Well, PAX Prime has come and gone, and with only a few shows left, the season begins to wind down for the year. Did we learn anything new about Star Wars: The Old Republic at PAX compared to say, GamesCom? Why, yes, I believe we did!
North American fans have been waiting with bated breath for a chance to get their hands on Star Wars: The Old Republic, however, it would be their European brethren across the pond that would beat them to it. Bioware allowed European fans (and I suppose North American fans who made the costly trip over) to get some time with the game, just a few weeks ago at GamesCom in Cologne, Germany. This weekend, though, those of you here in the states got to sample the game at PAX Prime in Seattle, and just like GC, there are tons of fan reactions, impressions, and more to pore over. There are even some zany efforts by fans to determine the size of the game world by sampling sections of the overworld map and small sections of the zones. Whoever found the time to do all that, my hats off to you, by the way.
GamesCom 2010 revealed a number of new details on Star Wars: The Old Republic, including information on the game’s starships and space combat, as well as a full breakdown of the Advanced Classes available to the eight basic classes the game will ship with. PAX Prime, in my opinion, offered a bit more to fans.
One of the highlights of PAX was the release of yet another new trailer, this time focused heavily on the mysteries left by the Knights of the Old Republic games. When I first heard the news, I found myself laughing a bit, given the topic of last week’s column. The trailer teased a promise of finding out more about what happened to Revan following the events of the KOTOR games, and ended with an awesome tease of everyone’s favorite Assassin Droid (not IG-88!), the always loveable HK-47. Looks like I missed a few obvious gems from the KOTOR games that I’d like to see in Star Wars: The Old Republic in last week’s column!
As a show for the fans, PAX is host to many interesting panels and Bioware put on their own drawing quite the crowd. The panel was surprisingly substantive, and while I wasn’t personally at PAX, I did view the panel through the amazing invention of internet video. It got off to a somewhat slow start, as outside of the new trailer, I was getting a same ‘ol, same ‘ol feeling once they started showing the E3 multiplayer demo again. Once the panel shifted focus, though, there were some juicier bits to be seen, including smatterings of gameplay featuring pairs (or more) of the game’s classes on both sides, demonstrating the game’s combat, and multiplayer dialogue in situations we haven’t really seen before.
The highlight of the gameplay footage, at least for me, was the section involving the Jedi Consular crafting her own lightsaber. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long, long time, but the visual assembly of a lightsaber has never really been showcased in a game, or the movies for that matter. The process of creating a lightsaber has always been a detached experience involving menus and components. The actual assembly of a Jedi lightsaber has really only been described in books as part of the Expanded Universe. The novel, Shadows of the Empire, described the creation of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber on Tatooine, something we were never able to see in the movies, as Luke just reappeared with a new green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. Well, that is, unless you were at Celebration V this year, where George Lucas debuted a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, showing Luke creating his lightsaber on Tatooine. Those of us who were lucky to be there, I envy you! The rest of us, well, we’ll probably have to wait until the release of the films on Bluray next year to get a peek at that scene. As an aside, I highly recommend reading Shadows of the Empire, as it bridges the gap between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi quite nicely.
Getting back to PAX, the footage of the lightsaber crafting scene shown at the panel really highlighted Bioware’s cinematic storytelling. The Miraluka character knelt and assembled the lightsaber piece by piece using only The Force to manipulate the components, all the while a large beast drew nearer outside; a perfect target for the Consular’s newly crafted lightsaber. That scene also gave us what I believe to be a small taste of how a player’s species plays into the storyline, as the Miraluka character (who is blind, and can only see through the use of The Force, think Neo in The Matrix: Revolutions), briefly comments that her new lightsaber will be a light shining in the dark before she gets down to creating it. Its little touches like these that go a long way toward relating to one’s character.
The panel also offered us a real serious tease of PvP in Star Wars: The Old Republic. From what was shown, it appeared that storytelling was important even to the game’s PvP offering, as four players from both the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic were pursuing a quest on Alderaan, only to be brought to the same location, which needless to say resulted in what we can only hope was a heated, awesome battle. Why do I have to hope you ask? Because those mean folk at Bioware cut away just as the players were about to enter combat with each other. I guess we’ll never know what happened, but I’m rooting for the Republic.
Finally, the panel wrapped up with an interesting Q&A session with Bioware’s Principal Lead Writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic, Daniel Erickson. I met Daniel at E3 this year, and he is definitely well informed on the Star Wars lore, so it was nice to see him fielding questions from the fans. Daniel answered questions such as whether or not we’ll see some of the more esoteric lightsaber colors in the game, such as silver or black (which were available in the KOTOR games, by the way), however, the jury is still out on whether or not they’ll make it into The Old Republic. Daniel was a bit cagey on this one.
Daniel was also asked about multiplayer dialogue, a topic that is often a bit confounding to just about anyone who tries to think about it. A fan wondered, if other players will be able to make a lasting impact on your story experience. Daniel bluntly responded in the affirmative, “Yes. This is the horrifying thing that happens when you go out and socialize with people.” It’s important to note that these impactful decisions don’t affect your Dark Side / Light Side points though, as all that goes off the player’s intention. For example, when presented with the option to spare or kill someone, if you make it clear you have no desire to kill the character, while your group mate wins out “the roll” and kills the guy anyways, you still get your Light Side points as you did not intend to kill, while the other player gets his Dark Side points. However, the death of the character will still permanently affect the outcome of your story.
More on the topic of moral choices, Daniel discussed the difficulty of going against the grain as a Sith or Jedi character. In one example, (spoilers ahead!), Daniel described one of the early missions involving the Sith Warrior who is collecting crystal shards in a tomb. The Warrior is assaulted by another Sith hopeful and his cronies, who is attempting to steal the crystals from you because he could not gather them himself. The player can choose to give the failed Sith his crystals at this point, which is obviously a Light Side choice, but that resets the quest for the player, forcing him to redo the entire tomb. It ain’t easy being good when you’re supposed to be bad. C’est la vie!
Closing things out, I’d be remiss to not mention that someone prodded Daniel on the fact space combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic is a “rail shooter”, to which Daniel corrected him, explaining that space combat was actually a “tube shooter”, offering a bit more control; but this wasn’t really the larger issue here, and one could tell Daniel was more than a bit familiar with fan reaction to the announcement. Daniel used the Star Wars films to illustrate the fact that we never saw anyone mining in space or just “dicking around”, as he so eloquently put it, as the main reason Bioware took the approach they did with space, earning tons of cheers and applause from the crowd. Obviously, these were swipes at the Jump to Lightspeed expansion to Star Wars Galaxies, which allowed players to fly around through space freely and even mine for ore. I can fully understand that Bioware is taking an entirely different approach to space, but I think it was a bit crass to dismiss those of us looking for a bit more meat. Many of us would be content to have a space feature similar in scope to Halo: Reach or the Star Wars: Battlefront series, but it appears to be simply out of the cards.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Were you at PAX? If so, share your Star Wars: The Old Republic experiences with us, and even if you weren’t, we want to hear your thoughts on all the information and media that came out of the show!