Before jumping right into our actual review of SWTOR, which will be coming next week, I'd like to answer a few of the individual questions that have been thrown our way regarding the game, and wouldn't quite fit proper into our review next week.
Playing an MMO is more of a long term investment than just a regular AAA title, so hopefully some of these answers help you decide if SWTOR may be your game of choice. All of these answers also take into consideration the recent SWTOR Patch 1.1, which has been rather interesting.
Also, if you want to find out more about my experience playing through Star Wars: The Old Republic so far, please check out my thoughts on flashpoints, warzones and class quests and some bugs, complaints and niggling issues.
Is It Easier To Play Empire Than Republic?
For the most part, classes are balanced in a way that both teams have fairly even footing. Having said that, there are (from a crowd control perspective) some individual moves that one class may have that are better than the opposing factions equivalent, such as Bounty Hunter versus Trooper. Both classes have their own specs designed to mirror one another, from healing to tanking and DPS, but each individual talent tree handles things in a slightly different way.
As far as 'better' is concerned, it may not mean that one class is going to be inherently superior to the other always, but it may mean that one play style will be more fun to roll with since the two classes do accomplish the same job through different means.
Levelling after the first two worlds tends to be a similar experience for both Empire and Republic players, outside of the overall quest content being different. Prior to the entrance of Tatooine, the Empire worlds tend to be smaller, and feel a little more organized than the Republic counterparts. The quests are all spaced in a very specific order, and along the way rare Datacrons are incredibly easy to locate. It definitely wasn't a more 'fun' experience than levelling up on Tython or Ord Mantell, but levelling up as a Sith or a Bounty hunter was definitely a lot faster as a result. Less running around makes a difference.
Do Players Get Mounts?
Yes, in the form of speeders which range from speeder bikes to tiny ships. Players unlock access to being able to sprint out of combat at level 15, speeder usage at level 25, and a level 40 and 50 even faster speeder training becomes available for players that have the credits. In game there's a fairly decent spread of speeders to choose from, including a few exclusive PvP and Light/Dark side vendors.
Item Mods: How Do They Work?
Though we touched base on weapon/armour modifications previously, customizing gear is a huge part of the game and are one of the most fun and unique parts of the MMO. Characters will naturally get access to green and blue quality sets of gear, which is colour coding for 'common' and 'uncommon' equipment respectively.
Orange quality gear however, represents equipment which has stats entirely based off of mods which can be slotted to various armour parts. This means that gear with an individual look that is modifiable technically has no stats, and can be upgraded via mods to be as potentially useful as some endgame equipment.
Crafting in-game grants players access to equipment mods, but items already slotted that will show up throughout the game as quest rewards or flashpoint drops can have their valuable mods removed for use elsewhere.
So, if a player happens to come across a really defining look for their character that they never want to let go of (or just want to dress like Slave Leia while still kicking a tremendous amount of ass) the modification system lets players do so. Using mods is also the only way to change lightsaber colors, or blaster fire color, which adds that extra bit of customization.
What's The State Of The Game And What Will It Be Like In A Month Or So?
It's a rough question to answer, because an MMO generally doesn't show signs of falling apart (or staying strong) until about 5-6 months in, but at this time there's no reason to believe SWTOR will be a dead service anytime soon. The Old Republic also drew together an impressive amount of players at launch, becoming one of the fastest growing MMOs in the genre's history shortly after launch. That being said, players new to the game may want to do a bit of research before rolling on a particular server.
Naturally server balance is impossible to predict at launch, and though many of the existing servers have a fair balance on either faction, some happen to be far more imbalanced when it comes to level 50 players. This means those with the time, and energy to reach endgame faster may want to think ahead; SWTOR is a game that really lends itself to the leveling experience, and there are quite a few players taking their time and enjoying the process as opposed to simply gunning for the very end.
Exploration, crafting, and side quests/missions can be an extremely time consuming process, but provide a lot of unconventional fun for players looking to work together in groups. The good news is that communities across SWTOR seem to be extremely active, ranging from RP servers that maintain their own storytelling and lore across multiple fansites to PvP/End Game guilds that are taking full advantage of the well balanced Warzone/Operation participant requirements.
It's also worth noting that though EA has likely tossed close to $200m in the development, distribution, and manufacturing of SWTOR they'll likely be making that cash back very soon. Over 2 million units have been sold at this time, each of those with their own subscription rate that shouldn't be looked over. It's safe to say that if you're looking to judge the game from a financial basis, your worries should be laid to rest.