While the demonstration and hands on time were still very rough, I wouldn't worry too much given the amount of time left in development. MMOs tend to come together over the last few months. There is a long way to go and the theme of their demonstration was "theme" itself. So, if the question is, "Does this game feel and look like Star Wars?" the answer is an emphatic "Yes!" If the main Star Wars Galaxies complaint was "I wanted to be Luke or Han running around killing bad guys, not Uncle Owen farming moisture," they seem to have taken it to heart and all the classes we've seen seem to map to recognizable figures from the movies.
Drilling down, they also for the first time let us peek under the hood at some of the mechanics they have planned.
While each class can roughly be traced to an iconic Star Wars personality, that doesn't mean each will be a carbon copy of the next. As an example, they used the Smuggler. Each class has a variety of skills it can focus on and the choices you make can have a large impact and tailor that class to your play style. For example, a Smuggler can be more of a long distance gunner all the way down to a stealth and, to an extent, healing class. It depends on the choices you make as you progress.
Companions are another very Bioware wrinkle to the game. They made a big point of how they wanted iconic classes, even if that was at the expense of the traditional RPG archetypes. As much of the game will be about the player's personal story, there was a need to balance out these classes. Companions do just that.
They're exactly what the name implies: full blown NPC side-kicks who travel with you on your adventures through the world. Each class has their own that join and help them with the story and allows the player to play the way they want while the Companion does what is necessary to keep things going. They showed us Xalek, a melee character like Darth Maul, who can dive in and keep the enemies busy hand-to-hand while your Inquisitor sits back and deals damage.
The inclusion of single-player RPG style companions though is sure to worry some fans who are worried about the MMO part of this game. Not only is your character off on his own story arc, but now he has NPCs to fill the role of group members? So we asked.
Temmerman told us that while each of the eight classes has its own unique, solo story-line that takes them all around the world, they've gone to a fair amount of trouble to make sure it doesn't just feel like an RPG. That content is instanced, but it is laced throughout the common game world.
Each class has its own personal arc, and that arc takes them from planet to planet, but each planet also has its own arc, and that one is aimed at groups of players. To fully experience the game and all of its content, players will want to break off as they travel through new areas to work with friends and complete some of that content.
Effectively, The Old Republic is eight RPGs woven together so that when the stories take players through towns, they're in MMO environments. It forces people to go out in the world and see other people. Sure, they can plow through the single-player arcs, but they'd miss half the game.
They can also bring friends along for their story missions. The actual mechanics were not yet available, but they are aware that people don't necessarily want to play alone and as such will have full scaling.
"We will make sure there is always a challenge," was about as far as Temmerman would explain it.
He was also tight lipped about the other traditional MMO content, save to say that they do intend to have crafting, raids, and all of the regular MMO hallmarks. This last year has been focused on atmosphere, the classes and the story. This is their differentiator. They assure is the traditional elements are there, and we take them at their word so far, but so far it seems the focus has been on what is different. Once they finish with that, expect to see the online aspects rolled out.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has a long way to go and the team is obviously aware of it. Their goal was to show off the classes and theme. It looks and feels like Star Wars and that's all anyone can hope for so long before launch. Over the coming months they have a lot of work to do to make sure it reaches its potential.