August 7 2011
There have been many video games inspired by the beloved "Star Wars" franchise over the years, no doubt because swinging a lightsaber and blasting enemy ships in a TIE fighter are just the sort of things action games were made for. Can this popular IP be adapted into a blockbuster MMORPG? The first attempt at this was Star Wars: Galaxies, which fell short of expectations for both the developer and the players, and is now scheduled for termination. This time LucasArts has teamed up with Bioware, a company that has been highly-praised for their single-player "Star Wars" games. They've been working on their first MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), since 2005, and hope to have it ready for release in 2011.
One of their primary goals is to offer the same caliber of storytelling that their earlier games are famous for. They intend to have heaps of voice-overs, and they seem determined to give players choices with meaningful consequences. We've heard this before, and it's no easy task in a MMORPG, but it will be interesting to see what Bioware comes up with.
You won't likely come across any of the characters from the movies in The Old Republic because it is set thousands of years before those events. During this period, the Galactic Republic, defended by their Jedi Order, is attacked by the Sith Empire, with devastating results. Given that Jedi is a playable class in the game, you're bound to see a lot of them around, unlike the movies in which Jedi were a rarity. This choice of time period accounts for that nicely.
They've revealed about a dozen of the planets that will be in SWTOR at launch, including Coruscant, Ord Mantell, Hutta, and Tatooine. We've been assured that the planets include large, open areas you can wander around and explore very freely. The Holonet on the official site offers more details on the planets that are currently planned for the game.
Factions and PvP
The two factions in SWTOR are the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, which you choose between at character creation. There is player vs. player combat between these factions, and it will be entirely optional. Warzones are the game's equivalent to battlegrounds, consisting of instanced matches with fixed team sizes. Several Warzones are planned for SWTOR at launch, including Alderaan and Voidstar. It sounds like there will also be separate PvP servers as well as PvP zones. The PvP flagging system appears to be very similar to the one in World of Warcraft.
Classes and Advanced Classes
TOR will have 8 core Classes, each of which branches into 2 Advanced Classes. This, along with 3 talent trees for each Advanced Class, should ensure a considerable amount of customization. Here's a quick breakdown of the Class structure.
- Jedi Knight - The iconic heroes from the films, Jedi Knights are a lightsaber weilding class with powerful melee skills. They will use the Force to deflect blaster fire and knock opponents back, among other things. Advanced Classes: Guardian and Sentinel.
- Jedi Consular - The Consular will also carry a lightsaber, but they will play more of a support role than Knights. They will favor ranged attacks, have good healing abilities, and can pick enemies up and slam them into the ground using the Force. Advanced Classes: Shadow and Sage.
- Smuggler - Smugglers are intended to be the Hans Solos of TOR, packing pistols and stealth skills they prefer to take enemies by surprise. Expect them to shoot their way out of difficult situations. Advanced Classes: Gunslinger and Scoundrel
- Trooper - Troopers are the Republic's elite soldiers, well-armored and equipped with the heaviest weapons available. They typically rely on range and superior firepower to vanquish the enemy. Advanced Classes: Commando and Vanguard
- Sith Warrior - This class is essentially the Dark Side's equivalent of Jedi Knight, specializing in lightsabers and close combat. One of their special attacks is a Darth-like Force strangle. Advanced Classes: Juggernaut and Marauder.
- Sith Inquisitor - Like the Consular, the Inquisitor will use the Force to deliver deadly ranged attacks. They will be lightly armored, and they apparently have a fondness for electricity. Advanced Classes: Sorcerer and Assassin.
- Bounty Hunter - Masters of a large arsenal of gadgetry, Bounty Hunters will have jet packs, flame throwers, and rockets at their disposal. More than simple hired guns, they have an ancient brotherhood with a colorful history. Advanced Classes: Powertech and Mercenary.
- Imperial Agent - Assassins and sabotuers, the Imperial Agent employs a variety of stealth-enhanced gear. They will be effective at a distance as well as in a tight spaces. They have an energy shield for defense and the ability to call in satellite strikes. Advanced Classes: Operative and Sniper.
The Old Republic is an RPG, and it is evident that most of the RPG combat conventions people are accustomed to will apply. Expect to be selecting targets, using abilities on shortcut bars, and looting corpses for items with better stats. One notable difference is that they've decided against auto-attack; each blow will require action from the player.
They are giving all classes ranged as well as melee abilities, and everyone will also have an out-of-combat heal. Combat moves will be choreographed to look more like what we've seen in the films. The Combat Trailer is worth a look if you want to see some of the game's animation in action.
Crafting and harvesting will both be available in The Old Republic. One key difference between this and other crafting systems is that players will be able to assign the more mundane crafting to NPC companions. They're aiming for something that fits the franchise and gives crafters a chance to earn a reputation for themselves if they so desire.
Bioware has confirmed that there will be a space combat element to the game. Players will be able to own ships, but space engagements are highly structured and movement will be limited. Space is like a mini-game in The Old Republic rather than a free-form simulation. Space missions will involve things like escorting other ships and attacking space stations, and are expected to be fairly brief.
Your ship will awarded to you upon completion of a storyline mission, and parts of it will be customizable. These ships will correspond to your character's class, as follows:
- Jedi - Corellian Defender-Class Light Corvette
- Smuggler - Corellian XS Stock Light Freighter
- Trooper - Rendili Hyperworks BT-7 Thunderclap
- Sith - Fury-Class Imperial Interceptor
- Imperial Agent - X-70b-Phantom Prototype
- Bounty Hunter - D5-Mantis