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Taking a Walk on the Dark Side

Imperial intro video featuring tons of Sith, pretty amazing.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the quest line because I don’t want to ruin anything for you. You start out on Korriban, home of the Sith Academy as a lowly Acolyte. Under the tutelage of a Lord Tremel you are told to go into a tomb and retrieve an ancient Sith sword. No, it’s not a lightsaber. Although it does glow red when you’re in combat. The tomb is full of K’lor slugs of various sizes, which are not like slugs at all but bizarre scorpion worm things. Leveling up is pretty fast and straightforward and you’ll gain your first couple of levels in these tombs. The combat is similar to that of any other MMO I’ve played. Target an enemy, click or hit the corresponding number key for the ability in the hot bar at the bottom of the screen. When you start you only have two attacks, Assault, and Vicious Slash. Each time you attack with Assault you get two points of Rage which powers the rest of your abilities. Vicious Slash does enough damage to kill most level one mobs and costs 3 Rage. You really start to get the badass vibe from your Sith Warrior once you get the Force Charge and Smash abilities. Force Charge is an epic jumping slash attack that closes the space in between you and your enemy quickly while delivering damage. Smash does a Force powered slam to the ground knocking enemies back and stunning them for a brief period of time. I often found myself targeting an enemy at the center of a mob, Force Charging it and then Smashing followed up by Assaults and Vicious Slashes. This is where my first gripe came into play. As a melee character, why am I not auto-moving toward enemies that are targeted once I click/press my Assault button? It was really aggravating to keep running up to my foe, it’s a small gripe but it really threw me off at first. My second gripe is also combat related, the auto-targeting sucks. Plain and simple. Using my Force Charge/Smash tactic and dispatching the galaxy’s scum and villainy, the computer would target the mobs with blasters far away instead of the guy right next to me. Other than that the combat is pretty awesome, your character blocks blaster fire with their weapons and each attack isn’t the exact same animation. In that regard it’s a pretty good leap forward from WoW.

I will say this, the game is good. Here’s the thing that really threw me off, and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not. This game is super storyline driven. For the first 8 levels or so, every other player is pretty much non-existent. There are 2 “Heroic” quests that you can’t solo in the first 10 levels and the only way to complete them with other people. That was the only interaction I had with other players until I left Korriban. Even that was as simple as typing “lfg Hate Machine”, getting added to a party, completing the quest, then disbanding. There are sections of the map called Phases, where only one member of a class can go at a time because it’s a story plot point. Part of me thinks that’s super cool, the other part of me feels kind of crappy about it. This is an MMO, which means 200,000 other people are experiencing the exact same storyline as me, maybe choosing different dialogue options, but ultimately doing the exact same thing. If you follow the quest line, and you really don’t have a choice at low levels, there’s nothing else to do, your level progression is set to advance you right along with absolutely no grinding. That was a major relief, I hate grinding unless I’m looking for a specific item. During your adventures you are given a companion, every class gets one, for the Inquisitor it is a hulking brute that fills the tank role, for the Warrior it is a female Twi’lek named Vette that does ranged DPS. Here is my one gigantic issue with this game and what really throws me off. EVERY Sith Warrior gets a Vette. Not just a female twi’lek that follows you around. A Vette. So as you are completing your early level quests on launch day, look around, and there will be a field of Twi’lek head tails bobbing along. ALL NAMED VETTE. It completely ruins the immersion into a MMO. Couldn’t they at least create a random name generator and have the system randomly throw together the appearance? You do get a customization option shortly after but there was a glitch with the preview so I had to blind pick mine. Yes I understand that the companions have their own histories and identities and story lines, just change their names and appearance to make MY character feel like he might be a little different. You finally reach the tomb of Naga Sadow to retrieve an ancient lightsaber and from that point on you feel like a complete badass. There is no greater thrill than cutting lowly foes down to that iconic thrumming. Once you get your lightsaber and are officially an Apprentice to Darth Baras you are sent to Kaas Dromund the capital of the Empire.

First stop, the Imperial Space Fleet and the station to board your ship there. On this station is where you will pick your Advanced Class, pick your crafting/materials skills and experience your first Flashpoint. It is also the hub of the Empire players and where you will find all of your trainers and vendors. It’s also built in a circle and the map and layout bear a strong resemblance to a certain other circular city in another MMO that I’m not talking about right now.

The introduction of Advanced Classes is pretty interesting and as a Warrior I had the option of Juggernaut or Marauder. Each class has 2 specialized classes that they can choose from. Each one has it’s own set of unique abilities and grants the player with new proficiencies. As mentioned before, two lightsabers are better than one, and that’s why I chose Maruader. Dealing massive amounts of damage with dual lightsabers through brutal attacks is more my style. Much to my sadness you don’t automatically get handed a second lightsaber after picking this class. The option is there though, someday. The Juggernaut gets access to heavy armor and power generator things, i.e. a tank class.

I was in a bit of a time crunch by this time, so I didn’t really get to explore the crafting side of things and I’m lucky I didn’t fall into that time sink. I did choose Artifice, Slicing and Archeology though. Artifice and Archeology allow you to find and make crystals and upgrades for lightsabers and equipment so I felt that was a good decision and would probably come in handy.

Flashpoints are the SWTOR version of instance dungeons and possibly my favorite thing about this game. I made it all the way to Kaas Dromund before I realized I was too low level when I kept getting destroyed by beasts and Mandalorion trophy hunters. So I went back to the space station to see if I missed anything. Boy did I! The only other in-game contact I had with other players aside from asking questions in the general channel. I got the Black Talon flashpoint and met up with a group to take it on. Here is where The Old Republic really started to shine and FEEL like a Star Wars game. First of all, companions are “put away” when you do a Flashpoint, so there’s no confusion over who’s twi’lek is doing what to who. The Black Talon is the first Flashpoint for the Warrior storyline and it’s pretty awesome. Probably my most enjoyable moment in the whole weekend. Unlike other games, The Old Republic makes all of the players participate in the story. Throughout the flashpoint there will be moments when every party member needs to talk to an NPC at the same time, making their own decisions to add to the cutscene. Remember how I said that the facial customization was important? This is why. Once all of your party members click on the conversation icon with the NPC you are all brought into a cutscene. It was really cool and actually made me feel like part of a team. Something I’ve never really felt before in this type of game. You earn Social points while making decisions, I’m assuming based on what your party members chose as the dialogue options and if you selected the same thing, or as what the “right” thing to say was. The Black Talon quest has you boarding a ship that gets in the way of a Republic ship, you and your party rush through the ship to the engine room as it’s boarded by droids. It was pretty amazing to see this group of Sith warriors and inquisitors leaping and slashing while force lightning crackled in the air. It really did feel like I was taking part in a Star Wars movie and I haven’t felt that way since Jedi Power Battles.

That’s about as far as I got. I reached level 13 in 2 days. Which if I didn’t have a family and a wife and kids and stuff, I probably could have gotten farther, but hey, life. I had a great time and I really didn’t want to stop playing. Not sure if the “weekender” characters get wiped or not. It would be cool to see my character on the 20th when/if I log in. I’m not placing any bets though. I think this game might have what it takes to survive in the MMO marketplace right now. World of Warcraft isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even with the new abominable Kung-Fu Panda expansion that seems like a ploy to pull in younger players. Even Activision’s CEO had to take a jab at them so they must be a little scared. Star Wars has a huge established fan base ready and eager for a good game they can play with friends. Nearly everyone in the test was really nice and helpful except for a few of the normal testers who couldn’t wait until all of us “weekenders” were gone so that they didn’t have to see all the stupid questions. They have quite a rude awakening when the game launches, wow. My only issues stem from my set up and I’m not going to hold it against the developers. Everyone was talking about how good the game looked on their systems compared to other MMOs.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, and you like MMOs then give this game a shot. It launches on the 20th for the standard $59.95 and that includes a free 30 days to see if you want to stick around. Subscriptions are going to be tiered depending on your commitment, from $14.95/Month to $12.95/Month if you commit to 6 months and pay all at once. You can pre-order it through the EA Origin store and play up to 5 days earlier here or clicking one of the banners on our site*. Take the system requirements seriously because it could really ruin your experience. I had to have all of the graphics settings set really low, with the only thing on medium being texture detail. Which is really bizarre since I can play WoW at ultimate graphics detail. Here was my set up though:

24″Apple iMac running OS X ver. 10.7.2
3.06 GHz Intel Core i3
ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB

BUT I was running Windows 7 Ultimate inside of VMware Fusion fullscreen, I did bump the processor cores all the way up as well as the RAM settings but still had issues since I still had OS X running in the background. I plan on partitioning my hard drive for bootcamp, as much as it pains me to do so before the release and hope that with ALL of my resources dedicated I can play with full settings. I hope to see you all at launch and …may the force, whichever side you choose, be with you.

*Full disclosure demands that I make you aware that we do have an affiliate program with the EA store. That in no way effects our reviews. You have our word that we will NEVER advertise a product that we do not fully believe in or think that you would enjoy.

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