Star Wars - the Old Republic
At E3 Bioware pulled off a canny bit of advertising. After showcasing the new Smuggler class, a small section of a Smuggler's storyline was shown to give taste of the game's graphics and the moral decisions its stories involve.
The stylised reality of the game's design is stunning. Sitting between Ttel-shaded cartoon and realism, the Smuggler's homeworld looks great and the characters have an unexpectedly playful style that still maintains the capacity to carry off the script. Every class gets their own unique storyline tailored to their lore, with every mission offered uniquely to a single class. How this will lead to groups of different classes teaming up isn't dear (missions might be shareable, or have overlap with those of other classes, making teaming up worthwhile) because it seems odd to be encouraging groups of seven Smugglers to team up. In terms of MMO gameplay, the Smuggler is an odd fish; he plays tactically and employs stealth - but not in the way you'd expect a rogue to play. No invisibility, or backstabbing - it's more Gears of War, transferred to the MMO template - take the cover locations offered on the map, have a good old-fashioned blaster battle, and if they get too close, take them out with a dirty melee attack. Kick in the nuts, and a blaster shot to the temple. Those smugglers, they know how to get the job done.
Now BioWare have made the bold claim that TOR will be the first fully voiced MMO, the scale of the project they've created for themselves becomes slightly nauseating in its immensity. MMOs like World of Warcraft include Instant Text options in the settings menu, for people too itchy to read a short bit of writing. So why is BioWare intent on making all of this extra work for themselves?
It's because they take their stories seriously. BioWare stand almost alone in trusting the gamer to have the patience, emotional engagement and literacy to enjoy a complicated storyline. And this is in an industry where even a highly respected writer like Susan O'Connor (BioShock and Far Cry 2) has said that short games are better suited to storytelling. It's not that BioWare stand against the bite-sized narratives of the likes of Portal, it's just that they're pulling hard in the other direction.
Picking A Side
Back to that cheap marketing trick -the one moral decision we were given in the demo was as a Sith Bounty Hunter. We had to decide whether to kill the captain of a Republic spaceship. Killing the officer would be in character, but he offered his expertise to help us. Would we take that help and risk the ire of our higher-ups? After the Captain argued his case, in convincing tones, the choice was offered to the room of hacks. Based on the decision we made, we were each given a badge that read "I Killed The Captain" or... well, I don't know what the other badge said, as 1 didn't see one. Whether that was down to mob mentality, not empathising with the characters, or the fact that games journalists are dicks, who can say? But it's an example of how intent BioWare are on giving TOR the depth Knights of the Old Republic had.
No decision in BioWare's games is as simple as picking between good or evil. Even choices as blatantly sociopathic as blowing up a planet of Wookiees could be justified in KOTOR. But forcing players to consider the effect of their actions in this way is unheard of in the MMO genre.
BioWare will only find out whether MMO fans will enjoy, or even endure, such detailed storytelling when The Old Republic goes live.
Download Star Wars - the Old Republic
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Bioware's MMO Has darted back under the covers like a shy sci-fi starlet, having revealed itself in issue 201. The developers are promising more story content than any other BioWare title to date, with a focus on heroic characters and epic adventure. No more fetch quests, no more searching for truant hats or missing rocks, instead we'll be starring in our own multiplayer legend spanning an entire galaxy.
If such claims were being made by anybody but BioWare, our bullshit detectors would be deafeningly loud. But with a writing team four times as large as BioWare's when they were developing Knights of the Old Republic, this could be a promise the company can follow through with. And while MMOs like Warhammer Online and World of Warcraft subscribe to notion that one guy is no more or less special than the next guy, The Old Republic is setting out to make every player feel like a genuine hero. Baying lackeys will follow you in the form of companion characters (a staple of BioWare titles) and it's through these sidekicks that The Old Republic will no doubt make you feel head and shoulders above other players.
Each of the game's classes will claim their own individual story arc. For example, the Jedi class pitches you into the new Jedi Academy, where you'll no doubt be put through your paces in a similar fashion to KOTOR'S own Jedi enrollment ceremony: finding your first lightsaber crystal, building it, picking out a robe, reciting the Jedi code of honour while swearing on your mum's life - it's all part of the class experience.
We'll admit, the chances of this touching down in 2009 are as likely as discovering a tiny man living inside your anus (it happens), but any forwardthinking PC gamer has got to have The Old Republic on their radar.
The setup in the beginning is on conflict. It is a disagreement between the empire and republic, which you have no option other than to cope with the environment. The plot immediately leads you to making a choice; you have to align your tone based on your faction choice.
If you choose the empire play side, your focus should be on control, anger, and power. The adversity, which is the Republic, is striving to regain what was lost in the conflict. The focus in this case is on planning and strategizing on what to use as tools. The game developers did a commendable job on cinematics. It is persuading and inviting; it has spectacular views that many players wish it was longer.
After choosing sides and a faction, you are taken back to the home screen where you have to create a character. It is an important part of the game because it determines your ability and limits in the war. Winning is dependent on features and characteristics of the character. The game offers you countless options and tools for customizing your character to fit different races.
The more you customize and make the character flexible, the more you are likely to win the races. Adaptability of your character is crucial to winning the game. While there is a wide range of customization tools, you are limited to humanoid races, which should be the basis of your customizations. Most of body sizes in the races are similar. You may not get the fat options for a female character.
Of course, the diversity in the world today exposes us to endless shapes and sizes of people. Intelligence in the world does not allow you to be restricted to a certain way of perceiving people. Some people find this annoying but it is minor. It does not affect your experience in the race or fun in any way.
Your adventure kicks off in the most unique way ever. After successfully customizing features and creating a unique character, you begin with the classic scrolling yellow text. The text is basically a description of the galaxy type you will be encountering and any challenges on the way. It gives you an idea of what lies ahead. The text is presented with the cinematics and beautiful graphics, which makes the beginning of the racing adventure unique. You will be anxious from this point. The text display and cinematics are unique for each stage of racing. At this point, experienced players and newbies are on the same page, it is an equal play field.
There is no structured tutorial as you would expect with all games. However, the developer does not leave you to figure out on your own, there are tip systems at various spots to help you understand the gameplay whenever the context is unclear. Also, the developer gives you a chance to personalize the character by defining sense of purpose and opportunity in the game.