Yesterday, like many I suspect, I spent a few hours playing Bioware's new MMO - The Old Republic. I would be shocked if anyone reading this blog didn't know what I'm talking about, so I'll cut through the nonsense and get right to the heart of it. I'll do a little compare/contrast to WoW, what I think is done right, what I think needs improving, and where we go from here.
Yeah, I've got a lightsaber
Actually I don't, it's just some stick with a few bands of metal on it. I'm sure if I did some lore digging (or other searching) I could figure out what this is, but it's obviously some type of Jedi training weapon. Whatever. It almost sounds like a lightsaber, and hey - isn't building your own lightsaber supposed to be part of the Jedi training?
Right now I'm starting off with a Jedi Consular, though I'm sure I'll try all the classes at least once. My plan is to level this Jedi up taking all the "Light" choices, a Sith with the "Dark", and then I'll probably do some combination of Republic/Dark and Empire/Light. The fact that those choices are even possible seems pretty awesome right now. We'll have to see how they actually pan out.
The first 3 hours
Once I finally got the game to install (I didn't pre-download), I went through the character creation process. There was just enough cusomization, and it was pretty standard Bioware fare. You couldn't customize your outfit, but given the changes to your outfit from gear, I'm not surprised. Plus if you were able to design your own look, we'd have a thousand bounty hunters running around in Mandalorian battle armor. I did notice thought that I look suspisoucly like Neo after my first few levels. Robes, the shades (I went with the blind race, Miraluka), and even the face. Hmm...
So, character created, I started out learning the ropes. Really smooth, controls just like WoW (and every other MMO I'm sure), and the tooltips and hints were pretty handy. It took a few minutes to learn what all the symbols on the minimap were (I was still looking for big ! for quest givers), and I was off and running. I didn't spend a lot of time with keybinds or anything, I just wanted to get into it.
I really like the interaction with the quest givers, though I'm sure it would get old if you were running the same zone for the 14th time. I like that there's some interaction between you and the NPC, instead of simply "go here, bring a package to Jim, and kill 15 Flesh Eaters". While the basics of the quests are still the same (kill 10 rats, FedEx, go find something), they certainly feel different. I'm chalking a lot of this up to the voice acting though.
Oh my goodness, the music is fantastic here. It changes when there's danger or combat, and it's definately "Star Wars" in feel. I've actually been playing with the game sounds all turned on, and it's really immersive. Also the sound effects, so stellar. While the game was obviously developed with Lucas Arts, I do love how authentic it feels.
Of course, there's bad news
First, I'm fairly certain that Barrens chat follwed me, even though I chose to roll on an RP-PVE server. While some of the chat text was helpful (I left it on for a bit), I was really disappointed to see that there were still Anal jokes, bad manners, etc. I'm still trying to figure out just what credits are really worth - for example is 5,000 credits for 10 bag slots a lot? I don't have anything to reference it with. I mean, how much will a "mount" cost me? Do they even have personal mounts? I'm sure there must be, though the taxi system (and 30 min, go wherever you want hearthstone) is really nice.
The game is also, unashamedly, a WoW clone in pretty much every aspect of gameplay. I haven't done any grouping yet, and there are definately some features I wish WoW would adopt (area looting, please for the love of all things holy, let me loot ALL the things), but overall it is different enough to be a good game.
I'm not leaving WoW for TOR, and I certainly don't think TOR will be a WoW killer. Right now I'm enjoying the newness of the game in a way I haven't done in WoW for about 6 years. There's no pressure to max out and raid, no speeding along, just enjoying the scenery. I mean hell, I won't roll a new alt in WoW until I have all my heirlooms, and I haven't enjoyed questing for the sake of questing in a long time. While I'm sure the new car smell will eventually be replaced by sweaty gym bags, I'm enjoying the fresh perspective on a MMO, and enjoying a new game on its merits - not as a replacement for another game.