Published on December 22nd, 2009 | by prime0
Star Wars: The Old Republic – Preview
Few MMOs have enough of an appeal to break the genre barrier and attract new users, but combine one of the best film franchises in the world with the best storytelling developer in the business and you have the biggest title of 2010. There was quite a few value judgments in that statement so let’s qualify this grandeur with one simple fact: Old Republic will be the most expensive MMO ever created. Electronic Arts are putting their entire publishing weight behind this project. By providing a fully voiced MMO in three different languages and complete creative control of the Star Wars license, this is sure to be an authentic LucasArts experience.
Thankfully, at a recent press event we were blessed with the opportunity to play the most recent build, and a massive fans of Knights of the Old Republic, we did wonder how they would integrate a great story into a genre which is so rigid when it comes to design. The answer was surprisingly familiar, and typically BioWare. Each time you approach an NPC, the action stops and the camera zooms to their face in a letterboxed fashion.
Specific dialogue options are presented to you in a standard format, and from their plot will divert in accordance with your responses. It’s a solution which is incredibly simple, but shows how much BioWare wants to move as far away as possible from characters with giant exclamation marks over their head.
While playing this idea of a single-player MMO finally clicked with us, by making dialogue voiced, the story had much more personal resonance and the facial animations sold the appropriate feelings well. That isn’t to say that Old Republic won’t be infinitely better with fellow party members, but playing alone is no longer just a realm for the anti-social.
Skill bar and hot key activation works in a way both MMO and KotOR players will be familiar with, and the powers we saw wouldn’t look out of place in either arena. The interface was very clean with most of the screen still free to see the action. The heads-up display reminded us a little of Aion, with its neat integration of a mini-map and XP display running at the bottom of the screen.
Graphically the game did seem a little basic, but the artistic license taken with the character models should mean that the visuals should stand the test of time. All of The Force powers are handled really well, and when we took the Sith Inquisitor for a test drive, Force Lighting was especially prudent, blaster bolts are automatically blocked when playing as a Force wielder and characters will be able to switch between different skillsets whenever they feel the need – or fancy a change in tactics.
We didn’t believe BioWare when they told us that Knights of the Old Republic’s gameplay was alive and well in this MMO, but what we experienced was definitely the real deal. As long as BioWare get enough time to do what they want with this project, there’s no reason why it can’t satisfy both casual players and the MMO hardcore.