It’s a Your Best Shot Internet Video Broadcast! Using the very latest technologies and some small amount of arcane magic, we are able to transmit moving pictures to you! Even more, our thoughts and opinions will be beamed directly into your head (via ears) without us being physically present! Truly this is the future.
Apologies for: Sometimes when we both talk at once you get a strange echoey effect. We did a test before recording which was fine, but our actual voiceover track has this problem. Hmm.
For thoughts on my TOR beta experience in a traditional writing-with-words format, plot your hyperspace co-ordinates for past the cut below.
Writing! This is how we used to convey our opinions in the old days, before it was possible to transmit our thoughts across time and space. Unfortunately, I talked a bit too much in the video and was quite unable to cram all my opinions into the 15 minutes. Here are some more things we wanted to talk about:
The character creator! Oh, man, we really wanted to talk / complain about this. It is… disappointing. I was hoping for something similar to Star Trek Online which I think still has the best MMO character creator and customisation. Bioware’s character generators in the past have traditionally been decent, but this is very much “World of Warcraft but you can choose one of four body types”. With that said, I actually like the ability to choose your body type, although human female body type 1 is so skinny in looks like she’ll snap off at the knees if someone runs past too quick. ON THE OTHER HAND (aside: the ability to see both sides of an argument isn’t always a good thing), all species share the same four body types, whereas in WoW every race and gender has a unique body mesh and animations.
- While we’re on the subject, I was a little disappointed in how few alien species were available in character creation. One of the key things about the Star Wars universe is how many different, disparate alien races there are. WITH THAT SAID (here we go again), in KOTOR 1 & 2 you could only be human, so progress, I suppose. Once again, I think I’ve been slightly spoiled by STO in this respect.
- Also, you can’t customise your face very much – you use a slider to choose one of about 30 preset faces. Unfortunately, I found that very few of them actually looked any good, so I suspect we’ll see lots of player characters using only 3 or 4 faces, which is the situation we have in WoW.
- There are lots of hair choices, though! That is definitely one of the options for differentiating your character from others.
- No pictures. Bioware haven’t let me back on the servers yet.
Classes! Classes are interesting in TOR. You have four base classes for the
Alliance Republic, and four slightly different classes for the Sith Bastards Empire. They are actually asymmetrical in that way, which sounds like an absolute nightmare to balance. At level 10, you choose your advanced class from two choices, and each advanced class has three talent trees, just like a Warcraft class. The word ‘class’ no longer has any meaning to me. The talent trees actually resemble the Wrath era 71-point trees, which a) shows when systems development started and b) is a hopeful sign as I thought the Wrath talent trees offered more choice than the Cataclysm ones.
- THEN AGAIN, the Mists of Pandaria talent system looks like it could potentially be the best of them all. WoW is often thought of as the most conventional MMO, but on the systems side Blizzard are always pushing really hard to be innovative. The random dungeon finder! New talent systems, and of course the Raid Finder. Dual spec! Additional customisation through reforging and glyphs. And of course Transmogrification – letting us choose how our characters look. I expect TOR will incorporate a lot of those refinements eventually, but the systems side looks very much like early wrath-era WoW right now.
- You can respec and change points around between your 3 talent trees, but your choice of advanced class is permanent. If you want to swap from Jedi Guardian to Jedi Sentinel… roll a new Jedi Knight.
- Seriously, even STO has PvE queuing now. Get on it, TOR systems team! I don’t want to stand about spamming “DPS LFG for Evil Place of Doom”, I want to queue up and get on with doing something else.
Crew! TOR isn’t the first MMO to have permanent NPC companions of course. Wow’s hunters and warlocks aside, Guild Wars did it and STO gives you an entire away team. What’s different about the crew in TOR? They are actually characters, with backstories and traditional Bioware affection meters. They also do all your crafting for you. You learn three tradeskills, and then… you tell your crew to do everything. Then your tradeskills level up a bit. It’s slightly confusing. There are bloody loads of skills, though. On my smuggler, I want Cybertech, scavenging, slicing AND underworld trading. I can only have 3 though, which is unfortunate. Maybe I can have another character do my scavenging for me?
I haven’t spoken at all about the sound! The standard of voice acting is actually for the most part very high. I WILL be rolling a female trooper so that I can listen to Jennifer Hale. Even incidental NPCs are generally competently voiced, and there’s enough variety that everyone doesn’t sound the same. I can’t imagine how much expense and effort went into that. The soundtrack makes good use of star-wars-alike music composed for this game, the original Star Wars scores and selections from the excellent Knights of the Old Republic soundtrack. I was most satisfied with the soundtrack, and award it 1.2 x 10^9 out of a possible score of the hyperspace X co-ordinate of Alderaan.
My head start invite has arrived, so I’m off to desperately try and claim my preferred character names. No doubt more opinions and videos will follow at some point in the future. See you in space!