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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.

  • ok.. ok.. we get it. The Sith have returned and they are powerful. Enough with the videos of Sith vanquishing Jedi.

  • I agree with the title of the article

    But the game is not out yet.

  • So...say I was a player that didn't give a crap about lore or w/e and prefers the pew pew and kaboom style.. This game would not be for me and I should go back to WoW? Tl:DR IDC about Narration or in depth story.
  • That trailer was epic. I'm not a massive Star Wars fan, but the lore intrigues me and I'm after a new MMO. This could be it.

  • Bioware has been way to action oriented since the EA takeover. I'm really hoping someone from their glory days starts making some old school RPGs they became famous for. But, here nor there, I think the big pull for this is people who are Star Wars fans can get together and play this. However, I don't know if the MMO formula is broken at all that needs "fixing" people seem to enjoy WOW just fine as the stoyless rambling it is...sorry, I never understood the game, yes, hearsay.

  • This looks like it's going to be good, I never really was into the Star Wars lore though...the movies were pretty good but that's it for me. The only MMO I'm looking forward to playing is Guild Wars 2, it looks better and is completely different than anything else that's coming out. No boring grinding, dynamic events instead if same old quests, real combat mechanics, a gorgeous game world to explore, no waiting around 45 mins to get a party together for raids, and free to play...pretty much seals the deal for me. I can't wait to play the beta when it comes out....hopefully soon.

  • i like star wars, i like bioware games, but i dont like mmos......hmm

  • Mod

    Interesting point but I hope the story will be able to compensate for the MMO emphasis.

  • not getting the game don't like this genre.But the trailers literally define bone chilling.prob better then the game  

  • Im definetly going to try and get this game it looks awesome!

  • I am both a Bioware fan and a Star Wars fan, and I cannot wait for this game. I'm only concern is after I beat the storyline or complete it, will there be more to do or does it just kind of end? I mean I'm all for a storyline, but I want to continue with my character with side-quests and the like. I'm extremely excited for this game, and if it wasn't for ME3 this game would be already preordered.

  • That's unfortunate. I love BioWare. I love Star Wars. I love BioWare's work on Star Wars with KoTOR. I despise the gameplay found in most MMOs. So I guess I'm back to hoping somebody does a KoTOR 3 -- hopefully in conjunction with BioWare, as everything about this (other than it being MMO) looks great.

  • *** id be willing to just watch a Star Wars movie made by these guys the trailers look amazing

  • many think star wars is bad after the movies but most havent seen the stories written before the movies. everything after the first 3 movies were bad but all the old republic till the phantom menace have a great story. One is the story or Revan, Bane. Here is where the quality is coming but lucas arts usually ignores them usually going to the sadly destroyed clone wars. All star wars fans only like everything before the phantom menace in the the star war universe the rest other than the original 3 trilogy are considered trash.
  • I liked the article alot. I lvoe Bioware, and love what they are doing with the game, but I cannot see how anyone would not want to have story in an mmo. It seems to be the onyl thing missing. WoW has great gameplay, that is part of the reason why it is so good. I do not see why merely adding on to it, tweaking it a little, and putting Starwars story into it makes it worse. I myself definitely am excited for this game, and cannot wait for to come out...whenever that is Bioware.

  • awesome trailer

  • Honestly, I have never cared about the combat gameplay in Bioware games before. It's usually good, but I gladly put up with DA2's infinite paratroopers and Jade Empire's clumsy fighting mechanics to experience the epic stories and choices. As long as TOR really does focus on that I won't think twice about subscribing.

  • Cool.

  • This game looks so legit!

  • Bioware is whipping a$$ on the trailer front.