Preview

Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview (PC)

On the second day of E3, I got a helping of Star Wars: The Old Republic, first playing as a level one character in a starting zone, then running a raid (called an Operation in the MMO's parlance) on Tatooine as a ravaging Sith. In between the playthroughs, a briefing with the developers revealed more information on the hotly anticipated MMO.

Incoming
For the level one playthrough, I chose the Smuggler class, playing a female. The game opened up like any other Knights of the Old Republic game, with a grand introduction to the character, and some background exposition. In her case, she's a well-known and feared smuggler who finds out the Separatists, members of a political faction that want to break off from the Alliance, have taken control of some AA towers and are shooting down any ships trying to depart. She later finds out that it was actually a gambit by a business partner to destroy her operation and steal her ship. Bereft of her ship, the smuggler sets out to rebuild, with revenge on her mind.

The Smuggler is a ranged class, and the game really stresses it: you start out with no melee attack at all. You quickly learn to find cover and fire from behind protection. Eventually, the Smuggler does learn a melee attack (like a shiv attack or a foot to the groin), but the role is centred around ranged fire, especially the Sharpshooter advanced class.

After that, I got to experience level 28 Sith characters on the desert planet of Tatooine. The action takes place not far from Luke's home growing up, and revolves around the rescue of a Sith Lord and a mysterious artefact of immense power. In this run through, we had companions, who are characters who join you, so when you're solo you're still not alone. These companions are basically the same as pets in World of Warcraft - they come with a mini quick bar and can be given instructions much like a pet. Of course, unlike WoW, sometimes you can romance your "pet" and engage in a subplot concerning that relationship. Like Dragon Age, your actions will please some companions and annoy others and make them leave, so your moral decisions can determine your party construction.
 
Hmm.. I Wonder- No. Best not go there
A briefing from the developers revealed some new information about the game. They stated that the four pillars of a role-playing game is exploration, progression, combat and story, and that most MMOs utterly lack storytelling. They revealed that each and every class has literally hundreds of hours of story, and you'll even get new stories if you take the [i]same[/i] class and make different mission and moral choices. This is due to the fact that your actions remain permanent. If you kill the bandit lord, he remains dead for the rest of your character's story. In-game people will treat you differently depending on if you killed the bandit lord, and the lord's brother may seek you out in revenge. In addition to Light and Dark side choices which add points to your light and dark side meter, there are now conversational responses that earn Social points. Like the Dark and Light side points, you can actually "sell" them for specific Social gear and clothing, just as you can Dark and Light side gear and clothing.

For example, the devs showed a scene in which a Jedi subdued a Sith Lord, and the Lord accepted his defeat and desired the Jedi kill him quickly. In one variation, the Jedi took the dark side choice, cursing the Lord and killing him. In the other, the Jedi took the light side choice and spared him, detecting his desire for death was guilt. He urged the Lord to seek out the Jedi Council and turn back to the light side. When the Lord questioned if the Jedi would accept him back, the Jedi replied there was only one way to find out. They shifted to later in the game when the Sith Lord had indeed had become a Jedi, and stripped himself of the title General, for it held no meaning for him anymore. This was a case in which the actions of the Jedi had changed the story of the game.

Each character class, in fact, has three major story arcs - that is, their own "trilogy". After that, the story ends, and one supposes that's where the end-game content takes over, such as player vs. player, though the devs refused to confirm that. They did say that many gamers had asked why they didn't do a Knights of the Old Republic 3, to which they would always say with The Old Republic, they have built Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

During the playthroughs, it was quite clear a lot of upgrades in graphics had been done. The characters were more detailed and crisp, though with the same cartoon-like quality to them. However, the environments are quite stunning. On an Operation by Alliance forces to stop the mad General Bouris Ulgo (who happens to be a descendant of Trask Ulgo, the first character you ever met in KOTOR), they paused to show the lush scenery, including trees and waterfalls. The game has the best skybox ever seen in an MMO, with gorgeous painterly mountains and cloudy sky above that meld with the foreground architecture perfectly.
 
Who do you think you are? Darth Maul?

Star Wars: The Old Republic keeps getting more and more promising the deeper into development it goes, and more exciting for even non-Star Wars fans who want to try an MMO that isn't about orcs and elves, but about blasters and laser swords. There is still no set release window, but hopefully, it'll be out before the end of 2011.

Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 09, 2011
SirRoderick
*is about to drown in a pool of his own saliva*
By Longsword (SI Core Member) on Jun 09, 2011
Longsword
^ Haha! Agreed, SirRoderick!
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Jun 10, 2011
unsilviu
Totally on the same page. Bioware is going to give us the best MMO ever, period. The only things I don't like so far are the way parties can hijack your own personal story through random rolls, and the maps. I still think WoW's beautifully-drawn maps are better than a mish-mash of rugged terrain.
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jun 10, 2011
JonahFalcon
You haven't seen Alderaan yet.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Jun 10, 2011
unsilviu
Have they mentioned the level cap yet?
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 12, 2011
SirRoderick
On the hijacking thing:
I agree with you on that, but I'm not planning parties anyway. If you're playing for the story, why the hell do you want other people there anyway?
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 13, 2011
SirRoderick
They have a new trailer out....well I hadn't seen it yet anyway :http://www.swtor.com/media/trailers/return

Sublime as usual. These guys should make a movie.
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jun 13, 2011
JonahFalcon
That's the intro cinematic, starring Indiana Solo.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Jun 14, 2011
unsilviu
Great trailer, but the original one, with the Battle for Coruscant, was better. And I really hate seeing droidekas(destroyer droids) 4000 years before they should exist.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 14, 2011
SirRoderick
Says who?

For all you know it was simply a rediscovered concept, we're talking thousands of years here! Design principles that work will always be popular. The entire point of The Old Republic timeframe is that they are free of the limitations set by the movies. You can use some things you like, but still maintain a distinct stle. I love that.

(please note that IRL, these things would never in a million years be effective)
By BlueKhorth (SI Newbie) on Aug 25, 2011
BlueKhorth
I cant wait
By HalttheBlue (SI Newbie) on Aug 28, 2011
HalttheBlue
@unsilvia

The level cap at launch will be 50.