Impressions of the The Old Republic Beta

The Characters

TOR features nine races and eight classes, each with two “advanced classes” you must choose from once you hit level 10. As you level up, you purchase new abilities from trainers, and once you select your advanced class, you gain access to three skill trees to sink points into.

While there are distinct combat roles like in any MMO — tank, DPS, support — no class is restricted to one role. For instance, the Sith Warrior branches into either the Sith Marauder or Sith Juggernaut advanced classes, which are melee DPS and melee tank, respectively.

Before level 10, you’ll gain your first companion character, and every class has a unique sidekick: the Jedi Knight gets a droid, the Sith Warrior gets a Twi’lek slave, and the smuggler gets a — surprise, surprise — wookiee.

The Story

Bioware has left its fingerprints all over TOR in the form of the game’s story and narrative structure. If you’ve played Dragon Age or Mass Effect, you’ll find TOR’s conversations with NPCs familiar, with full voice acting and morality options. Your companions have their own personalities, and you can curry or lose favor with them depending on which conversation options you select.

TOR breaks new ground in the MMO genre with a story told through custcenes and conversations that are fully voice-acted. I hate myself for it, but in most MMOs, I often skip overly long write-ups — spending thirty seconds reading a wall of text breaks immersion for me, and the writing is generally of poor quality.

However, I’ve never been tempted to skip any conversations or cutscenes during my time in TOR. I may feel differently on subsequent playthroughs, which raises a concern expressed so eloquently by an infuriated party member that was foaming at the mouth, trying to get the rest of us to skip a conversation. There will be people who will want to skip conversations, and people who won’t — and when they come together to form a party, hostility will ensue, a kind of hostility that will be detrimental to the fostering of a community.

The Gameplay

TOR plays it safe by sticking to core gameplay that is your standard MMO fare — why mess with a recipe that has over ten million subscribers hooked? While the familiarity will be welcome by many seasoned MMO players, those looking for something completely original may be disappointed. Combat is what you’d expect: you spend more time staring at the cooldowns on your hotbar than at the battle itself.

Your standard “kill # of monster Y” quests show their ugly face, though generally in the form of bonus objectives to more interesting quests — which TOR doesn’t skimp on. The most memorable quest I completed involved interrogating three prisoners and, in turn, deciding their fate. Most quests do involve combat, but I didn’t come across any that felt repetitive or dull enough to abandon.

Companion characters add a great functionality to the game by serving as helper monkeys that sell your junk loot for you, craft items, gather resources, and even go on mini-missions. While I normally find MMO crafting systems cumbersome, I was rather enchanted by this one, which allows you to shift a lot of the footwork onto your companion if you so choose.

The Verdict

TOR isn’t revolutionary, but it does evolve some aspects of the MMO genre, such as by being fully voiced. While it doesn’t take as many innovative strides in terms of gameplay, like Rift did with its dynamic combat event system, it does have the most immersive story of any MMO I’ve played.

Whether that immersion is restricted to the early game or continues on to alleviate the mid-level grind is something I’m willing to give TOR a chance to prove; the beta has sold me on picking up the full version this December.

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8 Comments on Impressions of the The Old Republic Beta

Luther

On December 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

I take it you have never played final fantasy 11? It had the best story telling of any mmo made that i know of with full cut scenes and even CG at times like getting access to a brand new zone from an expansion, it never had the voice acting you are correct about that, this game here is the first mmo to have full voice acting but not the first to do in-depth story telling / story progression into endgame content.

I’m interested in trying out Starwars tho, thanks for the review.

Luther

On December 1, 2011 at 3:32 am

O yeah a quick note, we had to wait for people to finish cut-scenes all the time in ff11, it was never an issue for us, so we’ll have to see if people are more inpatient then they used to be in 2004 or just different player base.

Aids

On December 1, 2011 at 6:02 am

Like all new MMO’s people are more so on the extreme/zealot level of things. Either it’s the best thing ever or no it’s crap and should be sent to the trash.

People should turn the damn internet off and stop being little whiny es. Not all games that come out have to be the holy grail. You can just enjoy and play games for what they are instead of giving everyone else a damn headache.

josh

On December 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

Played the beta and as a long time WoW player I have to say it was fun, the Story was interesting, the quest were fun, the game play was good. As with any MMO you are going to be grinding, you are going to have to learn how new things work and you gotta get that rep up, if you don’t like that then MMOs are not for you.

Will Star wars be the next WoW, I don’t really think we will see anyone take that title for a very long time, but will Star Wars take a good chunk of people away from WoW, yes it will happen. There are a lot of unhappy WoW players and even more that are just bored of the game, Star Wars will be a nice change of pace.

David

On December 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

Agree with this article.

@Aids: No one is forcing you to listen…

zach

On December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I thought the beta was an extremely fun change of pace and I cant wait to see how the game end. But that’s just me.

Nozyspy

On December 2, 2011 at 12:39 am

I also played the beta and hugely enjoyed it, though it is not a sandbox game like Star Wars Galaxies, it is more like KotOr Online.

And a note to the reviewer; the Republic Troops are more like ancestors to the Clone Troopers, the Sith Empire has its own troops that are the visual ancestors to the Stormtroopers. ;)

And a not to all WoW players that come to this game, this is science fiction dammit, it is Star Wars, force powers are NOT ‘cast’. If you are going to play a sci fi themed game, make sure you familiarise yourself with the terms first, instead of bringing all the WoW fantasy jibberish over! =P

Nozy

CHoedy

On December 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

@ Luther

FF11 is a ing joke.