Players: Single Online
Genre: MMORPG – Sci-fi/Action/Adventure
Australian Release Date: None*
Australian Rating: N/A
It is always exciting when you get invited to play the beta trials of a game, even if every person who pre-ordered it got invited. So, my husband and I spent the last weekend tag teaming the beta. And here are our thoughts.
When you first start the game, you choose a server, then choose either Republic or Empire. Your choice has an obvious bearing on what classes are available to you (Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Trooper and Smuggler for Republic; and Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter for Empire), each with a potential for specialisation. Then you get one of two cinematic paths (both shown in the link below). These opening videos almost made me wet myself I was so excited. They have really good characters in them and show plenty of emotion, on both the “good and evil” guys. One thing I love is how they make you feel what is happening without the use of unnecessary gore. A single look or a silhouetted fall can often have more of an effect than seeing someone’s innards. You then go on to choose your class and race (which is dependent of which class you have chosen). All up there are 9 races: Human, Miraluka, Twi-Lek, Zabrak, Mirialan, Cyborg, Sith, Rattataki and Chiss. Character customisation is not as extensive as some other MMOs out there, but there are still enough options and variables to make you feel like your character is close to one of a kind.
One thing that this game is renowned for, even in the lead up, was its use of a full voice acting cast. Including your character. Not that you get a choice in your voice, but they aren’t horrible or anything. There are a range of voices for each male and female, but I am unsure as of yet whether this is race determined, class determined or random. I didn’t have enough time to create more than two characters to play through the starter areas with. Each in game movie has conversation, so this is a nice touch. Every time you talk to someone, they talk. Every time you talk to someone quest related, you get a cut scene. Also they have conversations in which you must select a response. If you are in a group, you still pick your response, but the one that gets used goes to the player with the highest roll, like the round-robin looting system. It helps everyone feel involved in the conversation when their player gets a turn at saying something. The only time this concerned me was when there was a light side / dark side conversation point. But don’t worry. Even if you pick one side and the chosen response is the other, you still get the points for what you picked individually.
It is well known that Bioware make games for story more than anything else, and it also applies to The Old Republic. The full voice acting and conversation choices are evident in their other two recent hit games series Dragon Age and Mass Effect. As a result, the gameplay isn’t anything new. It is much like other MMOs of the same genre. You complete quests, you kill things, you level, you learn abilities, you assign abilities, etc. etc. But in all honesty, if it isn’t broken, why fix it? The gameplay and levelling systems are much like the norm, and that is what people are comfortable with, as well as the keyboard layout. (Also much like other MMOs of the genre, the starter areas are lots of fun). What they expect is improved graphics, behind the scenes processes, great story, and a novelty doesn’t hurt. On all of these fronts, SWTOR delivers.
Two aspects of gameplay that are different are the map travelling and crafting. Like a combination of the map travelling system in Guild Wars and the binding quick map travel ‘home’ system in most other MMOs, the map travel system in SWTOR consists of binding to each map travel point as you encounter it (like the stables in LOTRO), and a skill that will allow you to quickly retreat to any one of those points. It does have a significant cool down time however, but this in conjunction with the taxi service provided (exactly like the stables in LOTRO but free) makes traversing areas of the game so much quicker and easier.
Crafting is a little different to other MMOs. To justify why heroes craft, there is a notice to explain that in the war effort, everyone needs to help out. A simple practical angle as to the ‘why’. The ‘how’ is what is interesting though. To avoid the tedious harvesting of resources or completing crafting quests, you assign one of your crew members (effectively NPCs you half control – similar to pets, companions, etc.) to go off and do it for you, thus levelling your crew’s ability in that skill.
Back onto the graphics: I really don’t think anyone could complain about them. They are detailed and colourful. Even on beta the only lag I experienced was once in a conversation scene. The scenery looks what it is supposed to and characters look great. The graphics in the cinematics are even more brilliant, but they are of course cinematics, and can support that level of quality. As for the audio: what Star Wars game would be complete without the typical full orchestral fanfare that we have grown to know and expect? The sound effects of things like the blasters and lightsabers are equally identifiable and of good quality.
In regards to playing in the beta, like I said before, I experienced almost no lag. I definitely did not experience my screen freezing, logging me out, and then me finding out I died, like has happened with other games. And there were plenty of people on there. Many of which are willing to help you out or team up for shared quests. The opinion surveys were very convenient too. Instead of needing to manually send them anything, they provided in game surveys that would pop up every now and then asking questions like: How much lag have you experienced? Did you complete this quest solo or cooperatively? How would you rate the quest content/reward/light v dark options? One thing I did not like was the lack of naming for errors. I repeatedly tried to create a character, but kept experiencing an “error #3”, which I can to understand to be “that name already exists,” as when I went with a randomly generated name it allowed my character to be created. This was more of a minor annoyance as it confused me at first, but I expect it will be fixed in the game release.
If you love the Star Wars universe and lore, it would be a great addition to your online gaming experience. If you are not a big fan of Star Wars stories, or are not that familiar with them, it can still be quite fun and enjoyable. I would compare it to playing World of Warcraft without knowing much about the Warcraft game series and world. You can still enjoy the game for what it is. And it is apparent there will be plenty of people online to help you if you ever need it. The launch for this game is going to be big. If nothing else, I want to continue playing to finish the story lines.
Game Play 7
Ease of Play 8
*This game is currently set to only be released in America and Europe. However, you can purchase the game and play on American or European servers; it just won’t be supported in Australia. It is set to be released December 20th 2011.
All 3 Cinematics (HD)