Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

Quite a bit of new information about Star Wars: The Old Republic is filling various corners of the web, courtesy of BioWare Austin's recent Fan Site Summit.

The Bounty Hunter relies entirely on his kit. Arm-mounted rocket-launchers provide a variety of functions, from simple attacks that knock down opponents and deal good damage to darts that stun. If I close the gap on my enemy (which, at the early stages of The Old Republic require me to simply run over to my foe), my rockets can help supercharge a punching attack for huge damage. At that range, however, I can just as easily use my flamethrower to deal damage over an area and stun weaker enemies. Using these abilities creates "Heat," the Bounty Hunter's resource. The simplest explanation of Heat is that it works like reverse Force for the Jedi Consular or Energy for rogue classes in other games, where skills use a rapidly regenerating resource with a very small overall cap. As I use abilities my Heat builds up to a maximum of 100, and once it's too high I can't use any more until it drops lower. There currently doesn't seem to be an obvious difference between Heat and Energy/Force, although the Bounty Hunter can use an ability to vent his Heat to rapidly lower the gauge.

One of the nicer things about the Bounty Hunter is his versatility in the early game. His heavy armor means that I don't often find myself having to be especially careful about how I tackle my foes, and his mixture of long- and short-range attacks means that regardless of the environment I'll be able to perform admirably. My crowd-control abilities let me pick and choose exactly who dies first, and should things get too nasty, they give me a better chance of living if I flee.

Ars Technica:
As a Chiss imperial agent, I played a character who started out on the trash planet Hutta tasked with infiltrating the operations of Nem'ro the Hutt. I assumed the identity of an out-of-town operator called the Red Blade, and my character's voice swung between English and American accents depending on whether my conversation partner knew the real me or a cover.

The storylines are very deep, and true to life, you deal with the consequences of the conversation and action choices you make. In one instance, a character confronted me saying that if I was the Red Blade I said I was, I owed him money. The subterfuge and compensation choices abounded Did I reveal myself as an impostor to avoid the payment, to the possible irreparable damage to my cover? Did I pay to save face? Or did I have to remove the opportunistic jerk from the equation?

The Mandalorian competition was mentioned in Knights of the Old Republic, but in The Old Republic, the Great Hunt seems more like an event for Hutt lords to show off their might by sponsoring the strongest guns for hire. As an up and coming bounty hunter and future Jedi killer, entering the Great Hunt seems like a no brainer. But you'll need a sponsorship, and securing a ticket to the tournament will send you on a questing spree through the damp marshes of Hutta.

BioWare is billing The Old Republic as the first "fully voiced MMO," and it's worth mentioning that the large helpings of voice acting really do make a difference. As with KotOR, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, you'll get a nice spread of responses to choose from during conversations with other characters ranging in tone from chivalrous to villainous - with all the shades of sarcasm and snark between the two extremes.

And SWTOR is given exactly what you would imagine standard BioWare treatment to be. The static characters and storylines that populate persistent worlds are replaced by fully voice-acted avatars who can change their moral alignment, cutscenes, and a plotline that can be affected by clambering through dialogue trees - something that is bound to single-handedly fuel the Mass Effect comparisons. SWTOR approaches the issue of MMOs-as-levelling-treadmills by double-dunking the game in a single-player storyline that infuses the traditional grind with some sense of purpose.

So while the standard fetch quests and "Collect 10 X" objectives provide basic XP the main storyline unfolds through particular story-centric quest lines as you level. Story-based quests aren't a major revelation for MMOs. The difference, however, is that SWTOR lets you affect the outcome of that quest.

Darth Hater:
As I neared Level 6, combat became more difficult and I needed to be more careful about how I approached mobs. By this point, I picked up Flash Bang (AOE Crowd Control), Suppressing Fire (Cover channeled ability that does damage and slows target),Toxic Dart (Single Target DOT), and Explosive Probe (debuff that causes additional damage when the target is injured) but the increased number of abilities were countered by tougher mobs that did more damage. I quickly realized that I needed to utilize cover whenever available to fight quickly without being near death at the end of every engagement.

This small hurdle made things increasingly difficult as I moved toward a class story quest halfway to Level 7. In this build of Nal Hutta, cover points were unusually sparse throughout the area of the map I was sent to, and the mobs were all two or more levels higher than my character. Thankfully, I was told two things that alleviated much of my concern over this. First, I apparently missed an entire quest hub that was located off the beaten path that would have brought me on par in levels. And second, they are currently testing a completely different build than the one we were playing that addresses many concerns with the location of cover points and the entire cover system itself. Unfortunately, I was unable to learn any tidbits about the latter point, so we will need to wait to know more.

And then Ask a Jedi brings word that BioWare Mythic's Jeff Hickman has assumed the executive producer position vacated by Gordon Walton back in February:
Well, we now know the man who is taking over at least some of the tasks Gordon left behind. This week at the Fan Site Summit hosted by BioWare, we were introduced to Jeff Hickman, who will be taking on the role of Executive Producer, Live Services for Star Warsâ„¢: The Old Republicâ„¢.

Some of you may be familiar with Jeff from his years with Mythic Entertainment where he worked on Dark Age of Camelot as well Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning.

In his new role at BioWare, Jeff will be in charge of the teams that make sure the game is firing on all cylinders and that the service is reliable so that all of the eager gamers like you and I have a smooth experience in TOR.