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E3 2011: Star Wars: The Old Republic second look – you really should be bananas about this game

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When we walked in for our second demo of Star Wars: The Old Republic, we were repeatedly told that the game was a genre changing MMO unlike anything that had been done before. However, when we sat down to actually play the game we discovered that it’s actually not that different at all. Old Republic feels a whole lot like World of Warcraft, and we actually think that’s a good thing – especially when you add in Star Wars’ skin and a greater emphasis on storytelling.


 

Some people will bemoan the game’s reliance on ideas that WoW developed, but the gaming industry has always been iterative. Developers have always piggybacked on each other’s ideas while improving them. It’s essential for the industry to grow. After all, if there was no Outrun, there’d be no Burnout Paradise. If there was no Doom, there’d be no Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Any number of examples can be cited of great games that were first spawned from “stolen” ideas.

Our demo opened in the middle of the Tatooine desert as we accepted missions from our Sith commander. We were to go off in search of a lost officer who had been seeking spirit guides of the Sand People. Our Sith Marauder played similarly to a rogue in World of Warcraft, and was already at a very high level with a ton of unique skills to try. Certain strikes were used to build up Action Points to be used in casting more powerful skills. In other words, we force choked dozens of Sand People to death. Is it any wonder why we enjoyed this game?

The storyline of the quest chain wasn’t altogether remarkable, but we noticed something peculiar happening as we played: we were actually paying attention to the storyline. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, MMO players skip over the flavor text of a quest, hit “accept”, and then look at the quest goals in the quest log. However, Old Republic’s fully voice-acted quests make the narrative actually somewhat interesting. By involving the player in the dialogue and speaking the text to them, Bioware may finally have created an MMO that players can become narratively involved in. And given the promised size of the campaigns (each of the eight classes has its own 100-hour career), that’s a very big plus.

The dialogue system is quite a bit of fun too. The classic Mass Effect style of selecting your dialogue choice is used in several different ways: during regular chats with NPCs, during critical story moments, and even during dungeons and instances. The latter part is the most fun part. During an instance when you encounter a boss character, you’ll sometimes talk with them first. The players on your squad then roll to see who gets to do the talking for that section. Each conversation will include multiple chances for each character to choose what their party will say. So, you could achieve a goal diplomatically or your loudmouth buddy could get you into worse trouble before you can shut him up, just like in real life. This could add a dynamic sense of personality to dungeon parties, with the events changing according to how each person chooses to respond.

The implementation of choice into the gameplay could have amazing consequences. Each character is said to change according to the decisions they make. For example, on video we saw a Jedi given the choice of executing a defeated Sith or sparing his life. If you spare him, you may encounter him again later, for better or worse. If Bioware is able to make such choices meaningful and impactful, they could be the first MMO to make it worth a player’s time to replay the same class. In a game like WoW, a rogue is a rogue. Any level-capped character is the same as every other of that type so long as they’re wearing the same gear. But when personal narratives get involved, it will be very interesting to see if players are willing to replay the entire leveling experience over again.

 

It wasn’t just the dialogue that got us excited, though. The game’s instances seem to pull a page right out of WoW’s playbook, which is a very good thing. We also got to see a sneak preview of the game’s end-game raids, which are called. We know next to nothing, but we got to see some footage of the Operations in action and practically wet our Star Wars-branded undies. There’s nothing quite like watching 20+ Jedi Knights storming a keep and then doing battle with a ten story tall mech. We can’t wait to see more of Old Republic’s end game material.

So Star Wars: The Old Republic might not be the genre-altering experience that some are touting, but it has some very exciting tricks up its sleeve nonetheless. From what we’ve seen, its approach to storytelling could be just what the MMO-genre needs. Plus, its foundations are based on the rock solid bedrock of World of Warcraft’s fundamentals. SWTOR has been in development for so long, the buzz has died down a bit. Don’t be fooled – this game is looking more and more like the best Star Wars game ever created, and a legit contender for WoW’s crown.

Jun 16, 2011

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21 comments

  • TheKidWhoLikesOldGames - June 17, 2011 8:25 p.m.

    I seriously hope this doesn't have a subscription fee, because if it does I know I'll pay it. Also, I hope my PC can run it...
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - June 17, 2011 12:46 p.m.

    I just wonder how long players will sit through spoken dialogue before they hit a button or key and skip the conversation to get to the quest details. I always listen to a bit of dialogue in the Bethesda games too but I can read what they are going to say a lot quicker than waiting for them to slowly get to the point. Reading is far faster and more efficient than listening to some character drone on just as using a controller to navigate menus is much, much faster than using Kinect to navigate those same menus. Both are initially new and interesting but it isn't long before you go back to the old tried-and-true method of doing things.
  • system1988 - June 17, 2011 10:05 a.m.

    I've been reading many comments about that particular MMO and it seems to me that there are people out there who just don't understand that sandbox- based games are not supposed to be like "Crysis" if there are more than 1 "active graphics" (aka other human players) involved. The common PC of the 21st century accepts the info it gets from the graphics card as a painting. Whether we perceive it with our human eyes as 3D is what you call good perspective and shadow texturing that create the whole visual experience. This however is really hard for most PC systems to deal with in cases like MMOs where hundrends of active graphics (human players) gather up to a speciffic point (like a major pvp area or a raid instance). Thus it has always been a policy for MMO's to NOT BE the headliner games for graphics revolutions. Its simple math actually- like asking a really fast and good painter to "draw" a human player and asking him to do the drawing again but 100 times at the same time, at that same speed, an impossibility which will result to lagging graphics or crash failures due to the limited memmory of our graphics cards. What I am trying to say is that MMO's are supposed to be 2 to 3 years behind the actual level of graphics of our time because of the limits of our pc systems. It will be another 10 years until we get an MMO that will live up to "Uncharted" or "Crysis 2". Our todays graphics cards chips just won' take it. So just suck it up - the graphics of this game are actually rather decent for its genre. Now to the actual comment: This game is made for Star Wars fans (which is a lot trust me!) and as the post claims it has taken some of the best aspects of our planets leading MMO: World of Warcraft This is good no matter what one may think because WOW is the best of what you can get out there- period. This game has not even been released yet but I think it will create a buzz especially after some years of the inevitable patching and expansions. Just look at WOW and how much it has matured with Cataclysm. For those who are not fans of Star Wars or the genre this game should be more interesing than anything else because of its intence storytelling. Sure it might get reppetative after you finish leveling up your first character but think of what this represents: A step forward for the genre. I will personally buy a new system for this one. It will be worth it.
  • Jamahl - June 17, 2011 5:24 a.m.

    If we accepted extremely pallate-swapped gaming readily, it would only be more pervasive. Don't buy a game that changes nothing about it's own genre.
  • Reubenguy - June 17, 2011 4:55 a.m.

    Combat is like KOTOR. ive been following this for the later half of 3 years and trust me when I say it will be exactly like KOTOR, except online. KOTOR with friends (and 750+ more hours of gameplay) . what can be better
  • sh33phead - June 17, 2011 2:30 a.m.

    Nice Article, been following the development for this game for about a year, will definitely be playing it! Recently replayed KOTOR to get ready for the release, but from the looks of things even a Christmas release date would be lucky. After all this time spent on it, I hope BioWare get it right. Take it from AoC and LOTRO, they learnt the hard way just how tough WoW is to move.
  • KolbitosFruitJuice - June 17, 2011 2:10 a.m.

    Gah, I'm a little torn. On the one hand, I'm digging the conversation system, the classes, the exploration, the story, the powers, replay value, graphics and exploration. On the other hand, the more I see of the combat, the more its looking like almost every other MMO. I understand it works for some, but for me, typical MMO combat a la WOW is just incredibly boring to me. If I can't get invested in the battles (where you see how well your leveling has paid off), then I don't think I can get into this game. Which is a shame, really. Because its looking to be a fantastic star wars game, just not for me. We shall see though, we shall see.
  • Icehearted - June 17, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    No. You can go ahead and shout about what a great repainted WoW experience this is, and I will still say I don't want WoW I want KotOR. Also, according to some leaked video I did see, the play and graphics are terrible, and I mean "worse than old as dirt WoW" terrible. 4 hours and what I saw was bad animating, really bad writing, and a lot of boring and repetitive number clicking, much like WoW. This article almost smells like thinly veiled advertising, but you guys would never stoop to being shills, right?
  • shadowreaper72 - June 17, 2011 1:16 a.m.

    I would go bannas for this game........ if it came to the consoles lol.
  • Jasbro - June 17, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    @Erebus, it was annouced along time ago that it will be Pay2Play, just no pricing yet. @DoctorCraz, pretty sure it wont be to taxing for any PC, they are aiming to get this game playable on as many PC specs as possible, if you can run WoW im sure you will be good to go for ToR.
  • Jasbro - June 17, 2011 12:52 a.m.

    @Yeager No prices have been confirmed yet but its safe to asume it wont be more than $15 since thats the going rate atm for MMO's. I doubt it will "kill" WoW, but it sure as hell will give it some serious competition, and the only reason the buzz may have died down a bit is because of the waiting, as soon as they annouce a date then you will see the true buzz for this game.
  • DoctorCrazy - June 17, 2011 12:48 a.m.

    Soo, what's a computer going to need to be able to run this?
  • Erebus - June 17, 2011 12:46 a.m.

    Yeah they haven't detailed their pricing policy yet. Whether its free to play with micro transactions or a monthly subscription. I don't think they know yet themselves.
  • Yeager1122 - June 17, 2011 12:32 a.m.

    Looks really good but how much does it cost monthly?
  • Personamanxx - June 17, 2011 12:04 a.m.

    Only flaw to this game it appears is the fact that it's a PC exclusive MMO. I would kill for a console version. Preferably without it being an MMO too.
  • macbad - June 16, 2011 11:53 p.m.

    Btw @nickmallay its operations. And this is definitely a WoW killer. I was a player for 6 years now and it seemed to get very tiresome, so I getting pumped up for this game. Go Bioware!
  • Sinosaur - June 16, 2011 11:15 p.m.

    Dammit, Bioware, now I actually have to spend money on a computer that will be up to snuff.
  • Glides - June 16, 2011 10:51 p.m.

    This looks like the WoW killer. I can't wait.
  • snipes101 - June 16, 2011 10:50 p.m.

    I am sorry but I will never be bananas about an mmo. I have an extreme dislike for them. Sorry for taking up space on a post that will probably have a lot of MMO fans, but I just had to say it.
  • nickmallay - June 16, 2011 10:41 p.m.

    Hmm... " We also got to see a sneak preview of the game’s end-game raids, which are called. " Called what? Im so interested!!!

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