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Having played only about 30 minutes, I am no authority on this game, I can only speak to first impressions. I've been playing Skyrim the last month.
First login and opening scene of shuttle landing was an eyeshock. It looked so bad and bland coming from Skyrim, I thought there was something wrong with my graphics options, but no they were all set to high. The ship and character movement animations were clunky and awkward, and the general style was too close to clone wars cartoons with severely reduced quality, for me to be at all impressed.
Having played the majority of MMO offerings dating back to DAoC, I don't accept WoW as being the only way to make an mmo, but like Rift, SWTOR is at first glance a WoW style mmo.
Don't get me wrong, I loved WoW for a while. But I'm not someone who can be amused by it for 5 years running along a loot treadmill. Hopefully SWTOR will diverge, but it doesn't look promising.
Looking at how the hundred or so servers are filled to the brim, it's clear that the torch is being passed. No, WoW won't die, but it will take a beating and I believe SWTOR will likely have more subs than WoW at some point. Not that it will top WoW's highest marks, simply that eventually it will have more. At least in the US.
But it's dissapointing that it couldn't have been a more sandboxy creative endeavor that takes it's place. And for the second big mmo hit to be such a similar game is likely a death knell for any non-themepark mmos more than 2 years out from release, and it means if you want a high budget investor backed publisher-ready mmo, it will have to look and play a lot like these two games.
With phasing, themepark design, and the ability to solo all but the end game, are these even MMOs anymore? I feel like as great of a day for bioware as it is, it's likely another if not the final nail in the coffin of what mmorpg's could have been.