Star Wars: The Old Republic – Beta Test Review

I spent the last three days beta testing this anticipated MMORPG.  Read on for my impressions!

From the moment the game begins, Star Wars: The Old Republic hooks you in with the opening cinematic for whichever faction you choose. Most of you have seen these before, so let’s move on shall we?

Character Creation

What I loved about this area of the game was that in true Bioware style, players are allowed to customize their characters quite a lot whether they choose to play as an alien or a human.  I must admit, it was interesting to see the various sizes and facial features of the characters that other people created.

The hard part for me initially, was choosing which class I was going to play.  I’d been thinking about this for months but as soon as I got to the screen, everything looked good.  For this beta I chose a Jedi Consular Sage on the Republic side and a Rattataki Bounty Hunter on the Sith side, though I think I will choose the Sith Inquisitor when the game is live.  Why?  Well, this video will show you what inspired me.

She is so freaking evil and powerful!  I can’t wait to melt faces with force lightning!  What!?  But don’t sleep on the Consular either.

Every single class in this game has really cool attributes and uniqueness that I can only hope they don’t tamper with (read nerf).

Gameplay

The first thing I noticed was the questing and the way it progresses.  In all of my MMORPG experiences, my character finds a quest giver and is sent to an area to complete the objectives of the quest.  When I return to the quest giver, I am rewarded with experience points and possibly an item.  The same quest giver then gives a follow up quest for the same area that I just fought my way out of.  That infuriates me to no end and there have been multiple occasions where I have said aloud, “Why didn’t you give me this so that I could do it while I was there?”

Have no fear, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, that will not be an issue, EVER!  *fist pump*  The quest givers that will send you to certain areas are near each other or on your way to the zone that you need to get to.  The result?  You get all the quests you need in that area at once, and as soon as you enter the zone, you get additional bonus quests for the mobs that you need to kill on your way to your objectives.  These bonus quests are completed automatically and don’t require a visit to an actual quest giver.  A droid simply appears next to you, scans you and gives you XP or an additional quest while you tackle your main goals.

As far as the look of the game, I noticed several issues with rendering textures, but I chalked that up to the fact that this was a Beta test, specifically, they were stress testing, so I won’t make a huge deal out of that.

Storyline

Each class plays through a specific storyline that accompanies the main quests of the game.  What I liked about the questing and interactions between certain NPCs was the fact that you don’t sit there and read a quest.  The quest giver actually talks to you and when you choose your response, your character talks back.  This kept my attention a lot longer because it felt like a conversation and not just a wall of boring text.

The way the class stories play out, you feel a sense of urgency and importance to complete them.  If you’ve played a lot of MMOs, you’re familiar with the feeling of grinding, I didn’t have a sense of that with this game.  Everything you do feels important and has an impact on the world.  Choose to kill off a bunch of threatening beasts and an NPC will remark on the fact that their population is shrinking.  Choose to let them live, and the NPCs will complain about them being over run.

There are so many story arcs available to you and there are many opportunities to make choices that will give you light side or dark side points.  When you are in a group, interesting game mechanics take place.  First, your interface will track where they are with quests.  It will show the areas on the map that they need and list their name so that you know where to go if you need to help them.  It also tracks their count on kill quests (flashing it over their heads as mobs are destroyed) helping the group to know who needs how many of what.  Additionally, if you are in a group and you’ve completed a quest, your entire party can have the conversation with the quest giver and there is a dice roll to see which party member’s response will be chosen.  I much preferred that over waiting for other players to finish talking to the NPC.  In this format, everyone is involved.

Companions

When I got my companions, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect.  The moment they began fighting alongside me I raised an eye brow of approval.  Companions are more than just “pets.”  They are chosen to compliment your class.  As a Consular (read cloth wearer), I was vulnerable to attacks from groups of mobs, so my companion serves as a tank, and he wears heavy armor (that I can upgrade and customize with equipment found, purchased or selected as quest rewards throughout the game).

As was common in other Bioware titles, companions have their own personalities and you can influence their opinion/affection by choosing the responses they would approve of in conversations or by giving them gifts.  Careful though, you have to give them the right gift or you won’t improve your level.

The command bar for your companion is straightforward and they level and gain new abilities with you, so keep an eye out for that and add or activate the new skills as applicable.

One of the more unique things about companions is that you can send them off on missions for your various professions.  I chose Diplomacy, Artifice and Archaeology.  I could send the protocol droid from my space ship (yes, you get your own ship that you can upgrade and perform combat mission in) off on missions to up my level while I quested.  I could also send my tanking companion out on missions at the same time if I was just out exploring to open the map.  Additionally, if I need to, let’s say, mine a node, it’s my companion who actually does that or crafts whatever I need.  I don’t think my guy would do the dishes though…  But if I could find a way for him to destroy general chat, hmm…

Interface

If you’ve played MMO’s, you’re used to downloading lots of add ons or interfaces to make playing the game easier.  In this title, it seems that Bioware is trying to eliminate some of the need for these extra programs.  The interface has a built in Quest Helper and allows you to easily track whatever you want on the map, from resources, to trainers, mail boxes, auction houses, you name it.

For those completely new to the genre, there is a window that will instruct you on how to perform the basic functions of the game.  Fortunately, you can minimize or even close this window so that it’s out of the way.

All in all, I liked the interface because it gives you an idea of where to find the things you need in an area, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it by tracking individual mobs or making them glitter like a Twilight vampire

Environments/Worlds

The environments and worlds of the Star Wars universe are diverse.  The fact that you can go to different planets and even to space stations, cruisers and other ships makes for many different kinds of experiences.  Each map, zone and area that I quested through felt large, huge even, and it took a bit of time to navigate through the various terrain.  Even still, you find a lot of familiar features on alien planets as far as landscape goes, but the beasts and other life forms are what make the difference.

Overall

I could talk about this game for three weeks straight and still not cover everything and I don’t really want to list it all here.  The fun will be in the discovery as you play it for yourself.  Going into this beta, I heard TONS of negative feedback from others, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’m so glad I played it for myself.

The best way for me to describe this experience is that Star Wars: TOR is at its core, a very involved RPG that just happens to take place online with lots of other people.  It takes all of the good aspects of an MMO and tries to improve them, while adding the in depth, choose you own adventure style of gameplay that we’ve come to expect in a Bioware project, and as is always the case with this developer, the voice acting is excellent.

I’ve already pre-ordered this game and I’m really looking forward to playing it for awhile.  It’s new, well thought out, overcoming certain obstacles requires thought and the skills and abilities are varied and complementary.

So who wants to play?  *Force persuade*  You want to play this game with Digital Distraction.  *Force choke*  I said play the game!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Slasher443
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 12:35:13

    Sounds good. I’m in.

    Reply

  2. Improven
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 16:21:49

    I shall play again! – Improven

    Reply

  3. Improven
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 22:07:12

    All i see is fire and brimstone!!!!! NOOO SULPHUR! NOOOO *the after effects of force mind meld*

    Reply

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