There are 64 days left, or just over two months until Star Wars: The Old Republic goes live, and all eyes were on this year’s New York Comic-Con for hopefully some major new reveals. NYCC was basically BioWare’s last chance to make a show splash with their fans in the final stretch towards launch and they had a fairly large presence there. Not one, but two panels were scheduled, there was a Community Meet & Greet, and the game was also available on the show floor for all to sample.
Over the weekend, we posted videos of both panels for those of you who weren’t able to make it down to the show, and today we’ll be reviewing some of the highlights of the main panel for those of you who don’t have the time or patience to sit through roughly an hour long video.
The main Star Wars: The Old Republic panel took place in the MTV Theater, which seats roughly 1,000 people from what I’m told, and the energy in the room was pretty electric. The event kicked off with a montage of the various CG trailers released by BioWare over the last couple of years and some introductions of the panelists (James Ohlen, Daniel Erickson, and Cory Butler) by BioWare’s Stephen Reid. The panel got off to a bit of a slow start with a recap of what the game is all about for the few gamers out there who have been living under a rock for the past few years and somehow managed to miss this one.
Stephen used various numbers to highlight the presentation, but if you’re looking for the important number here it was 15. 15 is the number of Flashpoints that will be in the game at launch. Previously, most gamers were expecting a handful of Flashpoints (Black Talon, Esseles, Taral V, etc.) but as BioWare’s Daniel Erickson explained, they realized through testing that players had many avenues for leveling in the game, such as doing their class story content and then PvPing or doing Space Combat in between, but this wasn’t true for running Flashpoints. Seeking to correct this, BioWare has added many more Flashpoints to the game to ensure that there are always a variety of Flashpoints for players to run at any level range. The caveat is that not all of these Flashpoints will be story-focused such as the Black Talon and Esseles. Some will be more focused on the action and puzzle gameplay elements. Several of the new Flashpoints will also be endgame only Flashpoints, however, the entire roster of Flashpoints will be available to be replayed at level cap in higher difficulty modes.
The next important number is the number 1, which is for the single announced Operation (raid) in Star Wars: The Old Republic: the Eternity Vault. Well, apparently there are now two Operations coming for launch, but we were only given a screenshot of a Hutt within his palace to go by, so we know it will deal with the Hutts and, well, not much else as of yet.
Stephen Reid then highlighted yet another number: 3. Three is the number of Warzones that will be available at launch. So far, we’ve seen them all (Alderaan, Huttball, and the Void Star), but apparently the Void Star has been overhauled, which explains why BioWare has been so quiet on this Warzone for months now. The Void Star was then shown off in a series of clips that really give us a taste of the way BioWare is implementing story even into their PvP. The Warzone opens with an in-game cinematic narrated by Satele Shan, and there are a number of other cinematic sections throughout the match. The Void Star features attack-and-defend objective based gameplay with players attempting to secure valuable technology from the eponymous derelict starship, while the opposing team is tasked with defending against the assault. There are four sections of the ship that attackers will have to blow through to get to the ultimate objective of the ship’s data core. If the attackers don’t make it all the way through before time runs out, the match will restart with the sides switched and now the former attackers will have to defend against the assault. James Ohlen, Game Director on Star Wars: The Old Republic explained that the boarding action that kicks off Episode IV: A New Hope served as the main inspiration for this particular Warzone.
Stephen then noted that players will probably want some downtime in between doing quests and participating in PvP, and this is where BioWare hopes their new fleet-based social hubs will come in. It’s been assumed for some time that the capital worlds of Dromund Kaas and Coruscant would likely serve as Star Wars: The Old Republic’s main hubs, but it looks like BioWare has gone in a different direction by creating a dedicated area based in the respective fleets of the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic. A few short clips were shown of both hubs, and they looked to be absolutely massive. The fleets will be replete with some of the game’s best vendors, host the Galactic Trade Network (auction house), and will even serve as the main launching point for all of the game’s Flashpoints so that players can easily find each other and get into groups. We were also treated to a brief tease of the elevator leading up to the super secret VIP section, which is exclusive to those who purchase the Collector’s Edition of Star Wars: The Old Republic. The fleet hubs honestly made me think of the Citadel in Mass Effect. I hope I’ll get to declare one of the various vendors to be my favorite shop in the uh… fleet? Not as catchy as the Citadel, I suppose!
At this point Stephen opened up the floor to Q&A. Daniel invited Drew Karpyshyn, who was the lead writer of the original Knights of the Old Republic and is the author of the upcoming Revan novel, up to the panel to answer questions (though much to his dismay, he ended up not answering any!). The developers were fairly tight-lipped during the Q&A session, seemingly unable to really answer some of the questions asked, but we did learn a few things. One major reveal from the Q&A came from a question regarding Dark Side/Light Side features, where visible ‘Dark Side corruption’ was confirmed in addition to the already known Dark Side/Light Side gear. For those of you who don’t wish to look like a 120 year-old man because you decided to fry a few kids or other innocent bystanders, BioWare’s Allison Berryman took to the official SW:TOR forums to explain that players will be able to toggle this feature on and off. There wasn’t much else of interest during the Q&A session, aside from the very end where Daniel Erickson notes that the upcoming Revan novel (November 15!) will explore the mystery of the new Sith Emperor, so if you’re really curious about this mysterious character, you’ll definitely want to pick it up.
With the Q&A over, Stephen noted that they had a few more things in store before they wrapped up. The first reveal was the new ‘Signs of War’ trailer that you’ve likely already seen here at MMORPG.com or on the official site. Personally, this was probably the most well put together trailer they’ve put out for the game so far, and it appeared to do a pretty good job of hyping up the crowd. Stephen then wrapped things up with a major announcement that was sure to be music to European gamers’ ears: Star Wars: The Old Republic will now globally launch on December 20, 2011, instead of two days later on December 22nd in European territories. As one may have expected, this didn’t exactly get folks in the audience roaring, you know, since the panel was held here in New York City, but nonetheless the internets over in Europe exploded in joy.
Check out the full panel video below for anything we might have missed: