Star Wars: The Old Republic – open beta

By Michael Vass | November 29, 2011

There has been much anticipation about the new Star Wars massively multiplayer online game (MMO). The last game to tap into the huge well of avid gamers that equally find Star Wars compelling was Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). That attempt was anything but up to the expectations of gamers, fans, and likely the software developers. With the demise of SWG, and the popularity of the Bioware version’s of the ancient universe of Sith and Jedi still riding the crest of popularity the question is what will Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) be like?

Well, to start off, the fans of SWG will be disappointed. There were not many of them, but they will not like this new game. It has revamped and restyled everything. There are no hidden paths to become a Jedi (or Sith), there is not need to hop from every available planet dropping crafting stations and houses just to make a single blaster rifle. In fact, even the ability to get and improve spacecraft has been altered.

Fans of the other Bioware Star Wars games will be much happier. SWTOR is modeled after Knights of the Old Republic and other similar games. That includes response bars to deal with NPC’s and companions. SWTOR is preset with multiple planets to visit, a ton of knowledge and lore, and a core story that is quite simple to understand and navigate.

Fans of MMO’s in general, especially the standing king – World of Warcraft (WoW) – will have a very different view. Star Wars: The Old Republic is not like any other game out there. This is good and bad. There are factions, in that there is the Empire and the Republic. There are the rudimentary and required maildrop runs and of course beast trolling. But the feel and the look are NOT what most MMO gamers are expecting.

SWTOR is … kind of like playing a somewhat open ended videogame, with tens of thousands of other people. Make no mistake, the game will be filled with people day one. But even in the Beta, with every servers filled as the system was being stress tested, the feel of the game was never exactly overrun. There is an expansiveness and isolation that comes with the playing of the game.

Star Wars MMO

Imperial Agent

The first few levels of the game are basically the same as anu MMO. With the exception that your character can speak! That is a first to my knowledge. But you get to be introduced to the world quickly. I stuck with only the Empire storylines, as that is where my own passion lies. The opening story is directly what you would expect, you get no respect and are vying with other NPC’s to justify your existence.

The game moves along rather fluidly, and up until you get a companion you are mostly on a perdetermined track. This likely adds to the feeling of isolation and restriction that is inherent in the game. You see and can interact with other players constantly if you wish, but the gameplay does not really lend itself to that. Though grouping with others is rewarded, and will make may areas far easier to deal with.

You will learn quickly that the MMO is heavily dependant on instances. Not a new feature in MMO’s but in this case done quite well. The entrance into an MMO feels seemless, and looks it as well. There is no apparent lag time, even with a huge number of people in the world at once. You just walk into the clerly marked area, and thre you are, your own special storyline (sort of). You can even bring friends along – if they are not the same class as you are.

As was mentioned before, you will have a companion as you travel. In fact as the game progresses you will have several – but not more than 5, and only 1 can travel the world with you at any given time. But you can interchange them, and have they go off to take care of varios chores and mundane tasks.

If you like crafting in MMO’s, you may not like the crafting in SWTOR. Yes you still gather raw materials. Yes you still need to learn blueprints (called schematics) and you must advanceup the chain. But putting it all together does not directly involve you. In fact, the companions handle the assembly and some of the gathering as well. They are influenced by how they feel about you, and their own inherent abilities, but the actual build takes place away from you – the companion arrives with the finished result (if any).

Crafting will likely take place for most around level 8. That’s about the same time you get a companion. The companion will also fight along side you, kind of like pets, if they have any offensive capabilities. You can outfit them with weapons, clothing, and alter their looks to a degree (initially). They are pretty intelligent AI’s but, you can also step in and micromanage their fighting actions to a point. The companions have different abilities and attributes than you, and often are of completely diffent races. So you can be a tank, and have a companion that is more of a healer, wherever you go.

The companions that you get to have depend on the class you chose. From there the order in which you get them is preselected. You add more as you raise levels, though it is possible to lose a companion as well – though that is unconfirmed.

What is confirmed, at this point in Beta, is that your first companion will be around level 8. Which depends on your ability to progress therough the early storyline. The next is at level 15 or so. This is where you really get to be more free. At level 15 you get your starship (also predetermined by your class). At that point you are open to travel most of the universe, and visit a decent assortment of planets known both from the movies and book on Star Wars.

Levels for planets are very clearly marked. You won’t just wander onto a planet without any idea that it was a level 50 and you are a mere level 21. Several planets feature PVP as well as PVE. This is seperate of the PvP servers. Which is more of what Flashpints are for, battle royals with the other side.

The graphics of SWTOR are not stellar. They stand well above other MMO’s like DC Online, but the depth of detail and diversity is slightly behind WoW. It definitely pales compared to Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, but then again so does almost everything else. As MMO’s go, the graphics have enough detail to let you get the feeling of the Star Wars Universe, but the minutia is still unknown. An example is that animals are detailed enough to give you a clear understanding of what it is supposed to be, but no nuances, like the texture of skin.

The sound in SWTOR is very good. There are many chances to get tidbits of themes that are well known to fans, and derivations on those themes depending on where you are and what you are doing. The sounds are not over bearing, nor distracting. In fact, you may not notice most of the background music 80% of the time – though you would notice if it just stopped.

The voice acting is really quite good. There was a huge list of voice actors that were used in this game, and it shows. NPC’s don’t all sound like the same 5 people. They come across with credibility, and make you feel like the character on the screen would say what you are hearing. It’s not Shakespeare, but then again it’s an MMO.

The feel of the game has a good pace to it. You want to get a companion and/or extra ones, and see what you can do with them. You want to get a new weapon to beat the latest quest. You want to get that spacecraft, and then outfit it with what you think is vital to survive. You want to visit the other planets, or jump into a space battle.

Are there drawbacks? Yes. Space battles are on rails. If you don’t know what that means, they you should enjoy it immensely, if you do not as much. The ability to craft what you want, and to alter what you have, is a bit limited. The economy for various items exists, and the tools to search or sell are pretty basic, perhaps too much so. And so on.

Several issues may just be Beta items. I won’t go into detail as that would be unfair. What I have noted are currently set for the start of the MMO. As the restriction on the Beta was lifted, this isn’t being held back due to legal issues.

The very last question you might ask is, ‘is it worth buying?’ I bought the game on pre-order. After havig played the Beta, I’m keeping my pre-order and looking forward to playing. It won’t be everything that I was hoping for, but it will be alot of what I wanted. It is definitely a move up from SWG, and a new direction for MMO’s.


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Topics: Video Games | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Star Wars: The Old Republic – open beta”

  1. jess_bella

    What!! the game that make a bad mood for my favorite move. I will not buy this game. But a good new for Star War the great saga. They will remake movie in to 3D, i looking forward to see it. !!!

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