SWTOR: Impressions and _Impressions_

Like most of the MMO world, I’ve spent the last week knee-deep in The Old Republic. Talk about a good game. Single player? You bet, more than any other MMO I’ve played. Featuring more group content than our other darling child, RIFT? Without a doubt. And isn’t that something? We can have the most exclusive type of single-player questing, the kind that drives the anti-themepark nuts, and yet have more and better reasons to find friends than in recent memory. Bioware, you’ve struck gold.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and step back from the jaded, “I’ve seen at least THREE MMO releases and that means I’m vet” self, and admit that TOR has inspired more awe in me than any MMO since my first. I was skeptical of their very stylized art style right up until I played it in beta – and I’ve been blown away since then. There is a level of detail here we’ve never seen in this genre before. From the spaceships outside the fleet dock, to the arcs of lightning in your first real instance, TOR delivers the periphery better than I ever thought they could. It is, in a word, immersive.

I’ve been playing a Sith Assassin and having a fun time, if a little disappointed in the side quests. The main questlines are fantastic. Sure, you get your fair share of “go here, collect that” but between the lines are some real nuggets of good storytelling. For every kill quest worthy of skipping, there are three well-acted, well-told story quests. I often listen to podcasts as I play, yet I find it almost impossible to do so when entering a cut scene for my class. There a simply too many interesting characters, twists, turns, and lore tidbits to offer half my attention. It’s engaging to be sure.

PvP is an interesting proposition. It doesn’t change from start to end; you have three warzones, no brackets, and skippable cutscenes. The battlegrounds are two-thirds fresh. Huttball is a good time, especially when you can knockback players into walls of fire or acid pits. Voidstar is an MMO take on Battlefield’s Rush mode. Alderaan is Alterac Valley… or Domination or Conquest, take your pick. The Assassin is an incredibly capable class and I’ve managed to top-three every match I’ve played – and this from the self-professed mascot of noob-PvP. Once again, I must remind rogues that you are overpowered and should be loving every minute of it (the assassin is effectively a rogue if specced right). My one issue is that PvP gear is only awarded at levels 20, 40, and 50. Successful PvPers could easily acquire all of the available gear as soon as they ding, leaving little reason to grind the in-between. PvP specific players will very likely have earned the vast majority of commendations needed to buy a full PvP set before they even reach those levels. Or so says an Assassin.

Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed. I’m on Dromund Kaas, almost finished, and if one thing has sunk in, it’s this: it took millions and millions of dollars, but a game has finally matched WoW’s level of polish right out of the gate. We wonder why TOR took so long or cost so much, but the answer is effectively this: they set to match a seven year shined game and succeeded. People said that was impossible and Bioware just did it. Even if you hate themeparks, that deserves a nod.

Thanks for reading,

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