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Star Wars The Old Republic: Pick a Role, Any Role

Star Wars: The Old Republic Columns - By Michael Bitton on April 13, 2011

Star Wars The Old Republic: Pick a Role, Any Role

Last week’s Friday Update was a bit of a doozie. BioWare treated fans to an in-depth update on the status of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Advanced Classes and there were quite a few interesting developments this time around, mostly in the form of additional group roles becoming available to many of the game’s classes. While I found the news initially exciting, I was left wondering if this newfound freedom would dilute the value of roles in the game, and more importantly, would that be such a bad thing after all?

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Early in the game’s development when BioWare was getting some major pushback from gamers skeptical about the game’s story focus they decided to emphasize a lot of the traditional elements of the game, such as having distinct class roles e.g. tanks, DPS, etc. While these roles are certainly present in the game now, last week’s update made it clear that many of those distinct roles would be available to just about every class (though not to every Advanced Class). I don’t know if this was part of the original plan, simply a response to feedback, or the effect of the freedom emphasized in upcoming games such as Funcom’s The Secret World or ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2, but my grognard mind has wrestled with this over the last few days, and frankly I don’t see this as such a bad thing.

The Sith Inquisitor is a prime example of one fairly unexpected development that I’m quite excited about. Mainly a ranged DPS caster type, the Sith Inquisitor can also become a Sith Assassin which opens it up to rogue-like cloth-wearing melee DPS gameplay, this we’ve known for some time. What I wasn’t expecting to find out is that the Sith Assassin will also be able to tank.  As someone who really appreciated the fact that Rogues can tank in RIFT this was certainly some welcome news.

BioWare challenged the basic roles a bit early on when they announced the Trooper (a ranged class) would be one of the Republic’s two tank possibilities, but I have to say, I’m way more excited about the idea of tanking as a clothy. While I understood that the Sith Assassin was supposed to fulfill the “Darth Maul fantasy,” I’ve been a bit wary over the stealth mechanic. I don’t really want to be sneaking around backstabbing people with a lightsaber if that’s what it turns out to be, however, the option to tank likely doesn’t allow for much sneaking around and so my double-bladed lightsaber wielding Sith fantasy appears a bit safer now, even if I have to trade some DPS for it.

I’m not sure why many of us have often been attached to a desire to fulfill a role, perhaps it’s some sense of wanting to feel special, but I don’t think what BioWare is doing here really diminishes that at all. Class roles remain intact; it simply sounds like we won’t have to pigeon-hole ourselves looking for incredibly specific classes to fill out our teams. There are still some things to consider though. While I may be able to tank as a Sith Assassin my gear may not be up to par if I normally specialize in the stealth-based DPS role. Of course, if you anticipate this you can put together separate sets of gear, and I would hope BioWare takes this into consideration so as to leverage the additional flexibility they are providing to players. Some games offer alternatives, but they are more illusions of choice than anything else; I’d love to embrace the flexibility afforded to me this time around, so hopefully there aren’t many barriers involved in doing so.

What are your thoughts on the addition of new roles to existing Advanced Classes? Share ‘em with us in the comments below!

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.