Monday, November 28, 2011

An hour of TOR Beta

I spent the requisite hour with the SWTOR "closed" beta, contributing to Bioware's effort to make that term absurd by inviting millions of players.

The art style is different, but the UI is intentionally familiar.

A few comments:
  • If I understand the class system correctly, there are eight "advanced" classes (mirrored between the factions), each of which shares its first ten levels with one other "advanced" version of the base class.  Again, if I understand correctly, you cannot change your advanced class without re-rolling.  Each advanced class has three talent trees that can currently be respec'ed and, at some point in the future, will support dual specs.  Two of the eight advanced classes can only be DPS, while the remaining six have a single tree each for tanking or healing.  Given that each character gains NPC companions capable of tanking or support, this system feels destined to exacerbate the genre-wide issues with convincing players to tank or heal.
  • Each base class has a fixed storyline, with a fixed list of companions and fixed roles.  Need a tanking companion but don't like the one your class gets?  Tough.  Want to solo as a stealth lightsaber fighter and serve as a healer in groups?  Sorry, those are different advanced classes.  Disagree with the writers' call on what is the "right" call deserving of light/dark points?  Too bad, this is the story Bioware is telling.

    The upside here is significant - much more player involvement in the story, and much more of a feeling that your companions have real personalities, rather than serving as loot acquisition assistants.  Unfortunately, the downside is there as well - it's not enough to find a role I like, I also have to find a story I am prepared to enjoy.  
  • One place where Bioware is pushing the envelope is in the use of instances and scripted conversation.  There are sometimes comically large crowds of players standing around a quest objective with speech bubbles over their heads, indicating that they are currently conversing with NPC's.  It's also possible to split off portions of public-looking areas into phases for more conversations. 
On the other side of the door is a cutscene, which these two characters are currently playing through.

I will not be pre-ordering or playing at launch for purely technical reasons.  My laptop does not meet the minimum box specs for the game, and, unlike Rift, I was not able to make the game pleasant to play by gutting the graphics settings.  I will wait until I can play this on a machine that's worth playing it on.

My impression of the game as a MMO tourist was much more favorable than I'd anticipated.  I actively did not enjoy the gameplay of Dragon Age to such an extent that I wasn't willing to tolerate it in order to see the story.  SWTOR appears to use very standard MMO mechanics, which I still enjoy.  This is unlikely to be a long term subscription, but I think I could enjoy playing through once or twice to see the storylines. To that extent, I've come out of the beta weekend much more positive about the game than I was when it began, which is a win for Bioware.

1 comment:

Yeebo said...

My hope is that with the right mix of companions you won't be crippled without a dedicated healer in group content, apart from end game raids. Given that everyone can self heal outside of combat, I suspect that's the design intent. I also seem to recall that any player can rez you, but I may be making that up.

My current PC just barely runs the game at what I consider acceptable settings. The textures and shadows are just detailed enough to not bone my immersion, and my draw distance with playable frame-rates is surprisingly good. However, I can't enable anti-aliasing at all.