Like many, I recently spent a weekend exploring the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. All of Fri/Sat and most of Sunday were devoted to the MMO I intend to play come December 20th.

The official SWTOR forums have since exploded with multiple threads praising or criticizing the game, with many being particularly negative. Impressions are, of course subjective, and what one person finds to be an absolute mess is another’s paradise.

What many of these forum threads lack is the ability to present an opinion which isn’t argumentative, accusatory or downright hostile, and unfortunately they drown out the more measured criticisms of those who enjoyed the game, but found certain areas lacking. Today, I’m going to present my own critique of BioWare’s much hyped MMO in what is hopefully a considered and thoughtful manner. This also means this is going to be a long article, so you might want to get yourself a refreshing beverage before you continue.

To begin with, I should say I only leveled two characters, a Smuggler to 18 and a Consular to 11. I have no personal experience with mid, late, or end-game content, although I do know people who have been a part of the Game Testing Program for quite some time. Therefore, these impressions are largely based around pre-20 Republic content. With typical style and flair, I was so engrossed in the game that I forgot to take screenshots, so nearly all screens in this article come courtesy of Reddit user bic_lighter, who had more presence of mind than me.

Without further ado, let’s launch into the first point of discussion, that being:

Graphics and Visuals

If you read the official forums, the loudest contributors of the opinion that SWTOR’s graphics are awful for a game which is to all extents and purposes a 2012 MMO. The truth is, the visuals are fine for an MMO.

No, they’re not Skyrim standard, but they couldn’t possibly be to that standard without sacrificing hundreds of thousands of potential players. Skyrim is a beautiful game and my GTX 570 is capable of realising that beauty, but for every one of us with the latest generation graphics cards, there are ten more PC users who are still running on a card and processor that are much, much older.

Time for an upgrade, you might say! Unfortunately, your ‘average’ MMO player has little inclination to upgrade and in many cases also lacks the funds. MMO’s succeed because they can tap into a base that games like Battlefield 3 and Skyrim cannot. As much as they may be maligned by certain quarters, casual players provide the bulk of subscriptions for paid MMO’s, and the bulk of microtransactions for F2P’s.

That being said, SWTOR’s stylised graphics provide a significant upgrade on World of Warcraft’s. There are plenty of players who found their old rigs struggling to run the beta efficiently even given that SWTOR’s visuals aren’t cutting edge. For the most part, environments seemed to be rich enough, cutscenes were nicely rendered and the game certainly has a sense of scale which prior MMO’s have lacked.

Stormwind’s Cathedral seems positively mundane once you’ve wandered around inside the gigantic Jedi temple on Tython, or the halls of the senate on Coruscant. Comparably, Rift’s city hubs are more like tiny settlements compared to the Republic Fleet.

Anti-aliasing was also disabled for the beta, so users can expect some graphical improvements and smoothing of jagged edges come launch.

UPDATE – A bug in the graphical settings resulted in high resolution textures not being available during the beta. The game looks much better with those higher settings enabled. Observe the below screenshot.

If there is an area where the graphics are obviously lacking, it’s the textures. Some textures are fairly low resolution (pazaak tables, for example), and your PC’s armor and weapons aren’t always particularly crisp if you zoom in closely. Speaking of PC’s, that leads us nicely in to…

19 COMMENTS

  1. i defiantly feel the graphics lack.  Star wars has never looked so little kiddy. The combat defiantly trash! lasers shouldn’t be homing! you shouldn’t be hit by characters 15 feet away!  Story telling was defiantly hit and miss.  It was never really well written the dialog was booring and story wasn’t compelling and the voice acting lacked any real feeling.

    • Once you have have high res textures (and especially if you mess around with the INI and force options on), it actually looks very nice, as far as MMO’s go. All combat requires suspension of belief in MMO’s, be it swinging a sword or shooting a gun. The story differs depending on your choice of class. I enjoyed the Smuggler story more than I did the Consular. I agree that the story isn’t to the standard of certain speculative fiction authors, but it’s still miles ahead of what other MMO’s currently offer. :)

      Personally, I thought the VA was exceptional in all but a few areas. Certainly above what you’ll find in other VA’d games, but then BioWare has a pretty decent history when it comes to their voice actors.

    • Once you have have high res textures (and especially if you mess around with the INI and force options on), it actually looks very nice, as far as MMO’s go. All combat requires suspension of belief in MMO’s, be it swinging a sword or shooting a gun. The story differs depending on your choice of class. I enjoyed the Smuggler story more than I did the Consular. I agree that the story isn’t to the standard of certain speculative fiction authors, but it’s still miles ahead of what other MMO’s currently offer. :)

      Personally, I thought the VA was exceptional in all but a few areas. Certainly above what you’ll find in other VA’d games, but then BioWare has a pretty decent history when it comes to their voice actors.

    • Once you have have high res textures (and especially if you mess around with the INI and force options on), it actually looks very nice, as far as MMO’s go. All combat requires suspension of belief in MMO’s, be it swinging a sword or shooting a gun. The story differs depending on your choice of class. I enjoyed the Smuggler story more than I did the Consular. I agree that the story isn’t to the standard of certain speculative fiction authors, but it’s still miles ahead of what other MMO’s currently offer. :)

      Personally, I thought the VA was exceptional in all but a few areas. Certainly above what you’ll find in other VA’d games, but then BioWare has a pretty decent history when it comes to their voice actors.

    • Once you have have high res textures (and especially if you mess around with the INI and force options on), it actually looks very nice, as far as MMO’s go. All combat requires suspension of belief in MMO’s, be it swinging a sword or shooting a gun. The story differs depending on your choice of class. I enjoyed the Smuggler story more than I did the Consular. I agree that the story isn’t to the standard of certain speculative fiction authors, but it’s still miles ahead of what other MMO’s currently offer. :)

      Personally, I thought the VA was exceptional in all but a few areas. Certainly above what you’ll find in other VA’d games, but then BioWare has a pretty decent history when it comes to their voice actors.

    • Once you have have high res textures (and especially if you mess around with the INI and force options on), it actually looks very nice, as far as MMO’s go. All combat requires suspension of belief in MMO’s, be it swinging a sword or shooting a gun. The story differs depending on your choice of class. I enjoyed the Smuggler story more than I did the Consular. I agree that the story isn’t to the standard of certain speculative fiction authors, but it’s still miles ahead of what other MMO’s currently offer. :)

      Personally, I thought the VA was exceptional in all but a few areas. Certainly above what you’ll find in other VA’d games, but then BioWare has a pretty decent history when it comes to their voice actors.

    • Dude, you just really shouldn’t even touch SWTOR or anything Bioware makes for that matter. Wouldn’t want you to ruin the experience for others and feel like a caged animal.

      This game’s just not for you. Also, you ever heard of “The Clone Wars” series? I don’t think Star Wars is for you either!

       Perhaps Guild Wars 2 or Tera Online would be more up your alley. Far less compelling story, dynamic gameplay, and you can happily spacebar through all the VO until your heart’s content!

  2. Thank you for the great article sir.  I’ve played in a couple of the beta weekends and I’ve had much the same experience as you.  I’ve waited a long time for a MMO to get me this involved and I started with Asheron’s Call 2 way back in December of 2002, still miss that game from time to time.
     
    I’m totally interested in doing the lightsaber thing but a lot of my guild is going that path so I’m going Imperial Agent for starters.  Only played Republic side during beta so I would not ruin my story :).
     
    So far not a fan of space battles, aka, not that good at them lol.  I also skipped crafting after I chose them so I can look forward to that as well, although I’ve never seen a better crafting system than I saw in the smaller MMO, Horizons.
     
    Once again thank you for the article, it’s very well balanced.
     
    Jack E Mabry Jr
    Home Banking Coordinator
    Langley Federal Credit Union

    • Thanks! Yeah, lightsaber classes will definitely outnumber non-force users at launch. I’ll probably get better at the space combat with practice. Just got to avoid flying into things :p

  3. Oh, I also have to give a shout out to my guild that I’ve been with since AC2, The Order of the Silver Hand!  We will be playing Empire for the game as I got voted down lol, still lucky you can do both on the same server.

    • Yep, my guild will be of the Republic, but there’s no doubt I’ll hop over to the Empire at some point just to experience the story on the other side of the fence.

  4. Remember that everyone who hates the game has submitted a thread saying why they hate the game. if you’ve read a poll they only seem to make 12% of the people on forums.

    • As with anything, the loudest and most obnoxious people often drown out those with more measured criticism. This happens with every MMO, and it will happen with GW2 and Mists of Pandaria next year. Pretty sure they’ll both be great games/expansions, even if the latter isn’t to my tastes.

  5. As far as not benefiting from being neutral as opposed to full Light or Dark, I noticed that they switched the restrictions from “must be Light 1 or greater” to restricted to Dark 1 and above” which means you would have more options as a neutral character as nothing (that I encountered anyway) would be restricted to you. Though, surely there are exceptions.

    Great article!

    • I’m fairly certain I’ll end up around dark light 3 or 4 on my characters, as I don’t min/max and always choose a certain response. I was fairly certain BioWare would compensate for that post beta, so that’s good news.

  6. This is the first MMO I’m actually thinking of buying precisely because of the Star Wars label and Bioware’s story telling ability.  I never got into World of Warcraft.

  7. swtor is the biggest p.o.s. to hit the market. These game companies can’t release any original ideas and model evertyhing after others success. I for one want something new which these new mmos fail to offer, so I stay thirsty my friends ;)

  8. swtor is the biggest p.o.s. to hit the market. These game companies can’t release any original ideas and model evertyhing after others success. I for one want something new which these new mmos fail to offer, so I stay thirsty my friends ;)

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