Monday, November 21, 2011

SWTOR Beta Weekend Impressions

I plan on rolling on the Republic side at Launch, so I rolled on the Sith side for my Weekend Beta. This way I got to experience the classes, but not spoil any of the story. The classes in SWTOR are exact mirrors, so when I play my Sith Warrior, I’m playing the same class as a Jedi Knight. Some of the names and animations of the spells are different, but mechanically they are identical.
Over the weekend, I played a Bounty Hunter, an Imperial Agent and a Sith Warrior. I spent the least amount of time on the Agent. I don’t know if my graphics card wasn’t working right, or I just didn’t understand how cover worked, but I never saw any of the cover icons I had seen in the videos. When I hit cover, my agent simply knelt down. and my action bar changed. The powers available in cover were far more powerful than those available outside of cover, but by the time I had gotten in cover and was ready to attack, some Bounty Hunter came by and shot the guy I was targeting.
The next class I tried was the Bounty Hunter. I had just watched the Trooper versus Agent video and I loved the toolkit the Trooper had. Bounty Hunter is the Trooper's mirror. It took me a while to get used to the Bounty Hunters resource system, called Heat. It’s sort of like Rage in reverse. Most of your attacks generate heat, and once you have filled your heat bar, you can’t use any attack that generates heat until you cool down enough. Heat slowly dissipates over time if you don’t use any heat generating attacks. The bounty hunter combat was fun, but the most impressive thing about the class was the story. The bounty hunter had the best story of any class i played.
I spent most of my playtime with the Sith Warrior and he did not disappoint. The combat system was fun and the most intuitive. The Sith Warrior works on Rage points (Jedi Knights call them Focus points). You have a basic attack that generates Rage points, and stronger attacks that use Rage points. I don’t think you get any rage points for being hit. Rage points carry over from battle to battle but they do slowly dissipate if you aren’t in combat for a while.
The Warrior was the only class that I got far enough in the weekend to get my first companion on, and it was a game changing experience. My companion was very well written. She was at the level of Jaheria, or Imoen, or Bastilla. As you make choices you can see her affection going up or down. I would make a choice and see her affection go down and regret it, and try to make a different choice the next time around. She also provided a Ranged DPS character and helped out with combat.
Companions, story and faithfulness to the IP were definite strengths of SWTOR. Another refreshing change from my recent WoW leveling was that I could over pull and actually die. Taking on mobs of my level was fairly easy, but even one level more than me proved very difficult. I never was in danger of out leveling an area, if anything I almost needed more experience, and grinding random mobs to keep up with where the quests were sending me. The experience point curve feels very tightly balanced.
Of course, not everything was perfect, this is still beta after all. There were  a couple of graphical bugs, and I’m hoping they get fixed before launch, although it was suggested to me that I should update my video card drives. I have an old ATI 4800 series, and for the most part it handled the game well. There was one quest that didn’t trigger, but reloading solved that.
The major design flaw I saw was that Bounty Hunters and Agents both start on the same world, Hutta, while Sith Warriors and Sith Inquisitors both start on Korriban. This could be a problem because if you and friend start the game, and he wants to be a force class and you want a tech class, you won’t be able to adventure together until the early teens. Imagine there was no way to get from Teldrasil to Goldshire, and you rolled a human and wanted to play with a friend who rolled a Night Elf. There wasn’t any way I could find to get from Korriban to Hutta before you get your ship and to do that you have to progress through your class story to at least level 10.
The other issue I was was that because of the load on the servers, they broke into shards, or instances similar to what I saw in Champions Online. So I might be in Korriban-1 while my friend was in Korriban-6. Getting together was a little tricky to figure out at first, but we managed. There is a ridiculously long cool down on changing shards that i really hope gets reduced by the time we go live.
I didn’t get far enough to get my advanced class or try a Flashpoint (SWTOR equivalent of a dungeon). I’m hoping I”ll be able to do that in the upcoming weekend. (Stephen Reid, community manager for SWTOR confirmed our characters from the last weekend will carry over!)
I think @Linedan from my Twitter followers said it best, It’s a good game, but do not try to compare it to the insane excessive hype that’s flying around. That’s unrealistic.


Grim said...

So lots of us have had a chance to play thanks to the previous beta weekend. After reading your post I thought I should throw in my couple of cents based on what I experienced in my weekend of fun. In my typical fashion I tried to get in as much time as I could as I wasn't sure there would be more time I would get to play prior to live.

My live plan was much like Honors in the fact that I currently plan on playing Empire, so I spent my beta play time working on Republic characters. I played on Friday night as a trooper who I played through the opening planet and did the first flashpoint at. I finished the first world at level 10 and proceeded to grab my AC. I tried Commando (guy with big gun, who can throw heals) as I was planning on trying Mercenary BH for live. I did the first flashpoint (Esseles) with a buddy of mine. We were able to two man it with our companions. He was playing a Jedi Knight Sentinel and had his robot ranged tank companion. I had my ranged commando companion. As mine was a Cathar, I think I will refer to him as a pet! We only ran into a couple of issues along the way as we didn't have a real tank, my heals sucked and Sentinel's hit hard, but die fast. As for Flashpoints, they ROCK. So much better then any other instance type thing I have done previously. The story component that I am really enjoying for questing, makes Flashpoints even more fun. The choices you get to make are great. *Spoiler alert, don't read this part if you don't want to hear about one of the choices* I wanted to kill off the engineers to get some dark side points, but my buddy won the roll and they got to live to my dismay. It meant we had to do something else in the flashpoint instead of a mad dash to the end, but it means you can do them different ways if you want to do them a few times, without them getting completely stale after the first go.

more to come...

Grim said...

The next morning I decided that I needed to try a toon with a LASER STICK OF DOOM, so my Jedi Knight was born. The melee was a different experience after playing the trooper. Immediately the play style differences were apparent. The trooper was an AOE monster for questing. The Jedi Knight is not. The lovely out of combat self heal makes this not much of an issue, but it was still something I noticed right away. I played my JK enough on the rest of the weekend to finish the starting planet, the second planet, get my ship, and got to the third planet. What I liked at this point, was I was given a choice on where I wanted to go, so I obviously chose a planet I had not seen yet. I also was able to get my second companion and third. As a JK I chose to take the AC of Guardian, and put all my points into the defence tree. I was curious to see if this would have a large impact onto my ability to solo quest. All I can say is... NOPE. I ended up changing how I was using my companions but it really didn't do anything to slow me down. For every group I wanted to kill, I would jump in and pick up as many mobs as I could, and let my companion kill them off. DPS companion FTW. For the gold mobs, i took a slightly different approach, after getting taunt. I would send in my companion first, let her get beat on a bit. At half life I would taunt off, if I hadn't pulled aggro already, and finish the mob off. On these mobs, the same level as me, we would kill it easily and both end up at half life. A quick heal and we were on our way. I quested a bit with my buddy who was on his sentinel, at about my level, and he DESTROYED mobs, but took a ton of damage. I didn't get to see how he did against strong or gold mobs, but regulars exploded when he touched them. But he was basically made of paper. If they had a chance to hit back, he hurt, as all good DPS should.

I spent the last few hours of the weekend crafting and doing space combat. The most surprising thing was that I really enjoyed space combat. It is so mindless and I thought so fun. I was really surprised at how much fun I had.

I also really liked the crafting mechanic. Maybe using my companions as slaves appeals to the dark side in me, but once I got the hang of the missions, I had two of my three companions on the go at all times. I really like that you get something accomplished while you are off doing something fun. I spent my crafting time working on Artifice, Archaeology and Treasure Hunting. I never got far in Treasure Hunting, but my JK is around 140 artifice and about the same in Archaeology. The reverse engineering option is great too. I never had to worry about the crafting for the sake of crafting to level up. I made things, then I reverse engineered them to get some mats back and then I made more... GENIUS. And if you got lucky you get a better copy of the recipe for what you were making. I was able to go from the green version of a lightsaber hilt, to a blue, and then to a purple. I am not sure how many times you can upgrade a recipe, but it is pretty awesome IMO.

Can't wait to play again this coming weekend.

Ryan aka Grimadin

Ted said...

I look forward to cleansing the universe of your dark side influence soon.

Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time. Keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

did we lose you writing of your adventures honors?