Star Wars: The Old Republic first impressions
I’ve been an MMORPG player for years. I started with Star Wars: Galaxies and dabbled in others like Anarchy Online and Final Fantasy XI in the early 2000s. I leveled to 80 in Age of Conan (yeah...).
In WoW, I raided competitively for years and was in a top 100 world guild on multiple occasions. I obtained rank 1 in PVP at level 60 and during an arena season during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. I can say I’ve thoroughly “beaten” WoW (even though they keep adding new stuff). I even started a website for WoW gear this year that has consistently grown.
Now, Star Wars: The Old Republic is being released officially tomorrow, even though I’ve been playing since the 13th. This game is the next MMORPG juggernaut, and from my first impressions has a very real chance to dethrone WoW, or at least reduce its MMO market share drastically.
I honestly didn’t want this game to be good. It may be cruel to say, but if it was good I’d no doubt end up playing it. Time has been something I have less and less of. I also have a strong commitment to my WoW site, so playing SW:ToR feels sort of dirty to me.
With almost a week under my belt, I’m level 29 (almost 30). Leveling up feels right. They’ve definitely polished this experience so much that I’m almost blinded by the glisten. Every quest has full voice acting (except a few terminal quests, but whatever). Honestly, I’ve found myself skipping the VA in a lot of quests just to get on with it. For people who want to be immersed in that experience, though, it’s incredible. There are days and days of content on your way to 50 (the level cap). There is a clear formula with each new area/planet, which is kind of repetitive, but the content contained within is all 100% unique.
Flashpoints (instances) are very cinematic. I’ve only done one, but it was fun. They are pretty consistent; you’ll find a new one in each major area. I think there have been four or five available to me by level 30.
Space missions are a nice distraction. They also give pretty good experience, so doing them is worthwhile. They feel like they’re sort of forced, though. I’m not sure what they could use, but the ones I did were pretty basic gunning and a small amount of dodging enemy fire.
Companions (ie, pets from WoW) are a big part of the game. You can kill stuff without them, but it hurts. You can send off all of them to increase your level in professions or to sell gray items. I never liked the whole pet thing in WoW, and a lot of that feels the same here, but they do provide some good entertainment. They also have quests and interact with you during your leveling journey.
Healing / DPS
I picked a Bounty Hunter and became a Mercenary. My ultimate goal is to be a healer when I reach level 50. I haven’t done a lot of that yet so I don’t know exactly how it will be. I’m hopeful that it is fun and engaging, otherwise the game will probably lose me.
DPS is pretty fun. Honestly, the best thing about it is the sound. Every time I fight something as a Bounty Hunter I feel like I’m just tearing things apart with explosions and blaster fire. There is a pretty clear rotation, which is nice. And lots of AoE abilities.
Speaking of rotation, I’d like to point out the obscene amount of abilities you get. My bars are pretty much full, and I have several abilities left to obtain on my way to 50. They don’t let you get any more quickbars besides left, right and center as well. I like to keybind everything, so it’s kind of frustrating.
The lack of mouseover macros (at least from what I’ve heard) also upsets me. As a healer this increased my speed 10fold in WoW. If this isn’t in the game it’s going to make my life harder.
Server queues are already a problem. Some servers have an hour wait! Put in some more RAM and add some boxes, guys! You have a million pre-orders, invest some of that into your hardware!
So far I’m enjoying my journey to 50. What max level holds is a mystery and I’m cautiously optimistic. The leveling experience is quite good, but Age of Conan’s was decent, too. If Bioware is all story and no fun, expect to see a mass exodus in a month or two (hi Warhammer Online and Age of Conan). Most of us want gameplay, even over super-polished storytelling.