Star Wars: The Old Republic Hands-on
Star Wars Galaxies was my very first MMO, though hardly the last. No matter how many I played, none hooked me as Galaxies had, mostly because of the Star Wars attachment. Needless to say, I was excited to see BioWare’s MMO in person, and get my hands on the mouse for the first time.
To begin the demonstration, LucasArts played cinematic trailer it had released only a few days earlier, showing off a group of Republic Soldiers on Alderan defending against an attack launched by the Sith Empire. It was an enticing precursor to the hands-on portion ahead. Players choose a faction, pick between a number of races and classes, and start to carve their own path through the galaxy. On that note, the producer went Oprah for a second, pointing around the room and yelling, “You get a starship! And you get a starship! You all get starships!” His outburst wasn’t unwarranted: players all get ships that act like hubs for to use between missions. It's a way of making player-housing useful, which I’m completely for.
We watched a few people already at the controls. Like a typical MMO session, players bickered back and forth, argued over tactics, and felt immediately at ease with the familiar mechanics of pulling and tanking. The Jedi Consular (medic) even yelled, “out of force,” at one point, which caused the crowd to erupt in laughter. It was typical MMO gameplay with a healthy dash of Star Wars mixed in, which I doubt anyone will complain about.
After the presentation finished, we were ushered like cattle into the next room where twenty stations were jacked in to a live version of the game. After seeing countless trailers, videos, and gameplay demonstrations, the ability to finally get a hands-on with the game was almost overwhelming. I jumped on the nearest computer, which displayed the opening level for the Commando class on the Republic side, and began the story.
The inclusion of voice acting, which seemed like a minor footnote when it was revealed, helps the game’s narrative immeasurably. I found myself more drawn to the characters in the world when they actually spoke to me. I felt a connection with the captain of the ship I was on, simply because it sounded like I should. I played through a few areas of the early section of the game, picking up side-quests on occasion, not just because I wanted experience, but because I wanted to see where the story was going.
There are still hundreds of questions that need asking about The Old Republic. What will the end-game be like? Will the PVP expand past instances? What races will players be able to pick between? Still, after experiencing the game for the first time, one question has already been answered. Does The Old Republic have what it takes to take a significant chunk of World of Warcraft’s audience away from it? Absolutely. BioWare is bringing something big to the scene, and while Blizzard might not need to run and hide, it should definitely keep note that something out there is looking to bring balance to the force.