I’ve known this week was coming for a long time. On Wednesday, the earliest point I knew I could begin playing, I made the usual arrangements: relocated my PC to the basement, purchased 24x 500ml MONSTER energy drinks, a carton of Marlboro Golds, informed friends and family that I’d be holidaying in the Bahamas — typical MMORPG release procedure. And then I waited, watched and researched until my email arrived. “Your Saga Begins.” These words, that I had imagined a hundred times, marked the beginning of my latest adventure in the Star Wars Universe.
This staged release of SWTOR was an unusual beginning to an MMORPG that spurred significant debate amongst those that had preordered, and there were many arguments to support both sides. In short, players were only allowed to begin playing in ‘waves’ that were sent out based on how early they’d pre-ordered a copy of the game during the year.
“SWTOR has officially, and successfully released.”
Though many players were still distressed, the launch was ultimately a success, and even though many players weren’t able to begin playing alongside their partners and friends, and even though many guilds weren’t able to begin their adventures as a single unit, and even though many players had surpassed level 30 before so many others had even begun to play— the 7-day launch beginning on December 13th was free of the usual latency and disconnection issues of most other MMORPGs, and at the time of writing, SWTOR has officially, and successfully released.
But many questions remain unanswered. How long does it take to get to level 50 on a single character? When do you get your first starship? Are group space missions available? How many Flashpoint missions are available, and which are the most entertaining? How many companions can you have? Is the end-game PvP and PvE content engaging? These are some of the questions I had in my mind when I began playing SWTOR, and over the coming weeks, I intend to have answered them all.
“”¦story elements and standardised quests are delivered via the same conversation method used in the KOTOR and Mass Effect games.”
This review is to be the first of many; unlike other MMORPGs, which range from offering no individual character story progression to having unique quests and staring zones for each race and/or class, SWTOR follows a unique style set down in the single-player Knights of the Old Republic titles that precede it. Each character you create will have a unique class quest line unlike any other, and we’re going to review them accordingly. This review will provide a general overview of SWTOR, those that follow will aim to give you a solid idea of each class, the inherent differences therein, and highlight the impact these choices have on the overall experience of the game.
Each of the 8 classes in SWTOR are different both in progression and style, and reportedly offer more than 100 hours of unique gameplay and story. These individual story elements and standardised quests are delivered via the same conversation method used in the KOTOR and Mass Effect games, and are a refreshing and welcome addition to the MMORPG genre.
“Regrettably, [Light Side/Dark Side progression] bears little impact on the game.”
After beginning a conversation with an NPC in SWTOR, you’ll be phased into a dialogue zone that appears separate from the normal world, where the character will give you their story and you will respond via selecting one of three dialogue options that best represents your personal taste, and later, your affinity with the Light and Dark side of the force and the level of affection your companions have for you. Regrettably, this bears little impact on the game, as your Light/Dark affinity only appears to affect which weapons you can use, and the level of affection you share with your companions simply makes them perform their assigned tasks — whether that be combat support or crafting — more efficiently.
Companions are one of the more innovative elements in SWTOR; they were a core element of the previous KOTOR titles, and have made the transition to the online world seamlessly. Most players will receive their first companion at around level 10 during their class quest. In the beginning they’ll be used mainly for combat, but soon they’ll be able to assist you with ‘Crew Skills’, the SWTOR take on MMORPG Professions, allowing you to learn anything from lightsaber construction (Artifice), to Treasure Hunting.
“The class story progression is outstanding, and really adds a new dimension to MMORPGs.”
Further along the class quest line, at around level 16, you’ll receive your ship. This marks the next ‘big’ moment in SWTOR, as the space in between is mostly comprised of simple quests and the opportunity for PvP Warzones (battlegrounds) and Flashpoints (Instanced Dungeons). Your ship serves a multitude of purposes, beginning with offering a place to speak privately with your companions and commanders, storage space and a means to travel the galaxy, and ending with specially designed space combat missions that closely resemble the older ‘arcade’ style of Star Wars space combat, and offer some nice experience and rewards for the trouble.
Regrettably, the shine soon wears off the apple with space missions, as it does with many other elements of SWTOR. The class story progression is outstanding, and really adds a new dimension to MMORPGs in general, but the missions that break it up — which will almost always request that you kill this, collect that or click on those — very quickly remind you why you stopped playing MMORPGs in the first place, and while the Flashpoints, Warzones and Space Combat missions serve to break the monotony, the grind becomes much more apparent after attaining level 30.
“”¦it not as feature-rich as World of Warcraft.”
SWTOR has a long way to come before it can be seen as the MMORPG many people were expecting it to be; it incredibly enjoyable once you’ve joined the right guild and found your groove, but it not as feature-rich as World of Warcraft (the lack of a Dungeon Finder, for example, makes grouping after level 30 a guild-only experience in many cases), and the lack of imagination in Flashpoint design and the limited number of Warzones is something that will need to be addressed quite soon. That said, with more than 800 hours of single-player goodness alone, it more than worthy of a purchase.
We’re continue to review individual classes, Flashpoints, Warzones and more as the months of Bioware goodness continue; if you have any requests for what we should try next, be sure to let us know in the comments below. May the force be with you, MMOgamers. NerA out.