Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview

Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview

With the market on MMORPGs as saturated as it is, it’s hard to imagine that a company could really justify investing millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into a game that has a higher chance of failing than it does of succeeding. That is, unless your game is Star Wars.

Rumors have been swirling for years regarding a follow up to the critically acclaimed Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic series on the original Xbox. After years of relative silence, the cat is finally out of the bag and it’s been confirmed that Star Wars: The Old Republic is making its way to the PC at some point this year and yes, it is going to continue the story set up in the Knights of the Old Republic.

Set some 300 years after the events of the first two games, the Old Republic drops you into the middle of a massive galactic war between the Republic and the Empire. Take note here, this is not going to be our typical MMORPG. Most MMOs quietly drop you into the middle of a ho-hum world where something relatively bad is happening and at some point you should probably step up and take action, but it can wait until you get that new shiny +5 helmet. No sir, don’t expect to just get dropped off in the Star Wars universe and be left to your own devices.

This isn’t a ‘live out your wildest childhood fantasies and have some sort of second life Star Wars character’ type of adventure. Rather, you are tasked with taking sides in this war and becoming a hero.

 

If you remember back to the original RPG series, a very complex morality and consequence system was in place that ranked your every action and altered the outcome of the game accordingly. Well, The Old Republic is being developed by Bioware, and judging by their recent track record with Mass Effect 1 and 2, we can expect a strong focus on morality and decision making. However, not everything is going to be as cut and dry as other games of the same type. There will be room for ambiguity with your decisions. It’s all about creating the most realistic experience possible.

Right off the bat, this game is going to be MASSIVE! MMOs are typically very, very large, but this game is going to make the rest want to pack up and go home. Ever since the second Knights of the Old Republic released, there has been huge demand for the company just release Knights of the Old Republic 3, but the Bioware team has assured us that there is more than enough content here that it could actually be titled, “Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. And 9.”

Whether or not Bioware is talking out of their posterior has yet to be seen, but if they hold true to their word, this is gearing up to be the most insanely massive Bioware game ever released. To make things even better, it’s been said that The Old Republic is going to feel just like a typical Bioware game.

Fighting, Adventuring, Level Grinding and….um… that other thing…. oh yea… Story.

Bioware is no stranger to weaving an intricate and captivating tale, but transalting those stories into something that an MMORPG can chew on for hundreds upon hundreds of hours is kind of a tricky task.

Yes, the Old Republic is going to have all of your basic MMO elements of combat, exploration and the ever so popular level grinding, but Bioware is placing story at the stop of the pile as they want to make sure that the social aspects of the game are in fact used to steer the narrative in ways that have been unavailable in previous single player games. The entire world is going to be reactive to your decisions and how you conduct yourself. Everything is interconnected.

In order to make sure that the game is equppied with a story that has the legs to go the distance, 12 full-time writers have been tasked with doing nothing but working content for this game for years now. Even before the game hit the development stage, there were writers tucked away in a dusty corner somewhere pounding out storylines and creating adventures for you to explore. After all, you are going to be exploring an entire galaxy. It has to be brimming with engaging content that makes you feel like you are really a part of something stellar.

What is going to make this game’s story so great is the fact that it is not bound by a specific set of events that have already taken place. Sure, the Star Wars universe has been thoroughly tapped, but not to the point where all of the foggy points have been ironed out. This is where the writers come in and take some creative liberties with the series and fill those spaces in with new adventures. So no, you aren’t going to be taking over as Luke or Han Solo and go gallivanting across the universe. That’s been done before. This time you are tasked with creating your own hero.

However, there is one downside to this grand vision of storytelling success. MMO’s tend to have a very cut and dry style of storytelling. Everything happens in a certain order based upon a set of actions that have taken place. With The Old Republic, morality and decisions are going to have an impact on the outcome of the game, so Bioware has decided to shy away from the typical MMO storytelling format.

Rather than giving each character the same general storyline to follow, each character is going to be given its own individual storyline. Now you see what those writers have been doing for years! This deviation from the norm is going to be apparent immediately upon entering the game world. Rather than just being introduced to the game mechanics and given the run around for awhile, players are going to have a chance to bond with their specific character class and learn more about the motivations behind their given storyline. Building that sense of identity with your character from early on is going to help you decide what type of character you want to create and how you are going to handle some of the situations that are not directly tied to your characters individual storyline.

There is no set of examples that have been explained to us yet as to how the player’s decisions are going to have an effect on the outcome of the storyline, but the writers have assured us that every decision from early on will have lasting effects on the outcome of the game.

Another tribute to the dedication of the writers is that hardly any content is going to be reconstituted between various classes. Every class is going to received independent and individual story arcs that differ vastly from the others. Now, that doesn’t mean that the entire game is going to be different for every character. There is still the major story revolving around the war between the Empire and the Republic, but each class is going to have its own personal agenda within that war.

Bioware has also stated that each character’s storyline is going to take around 100+ hours to complete and there are a total of eight or so characters. If you are really looking to milk this game for everything it’s worth, you are looking at around a thousand hours!

It’s all about the group experience.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever played an MMO that doesn’t rely heavily on the aspect of groups and cooperation, save for maybe Guild Wars. However, Bioware has stated that traipsing through the game in the group is going to open you up to quite a bit of new content as well as provide you with a glimpse of storylines from other perspectives. As with all MMOs, there are going to be a good plenty of places that will require you to be part of a party in order for you to explore there, so don’t be too anti-social.

In a recent announcement, however, Bioware did announce that a version of the traditional MMO raids called “operations” which will force you to join a party. One operation shown had a field filled with lightsaber wielding Jedi descending upon a bridge covered in gun toting players who were hell-bent on destroying a bunch of turrets.

If you insist on being one of those types of people who prefers to conquer the galaxy on your own, then Bioware has included the use of companion characters for you. These characters will function much in the same as the ones from Knights of the Old Republic did. They are essential dummy AI bots that will blindly follow you into whatever adventure you see fit. In Dragon Age fashion, these characters will bluntly offer up their opinions about what you’re doing and how you are doing it wrong.

To spice up the adventure a bit, you will get to choose from a wide variety companion characters. More than likely they will include droids, bots, bounty hunters, raiders, and any assortment of goofy looking aliens with weird colored skin. Building loyalty with these characters is going to be rather important throughout the course of the game as well, so Bioware suggests that you don’t really make the rounds with a wide range of characters. Rather, settle down and spend your time with a specific few, or even less. Since your actions affect how they view you, spending more time around that specific character is bound to have a more positive impact on them and make it easier for you in the long run.

 

So, make sure that you show your companions some love because Bioware has made it abundantly clear that it is entirely possible to “blow it” with your companions and without the ability to reload your game to a previous point, that’s a big deal!

Exploration is nothing new to an MMO, but honestly, there are numerous people out there just drooling at the chance to explore the entire Star Wars galaxy. So, Bioware has decided to include some of the most recognizable places such as the ice planet of Hoth, the sun soaked desert planet of Tatooine, and Alderaan. Each of these planets and many, many more will be open for exploration and players can visit them via their own customized starship.

C’mon with the lightsabers and slicing people up already!

 

So, the details surrounding the battle system are quite scant at the moment, but it is safe to say that considering the deviation Bioware is taking with storytelling, the combat system is going to be just as revolutionary. Most MMOs find you just pointing, clicking, and then watching has your character wails away on some creature until it keels over because it ran out of numbers in the HP bar. The battles in The Old Republic are going to be aiming for authenticity and try to replicate the feel of the films as best they can.

Bioware has announced however, that every single enemy is going to pose a very serious threat. Long gone are the days of 15 people ganging up on a single creature for an easy kill. In fact, even beginning characters are going to facing off with some pretty serious threats right from the get go. This approach to the battle system will make you think twice about how you approach a given fight. Do you really want to go charging in there all willy nilly or should you drop back and go pick up a few friends?

Remember, Bioware is aiming for you to become a true galactic hero this time around and not just some interstellar bump on a log. Therefore, the combat must be spot on and picture perfect in order to make it feel like you are truly experiencing a Star Wars battle scene. Those battles are generally found in a sense of excitement and Bioware wants to do everything they can to make sure you get that sense of excitement from each and every battle that you enter.

To make you feel more heroic, you will not find yourself teaming up with other heroes to beat down a few enemies. Rather, you will face off against seemingly impossible odds and charge through waves of enemies just to get done what you need to get done.

Even the most intense aspects of battle can be experienced at the lowest levels, because after all, the war isn’t going to wait for you to get better at fighting.

Sticky grenades, pistol whips, lightsaber laser deflections, and rocketing bounty hunters are just a few of the insane amount of battle events you are going to experience with The Old Republic.

Seeing as how the game still has no solid release date, plenty of details have yet to be released about The Old Republic. However, any MMO bearing the Star Wars moniker is bound to garner a lot of attention. The difference between this MMO and some of the others flooding the market at the moment is that this one is truly reinventing the wheel and incorporating some innovative features that have yet to be tested in such a rigid genre.

 

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