Star Wars; The Old Republic Wraps Up Beta Testing; Millions Anxiously Await December 20, 2011 Release Date

The year long beta test for Star Wars; The Old Republic came to a successful conclusion on Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST. The final weekend of beta testing drew over 2 million participants, according to figures released by the MMO’s developer, Bioware. The long anticipated game began its now legendary development cycle way back in 2006 and it is rumored to have run up $135 million dollars in development costs, easily making it the most expensive video game of all time. Judging by the reactions of the final weekend’s beta testers, the money has been well spent and millions of gamers are chomping at the bit to get into the game when it starts its official general release on December 20th, 2011.

Those of us who pre-ordered the game, when it became available for purchase on July 20, 2011, will be able to gain early access to Star Wars; The Old Republic starting on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. Due to the incredible demand, Bioware sent out the following statement on how it will handle the multitude of players who are eligible for early access. “Early Game Access will begin on December 13th at 7:00AM EST, 2011 and ends on December 19th, 2011 at 10:01PM EST. During this time, we will be emailing invitations to join Early Game Access based on the order in which you redeemed your Pre-Order Code. Pre-load the game client now, so you’re ready to play when your Early Game Access invitation arrives.” Players with the foresight to pre-order the game on its first day of availability back in July, will probably be checking their email inbox quite often in the early hours leading up to 7:00AM, this coming Tuesday.

This writer was able to participate in the closed beta for several months and I must say, I am really looking forward to playing Star Wars; the Old Republic. I intend to make SW;TOR my primary online game and expect to dedicate long hours, playing along side my fellow guild members from the guild Star Forge. As with many other great MMO’s, SW;TOR has a well developed guild system in place that encourages players to group together and team up regularly to enjoy every aspect of the game.

To give you a good idea of just how much I enjoy playing SW;TOR, I will tell you that during my time in beta testing, I actually cancelled my accounts to all the other online games that I was playing. What really made everything clear to me was the downtime between SW;TOR beta builds. During the week or 2 between builds, I would log in to other games and after a few minutes of aimless play, I realized that in comparison to SW;TOR, I no longer enjoyed the other games. All I wanted to do was get back into SW;TOR and kill more Jedi with my Sith Character. The instant I got the email for the next beta build, my face lit up in a broad smile and I rushed to the SW;TOR website to re-install the game.

During the beta, I tried every class available on the Sith side and two classes on the Jedi side. I concentrated on the Sith Sorcerer, which is the class I intend to play at launch. Over the course of several beta builds, I leveled 4 different Sith Sorcerers to the level cap of 50 in order to learn all I could about the class. Although every class is fully fleshed out, offers a wide ranging set of skills and has it’s own story based quest line, I found that the Sith Sorcerer is the one I enjoy the most. The class is well balanced, wonderfully powerful and feels the most “Star Wars-ish” of all the different classes. Every single class, no matter if Jedi or Sith, is well designed and offers a totally unique play style. Players may find themselves trying all the different classes before they decide on their favorite or rolling several alternate characters, so they can enjoy even more of the richness SW;TOR has to offer.

The game itself looks great and plays smoothly, with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a top of the line MMO. The graphics are excellent and finely detailed. Bioware made a decision not to go for a hyper realistic look and the characters in the game have a painterly feel instead of a real world appearance. The backgrounds, buildings, vehicles, props, weapons, furnishings and landscapes are all meticulously drawn, right down to proper shadows and clouds that move in sync with the prevailing winds. Every world in the galaxy has its own climate, look and flavor along with its own set of flora and fauna. Those players who expect an MMO to look great in addition to playing great will not be disappointed. SW;TOR certainly looks great and it plays great as well.

One aspect that really sets this game apart from other MMOs is the incredibly rich dialogue system that Bioware has built into SW;TOR. Gamers who played Mass Effect 2 will have a basic idea of the conversation system that Bioware developed for SW;TOR. Working from this solid foundation, Bioware expanded the system used in Mass Effect 2 exponentially. It would be like comparing a 2 story house (Mass Effect 2) to the Empire State Building. (SW;TOR) Recording the voices for SW;TOR involved hundreds of well known voice actors and the script they used is the equivalent in length of 40 good sized novels. Bioware has taken in-game voice acting to an entirely new level with SW;TOR.

Every time a player stops to interact with an npc as part of a quest, the player will activate a fully voiced dialogue system that allows the player and the npc to participate in a multi-part, back and forth conversation. At each stage of the conversation, the player is able to choose one of several possible responses. Each choice may directly affect the quest and even change the player’s level of dark side or light side influence. When in a group, each player chooses a response and the games decides which player’s response to use based on a system of behind the scenes rolls. By selecting group responses with rolls, the game opens itself up to some very funny moments. There were many occasions where the answer coming out of a player’s mouth had everyone in my group rolling on the floor in laughter or shaking their heads at the sheer ruthlessness of the response.

The game is set in a time period that is more than 3,500 years before the events in the Star Wars films. The Jedi and the Sith are holding to a shaky peace treaty called the “Treaty of Coruscant”, which was negotiated after the Sith launched a surprise attack and sacked the Republic capitol of Coruscant. The badly beaten Jedi lost a great deal of prestige and have fallen out of favor due to this disaster. They have been forced to relocate to the planet of Tython, where they are trying to rebuild and find new strength in the force. The victorious Sith have returned, at long last, to their home world of Korriban and re-established the infamous Sith Academy to turn out new and more powerful users of the dark side. The Republic remains mystified as to why the Sith chose to accept the Republic’s desperate pleas for peace and players will be anxious to find out the real motivation behind the actions of the Sith Empire.

The pieces are in place for a massive conflict between the Jedi, users of light and the Sith, wielders of the dark side. The tenuous peace is on the verge of crumbling into a planet shattering, galaxy wide, all out war between the two opposing factions. All that remains is for you to log in to the game and become one of the millions of lucky players who will be able to experience all the Star Wars universe has to offer. Star Wars, The Old Republic has been six years in the making and it is about to explode into every gamers life. With all the hype and anticipation, Bioware has a big job ahead to continue to develop end game content and turn out regular updates to keep the game growing and vital. Judging by the effort that Bioware made to develop this game, they are more than capable of doing what it takes to make Star Wars; The Old Republic a major success. Enjoy yourself and may the force be with you.

Do you plan to be one of the millions who will be joining the Star Wars; The Old Republic universe? Are you excited by this new MMO or are you a dedicated player of another game with no plans to try SW;TOR?