Star Wars: The Old Republic. 2phatgeeks Celebrating the NDA Lift.

Since August of this year, Shawn and I have been beta testing possiblyif not the most popular up and coming MMORPG’s–the most talked about: Star Wars: The Old Republic.

And the thing is, is other than flailing about the internet squealing and telling people we were in the beta, that was it. We couldn’t tell them what we thought of it, what we liked, what we didn’t, how the game was doing, our reactions or anything. As long time Star Wars, Bioware fans neither Shawn nor I wanted to jinx our chances at having the ability to continue playing the game as well as testing it. So the best we could do when countered with questions about whether it was any good or not was tell people, “if you get into beta, try it. You might like it.”

On November 18th,  the most glorious of days arrived. The NDA was lifted and no longer were we doomed to bouncing around like two excited kids on a bed chanting Iiiiiiiiiiii caaaaaaaaaantttttttt teeeelllllllll yooooou. And so without further ado, here’s everything I couldn’t talk about and want you to know, what I think, my opinions and more of the game that quickly became my all-time favorite.

 

Dromund Kaas

A taxi ride in Dromund Kaas.

The Amazeballs (aka: The Good Things)

Story
The websites, commentary and other quips about Star Wars the Old Republic’s focus on story and attempting to involve the player as much as possible isn’t just hype. Anyone who is a fan of a) Star Wars, b) Bioware, c) Knights of the Old Republic, c) RPG’s and last but never least: story, I believe, will find something to like about this game. Every NPC has their own little quirk and background and you’re introduced to them almost straight away after leaving character creation. Story is key. Like most Bioware games we have come to know and love, the plot and fate of your character comes first and foremost.

Armor & Weapons
I realize that for some players, having giant spoons, forks, or hot pink bubble guns might be fun. But for Star Wars and my little lore-laden heart, I am happy to say that this hasn’t been seen in game (except for the hot pink pants of boots of a texture not rendering properly!) Your armor and your weapons are going to fit into the environs and story of Star Wars: The old Republic. Guns will be appropriately gun-like, light sabers–despite the early out cry from people of them appearing too cartoony–do not look that way anymore. Armor doesn’t run into that issue where your pants are orange, your shirt is green and your cape is hot purple. Blacks, grays, blues and reds, muted or with panels and buttons to fit into the story and the mood of SWTOR abound.

In a previous beta build and no doubt will be re-instated (if it hasn’t already. Forgive me, I’ve been playing Skyrim!) there is an option in the social panel to match gear with chest piece. This essentially combats any further mis-matched armor a player may have by making everything fit in better, color scheme and appearance wise with the players currently equipped chest piece.

Planets, Graphics & Environments
Never have I ever been so happy to learn skills and buy speeders that make me move faster than I have when playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. I love the environments. Bioware has not failed on this sense of scale; when you are on a planet even if you are on one that has a predetermined area the game wants you to hang out in,  the sense of being a little pea in the pod of the universe can overwhelm. As you progress in level and are sent to different planets, the scale grows and even though there is something magnificent to catch as well as look at on all of the planets; the need for a speeder will grow simply to be able to get to point A and point B sometime that day.

The attention to detail is fantastic. When you are standing in front of the Republic Senate, you are filled with a sense of awe (and maybe a bit of the sense of over compensating too–but it’s so pretttty!). The empire’s strict, metallic, hologram red or green or blue infused architecture garnished with ancient relics of the Sith, it’s bowed head statues carry the sense of power and dread.

Since starting my testing in early August, the graphics have undergone several tweaks for clarity, sharpness and texture fixes. I am in love with the armor styles. They are very true to Star Wars and very true to which side your are one: Empire armor and robes are definitely more sinister than Republic or Jedi. I have found myself, on more than one occasion wasting fifteen to twenty minutes finding the right spot to take the right screen shot. They only thing the game is missing (as of the last time I beta tested) was the inability to use anti-aliasing, so shadows and characters and textures despite clarity had jagged and pixelated outlines.

Voice over acting
I cannot lie and tell you that this isn’t one of the main reasons why I am in love with this game. To me, the fact that every NPC in this game has his or her (or its) own voice is amazing. I remember eons ago when I was beta testing Ever Quest II and I was so tickled pink with the fact NPC’s had voices. Limited things to say, but voices still–and the NPC voice overs in SW:TOR bring a whole new level of fun. Not that I am adverse to reading Quest text…But hearing the NPC with dialects and accents and emotion is a level above. 

Flashpoints, AKA Dungeons
The first thing I want to tell you about Flashpoints–otherwise known as Dungeons in other games–is make sure you have your shiznit together before running them, especially if you’ve a) never run them before or b) have people in the group who have never run them before either. Get your drink. Go to the bathroom. Repair your gear. Make sure you have enough whoofizzles for your jiggliemoo. Feed the cats. Put the kids to sleep, whatever it is you need to clear at least an hour and a half free of interruptions. Especially if you enjoy taking your time and listening to all the voice over, thinking carefully about your choices–like I do.

I also recommend not running any new Flashpoints with a group that speeds through them like hamsters on crack. You miss so much if you do because all you’ll be thinking of the whole time is how to catch up with everyone else and keeping up.

Flashpoints are another aspect of the game that Bioware has ensured they go above and beyond. They have mingled cut-scenes with dialogue and Dark/Light side choices with each step, as well as a good sprinkling of trash mobs and bosses. Some of the bosses will require a strategy, especially if you’re going in with three or two people and their companions. If you’re lucky to have a full four member party in decent gear you might be able to luck out and just use the “KILL ALL THE THINGS,” strategy.

As far as I know the best means to tackle Flashpoints when you are at level is a full group of four. You can eek through them with companions if you’re smart and utilize all the tools available; and of course, if you’re way over level.

Companion Characters
From level 1-10, you are set loose on the world of your origin, be you Trooper, Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter, Jedi, Imperial Agent or Smuggler. During your class quests on these planets you will eventually be introduced to your first Companion Character–or as some have even called them. ‘Pet.’ If you aren’t familiar by now, Companion Characters are player controlled party members that do a pleathora of things from healing you, being ranged DPS support, being a damage dealer or tank and also being the extension of your invetory selling and crafting.

Yes!

Not only do your Companions have things to say depending on where they are and what triggers them, they are also the vehicle to your crafting and selling of gray vendor trash. You can send them off wherever you are to sell all gray items and this usually takes roughly a few minutes. When you send them to craft, you can send them to craft up to 5 items at a time (with each item you ask them to craft adding minutes on their timer away from you.) Eventually you will get more Companions and that means more back up support choices depending on where you are and what you are fighting, more conversation items and more crafting!

You can even send your companions out to collect harvest-able materials for you if they are near by.

Dromund Kaas

Towers

The Lacking (aka: The Not-So-Good Things that may still need work.)

Character Customization
Now if you’re coming from a game that lacks a lot of customization (IamnotlookingatwowIamnotlookingatwow) and that’s your only experience with character customization (alsonotlookingatRiftnotlookingatRift) than SW:TOR might seem pretty satisfactory in the character creation and customization department. I’ve played a handful of MMORPG’s out there that went out of their way, above and beyond really, what you could do to create your own unique looking characters–and I was instantly spoiled. I know that for some, character customization matters little to the mechanics as well as how great the game play is. To me, having a character that is semi-unique, in facial features and hair at least is important.

I’m going to be staring at my own avatar (and my guild mates avatars) for the entirety of playing the game. I’m also playing a game set in a vast, open universe and staring at 230923293829323 cookie-cutter twi’leks, Chiss and humans takes a little bit of the wind out of my sails. Obviously not enough for me not to tell Bioware to SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!11!!! but enough so that I am a touch disappointed. I had hoped for more and I am also hoping that with release as well as after, that more customization options will be offered.

Companions: you don’t need to click/pick that up, do you?
One of my biggest annoyances–aside from the fact that Bioware has yet to figure out how to fix the fact elevators completely confuse companions and also sometimes they fall to their death on them or just stand there like how is elevator formed?– is companions always seemingly being in the way of looting. Be it a dead body or a material for crafting, when I went to click with the mouse or select with a keyboard short-cuts, nine times out of ten it seems like my companion will be in the way. Even when they move out of the way they somehow move..just…further in the way.

Alts & Replayable factor
The truth of the matter is, despite how fantastic the story lines are–once you go a certain point outside of your class beginning planets the stories for all classes on the same side start to converge and eventually everyone gets all the same quests more or less. Running the same Flashpoints over and over again will probably get wearisome too.  Of course, your class quests remain unique to said class, but what’s found on the planets all classes share tend to be a like. Meaning if you start an Empire side main character and go back to create another Empire side character, different class–eventually you’ll find yourself doing the same quests as before. That means the same voice-overs and same cut scenes and for a few this might become boring, quickly, finding themselves clicking through conversations quickly so as not to listen to the same dialogue you’ve already heard. The re-play value is a touch lacking. But when I think about it, this is pretty much the way it is for most MMORPG’s out there anyway. Most

RP add ins, Player Housing, Small things that may only bug Me
Ship is supposed to be player housing, but don’t see a lot of room for player decorating and customization on the inside at all yet.
Unable to sit on chairs, benches or interract much with the environment other than shooting and maiming–although did add in Juke boxes.
Social clothing is a bit of a work out to get. Level up social points. Then spend credits to buy a token.
Legacy idea, neat, but having to hide it so that all my characters aren’t related to one another bad. Want different names for different characters on account, not one for all. Also, want to share hubby’s character’s last name.

 

Dromund Kaas

Dromund Kaas

The Overall

First, I know I have missed so many details. There is so much more to this game, like Datacrons and Holocrons and the different healing and how do they stack up and PVP and companion story lines and gear and gear slots and lightsabers and grouping mechanics and showing Sith corruption on a Sith character and matching clothing to chest piece social options with social clothing and race specials–but if I were to go through all of that I would end up writing MORE and as it is, this post is already short novel length. There are hundreds of fantastic sites out there for you to learn so much more about SW:TOR, such as some of my personal favorites (but never limited to)

Star Wars: The Old Republic
R2-DB
Torhead
Greetings, Meatbag
TORSyndicate Community
Admittedly, despite being a super-duper-fan-girl of immense chubby proportions, I can admit freely that there are aspects to this game that might impede other’s enjoyment. You still have to go here, kill 10 of these–oop, here’s your bonus quest to kilk 30 more! There is a grind and a repetition to the questing. The formula isn’t something we haven’t heard of before in being sent out to do something, come back to the Quest giver, and being sent out to the same place to do more.

It is a bit linear.

For those not familiar with Bioware’s games and not a fan of RPG’s/ not a fan of MMORPG’s, the heavy RPG aspect might be a turn off while the MMORPG fun of playing with thousands of players–some of whom make the moniker ‘douchecanoe’ look like a compliment–might also turn players away.

The game is not perfect. There are balance issues between classes that need ironing out still and there are glitches and issues that still need to be addressed. I do not tout that it will be a WoW killer or the GAME OF THE CENTURY! CENTURY! ENNNTURREEE! URRREEE! EEE! (<—That was me writing out the echo sound effect. Because I am funny, god damn it.)

What I do think is that Bioware has made an almost perfect marriage of the two things I like: their games and MMORPG’s, story and grind, questing and exploring. I think this is a truly magnificent start to what may be a long-lived game if Bioware pays strict attention to the mistakes and pluses of other games gone before them, during them, and after.

I am going to be playing this game at release (pre-ordered) and if lifetime subs ever become a reality, I am sure Shawn and I will be having them too. This is a game that I want to be part of through thick and thin and one that I do highly recommend.

A little crazy is okay.

I read the other day a post about crazy people making the best bloggers.

And I thought they so do. And then I thought but I’m not crazy, in my head in one of those tones.  I heard myself say it in my head (I did, yes, stop staring at me like that) sort of self-assured. Like the notes you would hear from ladies with silver-blue in their hair, bent over afternoon tea on their front porch on a sunny summer day. The two of them politely dance around one another in barely polite conversation–making hints about each others obvious superiority because neither come right out and admit they hate each other and have no idea why they’ve put up with each other for so long…stop to ponder one of the Jones’ children as he bycycles past. They eye each other without speaking and mmhmmmmmm at one another, bringing their heads even closer over the sugar cubes to viciously gossip about little Timmy Jones’ entire family. Yeah. In that tone.

But I’m not crazy. 

And then I got to thinking–and as many of you know, that’s never really a good thing. I got to thinking…what if we’re all nuts? What if we’re all a little bit off our rockers and we’re all looking at one another pointing fingers and going, see? See–that’s nuts. What that person did was crazier than what I’d do so I’m all right…Right? 

But what if it’s okay to be a little crazy?

When we’re children we do and say things that as adults we would never dream of saying. We feel things that as adults, we tend to hold in because it isn’t ‘acceptable’ in the work place or ‘feasible’ at home and we can’t ‘break down in front of the children,’ because we’re some cosmic force of perfection that is end all and be all of mundane sanity. We can’t dream in butterflies past the age of 20 and we certainly shouldn’t paint our walls anything but beige. Beige and off white. Or is that eggshell still?

Remember when we were kids and it was okay to be crazy about collecting rocks or putting straws up our noses just to get a laugh out of someone? Do you remember when it was okay to put your blanket around your shoulders, cackling, and telling people you were a super hero? If we did that now–how many people would just outright stare and how many would quietly inch away from you and leave?

Sure, there’s a difference between actual mental illnesses that need medical prevention. I get that. But I’m talking about all of us wandering around trapped in the worlds inside of our heads–constantly worried about what people will think of us if we walk this way, say something like this, move like that, laugh a little too much, smile too wide, dress too brightly, dye our hair unnatural colors, be too tall, slouch too much, wear too much make up, not enough make up, eat this way or don’t eat this way–and none of us are normal. None of us should be. What is normal? Why is normal something to be achieved?

Some people think painting your nails in different, wild and bright colors for hours is crazy. Others believe rolling down your windows on a beautiful and mild day in the car, cranking the tunes and singing at the top of your lungs with the radio as people rubber neck to ogle you oddly down the highway is crazy. There’s the belief that love is crazy and makes you crazy. There are people who think other people are crazy-beautiful, crazy-awesome, crazy-good, crazy-smart and crazy-wonderful. There are couples out there right now crazy in love, artists crazy with creativity.

And I wonder if some small amount of crazy is the right thing to be.

So go on, paint your nails. Dye your hair. Laugh as loud as you want. Wear white after labor day. Smile bright and smile wide.  We’re all a little batty here in the blogger world and in the big bad real world, too. You fit right in with the rest of us humans pretending to know what is normal and failing miserably at it.

I say to hell with normal. Bring me my hot pink leopard pants and flamingos for my lawn.