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SWTOR at E3 2012

Michael Bitton Posted:
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With all the doom-and-gloom surrounding Star Wars: The Old Republic over the past few months, I wasn’t exactly expecting a big showing for the game at this year’s E3, but SWTOR’s presence was a bit better than I expected, and we learned a couple of neat things about the future of the game at the show.

BioWare’s presentation focused on some of the highlights of what players can expect to see in Star Wars: The Old Republic this year. It’s not necessarily all near term stuff, but there are some significant developments and additions coming this year, so let’s dive right into it!

New Planet: Makeb

Unlike Denova, Makeb is an actual full-blown new planet that players will be able to run around on. BioWare’s Dallas Dickinson described Makeb as a ‘massive’ planet full of hours and hours of new storyline content. Makeb is an entirely new planet created for Star Wars: The Old Republic, so BioWare basically has free reign as far as Makeb’s lore goes. Makeb’s content will center on the storyline of the rise of the Hutt Cartel. In short, the Hutts are making a play for control of the galaxy and Makeb is where it all begins. Players of both the Empire and Republic factions will land on Makeb in an effort to squash the efforts of the Hutts before they really take form.

New Companion: HK-51

While everyone’s favorite assassin droid, HK-47, does make an appearance in Star Wars: The Old Republic, he isn’t available as a player companion. Thankfully, BioWare is still tapping into this interest from players by introducing a new companion, an HK-51 droid, to the game later this year.

The HK-51 companion was found in the game files all the way back in SWTOR’s beta, but was never actually seen in the game. HK-51 appeared once again in datamined files revealing the potential contents of future updates to SWTOR (up to Update 1.5) where curious players could find details on the storyline and dialogue involved in acquiring the droid.

In any case, HK-51 will finally be coming to SWTOR and players can look forward to an involved storyline in order to acquire him.

For a little added background, HK-51 droids were advanced variants of HK-50 assassin droids that created by G0-T0 in the HK Manufacturing Plant content that was pulled from the original release of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. This content was re-added to the game as part of an unofficial patch released by fans following the game’s release.

New Warzone: Ancient Hypergates

We didn’t learn much about Ancient Hypergates other than this would be an 8v8 Warzone on the planet Selene featuring an all-new gameplay mechanic. No word on whether or not Ancient Hypergates would be same-faction enabled, but given the trend of recently released Warzones and updates to existing Warzones, I think it’s safe to say that Ancient Hypergates will follow suit.

New Race: Cathar

The cynic in me saw this one coming a mile away. We knew BioWare would be adding new species to the game, but Cathar seemed to be the most obvious choice for anyone with a cynical viewpoint. This is, of course, due to their humanoid appearance and prevalence within the game as NPCs. Again, no word on exactly when the Cathar will show up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them as unlockable via the Legacy System.

Notable Cathar include KOTOR's Juhani and SWTOR's Trooper companion, Aric Jorgan.

New Space Combat Mission: Space Station Assault

Not exactly the most exciting or creative of titles, but it’s good to see BioWare adding on to the space game. Space Station Assault is a new, much more challenging, space mission that will send players flying through the inside of a space station. Think the Death Star assault in Return of the Jedi. I’ll take what I can get on this front, but I’m really hoping to hear about the ‘super secret’ space project BioWare has in the works before the year’s up!

New Operation:  Terror from Beyond

Terror from Beyond continues the endgame Dread Masters storyline that players have been following over the last couple of months. The short of it is the Dread Masters have opened some gates they probably shouldn’t have and a number of vicious beasties have spilled forth from within.

Level Cap Bump

Exactly how much of a level bump wasn’t mentioned, but we did learn that there would be some form of level bump coming with whatever update introduces the Makeb content. The level bump will come along with new talents and abilities, some of which were teased in the SWTOR E3 trailer.

Free-to-Play…Up to Level 15!

Not quite the headfirst jump into free-to-play some of us have been hoping for, but this program should help getting new players to check out the game. Similar to the ‘Forever Free’ program in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, players will be able to play Star Wars: The Old Republic completely free of charge up to level 15, beginning next month.

Nightmare Mode: Explosive Conflict

Raiders in SWTOR have been waiting for this since the release of Update 1.2: Legacy, but it looks like this won’t be making it in until after 1.3: Allies. Again, no release date here, but I’m willing to wager it makes it in sooner rather than later.

After our presentation was wrapped up, we were treated to a short demo of a new heroic mission on Belsavis called the Aurora Cannon. The Aurora Cannon is a powerful weapon that is sought out by the aforementioned Dread Masters, and players will be tasked with stopping them before they activate it. I didn’t actually get to play through the demo myself, but it looked like it was designed for a full group of four.

The takeaway from all this is that BioWare does have a good deal of new content in store for Star Wars: The Old Republic over the next couple of months, but given the lack of timeline for really any of these announced features the real question is how soon players will be able to get their hands on all of the cool stuff. There are many games, both MMO and non-MMO on the horizon this year, so BioWare will need an aggressive schedule to hold onto players’ attention. Here’s hoping that the team is up to the challenge!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB