As we get closer and closer to The Old Republic’s impending early 2011 release, we are getting more and more info on the game from developer BioWare. At E3 this year the title was very playable, and we learned oodles of new info about the highly anticipated MMO. We’re seeing more and more all the time, and players are already beginning to formulate in their minds just what the title will bring to the market. Some call it a savior; others call it the damning “more of the same”. One thing is certain; the hype-meter is off the charts for this one. In part one of a two part series, we’ll examine a few reasons to be excited for BioWare’s The Old Republic, and then next week we’ll follow up with several reasons to be less-than-ecstatic. So dig in, read up, and offer your insights in the comments below!
5.) Personal Story for Your Character
BioWare has always been synonymous in videogames with storytelling. While some might be quick to point out the sameness of many of BioWare’s epic tales, there’s little denying that the developer is one of the best in the industry at tying compelling narratives to their games. And perhaps that’s one of the most obvious reasons for gamers to get excited about The Old Republic. BioWare is promising that their first crack at an MMORPG will do everything their offline offerings have come to do so competently, and that includes offering a continuing narrative throughout the game and for your characters. The story will be class specific, which means that there will be more than enough reason to play through the content multiple times should the mood strike you, other than just being able to say you have two or more characters “at the level cap”.
What remains to be seen is just how deep and layered this storytelling aspect is, and whether BioWare can make it feel at home in the MMO space. Will it just be an oversold bullet point on the box in a year’s time, or will it truly be a benchmark for future games to aim for.
4.) Voice Acting
The next two items on my list will also likely wind up on the “Reasons to Be Wary” list for next week, because I think there are up sides to each and potential downfalls as well. First up is voice acting, and the sheer amount of it that’s going to be included in The Old Republic. Outside of marketing and traditional development costs, I’d be willing to wager that one of the reasons for this game being touted as one of the most expensive ventures in MMO history is no doubt due to the extensive cost and time needed to cast, record, and implement the thousands and thousands of lines of dialog that BioWare has in place for its rookie MMORPG.
As players who love RPGs, we fans are always clamoring for developers to give us more ways to become immersed in the worlds we’re inhabiting, and the solid voice work that BioWare is known for is just one of many ways the developer could help push immersion in MMOs even further. Of course there will always be those pesky character stat sheets and other people reminding us it’s just a game, but hey… at least we’ll have some thespians sending us off proper on our quests. We’ll talk more on why this could be a bad thing in the end next week though.
3.) Companion Characters
As one of several ways in which BioWare hopes to bring something new to the genre, companion characters are likely going to either be a huge hit with players, a complete turn-off, or something in between. Yes, I realize that I just stated something blatantly obvious and virtually nonsensical. But let’s put aside that tiny detail and play the optimist in this case. There are some truly promising things to keep in mind about the companions of TOR. In almost all of their critically lauded previous titles, one of BioWare’s strengths has been in creating truly engaging characters that players grow fond of, hate on, and laugh at. It could be just the thing the MMORPG needs to help add a real personality to the NPCs of its world. Add to this the voice acting mentioned above, the way each character will reportedly form a relationship with your character, and the obvious benefits of having a potential stable of situational pets (for the lack of a better term) and companion characters could be a very cool feature that we’ll all be hoping gets added onto from here until forever.
Or they could completely suck. But more on that next time.
2.) Player Ships as Housing
Sure they’re not exactly like piloting your own X-Wing throughout the Star Wars universe, since player ships in The Old Republic will only be initially little more than a player’s safe haven, but that’s more than most games offer fans of player housing at launch these days. I’m personally expecting them to function something like the Normandy from the Mass Effect series, where the player was able to mill about, chat with his companions, progress characters’ back-stories, and in general relax in between intense fights and missions to save the galaxy. Even if that’s all the player ships serve as at launch, with maybe a bit more personalization and customization available, it’s more than just about every AAA release has had at launch for years. Add to that the obvious expansions and content updates that could have players scooting about the cosmos and engaging in dogfights, and it’s hard not to get excited about the potential of this seemingly and deceivingly small feature.
1.) It’s Star Wars and It’s BioWare
I almost feel silly for including this one, because it’s so obvious. This is BioWare we’re talking about, folks. In my eyes, they’re the reason I still even remotely care about Star Wars in the first place, considering how terribly Episodes I-III were. It’s because of their Knights of the Old Republic that I cling to hope that one day George Lucas will relinquish the tightfisted grip he has on the films and let someone else have a go at bringing the mythos to the silver screen. BioWare, in my own eyes, has yet to create something unworthy of a gamer’s time. Each of their single-player titles has been more sprawling and awe-inspiring than the last. Even the Sonic the Hedgehog RPG for the Nintendo DS was more entertaining than it had any right to be.
BioWare is responsible for the only good Sonic game to come out in probably a decade, people. It’s because of this that I have faith they can make a compelling and (perhaps more importantly) fun MMORPG. Now, that doesn’t mean they can do no wrong. And in fact when you’re dealing with a franchise like Star Wars, you probably put yourself even more at risk than ever in that regard. But if anyone can pull it off, BioWare just might be the best candidate.