SWTOR Ate My Brain
So I have a confession to make. Star Wars The Old Republic has eaten my brain.
I just can't seem to get enough of this game (or shut up about it). I've been waiting for something like a sequel to come out from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (KTOR) for years (since I played it about 3 times in a row nearly a decade ago; and no, KTOR II doesn't count... awful game... awful) so I suppose that my current obsession makes sense. Unlike KTOR II (bleh) SWTOR is by Bioware as the original game was, and has all the hallmarks of what made that first game so good.
The graphics quality is high for a game of this type (though not as high as some play alone games like Mass Effect, also by Bioware), and it's clear that the development team put a lot of time and attention into the environment. Comparing it to the recent World of Warcraft trailer for Pandera, it's obvious that SWTOR comes out on top. To me, WoW just looks like a comic book whereas TOR is more a fully realized HD-animated feature film. Not only is the game visually pleasing, but the ambient sounds are realistic and directional (people seem to cough behind you, etc.). All this attention to detail makes the game a feast for the senses, and really does a good job of putting the player in the action.
The environment is involving, but the plot-lines and quests are downright addictive. Each player-class gets their own storyline unique to them as played out in their "Class Quests" while simultaneously sharing side quests with other players. The class quests play out a story directed at the player, and are clever and as entertaining as the first Star Wars film. Bioware has a solid record of attention to plot line in its games (Mass Effect, for example) and it really shines through in TOR. For the most part the directions are clear (with a few exceptions) and the quests relatively quick (which keeps the action moving).
Two of the best features in the game are the "Crew Skills" which amount to crafting and gathering skills, and the "Flashpoint" or instance system. The crew skills are done by the player's companions, which are NPC's gathered by completing class quests. The player can send a companion off to gather or craft items while continuing along their own plot lines and side quests, which I think is just plain cool. Although it deprives the player of the individual feeling of building things, it does save a great deal of time and effort as one is no longer required to spend hours running around looking for resources for skills (though you still can if you want to. The only thing you can't do is directly craft items yourself).
The flashpoints are relatively quick (provided you don't wipe too much) and serve to advance the plot nicely. They mix cut scenes in which players get to make choices and engage in dialog, which in TOR is entirely spoken -another cool feature, with fast paced action and dungeon exploration. I love doing flashpoints! Each one is like an episode of my favorite show.
The game does have some issues. It's still glitchy here and there, as one might expect for a project of this size, but since Bioware has a long history of excellence I'm sure these issues will get worked out in future patches. As stated before, the crafting system does not allow the player to fully take part in the construction of equipment, which can be a minus for some people. The space combat system definitely needs improvement. It has a "tunnel-shooter" like arcade feel, which I find fun but which is also very limiting. You can only go where the combat mission directs, etc. However, overall the game is not really diminished by its issues.
Oh, and one more note of coolness, you get your own ship which serves both as transport between worlds (which unlike space combat, is totally open) and as a house where you can chat with companions, store gear, and even host meetings with your fellow players.
I highly recommend this game for any fan of sci-fi, Star Wars, and MMORPGs.
And now back to playing...