Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Preview

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta is the upcoming story-driven Star Wars MMORPG by leading developer BioWare. This past weekend, BioWare held their largest and final Beta Weekend. Inviting more players than ever before for what was to be a four day stress test, players finally got the chance to tear apart the most highly anticipated MMORPG of 2011. It takes a lot for a developer to switch from creating RPGs to MMORPGs and because of the differences between how the two games function, it’s hard to pull off correctly. Look at Square Enix with their Final Fantasy MMORPG adaption, then look at Blizzard with their Warcraft MMORPG and it becomes obvious when a studio just ‘gets it’.



BioWare threw all that out the window, an MMORPG is essentially meant to be an RPG where the world is inhabitable by other real players right? The devs have taken familiar concepts from MMOs and then built a bridge to the RPG genre, truly putting the RPG in MMORPG. Through the use of their highly popular conversation system and story-driven quests, BioWare has redefined the delivery of quests forever. What they have done here is proven that you can still deliver that some epic storyline in an MMOrPG that until now could only be experienced in single player. They took further advantage of this and went ahead and told a unique story for every class, each storyline consisting of over 100 hours gameplay.

If you missed out on the beta and you didn’t have a chance to see our livestream during the beginning of the weekend then we have you covered, today we have for you our Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Preview. Everything you need to know about what lies ahead is right below.

MMO Games Star Wars The Old Republic Imperial Citadel Screenshot

The Story

Set 3,500 years before the events of the films and 300 years after the events of the Knights of the Old Republic games, the story takes place during the re-emergence of the Sith Empire. Peace between the Rebels and the Empire is fragile and new conflicts are arising all over the galaxy. The Jedi have relocated to Coruscant while the Sith have re-established the Sith Academy on Korriban. Players are thrown into the war just as the conflicts are beginning, pushing the player forward in what is a heavily story focused journey.

Character Creation & Classes

The character creation system isn’t exactly complex, but there are more options than you see in most MMORPGs. It doesn’t however go into hardcore customization modes such as Aion does, rather a more streamlined slider selection with a dozen or more choices. Players can choose from a few different body types, their hair, color, eyes etc. The options are based more around changing the appearance of your character rather than modifying it. Don’t let this get you down however, there is more than enough here to make a great character for yourself.

MMO Games Star Wars: The Old Republic Sith Choke Hold Screenshot

Currently there are nine races to choose from, Chiss, Cyborg, Human, Mirialan, Miraluka, Sith Pureblood, Twi’lek and Zabrak. Humans and Zabraks can pick any class, while other races are locked to particular choices. All classes are unique to their faction, you won’t see a Rebel Bounty Hunter or an Imperial Trooper. With a total of eight classes, each class also has two specializations to choose from. Each specialization can change both the role and gameplay of a class entirely. Realistically speaking you actually have 16 classes to choose from, check out the entire list below.

REPUBLIC

Smuggler 
Specializations: Gunslinger and Scoundrel
Trooper
Specializations: Commando and Vanguard
Jedi Knight 
Specializations: Guardian and Sentinel
Jedi Consular 
Specializations:Sage and Shadow

EMPIRE

Bounty Hunter
Specializations: Powertech and Mercenary
Imperial Agent
Specializations: Operative and Sniper
Sith Warrior
Specializations: Juggernaut and Marauder
Sith Inquisitor
Specializations: Sorcerer and Assassin

MMO Games Star Wars: The Old Republic Screenshot

Graphics & User Interface

SWTOR has stylized graphics that hold a comic or cartoon vibe and I might even go as far as saying it feels a bit like The Clone Wars animated series. Crank the game up on max settings and it looks stunning, everything comes together really nicely and I can’t say I would want the game to look any other way. Anti Aliasing was disabled for the beta so we weren’t able to see the game in its full glory and there were quite a few graphical glitches but beyond that it still looks magnificent. Something of major concern is always the User Interface, which often seems to be one of the hardest things to do. BioWare has gone through many changes in their UI, but from what we can see in the current build, it looks great.

The UI is very streamlined, it fits the game and it’s functional. With a very sleek skin, decent customization and even the ability to minimize things like the chat window (which I highly recommend) and quest tracker. Everything you could want is already there and I am sure there are going to be unlimited possibilities as we head in to launch and players start to create their own tweaks and compilations. For now however, the UI won’t bug you and it is easy on the eye. What more could you ask for?

MMO Games Star Wars: The Old Republic Flashpoint Screenshot

Questing & Flashpoints

The only people who I have seen complain about SWTOR are those who like action games over story based games. Never has it been more fitting to say it’s all about the journey, not the destination. In The Old Republic, every single quest is fully voice acted and features the same conversation system we see in Mass Effect and Dragon Age (Dragon Age 3 is official btw!). There are no dull NPCs handing out generic text written quests in this game, more than just full voice acting, each quest has a story. Each class has their own unique storyline, this follows a main arch and carries the player through their role in the great war. Outside of the main epic arch, there are side quests like every other RPG or MMO. 

You have two options here, you can either follow the main storyline solely, or you can wander off and complete side quests. There is a difference though, these side quests aren’t just quick XP and some spare change, they have stories and help get the player involved in local issues. You learn a lot about what goes on in a town or city from completing quests, you learn who some of the key citizens are and get the chance to make some friends in high places. There is a lot of dialogue in this game and you spend a lot of time in conversations, so if this isn’t your thing then you might be one of those few who can’t stomach what BioWare is trying to feed you.

MMO Games Star Wars: The Old Republic Imperial Guard Screenshot

There are no boring quests in Star Wars: The Old Republic, everything has a purpose and gives you meaning. One of the major choices in Star Wars is if one wants to align with the Light or Dark side of the force. This is incorporated with light and dark choices, with each quest you do you are presented with options. Do you kill the prisoner or set him free? Do you take a bribe or stay loyal to your employer? Every conversation is filled with these decisions and the way your story will play out depends on the path you walk. You really do have to remind yourself that you are playing an MMO, a lot of the time it feels like your playing any other BioWare RPG and it is a great feeling.

Players who decide to group up together will have the opportunity to take part in Flashpoints, essentially the dungeons of SWTOR. These are more than dungeons however, they are action sequences, that once again follow a story. The first of these Flashpoints that I encountered on the sith side was Black Talon, as a group of four players you take on the task of boarding a ship to receive stolen intelligence. When I say it’s an action sequence, think of it as more of a level from a game rather than a dungeon. You take part in group conversations, followed by some fighting then more conversation or a cutscene. The result is better than you can imagine and they make dungeoneering much more involved and exciting.

MMO Games SWTOR Screenshot

Companions & Starships

We’ve always had companions in the form of pets both for vanity and combat, they were never more than just a tool to kill mobs or other players though. BioWare has brought over another system they are very fond of, their companion system. Players will receive their first companion upon completing a certain quest in their class storyline, this generally happens around level 8-9. Your companion will follow you everywhere, helping you fight, peforming tasks for you or even entering a relationship with you. Each class receives a different companion and multiple will be obtainable throughout the game, you can have conversations with your companions while in a cantina or your personal starship. Companions have an affection rating, based upon how they feel about you and can lead to them leaving you forever or jumping under the blanket with you.

One of the most sought after things in the beta was a Starship. Players receive their own personal starship upon completing a certain quest in the storyline, this generally happens at around level 15-16. For a Bounty Hunter, they must steal their starship from a local starport, as is a tradition. Your personal starship acts as player housing, your companions will stay on board the ship and it will provide the means for you to navigate the planets in the galaxy. The game world spreads over several planets that act as zones for certain level brackets, while deep space also offers space missions. Partake in StarFox style on-rails space combat, shooting down enemy ships in high action, twitch based combat. 

MMO Games SW:TOR Screenshot

Crafting & Crew Skills

What would Star Wars: The Old Republic be without a crafting system. Players can craft weapons, armor, mods (upgrades) for both and various other items. There are gathering professions as is norm, salvaging parts from wrecks and hacking data from computers. All these systems are straight forward and there isn’t exactly anything innovative here, until you reach the crew system. As you gather companions you begin to form a crew. BioWare recognizes that farming mats and crafting isn’t fun for everyone and they wanted to ease the pain a little. It makes sense that if you have companions who are helping you with your cause, they should at least carry their own weight. You can send your crew members off on different types of missions, pay a few credits to cover costs of the mission and your companion will disappear to complete it for you. Some companions naturally are better at certain missions and the chance of success can depend greatly on this.

While you will still have to do a bit of farming for mats yourself, there are several unique and special rewards that can be obtained through crew skills that make them worth pursuing. Each mission has a time it takes to complete, meaning that your companion will be absent for this duration. It then comes down to strategizing between which companions to use for their natural skills as to who you need with you over that duration of time. Early game you really have to decide whether it is worth sending away your companion or if you might need them for a fight coming up shortly.

Gathering Skills
  • Archaeology —œ the ability to seek out imbued items like Lightsaber crystals and ancient artefacts and is best combined with Artifice or Synthweaving.
  • Bioanalysis —œ the practice of collecting genetic material from creatures and plants and is best combined with Biochem.
  • Scavenging —œ the art of recovering useful materials and parts from old or damaged technology, and the items get from Scavenging are useful for Armormech, Cybertech and Armstech.
  • Slicing —œ a skill in accessing secured computer systems and lockboxes to acquire valuable data and rare schematics. And is by far the best money making skill and can be used with Cybertech.

Crafting Skills
  • Armormech —œ the ability to work with hard metals and electronic shielding to construct all types of personal armor.
  • Armstech —œ the skill of constructing blasters, blaster rifles and upgrades.
  • Artifice —œ the delicate work of constructing Jedi and Sith artifacts.
  • Biochem —œ the engineering of performance-enhancing chemical serums and biological implants.
  • Cybertech —œ the technical expertise to construct gadgets and components for Droids and high-tech armors.
  • Synthweaving —œ the art of creating lighter outfits and armors that are imbued with supernatural qualities.

MMO Games Star Wars: The Old Republic Illum Screenshot

Combat & PvP

The combat system is the same as you would see in World of Warcraft or EverQuest, but don’t let that put you off. The skills are very cool and the combat is engaging, you don’t feel like you are just mindlessly bashing buttons and each skill is more than just an ability, it is a utility at your disposal. Each class has skills that make them feel like a true badass, whether you are a bounty hunter blowing apart a helpless smuggler or a Jedi Knight smashing an Imperial Agent against the wall. Your character, their abilities and the effects all feel like they have weight and impact in both PvE and PvP. You really have to experience it yourself to understand, but just know that it’s fun and refreshing while extremely familiar and easy to pick up.

SWTOR has battlegrounds like any other MMORPG except in the world of Star Wars they are known as Warzones. Players compete in objective based matches, Alderaan for sees two battleships fighting for control over a ground base. Players must take control of three cannons to shoot down the enemy battleships. The combat is fast paced, fun and will have you screaming at people who don’t go for the objectives. One Warzone which is quite popular is Hutt Ball, a Capture The Flag style sport where players must grab the ball from the centre of the map and run it into the enemy goal line. All weapons are available so it blends team deathmatch style gameplay with capture the flag. This is another Warzone that will have your blood boiling as team mates run the ball into your own dead zone. For those who are searching for a bit of Open World PvP, Illum, a level 50 planet features a massive PvP map complete with AT-AT’s giant laser cannons and bases to capture.

MMO Games SWTOR Star Wars: The Old Republic Illum Screenshot

With over 800 hours of storyline across the board just for class main archs, 17 planets to visit and a full realized Star Wars universe, who could say no? With a huge amount of pre-orders and beta testers responding with a huge resounding ‘moar please!’, Star Wars: The Old Republic is already the next big thing in MMO gaming. The least I can say is I expect World of Warcraft to be suffering from another drop in subscribers come December 20th. Stay tuned right here at MMOGames.com for more Star Wars: The Old Republic coverage very soon.
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