Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Review

This past weekend I had the pleasure of testing out the latest MMO coming to market, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Luckily a couple of my MMORPG playing friends also got into this beta test. It was mostly set up as a stress test to several of their systems and servers. They did several tests throughout the weekend restarting the servers, with ticketing, and the knowledge base. I appreciated that they tested these systems out in a structured way. More importantly, on to the good stuff, what was the game like?
First and foremost I will tell you that I enjoyed this game. While MMOs are often similar in many ways this game had several unique features that put it ahead of others I have played. I will say that most importantly to me, combat was FUN! This was especially true in parties. We took on tons of enemies and the action hardly ever stopped. When it did stop it was because we were trying to push into content we had no business being involved with. Also, the game has no auto attack feature even for melee characters, so if you aren’t engaged with combat your character isn’t doing anything at all. I felt like this improved playing a melee class, it felt more engaged.
I started out as a Jedi Knight. I played this all the way through the first zone and continued on to the first instance, which I tanked. FYI, the Jedi Knight has no real threat generation abilities up until it hits 14 so tanking the first instance as a JK is not necessarily recommended without some friends along with you to coordinate and cover for you. As you level you find many more actual tank abilities and your survivability increases greatly. From what I understand JK is still one of the least effective tanking classes in the game. Notably I really did enjoy playing it though, even a bit in pvp.
Next I played a Jedi Councilor. The unfortunate part about this is that the Knight and Councilor both have the same starting zone. In the games current form I could not find a way to skip dialogue for classes I had previously completed on my other character and this made the leveling experience drag a bit more. Now there is still a separate class story for the two classes which made a good part of the questing different still. Jedi Councilor was not as fun as far as the first ten levels went. Once I hit 10 and specialized into what is effectively the “caster” role, Sage, and it became a boat load of fun. Again, for the first instance you are limited in the tools at your disposal. You have one healing ability, but that gets better quickly. I did level this character to 15 and attempted the second instance again with this one. However due to some party limitations we were not able to down the first boss, mostly we were using a pet as our fourth and needed more damage.  Now unlike some games my healer class still had a significant amount of damaging ability and did not feel weak in the slightest for soloing. If I do play this game I imagine this will be the class I play.
As I mentioned above we used a pet as the fourth in our team. Every character gets a companion pet in the first few levels following the story. As far as I understand you can even get several of these companions as the game progresses. These companions are effective party members that can do decent damage or tank for you. As I understand it there are also companions that can heal, I did not run into any of those type. Your companion also plays a very important role in your crafting.
To craft you send your companion away, he, she, or it(robots) then goes out and makes, something or gathers something on your behalf. Crafting items seems to be a consistent 1 minute per item and the missions for gathering have at this point(up to 100 crafting) been between 3 minutes and 10 minutes. To add a bit of intrigue, when gathering, you are charged credits to send your pet out. This is a new system to me but it seems an effective way to control the economy. Of course in a beta test economy is unrealistic to release so I don’t have much to say on that function. I did try out one other piece of the game though.
PVP with the Jedi Knight was a bit disappointing. I did not find that I could do the necessary damage to take people out nor control people enough to slow them down. Alternatively, on the Jedi Councilor I had a great time. I was able to be number one on the healing chart in every match I played as well as putting out some significant damage to help out my team. I also had a decent arsenal of 
stun, slow, and knockback effects to keep enemies off of myself.
Overall the game felt polished and ready for release. Some of the dialogue, especially the ability to skip dialogue in flashpoints(instances) needs to be added into the game. I for one would recommend this game if you just love Star Wars or if you are an MMO fanatic. I cannot speak for end game at this point but I will say that based on what I have seen, I have high hopes.

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