Now that SWTOR has officially launched, I figured it would be a good time to give my first impression review for Star Wars: The Old Republic. While I had the opportunity to get into the last two beta weekends, I wasn’t able to due to other obligations, so my first real taste of the game was when the early access began.
Going into it I was expecting to dislike it; boarder-line hate it, so I’m actually quite surprised that I’m enjoying myself and even more surprised that I’m still listening to a good portion of the voice-overs. Being one of the biggest selling points for BioWare, the billions of hours (ok, maybe not billions) of voice-over acting was going to be what separated it from all other MMORPGs and quite frankly has to be because so much of the gameplay features have been done before.
Currently my Sith Bounty Hunter is at level 21 and while I still listen to the main story-line, for just about every other quest I’m hitting the next button after a few words. The NPCs tend to ramble on and in most cases I really don’t care what they have to say, but that sort of fits my characters persona, so I don’t feel too bad. So in terms of the voice-over acting, I’m happy to report that it’s a big plus and being able to select the answers for yourself in conversations is also fun, or maybe it’s fun because I’m playing a Sith.
One of the new features that I haven’t seen before are the “personal zones” in the game that don’t revert back after you complete your mission. In many MMORPGs when completing a quest it resets back to normal for the next person to complete, but not so for SWTOR. Once you enter one of these zones, marked by a green force-field, you enter a zone that is personalized to your progress and the choices your make. Meaning if you leave that area and go back later, it doesn’t reset, which is nice as it feels you’re decisions in the game actually mean something.
Moving on to Flashpoints which are small group missions, up to four players, and instanced. Flashpoints are basically missions given to you by the “leader” of your faction, in my case Darth Malgus, and are accessed from a single ship in the fleet. They’re really nothing new in terms of gameplay or features when comparing Flashpoints to any other instanced mission from any other MMORPG, so I’ll just skip ahead.
Traveling is a lot faster than in any other game I’ve played before. You start off with a slow run, then by level 8 (correction, lev 14) you get a passive sprint which is not based on stamina and never runs out. There’s also plenty of rides and ships that can take you from location to location for a small fee and at level 25 you get your own personal transport. Plus players get two skills that can automatically transport them to the fleet or a city, but they have a 24 hr and 30 min cool-down respectively. Being a sci-fi futuristic game, it would be strange to not to have so many traveling options, so I’m more than fine with the quick transportation.
Getting into PvP Warzones and PvE combat, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Basic tab and hot-key combos for combat and your normal queue up for PvP, join a match and receive some PvP tokens to use at PvP vendors. I’ve only had the chance to play the Huttball Warzone and while it was fun, I already know the Warzones aren’t going to hold my interest in the long run.
Getting to crafting, I absolutely love the system BioWare has implemented, but only because I hate crafting. Players can send out their companions to gather materials and do all the crafting themselves, so as the player you never really have to do anything. Sure you can still gather resources in the field if you spot them, but you don’t have to bother grinding for them. While I’m not sure how crafting will change towards the end-game, right now it’s perfect for me.
Companions are the second big feature BioWare added, but my feeling so far are mixed. Players can have up to six companions and while only one can be active at a time, you can still send the other 5 on crafting missions which is great for crafting. My grip with them is there isn’t enough control on how they behave. When I got my first companion, I wanted to set it up so they would tank for me, unfortunately as far as I can tell it’s not possible. Even if they attack first, after my first attack I end up pulling all the aggro. So I figured, ok, they can’t tank, so I’ll have my companion just heal me, but that doesn’t work either, because they’ll constantly attack and while they’ll still heal me, it’s no where near fast enough to keep me alive in tough fights. I would love it if there was more control on the role you wanted your companion to play, but so far there isn’t.
Finally there’s space combat which is just a rail shooter. Quite frankly if feels like I’m playing an oooold arcade shooter that sucks. Players are able to upgrade their ships with better equipment, but that still doesn’t change the fact your playing a rail shooter. On the bright side, they offer a ton of XP and can be completed daily, so they’ll help you level quickly if you won’t mind them.
The shining light in Star Wars: The Old Republic is bar-none its voice-over acting, which I really didn’t think would make much of a difference to me, but has now become the reason to continue playing. We all know BioWare knows how to create enthralling store-lines with their games and they’ve done it yet again with SWTOR.