Like many of the gamer folks I know through twitter and the blogosphere, I participated in Bioware’s Star Wars: the Old Republic BETA weekend stress test over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The TL&DR Version? I absolutely loved it and only had a few, minor hiccups.
Choosing a Class to Test
I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like playing my Sith Inquisitor to be, but didn’t want to spoil the story for myself on a character I’d have to give up. Thus, I chose a Jedi Consular (Sage talents once she could specialize), who you can see in the above screenshot. Although I did my first level or two by myself, I was soon joined by my SO on a Jedi Knight, so we could check out the effects of grouping on leveling.
I’d decided pre-BETA that I wanted to focus my time on just 1 character, versus trying out a number of them, since you don’t get a true feel for the class characteristics until you hit level 10. I hoped to be able to make a significant dent in a profession or two, and to get to experience space travel. I was able to accomplish those goals pretty easily, despite working for 2 of the 4 days of testing.
Leveling Together as an Advantage
My SO and I have leveled together in World of Warcraft a number of times over the years, and more recently, leveling from the starting areas onward in Aion, Rift, and LoTRO. Inevitably, leveling together would end up feeling a little frustrating, with our having to kill twice as many mobs for quests in order to get the required number of quest items, one or the other of us running off to complete a class specific quest or a non-shareable quest we thought the other of us had also grabbed, etc.
It was thus a pleasant surprise to see that leveling together in SWTOR was actually an ADVANTAGE. Having an omnipresent second party member meant we were able to easily tackle the heroic quests/bosses we came upon in our questing travels. Once we both had our companions and got to Coruscant, we decided to 2-man the Esseles flashpoint. In retrospect, this was probably the smartest thing to have done at level 10, as it allowed me to really spend some time thinking about how to maximize use of my companion, and my crowd control skills. Other than my falling through the floor at one point, and dying on our first attempt on the first boss due to a lack of a healer (I later filled in on that role) it went pretty smoothly.
Other leveling pluses included being able to Holocron in for NPC conversations when one of us found a quest giver, versus having to wait for a slow runner to catch up, and getting to peek in on another class’ class storyline events as a guest.
How Can 3 Hours Have Gone Past?
I think my biggest surprise as we went through the leveling was how engrossing the story was. Hours would pass as I went through my class storyline and other starting quests, without feeling like it was taking a long time to progress.
This was due in large part to the participatory dialogues with the quest givers, but also with the way the questing itself was organized. For instance, when I would be out in the world on a specific quest, I would inevitably kill a mob or three on my way there. Often, these collateral kills would result in a “bonus objective” of killing X number of said creatures. If I was feeling particularly like smacking them around, I would complete that side quest before returning to my objective. But if I was especially intent on what I came out there to do, I just continued upon my original path, and once I completed the quest I came out there to do, the side quest would come off my quest list. Not having to manually go in and clean up quests in areas I was done exploring was a nice touch.
Once we hit level 10, my SO and I split up on our testing objectives (he went on to level up a total of 3 characters past level 10, to test out PvP on all of them.) I continued on in the hopes of getting a good feel for crafting leveling and with the goal of getting my spaceship, which you can see from the below screenshot, I accomplished.
As a Mac user who has to use Bootcamp in order to play SWTOR, I was crossing my fingers that there wouldn’t be too many glitches to report. And overall, until the end of testing, there were relatively few issues I encountered, and most of them minor. Those included:
- All my screenshots were black. I put in a ticket on this but did not get a suggested fix. Once I thought to ask twitter, however, I was able to resolve that issue by unchecking the Exclusive Full Screen mode in the graphics options.
- Unfortunately, unchecking Exclusive Full Screen mode in the graphics options meant I could no longer minimize the game. It also coincided with the game deciding to no longer recognize my Mac bluetooth keyboard. Having my keyboard flit in and out of usefulness is actually what put a stop to my BETA testing on Monday. After a lond day at work the last thing I wanted to do at home was fight with the computer over recognizing my keyboard.
- When crafting, the list of required materials for a recipe would sometimes…blank itself out.
- Mail in the mailbox seemed to often take 15-30 seconds and a number of clicks to open.
I had one crash to desktop, one server restart but no queues for login over the 4-day period. Not bad for a BETA test.
Next up: an overview of my crafting experience, space combat, and my search for vanity pets.
Knowing that I had only a set number of days to test, I wanted to see the game from multiple angles rather than focusing on only one. We played off and on for three of the four days with breaks for WoW mingled here and there.
I got two characters to 13, two to 8-9, and 3 others at various lower levels. After getting a feel for the questing and general playstyles and such I did a little playing around with professions and then dove straight into PvP.
I’m not a big story guy. I typically couldn’t care less about the story behind my quests and everything, I just want to kill things, capture flags, play with my professions, and kill some more things. I actually found that I enjoyed the story in SWTOR though. I like being able to interact with NPC’s with the text, and I love that people in your party answer along as well and it can impact the whole conversation.
It was also fun to see that when Fyn and I choose different options it did actually make an impact. In one case I killed a guy on my Bounty Hunter while she let him live (we weren’t in a group for this one). I got my dark points, she got her light and on we went. But when we logged in the next day she had mail and I didn’t. Turns out that fellow appreciated getting to live so he mailed her some credits as thanks.
Little things like that make everything a lot more interesting.
I had a few unexpected pieces of mail from NPCs along the way as well. It definitely made me feel as though my decisions mattered, and added to my immersion in the story.
I have been a huge RPG fan since my first playthrough of FFVII. When I started playing MMOs, I’d hoped to find one that truly allowed me to get lost in the story and the world the developers created. The small taste I have so far of SWTOR makes me think I’ve finally found it.
Depending on the choices you make, you might end up getting letters with cash or items from a lot of NPCs. From one of the the story lines quests for Inquisitor, I have received several messages as I level. Little things like this are what really draw me to teh game.
Totally agree– it’s another notch in the list of things that make this game so immersive. Love it.
We had trouble with the mail too at first. We clicked everywhere and it wouldn’t open. Jason got his to open by spamming clicks in it. I later realized that it required a double-click on the subject to open. Didn’t have any trouble after that.
Also, we liked being able to holocall, but we found that the person who joined as holocall was often limited in participation. Don’t know if it was a bug or working as intended, but by the end we were running to catch up to join the quest conversation in person so we wouldn’t miss out on light/dark or affection points.
Overall we loved exploring together. Although some said the story was very rail-roaded, we found that to not be the case. Exploration was rewarded as we found lore object and bonus quests by going outside our specified quest objectives. Was really immersive.
I’ve heard that they’ve been working on the mail, and we no longer have to double click. Possibly in some of the cities, lag made it difficult for the double clicks to register? All I know is I would stand there and click like a fiend!
I am now always on the lookout for any ghostly glowing blue as I explore to make sure I don’t miss any lore objects out in the world. All those little touches are what sucks you into the story for sure.