We’ve spent dozens of hours exploring the beta, and came away with several core features you should grasp to decide if this new Star Wars game is for you.

It seems like we’ve been waiting to play Star Wars: The Old Republic forever. Formally announced in 2008, the MMO has been creeping towards launch ever since. Even so, it’s been hard to get a comprehensive picture of the game, since most press access to the game has been limited to brief convention appearances.

In recent weeks, we finally had the chance to dive in and play the full beta version of the game. Even as BioWare works to polish the final experience, we found a game of impressive scope and ambition.

For players who are still trying to make up their minds, here’s what you need to know to get started and determine if this is the game for you.

Choose A Class, Choose A Story

The Old Republic has eight complete, well-told stories packed in to the package, one for each of the eight core classes in the game. More than any other MMO we’ve played, your story experience will be shaped by your choice of class. The Jedi Knight treads a path of nobility and sacrifice. The Republic Trooper delivers an action-packed military story. Each class’s tale has its own main characters, plot climaxes, and boss battles. We tried out several different classes, and every one stars a different cast of characters and delves into a unique stretch of the universe.

On top of your class story, you’ll also have the chance to participate in innumerable quests that tell the broader story of the conflict between the Republic and the Empire. Though some have the feeling of side missions, many of the quests outside of your quest are sprawling adventures with storylines that equal or exceed events going on in your class story.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Star Wars fans and wider fans of narrative-focused games will find a lot to love, but MMO players who especially don’t care about story might be frustrated.

It’s A Big Galaxy

Even at launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic is a vast game universe to explore, both in geography and narrative. Your journeys in the game will take you across the Star Wars galaxy to different planets, space stations, moons, and more. Planetary zones are extremely large, packed with quest content, unusual sites to investigate, and challenges to overcome. A huge galactic map includes over a dozen planets for each faction to visit, plus various other sites, like space battles and space stations.

The breadth of locations and storylines is set against the backdrop of a dramatic galactic conflict between the Sith Empire and the Republic that occurred several thousand years before the Star Wars movies, and several hundred years after the Knights of the Old Republic game. As a result, there are lots of new dramatic possibilities, and no one knows how those plotlines will unfold.

Single player gamers who have previously enjoyed other BioWare games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age will certainly find a game worth investing time in. However, those same players may need to adjust to the larger areas, longer walks, and slower pace of an MMO. There’s a lot of ground to cover in The Old Republic, so like with any massively multiplayer game, you spend a lot of time traveling from one place to another.

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