A perfect gaming day? Just about.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a (pseudo) launch day as good as this one for SWTOR, and I’m including RIFT’s stellar launch as well. A week’s worth of planning and work came together as my schedule cleared for Tuesday, my wife lovingly took the kids over to a babysitter’s, and I was free to see what I could get done in game. Turns out, a lot.
On a lark I tried to see if I could log in at 6:30, and lo and behold I could. Servers were up about ten minutes after that, and I began the process of reserving the eight character names I picked out. When I finally logged in, it was to a ghost town — not a single soul in the zone, not a single voice on the chat screen, nothing. I’m not saying I was the first in game, but it almost felt like it. The automatic guild invite worked like a charm, and it was great to see guildies popping in over the hours as the waves of invites went out.
(On a sidebar, please note that I’m not gloating over those who didn’t get in today — I feel bad for those who couldn’t, and I know how I’d be feeling too. Looking forward to seeing you all in game!)
I had no large agenda for the day other than to just enjoy the launch and take my time, and so I did. No leveling rush, no trying to speed off the planet, I spent most of the day on Hutta with Yeti, my Chiss Imperial Agent. At no point did it feel overly crowded, although I’m not sure what the numbers were or how many instances of the planet were going on. But mob stealing? Clickie stealing? Not even present. Even chat seemed subdued after the first few minutes of ecstatic glee, as everyone went about just playing.
First things first, as I spent about 20 minutes fiddling with preferences, taking screenshots, and chatting with friends. Like unboxing a new computer, slipping into an anticipated MMO is something best done slowly as to savor it.
I quickly got attached to Yeti there — the Agent’s female voicework is well done, and it was surprisingly easy to slip into roleplaying with her. A bit snarky, but genuinely nice, almost always preferring lightside/non-violent solutions if need be but not shirking from dirty work if it had to be done. I’ve heard that the Agent is the best-kept secret of the game, and as scores of people flocked to the Force-using classes (egads, the /who lists were so lopsided in this regard), I was grinning mightily as I shot, stabbed, stealthed, and conned my way through a great spy story. It’s the little touches that made it great, like having to disable listening devices in a room or pitting one faction against another, but after a while I was just grooving in it.
The first ten levels did help me figure out what my advanced class — Operative — would be. Sniping is nice, but I don’t really like having to do the whole “stationary cover” thing. I’d rather run-n-gun, opening up with distance attacks then closing for some nasty vibroblade action. I made sure to do all the quests, and I actually wanted to anyway — the cutscenes, decisions, conversations, and plot twists are compelling stuff. In fact, I think I could tell you the outline of most of the quests I performed for the entire zone, which is a first for me in MMOs. I also hunted down the three Datacrons (mostly one-shot stat-boosting devices) and enjoyed gaining my first companion so I could tackle the heroic areas.
Once I finished up with Hutta, I explored the Empire station (which is nearly identical to its Republic counterpart), then saw a Black Talon group forming and I went for it. That was a ton of fun too — a quick hour of constant movement, combat, and action. I was very curious how the multiplayer conversation worked, but it feels so natural that you don’t even think about it after the first time. You just pick your choice, the computer rolls to see if you won, and whether you did or not you get social points (but you get more points if you win). For both of the major decision points — killing the captain and what to do with the general — I won the rolls, so I got to direct how the flashpoint proceeded.
After that, hey, I had a PvP quest, so what the heck — I did some Huttball. And as much as I hate PvP, Huttball turned out to be a blast, with a funky announcer, crazy action, and incredibly stupid Empire players who were sitting ducks most of the time. I even scored, which made me feel proud!
I almost hate to gush because I know there’s accusations of fanboyism out there when one does, but holy moley, I just had a blast today, more fun than I’ve had with a game in a long, long, long time. Like, I don’t want to go to bed kind of gripping. It feels so polished, so intuitive, and so involving that my initial launch impressions are that BioWare actually pulled it off. I think this has every chance of being a monster hit for the new decade, and whether it is or not, I know I’m going to be playing for a long time to come.