The short short version of my impression so far is that the game tries it’s damdest to scare you off in the first few hours, but if you stick with it there seems to be a fun game buried under the dated graphics and clunky UI.
My first impression was that the graphics are horribly dated. However, by fiddling with the graphics options I was able to get them up to "pretty good."
Not astounding by any means, but pretty damn good for a game that is nearly a decade old.
[A random aside: using FRAPS will butcher your framerates more than any other game I've tried FRAPS with. Don't do it. If you want to take screenshots, hit "ctrl+Shift+h" Then hit "print screen" You can also set the format (jpeg to bitmap) and quality of your screenshots in the "options" sub menus.]
What came as an unpleasant surprise (to put it mildly) was the basic controls of the game. When you first log in your camera is locked to your mouse, making it extremely difficult to select objects in the environment and impossible to select abilities from your hotbar with the mouse. You can change this in the control settings, however you have to log out and back in for the change to take effect. The UI itself gives you no clue that you need to log out, I had to figure it out by trial-and-error.
Once you have the mouse pointer unlocked, a new problem rears its head. Each mouse button does two things, and the game tries to figure out which you intend by where the pointer is on screen. This can lead to “hilarity” such as activating an attack and pulling a distant mob when you are trying to move the camera around, or shooting an NPC in the face when you are just trying to see if you can talk to them. Within my first 30 minutes I was having a pretty serious attack of sailor mouth.
The whole system is very hard to get used to on a melee character (i.e., Jedi). However, when I switched to a Commando (a high damage ranged attacker with a powerful self heal) the system started to make a bit more sense. By my second hour I was only shooting things accidentally every ten minutes or so . . .
The tutorial area that you start in also seemed pretty amateurish to me. One minute in I’m hanging out with Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C3PO. I guess the idea is for the game to feel “Star Warsy,” but to me it just felt contrived. The first quest area also isn’t that well designed. It’s a lot like a Star Wars skinned WoW quest hub. It eventually has you running in an out of the same instance six times in a row. The impression I came away with after my first two hours was “like WoW, but in space and clunky.” The one pleasant discovery was space-flight missions, which were a nice change of pace from killing things on the ground.
Despite my bad first impression, I’m old school and have a pretty high pain threshold when I try a new MMO. I decided to at least make it down to Tatooine before giving up on the game. And there I got a number of pleasant surprises. First off, I got a free landspeeder in my choice of colors after a very short quest chain.
The structure of the quests also improved. You talk to a quest giver to activate a chain, and then head out and start working. As you get steps done, your quest giver calls you on your comm to give you the next step in the chain and wires the rewards to your bank account . . . because they have modern technology and can do that (amazing!).
Tatooine itself also feels much more like a real place than the intro station did. The intro station was an illogical and contrived feeling series of questing areas. For example, why is the whole top level filled to the brim with dangerous animals? Who the heck knows? Tatooine, on other hand, feels a lot like . . . Tatooine (from the movies).
At this point I've worked through the horrifically bad newbie experience, and I'm curious about the rest. According to my login I have 9 more days to figure out whether modern SWG sucks or not, to my personal tastes. I can see clearly that there is a good game in there. I'm willing to try and connect to it.