Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

We have another handful of previews for BioWare's MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, offering us some impressions and opinions based on what has been showcased at E3.

G4TV assassinates across Tatooine:
Thankfully, I was able to bump into other players and group up, maximizing speed and efficiency as I tracked down multiple quest objectives on route to my overarching goal. So yes, it seems planets will be teeming with life, and not just of the AI variety. There were also sections of the map I found restricted by class, which I imagine is to help segment story. What any of this means for open-world random PvP I can't say, unfortunately.

I did however get a chance to duel one of my fellow Imperials, which ended in a very, very close loss for me. And while I did lose, something I'm sure my Sith masters would find... disturbing, it showed some good balance between classes, which isn't as copy-paste from World of Warcraft as you might imagine.

My Assassin played like a mid-range mix of melee and Force abilities, using stealth to sneak up to groups and mind blast to crowd control and disable one enemy before tackling the others with a dual-bladed lightsaber enhanced with lightning. If you want to look at that from a WoW perspective, think a mix of Assassination Rogue and Enhancement Shaman. Or Shadow Priest and Enhancement Shaman. Or... well, like I said: These aren't cookie-cutter classes.

Gaming Union has a short piece and doesn't sound too impressed, here's their conclusion:
Regardless of your chosen class, players will have companion NPC characters at their disposal. Companions stay by your side, offering complimentary abilities in combat and can be commanded to take strategic actions. It's a good option if you find yourself in a difficult spot without the support of other players in your group.

The demo gave us a quick look into The Old Republic's take on questing and combat. The fully-voiced character interactions were a definite plus, but there didn't appear to be much else that pushed the genre forward. Ultimately, the power of BioWare and the Star Wars license may be enough to overcome any hurdles the game faces.

The portable cover system was really interesting, and not something that I have seen in other MMO's that I've played. When I think of a smuggler caught in a shoot-out, I usually picture them hiding around a corner and poking out to make shots that count. This portable cover really added to that part of the experience.

From there, I was able to line up a number of ranged attacks to take down my enemies. A combination of blaster fire and thrown explosives kept the fight interesting, but certainly flowing in my favor. After picking up the item I was looking for, I went on to find a Sith that was hiding out nearby. I found him in a cave, after fighting my way through more of the raiders.

Once found, we discover that the Sith we're after is on the brink of death. I approached him and began a conversation. Instead of having mouth movements with lines of text, this conversation (like every other in the game) was completely voiced. Also, unlike many other MMO's, my conversation with this NPC is not straightforward. Instead, I am given a number of choices throughout the conversation, each of which not only leads you down the dark or light path, but also determines what happens after you are finished talking. In this case, I could either slay the sith in anger, or leave him to possibly recover.

The combat, in general, suffers from the same problem that plagues many MMO's. With most of the action taking place via dice rolls behind the scenes, things can feel pretty inert. Characters go through canned animations corresponding to their attacks and abilities, then return to a default state. Melee seems to have no physical impact. With no aiming to speak of, blaster battles are similarly wooden. Since two avatars shooting at each other never miss, does it matter where either of them stands? I wasn't able to test out the game's cover system, which seemed the exclusive province of the Sniper subclass.

After the first group was dispatched, it was time for some old-time MMO rinse-and-repeat action. I slunk up to each group of enemies in turn, emerging from stealth with a burst of damage and then trying desperately to dispatch the rest before I too succumbed. Every time I killed one of the Sand People, I increased my tally in a quest, which requested that I kill 20 of them. Eventually, one of them dropped the compass I sought.

Massively rounds up impressions from some of its editors, consensus seemingly being that the game won't revolutionize the genre:
Rubi Bayer


I enjoyed the different choices in my conversations with NPCs, followed by the brief cinematics. The setup felt very novel and open to me, and I enjoyed thinking over my options before answering. Once I was out in the open, running around and killing, it felt like a fairly typical MMO, albeit a nicely created one. Kill 10 of these, rescue five of these, find this cave, and so on. I don't generally have a problem with this MMO staple in the beginning areas because it is a nice tool for helping brand-new players learn combat and get a feel for the world around them. I'm interested to find out whether that sort of thing continues into the higher levels. I hope not.

The look of the game wasn't particularly to my taste, but personal preferences aside, I can appreciate that it's consistent. I've seen enough games with stunning characters and butt-ugly worlds -- or vice versa -- that I've got big love for games that keep a consistent art style throughout.

All of that said, this game is just not for me.

There's nothing wrong with it. On the contrary, I was extremely impressed with how well-done it is. But it didn't hit the right notes for me. It didn't hit any notes. When the demo was over, I climbed out of my chair and walked out with nary a frown that I'd been made to stop playing.

Being able to actually play The Old Republic in its current state was definitely a treat, and the hands-on portion revolved around the Imperialist campaign during the Tatooine saga -- around the 30 to 40 level range. Every available class was accompanied by a different companion character, capable of attacking or healing the player in combat, and our "mounts" were speeders, rather than actual animals. All classes come equipped with buffs and a heal spell to make them more self-sufficient, though soloing can still be troublesome for certain classes.

TOR classes branch off into specializations called "advanced classes," such as the dual-wielding Mercenary for Bounty Hunters; for their Republic counterparts, Smugglers, the equivalent is Gunslinger. When taking control of a Mercenary during the hands-on demo, I was told the Bounty Hunter actually had a support-heavy talent branch as well, best suited for healing in a party. Armed with two blasters as my primary weapon and a variety of ranged attacks, I set out in search of a missing Imperial agent in the Tatooine wastes, where the most common enemies were Tuskens and what might have been Dewbacks. Despite the sci-fi setting, Merc combat felt very much like a caster class in a fantasy MMO, where skills required prep time (read: cast time), and being attacked while prepping creates interference. More devastating attacks, like missiles, require longer preparation and are best suited for small groups at a distance.
RPGamer has a brief hands-on piece:
During the hands-on demo, I was impressed by the immenseness of the Tatooine area. Although the activation of the quest was simple, the directions were not. The map clearly states the location of the objective, but it was difficult to pinpoint the location of the enemy who possessed the compass needed to progress in the quest. Despite the confusion, the map was very useful during gameplay. That is because the player can view the map two different ways. The map can be viewed as a normal map, and the player can choose to play with a semi-translucent full sized map on top of gameplay. Although I got lost during the hands-on demo, I have to give credit to the semi-translucent map for saving me from a far worse situation.

And finally, Newsarama calls it a "real BioWare game":
The demo for the Republic began with the origin worlds; in the Smuggler's case that is Ord Mantell. The first thing that needs to be said about the origin world demo is that you will feel like you are playing Knights of the Old Republic. It has the same feel as that game, it's just that after the initial conflict of the quest is introduced, you can complete it with friends. Smugglers can team up with Troopers on Ord Mantell, but if you prefer to complete these early missions on your own you could. The Smuggler is mostly a ranged fighter, using blasters and a cover system. They can take a surprising amount of damage, especially since we were playing at lower levels. The blasters are fun and effective, with different types of shots you can take so that it doesn't feel repetitive. The most impressive aspect gameplay wise for an MMORPG, is that the cover system is so smooth. A green outline appears in spots available for cover and you can move from one spot to the other with a click of a button.

The Smuggler's personality and speech options are generally humorous, but are not set in stone. BioWare's conversation wheel allows for you to say and do some pretty ruthless things as well. This is a class that will be particularly interesting when it comes to the light and darkside scales discussed in the closed-door presentation.

You will get to see and hear the drama play out the way you choose, not just read it in a text box. During this mission, the Smuggler is betrayed and their ship is taken. You will actually see your ship fly off... with you not on it. Now, betrayal is not new to MMORPGs, but because this is a BioWare game you get to choose in game how you want to react. You truly have a voice.