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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.

  • Not a big fan of MMOs. They should have made KotOR 3 instead. I REALLY want that game.
  • I'm super excited for this game. I love the Old Republic series and I want to get back into MMO's but I don't want to join back up with WoW. Any word yet on cost or release date for this bad boy?

  • Having seen the Beta, it's pretty much an MMO as WoW has evolved them. Talents are nearly the same word for word. Skills/Spells are the same, minus "lore changes" (Bounty Hunters even have a Charge).

    Even the gear has Pants of the Tusken Raider, Vest of the Jedi Disciple, Gloves of the Random Enchant.

    This is not a bad thing, I loved WoW, enjoyed LOTR and CoX. Just calling it what it is.
  • still iffy bout trying this 1 only thing i seen that i like apart from starwars game obviously is having a story n the companion thing they talked about at e3  it still looks like any other mmo for the most part just with start wars skin   class wise i perfer was ffxi and ffxiv was can just go change it when you want instead of making whole new character

  • this is looking really fun, ive been hoping for a good mmo for a long time. i find WOW just so boring

  • I think the fact that it has Star Wars in the title makes it appeal to a wider audience. Nuff said.
  • I grew up to Star Wars. And i loved WoW despite its second gen graphics, and overall repetitive gameplay. MMO+Star Wars is a win in my book. And this game seems to offer a lot more than WoW did. I'm totally gonna get this game... If i can get a PC, i was sorely disappointed to learn that its a PC only game. Idk why i have a Mac...

  • Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game of all time DA origins is my second, so i am a huge bioware fan and i am a wow player and I am very excited for this

  • Excellent thought to consider.  Especially for me who hasn't ever gotten into a MMO before.  Thanks.

  • Thanks Phil for the insight. I am a Bioware fan and a Star Wars fan...but in no way am I a MMO fan. I simply bore of them very quickly. I think I lasted in City of Heroes for two weeks. WOW just looked far too time consuming. I love lengthy RPG's, but MMO's are a different beast. I had already been leaning in the direction of not pursuing this title and your article may have reinforced that. Not a bad thing. It saves me money, energy, and time.
  • well from that first trailer id say theyd make one kick ass animated star wars series... but i dont think i'll play the game if its gonna be the same point and click bs

  • The fact that ToR may not appeal to Bioware's usual crowd should not be a surprise at all. However, I don't really see how it would be so difficult for that crowd to adapt to ToR. Bioware's previous games are pretty cookie-cutter, clear-cut RPGs with an NPC party system. While ToR is an RPG, it is an MMORPG. There may be a lot of similarities, but there are also some huge differences. The same would be true if Bioware made a third person shooter- it may have a lot of similarities to a game like ME2, but there are just as many big differences. The shooter would attract a different crowd than Mass Effect, because it is a different genre. As is an MMORPG. So to sum that up, if Bioware's usual crowd finds it difficult to get into ToR, it makes sense because it is not the same kind of game. It really seems pretty self-explanatory to me. That said, let's reexamine the genre's similarities. As previously stated, Bioware's previous RPGs have an NPC party system that utilizes tanks, healers, and damage-dealers. ToR is an RPG and has NPC characters that can quest with you and take on the role of tanks, healers, and damage-dealers. Hm... is it just me or does that seem like the same thing? Sorry Phil, I'm just not seeing your point. I believe that your conclusion is probably accurate, but this explanation doesn't make much sense to me.
  • Nah. Bioware is an excellent company> but i don't think the realm of MMOs suit their style of morality based storytelling. I think i'm going to stick with Final fatasy XI as far as MMOs are concerned. Also was going to try out Age of Conan since it's free-to-play now.

  • Gonna get this day one and if my computer cant run it im gonna build a new one!

  • As a fan of all three (BioWare, MMO's and Star Wars) I'm looking forward to this, but the seperated quest lines worry me a little, at least the way Phil describes them. Obviously each class should have some class specific quest lines, but there need to be generalized quest lines to encourage grouping for questing, no? Or are those hundreds of hours long class quest lines in addition to all of the non class specific quests?

  • How bout bringin some of that stuff to the consoles? The PC has enough MMOs! -_- And to think I was actually stoked for this game until I found out it was an MMO.

  • I loved WoW when I used to play it, and this game may draw me back into the mmo world...

  • "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."

    I'm missing the multiplayer part. In your example, it's clear that Republic and Empire wouldn't share things, and I don't expect that. But what about same faction friends? Can I quest with friends constantly? Grouping was a huge reason we stuck it out in WoW and LOTR so long. Games like CO and to an extent LOTR didn't really put emphasis on it, and our attentions waned.
  • I think Phil is half right, but that also means I think he's half wrong.  It may come as a shock to some that this game is in fact an MMO.  But I'm not one of those people.

    Yes some Bioware and Star Wars fans will try this game out and find that they don't like it, but that means they don't like MMO's in general.  In that case they are a lost cause no matter what.  I don't personally like sports games, and no matter how good they get, I'm not going to like them.

    But on the other hand the name recognition of Star Wars and Bioware WILL draw people to try out an MMO that otherwise may not, and find that they can't get enough of it.  I can say that's exactly what happened with me and pretty much everyone I know when Final Fantasy XI was released.  I had never before played an MMO and got it based on the Final Fantasy name, and I got hooked and played the game for almost 7 years.