We go into our E3 LucasArts appointment skeptical and come out hopeful that the game will be more like Knights of the Old Republic rather than Star Wars Galaxies.
I haven't been a fan of what I had seen of The Old Republic before this E3. Promises of a deep, story-driven MMO with BioWare's finesse and fully voice-acted scenes were only hinted at in previous showings of the Sith Inquisitor and Republic Trooper. Before this E3, all we got to see was "Go here and talk to this person," "Collect 10 of this doodad," or "Kill this many enemies" … in other words, the same old fare of any other sci-fi MMO, and not worthy of the hype previously lavished upon the game.
After E3 2010, I have to say that now I am impressed. While they still have more work to do, LucasArts finally let us get into the characters and gameplay a bit more, while unveiling some juicy tidbits that should have the Star Wars Galaxies skeptics breathing somewhat easier.
The mood was set early, at our appointment with the showing of the official E3 "Hope" trailer, a gorgeous mini-theatrical piece depicting the Republic fighting back a Sith advance on Alderaan. The small group of media was obviously impressed, but I have yet to see an MMO that looks or plays anything like some of the high budget trailers floated around at trade shows. Before the press had a chance to recover from the trailer, a few other short videos were shown, one of which revealed that each player in the game will get his or her own ship. Empire players will get a Fury Class Imperial Transport, while Republic players will get a Corellian Vanguard Class Light Corvette. As with BioWare's previous games, each ship will have its own crew with which the player can interact.
There were a couple other announcements that didn’t give too much detail. The first revealed that there will be PvP warzones with team-vs.-team battles, and one of the zones will be on Alderaan. The second showed off armor progression of the Bounty Hunter class, but little more was said of either.
The last part of the presentation depicted an actual instanced battle with a group of four Republic players on a transport that was under attack from the Sith. The battle was live, with LucasArts reps playing each of the characters represented on the big screen. The group was comprised of one of each of the Republic classes in the game: The Trooper class was the "tank," the Jedi Counselor was the healer, the Smuggler used cover and stealth to support the tank at range, and the Jedi Knight used Force powers and his lightsaber in melee and at range as a support class. The resulting demo sounded very much like a traditional Ventrilo session. Calls for heals or announcements of incoming enemies could be heard behind us as the battle on the screen progressed. The Trooper stood in one place during most of the fight, firing his blaster, while the Counselor dodged back and forth tossing off heals. The group beat back the Sith incursion and the demo was over.
For those interested in how the Imperial classes counter the Republic, the Sith Warrior acts as the tank, the Inquisitor is a damage or crowd control class that can also heal. The Bounty Hunter deals damage at range, while the Imperial Agent used covert means through technology and espionage to assist the party.
After the demo, we were able to get some hands-on time with the class of our choice. I chose the Bounty Hunter since I like playing ranged classes with gadgets. I was dropped onto the planet Hutt, where my character began his training. I had to be entered into the planet's Great Hunt, a local tournament for Bounty Hunter wannabes. I found out all the details from my crew, three NPCs that helped gather intel and gain influence with the right people. The NPCs were fully voiced and natural, which was a pleasant surprise since my last experience with the Old Republic's "fully voiced" feature had an NPC talking so fast it sounded like a disclaimer in a 15-second car commercial.
I got several quests, one designed to further my reputation as a Bounty Hunter, and the others merely side quests to help build my play style. Nothing like gunning down a young kid's father who was keeping him from his Sith training. I got about 20 minutes of play time picking up quests around the seedy cantina that acted as a quest hub and as my early base of operations. My final encounter was with a brash quick-draw artist named Vex. Killing him sealed my entry into the Great Hunt and untold riches in the employ of the Empire … at least I can dream.
I had been skeptical of the game because of the apparent lackluster effort in backing up the early PR promises, but this showing and subsequent demo give me hope that the game is heading in the right direction. It appears they gave their E3 trailer an appropriate name after all.
Other E3 Content for Star Wars: The Old Republic:
- ZAM Video Interview with Dallas Dickinson, director of production at BioWare Austin
- E3 Trailer
- E3 Screens