Monday, November 28, 2011

SWTOR: Quick Impressions

Like practically every other MMO gamer out there I played in the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta this weekend.  I'll have a bigger post up later this week, but here is some of what I took away from the beta:

Positive:

  • The classes tend to be more fun than they sound "on paper".  I had no interest in the Smuggler or Jedi Consular until I tried them, and now I have no idea what I'll play at release!
  • The companions are game-changing as far as the solo experience goes.  They aren't your usual pets that either can take hits but do no damage or deal damage but die in seconds.  My Jedi Consular's starting companion hit like a mack truck and had more hit points than I did.  Suddenly content that was impossible became doable.
  • The voice dialog is well done, and I don't care what the naysayers say, having a character that not only speaks with a voice but says what I choose for him is a huge immersion bonus.  Interactive audio quest info is far more engaging than ye olde wall o' text.  And no, EQ2 did not already do this.  This is exponentially more voice dialog than EQ2 ever had.
  • Combat is a lot faster than I expected.
  • The class quests are pretty cool, and the special story instances work.  There's no load time to enter them, sometimes a slight stutter, often completely seamless.
  • The zones are huge and feel pretty epic.  Standing on Coruscant with speeder traffic zipping all around is pretty amazing.
  • The game is immersive.  Despite being a themepark it has a "world-y" feel to it, the game doesn't go out of its way to intrude beyond floating icons over some NPCs, and even those are pretty muted compared to some games.
  • The cover mechanic used by Smugglers and Agents is something I'd like to see more of.  I wish all the characters could do it!
  • Multiple bind points -- you can quick travel (hearth) to ANY location on the planet you've previously bound to, not just the most recent like in most games.  That's a huge plus to moving around.  Sadly you can't quick travel to other planets (or if you can, I don't know how).
  • Fighting 1 - 3 mobs at a time is cool, and SWTOR does it way better than City of Heroes.  Combat is just fun, and I didn't mind diverging from my path to take out packs of enemies while on my way somewhere else.  In fact, I often had to make myself STOP diverging, or I'd never get to where I was going.
  • Exploring can pay off, I found a security chest with a nice green item in it off the beaten path.
  • Sound and graphics -- it's Star Wars, you're not going to mistake it for anything else.
Negative:
  • With release looming fast it still has some bugs and quirks, some of which I'm not sure if they're bugs or just really weird design decisions.  Case in point, my first companion had a massive Aim stat (used for ranged weapons) but was unable to equip a ranged weapon -- he could only use melee weapons, but had really low strength.
  • Blaster bolts will follow the target if it moves after you fire.  It looks really terrible.  I don't mind that happening for magic in other games, or Force powers in this game, or missiles, but blaster bolts aren't guided projectiles.  I know they can't "miss" or this would become a twitch game, but I'd rather they graphically miss and statistically hit, then bend around corners and follow fleeing targets.  It's easier to suspend my disbelief.
  • I hope you like running, because this game is going to make you do a LOT of it.  Not courier quests (thank god!) just a lot of exploring and running to quest givers and traveling to new areas.  Some classes have it worse than others - my Jedi Consular, for instance, had to run back to the Jedi Temple to report in person every time he completed a class quest.  Other classes (such as the Trooper and Jedi Knight) get to use a communicator instead.
  • Global chat needs to be turned off the moment you log in.  It's like Barrens chat but without all the class.
  • I would like to be able to rearrange the UI components (especially the companion window) but couldn't figure out how.  I could move the chat box and that was it.
  • There's not enough quest content at any given level range.  You really want to be level 10 by the time you leave the starter planet, but getting there seems to require doing every single quest AND killing as many mobs along the way as you can.  That doesn't bode well for the higher levels.
  • I won't get to play again until it releases, and that sucks.
I am still looking forward to the game, and it's meeting my pretty reasonable expectations.  For the most part I'd say it's exceeded my expectations, so that's a nice change.  I'd recommend SWTOR to anyone who likes quest oriented, class based, level grinding PvE games -- SWTOR will likely be one of the best games in this genre.  I would not recommend SWTOR to anyone who is hates WoW and all games like it -- if this is you, SWTOR is not your game.

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