Since yesterday evening I am in the SWTOR beta. Which isn't surprising, because this is the beta weekend where they basically let everybody in who ever applied for a beta key. My first impression is that I don't regret having pre-ordered the game, even if I am probably busy around Christmas and won't be able to play before the new year. Star Wars: The Old Republic is solid workmanship. I haven't encountered a single crash, bug, or occurrence of lag yet, and that on a beta weekend. The worst thing I can say about the game right now is that it I don't quite understand why they would do 4 hours of maintenance on a Saturday morning during the beta weekend.
Gameplay very much resembles World of Warcraft. While fans will certainly point out the differences between SWTOR and WoW, which certainly exist, life as an adventurer in SWTOR is very much like life as an adventurer in WoW. You take quests, kill 10 foozles, click on quest item locations, gain xp, level up, learn skills at the trainer. There is color coded loot with stats, NPC vendors that sell gear either for money or for some sort of token (think valor points), hotkey based combat, general chat, everything. Even the graphics aren't incredibly different from WoW, I bet someone could make 5 screenshots from WoW and 5 from SWTOR and put up a quiz, and not everybody would get it right which screenshots are from which game.
The point where SWTOR is arguably "better" than WoW is the cut-scenes and conversation with the quest giver NPCs. Although many of the conversation options are fake and don't make any difference, this interaction with the NPCs is way better than 511 characters of quest text. Another advantage over WoW is that at least some low-level quests are a bit more challenging than those in WoW. One elite quest mob took me three attempts (and a trip to the skill trainer) before I could kill it.
The open question, and it will remain open until next year, is how long SWTOR can hold my attention. Right now it is new and shiny, but I consider it inevitable that I get bored faster with a game which plays so similarly to many other MMORPGs.