SWTOR Beta Impressions

Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and rest; however, when the intergalactic struggle between the light and dark side of the force calls for one’s help, you cannot ignore their plea. Last weekend, I was able to participate in the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta, but the question on everyone’s mind is: Will this game measure of to World of Warcraft? Luckily, I have an answer, so strap yourselves in and prepare for the good, the bad, and the ugly of SWTOR.

Once I booted up the beta, I was greeted with a familiar CGI video of the Sith taking back their homeland from the Jedi. The familiar music and lightsaber-fight choreography was enough to make my inner Star Wars nerd shout with joy. After that cinematic, you are directed to the usual MMO fare, which is choosing your faction, class, and customizing your character. Emo hair, check; handlebar mustache, check. I decided to make a Jedi Knight that would make most fans of the franchise cringe, but that’s all part of the fun in an MMO. After character creation, you get to watch another cinematic that gives you some background on the faction that you chose.

Let’s just get this out of the way now, while I played SWTOR, I only dabbled with the Light side of the force, I wanted the Sith story and zones to be a surprise since I would most likely be playing Sith. Once inside the actual game, the mood is set right away, and that is a mood of emergency. Flesh raiders have attacked the Padawan training area, and it seems like most Padawan are completely useless. After you clean up some messes, you eventually proceed to the next area of the map. The next area is the main hub of the map, and you get to interact with more Jedi’s and you even meet the leader of the Jedi. Now that we have some introductory game information out of the way, no more spoilers, let’s talk about what’s good and what isn’t so good.

Star Wars: The Old Republic feels like an old friend, which isn’t a bad thing. The game felt like I had played it before, mechanically. The story telling felt organic, and the voice acting on most major characters was a huge plus. If you feel anything like me, other MMOs just give you the text, and after a long session of leveling, I don’t care about the quests’ lore. The game itself felt like a Mass Effect World of Warcraft, luckily for Bioware, I enjoy both of those games. The graphics aren’t insanely intensive, and I was able to run a consistent 110 frames per second (remember Shift + Ctrl + F when you start the game, that displays FPS). The combat was intuitive, and the animations seemed pretty spot on, from what I experienced. The music, as expected, was wonderful, and it gave a feeling of epicness to the play experience. However, now we move on to the not so fun stuff: the bad.

SWTOR has a cartoonish graphical style, and it seems to be less intensive on my machine than WoW at full settings. This doesn’t sound like a terribly bad thing, but the game has horrendous amounts of texture pop. Every time I would exchange dialogue with an NPC, every time I entered a new zone, every time I rode a speeder, and every time I started the game there was texture pop. Also, on the highest settings, I had an unforgivable amount of jagged textures (however, Anti Aliasing wasn’t available in the settings). Another problem I had was the ease of the game. SWTOR felt too easy, I know this is a bit nitpicky, but when I play an MMO, I want a game that will teach me how to play my class properly while leveling. I hate when an MMO holds a players’ hand and then they get to endgame content and they suck. I may catch some hate for this, but I think that the morality bar is superfluous. I mean, if you’re a Jedi that goes fully evil, that doesn’t make you a Sith, it just makes you a shitty Jedi. Sure some of the gear requires a certain level of light or dark, but it just feels like Bioware giving the game a mechanic that works for their other games to an MMO, it didn’t work for me. Combat is also problematic. SWTOR felt like mashfest 2011 while I was in combat. This could be due to the lack of an auto attack, or this could be due to the seemingly off ability cooldowns. My main attack used to build up combo points seemed to have a nonexistent cooldown, so spam away and then use a finisher.

Conclusion? Consider it handled.

Overall, my experience with SWTOR was a positive one, but I can understand why the game has received harsh criticism. I honestly don’t think this game will rival World of Warcraft. Although it will take users away from WoW, I doubt it will serve as more than a distraction until a new patch releases. While the beta isn’t representative of the finished product, it still gives a good idea of what the games’ strengths and weaknesses are. If Bioware manages to fix the graphical issues by the release of SWTOR, I think I will be able to put up with the game long enough to see the raid content. I have seen hate on this game from a lot of Star Wars fans, but I think a majority of this is from people who haven’t played an MMO and expected SWTOR to be another Knights of the Old Republic. If you are a Star Wars fan and an MMO fan, I would say give this game a try; however, if you are only a fan of Star Wars, I would say wait until release, read reviews, and make an informed decision. SWTOR has a release date of December 20, 2011.

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