Star Wars: The Old Republic Previews

BioWare Austin's Star Wars: The Old Republic will be hitting store shelves in three weeks, so I suspect these two latest previews will be among some of the last pre-release articles we see.

TOR is the first game of its type to have a full range of voice-acted dialogue, from each combination of player class and gender to nearly every NPC you could conceivably talk to. Thousands of lines of well-acted dialogue are included, but I have to say that after only a short while of playing along, my min-maxing MMO gamer quickly came out and before I knew it, I was skipping dialogue and making beelines for quest objectives - just like I would do with quest descriptions in WoW. Of course, there are occasional times when players really should be paying attention, as they can gain dark side or light side points for their actions in conversations. These result in unique light/dark side gear and other benefits, and while players can be a light-side Sith or a dark-side Jedi and won't be forced to switch sides permanently or the like, it does make for some awkward conversation options when players deviate from their chosen side's stereotypical or expected choices.

While combat will seem fairly similar to what you expect from WoW (or, frankly, Everquest before it), there are a few nice changes and other enhancements here and there. Quest objectives are highlighted on both your big map and minimap, loot-able corpses show a pillar of light that's color coded for any better-than-common items that can be picked up, and characters have solid animations for moving and firing (and yes, you can fire on the move!) that give some battles a more action-oriented feel. For example, even low-level Republic Troopers can charge in with rifle blazing, fire off an explosive shell when closing in to melee range, then finish off the fight by smashing the enemy's face with the butt of the rifle - all with three keypresses. For some classes, there seems to be a focus on being able to stay mobile where you don't have to stop and channel a spell or slowly aim a weapon, and while that certainly will have gameplay implications (especially in PvP), for now it makes things feel more like Star Wars.

And Ten Ton Hammer:
The advanced class I chose for my Bounty Hunter was Mercenary, which I chose as that I wanted to dual-wield blasters and also have access to healing as that I tend to solo a lot. I usually don't do tanks, so I opted to stay away from the Powertech. My choice was rewarded with some awesome new attacks. The first ability to have an impact was being able to dual-wield blasters. More pew-pew-pew equals winning in this heartless Bounty Hunter's mind. The other abilities to have an impact upon my gameplay were Power Shot, Rapid Scan, and Sweeping Blasters. Power Shot fires a single incredibly damaging blast, which serves as a nice counterpoint to Rail Shot. Rapid Scan heals yourself or an ally. Sweeping Blasters allows you to shoot up to five targets within a selected area.

Once I got a few levels of my advanced class under my belt, my attack sequence usually followed these lines: I would open up with Death from Above, and then go with Sweeping Blasters. I would use Unload to quickly drop a specific enemy. If I was facing an especially tough enemy, I would cycle through Rail Shot, Power Shot, and Unload. As you can see, my missile attacks dropped off in favor of my fancy new death-dealing moves. However, Unload remained as a comfy security blanket for my hardened Bounty Hunter's heart.