So far we have been nothing but wowed by BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. Kicking off our E3 demo, we were first treated to the “Return” intro cinematic which sets up the early premise for the game. The Sith Empire is determined to retake their home world, Korriban, from the Galactic Republic and from there, retake the galaxy. After the Sith launch a surprise attack on the ship guarding the planet, a group of survivors escapes in order to deliver word of what has happened to the Galactic Republic.
This is where The Old Republic begins. It’s 3,500 years before the rise of Darth Vader and 300 years after the events of Knights of the Old Republic. The galaxy is caught in an intergalactic cold war in which neither the Galactic Republic nor the Sith Empire want to make the first move following a devastating war only years earlier. With the Sith now in control of Korriban and the Republic on Coruscant, the game is ripe for conflict.
As is probably clear by this exhaustive intro, BioWare is committed to a story-driven game. The team believes that MMOs frequently lack a strong storyline and they aim to fix that in The Old Republic. And the story isn’t the only thing that looks promising. The cut scenes we saw were second to none. Between the cosmic John Marston and the Jedi dual-wielding double-bladed light sabers, we felt like we were watching a seriously badass movie.
The game is split into eight different classes. Each of these has unique abilities that complement one another in battle. For example, the Jedi Knight is meant to be in the thick of battle hacking at enemies while the bounty hunter sets up shields and attacks from cover. In a move that speaks true to BioWare’s commitment to a solid story experience, each character class has its own unique storyline. What’s incredible about this is that each of these promises more than 100 hours of gameplay apiece. So in order to get the full story of the game, playing all eight classes all the way through, plan to log well over 800 hours. Go ahead; we’ll wait.
As has become almost obligatory in Star Wars games, players are given a choice to follow either the dark side or the light side of Force, which will alter the storyline of the character they have chosen. Each subsequent choice branches off into a different story and affects your player’s development. These decisions are presented in a Mass Effect-like conversation wheel and will directly influence both the actions of your character and those around him.
BioWare has also included classic fan favorite planets such as Hoth, Tatooine, and Alderaan as explorable worlds in a state never-before seen. Players can visit these in their own personal starships, which are fully customizable. We also saw some pretty wicked looking starship battles in a number of locations, including right in the middle of an asteroid field. Feelin’ lucky?
The most recent announcement was BioWare’s own version of “raids” from classic MMOs. In what they are calling “operations,” players must combine more players than simply their own parties in order to stand a chance against the incredible odds presented by these situations. In the raid we saw, hordes of light saber-wielding Jedi stormed down a bridge as other players wielding guns destroyed turrets and other defenses. It looked frantic, stressful, and like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Even with multiple parties BioWare has promised that these operations will still present a significant challenge.
With a serious commitment to a strong storyline, and their own take on classic MMO elements, BioWare has more than piqued our interest in Star Wars: The Old Republic. They’ve got us downright giddy.
June 13, 2011