My impressions of the Beta Weekend.
I had high expectations for this game and I have to say, they weren't met, no, SWTOR exceeded my expectations by far!
After all the drama of my PC breaking down and making the decision to get a brand new system and fearing I'd not be able to make it to the Beta Weekend in time, I have to say that buying a brand new i7-2600 was the best thing I could have done to experience this game. Running the game on max settings at 1600*900 (hey I like this res, at least I can still read stuff on the screen :) ) on my 94cm (37") TV was a blast, the game looks very very good. I can only imagine that the people who complain about it's looks just don't like the cartoony style the game is set in. I was most impressed by the shadows and lighting effects, weapons fire, light sabers and the BH's flamethrower all light up the area in a most realistic way. The overall lighting levels on Hutta and Dromund Kaas really set the mood. The game ran very smooth, too smooth, as I had to turn down mouse sensitivity a bit lest I'd get motion sickness just trying to look around.
I started out by fiddling around with the character creator, I created one character for each class mainly to see how some of my choices I had made prior would actually work out in the game. Some of them turned out better then expected, my Smuggler looks like a cross between Charles Bronson and Ron Jeremy, my Bounty Hunter looks like Commander Shepherd assimilated by the Borg, my Miraluka Jedi Knight didn't come out quite as I'd hoped, he was meant to resemble a younger version of Jerec, but instead ended up looking like a bald Agent Smith. I might have to rethink going Miraluka.
I picked an US East Coast server to play on as I intent to play on both US/EU servers at launch. I experienced virtually no lag, two minor lag spikes and that was it, keep in mind this weekend was a stress test (even if Bioware isn't calling it that, there were over 1.5 million people invited) My MS ran in the high double numbers for most of the weekend, occasionally going into the low triples, highest I'd seen was in the 170s for a few minutes. Seeing as in WoW I'd often get around 160-200 on EU servers, some days shooting up to 400, I was very pleased.
Right after you create your character you're put into the story, you'll arrive at your starter planet and are introduced to your first interactive cutscene, similar to those in Mass Effect or Dragon Age. You can be a goody two-shoes or a douche bag right from the get go, yay! ;)
In my allotted time during the Beta I leveled 3 chars. A Smuggler and Sith Warrior, both to level 10 and a Bounty Hunter to level 12. And I can say I loved the mechanics of each class. I played the Warrior first and it felt very familiar, if you've ever played a Warrior class in WoW you'll feel right at home, even the Rage mechanics work largely the same. And yes overall the game mechanics and UI feel very similar to WoW, after all it's a hot-key MMO, and all hot-key MMO play this way.
The one thing that off-sets this game from WoW is that while you're leveling... well you're not really leveling. Sounds a bit odd right? Well what I mean is, while you're playing you follow a story, and you can't help but get involved in the story, not once did I pay attention to the XP bar, "dinging" always came as a surprise.
There is a lot of backstabbing and betrayal going on in the 3 stories that I played, it almost seems to be the generic theme running through every class' prologue story. Character progression is done quite nicely and by level 10 you're ready to leave the starter planet, look like a BA, have your first companion and will be completely engrossed in the story of your class.
Each starter planet will have your class' main story quest, side quests and some heroic quests. You can group up with someone to do the heroic quests (which are designed to do with 2 people) or you can just leave them till last, as they're soloable once you get your companion, the latter is what I did with my Bounty Hunter and without Mako healing me, I'm not sure I'd be able to have done all of them solo.
Beta is Beta, so there are still some bugs, here's what I've encountered so far;
-Hearing other peoples companions talk, as if they were talking to you.
-Other peoples companions sometimes appearing in their underwear.
-Foliage textures on Dromund Kaas having a black edge where alpha channels is suppose to hide that part of the texture (might be a Gpu driver issue on my side)
-NPC loading without their "extra apparel" like the band in the cantina on Hutta playing without instruments or guards standing around holding "air guns".
The biggest bug I've had was on Dromund Kaas with my Bounty Hunter, I chose an option during conversation that would normally result in a fight, but the NPC I needed to kill was not attackable when the cut scene was over. I logged out and back in to see if that would fix it, but to my shock that put me outside this instanced story phase without the option to get back in. I'm pretty sure customer services would've been able to help me out here and get everything back the way it should be, but it was getting a bit late and there were only a few hours in the Beta weekend left, so I opted to just log out, at this point I pretty much got out of the Beta what I'd hoped to get out of it anyhow.
Bring on the early launch on the 15th December! I'm ready!