As with Rift, I can’t – won’t – do a review until the game itself it out. But I can and should now give you my impressions of the game, while the getting is hot. And I think I may have a little extra insight, because I’ve been in the game for more than just a weekend or two. Dig?
So this will follow the outline that BioWare themselves gave us via the Holonet, so I can comment on each of the things that BioWare themselves wants us to look at in this game. In doing so, I think I hit everything you will want to know as well, while steering clear of the same-old, same-old.
First off, though, a word about BioWare:
BioWare is that really smart kid you know off that can make homework disappear, handle advanced equations, never takes notes, and trips frequently over his own shoelaces. There are some things that they do that are really visionary and are game-changers. For example, when everyone asked what the TOR endgame was, BioWare said “roll another character.” And we raged and banged our heads on the wall and everything else. But now I think many of us are eating humble pie. I most recently got a trooper to level 11 (I am capping myself to that general level in Beta, for a lot of reasons), partly because this is a class I had zero interest in. By the time I finished the starter world story arc, I realized that I would play a character whose only ability was Paper/Rock/Scissors just so I could unravel the rest of the story line. Yes, BioWare is causing us all to go home and rethink our (MMO) lives (see what I did there?).
But this same company BioWare, for all its brilliance has also done some ultra dumb stuff. Like originally wanting to have Jedi “Wizards” in the game. And thinking that a tunnel shooter was going to cut it. And forbidding us from playing really awesome aliens – even though the alien characters have been fully modeled and rendered already and there is no reason not to. And thinking that they can put out one new build a month and have the game ready in time. And talking about how we won’t need appearance slots because they have this totally awesome new system to let us a keep the same look for all 50 levels(!)…that only works on rare items (that you won’t get for the first 10 levels…). And limiting what weapons we can and can not carry, because while every John Doe NPC trooper in the game wields a vibrosword for close combat, there is no way in hell that your Trooper will ever touch one.
So thank you BioWare, for providing us with a cool product. Now tie your F-ing shoes, before I cancel my preorder from sheer frustration.
Advanced Classes. Bioware just may be the first MMO ever to get this down right. The Might and Magic franchise had some hits and misses with it (but mostly hits), and Everquest II tried it and apparently failed miserably (by the time I got into the game, the feature was gone). But here it works and works well. It allows the classes more survivability at lower levels by breaking molds – ranged characters still have a few short range whacks, and vice versa, and gives you time to really figure out just *how* you want to play the class. And admirable attempts have been made and are being made to keep good balance in the game. The only really worry here is that BioWare is already flirting with PvP more than it should, and without fail, where developers have made changes to silence the QQ crying of PvPers, there follows shortly thereafter a draft in the room because of the exodus of RP and PvE players.
There is also a nice incentive to try all the advanced classes, using both sides. The mirror system, paired with the fact that stories are told by class and not advanced class, means that you could play a dual-wielding Jedi Knight on one side, and then get an all new story while keeping the mechanics fresh by hopping over and playing a Sith Juggernaut. I believe the word I’m looking for here is synchronicity, and TOR has it. Speaking of which, I’d tell you what my favorite classes are, but I don’t have one. I love them all, even the ones I didn’t think I’d be playing. My only standout point would be this: using cover takes a good 10-12 levels to get use to,and to learn how to use to its full potential. And when not to use to its full potential. So don’t give up on it at first, because it takes some time to really appreciate what it offers.
Companions. Its a pet. I don’t care what BioWare attempts to do to spin this one. Its a pet. That said – I don’t have any problem with it. Hell, most Rift builds have a pet these days. Why not push the envelope and make lots of pets for us all to collect…hey wait a minute…
Still, a great idea. And gaining affection is not too onerous. I still feel like I can play the character as I want to play them, and not worry too much about “picking the right answer” as I often did in the original KotOR series. Plus, it really lets you play around with them, as they do gain abilities as you go, and can often function in more than one role. T7 for example, the first Jedi Knight companion, starts out with a tanking stance, but around level 11, gains a DPS stance as well. I do wish there was more interaction here, but its a nice side-quest/mini-game vibe that I will definitely be looking into, as your affection rating unlocks quests and conversations with the companion.
Crew Skills. Its not the best system ever invented. And its very confusing at times to know what you should be picking with any given skill. Bu its nice in that it can tempt even non-crafters with some fun interaction and missions. And it is complex and varied enough to reward deep crafters and give them lots of reasons to interact and make the best that they can make. Basically, while you still have to make a ton of any given item to level up, BioWare took the edge off of that grind by making the breakdown process of those items the way to earn the rare schematics. So if you are into making heavy armor belts, make enough of them, and you will learn to make a better one. And eventually, a best one. Perhaps the coolest is the Biochem investiture, which eventually allows you to unlock medkits that are reusable! But this also means that crafters will tend to specialize – there is only so much money and time, so if you want to learn to make really awesome gloves, you may have to forgo really awesome boots. This is great for the economy, and for crafters.
Flashpoints. I can’t say enough good things about these. Remember back in the day, when you would gather your friends, some soda and snacks, and run an old school pen and paper RPG? And the GM would have that adventure book and put your through a scenario? This feels exactly like that. And BioWare is no slouch GM either. You get some nice story touches, some solid loot, and some fun tactical gameplay. And you can run them again and again if you like, to farm loot, social points, light side/dark side points…the whole nine yards. Heck, go back with a companion ten levels later and try it solo if you like. Basically, yeah, its dungeons…but dungeons never felt so good…
The rest of the stuff – Guilds, Operations, Warzones, and Space Combat, I have no tried yet. I will be playing some Warzones and try to get some Guild information together in the next go around. However, because of my self-imposed restrictions, I probably will not be in a position to comment on Operations. Space Combat is a toss up, but I have a feeling you will see something on it in the next week as well.
That’s all for now. If things are quiet, its either because I’m playing and having a great time, or I’m so pissed that the egghead is double-checking his advanced history assignment while the basic math assignment lies untouched gathering dust. ::sigh::