I suspect most people would know this already, but for those of you that are not, please read.
It come with both good and bad aspect of all MMO games, that means you get to group with your friend, that also means you will have to spend a significant amount of time doing meaningless side quest to grind up your level continue your class story line.
I remember Bioware long time ago said all mission will be voiced so that will make the player be interested in the game and no longer just kill the monster for the sake of killing them to gain xp.
Well I got to tell you, this is pretty much not true, all the planet's design are the same, you start at spaceport, which is a mission hub, you accept class quest, accept side mission quest, finish them and you get to send to next part of map and repeat the process until you have done all the side quest and main quest. And those side quest are from NPC that you never meet before or never will meet them again, but conveniently they need you to go out there and kill 10 boars.
You would think the voiced NPC that would actually make a difference to make you care about the quest, but it really does not. Some people say the fact are you questing is not grind, but what if even if you are quest but you still wouldn't care less the quest, while all you want is to finish it, I still call that grinding.
The thing is, you pretty much have to do all the solo side quest on each planet at be at least on par to keep up your level with your class quest. And the more you level, the more side quest they throw at you vs the main class quest, while leveling up is exponentially harder and harder to do.
Yes I know you will tell me I am bullshitting, because your level 15 sith warrior on the beta weekend experience no grind and was able to skip a lot of side quest. The thing is, this is pretty much impossible after you are above level 20. At this point, you pretty much are mandatory to do all the side quest on each planet to keep up with your class storyline. And if you think there is a lot of side quest agent at your starter planets, get ready to face more on later planets, a lot more…. and you pretty much have to do all of them…. so after you done that, then tell me if you are still interested in listening and care about those side quest. And remember, if you want to play another class story, you have to do it over again. You may not believe me, that is ok, just experience it for yourself next month.
Also the more you level up, the more side quest on each planet they throw at you, at starter planets, you may only have experience 2-1 or 3-1 ratio of side quest vs main class quest. But at higher planets the ratio is easily 6-1 or 8-1, that means you have to spend every 6 hour to basically killing boars to enjoy the 1 hour of class quest.
Speaking about the main class quest, this is actually what make the game shines from most MMOs, the main quest story are actually really well written and scripted. Classic bioware mass effect and kotor experience here, almost flawless.
Oh and please remember this, all classes have different unique main storyline quest, but all share the same side quests, that means if you reach level 50 and want to enjoy another storyline, you have to do all the side quest and repeat the grinding experience all over again.
Activities besides questing:
As for other activities, on surface there is actually quite a lot to do, you get play space combat, a lot people hate it, I personally don't like it, and besides the xp reward from space combat is nowhere compare to questing.
There is also warzone pvp, as of last weekend beta, there is only 3 map for warzone, and they can get old really fast, if bioware can quickly introduce more warzones that would make it more fun, but as of right now, it is kinda lacking. Oh and warzone also give you far less xp than pve questing
There is also the daily space mission and daily pvp mission, I have not done them yet to be honest, but I heard they give you a good boost of xp which I cannot confirm, but my concern is, they are only once a day, so if you want to play a lot, I don't think they will give you a lot variety or the boost in xp that you desires. But if you are a casual gamer, I think that would be nice to do.
There is companion interaction and questing, I personally find them to be very well done. This is classic bioware story writing, the more approval you have with your companion, the more they revel about their past and their personal life to you, if you like to hear a good story or role playing this is pretty cool, but then again, the time that you are required to spend on the grind vs the time interacting with your companion is just way too few.
At lastly, there is flashpoint, I think this is where bioware put in the most effort besides voice acting, there is definatly a good number of flashpoint you can run from 2-4 players, however come down to it, they are just tank and spank, but that don't mean they are not good, the first time you play them, they are actually well done and interesting, good story and good mission struction, but I suspect a lot of people at their 2nd or 3rd play through will not want to do the same side quest over and over again, so they might use this to grind for xp. So that means in the end, when it come down to it, this will just be another method to grind levels, but problem with this is, you are forced to depend on other players to do it, so if you have a bad group and keep loosing the fight, it might actually reward you less xp than if you just doing solo questing.
As you can see, all above activities, besides flashpoint (require group) give you less xp than pve questing, so that means the most reliable way to gain xp is through questing.
Basically here is what it comes down to, if you are a traditional MMO fan and need your next fix, then you will love swtor, this game is right up your valley, If you play back in the days of EQ1 where you have to walk both side up the mountain through hot snow to turn in your quest and you misses this experience, this game is great for you. Plenty of fun and mindless numbing boar killing for you right here.
However if you are new to MMO and only played 1 beta weekend and fall in love with it, and with the expectation that what you experience during the last weekend will be how you will enjoy the game for later levels, you will be disappointed, yes you will able to play the same epic story for your own character, but just get ready to spend 6 times of what you enjoy on killing mindless mobs first.
As for me personally, I love the main quest story, and I don't mind doing half of all the side quest on the planet or even a bit more, but if you force me to do every single goddamn killing boar mission that is just too much... I love bioware game, and I can confirm they are making one hell of the story with this game, but in order to spend every 6 hour of my free time just to enjoy 1 hour of the Bioware TM story.... no thanks I am not that desperate.