Confessions of a Sith Who Hated the Beta: Two Days In

After I got into the ToR beta some time late August I was pretty sure I wasn't going to play this game. On my four-years-old rig, even running the game on the lowest of settings was a painful process. Everything looked ugly as fuck, the game lagged significantly, loads took forever, I was averaging about 10 FPS, and most of the time when entering a new area the terrain textures would fail to pop for several minutes leaving me running in a black wasteland with the word "DEFAULT" patterned across it in purple text. It was so bad that even though I received four subsequent invites to the testing phase, I ignored every single one. I even went so far as to tell my WoW compatriots for the past six years that I probably would not be joining them.

HOWEVER

I couldn't leave it at that. I had preordered it mere hours after preordering even became an option. Once I noticed @CL60's post on these boards that the release client was available for download, I logged back on and (after being forced to add something like seven security questions to my account, seriously EA?) got myself ready for some early access shenanigans. I am now two days in and I have to say, I FUCKING LOVE THIS GAME.

How it runs

Amazingly (given the circumstances). I know my computer isn't the beefiest thing out there. The processor is still riding the curve well but my 8800 GTS is pretty much the minimum spec on everything that's come out in recent memory. Still, at the default "Low" settings the game runs incredibly well. I don't know what the fuck they did during the four months in between my part of the testing phase and now but it worked. FPS stays hovering around a comfortable 40-50 for the most part, only starting to dip after I've been running the game for six+ hours. Textures look great. Loading is quick (outside of entering an entirely new planet). And most importantly, combat is crisp and clean with almost no notable lag.

How it plays

Say what you will about WoW, it has the crispest, cleanest combat out of any MMO out there. The interface is clear at-a-glance and the game gives you excellent, immediate feedback as you use your various tools and abilities. The only downside (which all MMO's suffer from) is the fact that for a number of WoW classes, combat is spent watching your character auto-attack and pushing a button every ~4 seconds. That's what made the Death Knight such an exciting class when it first came out. Every GCD (global cooldown) mattered and you often couldn't push buttons fast enough to accomplish everything you wanted to do.

The best parts of using a Death Knight are exactly how combat in ToR feels to me. By taking auto-attack off the table and transforming it into an activated ability, combat has become significantly more active. Not only does this give you a button you can always be pressing regardless of available resources, it adds a higher degree of complexity to standard ability rotations. There's always a decision to be made and my character only hits when I want her to hit. I rolled my eyes at first too, but it really does make me feel more connected to the action.

Also it's nice that they went out of their way to make you feel bad-ass by balancing the game around standard pulls of thee to five mobs. It's super satisfying to Force Charge my way into a group of looters and (with the help of a grenade toss from my companion) Smash my fist into the ground to kill them all in one fell -swoop.

Welcome to the Galactic Stage

Despite all the praise I've been lavishing on the game, the fact remains that ToR is basically WoW with tighter design, rougher edges, and a Star Wars skin. Don't worry though, ToR still has a huge advantage that has hooked me for the past two days and will likely keep me there for months to come: an epic story with the distinct BioWare flavor.

From an early level, the plot has been sowing the seeds in my mind for what is likely to be an epic end-game experience. The characters are all well written and acted, and I often times find myself carefully considering how I want my Sith Warrior with a heart of gold (that's right, Light-Side Sith, bitches!) to act and react in various situations. I'm playing her as a sort of noble samurai, loyal to her lord and master but honorable and just, and as crazy as that might sound it the writing and acting actually make it work.

Most importantly, BioWare has managed to give a real sense of weight to the decisions I make. During my last play session, as I was about to leave my second planet, a special event occurred that directly referenced a decision I had made several hours and over a dozen quests ago. It was less Rachni Queen and more Giana Parasini, if you catch my drift.

Even more exciting than the single-player campaign's storyline are the Flashpoints. While they fulfill the same role as instances in WoW, the experience is drastically different. Every Flashpoint is basically a self-contained thirty-minute (or more) storyline featuring multiple combat and dialogue scenarios. What really sets these Flashpoints apart is the way in which they handle group conversations. Early during the first Flashpoint, a key decision is made on whether or not to kill a certain individual (with the requisite Light/Dark-Side points). During the scene, each player in the group makes their decision (earning the relevant points regardless of the outcome) and a roll determines whose decision is actually carried out.

I was grouped with my close friend playing a Dark-Side Agent and happened to win the roll. He had run the Flashpoint numerous times previously but, as we progressed on to the next area, he started to become bewildered. Because I chose to let the character live, the game had sent us down a completely different path than he had taken during previous runs. By the end he had experience the Flashpoint in a completely new way with a drastically different ending, all because of a choice I made. It may be a minor thing in the overall scheme of things, but knowing that I had altered my friend's experience gave my decision a weight more significant than anything I could have experienced while playing alone.

It's the little things

I could type all day about the things that I love about ToR despite the fact that I burned out on WoW years ago. Instead, here's a quick list of all the other little things that I've loved during my journey to level seventeen so far.

  • Solo-questing as a Tank spec is viable thanks to the DPS my companion provides
  • With smart play and help from our companions, my friend and I have been able to duo every piece of 4-player content we've come across
  • Crafting and gathering are now passive activities, allowing me to do both while leveling
  • The hearthstone will take you to any bind point you've previously discovered, EVER
  • Quest rewards are always intelligently tailored for me and my companion
  • Orange quality gear can be continually upgraded as you level if you want to maintain a specific look without sacrificing stats
  • I have a star-ship
  • Eventually my guild will be able to purchase a capital ship that all the members can dock at

TL;DR

I am sick of WoW, but the tweaks to the combat formula and engrossing storyline of ToR have managed to hook me. If you have any questions about the game or want to know more from a level 85 Blood Elf Paladin's perspective, feel free to ask.

10 Comments
11 Comments
Posted by StarvingGamer

After I got into the ToR beta some time late August I was pretty sure I wasn't going to play this game. On my four-years-old rig, even running the game on the lowest of settings was a painful process. Everything looked ugly as fuck, the game lagged significantly, loads took forever, I was averaging about 10 FPS, and most of the time when entering a new area the terrain textures would fail to pop for several minutes leaving me running in a black wasteland with the word "DEFAULT" patterned across it in purple text. It was so bad that even though I received four subsequent invites to the testing phase, I ignored every single one. I even went so far as to tell my WoW compatriots for the past six years that I probably would not be joining them.

HOWEVER

I couldn't leave it at that. I had preordered it mere hours after preordering even became an option. Once I noticed @CL60's post on these boards that the release client was available for download, I logged back on and (after being forced to add something like seven security questions to my account, seriously EA?) got myself ready for some early access shenanigans. I am now two days in and I have to say, I FUCKING LOVE THIS GAME.

How it runs

Amazingly (given the circumstances). I know my computer isn't the beefiest thing out there. The processor is still riding the curve well but my 8800 GTS is pretty much the minimum spec on everything that's come out in recent memory. Still, at the default "Low" settings the game runs incredibly well. I don't know what the fuck they did during the four months in between my part of the testing phase and now but it worked. FPS stays hovering around a comfortable 40-50 for the most part, only starting to dip after I've been running the game for six+ hours. Textures look great. Loading is quick (outside of entering an entirely new planet). And most importantly, combat is crisp and clean with almost no notable lag.

How it plays

Say what you will about WoW, it has the crispest, cleanest combat out of any MMO out there. The interface is clear at-a-glance and the game gives you excellent, immediate feedback as you use your various tools and abilities. The only downside (which all MMO's suffer from) is the fact that for a number of WoW classes, combat is spent watching your character auto-attack and pushing a button every ~4 seconds. That's what made the Death Knight such an exciting class when it first came out. Every GCD (global cooldown) mattered and you often couldn't push buttons fast enough to accomplish everything you wanted to do.

The best parts of using a Death Knight are exactly how combat in ToR feels to me. By taking auto-attack off the table and transforming it into an activated ability, combat has become significantly more active. Not only does this give you a button you can always be pressing regardless of available resources, it adds a higher degree of complexity to standard ability rotations. There's always a decision to be made and my character only hits when I want her to hit. I rolled my eyes at first too, but it really does make me feel more connected to the action.

Also it's nice that they went out of their way to make you feel bad-ass by balancing the game around standard pulls of thee to five mobs. It's super satisfying to Force Charge my way into a group of looters and (with the help of a grenade toss from my companion) Smash my fist into the ground to kill them all in one fell -swoop.

Welcome to the Galactic Stage

Despite all the praise I've been lavishing on the game, the fact remains that ToR is basically WoW with tighter design, rougher edges, and a Star Wars skin. Don't worry though, ToR still has a huge advantage that has hooked me for the past two days and will likely keep me there for months to come: an epic story with the distinct BioWare flavor.

From an early level, the plot has been sowing the seeds in my mind for what is likely to be an epic end-game experience. The characters are all well written and acted, and I often times find myself carefully considering how I want my Sith Warrior with a heart of gold (that's right, Light-Side Sith, bitches!) to act and react in various situations. I'm playing her as a sort of noble samurai, loyal to her lord and master but honorable and just, and as crazy as that might sound it the writing and acting actually make it work.

Most importantly, BioWare has managed to give a real sense of weight to the decisions I make. During my last play session, as I was about to leave my second planet, a special event occurred that directly referenced a decision I had made several hours and over a dozen quests ago. It was less Rachni Queen and more Giana Parasini, if you catch my drift.

Even more exciting than the single-player campaign's storyline are the Flashpoints. While they fulfill the same role as instances in WoW, the experience is drastically different. Every Flashpoint is basically a self-contained thirty-minute (or more) storyline featuring multiple combat and dialogue scenarios. What really sets these Flashpoints apart is the way in which they handle group conversations. Early during the first Flashpoint, a key decision is made on whether or not to kill a certain individual (with the requisite Light/Dark-Side points). During the scene, each player in the group makes their decision (earning the relevant points regardless of the outcome) and a roll determines whose decision is actually carried out.

I was grouped with my close friend playing a Dark-Side Agent and happened to win the roll. He had run the Flashpoint numerous times previously but, as we progressed on to the next area, he started to become bewildered. Because I chose to let the character live, the game had sent us down a completely different path than he had taken during previous runs. By the end he had experience the Flashpoint in a completely new way with a drastically different ending, all because of a choice I made. It may be a minor thing in the overall scheme of things, but knowing that I had altered my friend's experience gave my decision a weight more significant than anything I could have experienced while playing alone.

It's the little things

I could type all day about the things that I love about ToR despite the fact that I burned out on WoW years ago. Instead, here's a quick list of all the other little things that I've loved during my journey to level seventeen so far.

  • Solo-questing as a Tank spec is viable thanks to the DPS my companion provides
  • With smart play and help from our companions, my friend and I have been able to duo every piece of 4-player content we've come across
  • Crafting and gathering are now passive activities, allowing me to do both while leveling
  • The hearthstone will take you to any bind point you've previously discovered, EVER
  • Quest rewards are always intelligently tailored for me and my companion
  • Orange quality gear can be continually upgraded as you level if you want to maintain a specific look without sacrificing stats
  • I have a star-ship
  • Eventually my guild will be able to purchase a capital ship that all the members can dock at

TL;DR

I am sick of WoW, but the tweaks to the combat formula and engrossing storyline of ToR have managed to hook me. If you have any questions about the game or want to know more from a level 85 Blood Elf Paladin's perspective, feel free to ask.

Posted by sirdesmond

Great post. I agree completely with your comments about how the major hook here is the story, dialogue, and Flashpoints. I love the idea of MMOs but have never been able to get into anything (except Eve Online oddly enough) due to the same old and tired gameplay. The gameplay in SWTOR is tweaked enough that it does feel very similar but different (I'm playing as a Smuggler so I've got the cool cover system to use). It isn't different enough though to stand out that far from the crowd though.

The only reason I am feeling as hooked as I am right now is because of the fact that I want to see my current storylines through, even side quests seem important due to the new dialogue system, and I really, really want to get my starship back.

Posted by Veektarius

Thanks for the post. It's nice to get optimism from a source that seems to have a balanced take. It's never good when someone says "All I wanted was WoW that was Star Wars and I like this."

Posted by CJduke

Great write up. I'm really happy to read all this and I can't wait to play the game!

Posted by Picard

Yeah it ran like shit in beta - It's running great now.

Posted by project343

I actually really enjoyed the beta, and continue to love the main game. Great post. :)

Posted by fishmicmuffin

I had some of the same issues as you with the beta and I was thinking about getting the main game. I'm glad you don't hate it... I will probably pick it up soon.

Posted by ScytaleZero

Thanks for the write-up; you answered several questions my wife and I had.

Posted by RiotBananas

I want to know why you play a Blood Elf Paladin!

Posted by myslead

wait, the Capital Ship thing is already implemented ?

Posted by StarvingGamer
@RiotBananas Because I played Horde since release and wanted to try out the "new" class when BC came out. BElf was my only choice. I ended up liking it more than my Mage and Priest.

@myslead Nope, hence "eventually."