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Star Wars: The Old Republic

Old Republic Holds Promise For MMO Fans, Frustration For BioWare Fans

The E3 2011 demo of Star Wars: The Old Republic was my third time checking out the game, but I found a new thought running through my head as I played it this time: I’m not so sure that the average BioWare or Star Wars fan is going to fully enjoy this game. Let me explain.

During a presentation before my hands-on time with The Old Republic, BioWare stuck to its company line about how this will be a “genre-changing” MMO, but for the first time in my experience, they broke down what they mean. According to the developer, there are four major tenants of the role-playing game experience: exploration, progression, combat, and story. As BioWare tells it, MMOs have already mastered the first three, but they’ve always put story on the backburner.

In other words, BioWare will not be significantly changing the core style of MMO gameplay that has been refined and popularized with titles like EverQuest and World of Warcraft. For a long-time MMO player such as myself, this isn’t a big deal. I’m used to the slow-paced, role-based combat of MMOs, where a strong tank and healer are required to survive, and a constant grind for equipment upgrades awaits all max level players. I’m totally excited to see BioWare’s version of this formula, especially if it does a better job of story-telling. But will gamers who are used to the more complex, less grindy nature of old-school BioWare RPGs or the fast-paced combat of newer BioWare RPGs be able to get into it?

BioWare seems to be banking on the storyline pulling people along for multiple playthroughs as different classes. Each class will have a fleshed-out, fully-developed story that, by the developer’s estimation, will take several hundred hours to complete. The key to this is that classes won’t share very much content. For example, a Republic Jedi character and an Empire bounty hunter will not have a single shared quest line.

Another aspect of the storytelling that BioWare showed off was their classic form of a morality system. Often quests will allow you to make a major decision that will push your character toward either the light or dark side. More impressively, these choices can impact your story further down the line. In the example I saw, a Jedi character captured a Sith foe and was able to choose to execute him on the spot or give mercy and allow the Sith to become a member of the Jedi Order. If the player goes with the latter choice, the character will show up later in the Jedi storyline.

Despite taking place thousands of years before the Star Wars films, Old Republic will also be full of locations that are familiar to fans, such as Hoth and Coruscant. My E3 hands-on time was the first showing of Tattooine, an area where I played a Sith sorcerer hunting the desert planet’s dunes and caves for a lost ally. I had a speeder bike that I used to quickly get around, although giant lizard creatures and hostile sand people crowded around most of the areas, knocking me off my bike and into combat when I got too close.

During E3, BioWare also showed off multiplayer conversations, a new feature that will allow BioWare’s style of dialogue choices even when players are in a group. When a dialogue option comes up, each player in the group will make their own choice, at which point the game will roll dice for each. The character with the highest roll wins and gets to speak the next line. I saw the system in action during a group quest on the planet of Alderaan, and it came off as a clever way to implement storytelling in very traditional MMO group-play.

To be clear, I personally remain incredibly excited for The Old Republic. It’s looking to shape up as a super-polished, fun, narrative-heavy MMO experience. But the more times I get hands-on with it and talk to other, less MMO-loving writers about it, the more I realize that BioWare may not be doing everything they could to pull in a wider audience. MMO players should be all ready to consider Old Republic as their MMO of choice if it hits its planned release date of later this year. Everyone else? You might want to try it and make sure you can get into it first.

  • Thats an interesting article. I was already Expecting this mmo to be diferent than their core game but it might awake some people wether they realy want to buy it or not

  • Ok, I still don't really know what to expect from this game. Since I stopped playing WoW this year, I'm looking forward to what SWtOR has to offer.
  • does anyone still like star wars anymore? seriously? i mean the games are good, but come on.
  • this is one MMO I don't think I would want to pass up. Still, there should have been a third iteration of KoTOR. GOD, can you imagine the hype if they announced it? I'd be all over that like white on rice.
  • I'm a Bioware fan, a Star Wars fan, and an MMO fan, so I guess I'll probably like this. :)
  • I still hope it is really good, but I've never been able to get into an MMO to date. Of course I haven't tried WOW or a subscription based game yet so I may not have the full experience, this and Defiance are on my radar though.
  • I think the only thing at this point keeping me from at least trying this game is that my computer is a bit on the old side and thus I severely doubt it would be able to run Star Wars: ToR. I'm still optimistic about the game though as far as story, combat, and general gameplay are concerned. Bioware has an excellent track record, Kotor and Kotor 2 are enough proof of that, and I think they've done an admirable job of transferring the same formula over to the MMO scene. Naturally no game is perfect, and I don't imagine ToR will appeal to everyone, but I still hold faith that it will do both the MMO and Star Wars communities proud.
  • I came in thinking this article was talking about drugs, but started reading and found out some people might not like this drug.
  • As an MMO fan, AND a classic BioWare rpg fan, i guess I feel... nothing? :P
  • is this going to come out on system like knights of the old republic? cuz i kind of think of this game as a revamp of KOTOR. i hope it is there really should have been a third game!
  • Did anyone catch the live stream demo with the bounty hunter and his jawa companion Blizz? Can't wait!!!!!!
  • Star Wars games these days aren't as good as they used to be.
  • *crosses fingers to the point of the tips bursting off* please come out this year >_<

  • Mod
    Since I'd rather stab myself in the eyeball than play world of warcraft...I guess this isn't for me. I'm not saying it's a bad game it's just not for me
  • I can't wait for this game, I really hope it comes out this year. I'm a Star Wars, Bioware, and MMO fan. Where does that leave me on how I'll feel when I do play it?

  • Nice!!

  • I think I should still enjoy it, even though WoW really isn't my kind of game. I played City of Heroes quite a bit and I LOVE Star Wars, so I'm real excited to get into this.

  • HOW MUCH!?! My excitement depends on the monthly price

  • Whatever people say, I can not wait for this game.

  • Sad, but I don't really mind MMO style, the fact that Bioware is making a story driven MMO is amazing in and of itself, and for the first time in any MMO there will actually be a reason to play every class.

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