Hands on with Star Wars: The Old Republic
Impressive. Most impressive
First Look So I have been waiting and waiting and waiting and finally the gaming world is flooded with Star Wars: The Old Republic beta keys.
Slays against the machine
My first question is, what level could I get to before Sunday night? After that, I don’t get to play again till 20 December, the day the game is released to the public.
I heard some complaints about the length of the server queue States-side, but I was in after two minutes. I managed to get in to a medium-high PVE server. After deciding to roll a Sith Inquisitor - a spellcaster with force lightning to fry all and sundry - I spent some time in character creation playing with the sliders.
The options available for character tweaking are acceptable but fairly limited for this day and age. Whatever, I ended up as a cute short Sith girl with black pigtails, gold eyes and a lip ring.
Night of the old reptilian
The main thing that makes SWTOR stand out is that it attempts to involve you more fully in the storyline and Star Wars mode of storytelling by presenting every plot-based interaction as a cut-scene with dialogue options very much in the Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect style.
I can foresee problems with this already. You're going to meet people with the cut-scene loading symbol above their heads, and that's going to zap your suspension of disbelief a little. But they do bring the story to life in a way I haven’t seen before in MMOs.
Holograms.. talk to me
Interestingly, how you tackle missions can affect my lightside/darkside rating - I ended up with a bunch of lightside points for not following orders and torturing a fellow student. But, according to other beta players, these points won’t affect gameplay. That's a shame, and an opportunity missed, if true.
Attack of the moans
The Sith starting zone is taken straight from the KOTOR world and, without giving too much away, once the intro is over, I quickly end up embarking on missions in the traditional “Kill ten beasties and get back to me" vein.
When the Sith hits the fan
The locations are beautiful and it’s a definite feeling of immersion in the KOTOR world.
The game controls and user interface work well when not affected by lag, and all the inventory and character windows are in keeping with the KOTOR design ethos.
My time as a Sith witch was enjoyable, although I felt a little overpowered. I killed four monsters at one time as a Level 2, mainly by blasting them with force lightning at every opportunity.
Looking to get a rise out of me?
Wanting to experience both sides of the game, I rolled my Jedi equivalent – a Jedi Consular. But I didn’t get to do much because for some reason Jedi faction seems subject to much more lag. Enough lag that no one moved much and NPC interactions didn’t work. Let's hope developer Bioware gets its server code fully optimised by the time the game goes on sale.
And then, almost before I knew it, my test weekend was over, and game publisher EA was telling me that, regrettably, this would be my only chance to test SWTOR as it prefers to have a new batch of testers every time.
Should you invest, come 20 December and every month thereafter? If you enjoyed KOTOR 1 and 2, and have been pining for a new addition to that world, then I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this upgrade - even if it will never compare with Star Wars Galaxies! ®