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Star Wars The Old Republic – Hands on Preview

Release dates have been
finalized, collectors Editions announced, and the game which has the best
chance of taking down World of Warcraft is just two months away.  Star
Wars The Old Republic
is a new
venture for Bioware, being their first full MMO game, and an attempt to merge
massively-multiplayer game mechanics with Bioware’s signature story-telling
method of extensive player choice. 
After a little hands-on with the PVE game at the New York Comic Con, our
correspondent has some ideas about what gamers can look forward to.

Players will have access to
the familiar Jedi/Sith classes seen in Knights of the Old Republic and KOTOR II, as well as other archetypes that aren’t strong with The Force.  The Jedi and Sith fall into an
interesting MMO category because they fight well both in hand-to-hand combat
and have ranged attacks using The Force to hurl projectiles at enemies.  Players can choose between focusing on
Force Powers or combat skills by selecting between the Knight and Consular
classes (Or their Dark Side equivalents) just as in the older KOTOR titles.
Even at early levels, the Jedi feel like powerful defenders of the galaxy, and
masters of their midichlorians.
 

Some will say that ancient
weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side, and
there are options to play more conventional classes.  The early levels of the original KOTOR had players leveling
up without Jedi abilities, and the Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent classes (Or
their Light Side counterparts) will be rather similar to Tank and Rogue
archetypes.   A cover system,
guns and gadgets will give SWTOR a unique feel among the crowd of MMO’s.

All of these classes will
have specializations available to further differentiate players as they level
up and seek to make their character a unique part of the Star Wars universe.

While gameplay and combat
are a big draw, true Bioware fans will be expecting an engrossing story.  In SWTOR, the NPC interactions for main
storylines are exactly what long-time Bioware enthusiasts will expect:
fully-voiced conversations where the player has a chance to express their personality
every time their character speaks. 

Mission structure
unfortunately ends up being very similar to what is seen in many older
MMO’s.  Players will need reasons
to explore new areas and this means the inevitable “Go kill six space warthogs”
sort of mission will be mixed in with the more entertaining story elements.
 


Players who want to treat
SWTOR as a traditional single-player RPG experience will be able to play
through just about all of the game by using an AI companion, according to our
interview with Bioware’s Stephen Reid, however the most compelling material
will require playing with a group of human players in “Flashpoints”.

These Flashpoints will be
epic adventures that offer self-contained story-based missions that are each
specific to one side of the war, Republic or Empire.  They will be too difficult to accomplish alone, and will
have major rewards to encourage MMO soloists to seek out human contact.

As Player Affinity
previously noted, SWTOR won’t have an option for romancing AI companions at
launch, but there is an interesting assortment of characters to accompany
players on their adventures, and each companion is designed to be a balance for
one of the eight classes.  The
obligatory astromech is present, as is a Wookiee, along with sexy alien girls
and a few critters from the expanded universe.
 


From the Ebon Hawk to the
Mako, it wouldn’t be a Bioware game without vehicles, and SWTOR will give each
player a pilotable starship.  The
different classes have their own ships, and players will be able to fight it
out in space combat, adding some extra variety to the gameplay.

Star Wars The Old
Republic
will be available exclusively
for PC on December 20th in North America and Europe.  It can be purchased retail, or as
digital download through EA’s Origin service.  Check back with us as the game approaches for more coverage.

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