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.