Can you feel it? Yes the force is coming, it is a bit early to gauge its strength but it is definitely on its way. One by one classic scifi franchises have either attempted to (Stargate Worlds) or have already entered (Star Trek Online) the Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) universe. So it is no surprise that a classic with the weight and following as Star Wars, that LucasArts have officially decided to wet their feet in the MMORPG realm as well with Star Wars The Old Republic “SWTOR” (seeing that Sony has already released two other Star Wars titles “Star Wars Galaxies” pay to play (P2P) and “Star Wars Clone Wars” (F2P).
The beta was for the most part a smooth process, doing its job by giving testers a taste of what they can look forward to from SWTOR or perhaps reasons to avoid it. After the invasion cinematic SWTOR takes the basic MMORPG approach by giving the player the option if they want to play on a Player versus Environment (PvE) server for all you care bears out there who would rather hug each other than kill each other or a Player versus Player (PvP) server for all those who belief they should be able to kill anything that moves which resides outside their city gates or those stupid enough to enter the gates (having some World Of Warcraft city raids flashbacks). Not sure if they were offering Role Playing (RP) servers I was too busy trying to find a server that was not full, the beta had almost all the servers full and I saw at least 15 servers which is a good sign, as that means that straight out of the gate SWTOR is looking to be able to support a large population thus should be less waiting times and/or server lags when it is officially out. What I found unique though is that on the EU server side they had servers for specific languages I recall seeing some servers in German I can’t say I have seen that before.
Choose your side and Character Creation
After choosing your allegiance to either Jedi or Sith you see that SWTOR took the cartoonish graphical approach, it seems that they are playing it safe and trying not to make the mistake that Age Of Conan (AOC) made when it was released. Even though AOC was graphically beautiful its hardware requirements at the time were a bit demanding and I think that cost them some subscribers who may have been generally interested in the game but didn’t have the hardware requirements. So this in a way is a smart move on SWTOR side.
As for character creation and class selection I had no qualms with the options for physical appearance as limited as they were there are other titles out there which are even more limited. My issues were with the unique traits of each race, they just didn’t seem overall beneficial or practical e.g. Cyborg are able to scan down a friendly target and I’m yet to see the benefit of that. As to be expected there are the usually class choices since I choose Sith as my Allegiance their melee type (Saber Wielders) Sith Warrior, their casters type (great manipulators of the force) Sith Inquisitor the only some what new (for those who don’t know Tabula Rasa) addition are the medium and long range shooters the Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent.
Voice Acting and decision making system
SWTOR has opted for majority voice acting something which has become a trend now. After all who likes to read anyway? The voice acting is decent for some the constant cinematic may feel a bit imposing and the skipping through pieces of dialog to get to the end of a conversation can be a bit annoying this usual occurs when one has done the quest before and know what is going to be said already. SWTOR also decided to implement the decision making system something that has become popular in RPG titles such as Fable and Mass Effect I’m not too sure why this was placed in a MMORPG but I guess they are trying to balance both the story aspect, lore, pvp to make an overall balanced package.
Since I was busy during the beta and I was juggling three characters I didn’t get to a point to see the benefit of being good or bad aside from ones preference, of course the two decisions have different outcomes but I just don’t see how that would have a lasting impression on End Game play. Then again there are three levels of the decisions system one which affects you alone (storyline and how much money you make), one which affects which kind of items you can use later down in the game (I can clearly see how this could affect End Game) and lastly ones that affect the relationship between you and your companion.
Yes you read that right your companion SWTOR has a companion system something almost similar to how one could purchase NPC to quest with them in Guild Wars if one couldn’t find actually gaming partners. SWTOR has a companion system where everyone receives different companion depending on their storyline which basically boils down to a pet or a summon which follows you throughout the game which effectively makes the game easier to solo in certain aspects especially if one has a companion like “Mako” who can heal you “aaahh that Mako such a life saver” they level with you and since they come with their own moves and you can equip them with items similarly how one could equip their body guard/mercenary in Diablo 2 Expansion I think its safe to say that they may learn new abilities also.
Skills and Questing
I liked the pace at which skills were acquired throughout the game I think I learned a skill at every level which is very promising as I’m one that is not fond of being stuck with the same piece of gear or the same moves for several levels (a large reason why I tend to avoid free to play F2P MMORPGs) the controls on the other hand felt a bit awkward I’m not sure if its because I haven’t played a MMORPG with this type of mechanism in a while, floating around in space may have contributed to that (Eve Online). The overall questing system is pretty straight forward with a built it quest tracker which also seems to have become a trend (back in the days if you didn’t read properly or just didn’t understand the quest you were kinda done for or may be heading online to download a quest tracker mod) but it would seem since MMORPGs are trying to be more mainstream friendly a quest tracker has become one of the default questing features.
I also liked how the map changed in opacity as you moved so you could have your map up and yet be able move around since it did not completely obscure the screen and as soon as you stopped moving the map would go back to full detail. Some of the quests can become a bit cluttered at times with several individuals waiting to kill the same main NPC or you reach an area just to find that all the NPCs you need to kill for a quest are laying on the ground dead fortunately the re-spawn rate on the NPCs are relatively fast so normal NPCs are usually back up in no time but perhaps SWTOR should have considered a “channel system” which are used by some titles like Aion to be able to switch to a different channel if too many people are doing the quest on the channel that you are on, usually this can also be fixed by simply inviting others to form a group but some people may get left out as I noticed the total amount for a group were four people instead of the usual five, I’m not sure if that was just a beta thing.
Overall I like the questing system certain areas are challenging if one underestimates or overlook aggressive NPCs in the general area can lead to ones death and the stronger NPCs which are distinguished by variations of Silver and Gold frames around their avatars and some of the instance bosses also pack a nice punch so hesitation and or just not paying attention can lead to your death. So overall the questing system is pretty much what one would come to expect from a MMORPG what I did not like and hope they will fix is the variety in quests I only played Sith and I didn’t get to play all four classes but I noticed that the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor basically have the same quests with slight altercations in the goal but the same quest giver, the same location, the same objective but the dialouge with the quest giver would be different and the rewards would also different but overall it was the same thing something which I found shabby.
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