Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

While it's very difficult to say how the game will fare compared to Blizzard's juggernaut, Star Wars: The Old Republic is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated MMOs, and games in general, and the E3 coverage it receive has been appropriately extensive, so we rounded up some more previews for your perusal.

Player choice within conversations was illustrated first. In a dialog sequence that apparently followed a victorious battle against a Sith Lord, the player was able to choose whether or not to end the bad guy's life, or try to sway him to the light side of the Force. Killing the Sith played out as one would expect; however, after choosing to spare his life, a dialog sequence from later in the game revealed the former Sith had become a powerful ally, and had embraced the light side of the force.

Next, a four-player Alliance party consisting of a Jedi Consular (healer), a Smuggler (dual-wielding gunslinger), a Jedi Knight (powerful in melee combat, and a damage sponge), and a Commando Trooper (powerful ranged gun), landed on the planet of Alderaan to confront an evildoer by the name of Bouris Ulgo inside a skyscraper-sized building. Upon confronting Ulgo in a cinematic dialog sequence, the players chose to confront him directly. At the start of combat, Ulgo raised a protective barrier, which needed to be disabled by destroying four nearby power sources, all while battling waves of enemies.

The final section of the demo footage wasn't played live. A brief tease of an "Operations" mission--high-level end-game content (The Old Republic's version of Raids)-- was also shown, consisting of a massive battle between a huge number of high-level players and giant turrets outside a heavily-fortified structure and a several-story tall robot.

Strategy Informer:
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.

Combat in the dungeons is fairly standard MMORPG fare there are eight classes, four for each faction, and unlike many MMORPGs, parties are capped at four, so a balanced party will have one of each class. Each class has a speciality, ranging from tank to dps to healer, but these classes are also able to specialize into additional subclasses so that players can get the type of character that matches their play style. It should also be noted that all of the eight classes has a unique storyline, each with its own twists and turns, so it's much more worthwhile for players to undertake these branches that will take hundreds of hours to complete.

TOR also offers several different types of end-game content for players, ranging from PvP warzones to raid content, known as Operations. These, as you would expect, have multiple parties working together in a dungeon. Operations require a high amount of coordination and cooperation between these parties, so they are the epitome of what you can achieve in TOR. We didn't get to see a great deal of detail here, but what we did see looked like it was shaping up well.

The HUD is a major part of MMOs and since last year the team has done quite a bit to streamline it. The action-bar at the bottom is stacked two rows high with the top row being tied to your number keys on the keyboard. Opening up your abilities or inventory allows you to drag and drop items or abilities to the various action-bar slots. The map is also very well done. You have a mini-map in the bottom corner which has your quest points of interests as well as dots for any alerted or attacking enemies. Opening the full world map will show you the entire area you are in, and if you start to move the map, it will become more transparent on its own, allowing you to see which way to go while seeing what's going on around you. I thought the HUD was good last year, but this year it's even better.

After accepting my quest (Note to BioWare: Please make it possible to skip to the dialogue options in the final build), I hopped on a speed bike and headed out into the wests. Along the way, I was attacked by an increasing number of Sand People, some of whom were able to actually shoot me off of my speeder bike. When that happened, I had to go and slice them up my lightsaber.

One thing I've noticed about Star Wars MMOs: the lightsaber does not translate that well to MMO combat. It's all about smoothly cutting through your foes, right? So why I'm sitting there hacking repeatedly at Sand People with my white hot energy blade? I know that it's a bad idea to make the lightsaber too powerful, but I feel like the combat could be a shade more interesting. That said, I'm almost certainly going to be picking a Jedi when it comes time to play the actual game.

Slicing up Sand People was pretty much the extent of my personal demo experience, as the EA reps shooed me away from the station shortly after I sped into a cave in the Jundland Wastes. In the time that I got to play around with the combat though, I enjoyed being able to sneak up on my opponents in Stealth Mode and hack them down with my lightning-infused lightsaber.

Nerd Reactor:
This year at E3, I was lucky enough to spend some time behind the wheel of Star Wars: The Old Republic. My adventure began as a level 26 bounty hunter specializing as a Powertech named Lobe. For those of you not in the loop, that means the character I played specialized in armor and flamethrower technology (aka walking tank that sets stuff on fire). It seemed that Lobe has found herself on the planet Tatooine and tasked with the job of locating a missing Sith Lord as well as discovering the secrets of the Jundland Waste. After hopping onto my rascal like speeder bike and setting fire to numerous Tusken Raiders, I stumbled upon the missing Sith Lord who was close to death. Rather than zipping through some boring predetermined cut scenes, I was treated to a fully voiced conversation where I decided if I wanted to leave a Tusken Raider artifact in tact so other people can check it out or just destroy the whole thing. Well, lets just say there's a big pile of ash in a certain cave on Tatoonie now. But remember what you decide will determine how the storyline will progress in the future. Such as sparing a Sith Lord as a Jedi, might gain you a newly reformed Jedi ally later on. In the demo video which was shown earlier, if the player was in a group, the game will randomly decide which of the characters will actually speak. So hopefully you're on the same page as the people you team up with.

Fighting enemies and completing quests We were surprised to see just how similar The Old Republic is to the wildly successful World of Warcraft. The menu system is similar, and the controls are the same. Our evil bounty hunter character was tasked with eliminating the sand people of the planet Tatooine (Luke Skywalker's home planet). To do that, we were given a number of special abilities assigned to the computer keyboard's number keys, and a computer-controlled companion fighter.

We set out into the desert riding a land speeder (a vehicle that allows a player to move much more quickly than he or she normally could), then we found some sand people. We clicked on one, then pressed one of the number keys for a special attack. From there, our character automatically attacked periodically like other RPGs, The Old Republic is not about twitchy reaction times or complicated control maneuvers. We could occasionally throw in a special ability to recover health, stun the enemy, attack multiple enemies at once, or do extra damage.

Kotaku doesn't seem thrilled by BioWare's treatment of the Star Wars property:
"People keep asking where Knights of the Old Republic 3 is," explained Dickinson as the box art for the previous two titles of Bioware's beloved single-player RPGs set in the Star Wars universe animated onto the video screen in the small presentation room. "But we've put Knights of the Old Republic 3 and four...and five...and six and seven and eight...inside The Old Republic."

I'm fairly certain that most fans of KOTOR 1 and 2 games that themselves took dozens of hours to complete just want more KOTOR.

Not that I will think less of you for playing SW:TOR. It looks like a perfectly serviceable MMO, even if it is cast very much from the same mold that has made the seemingly eternal World of Warcraft a lifestyle choice for over ten million fans. I enjoy WOW (or did for the couple of years I played). I enjoyed SW:TOR's nearly forgotten antecedent Star Wars Galaxies even more in some ways, largely because it felt like Star Wars a universe in which smugglers and cantina dancers were common and magical knights and wizards were rare. (Mostly I just liked setting up moisture harvesters. I'm a farmer at heart.)