Star Wars remains a power house at E3 each year. Last year the game was up at the Lucas Arts meeting rooms. This year it was on the show floor at the EA Booth. People were lined up around the corner to get in and check out the latest features. Vehicles were playable in the build we saw and add a whole new customization into the game for traveling across the immense planets in the universe. The other feature that was discussed was Operations, which is the equivalent to MMO raids.
The Star Wars cinematic was amazing as always. It emphasized how important story is in the game and shows off the Gunslinger advanced class. As great as the cinematics are and how important they are to showing off elements of the game, the real depth of the universe can be found in game play.
Once we got to the game play portion of the demo, things started to pan out. Being an MMORPG, Bioware’s focus is on four pillars of the game that they feel best makes up the game play experience. Exploration, Progression, Combat, and Story are the main points that Old Republic is all about. Each area was given clear examples on how players will act and develop within the game itself.
Story being the strongest element to Bioware’s games, the example was shown of a young Jedi character moving up the ranks. At one point on Tattooine they are in a duel with a Sith master. After winning the duel, your character has a choice to kill the Sith or spare his life. Choosing to spare his life is considered a Light Side choice within the Force. The Sith Master starts to reconsider his choices and goes away after the duel. Later in the game, you run into the Sith you spared who is now working for the Jedi and become somewhat of a leader. He thanks you for the change you had made in his life and remains part of your personal story. The game is filled with these choices that give an immense depth to your character as you progress through the game.
On the exploration front the planet of Tattooine was shown. What is Star Wars without the famous desert planet? Players can follow quest hubs all around the world which is truly massive in MMO terms. Instead of having to run around the world, a speeder was shown to give players a better mode of transport while on the planet itself. Exploring the worlds is a great part of the game and give players even more to add to their personal stories. Not only are there the game worlds to explore but there are also the PvP war zones. The warzones were not shown at E3. The focus was really on the area of the Operations. Operations act as raids and give large groups of players the chance to take on big foes in massive fights. No numbers on the size of the raids where mentioned but it was based on groups of four. The example shown was on Alderran and is a palace called the Eternity Vault. The raid was to take down one of the political leaders on Alderran who continues to rise in power. Players band up and go into the Palace to take on guards, droids, and eventually a boss fight ensues, but we did not see the boss fight. The Eternity Vault is the first Operation shown for the game and will have the top loot as well as some epic encounters for players.
One of the features in the game which really was questionable was the design of Multiplayer Conversation. When the group goes to talk to an NPC to get the quest or raid information, each player chooses a response and then a roll is made to see who wins to speak for the party. The main reason this is tricky is that you could get a “Leroy Jenkins” in your group which will ruin the direction you want for your party? Also you have to wait for everyone in the group to respond, if a player steps away during the dialogue choice it may cause the others to wait. We’ll see how this system works out at launch but there definitely is a risk with pick up groups.
Looking at the Progression pillar of the game, there continues to be more added for players to personalize their character. Personal star ships, vehicles, droids, crafting, armor, and weapons all give an endless palette for players. Not only are these material parts to the character critical. There is also the sum of your choices as a character. With all of the choices and directions in the game for story, players will advance in that area as well. This extra layer of progression through story will give players even more of a background to build their experience on.
The final pillar in the list is of course combat. Combat varies from class to class greatly. In the demo we were shown, the Trooper provided support fire with ranged DPS while the Jedi Knight ran up to engage the guards in close combat. The Jedi Consular Advanced Class of the Sage was shown. The Sage is a healer and support class who still wields some serious force powers in combat. With crowd control abilities that can throw opponents into Force Stasis to wielding a light saber, the Sage has a lot of support options. So depending on your play style, the eight classes in the game break out into many options. The Gunslinger was only shown in the trailer and had some great moments with some great blasting skills.
Once again Star Wars: The Old Republic impressed us at E3. The depth of the game continues to grow and players are in for some serious immersion with the story aspect of the game. Seeing the vehicles and getting a first look at Operations continued to wet our appetites for more.