I had a fantastic weekend playing in a beta test of Star Wars: The Old Republic, but alas, it was all too short. I'm kind of going through withdrawal now. I cannot wait to go back, whether for another beta test or for the official launch of the game next month (less than a month now!).
There are eight different character classes to choose from in SWTOR--four on the Republic side, four on the Empire side--and they each have different personal stories. I ended up starting five different characters, though that spread me thin and I didn't make it very far in each of their stories. Here are some brief thoughts on each one:
Jedi Consular - This one had a sort of typical prologue story, as far as I got, in that I was a promising young Padawan going through trials to become a Jedi. The tests, though, were atypical--rather than something out of a Jedi textbook, the Force was "guiding" my trials; that is, the plot kept thickening and my master would continue to send me out pursuing new leads. The gameplay was fun, but I did end up dying a number of times. This was the first character I played, and I played solo, so I guess dying happens. At least the penalty for death didn't seem so bad.
Jedi Knight - I made this character but didn't play her more than five minutes--enough to be given my first quest, but not enough to complete it. It was mainly interesting to see how her prologue fit alongside the Jedi Consular's. See, each character class shares an origin world with one other character class: Jedi Knights with Consulars on Tython, Smugglers with Troopers on Ord Mantell, Sith Warriors with Inquisitors on Korriban, and Imperial Agents with Bounty Hunters on Nal Hutta. That means that at the beginning of the game, you can only team up with one other class type. From my brief experience with the Jedi Knight, I saw how this works: Side quests generally are shared by both classes, so you can team up for those, but the main quests remain different. The main quests are structured, however, so their locations are similar, making it convenient to accompany someone on their main quest because you can probably complete your own without going much out of their way. At least, that was what I was able to gather with this short experience.
Smuggler - Basically, I was a female Han Solo. I felt pretty cool, and man did I look good in those striped pants. The smuggler also had the most enjoyable recovery skill--while the Consular, for instance, stood there meditating for a few seconds to recover health and energy, the Smuggler would do a variety of things like spin her pistol, throw and shoot a coin, etc.
Sith Inquisitor - I found this one's story to be the most addicting, because the guy giving you orders keeps telling you how worthless you are, how you'll never become a Sith apprentice, you're going to die because you're a weakling, etc. You can feel that good old Sith anger seethe inside you: Just you wait, I'll complete this task, and the next, I'll become an apprentice, and then I'll be a Sith Lord and make you sorry! Very fun.
Imperial Agent - This one has a very cool story from the start, where you're basically going under cover as a pirate, changing accents and manipulating people for the good of the Empire, kind of like some shady CIA agent. You also sound rather like Lady Hawke (Jo Wyatt). I'd known that the Republic Trooper voice was done by Jennifer Hale, but the familiar voice coming out of the Imperial Agent was a pleasant surprise.
One thing that I hadn't realized until I played my multiple characters in the Beta weekend was how closely classes from the two different alignments mirror each other. I knew the classes kind of matched up (Trooper-Bounty Hunter, Smuggler-Agent, Knight-Warrior, Consular-Inquisitor), but I didn't know that most of the skills themselves, even if they have different names, match up as well. Who knew that hurling a series of rocks at an opponent using the Force (Consular) had the same effect as Force Lightning (Inquisitor)? I guess it makes sense from a game perspective, giving you the freedom to choose your side regardless of what kind of play style you enjoy, but it was a bit unexpected.
I don't think I'll say any more, other than that I had a really fun time playing and my quick sampling of five of the different characters has not helped me decide which one I'll start with when the game officially launches. I have received an email saying that I'll be invited to another beta test some time. Next time, I hope to team up with someone, because that's kind of the point of an MMO, right?
I'll leave you with one image I came across in the game:
My character (blue hair), some guy I'm talking to, and a couple bystanders.
Edit 11/22: I just got another testing invite. Not sure of the dates, but possibly for this weekend. I'm so ecstatic that I get another fix! It's already an addiction...