest indicators on the map are almost a necessity; otherwise, the game is so big you’d never be able to figure out where to go. [...]


  19. I think that you expressed my sentiments very well. I’m also quite pleased with most of the aspects of the game. I think that there are several things that need some polish and others that need to be repaired or removed altogether. Your preview is quite fair and I really like that you refrained from embelishing on the story and in the areas where you spent little time (like space combat and PvP). Other than the story, I believe that the social and group components are where this game really shine. I look forward to your future article about that aspect in the game.


    • Heh heh, I think it just goes to show how much there is to do in this game, that despite months in testing I still haven’t had the chance to go in depth with every single feature in SWTOR.

      The story, oh man, how I wish I could have written more though. But then I run the risk of running into spoiler country.


  20. One question, I’m a major UI whore… if you play as Empire, does the color of the UI change? Because honestly, I love blue as a color, but that dipped-in-smurf-blood UI would likely just drive me completely bonkers.

    Great write-up, I love the objective frame of mind with which you approach your testing efforts. :D


    • It’s been a couple builds since I last played Empire, but no I don’t think the color of the UI changes. In fact, it’s a change that’s actually been requested by many, if I’m not mistaken. I agree, a nice red UI for my Sith characters would be awesome :D I’m kind of a big UI whore too, I love to customize! It drove me bonkers that the SWTOR UI was so limited.


  21. [...] all know the story will end at some point. As MMOGC said in her beta review post, her Smuggler story ended almost the second she got to 50. She also said she didn’t have [...]


  22. As a long time beta tester, I can finally post my comments regarding SWTOR. So many things have been exaggerated in the press, and incorrect information spread throughout the fan sites. And please, this is just my opinion, not trying to pass anything off as the only truth. But, I think I’m seeing things a bit differently than the author.

    First, there’s only one truly unique story/path per faction. Roughly 90% of the game is shared by all classes from the same faction. Leveling up an alt of the same faction is brutal. There’s really very little replay-ability with this game, contrary to what BW might tell you.

    Related to this, all classes have been mirrored, again killing replay-ability. A JK will play exactly the same as a SW. They literally renamed the same abilities for each side. This effectively cuts playable classes down to 4 unique classes.

    Both of these items add up to one play through each faction, and then set the game down. Of course, you might not make it that far if you’re not fooled by the “revolutionary story feature”.

    Story, it’s ok if you like watching a movie and not actually doing anything. After a few weeks of playing, I started to skip all conversations and cut-scenes. It’s really just a thinly veiled disquise of the normal quest acceptance text. And, I know for me, I’d much rather be out questing than reading text or watchintg a movie.

    One thing the conversations and cut-scenes do though, is give players the illusion that there’s more content than there actually is. There’s actually much fewer quests than you might believe.

    Speaking of conversations, decisions don’t affect your story or the game whatsoever. There is literally one linear path from start to end, of which you cannot deviate. Decisions don’t branch your story, so all your decisions do is affect your light/dark (and affection) points. It was a good concept, but failed execution.

    Light/Dark points is also a good concept that wasn’t well executed. It’s sad that all it becomes is faction rep for gear. There are no consequences to going one side over the other. There’s no mistreatment for being dark, or taking quests from both sides, or defecting to the opposite faction. LS/DS also makes no sense for classes like smugglers or bounty hunters.

    As far as a linear path, it’s frustrating for a 2011 game to be so hand-held and restrictive. There are no other paths that can be taken to get from start to end. You have to move from planet to planet, on a pre-determined path. It would be nice to have different planets to level on, but that goes against your linear “story” (eye-roll).

    Flashpoints with stories are a great idea, until you want to replay them. Once or twice through a flashpoint and most people will be sick of it. I guess BW doesn’t want players to farm end-game flashpoints either, as the story really works against that notion.

    The planets are much smaller than they appear. Just because they’re called a “planet” doesn’t mean that’s the size. They actually remind me of mini zones, and feel much smaller than in other games. There are so many invisible walls and inaccessible locations. But, even on planets where there is more space, there ends up being no reason to explore. There are no hidden quest hubs, cool features, easter eggs, etc, to find. It’s just copy/paste scenery, mobs, etc.

    Another planet issue is the lack of phasing. While there are pros/cons to phasing, SWTOR really lacks immersion and consequences. Sometimes you’re tasked with clearing the area of the opposing faction, but when you come back, they’re still there! It would be great if your actions actually meant something.

    Space combat is ok, but it’s very disconencted from the rest of the game. They could have just as easily implemented a shuttle system to serve the same purpose.

    Player combat is somewhat boring, but normal for games of this genre. The problem is the mobs are extremely easy and predictable. They’re always standing in the same spot, and react the same way. Again, this is fairly normal for these games, but it just feels really boring in SWTOR.

    I’m torn on crafting. I like that you can send companions to gather resources, but crafting seems to be time intensive for no reason. You can only craft a few things at a time, which is annoying, but I’d rather just craft them myself. Instead your companion comes back every few minutes to bother you with a message that he’s done. It doesn’t free people up that much, and would be about equal in the time to craft was decreased. It’s just an odd system with no purpose but to flaunt companions.

    And companions, I don’t see much of a difference between those and pets of other games. They’re still limited to what they specialize in, can’t be picked in any order, and all look the same. It would have been much better to choose your own and spec them yourself. Once you get a few, you find most are useless anyways, and end up staying with one or two, while the others become your slave. And it’s not like you can stand around and chat with them. They always give the same static response, unless there’s a specific quest having to do with them.

    And now to what’s missing….pretty much something to do besides quest/pvp/craft. There are zero things to do if you get bored with the normal grind. There are no side activities, no fun things to discover. I think people are going to need things to do when they reach end-game as well. Rolling another toon most likely won’t be an option, as mentioned previously. For me, I’d just like something different to do once in a while….gambling, racing, fishing (if they actually had water in the game)…lol.

    I do like the modding system, if they could decide on a way to implement it. This is probably the only refreshing idea in the game. Being able to mod your gear and make it useful for multiple levels is great. But, it definitely cuts down on the need for crafting gear, and I’d suggest everyone craft mods/enhancements.

    Most people hate the character creation options, but I don’t mind them. I’m not a big RP’er, but it is annoying for almost everyone to look the same. I typically stick with one set of features I like. The only gripe I have is the playable races. Obviously cyborg is stupid, but everything is just humans of different colors. Where’s the weird races we’re used to with star wars?

    In conclusion…phew…This game might be ok in a year or so, after more features are added. But, for now,it’s definitely sub-par, not at all meeting the features or content of any current games, and possibly not justifying a monthly sub.


    • That’s the great thing about MMOs, the fact that different people can play the same game but can come away with such different opinions and points of view. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even if I didn’t experience much of the game the same way.

      I do agree with a few points — leveling alts can be brutal, but it is brutal in many other MMOs especially those that don’t provide too many alternate paths to leveling. SWTOR unfortunately falls into this description. However, I’ve also had no problems replaying the same classes month after month in this game, mostly because I’ve been able to spot little differences in the dialogue depending on whether I play male/female, human/alien, darkside/lightside, solo/grouped, etc. Little things, I admit, but it’s the little things I do pay attention to, and it (mostly) keeps me from spacebarring through all the conversations :)

      Light/Dark side points can also be done better — I don’t like the fact either that it’s more of a rep grind than anything. I actually have a future post planned for this, offering my views on why I think no “grey” rewards for neutral players is a problem.

      About the linear path though…I have to agree and disagree. The story doesn’t branch as much as I’d hoped, true, and I had wanted to see some major consequences from choosing one thing or another, but that didn’t really happen the way I’d expected. Especially since BioWare removed some of the more “drastic” story features, such as no killing your companion and not having them leave you etc. But still, I know you said you’re a long time tester, so you’ve probably made it quite far into your class stories. Did you really not see “branches” in your story? Maybe it’s the class, but I definitely saw some differences depending on the decisions I made — even the fact I played a female character made some difference at the end of my class story. It’s what made my first entire playthrough so amazing to me.

      Flashpoints I also agree with the repetitiveness — but that’s sort of like the bane of any MMO. At least the darkside/lightside decisions make it better — I’ve gone through some instances many many times and still have not been able to see some of the dark side consequences, because as many times as I roll dark, someone in my group always plays the goody two shoes and wins the roll :) With that and the story, I would rather run SWTOR instances multiple times than do the same thing with a WoW heroic, which is even more bland and repetitive imo.

      And planets — more easter eggs and secret features would be great, but I also don’t think it’s fair to say there’s no reason to explore. Might be just me though, I was obsessed with hunting datacrons in beta, and it bugged me whenever I saw my codex for a planet incomplete. I’d go everywhere to try and hunt down those last few entries!

      Space combat is something I’d love to see them expand upon in the future. Right now, I agree it’s totally accurate to say it’s disconnected from the game, but I think that’s how they planned it in the first place — a side mini-game really, something to pass the time whenever you’re bored. It’s fun for what it is, but as it is, it’s almost an afterthought, isn’t it?

      I’m not generally a fan of crafting in any game, I’ve yet to find an MMO which has really gotten me into it, so I didn’t feel it was fair for me to go too deep into my commentary of it. I’m glad to see your thoughts on it though. I do think the system’s unique, but still just not enough to pull me in.

      I have to disagree with your opinion on companions though — which is okay. Mine simply have been a complete joy to have around, and it’s also just so funny to share stories with your guildies about your companion’s shenanigans, even if they are of the same class as you. They give you quests but as you gain affection they also initiate conversations with you (dragon age style, I suppose) which just seem to be there to give you more background info about them and to gain affection points. Most of them have been really funny or interesting though, and I also love how they sometimes insert themselves in your class quests and involve themselves in your conversations. There just seems to be so many ways you can go with them, so I guess this is where I saw things completely differently than you. And though I ended up with all five of my companions with my smuggler, I did mostly only use one or two of them when soloing. However, having a choice between so many did come in handy when I paired up with other players, depending on our group make up and what we needed. I didn’t like the fact I got my healing character last though, as a dps gunslinger I could have used him early on.

      BTW, speaking of companions, something happened with the latest patch or something, my companions now are extremely mouthy, and during combat they won’t shut the hell up and it even gets annoying.

      As to what other things you can do in SWTOR — see my other response to you in another post. Though aside from the social stuff, I know what you mean. As you can probably guess, I am a pretty big achievement junkie/completionist in MMOs. That’s why I loved doing things like hunting datacrons or codex entries — that’s definitely stuff I found I could do when I didn’t feel like leveling/crafting/pvp, etc. I could always use more though. In WoW, I would collect pets, for example. In LOTRO, I liked to collect holiday mounts or outfits. In Rift, same deal with the pets and mounts, or I would try to get achievements. That’s something I would love to see more of in SWTOR too.

      And about the mod system…just curious, how long have you been testing? I love that system too. Early on, many pieces I came across were moddable. It was great, since I liked keeping nice gear and being able to keep it on by upgrading it with mods. And then there was the build where they took it out almost completely, only allowing it on certain pieces, and I didn’t often get to pick up many of those. I was really disappointed with that. The newest incarnation of the system is something between the two, which I suppose is sufficient. It makes crafting mods less of a lucrative profession now though, so I wouldn’t really recommend that crew skill over any other (slicing is really the way to go if you want credits!)


  23. [...] to add a perspective, the comment by Gaghoots has been copied and pasted to other blogs under different names. It takes away a bit of the legitimization to it, but it still has some good points. Either it was [...]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,298 other followers