Well folks, I’ma back!

So here’s the low down guys, before my trip, I was able to play a few days of the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO beta… and that means it’s time for my Pre-Release Review Extravaganza!  Woots!  But before we get into that, let me explain this comic a bit for those who haven’t seen it in my archive.  I’m referencing the comic seen in Fig.1 which was about how every new expansion in wowcrafts, you end up fighting boars of some shape or form.  Well, SWTOR is no different.  Ok, maybe instead of boars they’re alien hog-beast things… sorta… but still… >)

Ok, review time!
Let me preface this with my initial impressions of the game BEFORE playing it.  Well… I thought it looked terrible, was a wow clone, and just a bad idea.  This was based off of some initial hype reviews I read and some very poorly constructed gameplay trailers.  So with that in mind, I still wanted to try out the beta… if nothing else but to find some fodder for my comics… long story short, I preordered it and am currently frothing at the bit waiting for the early game access!  Total 180!  What changed my mind?  What’s the game like?  Does the Shaker give his seal of approval?  Well don your resil gear and get ready for some heavy wall of text crits!

First thing’s first… Let’s talk about this whole “it’s a wow clone” thing.  Would I say it’s a copy?  Well, yes and no.  It’s as much a clone of wow as Battlefield is a clone of Call of Duty.  Ok, on the surface, yeah, it looks pretty similar and maybe plays a lot like the other, but when you look at these genres as a whole, you see that most games tend to congeal into a preset mold.  You might say, that’s just lazy and lacks innovation, but the reality is that these and probably all genres have had a lot of time under their belts; lots of failures and a few successes.  It’s like natural selection and what works tends to move the genre as a whole forward.  So yes, on the surface, the gameplay is very similar, the HUD, the mechanics, etc… but it’s not so much a copy pasta, rather using the refined industry standards that have survived the test of time.  Think of it this way, would you say Halo is a copy of CoD?  Both shooters, but very different.  There’s only so much you can tweek in mechanics before hitting that sweet spot.  The canvas is the same, but the painting is different.  See what I mean?  Short version is yes, they play very similar.  If you like wow, you’ll like swtor.  Buuuuut if I had to throw in a few cents of mine, then I’d say it plays more like a refined WOW CLASSIC than the current incarnation.  And if you’ve ever had the privileged of playing vanilla wow, before expansions, then you’ll agree that it’s a very very good thing!

Whew, glad we got that out of the way!  So one of the main differences, other than, ya know, the obvious, is that it plays like wow but as a scifi game.  If you like fantasy, go wow, if you like scifi, go swtor… if you like both… um… buy both!  >D  Right, now on to the obvious… It’s a Star Wars game… um… if you didn’t know.  But don’t let that get in your way of playing it.  Not sure if it would for anyone, but for me at least, I know less than zip about the SW universe and found the game very appealing.  So you see, a StarTrek nerd CAN love this game!  XD

So yeah, it’s got all your MMORPG basics; instances/dungeons, raids, quests, mounts, open areas to run around, crafting, gear, pvp, etc… you get the picture.  They just use different terms for all of these.  But instead of talking about all of this at once, let me pick out a few highlights and a few things that have been controversial.  One thing is the quests.  Standard, yes, but they are all fully voiced… and kinda British sounding.  Jolly good if you ask me!  It’s a BioWare game after all.  Oddly enough, many people didn’t like this… but you can hit SPACE to skip though dialog, so no QQs about this.  >)

Another point of interest is the “good/bad” dialog choices which effect the outcome!  Um… BioWare… Remember?  Interestingly enough, you can have a lightside sith or darkside jedi, odd, but good for nice guys like me who like the Empire but don’t want to torture puppies or whatever.  I also like the way they set up the initial leveling system where you’re on different planets, so leveling alts won’t feel very stagnant, especially if you want 2 characters that have the same class but different subclasses so you can just choose a different dialog route and not feel too repetitive.  Good times I’m telling you!

Speaking of planets.  Your “zones” are “planets” and no, you can’t just explore an ENTIRE planet; just a defined, albeit med/large, area.  This was kind of a brain scratcher for me.  See in wowlands, you had whole continents you could just scourer at your leisure, so having a confined space makes my Easy Rider gene rage out a bit.  But when you get in there and play it, the space doesn’t seem to be so bothersome.  Sure, it doesn’t transition as well when you walk through zones (preflight) in wow, but the concept is the same; all your quests for a level range are contained in one area, then you move on to the next.  Yeah, I’d love to take a shuttle and scope out a whole planet worth of stuff, but once you planet hop a few times, it wont bother you much.  Besides, it gives you an excuse to doc at the spaceport hub and chat with some friends.  In the future, I’d really like them to open up the planets a bit more as continuous areas, but it’s not a necessity.  From what they’re talking about, before the game has even been released, they will have updates and content expansion in an ongoing feature.  Just like wowclassic!  Hopefully they learn from wowcrafts and keep expansions far apart and update content inbetween.  But yeah, I see them tossing in extra areas to raid/group/quest on the existing planets for endgame every few months or so; which, by keeping it non-continuous areas, makes it so much easier to implement.

And on the subject of “areas”…  I like how they “instance” things!  Very smooth transitions.  I think they use phasing or whatever, but however they do it, load times are really low unless you’re going to just a whole new planet.  One thing I like is how they section off areas you can and can’t get into.  It looks like green/red forcefields.  If any other game tried to pull this, it would get ripped an new poop shoot, but it fits in nicely with the environment.

But what am I talking about?!  Nobody cares are about any of this!  It’s all about the purps!  And here, swtor delivers!  Got your standard grey, green, blue, purple structure with another NEW color, orange, tossed in since beta.  Gear is very interesting here.  See, base gear is just for looks… all (most?) stats come from slotted modifications (think wow gem slots).  So your lightsaber, completely naked, will only look different than another.  Pop in some mods and that’s where the fun begins!  So here’s how the new loot system works; purples drop from bosses but the mods are not removable.  That means, you can (probably) upgrade mods but cant remove them.  The same boss will also drop the individual mod pieces for that item as well.  Now, if you like, say, Coffin’s robes and want to keep them for the looks, you can find the orange quality (the modifiable version) and place in the individual components from that boss for a final item that is equal in stats as the Bind on Pickup full item dropped from that boss.  The idea is that they want you to have a “transmogrification” option for looks with the same stats as the epic drop, but it will just take longer to piece together.  So if you don’t care about being pretty, you can just pick up the drop and move on to the next challenge.  My complaint with some of the armors is that the casters tend to have hoods attached to chest pieces… and dispute being able to hide helms, it wont let you remove the hoodie from the chest… and Coffin don’t do head gear… so I’m finding a robe that matches my character and just modding it forever.  >)

Hmm… what else?  I’m sure there’s more… and I’ll be having a bit more SW comics thrown in the mix now so I’ll cover a few select points individually.  But yeah… I really enjoyed beta so hopefully it won’t be too long till the early access email hits my inbox and I can start taking those jedi scum down a few pegs!  >D

TL;DR - Just buy the dang game!