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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SWTOR Beta Initial Impressions

As I have previously mentioned I have been in the Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta for almost two months now and over that time have developed quite a few opinions on the game. Unfortunately because of the NDA imposed upon game testers I have been unable to share my feelings and testing experience with you. Well the NDA has been lifted and I am now free to share my insights into this game. Be warned the following post and any with a similar heading may contain spoilers or information about the game you might not care to know about.

This post is intended to give a very informal over view of my time playing SWTOR to date and I have no intention of going into great detail about any one area of the game. However I will be posting individual posts on certain subjects in the near future and will continue to add posts as they come to me.

What I have Done

I have played two of the classes so far including a Jedi Knights (Level 28) and Bounty Hunter (Level 8). I have played on Tython (Jedi), Coruscant (Alliance) and Hutta (Bounty Hunter). I have participated in solo and group questing, PVP Warzones Huttball and Voidstar.

What I Haven't Done

For the most part I have stayed away from Flash Points (Raiding), crafting and space combat as I didn't want to experience everything the game had to offer in the Beta.

What I Liked

Questing - I never thought I would care about quest missions again, but the added story and cut scenes added enough flare to the standard questing to give it a new life. Although the Questing is as you would expect them to be, Kill 10 of this or that, Find this or that, the way SWTOR delivers them is so much better than other MMORPGs.

 Warzones - I have always enjoyed PVP and I feel that BioWare has done a good job with the Warzones. Although nothing is spectacularly different,  the combat, pace and general feel of the Warzones is well done.

Combat Animations - Attack moves in SWTOR are not the "Stand and hack" variety, but instead are a combination of detail and special effects. Spinning in the air and slicing your opponent with the light saber is so much better than what I have seen from past games. Once again they aren't anything ground breaking, but well done and polished.

Character Progression - Once you reach level 10 you are able to choose a specialization. Although hard to figure out at first, choosing a talent tree was  enjoyable and allows for some degree of difference in builds.

Mixed Bag

Graphics - Although the game looks good and is clean and well rendered, I am not a big fan of the Cartoon Look. Some backgrounds (Coruscant mostly) appear unrealistic and painted. Characters look good, but nothing special. Armor and weapons look good and improve as you gain levels.

Player Creation - You have some control over how your character looks, but I think I was expecting a little more variety in the choices. Other games have been able to give you many choices and I see no reason why this feature could not have been included.

Companions - I like the idea of having a side kick with me, but they can be hard to control sometimes and can get lost when you are moving about. (I.E. companion misses the elevator you just took and either never comes back or takes the long way around. I do like the way you can use your companions to do the menial tasks like selling vendor trash for you.

Map - I like the way the map can be left up and fades as you move and for the most part objectives and markers are well noted, but in some cases it can be hard to read and follow. Sometimes it is hard to determine where quests are because they are in another part of the map not immediately visible or displayed. It took me a little bit of time to figure out exactly how to read everything as it was displayed and I found the included magnifying glass a little lacking.

Light Side/Dark Side - Surprisingly I often found myself caring what choice I made when answering dialogue questions that had a Light/Dark choice to be made. While playing the Jedi Knight, I didn't want to choose a Dark answer as I felt it would hurt the character I was making. However I still think they have missed the mark in truly implementing a system like this and wished they had made the choices more meaningful. 
  What I Didn't Like

Linear maps and questing - As I have stated before on this blog in the past, I am not a fan of Linear quest tracks. I understand the game is built upon a heavy story structure, which lends the game to be more linear than sandbox, but I don't like the way some areas feel compartmentalized (Coruscant). I am hoping future planets that I haven't visited yet will be more open and less scripted in where to go.

Levels 1-10 - Although the story is engaging during your introduction levels of the game, your character doesn't truly become interesting until after level 10. They were bland and uninspiring as I leveled them up in the starting zones.   

Enemy AI - The standard enemies you face in SWTOR are static drops in the world and don't show a high level of intelligence. Most of the mobs you meet will be standing around in pods of 3-5 and wait for you to attack unless you get into their agro range. After a while you can pretty much guess what they will do once you attack them. This is a problem many games are facing and BioWare failed to make a difference here.

Well that's it for now, I know I have missed some other topics I wanted to bring up, but I will include them in future posts as they come to mind. Overall I must say that I am truly enjoying this game and even though it doesn't do anything ground breaking I am finding the game to be fun to play and worth the monetary and time investment when it comes out.

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