BIG LONG REVIEW TIME MO-FOS
So the final Beta Weekend is long over, and the newly-extended Early Access officially starts pretty soon, so I figure it's time I give what unfortunately little of the game I got to play a little overview.
First up, a general appraisal: This game plays pretty much just like World of Warcraft does, which is a very good thing. There is nothing wrong with WoW's gameplay, only its content. So I felt like I was playing WoW with a Star Wars coat of paint on it, which if that's all this game was would make it better than WoW inherently.
As for where this game is different from WoW, that's where the meat of the review comes in, doesn't it?
1) Story Progression: This one is the most obvious. Every class has a story, and every story has several choices in it that affect the way the story will branch out insofar as how your character looks, is treated, and works with your companion characters. The voice acting is outstanding, and the involvement the player should get out of it is greatly improved by the integration. You're not simply a character running around the world doing quests, like every other MMORPG makes you feel like. You are a completely unique character, even if yeah, your storyline is the same as everyone else playing as your class when the bare-bones aspects are considered. But it's the little choices that make things different.
2) Crew Skills: The greatest thing to happen to professions since professions were introduced. No longer do you have to waste countless hours on farming and crafting - you send your unused companions to do it while you continue to go about your day. You can send your companions to farm for you while you're in a Flashpoint or Operation, you don't need them there anyway. They can even sell vendor trash for you, something any MMORPG player would say is a major boon to be able to do at early levels. The fact that certain companions are also better at certain Crew Skills is also interesting, as that adds a level of simple yet important decision-making when choosing your profs and choosing who to send out to do said profs.
3) Removal of the Hearthstone: One thing in WoW that always bothered me was the Hearthstone. Thanks for taking up a slot in my bag! SWTOR replaces it with a spell. No inventory space needed. In addition, you can use this spell to travel to ANY registered point on the current planet, not just where your "Hearth" would have been set to. With some creative traveling, you can theoretically shave minutes off your time every now and again when turning in quests, getting training, or just traveling to the auction house.
4) Companion Characters: Without getting into their story involvement, the companion characters are inherently better than any pet WoW has. The amount of customization that goes into them is astounding. And then being able to really bond with these characters is pretty cool too!
5) "Heroic" feel: As has been said by the developers, they wanted you to feel "heroic" in the sense that your character wasn't just picking off one baddie at a time. You leap into groups of enemies and take them out, and it actually isn't that easy. You have to utilize your skills to make your solo pulls easier, and sometimes even when you're working with a companion. The game makes me work to kill stuff even when by myself throughout the leveling process. WoW never provided a challenge when playing solo unless you purposefully challenged yourself - soloing group quests, for example. Here, soloing a group quest seems to be asking for fucking trouble, but groups are pretty easy to form anyway since the leveling flow is extremely smooth. Soloing regular content isn't hard per se, especially when you get your first companion, and as a Jedi Counselor (Sage, healing) I found myself pretty much only needing five buttons: Two heals, my single DPS spell, my CC, and a stun. Everything else was superficial.
6) Star Wars: It's fucking Star Wars. Kiss my ass Azeroth.
As a general rule, most of the game's drawbacks come from the fact that they sort of backtrack away from the more recent improvements in WoW's core gameplay.
1) Advanced Class = Permanent: They've said that in the future they may allow players to change their advanced class, but for now that little quest you do at level 10 to decided your advanced class is going to affect your gameplay for the next 40 levels. I HOPE YOU PICKED RIGHT! AND I HOPE YOU DIDN'T WANT TO TRY OUT THE OTHER ONE A LITTLE! Granted, it doesn't take long to get to level 10, so if you don't like the way your advanced class plays right away, just start a new toon and be done with it. Eh...kind of a weak solution. Point is, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Find out which of the advanced classes best fits your gameplay, style, preference, roleplaying consideration, WHATEVER, before you do that quest.
Well at least you can still re-spec within your chosen advanced class.
2) Training: Oh God I have to go back to my trainer at every level again to get new ranks in skills FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU-
3) No LFG interface: Granted that in WoW you could get paired with some fucking stupid assholes, but you paid the price for saving the time. SWTOR doesn't grant you that option, so oftentimes you find yourself spending a lot of time...to get paired up with fucking stupid assholes. Ah, back to the classics. At least the early game Heroic quests and Flashpoints require you to actually play the game for real right from the get-go. Sure, you can faceroll the Esseless (sorry, I only had time to play one side) by bringing in four players instead of the recommended two, but if you play with the minimum requirements they actually aren't that easy. It's nice to go from end-game Cataclysm, where CC was actually used again (for a while anyway), to the beginners' circuit in SWTOR and not having to deal with going back to faceroll crap ala Ragefire Chasm.
4) The "color-changing crystal": If you pre-ordered the game, you got this useless piece of crap which is not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting to get an item that you used and could change the color of your weapon effects to what you wanted. If you loved green lightsabers, you could have a green lightsaber color no matter what lightsaber you used. Fun! But no, this junk item turns your weapon effect to a disgusting black-and-yellow turd.
Well at least I get a free speeder. Better not look like a turd too.