When the clock strikes midnight tonight, Sunday the 4th, Beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic will be but a memory. All of our characters will be killed, our favorite planets and locations obliterated, our ships impounded, and our Companions jailed. What marks the end of a phase for TOR will be a new beginning in only a few short days.
While most of my articles revolve around the unnatural rage that some people have with life’s events, this week I would like to go a different route. This week I would like to share my thoughts on the impending execution of Beta at 11:59PM CST. There will be no stay of execution and no last minute call from the Grand Moff’s office. I would also like to take a look forward to the future and a look back at the ride.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite subject to praise and malign – Beta. I can now safely say, without the fear of a BioWare Special Forces tactical team crashing through my skylight, that I have been in Beta for several builds. I have seen the changes, witnessed the experiments, and danced for the stress tests. I’ve been in Space Combat that refuses to have sound and I’ve used Force Leap to trap myself inside a table (FYI the same trick that gets you into the table also gets you out – just hope there is another enemy nearby or you have a friend to kite one to you like I did). I’ve been on starships that went into hyperspace sideways and I’ve witnessed the fashion trend of the hot pink clothing. I was even there for the birth and death of the Orange Pixel of Doom (and yes I thought it was my monitor too).
I have seen it all in Beta and I have to tell you, I come out of this impressed by what was accomplished and how stable the game was even months ago. When I had my first exciting login to The Old Republic, I was insanely excited to be able to help test the game, but I was also aware that I would be testing a fairly flawed version of the final product. I figured there would be crashes galore, major bugs that caused game ending problems, massive amounts of missing artwork, and a slew of broken quests and abilities. My first hour in the game changed all that. Not only was it surprisingly smooth, but the content seemed fairly balanced.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were still tweaks that needed to be done to the classes (some more than others), and I did experience my share of bugs (of which I dutifully reported) – but this just wasn’t to the extent that I expected. Full disclosure, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I have Beta tested countless MMO’s (well I guess I could count but I don’t feel like halting my writing to do so), and I have to tell you, this was the smoothest Beta with the best communication I have seen.
Many will argue with various points, namely the communication. But I have to tell you TORWarriors, though some may have felt communication was lacking, it was a far sight better than from other MMO’s. We were told when servers were going to be brought down and when maintenance was going to be done. If a server went down unexpectedly, we were updated regularly. There were plenty of people complaining that it wasn’t regular enough, but saving a direct voice feed into the BioWare offices, those people wouldn’t have been pleased no matter what. In the overall scheme of things, BioWare gave us updates in a timely manner when they really didn’t have to.
As for the smoothness, all I can say is it blew other MMO’s out of the water. I never crashed to the desktop and I was only booted once because of unexpected maintenance. I had no issues with lag or frame rate (outside of stress tests of various areas), and I encountered no game breaking bugs with the exception of not being able to login as one of my characters. For comparison, TOR Beta from a few months ago was more stable than Star Trek: Online during Early Access where ships could walk around on planets and people could fly in space like Superman.
I am certainly not overshadowing the fact that there were bugs and downtime but guess what? It was a Beta. Sure there were many issues but that is to be expected. The bottom line is that this is the first Beta of an MMO that I have played where I could just login and play as if it were the full game. Yes there were glitches, dialog issues, and texture problems, but they were infrequent enough to not really hinder your experience in my opinion.
I played every Class available in the Beta. Some I liked, some I loved, and some I just wasn’t suited for. I found the Jedi Knight, especially the Sentinel and it’s Sith equivalent, to need the most work early on. But even then, I didn’t feel that it was a worthless Class as many people spouted on the forums. Since then, they have done a lot to alter the Knight and I feel the changes have helped. There will still be people that complain but honestly, I had fun with it. All the classes play differently and you need to figure out how to play them if you are going to be successful. You may say a certain cover/healing class is garbage but maybe that’s because you are playing it like a Melee DPS.
The Old Republic really made me fall in love with the healer specs. This is quite a feat as I have adamantly opposed being a healer in past MMO’s. I found them to be mostly group toons that were woefully outclassed in solo content. When it came to groups, you would just stand there and heal people without being a real part of the fight. TOR changed my tune on that. I really felt that the healers can still tear it up right along with the big boys.
Generally speaking I loved the atmosphere, the content, the voiceovers, the abilities, and mostly the story. Bar none this is what makes The Old Republic such a great game. I’ve only played a fraction of it for various classes but I can say that the story is better than many single player, story driven games. The leveling is also quite nice. When I first started Beta, there were issues with some thin content that had some people under-leveled. I can say that BioWare has done a nice job filling in those gaps since I started and now I feel grinding to be almost nonexistent. I have no doubt that BioWare will continue to produce wonderful content in the future to keep the game alive and vibrant.
Looking back on my experience, I can tell you with great certainty that this will be a great game. Sure there are some areas that could use work (*cough* Space Combat *cough*), but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It just means those areas could get better in the future. But the last thing I want to do is come out all sunshine and roses. There are items in the game I would change and portions that could still use a onceover. There are classes I like to play and others I don’t. There are sections of the game I don’t particularly care for and others I can’t live without. The point is no game is perfect and people need to realize that. There will always be parts of a game that you feel are not so good or even downright terrible. The key is to focus on what makes the game great for you. Once you do that, you can determine if the good outweighs the bad for you.
With this chapter of Star Wars: The Old Republic coming to a close, we only have to wait a few short days to get our hands on the final product. From there, people will come up with countless new reasons why they love the game and hate the game. I for one was proud to be in the Beta and hope I helped in some small way to make it a better place to lose yourself. I can say with absolute certainty that I will see you all soon – in The Old Republic.