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Let me preface this by saying I generally prefer games that are somewhere between Themepark and Sandbox as I enjoy aspects of both styles. I knew going in that SWTOR was pure themepark. I intended to probably buy the game to pass time in until GW2 anyway, but didnt expect it to have long term appeal. I cant know for sure if it will from playing beta for one day either, but I did find out a lot about the game (and about why I didnt like Rift nearly as much)
I planned on playing a Jedi Knight at launch, so choose to try different things for beta. Dabbled in Sith Warrior for 5 levels, and played a Trooper for 10
The classes are engaging early on. And by engaging I mean fun. I loved tossing a sticky grenade on a seperatistthen lob my other grenade so they both exploded at the same time. By level 10 I had a nice array of varied attacks. Combat may be the same old same old, but it felt more fluid than Rift (on par with WoW) and was a lot of fun. Speaking of Rift, you spend your first 10 levels there getting duplicate copies of starter attacks. You dont generally get anything that makes you go 'woah'. Its very dull in that regard. Combat got tedious in Rift early on because of spamming abilities that werent fun to begin with and continued from there. SWTOR starts strong in this regard and I went out of my way to blow shit up.
Ah, the story and voice acting. Yes, I enjoyed. Yes, I think it offers value. But the consequences dont match the system. I went out ofmy way to be a colossal asshole. Ended up with 'the Vicious' title frommaking all dark side choices. I must have made people want to be separatists so bad. I mouthed off to my superiors at every chance. Yet they still regarded me highly and I was never discilplined. Id imagine taking the light choices and being honorable pays off better from an immersion standpoint, but it was fun being an ass. Two highlights: 'So you want be to shoot the villagers?' and killing that blue Rodian hostage because he was a prick who thought he could insult me and was untouchable. Oops.
The graphics...I had no issue. Smart games will not take the highly detailed approach to their style, because the trade off in an amazing graphical MMORPG isnt worth making content tougher to develop, and lets more people play the game. This was a huge factor in WoW's early success. Now WoW hit a home run with their art style, SWTOR does not. But its serviceable. And despitethenotso pretty happenings on Ord Martell and the barren terrain, its not depressing. Rift felt depressing. Everything was so drab there. As someone fromgeneral chat said so eloquently 'I probably would have liked Rift better if I was more emo'.
One thing I did like was the codex system. I am a huge fan of WAR's Tome of Knowledge, and here was a simplified, but star wars'd up version. And a good thing? By the time I had done every quest in Ord Martell I had only 18 out of the planets 28 entries. The area may be somewhat small and linear, but theres definitely some exploration to be had regardless.
Now the game did have its share of issues. The towns seemed rather lifeless for one. Despite the story driven content, the game is NOT immersive, and thats a big negative. Im worried about the community as well. If SWTOR does indeed draw people that say they are leaving WoW 'because they are adding pandas', well those are the trade chat trolls WoW fans want gone anyway. But this was a mostly open beta so who knows for sure.
Overall I still felt the same way as I did going in. While its not the direction I want MMORPGs to be taken in, SWTOR should provide a couple months of enjoyment. It appears to be a solid game and deserves good box sales. Retention? Well I cant comment because I didnt experience the end game. While not immersive,it was more engaing than Rift by a long shot so I can see players getting attached to their characters and sticking around (a HUGE issue Rift has...people dont connect with their characters as much as other games).