The recently revealed Imperial Agent class in Star Wars: The Old Republic provides the Empire with a hefty dose of subtlety and intrigue. While many classes, like say the Sith Warrior, barge through levels with their lightsabers blazing, the Imperial Agent uses stealth and tactics to quietly creep up on her enemies.
LucasArts and Bioware put on a press demonstration last week in San Francisco to give us the first chance to see these guys in action. While it was quite clearly very early - we were told to imagine the "stealth" effect as the character snuck around on a massive theater screen in the LucasArts compound - this class adds something to the Star Wars world that has never really been the focus before: subtlety.
"[The Imperial Agent] experiences the underbelly of the empire," we were told during a presentation by Jake Neri, a Producer with LucasArts, and Blaine Christine, a Producer with Bioware Austin.
The class seemed to be a combination of an RPG rogue and control class. It takes advantage of the Smuggler's cover mechanic, which allows it to jump into predefined positions within each level to avoid immediate detection and fire off some salvos with more security. The first couple of encounters they tried showed that Agents better be ready to do some fore-planning.
For example, one ability let them toss a bomb at an enemy undetected. The trick is that it wouldn't go off until that enemy took damage. Then, they could mesmerize, distract or otherwise incapacitate (in our demo, they had a sleep dart) the second guard before turning the blaster onto the first guy, who would promptly explode.
From a range, the Imperial Agent totes a mighty wallop from its sniper rifle, but in close, things really get interesting.
Making use of a stealth belt, they can sneak around a level undetected. Through the use of a mechanic that hearkened back to the days of Thief: The Dark Project; the agent quickly takes out individual enemies with a very graphic and satisfying backstab. This was no subtle MMO style prod either. The knife was out, right through the guy's back (and out the other side) before you could blink an eye.
"[They're] subtle... clean," we were told, and it was definitely true. In the level they showed, the Imperial Agent took out every breathing soul in the room without so much as an alarm bell. This class will definitely appeal to those who prefer to control and outwit their enemies with careful planning rather than just shooting them in the face.
It rounds out the Empire classes to have someone a bit less flashy, but no less deadly. It also provides a new dimension to the kinds of stories Bioware and LucasArts can tell.
"[The Imperial Agent is about] working your way through deceitful Empire plans," they explained. The Sith Warrior is iconic, but not exactly hard to spot with the demon horns and red lightsabers. The Bounty Hunter is more of a cowboy. His job is to take people down, and maybe bring them in, but it probably won't happen quietly either way. The Imperial Agent is at its best when no one knows they're there. He can get into stories that the others really cannot.
There are now six revealed classes in the upcoming story-driven MMO, but of course, the Imperial Agent wasn't all we saw in San Francisco. Check back with us on December 3rd and we'll have for you a preview of each of the final two classes left to be revealed, as well as an interview with one of the game's developers.