[LOTRO] Release delayed for Rohan, NDA dropped

Another brief post: The next LOTRO expansion has been pushed back from the beginning of September to October 15th.

But what is more interesting is that Turbine have dropped the NDA so beta testers have been coming forwards with their opinions on the new expansion. And the buzz is very positive indeed. I’ve picked out a few quotes here:

They have captured Rohan perfectly. The art and the music is incredible. It is all greens and browns, rolling hills, crystal streams.

My favorite part of the expansion so far is Volume III, Book 7 of the epic quest. I won’t spoil anything for you, but I’ll just say that this is the closest we’ve come to the Fellowship in a long, long time, and MadeOfLions and his team have done a great job of really bringing the story to life. It is probably the most immersive experience I’ve encountered so far in LOTRO.

This expansion really reminds you you are playing Lord of the Rings. It is lore central. Which leads me to the incredible job @MadeOfLions has done with the epic Book 7, which for me is the best book of them all.

I haven’t been this excited about an expansion release since Mines of Moria. It may be buggy still, but I absolutely am addicted to Mounted Combat. Rohan is an amazing, expansive region.

As someone who loves cosmetics and the cosmetic system, I am really overjoyed that my character can now dress up his horse to exactly fit his current outfit. You can mix and match blankets, head gear, back gear and leg gear and dye them in a lot of different colors, and then use different saddles as well as specify different colors for your horse’s coat and mane and tail to create the perfect horse for your current look.

The music is great. (Kudos to getting Chance Thomas back. The recycling of old zone music for Isengard was horrible and very low class. This, on the other hand, is very top notch. Bravo.)

The new mounted combat system is going to be the make or break part of the expansion. Beta testers mostly seemed to really like it, although people also noted that there was a learning curve and that since players are expected to level their new warmounts, there is a lot of grinding in the expansion. People also noted bugs and hoped that Turbine will be able to use the extra time before release to get those sorted out.

But mostly I wanted to highlight that amongst all the other MMOs being released this autumn, it may be that Turbine are onto a winner here and LOTRO players may want to check this one out when they have time.

[D3] In which I warm to Diablo 3, but not to the demon hunter stilettos

I have a theory that while female models in games pretty much started out based on underwear models and haven’t moved on significantly from there (depending on whether you think Sonic is female or not), graphic artists are now tending towards two male forms for all portrayals of men in games.

1. Bald space marine

2. The guy from Assassin’s Creed

I think we should applaud this diversity, since some of us like our guys lithe and … err… assassiny. In fact, if Blizzard had only made their original male blood elf model look more like Ezio (which admittedly would have required a time machine since TBC was released first IIRC), I bet none of the beta testers would have whined about them looking gay.

This is a roundabout way to introduce the topic of Diablo 3, which I have been playing some more this weekend as and when the servers allow it. So without more ado, this is the demon hunter.

demonhuntercombo

 

The top two characters are the level 1/ starting male and female demons hunters. The guy at the bottom hunter is the demon hunter from the end of beta, and the other chick is the Vanquisher from Torchlight. I just had two points to make here:

1. You can see that the dude is getting gradually more assassin’s creed-like over time

2. those thigh high stilettos are TERRIBLE. I really wasn’t over-reacting when I said I hated them. That character in the top right looks as though she’s going to strip, or go to a BDSM party, or pose for a pin up. I wanted a female version of the male dude. The comparison with the Vanquisher is fun because the two characters have a similar look and are wearing similar gear. But because the Vanquisher has sensible boots and a stronger pose, she strikes a better balance between sexy and badass. (NB. I think the female demon hunter is a beautiful piece of art if you wanted a pin up model, but it’s oddly over-sexualised compared to every other character in the game. I blame the boots.)

I am looking forwards to playing D3 at release, and have been making more of an effort to note any cool tweaks and updates to the genre that have impressed me particularly.

  • I like the events that you encounter in the dungeons, they make a neat change to standard boss fights and I can see there’s lots of scope for Blizzard to add more of them as time goes on.
  • The achievements work really well in Diablo also. I’m not an achievement minded person, but I was thinking about how to do some of them (like kill 20 mobs in one go) and which build would be best suited for it. There is plenty of scope for fun play there.
  • It feels quite quaint that the characters are so non-customisable, and that the loot will tend to end up looking samish also. I assume unique items and sets will have different looks to them.
  • I love how the game keeps track of your ‘high score’ for things like killing streaks on both mobs and destroyable items, and number of mobs killed in one blow even if you don’t hit the achievement. It gives a good sense for when you’re getting better.
  • I like the voiced lore items and journal entries. I did encounter at least one lore item (skeleton I think) which was not voiced, which struck me as an unusual polish fail.
  • The character voicing is not very good. Some of them are pretty terrible. Particularly the accents. I realise they may be the same actors as previous versions but they’re still not very good. But I feel less waspish about it now, because the male demon hunter sounds very cool.
  • I am not one of the people who complains about lack of talent trees, I prefer not having to think too much about which abilities to take. And the beta only covers the first few levels so it’s a bit soon to judge how well anything is balanced. But this is also Diablo and mobs come at you in packs, so the classes with the better AEs are easier to play.
  • I’ve played the beta through on the barbarian and demon hunter now, as well as the wizard. On the demon hunter I mostly did this in open groups so that I could try out the co op. The barbarian was simple but effective, it wades in and swings around with a large axe (or dagger in my case since the dagger had better dps) and bodies fly around. The demon hunter seemed to be a single target dude in an AE world, but I love that they have a channeled ability to fire the crossbow off like a machine gun. That’s very bonkers, but amusing,
  • Co-op groups mostly consist of people doing speed runs. Even if they don’t say so, that’s what they will do. Many of them will also have speed boosts on their gear so it’s easy to end up running after everyone else through corridors of dead mobs and then seeing the end of quest achievement pop up before you get there. D3 does make everyone zone into boss fights together, so you will at least get to see those. And it’s quick xp. In fact, if you want to level fast when the game goes live, just do co op runs.
  • No one, but no one, is going to enjoy having to deal with lag and server disconnects in the single player game.

I don’t know, I’ve never Diablled

diablologo

So it’s Diablo 3 weekend (sorry, any other game that was having free trial/ open beta weekends this week) and although unsurprisingly the servers were full last night, it’s a bit quieter this morning. Let’s hope they’re going to be able to cope with the rush on May 15th when the game is released.

D3classes

The picture above shows the five classes, in female versions.  I don’t want to pull the race card straight out of the gates, but you will notice that four of these characters are very pale (like: vampiric pale) and the witch doctor is very dark skinned. That makes me a little uncomfortable. I do like that the barbarian is a chunky-looking chick who has an appropriate wrestler’s build, especially in comparison with the skinny everyone else. Also, the demon hunter has stupid heels on her boots, but the male demon hunter is prettier anyway so there is that. Just as an aside, I like how they have the witch doctor and monk in a good, powerful stance on that login screen too.

I’ve played through it once on a Wizard (about as explody as you’d hope) and basically, it’s Diablo with some tweaks. So if you were hoping that Diablo 3 was going to be more of the same, you’ll likely be very happy with it.  The game feels more linear and prone to sending you running down corridors of mobs than Diablo 2, at least in this initial section.

I couldn’t tell you a lot about the storyline because I wasn’t very clear as to why my character was there in the first place. Presumably there will be a video intro in the final game to explain this.

D3barrel

As you can see from the screenshot above, you still get to explode barrels. And this brings me to the eternal ethical paradox of Diablo – if it is wrong to destroy bookshelves, why do they drop loot?

They have done some nice tweaks with the achievements, which are awarded for the sorts of things you’d probably expect. Such as killing lots of mobs, exploding things, finishing bits of the storyline etc. You can also sometimes destroy bits of the scenery, bringing chandeliers or walls crashing down, and there are achievements for destroying monsters with scenery also.

I wonder if the devs have taken some inspiration from Torchlight as well, because they seem quite keen on having mobs pour through holes in the wall at some points. The short cut scenes in the story are nicely integrated, and you can also meet and pick up heroes as companions. The only hero I found in the beta was the templar, but sadly you cannot murder your own companion for being bloody annoying so I gave him a better sword and shield and hoped silently that he’d commit suicide by mob. Templars are apparently like cockroaches though  …

Some of the other tweaks are around crafting, where you can level up your game’s blacksmith by throwing money at him. The blacksmith can also ‘disenchant’ magic items for you into components that you can use to have him craft new stuff. The new stuff I saw has randomly assigned magic abilities, so this is effectively letting you recycle unwanted magic items into ones that may or may not be better.  Gathering gold is going to be quite important in this game if you want to craft any of the higher level stuff. The powers and how the talents work have been described quite thoroughly elsewhere – basically it’s quite linear and you don’t even get to swap which powers are assigned to your left and right mouse buttons. As you level up you will get more choices around powers and how to tweak them, and I imagine it gets deeper and more involved, but you don’t really see much of that in the demo.

Arb and I played in co-op for a short while and that was fine. You are able to teleport from the town to wherever the other person you are grouped with is, and you can earn co-op achievements together. The loot drops in co-op are completely separate for each character and I couldn’t even see what drops she was getting. Also, you get to use your own blacksmith in the co-op game, you don’t have to jointly level a new one. Once you add someone to your friends list, you will also get to see their achievements pop up in the same way you see your guildies achievements in WoW.

Anyhow, short form: it’s fun, if you liked Diablo 2 and Torchlight and wanted a game like that then go for it.

I don’t feel Blizzard have really been pushing the boat out here too much. So while I do look forwards to playing Diablo 3, I’m going to be intrigued also at what Runic have in the pipeline for Torchlight 2 because I think you could do more with this genre.

[GW2] This thing you never saw is similar to this other thing you never saw

Guild Wars 2 ran a press beta weekend last week, where press is defined as a mix of fansites and paid press. We’re seeing posts about people’s first reactions now, which are (unsurprisingly, since a large proportion of the players were from fansites) very positive.

Initial impressions from betas of long awaited games are often highly positive. People are so happy the game exists at all that they focus on the strengths of the game rather than the weaknesses, and beta players are generally more upbeat and co-operative than players in live games. Sad but true.

In this case, a lot of the interest is in the GW2 world vs world PvP setup. I find this intriguing because I like the idea of fighting other servers. And also because I have played DaoC in the past and remember what the frontier zones were like. Think huge expansive zones with objectives to hold but where you could also set up ambushes, get eaten by monsters, or go gank unsuspecting players from the other faction (note: there’s a limit to how unsuspecting they would be since no one ever HAD to go into the frontier zones.)

I see some of this enthusiasm from Keen, who is clearly imagining the GW2 WvW as being like those frontiers. (Note: what he really wants, clearly, is DaoC frontiers again.)

ArenaNet is giving me everything I want in PvP.  I don’t even care about their PvE game anymore.

Syncaine is imagining huge PvP-oriented guilds might take over some of the servers and use these mechanics to fight each other when they’re bored of playing EVE (or whichever other game they’re in).

I have no idea if any of those things will happen but clearly it has sparked gamer’s imaginations, and encouraged them to start comparing the GW2 setup with games they have played in the past. In Keen’s case that’s the DaoC frontier zones and in Syncaine’s it’s the 0.0 space in EVE. I’ve also seen people compare with the WAR open PvP zones, but they’re less enthusiastic. This is because DaoC and EVE had better PvP setups than WAR so the players who have seen this kind of open zone with objectives work really well in the past are likely to be more positive about it in the future. I just emphasise this to show how our experiences in the past with games affect how we feel about seeing features repeated in future games.

What I’m mostly relieved about is that apparently RP servers will be in the same clusters which means it’ll be possible to not have to PvP against the big old school PvP guilds who want to take over entire servers if you don’t want to.

My feel for GW2 from the demo I played last year is that it’s still a very themepark type of game, albeit with a heavy emphasis on dynamic events and an unusual class setup. So the best thing to expect would be another evolution on themepark MMO design, rather than something completely different.

Here is some more feedback from the weekend:

Ravious, who has been tooting the horn for Arenanet since forever, loved the game and offers to answer people’s questions in comments.

Massively has a couple of beta impressions.

Mike Fahey at Kotaku describes how he spent an hour trying to fall into a hole and die. I’m sure we’ve all been there (or am I the only one who always tries to jump off high things and die in new games?) It’s a good roundup.

For me, while I’m still keen to go play with snow leopard cubs with Arb, I cannot get excited about WvW because I’ve been there before, done that before. On the other hand, the class and group design sounds like a lot of fun. It sounds as though they have some interesting plans for guilds, also.

Another thing to note is that several players have commented on how large the world is, but no one has said anything about mounts.

[SWTOR] More thoughts from beta (space combat, PvP, etc.)

This was the last weekend of beta testing for The Old Republic, and now the servers are down and being wiped. Hopefully some of the team get a few days downtime too before the craziness of launch.

The changes from last week’s build were noticeable. I think graphics were improved, servers seemed more stable (we didn’t suffer lots of d/c during flashpoints this time around) and I noticed some minor but very useful UI changes. For example, last week people commented that it wasn’t obvious where the bindpoints were or how they worked unless you specifically set them to show up on your map. Now they’re indicated more clearly in the game. There’s no doubt that the game itself is ready for prime time — main technical issues I had were with how long it takes to quit out of the game. (And it did hang my computer while quitting at least once, or at least took long enough that I got bored and rebooted.)

This time around I aimed to try a few of the classes I skipped last weekend, and level my sith warrior high enough to get my own ship and try out the space combat. My overall impression is that the story emphasis has a much bigger effect on how involved players get with their characters than I first thought. I did miss my sith warrior when I didn’t have beta access, gonzo as she is. Agreed with Arb and other friends in the beta that we had all enjoyed all the classes we’d tried, and thought it would be fun to play all of them at some point to see their stories. (That’s quite a lot of replayability in itself, but raises other issues around communications. This is a game that could really use a realID style comms channel, so you can chat to your friends without having to remember which alt they’re on today.)

So here’s some notes in bullet point form:

  • Found out how to buy advanced class skills. Apparently I did have a taunt at level 10, who knew? (Will post separately to explain how that’s done, in case anyone else misses it the same way I did.)
  • Sith Warrior still is a faintly embarrassing indulgence for me. I don’t know what the rest of her story is like but Act I is a gonzo non-politically correct power fantasy. There’s nothing really surprising yet, it’s the sort of stuff you’d expect, but beautifully implemented. Vette did imply that I was bonkers at least once, not sure if I should punish her for insolence or buy her a new blaster. No signs of any romance yet, but I think you’d have to be crazy to flirt with a sith lord anyway, even if they were hot. (OTOH, I could imagine my character picking out a hot imperial soldier with: “You, my room, tonight!” because that’s how she is. Like I say, it’s not politically correct. But probably something that everyone should try once ;) ) Am puzzled that my protective headgear seems to consist mostly of a mouthpiece — it is thematic but does the rest of my head not need protecting more? I do love how her voice changed when she was wearing it though. Darth Baras still sounds cool although am suspecting he is in fact a colossal jerk (you could argue that I should have twigged this sooner.) Created a male sith warrior to compare the voices, and he sounds awesome.
  • The ships are nice, similar in style to the KOTOR ship with floor plans and several rooms. It is basically player housing. It also comes with a friendly droid (who is excessively subservient if you are a sith warrior.)
  • Space combat is a separate minigame with its own missions, tokens, and rewards (mostly stuff to kit out your ship to make it better at the minigame.) It’s not difficult and I’m not sure how deep it really gets but is pretty and can be a bit fiddly, I had to repeat the first mission a couple of times before I got it. Kitting out your ship also helps enormously. Ultimately I thought it was fun so we’ll call that a win, but it’s not full 3D elite-style dogfighting, Star Trek possibly still your best bet for that in a MMO.
  • Tried PvP on my Bounty Hunter, I suspect strong influence here from the WAR team. Scenarios are compact and combat is fast paced. I tried Huttball which is a capture the flag scenario with extra tweaks involving ramps, platforms and air vents that help you jump. And you can pass the ball from one person in your team to another. Was fun, and worth doing once for the xp, but reminded me of all the annoying things about MMO PvP that bug me (ie. the bunny hopping rogues.)
  • Played consular some more. I still enjoy the slower, more thoughtful pace of the storytelling. And being able to throw rocks at people with my mind; that’s quite good and is a skill I’ve often wished for iRL. I’m curious to see how they deal with the mind reading/ controlling aspect of this class (a la Obi Wan), or whether it gets glossed over.
  • Played smuggler; the Han Solo quotient is high here. I find the class quite fun and like the cover mechanic. The smuggler isn’t as sarky as some of the empire classes (no really!), instead she has some cocky conversation options and lots of opportunity to tell people that it’s all about the money and you’re not really fighting for the republic. Liked the starting storyline also.
  • Character models are stylized and that can sometimes mean odd design decisions. All the male models except the weediest have huge barrel chests, and all the female ones have big boobs. (Was touched to hear someone on one of the republic chat channels wondering why the female models all looked skinny with big boobs, because he wanted to make a char that looked like his girlfriend who was “small and normal looking with big boobs.” Awwww.) Male characters do get an option to be fat, the female equivalent is merely very curvy with a big bum that sticks out when she is in combat stance in a way that makes you wonder if she’s about to fart.

As you can see I’m very positive about the game, and can’t wait to play it with friends in live. Haven’t decided yet on which class. I loved my sith warrior so much, but the bounty hunter was awesome too and it’s nice to have ranged options. Plus BH can be Chiss (ie. blue).

The judgement call is “if you like this sort of thing, you’ll really like this game.” It is what it is, but I’ve never played any RPG with this kind of attention to detail/ story/ voicework.

[SWTOR] My first thoughts on beta

swtorbetachars

((A sith warrior and jedi consular from my beta weekend – does this robe make my bum look big? YES!!))

After playing a bit (*coff*) this weekend, I’m very positive about the game.  Star Wars: The Old Republic is a well executed themepark style MMO in the WoW mould –  I’m looking forwards to playing the game when it goes live, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Anyhow, these thoughts are based purely on low level play of a few classes, so doesn’t represent much of the game. I also played a flashpoint (Black Talon) with some friends, which was good fun (there were three of us so we used a companion to fill out the group). Fun is the keyword here, because I had lots.

The Good

  • The fully voiced questlines are amazing. I predict that the PC voice actors in particular will become fan favourites at conventions, if they aren’t already. (Grey DeLisle as female bounty hunter is awesome.) I also liked the music.
  • I enjoyed the cut scene excepts. They aren’t really cut scenes in the classical sense, because they often frame conversations in which you can interacts. They occur in solo questlines, in group quests, and in instances. If you have the patience of a 2 year old on a sugar rush you will hate them.
  • Combat is snappy. Classes felt fun to play, not far from the WoW mould but fun.
  • Planets are large and the locations are very immersive. It doesn’t feel tiny, there’s room to run around.
  • The light side/ dark side choices are good fun. Group conversation options in instances/ flashpoints also work really well. Everyone picks their option and the game rolls to see who answers for the group. Everyone gets darkside/ light side points based on their choices. We found it amusing when the one lightside/ darkside group member got to make the choice, rather than irritating.
  • There are group quests in starting areas but you don’t have to do them, or you can always come back later. However, area chat was full of people looking to group, and that gave the beta a very old school feel for me. I put this as a positive because I did try some PUGs and had a lot of fun. Plus at the end of the PUG you get the option to add the other people to your friends list, which was a nice touch.
  • I liked all the classes that I tried: Sith Warrior, Bounty Hunter, and Jedi Consular.
  • Darth Baras, who you’ll meet as a Sith Warrior, may have the sexiest voice in the game. I recommend everyone plays one for a few levels just to meet him :P

The Bad

  • The main bugs we found this weekend were one which meant you couldn’t log out and log in again as another alt (they fixed this one on Sat), lots of disconnects while in a flashpoint which meant we couldn’t finish it together, and other bugs around logging out. There probably were more minor ones but those will need to be addressed.
  • Lots of running around. I don’t mind this, it just makes the game feel a bit more old school. Some people will find it annoying.
  • Minor clipping issues.
  • While the map is great and quest directions are usually fine, there isn’t a lot of instruction around game elements such as bind points etc or how to find them. This may be annoying for less experienced players. For anyone else, you can just set the map to show them.
  • I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about SWTOR because I was happy that the game met my expectations, plus I only played a few classes to level 10 so I’ve barely scratched the surface. I heard comments that some classes were associated with more fun storylines than others, but that may depend on taste as well as objective appraisal.
  • Screenshots weren’t working. I had to ctrl-prt and then tab out to get the ones on this post.

Some class thoughts:

Sith Warrior plays a lot like the WoW Warrior. Force charge replaces charge (it’s actually more like heroic leap on a short cooldown), saber ward replaces shield wall, etc. But I never get bored of landing on top of a bunch of unsuspecting mobs and laying around with a buzzing lightsaber so that’s OK. The storyline was pretty much as you’d expect: trials to complete, a rival to encounter, opportunities to stiff your master, but I was getting quite into it by the end. I liked how my true sith gal looked too, with the funky metallic skin piercings. And her voice acting was great – authoritative and a bit sardonic. The jedi and sith do seem to have more interesting dark side/ light side choices to make, I think it’s just more key to their characters.

Bounty Hunter is purest awesome. It’s a fun class, although less snappy than the warrior because many of the shots have cast times. The storyline was great and had me exclaiming “Oh no they didn’t!!” quite early on into the game. Also you get to feel like a stone cold badass all of the time, even when you are making light side choices. I think though that Hutta is the less interesting of the two Sith starting planets (this is where Bounty Hunters and Agents begin), but did very much enjoy the two group quests which I nipped through with an Agent at my side. (Bounty Hunter + Agent is going to make for awesome groups, and I imagine Sith Warrior + Inquisitor will also.)

Jedi Consular starts with a mixture of melee and ranged attacks, and doesn’t have as good a range as the bounty hunter. Because it’s a more fragile class, you need to play a bit more carefully but I didn’t have any trouble with the starting quests. When you do die, you have the option to res in place (with a few seconds grace to get yourself out of harm’s way) or back at the nearest graveyard. There is more crowd control later on, it feels very versatile in play. While people have complained that her starting story is dull, I think you need to ask whether or not you want to RP a jedi. Because if you do, there are plenty of chances to show wisdom and restraint and try to resolve things peacefully. I thought it was fine, but less overtly exciting than the more blood and glory sith style.

Conclusion

This is a large game, and regardless of the extensive solo class quests (which are fully voiced and rather splendid), it feels like a genuine MMO. Grouping is fun, combat is fast, flashpoints (instances) benefit from being punctuated with RP/conversation snippets which make them feel less like the standard ‘corridor full of mobs interspersed by bosses’ model. How that will play when everyone knows all the strategies and wants to grind them for loot I don’t know. But I think they’ll be fine.

Star Wars fans will love it, if they can stop whining about not being able to play some obscure species.

WoW players looking for a new game that isn’t too dissimilar will probably love it too.

I think single player gamers will enjoy the game a lot, but there are group quests and instances even if they’re not for you. So it depends on how annoyed you feel you will be to keep hearing people in area chat asking for groups for them.

[SWTOR] So the NDA is down, ‘open’ beta weekend looming. Also GW2 and Torchlight 2 delayed. What’s a girl gonna do?

I’ve been racking my brains on what to say about SWTOR as the fansite NDA went down last week and my RSS feed filled up with previews and opinions from people who have already experienced the beta.

I’ll link to a few here, it’s just a subset of the many good posts out there since most of them reiterate similar points.

Randomessa’s reflections (she discusses why she won’t be playing the game when it goes live.)

It turns out that I simply do not have the patience for staying in one environment that Bioware demands of me. […] I love me some well-crafted and portrayed lore and cutscenes, but at least in most MMOs I’ve played I have a variety of locales I can move through in a relatively brisk manner, or, barring that, a variety of activities I can undertake to advance, even within the same environment.

Keen and Graev on their plans for playing SWTOR but skipping the endgame. (To be fair, I don’t think the endgame was available in the beta so this is based on conjecture.)

SWTOR is worth buying because it has the qualities of every other Bioware RPG.  If you bought Dragon Age Origins or Mass Effect and had fun, and you like or tolerate themepark MMOs, then SWTOR is no different. From what I have seen, I fear the end-game will be just like WoW.  I’m not a fan of raiding for gear and I don’t like repeating the same raid over and over.  That truly is the end-game for me now — that’s where I’ll end playing the game.

MMO Gamer Chick writes a very thorough preview and explains why she loved it, but also notes that it isn’t a revolutionary game.

I’m a gamer of fairly flexible tastes, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I had with this game. Despite some nitpicky issues I had, in general my overall view of SWTOR is extremely positive.

[…] as you level up, the combat gets a lot more interesting. By the mid 20s, I was really getting into it. And by 50, I was having a ton of fun.

[Planets] are HUGE. So huge, you will be crying tears of joy by the time you get to buy your first speeder. Quest indicators on the map are almost a necessity; otherwise, the game is so big you’d never be able to figure out where to go.

Kalliope focusses on the tradeskills:

My overall impression of professions in SWTOR is that they closely model WoW crafting. There are a few improvements such as the reverse engineering ability, the enhancement option and crew missions, but the skill levelling and procurement processes are quite similar. They also seem to have the same gated structure to the levelling process that makes crafting prohibitive to non-adventurers in most games.

Rohan @ Blessing of Kings enjoyed the game a lot but has issues with some of the mechanics. (I think this is pretty much a given for a Bioware RPG.)

The quests and storyline, and general solo play is amazing. I really enjoyed that and I look forward to fully exploring the game when it releases. Also, I’d like to reiterate that I loved Light-Side Sith.

But mechanically, it feels like there are a lot of design issues. These don’t really matter for solo play, but I think the crucible of group and endgame play will expose a lot of flaws.

 

Mostly I am finding that my previous expectations of the game are borne out by players. So top marks to Bioware for sending out the right messages with their hype. All I ask of hype is that it be entertaining and not give misleading impressions.

One note that Randomessa highlights in her post is that the different class storylines play very differently. She was conflicted in that the class whose story she preferred wasn’t the one whose combat gameplay she liked best.

I strongly suggest to prospective players that you pick your class based on the storyline. That’s going to be the strength of this game. Don’t end up saying ‘I played an X even though I liked the story that goes with Y better.’

I know my goal during open beta weekend, if I have time, is to play enough of the classes to get a feel for which story I am going to find most compelling.

Delays in the pipeline

In other news, Guild Wars 2 sounds as though it’s likely to be at least a year out from going live based on comments made during NCSoft’s latest earning call. Although if their beta is still due to start this year, that would leave them with an unusually long beta ….

Torchlight 2 is officially delayed now as well, I wish Runic all the best with the game and look forwards to play it when it does come out. But it’s bad news for them if they can’t get T2 out before Diablo 3.