Sunday, October 9, 2011
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Beta Impressions
This is not footage I took, or even of the same class I was playing, but it should give you a basic idea of what the early part of Bioware's $100M MMO should be like. Now I know what you are thinking, $100M gets me this? Shouldnt it be, you know, a bit more impressive? Well I have to agree, it doesnt look like something that couldnt have been made 10 years ago in terms of the gameplay and overall presentation/design of the game. But unfortunately ALL MMOs are like this, they cant deviate too much from the baseline without alienating the base of players who pay to play them.
In terms of the graphical fidelity and performance, I think the game looks good but its not even remotely close to being stunning, in fact, its fairly dated looking. The walking and combat animations are passable, but weaker than The Force Unleashed. I actually like the anime Clone Wars stylized art design of TOR, and the game runs pretty smoothly on a decent dual core machine with a year old 512MB videocard, and the CGI cutscenes, of which there are plenty, are truly awesome - so those are the positives.
The negatives are many, starting with the bugs and glitches, which are abundant. I was able to totally break the game within a few hours, rendering a character unplayable by glitching into the geometry behind a building and ending up in an underwater soup, stuck in a swimming animation where I was unable to use my teleport ability. The quests seemed to work fairly well compared to the prehistoric game physics, but in general they were pretty boring and basic - just far too conventional - go fetch this, scan that, kill X number of these. I was just soloing most of the time and got up to around level 8. My main complaint is that the combat is pretty MMO-like and clunky (click mouse button, hit hotkey, repeat) and not in any way an improvement over KOTOR - but not any worse either.
That being said, its still addictive - I played till 6am and was entertained most of the time, even thought the whole thing was a bit bland feeling, it gives you that RPG itch where you want to see just one more ability, one more item, one more level. Also, the community aspect of it is great - I got stuck on one quest and almost quit when I realized there were 4-5 people in my area doing the same quest, so I just hit "Enter" and typed in "HOW DO YOU SCAN THE DROIDS?" and quickly got a response. Also, a guy randomly healed me a few times when I was down, and a couple times players would see me battling with a group of monsters way bigger and tougher than myself, and jump in to help once I got down to 20% health and started to flee.
Im going to buy the game, because every few years I try to get into a big new MMO and give the genre another shot, and furthermore, I did enjoy KOTOR 1 and 2 and Im a fan of the films, if not as much of a fan as I used to be. But I wont be paying for a year up front. The beta is good in that it has you rate the quality and "fun" of each quest and allows you to submit bug reports with screenshots from an in game menu, so I think they will improve the experience a bit in the 10 weeks they have before the game releases (its only a one weekend beta). But for $100M, they need to impress me a lot more if they want my $15 every month - Im talking space combat, awesome ground vehicles, balanced PvP, huge PvE siege raids, big bosses, and epic storytelling. Right now, Im not sure the game will deliver on any of those things. Only buying the finished product and getting up to a high level will tell. See you all on there December 20th.