Please take note that these reactions are based on the beta build for the Nov. 11-13 weekend test. As with any unreleased software, certain details may have been changed already. You have been warned. Sort of. I don’t really know if this is actually a warning. More like a heads up. You have been heads upped.
So with the Non-Disclosure Agreement formally dropped with a flash of yellow text across the SWTOR forums, I can finally tell you all what I think about Star Wars: The Old Republic from what I was able to glimpse during my short weekend of running around. I actually got to play a couple of classes. I got my Jedi Consular to 11, a Sith Warrior to 12, and Trooper to level 8. I tried to avoid the Bounty Hunter because, well, that’s what I plan on playing and I’d rather not burn myself out on that story early (albeit unlikely).
First and foremost, the story is amazing. Actually, amazing is a bit lackluster. Superawesometastic? Yea, that’s a bit more like it. Story has always been a big part of gaming for me. It’s the drive that keeps me attached to a game. In WoW, I’ve only had one max level toon that wasn’t a Loremaster. So when I say that I have never been so engrossed in the plot during my 4 years of playing WoW as I was from a single weekend of playing TOR, I want you to be aware of the context I’m saying that in.
Within minutes of starting my Consular, I was figuring out what type of character he was. Greeted with praises and compliments from superiors, I decided that this bulking jedi (Yes, he was ‘fat’. But it’s Kingpin fat, not Silent Bob fat. Mostly muscle.) was prideful, and hungry for ancient knowledge that will bring him more praise. From that moment on, I knew exactly how this character would act in conversations. He sucked up to the masters, he would make dirty deals for powerful relics, and he what stoop to any low to complete the tasks he was given by his superiors. I wasn’t bothered by the amount of dark side points he racked up, because they were earned for being who he was. It was invigorating.
There was actually quite a few complaints about that. The fact that it doesn’t have much fanfare, and the fact that its very easily missed. After all, it just looks like any other quest. If I wasn’t actively looking for it, I might have missed it. Considering that without your advanced class, you won’t be able to do much beyond DPS – and you probably wouldn’t be great at that – it seems to be pretty low key.
I went for the DPS advanced class of Marauder for my Sith Warrior, and the Sage path for my Consular, since I wanted to try out healing. Which I did. With my one heal. That heals about 1/8th of the total health pool of your average player. Yea… I’ll get to that when I talk about flashpoints.
Ultimately, each class took some getting used to. Especially the ‘no auto-attack’ concept. You just get a no cost ability that helps either build resources or just fills in while other things are on cooldown. Luckily, you can use that ability by either pushing the keybinding or just right clicking the enemy over and over. So those who, like me, would spend your days in dungeon crawlers and RTS continuously right clicking your foes in a vain attempt to make it die faster will find that a bit comforting (or troublesome if you’re coming from WoW and forget that attacking with the filler attack does trigger the GCD and you’ll have to wait a few seconds)
I only got to try one flashpoint: The Esseles. The first bump in the road was trying to find a group. While there were plenty of people in the beta who wanted to run things, finding a group was still a pain. Mainly because the only way to find a group was to sit around the station and watch the general chat for people to put together a group. This was mixed in with people asking about training, where things were, and debating over how much of a WoW clone the game was (that was a hot topic in general chat all weekend.) The only other option is essentially flagging yourself as Looking For Group in the /who window. I’m not saying a Dungeon Finder is essentially, but there’s GOT to be a step up from spamming chat channels.
Once we got our group together, we realized that there were no roles decided when we grouped up. This caused someone to drop out as they apparently did not want to wait to see if we had a tank or heals, and we went back out to snatch another person. Finally, we had a group. A Jedi Shadow as tank, my Sage as heals, and a Jedi Sentinel and Smuggler (lv 9) for DPS. So we started, or joined in. As it turned out one of our dps had decided to go ahead and start the first conversation without notifying us.
The flashpoint in terms of combat was actually pretty fun. The trash ranged from easy to moderate, with a couple of tough mobs tossed in here and there. Nothing that gave us trouble, but was enough that if you weren’t careful, some mobs could give you some punishment if ignored. The bosses on the other hand were the complete opposite. It really felt like you had to know what you were doing, and we really didn’t. People would drop from 90% to 10% in a matter of seconds, in what I would eventually find out were hazards on the ground that they were ignoring. In other words, they were dying because they were standing in bad. In a moment of sheer hilarity, despite all the claimed hostility throughout WoW, I was called a bad healer for the first time ever by the Jedi Sentinel. Nothing I could really do. I was spamming my one heal to keep the tank alive. The one heal didn’t really feel too effective but it definitely helped. I’m sure that if people had used their self-heals inbetween fights or a medpack or two it would be easier, but that’s what I had to deal with.
Halfway through, when the Jedi Sentinel yelled at the smuggler for rolling need on some smuggler gear for being greedy and that everyone should have a chance to roll on everything, the tank decided to leave. So we tried to press on, which resulted in a dead sentinel and the smuggler and I kiting a large droid around a platform to kill it since we couldn’t get close to it while it was sparking (a massive damage AOE to everyone in melee range). After that, we pulled out the sentinel’s companion – a small tanking droid – to get us through the rest of the dungeon. Which actually worked pretty well! The droid kept aggro completely on the last boss, everyone stayed out of the bad, and it went down without issue. That’s why I didn’t discount the whole experience. I imagine if we had that much awareness and tactics, the earlier fights may not have been so brutal.
I didn’t get to work with crafting a lot, but from what I did get to play with it appears to have a lot of promise. I could send companions off to do things while I ran around in the station and cities, and then gather things myself while I was in the field. Mission skills like treasure hunting, or underworld trading seem to be companion only type things, and would cost money to send them off to do a job for you. The ability to reverse engineer items to get back some raw materials and learn improved versions of items was pretty awesome. I’m sure it will open up a bit more once you have more than a single companion to do the work, and I’m really looking forward to it.
So, based on this beta experience, would I leave WoW for SWTOR? The answer is yes. Yes, I would and I plan to. I love story and crafting, those are my favorite things to experience in a MMO, and SWTOR has got WoW beat in that department. Not to say I plan on being done with WoW forever. As I said a while back, Mists of Pandaria has a lot of promise. So I may come back for that at some point. Otherwise, it looks like SWTOR for now.