Empire at E3 2011: Day 3 - The Old Republic
Posted on Thursday June 9, 2011, 17:47 by David Scarborough in Infinite Lives
It was way back at Gamescom last year when I last played BioWare’s upcoming Star Wars MMO. And while I enjoyed what was on display there, it was clear there was some issues that needed refining if it was truly to offer something unique in the crowded genre. The mission itself was a rather bland cave-based search for a lightsabre and, with a then fussy UI, the action lacked the pace Lucas’s series demands of itself.
In the year since, there has been some major improvements to the gameplay and aesthetics, making it one of the big highlights of the show for me. An opening cinematic opened our demonstration, called ‘Return’. Not just a rollicking blast through all-things Star Wars (space ships, John William’s score, bounty hunters and lightsabres) but the most visually impressive piece of Star Wars canon outside of the two trilogies.
That said, the quality of a cinematic is always something of a moot point when it comes to MMOs. Furious lightsabre battles between two Sith lords and Jedis, while astonishingly put together, doesn’t really correlate to the gameplay experience.
The hands-on demo places us on Alderaan, exploring the inside of the massive Castle Panteer. The party of four consisted of a Jedi Knight (with the Guardian advanced class) a Jedi Councillor (a Sage/healer), a dual-pistol wielding Smuggler (Gunslinger) and a Trooper (Commander). They’re mission is to take down Bouris Ulgo, a noble who has recently gone rogue, taking the throne of Alderaan for himself.
Instantly it’s clear that the UI has had an overhaul. Looking a lot cleaner and simpler now, striking that thorny balance between depth and approachability. It makes the action more fluid, as we see the team take on Ulgo in one of the game’s many boss battles. Each character has their own unique set of moves, and the animations are quick, responsive and impressively diverse. It’s also the first MMO to feature cover mechanics, which, as boring as it sounds, is a much-needed feature.
This was just a small taste of the action. Elsewhere Old Republic offers huge encounters, with multiple Sith and Jedi facing-off across warzones, massive raids and planets to explore across a universe that offers endless gaming opportunities. It’s a unique perspective on the Star Wars universe and one laced with cinematic storytelling across hundreds of hours of gameplay.
To highlight the storytelling elements, I was also given a look at an encounter on Tatooine between a Jedi and a Sith, highlighting the various choices presented through the game. Light and dark side points are rewarded across each decision and here the Jedi is offered to either execute the shamed Sith Lord or convince him to join the light side. Both options have far reaching consequences, as sparing him results in the character appearing again later on in the game and affecting the overall story.
It’s that same level of immersive, vast and intricate storytelling that BioWare has become synonymous for across their RPG titles. With such a huge game, there was plenty of features that were just merely mentioned at E3, such as Companion Characters that follow your hero through your quests (be it a Padawan or droid), a personal ship for each character and large-scale playable space battles.
BioWare told the audience at E3 that Old Republic gives players the opportunity to play a role in their own trilogy set across the Star Wars universe – is there a more salivating prospect for fans? Having come a long way since I last saw it, I felt E3 hosted the most impressive demonstration of Old Republic yet.