Alright, this was the second beta weekend I've participated in and probably the last one before launch. Here are some more thoughts.
Advances in Griefing
Every time the MMO genre takes a step forward, it seems like the griefers also move forward as well. Bioware's main emphasis is story, and it should be no surprise that the griefers will seize upon that.
The new griefing in SWTOR: spoilers in general chat.
I would strongly suggest turning off the general chat channels when you start a new character if you care at all about spoilers. People will spill details about your companion and plot twists.
As a bonus, with the chat channels turned off, you won't have to listen to the constant chatter about World of Warcraft. Seriously, this makes me want to play WoW even more, because at least there people are not constantly talking about WoW.
But not having the chat channels active does make the game feel like less of an MMO. Part of the draw of MMOs is the fact that you are playing with other players, sharing an experience with them. Seeing chat go by is a large part of that experience, and I do miss it when it is turned off.
I tried the Republic Trooper and Sith Warrior, with a little of the Bounty Hunter and Smuggler. These stories were all good, but not quite as good as the Imperial Agent and Sith Inquisitor.
I took the tanking advance class of the Republic Trooper, the Vanguard. It's ... a bit odd. It's a "short-range ranged" class, as far as I can tell. Melee range is 4m, and long range is 30m to 35m. But the Vanguard's core skills have a range of 10m. So you're not in melee, but you're not really at range either. It does feel a little weird.
The Bounty Hunter is the exact same as the Republic Trooper. However, the skills are skinned in the inverse way, which is kind of neat. The Trooper starts at full Ammo, and abilities uses up Ammo, and Ammo slowly recharges. The Bounty Hunter abilities, on the other hand, generate Heat, and the Bounty Hunter starts with zero Heat, and Heat vents over time. The systems are the exact same numerically, I believe, but are presented in opposite ways. It's rather amusing.
I did manage to try some more flashpoints (dungeons). It's odd, but I've never managed to get into a "fresh" flashpoint. I always seem to join groups who are partway through.
I didn't try healing again, I just went with the Trooper and Sith Warrior. The flashpoints went reasonably well. I really like Bioware's conversations with multiple players. That system is superb.
In one flashpoint with the Sith Warrior, I got to see a strong advantage of the companion system. One person left midway through, after a wipe. So I brought out my companion, and the three of us plus the companion continued through the instance. It worked reasonably well. Then we got to a boss that wiped us a couple of times, and another player brought out a different companion who could heal. We beat the boss with that configuration. (Though to be fair, it was also because we figured out how to avoid the boss' special move.)
I don't know how effective a companion will be in the higher-level dungeons (as opposed to the introductory ones), but it was really nice to be able to "patch" the group and keep going, instead of having to find a new person.
The only problem with flashpoints so far, in my view, is that it doesn't really feel like you are in a group. The sense of teamwork, of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, is very weak. It feels like four individuals attacking all the mobs, rather than one team. Perhaps the sense of team will grow stronger when the tanks and healers come into their own.
To be honest, the major thing this beta has done is to make me second-guess my choice of class. I was originally going to go with a Jedi Guardian. But I found the Sith Warrior mechanics to be awkward. And for some reason, the Sith Empire is much more interesting than the Republic. The Sith Lords are very well drawn, and it seems like the Republic characters are much less memorable.
Of course, the problem with the Sith faction is that most of the (vocal) Sith players appear to be "Hur, hur, look at me, I'm evil." That's always annoying, and is going to be especially annoying in a game that actually allows players to act evil.
I'm still definitely looking forward to the game, but I now have no idea what faction or class I am going to play.