E3 2004: The RPGs

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To provide an incentive for the player to form a party with characters other than Jedi, Mike explained that all joinable NPCs will possess a unique ability that will make them more desirable and valuable in particular situations. For example, we were shown a female bounty hunter that had rocket launchers mounted to her wrists, making her an extremely effective combatant at range. Although only one NPC from the first game is confirmed to be joining your party in the sequel (T3-M4), Mike assured us that other original characters will be showing up in cameo appearances. HK-47, for example, will be making an appearance in "some form", although that quote only makes us more curious as to the conditions of the robotic assassin's return.

Since the PC and Xbox versions of KotOR II will be shipping simultaneously, we were a little worried that the PC version might be "console-ized" like recent console/PC game releases. For those of you who played the original KotOR on the PC, you'll recall how all of the interface menus continue to use 640x480 resolution even though the game itself might be using a much higher resolution. Mike assured us that the team will be scaling such interface screens on the PC this time around, as well as taking advantage of other enhancements that are made available with the PC. This will ensure that you won't have to scroll so much when using a high resolution and viewing item statistics, etc.

One final tidbit of information that I thought was interesting is that you will be ultimately battling against a Sith known as Darth Sion - at least that's what the scrolling entry text claimed when the Xbox was "accidentally" reset =). Mike wouldn't comment on any specifics about the entry text, including Darth Sion, so we'll just have to wait to find out more. For more information about KotOR II, I highly recommend taking a look at our recent preview of the game, where we go much further in depth on what is known about the sequel so far.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Out of all the role-playing games we saw up close, Vampire: Bloodlines is by far the most graphically stunning and easily holds as much or more potential for greatness as any other RPG at E3. A bold statement? Well, not really, considering that the masterminds at Troika are behind the game's development and Valve's state-of-the-art Source engine is powering the game. Although the game runs in a first person perspective, Troika is persistent that the game is first and foremost a role-playing game, and after seeing the game firsthand, we can back that statement up 100%.

During character creation, the overall look of your character will depend on your choice between seven different Vampire clans and your gender. There is plenty of customization that can be done once your character's model is chosen, including a set of traits to pick from, much like we saw in the Fallout series and Arcanum. After these first few choices, you'll be given a set number of points (the team hasn't decided on how many just yet) to allocate amongst your different skills. The entire character sheet is modeled after the White Wolf RPG, so fans of the pen n' paper version should feel right at home.

The demonstration we were shown started off by first visiting a night club called Confession, which resides in an abandoned church. When we first entered, we noticed a locked door, but could not pick the lock due to our low amount of skill. Moving on, we then talked to a very seductive woman, which offered our first real glimpse of the dialogue system. Much like previous Troika games, dialogue choices will vary depending on certain choices you've made, as well as your Vampire clan and gender. Additionally, some dialogue will appear in blue, which means that it is only available because of a certain skill or discipline you have at your disposal (Intimidation, Seduction, Persuasion, and Dominate are all examples of skills and disciplines that affect such dialogue choices).

After speaking to the woman, we were able to complete a quest that gave us just enough experience to add a couple of points to our lockpicking skill. Heading back to the entrance, we approached the door and were now able to pick the lock. The game actually zooms in and shows your Vampire's hands doing the lockpicking, while a small percentage bar shows your progress and ultimately your success or failure. Luckily, we were successful, and entered the room to find a laptop on one of the desks. The laptop was password protected, but by using our hacking skill, we were able to decrypt the password and take a look at one of the files. The file detailed a Stone Gargoyle and claimed that the monster was invulnerable to firearms, but might be susceptible to blunt weapons. The information didn't mean much at the time, but it would prove invaluable later on.

Leaving the Confession night club, we then approached a man named Fat Larry in the back of an alley. This gangster-looking fellow sells armor and weaponry from the back of his truck and offers some pretty hilarious conversations. To show us how NPCs would respond differently to other characters, Troika's demonstrator used a cheat to change his character to that of a female Nosferatu and talked to Fat Larry again. This time, the smuggler cooed at our character at first, but then became a little frightened when we started spewing some of the insane dialogue we were given as choices.

Browsing Fat Larry's stock of items, we bought ourselves a couple of weapons, including a large sledge hammer just in case we encountered the Stone Gargoyle we learned about back at the night club. Once finished, our demonstrator used a discipline to sense heat, showing that both a woman and a rat cowered behind the smuggler's truck. Since we were a bit low on blood, we approached the woman and began to feast, making sure not to drain her completely. If we had, our Humanity would have dropped, which isn't something you typically want. The lower your Humanity, the more chance you have of going into a frenzy and sucking the blood from any living creature - even your allies.

Once we replenished our blood supply, we made our way to a Sabbat hideout, where we were shown several different discipline effects. One of the more powerful disciplines we saw in action was Blood Boil, which caused the targeted creature's skin to bubble and pulsate as they curled up in pain, and eventually explode in a shower of blood. Later on, we witnessed other vampires using the Celerity discipline, allowing them to move at extremely fast speeds. Celerity actually causes a blurred effect on the vampire, making it easy to tell which are actively using the discipline. We also witnessed how the environment can be used to your advantage, after the demonstrator lured a vampire onto some underground tracks to have him killed by a passing train.