Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

The weekend has brought us three more hands-on previews of Star Wars: The Old Republic, starting with a hefty, three-page piece on Wired:
One of BioWare's biggest concerns is how MMO players, notorious for valuing cold minimization of effort for maximum results above everything else, will respond to their MMO interpretation, where story is supposed to be the main attraction. (MMO players will do whatever is the most efficient, even if it is the most boring,) said Emmanuel Lusinchi, an associate lead designer.

Because of this, the team has paid special attention to mechanics that will drive players back to the story, such as a holo-communication system that makes dialog with NPCs easier for groups, and have tried to make the storylines as compelling as possible. (It's always story versus gameplay versus immersion,) Erickson said, and changing one will always affect the other two.

While we couldn't fully attach to our characters over the two days we were allotted with the game, we were given free reign to get as far as possible in the PvE campaign, talk to any NPCs, take on any quests, and run any flashpoints we could find (but no one got more than one). And the game is looking great expansive, immersive, even a little moving in parts.

There are still portions of the game BioWare won't discuss, indicating it still has a long way to go before the launch this year. But the gamemakers have accomplished the meshing of online play and RPG better than any of their predecessors.

Game Revolution is next:
I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I preferred the Imperial Agent to the Bounty Hunter. I settled into my role as a male blue-skinned Chiss operative (expanded universe nerds everywhere just got visions of Thrawn dancing in their heads). My Agent had some interesting gameplay compared to what I'm used to, utilizing a cover system to get a defensive advantage in battle. Since the Agent is more of a long-ranged attacker, the development team was very careful to drop lots of rocks, crates, and debris around the world that he can use to crouch behind and greatly reduce incoming ranged damage. In the occasional instance of being unable to find natural cover, the Agent can drop a portable cover generator, which temporarily absorbs incoming damage with a one-way energy shield. The Agent uses a rapidly recovering energy resource much like a rogue or hunter in WoW; in fact, it wouldn't be unreasonable to liken it to a hunter in its basic form (after level ten, though, all classes can diverge into advanced roles, which further define your playstyle and determine your role in the game like tank or dps).

I really loved the Imperial Agent story on Hutta. A holo exchange with my commanding officer outlined the mission: infiltrate Nem'ro's palace under the guise of a bounty hunter (I was ordered to "drop the accent", because we all know British = Imperial), get into the Hutt crime lord's good graces, and subtly steer him toward lending his considerable resources to the Empire. Before gaining access to the palace I did some quests around town. One woman hired me to hunt down her husband, who was hiding their son to keep him from being sent off to a Sith academy. On my Agent playthrough, I spared the man's life and let him take his son away after he explained how miserable and life-threatening the academy was to his son. Covering for the husband, I took my coin from the wife while telling her I sent the boy off myself, earning some light-side points along the way.

Once inside the palace, I first needed to work through one of Nem'ro's lieutenants who's been in the doghouse due to some botched operations. I settled into my phased Imperial Agent room, which needed to be swept for bugs before initiating contact with my superior and getting further orders. From there the long process began of carrying out the lieutenant's assigned tasks so he could gain Nem'ro's favor again, and me in turn. I won't spoil the rest, but suffice to say that the mission on Hutta leads directly to a greater mission when you take off for Dromund Kaas.

And then NowGamer goes fairly in-depth, too:
Despite establishing your crew with a real sense of purpose, they're killed by a group of rivals within minutes, leaving just yourself and the youngest of the posse, Mako, still breathing. With options all but exhausted, and now a vendetta to settle, it falls on Nem'ro, a powerful Hut to answer our call. Being an ancestor of Jabba, he's not one to be trusted. With no other route, however, the plot shifts.

Not ready to merely bend to our whim, Nem'ro sets you an abundant of tasks to complete if he is to be the one backing you in the tournament. You're sent off to perform a run of errands, from assassinating local leaders to beheading former employees of the Hut and delivering the skull to his widow.

Again there's plenty of choice within these quests you can easily carve a righteous path for yourself while pulling the wool over Nem'ro's eyes with no initial punishment coming off the back of these decisions; The Old Republic slowly starts to show why it deserves to be called the third in the KOTOR series.

It's a problem that multiple MMOs have suffered with previously, failing to engage the player, throwing out quests for the sake of there being a quest. Here, the drive is constant.