On December 13th, I got up at 5:45am, turned on my computer, and waited to see if I was one of the lucky few who got in the first wave of early access to Star Wars: The Old Republic.
A few failed login attempts later, and I found out that I was. After a few frantic minutes of creating junk characters on multiple servers to save the three names I want to use for my primary characters (Damien, Lesser, and Beej on the server “Prophecy of the Five” if you care), I settled in for my first week of my next MMO.
And it was glorious.
SWTOR is not without its issues and bugs, but for the most part, I haven’t seen an MMO release with this much polish since 2004 when World of Warcraft sucked me away from Star Wars Galaxies. Even after just a week of early access, I can safely say that if BioWare allowed for lifetime subscriptions, I would snag one as soon as my free month runs out.
Your Own Saga
Taking a page from Syp’s book, I decided to play a single character until the level cap of 50 before even starting an alt. From the moment you start in SWTOR, you feel as though the entire game is about you.
Now, there are other people running around, and The Old Republic is very much an EverQuest/World of Warcraft-inspired themepark MMO, but the way BioWare structured the narrative, that doesn’t matter. This is Knights of The Old Republic 3 for all intents and purposes.
After 7 days of taking my sweet time, I’m level 30. The leveling has slowed down significantly over time, and the story has only ramped up. Just before the servers were taken down tonight, I hit level 30, finished chapter 1, and unlocked the Legacy system–which I’ll get to soon.
The end of Chapter 1 is intense to say the least, and it is certainly compelling me to keep playing. I find myself leaving planets before I run out of quests because I finish the class quests and want to move forward with them. I don’t think that will happen nearly as often now that I have unlocked my legacy and don’t have another narrative-oriented goal to work toward.
Overall, BioWare has done a great job implementing the story, and I fully intend eventually to go back to the planets I didn’t give my full attention initially–except for Balmorra. That place is a mudhole.
The Wyrmsbane Legacy
In Ultima Online, my character’s name was Damien Wyrmsbane. In EverQuest, it was Dammiienn. Star Wars Galaxies ushered in the days of Damiiyynn the Wookiee Jedi, and in World of Warcraft, my first character was a warlock named Wyrmsbane.
So you can see, being able to log on early and snag Damien on a few servers and eventually unlock The Wyrmsbane Legacy is just that–my old characters’ legacy continued into a new MMO.
I don’t know exactly what the whole system entails (here’s hoping for new race/class combos so we can have Chiss with Lightsabers), but now all of my characters on “Prophecy of the Five” will have the surname Wyrmsbane, whether they’re Empire or Republic.
I’m very excited to see how BioWare expands the Legacy system in upcoming patches.
And just in case you’re wondering, the end of Chapter 1 unlocks the Legacy, which for Sith Inquisitors is right after the class quests on Alderaan. I assume other classes are similar.
I hate crafting in MMOs. I can’t remember a game in which I’ve ever really enjoyed it. But in SWTOR, I don’t actually have to craft; my companions do it for me. All I have to say is “go do it” and 10-60 minutes later, they come back with loot of some kind.
Then I reverse engineer it (disenchant it, for emigants from Azeroth), learn the upgraded version of it, then send them out again to make the new and improved version. Then I repeat it until I can make the best version of that item (green, blue, purple progression).
Initially, you only get one companion. So you have to choose either to adventure without him or her or to craft. But once you get a ship, you get the failbot droid who you can send on missions while you bring your other companion with you. The more companions who join you, the more you can have out gathering and crafting for you.
But I warn you: crafting can get very expensive. I wouldn’t worry with it too much, as you will find replacements for the gear you can craft pretty regularly, but if you do it occasionally, you can get a decent Prototype (read: epic) item every few levels through reverse engineering.
Also, every character needs to take Slicing as a gathering profession. I don’t care if you think you want it or not. Take it. It’s just like you’re printing money. You send a companion (or companions) out for 2,000 credits. He or she comes back with between 1500 and 5,000 credits in a lockbox. Badabing Badaboom. Free money.
I don’t know how long the skill is going to stay like this, but right now, I’m riding the gravy train with the rest of the 1% and being able to buy pretty much anything I want whenever I want it. Riding skill for 40,000 credits at level 25? Easy. 210k riding training at 40? I had it before I was even 30.
Seriously, level Slicing. Thank me later.
Looking the Part
I decided to go with Empire for two reasons:
The first being that I thought the Sith Inquisitor storyline/voice acting was stronger than the Jedi Knight/Consular. The story is–initially, at least–full of more intrigue and politics, and that’s what I love.
The second reason was that I wanted to be a cool Darth-type character. I wanted to wear a hood and a mask that made me sound robotic like Vader or Malgus or even Revan. So I did my research, and after noticing what Dark Side Corruption looks like on various races, chose to make my guy a bald Sith Pureblood solely because of how it would look with a hood/mask.
And when I found my first mask…my hood went away. Oh, well, that’s no big deal, I’d rather have the hood. So I turn off my helm graphic and go about my merry way.
Then I find a half-mask on a vendor. It was Heavy Armor. Crap. Sith Inquisitors (or at least Sorcerers; I’m not sure about Assassins) can only wear Light Armor. I pop it into the item preview window anyway, and lo and behold, it shows up with the hood.
But I can’t wear it. I look around, ask some folks, and the people from beta tell me that those masks don’t come in Light Armor. Not even moddable Light Armor.
So here I am, playing a character who looks a very specific way because of a costume, and I can’t get that costume. Lovely. I can’t even change the way my character looks to give him hair now. Even lovlier. I really hope they put in some kind of barber shop/image designer soon, or I’m going to be one unhappy man. #firstworldproblem or not, it’s irritating.
Problems, Bugs, and Issues
The graphics on this game are great. Really great. In fact, they’re so great, you probably will never get a chance to see them look great. There’s a nifty thread on Reddit’s r/swtor about running SWTOR on max graphics settings.
I took it’s advice, and what do I get? Pretty graphics that run at under 20fps whenever there’s anything going on. A few client_settings.ini tweaks later, and I’m doing just fine with my old 9800 GTX+. But there is still a good amount of lag when I hit the fleet and when I PvP.
I really hope that BioWare makes some improvements to the engine through patches and makes the game smoother for folks. Until then, it feels just a little clunky, but nothing games like RIFT and Warhammer Online haven’t also dealt with, too. In fact, Warhammer Online was much worse than SWTOR in terms of graphics issues.
Another issue that I haven’t experienced yet is the planet Taris has a quest tracking memory leak. I don’t know when a fix is going in, but until it is, I will be avoiding Taris except for my class quest.
Probably the biggest issue for me right now are the login queues. WIth times reaching upwards of 2 hours for some servers before the game even officially releases, I’m not exactly looking foward to seeing what they’ll look like in the coming days and weeks.
BioWare has said they are aware of the issue and are working on alleviating some of the waits, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I wish they’d take RIFT‘s strategy and open up a ton of servers for launch and then allow free transfers or mergers once the tourist population drops to a sustainable level
I don’t care about the rhetoric about server communities and all that. I just care about being able to log in and play a game I pay for in the time I have to play it. I shouldn’t have to decide 2 hours early that I want to play a video game and then go prep for it. I just want to type in my info and go shoot lightning out of my hands.
The Force is Strong with this One
In the end, Star Wars: The Old Republic does exactly what it set out to do. It doesn’t do anything new with the MMO genre, but what it does, it does well. The emphasis on storytelling gives the genre a much-needed (for me, at least) boost of immersion and rates really highly on the Make-Me-Give-A-Damn-O-Meter.
I think I’ll definitely be sticking with this one for the long-haul, even if the end-game isn’t anything but raiding. The PvP is awesome, the crafting is actually fun, and any new story content that gets put in is just icing on the cake. With 8 individual class stories to play through, I don’t think I’ll be getting tired of SWTOR‘s main draw any time soon.