Hands-On with The Old Republic

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Not only is Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic one of the most anticipated games at this year’s E3, but it is also the biggest new MMO getting ready to go online in the upcoming year, and we at Game Vortex got one of the rare chances to get some hands-on time with it at the show.

Long-time followers might realize that I don’t play many MMORPG’s, they just aren’t typically my bag. So when EA gave us the chance to take control of a character in the new universe, I was both overjoyed and wary. Thankfully, after some basic direction and instruction, those of us that got to go into the game were allowed to choose between mid-level characters, around the mid 20’s, and starting-off characters. Feeling the pressure, I ushered myself to the beginner's table and started to get a feel for the game.

My character was a young Jedi Knight assigned to a planet that has a long history in the Jedi order. My first mission was to find various holographic pedestals and fix them in order to restore the teachings of ancient Jedi to the ruins. As you might expect though, there were a few enemies along the way. The early fights were with a few creatures that don’t take too much trouble to kill, as well as another enemy known only as Flesh Eaters, and they had prisoners.

While I found myself fumbling a bit over the controls, that is definitely a result of my lack of MMO experience. All of the moves and abilities are laid out in the tile-format that any regular MMORPG player will be comfortable with.

In the presentation before the hands-on time, Bioware spent a lot of time explaining just how they are bringing their expertise to the online genre. While anyone who has been following the game since it’s announcement might know a lot of these reasons, they want to make sure the word gets out.

One of the big things Bioware is pushing is your character’s story experience. They explain that in pretty much every other MMO, you might have class-specific missions, but each playthrough of a character type is basically the same as every other one. Where Star Wars: The Old Republic differs is that each character class has a very deep and personal story where the player will have to make decisions that will change who and how you interact with people and places later in your character’s story. This means that not only does each character class have a different story, but you can play through the same class multiple times and make different choices to get a different experience.

As the demo team from Bioware put it, “We see no reason why someone wouldn’t want to play as a Bounty Hunter multiple times.” Add that to the fact that your decisions can sway your character to the light or dark side regardless of which camp you started off with, and you have an MMO that feels like a huge single-player experience, but with all of the community, the need to join groups for raids, called “Operations” in The Old Republic, and player interactions that you see in most MMORPG’s.

While I was already pumped to dive into this MMO, getting some hands-on time with the game itself, even if it is just an early-level character, only managed to wet my appetite further. One of our other reviewers asked me “So, why would I want to play any role other than a Jedi or Sith,” and I think the answer comes down to the story in the game more than anything else. The class features and abilities seem really balanced and you have a good range of tanks, long-ranged-attackers and healers like every other MMORPG out there, but if you want to get the full feel for what Bioware is putting out there, you will want to see how the various stories grow and evolve as your character does.