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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: E3 2011: What We Know So Far

By Michael Bitton on June 08, 2011

E3 2011 is shaping up to be a fairly gigantic event for BioWare all around, but this is especially true for Star Wars: The Old Republic. With the game launching sometime this year, opportunities for BioWare to make a huge splash at major shows must be taken advantage of as these shows will be their last chance to hook new players in and keep eager fans hooked before launch.

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So, what do we know so far? Last week, BioWare gave us a fairly sizable taste of what sorts of abilities players can expect to use across all of the game’s Advanced Classes, and this was expanded upon even further right here at MMORPG.com in an exclusive interview with SWTOR Lead Combat Designer Georg Zoeller. Additionally, BioWare also dropped a new Star Wars: The Old Republic “Features” trailer along with an interview over at GameSpot that revealed most of their plans for E3.

Of course, EA also launched their new Origin digital distribution service and announced that the digital version of Star Wars: The Old Republic would be available exclusively on this service. I get the move; launching a new digital distribution platform against a juggernaut like Steam, well, you better have a few aces up your sleeve to play, and having Star Wars: The Old Republic as an exclusive will definitely get quite a few gamers who may otherwise be uninterested in Origin to check it out. This news upset fans who were looking to snag the game on Steam (or other digital distribution services), but come on now, you know there’s going to be a Collector’s Edition, if not a super Collector’s Edition available at retail. Go big or go home! As much as I love Steam, I was never planning on picking up this baby digitally anyways.

The new video and interview were perhaps the juiciest as we learned that Star Wars: The Old Republic will have vehicles (no mounts, not at launch anyways), that there would be a new CG trailer (since released, check it out here), a demo featuring the iconic planet of Tatooine would be on the show floor, and we even learned some details on The Old Republic’s version of raids – I mean “Operations.”

On vehicles, BioWare’s Damion Schubert explained that they felt vehicles would be a better fit for a Star Wars game when having to decide between mounts or vehicles for launch, which I can certainly appreciate as I’d rather have my own swoop or speederbike than a smelly Taun-Taun!  Those of you reading this who were around for the initial release of mounts in Star Wars Galaxies probably, as I did, felt they were a blessing when they were finally introduced, that is until SOE added vehicles. I never looked back and I don’t know many that did. With that said, I’d love to see them in the game at some point, but at launch I’d be more concerned with being able to get around the game’s presumably large worlds at a decent clip.

“Return,” the new CG trailer by trailer-masters Blur Studio goes back even further than last year’s “Hope” trailer, depicting the Sith Empire’s surprise attack and subsequent recapturing of Korriban, the original homeworld of the Sith.  As always, the CG trailer was quite epic and got me wishing they’d put together a whole feature-length film based on The Old Republic’s story. The Smuggler was particularly interesting, as I expected him to tuck tail and run when the troopers behind him fell to blaster fire. Instead, he decided to take on seemingly impossible odds and come out on top (with the help of a Trooper, of course), though I suppose this also makes sense for a Smuggler. All in all, the trailer was action-packed and also really highlights how often Satele Shan seems to have brushes with death only to narrowly escape. Hopefully those of us playing on the Sith Empire side of things will get a chance to corner her in the full game and change her luck for the worse.

The Old Republic’s raids, as we noted earlier, will be called Operations, though we haven’t learned much more than that just yet. BioWare did mention that the “Eternity Vault,” which takes place on the prison planet of Belsavis will require “groups” (plural!) of “elite heroes” to tackle, will be at E3 in some fashion. Could this be an Operation or merely a new Flashpoint? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. What we have learned about Operations so far is that they can be tackled as soon as players hit the level cap of 50 and that there will be multiple modes, but this is all fairly standard stuff at this point. Personally, I’m curious to learn the number of players that will be required for Operations, and so far BioWare isn’t saying. I’m going to take this moment to speculate that Operations will come in eight and sixteen player configurations (2-4 groups).

I think that about wraps up what we know going into the show so far. What do you hope to see or find out about the game during E3? What are you disappointed we won’t be hearing about at the show? (This is your cue to kvetch about the lack of a release date announcement!)

Share your thoughts, comments, and shattered dreams below!

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