"Oh crap," I thought. "You've got to be kidding me."
I've mentioned before in some other posts that I get headaches and disorientation when I play first person shooters. I've had this problem dating back to the original Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, when the old conflict between what my eyes are seeing versus what my inner ear is telling my brain first reared its ugly head. For a long time I assumed that MMOs would cause me trouble as well, but once I started playing WoW I discovered that the only location that I had problems was in Shadowfang Keep, with it's tight twists and turns causing the camera to constantly zoom in and out. Rift, LOTRO, and AoC didn't cause me any trouble at all, so I didn't expect anything different from TOR.
I couldn't see anything obvious in what the game was doing that would cause me issues, so I decided to simply call it a night and go and sleep it off. The next morning, however, I didn't have any trouble with the game at all. I chalked it up to sinuses and kept playing without incident.
Still, if first person shooters give you problems, go slow on TOR before you're comfortable enough with pressing onward.
Another thing happened in those first five minutes in addition to the headache: I was invited to join a group.
I'm used to the occasional random grouping request from other MMOs, but usually you get your feet wet before you group up with someone. With TOR, however, the group requests came very frequently throughout my free period. I really haven't played enough to get a good feel for the game community, but at first glance TOR seems to foster a community that works together, which is a bit different than that found in WoW or LOTRO. AoC does encourage grouping because the quest lines have a sizable number of multi-group quests, but TOR appears to have this driven organically as opposed to being imposed artificially.
Now, the higher you level, that scenario might change, but this is based on the first 11-12 levels or so.
Like most MMOs, TOR has multi-player quests.*
What I found interesting was where those multi-player quests --called Heroic Quests-- lay in the spectrum on MMOs.
In one end you have the group quests in Age of Conan, which are impossible to solo at level. In fact, the L20-ish group quests for AoC are only solo-able once you get into the upper L40s. Yes, that's a 15-20 level difference, and believe me the difference is real.
Somewhere in the middle you'll find the leftover WoW group quests and the LOTRO group quests, where the group quest difficulty can vary from quest to quest. Some of Icecrown's quests you can solo with raid gear at level, but others are too difficult to achieve otherwise. As a rule of thumb, a L10 difference (at low level) or an L5 difference (at Wrath level and beyond) is sufficient for soloing.
TOR, on the other hand, had 2-player group quests in Ord Mandell that were doable only a level or two higher than the intended level, and if you take along a companion there's no trouble at all. My suspicion is that this will scale in difficulty the higher up in level you go, but I didn't get far enough into the story to find out.
Nevertheless, to an experienced MMO player the 2-man group quests in TOR are doable at level with a companion. Just make sure your companion stays upright, and don't merely try to out-DPS the enemy.
The toon creation options are much greater than that in WoW or LOTRO, but most of the toons I saw had a similar body build.
So what did I do? Create Redbeard, of course.
I didn't go whole hog and make my Smuggler obese, but he is definitely on the chunky side. He's also tall (like the Ghost of Redbeard from the Scooby-Doo episode, not me), and he's got that full red hair and a beard. If I tried to do that in WoW, the best I could come up with would be a Dwarf; not exactly what I had in mind, you know.
Still, my Smuggler really did stand out from the crowd.
I didn't get the try the female creation tools, but I've seen articles by Spinks on them already, so they sound a bit like what you find in Age of Conan. Not perfect, but better than WoW or LOTRO.
So, if in case you were wondering, I did try something different than the most common models out there.
*Yes, WoW still has some group quests around, mainly confined to the BC and Wrath zones. In Icecrown, for example, you can't complete the Loremaster achievement there by soloing as an L80 with quest greens/blues; there are too many group quests standing in your way. When I finished that achievement on Quintalan back in Wrath, he needed T9 gear and the Quel'Delar quest chain to solo some of those group quests.