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Thread: Star Wars: The Old Republic

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    Star Wars: The Old Republic


    Set three hundred years after BioWare's last title, Knights of the Old Republic, the developer takes Star Wars into new territories with (cue John Williams music) an MMORPG. Is the Force strong with this one?
    BioWare definitely favours having a blaster rather than a hokey religion on its side, and it knows the only correct answer to the age old question of whether to opt for Jedi or Sith is two words: "Bounty Hunter."

    Hence the first hands-on with its much-talked about MMO-take on the George Lucas's cash cow throws you into role of a up and coming Bounty Hunter. Morality be damned: ambiguity and selfishness is a lot more fun over the Imperial Agent class that some people in the room have been landed with. Where's the fun with stealth in the Star Wars universe when you can talk your way out of potentially deathly circumstances through smooth lines or intimidating growls, or simply shoot your way out? In BioWare's take on the universe, the Bounty Hunter always shoots first.

    That is, if you choose too. This being a BioWare title, it'd be remiss not to expect branching dialogue options, and Old Republic is peppered with more tasteful choices than a Princess Leia slave girl convention. As the developer promised, there's voiceover for everything, and it really aids in strengthening the characters and their story arcs. Though we still take issue that anyone with an Imperial slant is automatically relegated to a British voice actor.



    Story is important, because unlike other MMOs, Old Republic is dense with plot, and you'll be wading through many more conversations than grinds in the opening hours. Its perhaps the lack of the moral barometer that comes with the Bounty Hunter class that makes for such interesting choices so early in the game - the good/evil scale to which every story-related choice is measured bounces back and forth with all the speed of a radiation detector. Missions are rife with double-crosses, shootouts and tough talk. It's fascinating, and with tempers flaring on the flip of a sentence, loaded with tension.

    Its definitely the overriding memory of my time spent with the game - which ran over two days - but also from which arises one of the central issues with the game as a whole: identity. But we'll come to that in a moment, and for now flesh out those opening hours and how the Old Republic sticks to the virtues of the genre.

    The game opens on the iconic scroll (nicely, the scroll will flash up every time you log in, updating with your current position and story to help remind players where they left off) before plunging us onto the planet Hutta, and the small town of Tigunna, which sits in the shadow of the local Hutt's palace - there's two planetside,Nemro and Fa-athra and the continuing political powerplays between the two slugs partly forms your opening few hours until you're able to ran a transport off-world. You're here to take part in the galaxy-wide Great Hunt, but to enter you need a sponsor, but before that you need to rise to prominence in the local area to be noticed ie: be a gun for hire, act the bastard, and generally create waves within the local populace to draw attention to you. And also avoid the intentions of other bounty hunters trying to get an early lead by wiping out the competition.

    Again, story impacts and fuels the missions. BioWare are taking care not to bore the populace with another list of racking up kills of insubstantial vermin to fill up the first few hours (and levels) of your life in a galaxy far, far away. There's an old joke that there's no such thing as a terrible Star Wars game, any experience elevated due to being part of a universe that captured many people's childhood imaginations.



    The punchline works here as well - clearing the town of Fa-athra gangsters, bargaining with a squad commander for the release of prisoner, or tracking down a father and son at a nearby spaceport is instantly more interesting because you're effectively reliving Mos Eisley from A New Hope. Its a wretched hive of scum and villainy rather than a gleaming battle station, but its infinitely more interesting than any sterile Imperial world. A point hammered home when I actually do end up on Dromund Kaas hours later, an Imperial City that hosts the Great Hunt - straight-talking troopers and commanders seem stale and lack much of the intrigue that the many races offered back on Hutta. Only when i'm offered a chance to trap citizen-murdering Sith into massacring their own instead of turning in their accomplice is my interest spiked once more.

    Or perhaps its because you realise your reputation only stretches as far as the backwater planets, and you realise the shear scale of what BioWare is attempting here. Sure, the actual areas for each planet are matched by other titles in the genre, but with an end of event presentation showcasing a galaxy map, with a vast number of planets to travel to and space battles breaking out in the space between them, it feels staggering. Again: all due to that sprinkling of Star Wars magic.

    The battle system, well, since we're talking spacecraft, let's get that out of the way first. These will take take the form of on-rails cinematic sequences, letting you focus on the downing fighters soaring past, or taking out starship generators. In the presentation, BioWare inform the crowd that clearing set objectives will open bonus areas. It looks great, though, we're informed, these set pieces can be bloody tough. Cue a fireball were the Bounty Hunter class ship was fragmenting in space.



    Back on the ground, and the character is outfitted with everything a rookie Bounty Hunter would need; rapid laser fire, an enemy-freezing electro bolt that ties in nicely with the powerful missile blast, knocking groups off their feet. Come the second day we've upgraded via a on-site trainer (these and weapon upgrade stations are dotted throughout the galaxy) to a flame thrower, a rocket punch, a close-range attack that for all intents purposes is a Shoryuken with a rocket pack, and an ability labelled Death From Above, allowing players to hover for a few seconds while pummelling the ground around them. In the closing hours of the event, a consortium of Hunters offers me the upgrade into a specialist class tree; dual-wielding mercenary or ability-heavy Powertech. each class will filter into specialities, and the range of moves that come with each filter down the powerpoint presentation faster than I can write. Needless to say, Old Republic has all the bases covered.

    First day theatrics cumulate in one of what BioWare is classing its "Flashpoints", its epic moments that hope to offer the scope of the pitched battles seen in the two movie trilogies. The Imperial vessel you hitched a ride on to Dromund Kaas is charged to tackle an Alliance cruiser with a war general of political importance. With the Imperial captain's refusal to engage the cruiser, you're ordered to take command of the ship by another Imperial officer off-ship and capture the general.

    For the first time since we started, the individual players are grouped together in Old Republic's version of a dungeon, trekking through two ships' worth of corridors, bridges and reactor rooms. With music pooled from the films (mostly the 'new' trilogy, such is the prevalence of certain themes, but incorporating some new pieces, such as a new choral piece come the climatic battle with a Jedi) its bracing stuff, its stirring blast trampling over the quiet clatter of dice rolling in the background deciding the cut of energy that comes with every hit and dodge.



    Conversation choices are decided by majority vote, but your always awarded light and dark points by your own choice, even if the story swings the other way due to a group decision. An accidental drop-out during the quest late in the day means that I get to play through it once again the following morning, and see the fallout of different choices. The first time round confronting the captain leads to his death (numerous face-offs offer the straight option "kill him" to strike any further conversation stone dead), the second, he's spared. That first time the new officer in command decides to ignore escape pods ejecting from the cruiser, the second, the original Captain smells a trap and orders them shot down. First time round, the pods turn out to boarding parties that latch on to the ship and lead to an assault on engineering. That side-quest is entirely absent the second time, for obvious reasons.

    It's typical BioWare storytelling, and offers an incentive to play through the game multiple times with the same class. However, either by design or accident, the gameplay favours a more single-player experience that stretches far beyond the usual introductory period of an MMO - the developer's own skill at crafting a brilliantly immersive action RPG seems at times to war with those elements that signify the genre the game's firmly intrenched in. Players will have a definite sense of how they wish to play their Bounty Hunter character - and having that clash against a group's differing ideology come key moments in the game is a concession to losing complete absorption in the story.

    To decry a MMO for providing a rich narrative seems a contradiction - its something that would attract gamers not satisfied before with the wafer-thin plot illusions designed to excuse the menial tasks that litter an MMO. The game does incorporate Heroic missions, the honorific given to denote tough missions that require buddying up to survive, and quests into scrapyards and detention centres are greatly helped by groups of characters naturally created due to the overlap in objectives. It's a stalemate of sorts - damned if you do, damned if you don't - an outcome to which will only be found through continued play. Obviously whereas other games are spooling their post-campaign credits, The Old Republic is only starting to gear up into something larger.



    The opening hours of this new epic are incredibly strong, and its an acknowledgement of the developer's confidence in the RPG field that this strength is as much its creation as that of the brand. As it stands it does hold promise of a viable choice to others in the genre, and will tickle the interest, at the very least, of Boba Fett fans worldwide.

    Whether that strength holds as the experience hurtles towards play time hours notching the triple figures, while managing to merge single player narrative with multiplayer smoothly, is something, despite the many rumours and news pieces that have cast a shadow over the game in recent months, I hope it will manage. Manage with surety, the very same that comes from having a good blaster at your side.

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    It feels like we've been waiting an eternity, but Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally about to be released. The force willing.

    With the release of Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic approaching with the speed of a hyper jump, we thought it well advised to take a look at what's on offer, and our coverage leading up to the release.

    MUST-SEE VIDEOS

    Over the course of the last couple of years there has been plenty of great trailers released for Star Wars: The Old Republic. The cinematic ones stand out particularly. Here is a couple you should not miss out on:

    Gamereactor UK - Video: Star Wars: The Old Republic - E3 09: Jedi vs Sith Cinematic

    The second trailer is pure in-game footage, and is much more recent - it sets the stage perfectly for the adventure to come:

    Gamereactor UK - Video: Star Wars: The Old Republic - Fate of the Galaxy Trailer

    CLASSES & HANDS-ON

    The first choice you're faced with in Star Wars: The Old Republic is which side of the conflict you wish to play on. Light side or Dark side. Jedi or Sith. Republic or Empire. Each faction has four distinct classes, each with their own unique story arch that plays out through the game, allowing you to experience various sides to the war that rages on in the galaxy.

    Republic:
    Smuggler (later evolves in to either Gunslinger or Scoundrel)
    Trooper (Commando/Vanguard)
    Jedi Knight (Guardian/Sentinel)
    Jedi Consular (Sage/Shadow)

    Empire:
    Bounty Hunter (Powertech/Mercenary)
    Imperial Agent (Operative/Sniper)
    Sith Warrior (Juggernaut/Marauder)
    Sith Inquisitor (Sorcerer/Assassin)

    PLANETS, RACES, AND SHIPS

    Bioware have confirmed a wide range of planets with long standing places in the Star Wars universe including the Sith world of Korriban, Ord Mantell, Tython, Hutta, Coruscant, Balmorra, Alderaan, Tatooine, Dromund Kaas, Taris, Belsavis, Voss, Hoth, Nar Shaddaa, Corellia, Ilum, and Quesh. Some of these are origin worlds, such as Korriban where the Sith Warrior and Inquisitor start out their journeys, but all of them feature the typical sets of major and minor quests you'd expect in a Bioware title.

    There will be several playable races to choose from, but humans and Zabrak are the only ones who can play any of the classes. The Sith Trueblood obviously belongs to a certain side, and among the included races fans will be glad to find Twi'lek and Chiss.

    Each player will get a ship somewhere around level 10-15 that will serve as their base of operations for the remainder of the game. The ships are class specific with the exception of the Jedi classes both of whom have a ship called Defender and the Sith classes who use the Fury.

    INTERVIEWS

    Over the course of development we've had plenty of opportunities to speak with the good folks at Bioware about Star Wars: The Old Republic. They are all worth watching as they give you an insight into the journey Bioware, Lucasarts and EA have taken with the game.

    Our first interview on the subject dates back to Gamescom in 2009 where we caught up with Bioware's Rich Vogel on what it was like to finally see people outside of the office play the game. Little did he know it would be more than two additional years until the game would hit store shelves.

    Next up we visited the Lucasarts offices during GDC and sat down with producer Jake Neri to discuss the prospects of the game and the universe.

    At E3 2010 our then MMO expert and Star Wars nerd Petter Mårtensson was given the opportunity to "geek out" in this lengthy interview with lead writer Daniel Erickson.

    SWTOR: The Essentials - Gamereactor UK - Star Wars: The Old Republic

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    AH.FM Addict Above the Clouds's Avatar
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    3 words: nom nom nom

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    AH.FM Addict TeroA's Avatar
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    I'll play this when it goes free-to-play like every other MMO these days that are not WoW
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    looks cool
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    Jedi Master philparry's Avatar
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    Been playing this since Beta testing and i can't put it down, waited 3 years for this to come out and it is really good.

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    I am pretty excited about this one, too. I have a friend who keeps supplying me with updates, but I hate the suspense. Just tell me when there is a definite date!!

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    I am expecting a video game review.

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    I've been playing SWToR since August, when I got invited to play the beta. It looks great and It's a hell of a lot of fun to play! It looks like a ton of work was put into the making of this game.

    If you are a Star Wars fan and have the time to play, I highly recommend this game!
    Better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.

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    love.love.love SwToR!

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    AH FAN Mysteryos's Avatar
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    I heard that the input lag is pushing hardcore players back to WoW. Wonder if it has been fixed yet..

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    AH.FM Addict TeroA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TeroA View Post
    I'll play this when it goes free-to-play like every other MMO these days that are not WoW
    Well this game is now free-to-play like I predicted , so I'm playing it now
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    Star Wars: The Old Republic goes free-to-play on November 15


    One question has been on the minds of Star Wars: The Old Republic fans recently: "Has BioWareannounced a free-to-play date?" The answer to that question is finally yes. On Thursday, November 15th,SWTOR launches what Senior Producer Blaine Christine calls its "free-to-play option."

    Christine and Producer Cory Butler discussed F2P and Update 1.5 with us yesterday. They explained thatBioWare is looking to expose its game to the widest audience possible, so it is allowing everyone to download the game for no charge, then play the level 1-to-50 game without having to purchase anything. The producers also gave us a tour of the SWTOR cash shop, called the Cartel Market, and introduced us to Cartel Coins, the cash shop currency.

    Read on for all the shiny details of the changes coming to SWTOR next week.



    Preferred status

    Critically, anyone who has purchased the game in the past will be set to preferred status. This means that many of the unlocks that you obtained while subscribed to the game will remain unlocked for you as a preferred member. For instance, although free-to-play players will not have a cargo bay open to them, you will be able to access the cargo bay just as easily as a subscriber and preferred member. The producers also want to emphasize that if you currently have purple (artifact) items bound to your character, you will still be able to use them.

    What if you are new to the game and haven't earned preferred status yet? Blaine Christine explained in our tour that getting to preferred status is as easy as by buying an item at or above the $4.99 price point in the online store. And at launch, the fewest number of Cartel Coins you can buy is 450 at $4.99, although the team reserves the right to add items under the $4.99 price point in the future. The recommended best way to gain preferred status is to buy the full game for only $14.99. Why? Not only do you get the benefits of the preferred status, but you also get a free month of subscription and all the benefits that go along with having a sub.



    The Cartel Marke
    The items in the store range from cosmetic stuff like orange (custom) chestplates and full head-to-toe outfits to legacy unlocks like species and color crystals. However, Blaine explained that the most popular item on the test server currently is the Cartel Pack. These items come in two varieties: the Crime Lord's Cartel Pack at 360 Cartel Coins and the Black Market Cartel Pack at 180 Cartel Coins. The Black Market Pack contains three items: a buff item (like as an XP boost), a companion gift, and a rare item ranging from pets to custom clothing. The Crime Lord's Cartel Pack includes the same items as the Black Market Cartel Pack with an additional rare item and a crafting material for a total of five items. In addition to the extra rare item in the Crime Lord pack, players also have a greater chance to land a super-rare item. The super-rares include the Kowakian monkey-lizard pet, the Sith Meditation throne, a Darth Nihilus mask, and even a pink-purple lightsaber crystal.

    Each of the items you buy off the Cartel Market is an actual in-game item as well. Everything from XP boosts to the Cartel Packs is represented in some way in your character's inventory. What does that mean for players? A level 50 character no longer needs XP boosts of any kind, but his alt might. So once his bind timer runs out (which is currently set to three days for a F2P player and two days for preferred players), he can trade those items to his other characters on that account, or as Cory explained, he can trade them with another player or put them on the Galactic Trade Network (i.e., the SWTOR auction house).

    Some players have been concerned about the strength of some of the items you can nab in the Cartel Market -- particularly the +41 crystals. We know for certain that the clothing items on the Cartel Market do not overpower the lowbie player. Even the strongest of those items equates only to an artifact level item, and they are all below level 50. However, the +41 crystals purchased from the store are usable at level 35 -- level 10 if you happen to land one in a Cartel Pack. Blaine explained that the team wanted to have items in the Cartel Packs "that fulfilled the needs of players at all levels." Then he said, "If you're a level 10 player, even though +41 sounds like a lot for a single stat, realistically, the best it's going to do is help you move your alts up faster." He wished to make it clear that the Cartel Market sells not power but convenience.



    Developer diary
    Lastly, the BioWare folks know that telling people about the Cartel Market isn't the best way to sell the fun that it can offer. So as a way to entice you to jump into the free-to-play experience, the creative team put together a short video explaining and showing a few of the items that you can obtain from its cash shop. Cory suggested checking out the carbonite chamber that not only has some great freezing and unfreezing animations but is also another way to heal yourself out of combat.

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