I have sort of an on-again off-again relationship with MMORPGs. I have played WOW multiple times over the years, mostly relating to the release of new expansions, and I also beta-tested and bought Rift. I continue to play Eve Online (watch here for impressions of the new Crucible “expansion” later) but other than WOW, I have never played an MMO to the level cap. My curiosity was piqued by SW:TOR mainly due to the fact that BioWare would be developing the game. For those of you who are not familiar with the name, BioWare is responsible for some, if not most, of the best RPG’s of the last two console generations, and additionally, they have previously handled the Star Wars license with their Knights of the Old Republic tiles, which were amazing. Needless to say, when I got the opportunity to join in the beta-testing, I was thrilled, and what follows are some of the impressions I got from the beta. It should be noted that I am not going to be giving SW:TOR an official score as this is a pre-release product and I personally wouldn’t find that fair.
First and foremost, the game is an excellent representation of the license. Keep in mind that it takes place around a thousand years before Luke and Vader and everyone tore it up on the screen, at a time when the conflict between the Sith Empire and the Republic is at a boiling point. This allows for the large numbers of Jedi and Sith in the game, as both were much more common at that time in the universe. When you start the game, you choose your server, and what side you want to be on, Sith Empire or Galactic Republic, and then begins the class selection and character customization process. The class names are different for each side, but the four choices are mirrored from one side to the other and are as follows: Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor, Republic Trooper/Bounty Hunter, and Smuggler/Imperial Agent. In the first portion of the beta, I went against my usual tendency to play a “Good Guy” and started a Sith Warrior. The class is primarily Melee based, and uses the force mostly for damage mitigation and range control. My game began on Korriban, the Sith homeworld, at the Academy. While running around performing tasks for some of the Academy instructors, I found that the cutscenes in which mission information is provided were excellent, and the voice acting in the majority of the scenes was very well done. I actually ended up paying attention to the story lines, which are pretty cool, particularly on the Imperial Agent. Starting out with a single vibrosword, my character was eventually presented with her own lightsaber, and eventually, as i chose the Marauder advanced class, a second lightsaber as well. In the beta the lightsaber you receive initially levels with you, and its stats improve as you progress. You can apply different upgrades to the weapon to increase the damage or your base stats according to how you play. Overall, my time with the Sith Warrior class was a great time, and as I continually chose the Dark Side options when available, I truly felt like an evil Sith crushing all resistance.
My next class was the Republic Smuggler, and I was curious to see whether playing a class without the use of the force would make me long for a lightsaber at my side and lightning at my fingertips. I can honestly say that I didn’t once get teary-eyed over my lack of Force abilities. The blaster abilities, use of cover, and gadgets like grenades made the class thouroughly enjoyable, and offered multiple options for approaching each combat situation. I played the smuggler toward the center of the moral scale, with the idea that he was all about the money, with an occasional twinge of sympathy for someone’s plight. One of the testaments to the quality of the story lines is the fact that I even had this thought process in the first place. The full audio dialogue an cutscenes for the mission conversations, along with selectable responses, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age go a long way to make the story more intersting than your standard WOW text box that everyone just ignores.
After having played a couple of different characters in multiple builds of the Beta Test, I can definitely say that if you are a fan of Star Wars, BioWare, or MMO’s you should at least check the game out, it offers the social fun of WOW with the production values you’re used to from BioWare, and wraps it up in an awesome Star Wars package. The release is Dec. 20th, and if you haven’t already pre-ordered it, get on over to Origin and do so now!.