Monday, November 28, 2011

Shatterblog!: Star Wars The Old Republic Impressions

I got invited to play the SWTOR beta over the weekend, and I figured I'd write up some impressions of that. Before I get into the details, I'll say that I primarily played Saturday to Sunday. I played a female Twi'lek Jedi Consular, advanced class Sage, specialized in the healing arts of the force. I grouped up from the start with my brother and his friend, a tanking specced female Miralukan Shadow Consular, and a DPS specced male human Jedi Knight Guardian, respectively. The fact that I had a group obviously affected my experience. We completed the home planet, Tython, all of Curuscant, and progressed to Nar Shadaa. Our levels were 21 for myself and my brother, 23 for his friend. I also played 5 levels of Bounty Hunter, and 10 of Sith Warrior and Sith Inquisitor. I'll touch on those, but not much. I also did a bit of combat as a Smuggler, but not much. I basically got a taste of the cover system and moved on with my life.

This isn't like my screenshot. I found it on the interwebs.
Alright, so into the details. First, to all the people who say it is WoW with a Star Wars skin, shut up. You're dumb, a troll, or both. It plays very differently. Some of the classes are similar, my healing Consular played quite a bit like a Priest, with a lesser heal, a bigger heal on a longer cast, and a force shield to absorb some damage. However, it is a very different game. One major innovation is the lack of an auto attack. Your right click activates an ability that costs no resources (Rage, Force, Ammo, Heat etc) and triggers the global cooldown. You constantly have to decide whether to build up a bit more energy with that attack, or go for the big damage by triggering a skill. It's a lot more interactive, and a lot more fun. I never just auto attacked an enemy while I stared blankly, waiting for something interesting. It's engaging and fun. Next, the energy system. Each class has its own energy type. Warriors have Rage, which is built up in combat by certain strikes, and rather than a bar like WoW, you get bricks of rage. A skill will use 2 bricks, rather than 20 Rage. It's not a big change, but I like it. The Bounty Hunter had my favorite energy type, Heat. Your goal is to be at 0 Heat. Abilities cause your weapons to heat up, filling the bar. It drains slowly on its own, or can be vented some with the basic attack. You also get a cooldown to dump all your heat once every two minutes, and I don't necessarily feel that to be balanced. As a Consular, I was constantly out of Force (my brother tanked without a shield for a while. It was tough) and had no quick way to replenish it for a while, until I got an ability to exchange 15% HP for 8% Force. Force works like Mana, but it regens in combat, and from what I've seen is not affected by gear. I had 100 force from level 1-10, chose the Sage spec, and got bumped up to 500. Gear changes didn't seem to affect that. One complaint I had is that the manual basic attack is your primary mode of damage without the expenditure of energy. When a Jedi Knight runs out of Rage, he swings til he gets more. When my Consular ran out of Force, and I was 50 feet away to cast, there is no ranged basic attack, only skills. It was frustrating, and maybe it changes at higher levels. This is based on my experience only. The crafting system is odd. You get 3 skills, a crafting, a gathering, and a mission based. I'll only talk about what I experienced. I chose Artifice, the manufacture of saber modifications such as hilts, mods, and color crystals. First disappointment- color crytals have stats. You may have to use a color you don't necessarily like for better stats. The stats are small though, and I could craft a +4 endurance crystal in a few colors, so it isn't a big deal. I gathered using Archaeology. The way gathering works is as follows: you will find some resources in the world, and these are gathered through a right click and a short wait. Standard. You can also pay a few credits to have your companion go on a gathering mission. This is your primary mode of gathering materials and skill-ups. It adds up cost wise. I went from 7k to flat broke in less than 75/400 of my crafting. I wasn't selling any of my crafted materials, I made them, and then reverse engineered them. This gives you about half the materials back. You also have a chance to learn a better version of the recipe. If you reverse engineer a green rarity color crystal, you have a chance to get a blue rarity recipe of it, which is obviously slightly better. I didn't do any of the mission profession. I chose treasure hunting, but didn't do it at all. I was able to make some pretty cool stuff, even though it drained my pockets pretty hard. I enjoyed it. I still have flashbacks to the day I decided to level from 1-400 mining as fast as possible on my Paladin. Just thinking about that makes me shudder. Making my companion do all the work was spectacular. This might be a little bit of a spoiler, but at the end of your starter planet, around level 10, you get a lightsaber if you are a Jedi or Sith. This was one of the greatest feelings in any game. Sure, getting your first talent point at 10 in WoW feels nice, but for the Consular quest chain, you forge your own lightsaber in a truly incredible cutscene. I've never felt more like I EARNED my weapon. As an MMO fan and a Star Wars nerd, it was a big moment. The next big moment comes when you finish Coruscant or Dromund Kaas, the capitals of the Republic or Empire.You are granted a space ship of your very own. It's MASSIVE. You get a personal servant droid, who is annoying. Think C-3PO, but with more ass kissing. There's a map of the galaxy, used to choose where to fly, access to your bank, your companions hang around to chat, and you can accept missions for space combat. I only did one space combat mission. I sucked at it, but it's entertaining. You fly on a track, moving around to dodge but not really navigating. I wish you could have full control, but whatever. It's challenging, and a fun diversion, but not the main selling point. We did 2 Flashpoints, with 3 people and a companion rather than a full group. Certain bosses were really tough to heal through, but it was fun learning what to do and what not to do, when to move and when to stand still. I did zero PvP, so I have nothing to say on the subject. The Smuggler (and Imperial Agent I guess?) has a great system going. The cover is pretty cool. I feel like it could go on to be good or bad, but the bit I played was like Mass Effect. But Star Wars. But my Smuggler looked like (and was named) Mal Reynolds. So it was amazing. But then I switched to Consular. In terms of class enjoyment, I'll say that not playing a class with a lightsaber makes me feel a lot less awesome. Yeah, I do damage and stuff. But any idiot can hide behind a wall and take pot shots and toss grenades at elites. It takes a special idiot to go leaping into a group of elites, saber blazing to life, slamming into the ground with a huge explosion of force or lightning. Being a Sith Warrior Marauder (2 Sabers! Fuck yeah) made me feel the most like a badass. Inquisitor/Consular are the most accurate Jedi experience. You have some saber stuff going on. You can do some lightning, or throw some objects. The mix is cool, but I love melee. I love smashing people with my saber. Two sabers looks the coolest ever of all time, but I took a ton of damage. I found myself unable to solo elites of my level on my Sith Marauder, but earlier in the game I could. I'm convinced it's because it's balanced, and you have to pick the Tank spec to wear heavy armor and not get crushed like a bug. I made my best effort not to spoil the story for myself, but I will say that what I gleaned is WAY above any other MMO. I loved WoW. I loved the lore. I read the books. The story was good. SWTOR is just better. The Fast Travel is another thing I'd like to touch on. It's like a Hearthstone, but you can teleport to any place on the planet where you clicked a Bind Point. I love it. The whole game looks brilliant, at least on my somewhat pimp gaming rig. Pete from SteamWorks couldn't run it, so low end system users beware. Anyway, SWTOR is in all ways better than WoW.  I'd recommend it highly. This isn't a full review, and don't expect one, so I won't attempt to rate it. Just believe that it is incredibly good. Now I'll include a huge brick of screenshots I actually took. Before you ask, all the names are generated by SWTOR, and theoretically are accurate to the race I chose. Malreynolds I chose. If you get the reference, you win the internet.
My Jedi Consular Sage Twi'lek, Hal'siaqqua
Casting a Heal
Using Fast Travel
AoE Animation
My bangin' Sith Pureblood Warrior Marauder, Vancolt
Vancolt AoE
Qursarril the Zabrak Sith Inquisitor Assassin
Qursarril AoE
Largely unloved Bounty Hunter, Zan'Tades 
Significantly more loved Smuggler, Malreynolds


  1. Not able to solo an elite with your marauder?

    Doing it wrong somehow

  2. Dude I got my rotation down real quick. It's the medium armor. TJ played a single saber Knight in full heavy armor. He tanked better in DPS spec than Ricc did in tank spec. Ricc lacked a shield, but that's not the point.

  3. I could solo elites with like 20% health left afterwards. This was around level 20


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