This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in another weekend beta stress test of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It. Was. Amazing. So amazing that by Sunday night, my boyfriend had declared "I hate SWTOR". I made him take it back, but I can understand why he was jealous of the love and attention I had lavished on SWTOR over the three days prior. While I enjoyed my first SWTOR beta test weekend, this one really got me hooked.
There were two main differences that made this weekend better. One was the simple fact that I had more time. The first weekend, I'd only been able to play Saturday and Sunday. This past weekend I had access from Friday morning until Monday evening--and Friday was a holiday. With more time, I was able to get one of my characters much further in the game than on my first weekend. This meant I had more skills, making the gameplay itself much more fun. I also got to see more of my character's storyline, which in typical BioWare fashion was intriguing, exciting, and entertaining. The other difference was that this weekend, I finally played SWTOR as the multiplayer game that it's made to be. My brother also got into the beta weekend, so we teamed up and adventured together. The first beta weekend, I played alone, as I am used to doing with BioWare games. And it's fine that way. But this weekend, I came to appreciate how great it is to enjoy a BioWare game with friends. Really, really great.
This past beta weekend had staggered start times, so while I got in on Friday, my brother didn't get in until Saturday morning. This was perfect, though, because it would give me time to catch my Jedi Consular up to the point in the game where his Smuggler from the previous beta weekend was. By Friday night, I had a Jedi Shadow waiting in the space station, all ready to team up with his Gunslinger (these are Consular and Smuggler advanced classes, respectively).
But the universe had other, more sinister plans for us. A bug with the beta made it so some characters created in previous beta weekends couldn't sign in anymore, and his Gunslinger was one of the casualties. Luckily, the other character he'd started, a Sith Warrior, was pretty close to the point in the game where my Sith Inquisitor was. Because they start on the same home worlds, we were able to team them up together immediately. And so I began my weekend as a Sith Inquisitor.
The Sith Inquisitor is awesome. If you get the game, I highly recommend this class. I said in my previous post that the Inquisitor storyline was addicting because you are repeatedly told how worthless you are and how you're going to fail and die, fueling your anger and making you more determined to succeed. This eventually gives way (not-so-suprising spoiler) to you becoming Lord Zash's apprentice. Lord Zash is intriguing as the most...amiable...Sith Lord I've come across. Evil and conniving, to be sure, but really quite pleasant and charming. She may try to kill me at some point, but for now, I'm just enjoying training under the coolest Sith master. I want to be just like her some day.
The Inquisitor gameplay was also really fun, particularly once I got my Advanced Class (this happens as soon as you leave your starting planet). Sith Inquisitors can choose to become Sith Assassins, using double-bladed lightsabers and stealth, or Sith Sorcerers, who can heal and make a whole lot of lightning. I chose to become a Sorcerer, and I don't regret it. As soon as I became a Sorcerer, my Whirlwind ability (which traps an enemy in a whirlwind) was extended from a measly 8-second duration to a whole minute, and my ranged spells were extended from 10 m to 30 m (a huge difference). Not only is a 30-m range much more convenient than 10 m, but it also means a lot more eye-candy lightning lancing across the screen. I didn't make it far enough in the game for my specialization in the Sorcerer's Lightning skill tree to become very significant, so I was also a relatively capable healer for my level, which was nice as well. A double-bladed lightsaber and invisibility would have been cool, too, but I really loved my Sorcerer abilities.
Playing alongside my brother's Sith Warrior, I was actually able to witness his class's storyline as well. You're allowed to accompany group members on their class quests, as long as your characters are not the same class (this avoids story inconsistencies: Wait, I thought I was Lord Zash's apprentice!). When you're in someone else's class quest area, you become a "spectator", meaning that you can't participate in any of the conversations or make any decisions. But you can participate in the battles. There are some situations where you may feel a bit like an intruder (as Lord Zash reveals some secret plan to me, she doesn't blink at the fact that someone is there eavesdropping), but seeing another storyline--and having someone else see your own story--really enhanced the experience, in my opinion.
All of the side quests are open to all classes (within a given alignment--Empire or Republic--of course). Conversations related to these quests become multiplayer conversations if you are in a group: each person selects a response, and invisible dice are rolled to determine whose response is spoken. This can be potentially contentious in situations where you're making decisions--to kill or not to kill a captive, for example--but you just have to put up with luck not always going your way. At least the game knows your intentions, so even if your group ends up killing the captive, if you had wanted to save him, you earn Light Side instead of Dark Side points. It's all worth it, because the conversations are more fun with more voices. It gives you something to think about, hoping that your own response is the one chosen, or nodding in appreciation when a companion says something witty or cool.
The truth is, my brother and I made terrible Sith. I would sometimes choose cruel, evil-sounding dialogue, but when it came down to it, we were both softies and almost always made Light Side choices when such situations arose. That's a nice thing about SWTOR. You can be a good person working for the Empire, or a bad person working for the Republic--whatever you want (though you're never allowed to switch sides entirely). And the plot is structured so it still works: At least as far as I got in the game, no plot line was ever derailed because I was too nice or merciful--just shifted, perhaps. This is the great thing about BioWare games in general: having plot choices. Even a person like me, who hates being mean in video games, can find a place in the Empire.
At the very end of the weekend, my brother and I earned our own personal star ships. It was extremely satisfying. Now I can't wait for the game to be released (December 20!!!) so I can get back there, and see what comes next. As much as I love the Inquisitor, though, I still really want to have a Jedi Knight, and Jedi Consular, and Imperial Agent, and Smuggler... There are so many good choices in SWTOR, really anyone can find a place--or multiple places--in the Star Wars galaxy.